Monday, June 26, 2006

Catching Up II

And those things that happen, shish, it takes time to catch up with.

Friday night went to see Simon Callow give a splendid actorly talk on the second volume, "Hello Americans", of his three part Orson Welles biography. This review gives a flavour of the book and Callow's talk:
Hello Americans picks up the 26-year-old Welles in 1941. Covering six extraordinary years, it addresses 'the most persistent question asked about Orson Welles: what went wrong after Citizen Kane?' There is no simple answer. From the start, Callow dismisses as glib and untrue two frequently advanced explanations. The first is that Welles was self-destructive, the second that he was the victim of a conspiracy on the part of unimaginative, envious and vindictive studio heads and their contacts in the press.
The question everyone asks, "how did Orson Welles get so fat", got the answer "volume three".

Catching Up

When you're busy things really start to happen, don't they?

A week ago went to hear Mike Marqusee talk on his excellent updated book Wicked Messenger. It's a very enjoyable performance and you'll leave knowing more about His Bobness than when you arrived.

About the Dylan whose songs covered politics, protest, civil rights and just being alive.

About the Dylan who rejected the title of "protest singer" and the title "voice of a generation".

About the Dylan whose lyrics say so much about globalisation (before the term was conceived).

About the Dylan who treated people like Wooody Guthrie and Joan Baez so shoddily.

About the Dylan who sells his image, time and music to Victoria's Secrets and Starbucks.

About the Dylan who likes pissing people off.

About the Dylan who dislikes anyone claiming to know "the real Dylan".

It's about Dylan.

And the book's good too.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Jerry Springer the Raffle

On Friday I discovered I had won a raffle for two tickets to Jerry Springer the Opera.

So last night Rullsenberg and I went along. Outside the venue were a group of protesting Christians singing hymns and generally praying for the souls of those who entered the theatre. From inside we saw the protesting Christians joined by a counter demo protesting the right to free speech. This was a cue for an argument between a senior woman and the teenage free speech protestors. But hold that thought a minute. Surely the free speech protestors were also about protesting the senior woman's right to protest, because that's what free speech means, so why argue?

Anyway, on with the show. It's bawdy, irreverent, scurrilous, filthy, scatalogical and a morality tale echoing a long history of religious themed morality tales dating back to the York Mystery plays.

In summary, it's very enjoyable. Go see.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wiki and Wicked Thoughts

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is interviewed in the latest print issue of The Chronicle.

He claims to receive about ten emails a week from students complaining about Wikipedia .
"They say, 'Please help me. I got an F on my paper because I cited Wikipedia'" and the information turned out to be wrong, he says. But he said he has no sympathy for their plight, noting that he thinks to himself: "For God sake, you're in college; don't cite the encyclopedia," the journal reports.
If it's not good enough for students, according to Jimmy Wales, in a Ratner moment, what is it good for?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Beau Coupe de Monde

Kofi Annan writes
[The World Cup] is an event in which everybody knows where their team stands, and what it did to get there. They know who scored and how and in what minute of the game; they know who saved the penalty. I wish we had more of that sort of competition in the family of nations. Countries vying for the best standing in the table of respect for human rights, and trying to outdo one another in child survival rates or enrolment in secondary education. States parading their performance for all the world to see. Governments being held accountable.
And what's wrong with that?

Be Realistic. Demand the Impossible

Here's Gary Younge on political activism today.
The people involved in the demonstrations today are in general younger, poorer and darker than those of 40 years ago. Young women are more likely to take a leadership role; their parents are more likely to support them. These are not middle-class students seeking an alliance with the workers; they are working-class students seeking passage to the middle class. In Chile, 87% of the public supported them. "These are not crazy revolutionaries," wrote Patricio Fernandez, an influential columnist in the Clinic newspaper. "Their parents support them. Their cousins, their neighbours, their old aunts. They are bored that the wealthy schools educate those who will be boss while their school trains them to be workers. More than combating Chilean authorities, they are convincing them."
What do we want? Middle class jobs. When do we want them? Now!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

On the Beach

Sometimes you just like that feeling of sand between your toes. That feeling of the waves coming to the shore. That feeling of being bombed. Can there be any excuse for the bombing on the beach at Gaza?

To open fire on an area where there are members of the public is inexcusable. Whether by negligence, carelessness or deliberate act this is just morally wrong. For further coverage see Norm and also Lisa Goldman. Ha'aretz's Bradley Burston has this to say:
For every Mohammed Dura, there have been hundreds and hundreds of Palestinians killed by the IDF in error, in conjunction with the killing of terrorists, or because overwhelming force and remote technology was applied in order to minimize the risk to Israeli troops.

There was no news crew to film them, so the world cares nothing for them. And neither do we. Their tragedies are no less unbearable, surely no less unbearable than the hundreds of our own the world cares nothing for.

We can live with it, as we live with the idea of sending thousands and thousands of artillery shells into one of the most crowded districts on the planet, in order to try to hit three-man mobile crews firing a rocket not much bigger than a broom - the equivalent of going after a fly with a pile-driver.

We live with it because we Can't Just Do Nothing, as if thousands of shells, many of them directed at open spaces calculated precisely to hit nothing, are the only possible alternative.

We can live with it, fundamentally, because we don't know what else to do, and because the only thing left for us to believe, is that it's wrong to negotiate.
Side A lobs bombs into the are controlled by Side B. Side B retaliates by lobbing bombs into the area controlled by Side A. Side A retaliates by lobbing bombs into the are controlled by Side B. No matter who started the damn thing everyone is now retaliating.

The tricky thing about negotiation is deciding who to negotiate with. Whether or not to negotiate is an easy question to answer. Except in the extremest of circumstances you find someone to negotiate with, (assuming there is someone with the authority to take a negotiated settlement and get it agreed by their people). If there isn't a candidate then find one.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Lowdham Book Festival

There's a splendid festival taking place in a week's time in Lowdham, Nottinghamshire.

We're off to see Mike Marqusee on Bob Dylan; and Simon Cowell on Orson Welles.

(No? Really? That can't be right. Let me check my notes. Oops. Simon Callow. Wrong bloody Simon.)

Anyway it looks a good festival so if you're in the neighbourhood, drop in.

Who do I support?

Should an accident of geography dictate who you support in international sporting contests?

Under late Capitalism support in the World Cup is just another commodity choice. You are fully justified in supporting who you damn please.

If that's England, well somebody has to. An accident of birth shouldn't dictate where you live your life (even if it so often does) so why should it dictate who you support in international sporting contests?

It's just so difficult to get hold of Paraguay and Serbia-Montenegro flags in Nottingham.

Serbia-Montenegro must be the first country which no longer existed at the time the tournament started to play in the World Cup Finals. If they win the tournament will there there be two victory parades?

And I still haven't said it. Several nights ago the media coverage of Shrek arriving in Germany was like the coverage you would expect for the First Coming (or Second Coming depending on your ideological and religious preference). In England's first game isn't any savvy defender going to tread on Mr Rooney's foot at the first corner? Wither England's chances?

England should really have chosen SWP (no, this one).

Friday, June 02, 2006

From Lip Balm to Felix Dzerzhinsky

Belarus has just unveiled a memorial statue to Felix Dzerzhinsky, of the Cheka and the Red Terror. Harry's Place compared the reputation of Dzerzhinsky with that of Che Guevara.

Now in the V&A there's an exhibition of photos of Che. In an act of turning the literary and historical into just the visual the V&A have removed "much of the text accompanying and explaining the images", and posted it on its website instead. That's helpful for visitors to the show.

The V&A website describes Che as "a symbol of fashion’s fascination with radical chic". It appears to be an exhibition devoid of context making Che yet another icon whose image can be bought and sold. There's an Argentine expression for this phenomenon:
“Tengo una remera del Che y no sé por qué,” or “I have a Che T-shirt and I don’t know why.”
In a futher show of the abandonment of politics for fashion Gerry Adams was refused an invite to the opening because "having Gerry Adams there may not be appropriate". Now opinions on Gerry Adams vary, but here he seems to have been "uninvited" because he is seen as "P-O-L-I-T-I-C-A-L" and we can't have that, can we, boys and girls.

Ms Ziff [, the curator,] remains dismayed. "It's extraordinary," she said. "The V&A have tried to turn it all [the Guevara exhibition] into just a design image and remove the resonance from it all.

"But you can't just turn Che Guevara into a commodity. The photo of Che by Alfredo Korda is the most reproduced image in history but it still has power. You can call it a storm in a teacup but it is really insidious. And on top of all that, the V&A shop is selling all these images of Che - there is even a Che lip balm.I'm amazed at the mindset."

Among items for sale during the exhibition will be a Che finger puppet, Che chocolate cigar, Che doll and Che cigar box as well as T-shirts, stickers, neon signs and badges.
I suppose that's an empty cigar box?

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Here's someone with something to say about clouds.

... there's an Arabic phrase for someone who is lucky or blessed - they say, 'His sky is always filled with clouds.' It's the complete opposite [of the Western attitude]. Clouds provide shade and rain. And rain is life; it's about abundance. Clouds bring beauty to the sunset. And they clear the atmosphere. They're purifiers: cloud droplets form around bits of pollution and bring it back to earth. But one of the main things for me is appreciating their beauty. Every day is like a new page."
And here's the Cloud Appreciation Society.