Monday, December 20, 2004


For those for whom the holiday season/Christmas/Hanukkah is not the holiday season/Christmas/Hanukkah without a puzzle, here's one from ssshhh (a place that until relatively recently was not mentioned and therefore officially did not exist).

Happy codebreaking.

Yes, but-ism

  • PooterGeek has a splendid, must-read piece on that conversational trope the "Yes, but".

  • SIAW sum up the year in Iraq
    The basic point really is very simple - nothing that has happened since April 2003 alters it; it’s worth repeating as many times as it takes to go on pissing these idiots off; and peace and goodwill to all just doesn’t apply: those who opposed the liberation of Iraq effectively supported the continuation of the Ba’ath dictatorship indefinitely, into a future in which even 100,000 deaths would have been a mere fraction of the total killed - off camera, off screen, and therefore below the radars of people whose chief concern throughout has been, not the fate of Iraqis, but their own continuing membership of their shitty little mutual admiration societies, in which nobody ever admits mistakes, nobody ever shuts up and tries listening for once, and nobody notices how utterly out of touch they all are. Fuck the lot of them.
  • What more needs to be said?

    Friday, December 17, 2004

    Snack Foods and Tourism

    This is just class tourism. As the man said "Everybody hates a tourist, especially one who thinks it's all such a laugh".
    Forcefeeding guests retro party snacks is de rigueur this Christmas, with party organisers reporting a surge in demand for fondue sets, cheese and pineapple chunks, sausages on sticks, and, for a dash of sophisticated suburban cool, vol au vents.

    "It is quite kitschy and you can theme your whole party," said one party organiser, Helene Martin Gee.
    For some of us "cheese and pineapple chunks, sausages on sticks, and ... vol au vents" have always been the party food of choice. Does that make us "cool" even though we are definitely not "suburban"?

    Thursday, December 16, 2004

    Piffle on Religion

    In today's Grauniad Seamus Milne comes out with a "we are all religious now" piece of specious piffle. I'll leave the exegesis to Harry's Place. As has been mentioned elsewhere just because you are opposed to Capitalism does not mean you are Progressive. It's what you are for that marks you out as Progressive or Reactionary.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2004

    Hellenistic Philosophy

    I have proof. Proof of what you may ask. Proof that I am a sceptic. Here it is.
    You are a Sceptic.
    You are a Sceptic.
    Philosophical skepticism originated in ancient
    Greek philosophy. One of its first proponents
    was Pyrrho of Elis (c. 360-275 B.C.), who
    travelled and studied as far as India, and
    propounded the adoption of 'practical'
    skepticism. Subsequently, in the 'New Academy'
    Arcesilaos (c. 315-241 B.C.) and Carneades (c.
    213-129 B.C.) developed more theoretical
    perspectives, whereby conceptions of absolute
    truth and falsity were refuted. Carneades
    criticised the views of the Dogmatists,
    especially supporters of Stoicism, asserting
    that absolute certainty of knowledge is
    impossible. Sextus Empiricus (c. A.D. 200), the
    main authority for Greek skepticism, developed
    the position further, incorporating aspects of
    empiricism into the basis for asserting

    Greek skeptics criticised the Stoics, accusing them
    of dogmatism. For the skeptics, the logical
    mode of argument was untenable, as it relied on
    propositions which could not be said to be
    either true or false without relying on further
    propositions. This was the argument of infinite
    regress, whereby every proposition must rely on
    other propositions in order to maintain its
    validity. In addition, the skeptics argued that
    two propositions could not rely on each other,
    as this would create a circular argument (as p
    implies q and q implies p). For the skeptics
    logic was thus an inadequate measure of truth
    which could create as many problems as it
    claimed to have solved. Truth was not, however,
    necessarily unobtainable, but rather an idea
    which did not yet exist in a pure form.
    Although skepticism was accused of denying the
    possibility of truth, in actual fact it appears
    to have mainly been a critical school which
    merely claimed that logicians had not
    discovered truth.

    Which Hellenistic School of Philosophy Would You Belong To?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Unfortunately I don't believe it. (As Father Ted Crilly said to Richard Wilson in The Mainland (episode # 3.4) 3 April 1998. But that is just too sad.)

    Iraqi Bloggers and their critics

    Eric has a splendid post on ill-informed academic criticism of Iraqi bloggers. He ends with
    Of course Iraq the Model should be popular with those who think democratic freedoms are important, not just right-wingers. However, these days it seems that the left have to be miserable doommongers who have lost hope in the idea that all peoples of the world are capable of, or even desirous of, progressive and democratic political systems.

    The left, and the intellectuals who feed them their sugary doggie treats, are so far up their own anti-imperialist arses bleating about George Bush, that those they should naturally be supporting are forgotten as minor inconveniences in their increasingly desperate efforts to be proved right on Iraq.
    He also quotes from some Iraqi bloggers. Go read it.

    Monday, December 13, 2004

    Criticize Religion - Freely

    There is a long list of blogs supporting Nick Cohen's Observer article so go read them:
  • Mick Hartley
  • Norm
  • SIAW

  • As SIAW ask
    How about this for a radical new approach: why not leave religion to the religious (and the kind of blinkered liberals who get more upset about symbol than substance), and focus once again on the sources and forms of social division that can’t be chosen, from “race”, gender and sexual orientation to what used to be the chief concern of the left: class?
    Why not, indeed.

    Thursday, December 09, 2004


    Norm reports on the International Labour Organisation's latest report.
    The International Labour Organisation's World Employment report said about 2.8 billion people were employed globally in 2003. But nearly 1.4 billion, the highest number ever, are living on less than $2 a day, while 550 million are living under the $1 poverty line. On current growth projections, this could halve in some areas of the world by 2015.
    One of the main goals is to halve the number people living on $1 a day by 2015. About 185.9 million people worldwide were unemployed in 2003. This is just the "tip of iceberg", the report says, since more than seven times that number are employed but still live in poverty.

    To achieve high employment rates and a greater reduction in poverty, there needs to be a focus on improving productivity. Gains in productivity can benefit workers in the form of higher earnings and reduced working time.
    So the solution to our problems is "improve[d] productivity". If workers are not paid piece-rate but a fixed wage is not "improve[d] productivity" just going to mean the wage stays the same; the time at work stays the same; and all that happens is that more stuff gets made for more potential profit surplus value for the owners? Not that this is an argument for the abomination of piece-rate pay, just a statement that "improve[d] productivity" does not, necessarily, lead to better working conditions (pay and time at work).

    This level of daily income is a stain on the, collective, human ethic. The World Development Movement has a Trade Justice Campaign that is worth supporting. The main points are
  • The EU should unilaterally end agricultural export subsidies now

  • The EU should support changes to trade rules to enshrine the right of developing countries to protect their domestic agricultural sectors on the grounds of food security, livelihood security and sustainable rural development. As a first step at the WTO, the EU should ensure developing countries are able to self-select products on these grounds to be exempt from any further liberalisation

  • The UK Government to demand that the IMF and World Bank stop imposing trade conditions on poor countries

  • The EU to withdraw its demand that water is included in GATS

  • The UK Government (and EU) should oppose any restrictions on the ability of governments to regulate foreign investment in accordance with their development and environmental needs

  • The EU to ensure that global trade policies and practices do not undercut internationally agreed social and environmental standards, in particular core labour standards and as a first step to ensure that the ILO is granted full observer status at the WTO

  • The UK Government (and EU) to enact legislation to ensure that companies are held accountable for their social and environmental impacts at home and abroad

  • The EU to withdraw the following demands from its Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiating mandate:
    - reciprocal trade liberalisation
    - negotiations on competition policy, investment and public procurement
  • Do something. And do it now.

    State Jester

    I jest not but England has a State Jester (brought to you by English Heritage), not to be confused with the National Guild of Jesters' own national jester. The jester was appointed amidst allegations of shenanigans. Why not invite the two jesters to have a duel - custard pies and goats bladders at dawn? This must be taken seriously. Something must be done.

    Monday, December 06, 2004

    Happy Birthday to SIAW

    Belated anniversary greetings to SIAW. To quote from today's guest blogger, Hak Mao,
    the commitment to the principles of universal, indivisible human rights and freedom of thought [must be] proclaimed. To fail to do this is to prolong the Age of Waiting.
    Lenin once again, at the third Congress of the Comintern [**]:
    The Party must go to the masses! Yes, the masses! And not turn into a sect!
    That is what it's all about. (Can't help thinking that's a bit of the Roots creeping in there, but it works). There may be room for some discussion over "masses" or "classes" in the Negri and Hardt sense, but I'm in agreement with the sentiment.

    Questions to the President

    Found this interesting article (okay, I found it interesting, it's interesting to me, and may be interesting to you), by Dan Froomkin. It's about the infrequently held, and the not very informative questions and answers at those that are, press conferences by the President.
    Bush has held only 16 during his first term -- a far cry from the 43 Bill Clinton had at this point in his first term, and the 84 by Bush's father.

    It seems unlikely that Bush, in his second term, will adopt John Kerry's pledge to hold one press conference a month if elected. In fact, it's entirely possible that Bush will try to hold even fewer than he did during his first term. It's not as if there was a voter backlash for avoiding the media's questions -- so why should he subject himself to more than he absolutely has to? There was a hint of this in Bush's obligatory post-election news conference on Nov. 4, when he only half-jokingly suggested that the "will of the people" now entitled him to establish more restrictive rules with the press corps.
    they should also bring it up every time they get in earshot of the president. ("Mr. President, why won't you meet with us once a month?") Correspondents are sometimes loath to appear too activist or hectoring. But there is nothing inappropriate about the press demanding accountability from the president of the United States.

    And they should ask better questions.

    It doesn't happen under CJ Cregg (well, not much).

    For a dissection of Froomkin's piece try on Dec 03. It made me smile.


    Norm blogs on Martin Jacques's article in the Grauniad. Interesting it is too. Martin Jacques goes on, and on, about how the media is obsessed with the personal over the political. Wasn't there a magazine, Marxism Today, in the 1980's that promoted the "personal is political" line? Wasn't that magazine edited by someone called Martin Jacques? Is the editor of Marxism Today related to the sometime Grauniad columnist?

    Delving deeper I have found an interesting piece by Decca Aitkenhead on MT in 1998.
    The ones I read contained some brilliant analysis by Stuart Hall, which I poached for my essays, so I was well-disposed towards the magazine. Being a lazy student, I read no further, and carelessly assumed that Marxism Today was actually written by Marxists.
    It was only afterwards that I paid proper attention, and looked into what Marxism Today had actually had to say for itself in the 80s. Marxism Today, I discovered, spent much of the Thatcher decade arguing that the left should take lessons from Thatcherism, embrace modernity, and 'have history on its side'. This much was uncontroversial. From there, however, the magazine moved towards a more surprising position, one which fetishised and feted the core essentials of Thatcherism - individualism, the market, private ownership, consumer culture.

    As the issues progressed, the magazine moved on from flirtation with Thatcherism to a preparation of the ground for Blairism. Almost every fundamental of new Labour can be found in the pages of Marxism Today's back issues. Rights and responsibilities, community and citizenship, love of modernisation, they were all there, dressed up rather unconvincingly as a 'progressive' take on Marxism. So it is odd that on the cover of the issue published this week should be a big picture of Blair and the one-word headline, 'Wrong'. How does Marxism Today account for this contradiction?

    'We have no qualms about Blair's embrace of modernity,' writes Martin Jacques in the editorial. 'On the contrary, it was what we ourselves advocated over many years.'
    There it is. Marxism Today as pre-thinkers of the Blairite project.

    Thursday, December 02, 2004


    There. An important title for an important piece. Norm links to this splendid piece by three Arab journalists on attitudes to democracy in Arab countries.
    In 'Democratic Occupation?' columnist Salama Ni'mat, the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat wrote:
    "It is well and good for the Arabs to demand the right of political representation for the Sunni Arabs out of concern for them in the face of the tyranny of the other Iraqi groups and out of concern for national unity and the ideal relative representation. But we do not understand why this concern does not apply to the many Arab countries that do not permit their minorities to announce their existence, let alone their right to [political] representation.
    In a similar vein, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, former editor of the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and now director-general of Al-Arabiyya TV, wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:
    "The current regime in Baghdad was given legitimacy by a unanimous vote of the members of the U.N. Security Council, and became legal according to international law. On the regional level, the legitimacy of the new Iraqi regime was emanated from a unanimous Arab League vote. Locally, this regime made huge strides when it established the National Council – a parliament that represents all the different populations in Iraq, including the opposition – and the [regime] will reach its goal when it holds the upcoming elections.

    "If we view these three levels [i.e. the U.N. Security Council, the Arab League, and the Iraqi National Council] as a criterion, the Iraqi regime is more legitimate than most [regimes] in the countries of the region – some of which emerged as a result of coups or internal conspiracies, when no one asked the people what it thought.

    "If the doubt regarding the Iraqi regime stems from its ties with Washington - do you know of any [Arab] government that does not have any special ties with Washington or other [Western] countries? If the justification for the doubt in the Iraqi regime is the presence of American forces [in Iraq], we must remember that Iraq is not the only country hosting American forces. Moreover, most of the voices criticizing the [present] regime in Iraq come from countries with even more American forces on their land…"
    Read the whole piece. Now deny the legitimacy of the forthcoming Iraqi elections. Go on. Try.
    Hak Mao posts on the harassment and detention of bloggers in Iran. The general reason was "publishing false information with the aim of disrupting public order". Isn't that the reason given by repressive, and downright nasty, regimes everywhere? Is there some campaign to link to or letters to write?

    The link on Harry's Place gives further details:
    Here are their names and sites.

    Mojtaba Saminejad (who was arrested at the beginning of November for speaking out against the arrest of his three colleagues in his blog); and
    Farid Modaressi
    The Iranian Embassy in London is at 16 PRINCE`S GATE LONDON SW7 1PT
    The telephone number is (+44) 2072253000
    The fax number is: ( +44)2075894440

    Something for you to do today. Write and protest.

    Ukrainski vistupi

    A splendid piece in today's Grauniad by Timothy Garton Ash on
    Why are so many west Europeans being such lemons about Ukraine's orange revolution? Every day brings a new example of some feeble, back-handed or downright hostile reaction.
    He goes on to ask, and answer, six questions. There's further comment at Harry's Place.

    While you're reading the article listen to The Ukrainians.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2004

    Apologists and Fellow Travellers

    In today's Grauniad David Aaronovitch has a splendid piece on John Laughland the man who
    ...queried the idea that human rights are a problem in Belarus, or that the Serbs behaved so very savagely in Kosovo. He has defended Slobodan Milosevic, criticised the International Tribunal in the Hague and generally argued that the problem in countries normally associated with human rights abuses is, in fact, the intervention of western agencies.
    There is also a discussion over at Harry's Place. Aaronovitch also makes possibly the first mainstream mention of a rather strange outfit
    This information comes from a US website called where, for a while, Stone had a regular Thursday column. But was not a leftwing site opposing the Iraq war. It was a rightwing site set up to oppose the Kosovo intervention in 1999. Its "editorial director" was a man called Justin Raimondo who was active in the small US Libertarian party before joining the Republican party. In the 1992, 1996 and 2000 elections he supported the campaigns of Pat Buchanan, the far-right isolationist candidate.

    Raimondo is also an "adjunct scholar" with the Ludwig von Mises Institute. This is a libertarian think-tank in Auburn, Alabama, founded by one Lew Rockwell, who describes himself as "an opponent of the central state, its wars and its socialism".
    For further details see this post. The list of fellow travellers of the Stop-The-War-Coalition is bizarre, running from the John Birch Society (as made infamous by the Bob Dylan song "Talkin John Birch Blues") to the Ludwig Von Mises Institute to old conservatives like Pat Buchanan (who see the role of government strictly limited to the defence of the rights of private property).

    When you start campaigning alongside such organisations shouldn't you at least stop and think "What have we got in common?" and "Do I want to share a bed with these people?" I wouldn't even share a bowl of porridge but that's just me.

    Monday, November 29, 2004

    Top Films

    This weekend C4 ran a top 100 chart (yep another one). But this one is good. Not the usual "as voted for by ..." drivel but a real objective chart based not on the ever inflating box-office receipts but a real solid statistic - bums on seats (not to be confused with take a hobo to the cinema day). Here's the results.
    10 The Seventh Veil 1945 - Estimated Admissions 17.9m
    9 The Wicked Lady 1946 - Estimated Admissions 18.4m
    8 Titanic 1998 - Estimated Admissions 18.91m
    7 The Jungle Book 1968 - Estimated Admissions 19.8m
    6 The Best Years Of Our Lives 1947 - Estimated Admissions 20.4m
    5 Spring In Park Lane 1948 - Estimated Admissions 20.5m
    4 Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope 1978 - Estimated Admissions 20.76m
    3 Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs 1938 - Estimated Admissions 28m
    2 The Sound Of Music 1965 - Estimated Admissions 30m
    1 Gone with The Wind 1940 - Estimated Admissions 35m
    There is a story that Margaret Mitchell wanted her favourite screen star for the part of Rhett Butler. What a different film that would have been. Try and imagine Groucho Marx as Rhett Butler. Go on. Just try.

    Friday, November 26, 2004

    The Grauniad and Zimbabwe

    Late blogging this but what the heck. The Grauniad gets its comment in first
    In some quarters, the failure of this newspaper to get itself banned from the England cricket tour of Zimbabwe might be seen as a badge of dishonour. If Robert Mugabe's goons are prepared to let you in, you must be doing something wrong. But the very fact that the Zimbabwe government has made such a capricious and whimsical choice between those media outlets whose presence it will tolerate and those it considers to be agents of the enemy is merely the latest confirmation that no sense or benefit could ever have come from this particular adventure.

    So, has Mugabe made a "capricious and whimsical choice between ... media outlets" or is there some plan behind it all? Is Mugabe a Quick Crossword fan? A fan of Steve Bell? A devotee of Seamus Milne?

    The Roots

    Wednesday night I went with Rullsenberg to one of the best concerts ever. (I have a rule that if you come out of a gig and don't feel that it's the best gig ever then you've wasted your time. Okay tomorrow your judgement may change. But that's tomorrow.)

    The Roots must be the best live hip hop band around. As ?uestLove says
    ?uestlove's hope is that other rappers will appreciate those moments and be inspired to expand their musical scope.

    "People still don't know the infinite possibilities of a band," he said. "What's very unfortunate is the Roots are [one of] the only [groups] of black musicians on a major label. That could be seen as an honor, but it baffles me. I don't want to be a novelty. Twenty years ago, groups made records: the Commodores, War, Con Funk Shun, the J.B.'s, Brass Construction. Now if any band were to start, it'd be like, 'Man, they just biting the Roots.' And that's a problem."

    There are "a million" other live hip-hop bands out there, ?uestlove said — you just have to know how to find them.

    "It's one mouse click away — the Internet," he said. "If Ghostface knew what I knew, he'd be in L.A. looking for Breakestra. They are the only band that has caused me to lose sleep. They play those old funk records, and this is the kind of thing Ghostface has been wanting to do his whole life, but he don't know. And I know because I am on the Internet. Cats gotta stay informed. It's like reading the newspaper."

    Good live hip hop is amazing. Give it a go.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2004

    Chess and Celebrity

    Apparently Chess is now cool. Or so it said in the Grauniad. Sometimes playing chess can be fun (okay I'm weird). Does it really need celebrity endorsement? I'm a celebrity and I'll be mated in 5, get me out of this? Prime time tv with that one.

    I prefer Raymond Chandler's "Chess is as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you can find outside an advertising agency". (I think it's from The Long Goodbye but I'm open to other suggestions).

    Thursday, November 18, 2004

    Creationist Fun

    There is a creationist theme park in Florida, U.S.A.
    Dinosaur Adventure Land, a creationist theme park and museum ... that beckons children to "find out the truth about dinosaurs" with games that roll science and religion into one big funfest with the message that Genesis, not science, tells the real story of the creation.
    Dinosaur Adventure Land, tucked behind a highway lined with car dealerships in this metropolitan area of 425,000, sits next to Mr. Hovind's home and the offices of Creation Science Evangelism, which he said he founded in 1989. Mr. Hovind is well known in Pensacola, and even in a region where religious billboards almost outnumber commercial ones he is controversial. Escambia County sued him in 2000 after he refused to get a $50 permit before building his theme park, saying the government had no authority over a church.

    Just last week Internal Revenue Service agents used a search warrant to remove financial documents from Mr. Hovind's home and offices, saying he was not paying taxes and had neither a business license nor tax-exempt status for his enterprises.

    Mr. Hovind did not want to discuss the I.R.S. investigation, saying only, "I don't have any tax obligations."

    The man who calls himself Dr. Dino is also controversial among creationists, some of whom say he discredits their movement with some of his pseudo-scientific claims. Mr. Hovind got into a dispute in 2002 with Answers in Genesis, when he took issue with an article it published called "Arguments We Think Creationists Should Not Use." One such argument was that footprints found in Texas proved that man and dinosaurs coexisted; Mr. Hovind said he considered the argument, now abandoned by many creationists, valid. Mr. Hovind said he gave 700 lectures a year and that 38,000 people had visited his park, at $7 a head. According to a map that invites visitors to pinpoint their hometown, most come from the Florida Panhandle and from Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

    Even Creationists have "splitters".

    Hat Tip to Counago and Spaves

    Wednesday, November 17, 2004

    It Came from Outer Space - in 3D

    Life, and death, intervened last week to prevent any scrawling on this site. Amidst a manic week of house clearing (countless visits to a recycling centre, charity shops and a tip, all topped off with a big cathartic bonfire) I managed to see It Came from Outer Space at Warwick [University] Arts Centre in Coventry.
    This was not any old showing of the film. No. This had a live soundtrack performed by the most important band of the last thirty years, Pere Ubu. It's a band driven by a man with a vision. A man who looks, and sometimes sounds like late period Orson Welles. Listen. See. Be amazed. This review of an earlier night sums things up but this night did not have the early lights up. This night was good.
    We’re here to experience the band improvising a soundtrack to the 1953 B-movie It Came From Outer Space. There’s nothing new about musicians providing live accompaniment to films, but this is something different. For one thing, tonight’s movie is being shown in its original 3D format, with the splendid result that the sold-out crowd, all wearing those fantastic 3D spex, suddenly look like authentic drive-in hipsters. “Red lens over the right eye,” Thomas warns. “If you put the green lens over the right eye … your brain will explode.”

    For another thing, rather than simply making new music, Thomas is performing a virtual act of reconstruction. The movie – about a spaceship which crashes in Arizona, piloted by benign aliens who replicate locals to repair their craft – was originally written by Ray Bradbury, but the film’s producers did their best to remove the brains and strangeness of his treatment. For instance, Bradbury wanted his aliens to remain unseen, but the studio insisted on big rubber monsters. Through the combination of music and an occasional voiceover to replace lost dialogue, Thomas, who considers the movie a “critique of post-war racial isolationism”, is attempting to tease out whatever remains of the original vision.

    It works wonderfully well. There are moments when what the band is doing could be generously described as “aimless noodling”, but in the main the soundtrack focuses your attention in a way that allows you to enjoy the 1950s-kitsch shlock surface and also see beneath it. Director Jack Arnold composed 3D intelligently and the effects stand up – you’re almost ducking as the hero scientist swings his telescope in your direction – but tonight’s performance is more like X-ray vision.

    Ubu’s prowling noise highlights the film’s authentic desert feel ...

    Built around repeatedly explored figures and from melodic bass throb, guitar scrape, intuitive drumming, on-the-spot dialogue samples and Theremin quivers ... one that builds across the night into a monumental thing, a dark, drilling, interstellar-overdrive groove as intensely urgent as Ubu’s Heart Of Darkness of 30 years ago.
    This was the perfect mix of music and film. This is the last ever showing of this 3D film. We want more. More 3D films. More Ubu.

    Thursday, November 04, 2004

    BushBushBush and the expected responses

    Over at Siaw they cover the U.S. election
    The Coverage
    At 8 pm GMT (3 pm in Washington, DC) Dick Cheney and George Bush came out onto the stage (under vast “W” signs that looked to British eyes like adverts for Waterstone’s bookshops), and the whole thing was over at last, leaving us close to being all newsed out again ...

    Was that sign saying "Read More Books, Go On, You Know You Want To" or am I reading too much into it. Has anyone else noticed that in the three weeks before the election the red tops in the UK had headlines like "Kerry's Night of Lust". Scandal hits the UK before the National Enquirer but then I realised it was nothing to do with John Kerry but somebody else of that name.

    The Grauniad has an overly pessimistic piece but of a one with the "Liberal/Left?mediocratic" worldview
    The mistake we all made was in getting our hopes up. Until lunchtime on Tuesday, in accordance with the rules of superstition, lay supporters of John Kerry kept their outlook pessimistic. In bones, waters, winds and related vapours across the land, the election was divined by pro-Democrats to be in the bag for Bush. This is what is known as preparing a soft landing; it is measured in units of unhatched chicks.
    Do what? Life goes on. Domestically life would have been different under Kerry but internationally did anyone expect a Kerry presidency to be that different from a Bush presidency?

    The SWP proclaim that "70 percent of US voters did not back [Bush]". S'funny I thought Bush got a majority of the votes cast. Put simply, if you do not vote you are not a voter. The only votes that count are those that are cast.

    Again, the Grauniad quotes "Harold Pinter Playwright and anti-war campaigner
    "It's a black day for the world." Really. Thanks for sharing, Harold.

    The Mirror proclaims on its front page "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?" That's almost racist in its damning sneering "we are so much better than them". As SIAW put it
    there will be those who interpret the result as confirmation of their belief (whether explicitly or, more often, covertly held) that most people in general, and, of course, Americans in particular, are stupid, ignorant and passive, the malleable subjects of a corporate–media–political complex that rules the world and is defied only by such brave dissidents as Michael Moore, Harold Pinter, John Pilger ... – you know the rest: if the people fail to live up to the ideals proclaimed on their behalf, and largely out of their earshot, by those who claim to know better than they do, so much the worse for the people, right? On the contrary, so much the worse for the reactionary pseudo-left, who know so very little about what most of their fellow human beings are thinking and feeling, have no respect for the ability of non-“experts” to process the information and images we are all bombarded with, and can’t even face up to the effects of their own deep-seated prejudices.
    Life goes on. "It's not the end of the world as we know it".
    It's four more years of the mediacracy knowing exactly what to say. Four more years of fortune-cookie oppositionist politics. Four more years of "Gosh. Amercians must be so dumb." Four more years of "How can those people have done it" (it being voted for Bush and not some other heinous thing). Think of it like this in four years time it's not going to be Bush. Hang on, unless Jed stands. Damn. Then we have a hereditary presidency. Politics is more than who is in the big offices of state. It's all about people and how they act and relate to each other. Has this election changed that? Yup. Not one jot.

    Tuesday, November 02, 2004

    Latest on the U.S. election

    Fox News reports
    Republicans and Democrats went ahead with plans to dispatch thousands of lawyers to potential election trouble spots even as judges made 11th-hour changes to voting rules in Ohio, a state that could determine the presidency.

    Republicans won an overnight victory when a federal appeals court ruled they can challenge voters' qualifications at the polls in Ohio. A lawyer for a black couple who sought to stop the practice said shortly after midnight he had already asked the Supreme Court (search) to block the circuit court ruling.

    With the latest ruling coming just hours before the polls open, the effect of the last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court was not immediately clear.

    Partisan lawyers will join thousands of outside lawyers and neutral poll watchers on Tuesday, concentrating on Ohio, Florida and a handful of other states where the race between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry (search) is extremely close.
    . . .
    Democrats and civil rights organizations say Republicans are targeting minority voters in an attempt to reduce the number of ballots cast for Kerry and other Democrats.

    "All of this activity is racial profiling," said NAACP Chairman Julian Bond. "None of it is aimed at white voters. It is all based on the racist presumption that racial minorities are cheaters."

    The dispute is the latest in a series of legal face-offs over rules for casting and counting votes this year. The maneuvering began weeks ago and was most intense in Ohio and Florida, each with rich caches of Electoral College votes.
    So The U.S. election looks like being a lawyer fest. Is anyone really surprised? Disappointed, yes. But surprised? Would more rigorous vote registration procedures pre-empt voting day challenges? Or does it just make better "news" to have challenges on the day?

    Protecting Your Vote (For U.S. citizens)

    See here. Also see Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
    Verified Voting Foundation (VVF) also offers guides to assist voters in casting votes successfully when they face new voting technologies at the polls. VVF's Voters' Guide to Electronic Voting provides voters with easy-to-read information about the voting machines used in their local polling places and pointers about how to prevent voting technology problems and vote successfully. There's also an urgent warning to voters using touch screen/DRE voting machines.

    "We've pulled together in one convenient place a bunch of information that was theoretically available to voters, but really hard to come by," said VVF Executive Director Will Doherty.

    "We're doing what we can to let the public know about the problems with and alternatives to paperless e-voting," commented VVF Nationwide Coordinator Pamela Smith.

    Once again, for reporting any election irregularity, you can use the toll-free hotline now at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1 866-687-8683). Use to find and follow the reports.
    It's good to know your vote is being protected.

    Vote early

    and definitely do not vote often, else the lawyers will get you and the result will be invalidated and the world's superpower will have no leader for umpteen months and loads of bad things will happen and some good things may happen but why take that chance.

    But Harry has a good story on early voting.

    Also see this from Norm.

    Monday, November 01, 2004

    T'was election night and all was quiet

    In the UK Channel 4 are way behind in scheduling The West Wing but last friday's was right on track (if two years later than in the U.S.).
    At 10 am, people on the staff are already assuming they have won.
    ". . . we won. We don't have to pander," Sam tells them.
    "Please don't say that. . . ." Toby says from the other end of the room. "I'm not kidding. . . . We haven't won anything yet."
    "The speech is done," C.J says.
    "Two speeches are done," Toby tells her.
    "What's the second?"
    "I've got a speech if he wins. I've got a speech if he doesn't."
    "You wrote a concession?" Sam asks him.
    "Of course I wrote a concession. You want to tempt the wrath of whatever from high atop the thing?"
    "Then go outside, turn around three times, and spit. What the hell is the matter with you?"
    "It's like 25 degrees outside. . . ." Sam sits down not taking any of this seriously. Then Josh joined the meeting and he tells him that Toby "wrote a concession speech."
    "Of course, he wrote a concession speech. Why wouldn't he? What possible reason would he have for not to writing a concession speech?"
    "The wrath from high atop the thing."
    "He up and said we were gonna ---"
    "No, you have to go outside turn around three times and curse."
    "Spit and curse."
    "Do everything. Go!"
    "Go!" Getting it from both sides now, Sam gets up and flees to the freezing outdoors.
    When he gets back, C.J. tells him, "You can't be too careful."
    "I think you can," Sam mumbles.
    Taken from episode #407 Election Night, with thanks from

    Lighten up time

    A joke from the Stoa via Hak Mao.

    No early peeping to the punchline. It's an honour thing.

    The answers are still blowin' in the wind

    Today's grauniad has a condensed version of Bob Dylan's Chronicles.
    I wanted to cut a record. But not a 45. I went down to play a song for Woody Guthrie. "You brought that song to life," he said.

    I'd been in a motorcycle accident. I just wanted out of the rat race. Journalists, promoters, fans: they were all calling me the tortured conscience of America. I never planned to be an icon. I was just a singer writing songs that made some kind of sense to me. Outside the wind was blowing.

    People told me what my lyrics meant. It was news to me. One album was supposedly intensely autobiographical. Let them think so. I knew it was based on a bunch of Chekhov short stories. I just wanted to escape with my wife and raise my kids like any other American.

    Mike Marqusee gave an excellent review in the Guardian
    The Dylan of these chapters is a true believer in the religion of folk, which "exceeded all human understanding, and if it called out to you, you could disappear and be sucked into it." He claims that the old songs taught him there was nothing new on this earth. History was cyclical: societies emerge, flourish, decline (but "I had no idea which of these stages America was in"). Here he seems to be reading back into his youth some of the attitudes he struck later on. The young man who wrote "Hattie Carroll", "With God on Our Side", "Masters of War" and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" was a poet of urgency, and he would have found the fatalism of the later Dylan far too pat. "I had a primitive way of looking at things and I liked country fair politics," he insists. "My favourite politician was [rightwing] Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, who reminded me of Tom Mix." Maybe, but this "primitive" also dissected the political psychology of the fallout-shelter craze in "Let Me Die in My Footsteps", lambasted anti-communist hysteria in "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues", and explored the link between race and class in "Only a Pawn in Their Game".
    I like the comment about Barry Goldwater. All part of the "don't follow leaders, follow parking meters" approach to life. Chronicles should be read alongside Mike Marqusee's splendid Chimes of Freedom: The Politics of Bob Dylan's Art whilst listening to the man's music.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2004

    John Peel R.I.P

    John Peel. Does anything more need to be said?

    Here's a transcription of a little known work - John Peel as the Radio in Fm Einheit's Dante's Inferno. This comes from Canto V.
    Good evening. This is 93.5 FM and it's Radio Inferno again. I'm John Peel, your favourite dj and guide to all these nights and noises. It's Good Friday in the year 1300 in the Middle Ages and we've got something special coming along for you out there. The sun's not yet up so tonight's programmes will be broadcast to you straight out of hell.
    We're going down. The time is about 7 o'clock and Dante and Virgil have just arrived at the gate of Hell where they read the inscription upon it. They enter and find themselves in the Vestibule of Hell. Passing quickly through they reach the river Acheron.
    Listen. Here we go.

    This is a wonderful, amazing, chaotic, awesome piece in many languages (Latin, Italian, German, English and possibly others). It's Dante's Inferno with Marcel Duchamp and John Cage. It's experiments with sound. It takes you places you have never been. If you only know English with the cd booklet and John Peel's Radio you can just follow it. Well worth a listen.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2004

    Wolves and Other Things in the Woods

    Bush-Cheney 04 recently ran a campaign focussing on the nasty things in the woods that are going to get Americans if they don't vote for Bush-Cheney. This campaign drew loads of comment. For those who haven't seen it here are the story boards.

    (Hat tip Harry's Place)

    Monday, October 25, 2004

    StWc as Reactionary Anti-Imperialists.

    Harry's Place has a good piece from the Alliance for Worker's Liberty on the politics of the Stop the War Coalition.
    To quote from the piece
    Those who howled down al Mashadani and would not let him speak — the meeting had to be abandoned — were, some of them anyway, people who think of themselves as Trotskyists (though the SWP, which has done most to create the political hysteria in which such things happen, has criticised those who shouted him down).

    In fact they are true Stalinists, and not only in their thuggish disregard for free speech. They stand squarely on the Stalinist tradition in their attitude to the Iraqi working class and to the fate of the newly reborn Iraqi working-class movement.

    They say they are anti-imperialists, and their objection to al Mashadani is that the trade union movement which he represented at the the ESF meeting does not call for the immediate withdrawal of US and British troops from Iraq; that it does not side with the military activities of the combination of Islamic fundamentalists and Saddamites who make up “the resistance”.
    . . .
    The evidence is that most Iraqis do not support the “resistance” — those who set off bombs in Baghdad without warning and with the goal of killing as many Iraqi civilians as possible. Not even the brutal stupidity of the US occupying forces has so far driven them to such a despairing conclusion.

    Certainly the new Iraqi labour movement has not reached such a conclusion. The Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions believes that the establishment of some sort of bourgeois-democratic system — even with the continued presence of US and British troops, which they oppose — is a better way forward for the Iraqi people. In that they are entirely correct.

    Socialism would be better. But if the working class is not yet able to win socialism, then the IFTU is right that the establishment and consolidation of the sort of bourgeois-democratic rights that now exist de facto, despite the bloody chaos in Iraq, and without which the trade unions cannot survive — that that is the best possible option for the Iraqi working class. They are right not to rush to despair and commit the social, political and trade unionist suicide which the idiots of classless “anti-imperialism” urge on them.
    The policy which the kitsch left urges on the Iraqi workers is a policy of political and possibly physical suicide. These “militant idiots”, despite what they intend, are with their classless and nameless “anti-imperialism”, for practical purposes, simply reactionaries.

    They are erstwhile socialists in process of inadvertently redefining themselves as “anti-imperialist” reactionaries.

    The root of it is that they are people who now operate almost entirely with negative politics. They know what they are against. Apart from a vague and undefined, and increasingly “classless”, socialism, they do not know what they are for. By negative repulsion against the USA and Britain, they back themselves into a de facto unity with the politics of downright anti-working class reaction.

    What I find most distasteful about the StWC and their supporters is their belief that they claim to know what Iraqis want. And what the Iraqis want is the slaughter of Iraqi civilians. Any Iraqi wanting anything other than the pre-packaged opinions of the StWC must be a "quisling" or a "collaborator". It must be good having such a sure world view where all things are split into binary oppositions: good vs evil; "resistors" vs "collaborators". And you know which side you are on (if you don't know you can always find out what you should think from the "What We Think" column in the paper) and those on the other side are excommunicated from "The LEFT". And so it goes. And so it goes. And so it leads to the slaughter of Trade Unionists. And so it leads to the slaughter of Socialists. And so it leads to the slaughter of heretics. And so it gets as far as it can from Marxism as a theory/practice of human liberation. And so it goes.

    *Update* For further discussion on this see Hak Mao and SIAW. To quote from SIAW
    Can we be bothered to try to teach these hankerers after ideological purity the simple moral lessons that even a child could grasp, in the childish language that might reach them - that it’s better for a Good Thing to be done by Bad People than not done at all; that you can tell something about what a person (or a sect) is like by the people they choose to hang out with; and that standing back while the other kids are fighting, then claiming to be the best mate some of those kids could hope to have, will not and should not make you popular in the playground?

    AWL are in danger of being neither one thing nor t'other1; being run over; picking splinters from their collective bum. There's a quote I can't find online from the designer of the programming language C++, Bjarne Stroustrup, that when he hears the words "pure" and "purity" he can't help thinking of storm troopers.2

    1The phrase I seem to recall from a galaxy far, far away is Neither Washington Nor Moscow but International Socialism.
    2Geek alert. Stroustrup was responding to a criticism by Bertrand Meyer that C++ is not a "pure" object oriented language.

    Saturday, October 23, 2004


    Hak Mao has a splendid piece on Cats in the annals of Marxism.

    Came across an amusing pome by Paul Murphy on Slavoj Zizek that contains the lines
    my cat says she's Eva Braun
    a soapstar, Hollywood bunny
    androgynous vamp from the Louise Brooks era
    my cat knows Slavoj Zizek
    speaks to him on the phone daily
    Lacanian fur, her Electra Complex
    unknowable triangles - mother, father, Brookes kitten.

    Thursday, October 21, 2004

    Pere Ubu and 3D It Came From Outer Space

    What could be better? Pere Ubu "improvises a live soundtrack to Jack Arnold's cult, sci-fi classic 'It Came from Outer Space'".

    On tour, in the UK, at the start of November. A wonderful, strange and awesome experience guaranteed.

    Go see - in 3D.
    As an extra reason to go - every ticket comes with *FREE* 3D glasses. Wow.
    Go and book tickets.You know you want to.

    How could a band operating on these principles be anything but splendid.
  • Don't ever audition.

  • Don't look for someone.

  • Don't seek success.

  • Choose the first person you hear about.

  • Take the first idea you get.

  • Put unique people together. Unique people will play uniquely whether or not they know how to play.

  • Delay Centrifugal Destruct Factors for as long as possible then push the button.

  • Pere Ubu's music is a disorienting mix of midwestern groove rock, "found" sound, analog synthesizers, falling-apart song structures and careening vocals.

    Buy tickets - *NOW*.

    The dates are here.

    November 5th - The Ocean, London

    Nov 7th - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

    Nov 8th - The Arches, Glasgow

    Nov 10th - The Dome, Brighton

    Nov 11th - Lighthouse, Poole

    Nov 12th - Colston Hall, Bristol

    Nov 13th - Arts Centre, Warwick

    Wednesday, October 20, 2004

    The Higher Edukayshun

    Rullsenberg has a splendid piece on the student as consumer. It's almost as if there were a need for an updating of On the Poverty of Student Life
    Once upon a time the universities had a certain prestige; the student persists in the belief that he is lucky to be there. But he came too late. His mechanical, specialized education is as profoundly degraded (in comparison to the former level of general bourgeois culture)(4) as his own intellectual level, because the modern economic system requires a mass production of uneducated students who have been rendered incapable of thinking. The university has become an institutional organization of ignorance. “High culture” is being degraded in the assembly-line production of professors, all of whom are cretins and most of whom would be jeered by any audience of highschoolers.** But the student, in his mental menopause, is unaware of all this; he continues to listen respectfully to his masters, conscientiously suppressing all critical spirit so as to immerse himself in the mystical illusion of being a “student” — someone seriously devoted to learning serious things — in the hope that his professors will ultimately impart to him the ultimate truths of the world. The future revolutionary society will condemn all the noise of the lecture halls and classrooms as nothing but verbal pollution. The student is already a very bad joke.
    What was that again
    someone seriously devoted to learning serious things — in the hope that his professors will ultimately impart to him the ultimate truths of the world.
    No. Many students become students so they can jump to the next stage of life as a young professional. The professor's job is to spoonfeed them knowledge so they can get the grades required for the fast track into middle class careerdom. They have no interest in "learning serious things".

    Grumble. Grumble. Young people of today. When I was a student we were occupying the Winter Palace and storming the Admin Building. That Bronstein,... what ever happened to him?


    A place that shall not be named, okay "Socialist" "Worker", has a brief appraisal of the life and times of Vladimir Mayakovsky. As such brief introductions go it goes. But what's this. "On 9 April 1930 he read his poem “At the Top of My Voice” to students who shouted him down for being obscure." Maybe so, but the source for that is fairly obscure (i.e. I can't find it). The reports of Mayakovsky's readings of At The Top Of My Voice I've read all say the piece was greeted by applause.

    My words
    are not used
    to caressing ears;
    nor titillate
    with semi-obscenities
    maiden ears
    hidden in hair so innocent
    . . .
    . . .
    We opened
    Marx and Engels
    every tome,
    as in our home
    we open wide the shutters,
    but without reading
    we understand alone,
    whose side we're on
    and in which camp we're fighters.
    And not from Hegel
    did we learn
    our dialectics.
    That burst
    through interclashing conflict
    into verse,
    when under fire
    the bourgeois
    ran from our attacks,
    as we
    once also ran from theirs.
    . . .
    . . .
    above the band
    of skin-flint grafters
    in rhymes,
    I'll lift up high,
    like a Bolshevik party-card,
    all the hundred books
    of my
    ComParty poems!

    What's obscure about that?

    (extracted from Mayakovsky and His Poetry, comp, ed, trans Herbert Marshall. Bombay: Pilot Press, 1955).

    Monday, October 18, 2004

    The road less travelled. . .

    Harry comments on the unpleasant path taken by the "Left" over the past 18 months.

    Several weeks ago The Guardian carried a review by Sir Ian Gilmore of a book on Brown and Blair (by James Naughtie). The next week the SWP stalwart Keith Flett wrote how Gilmore's criticisms could have come from a RESPECT pamphlet and how it is impossible to criticise Blair from the Right. He obviously has not come across these people at

    As far as I can tell these see themselves as Old Conservatives who dislike Bush, and have a whiff of anti-semitism about their politics. Witness this piece on the film Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear, & the Selling of American Empire. Although disparaging of all left-wing trappings at the showing the author approves of the revealing of the "key role played by the neoconservatives in agitating for and rationalizing the invasion of Iraq". In this revealing passage
    I really really like this movie, but it isn't without faults. Where Hijacking Catastrophe falls down is in its analysis of the Clinton years. They don't mention the Iraq Liberation Act, passed in the Clinton era, and with full Democratic party support, which first proclaimed "regime change" as a matter of official policy. Nor do they mention, even in passing, the pioneering role of the Clintonites in pushing the idea of "humanitarian" interventionism, as in Haiti, Bosnia, and the former Yugoslavia. The neocons may have been largely out of government during the Clinton years, but this is to ignore the neocon network inside the Democratic party. If the Weekly Standard is the flagship organ of the neocon GOPers, then its Democratic party equivalent is The New Republic, which has been practically the house organ of the War Party since the days of Woodrow Wilson. Two of the leading Democratic presidential primary contenders, Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman, vocally supported the decision to go to war, and continue to do so. All this goes politely unmentioned, along with the decades-long history of the neoconservatives, which is nowhere even touched on. Yet it's common knowledge they're all former "Scoop" Jackson Democrats, with their intellectual forefathers (Irving Kristol and Max Shachtman) coming straight out of the Trotskyist sects of the 1930s and into the Democratic party.
    it does seem to make the appalling connection "neocon" equals Jew and this war is but a Jewish conspiracy against the true interests of the American politic.

    As far as I can tell this site is connected to the von Mises Institute and Lew Rockwell, organisations based on restoring the old Conservative traditions (whatever they are).

    Their opposition to war is possibly based on the stance that "Successful wars send the message that our freedoms are secured only by armed agents of central power, and many are tempted to cede control of their lives to the executive state that prosecuted the war" (Llewellyn H Rockwell Jr) from the site (I have lost the specific detailed link). So war is bad as it encourages people to support a big state. There's a principled stand for you.

    Sunday, October 17, 2004

    TUC, Iraqi Trade Unions and the ESF

    The TUC have issued a statement on the appalling treatment of the IFTU and Subhi al Mashadani at the European Social Forum.

    Whatever happened to plurality? Has someone been appointed as a Grand Inquisitor to seek, find and destroy purveyors of heterodoxy on the "Left" (whatever that means anymore). Where are the "39 Articles of Faith" you have to sign up to to be a member? Who agreed them or did they just appear in the culture by a process of osmosis. Sure, there are a basic set of core beliefs, including, in no particular order: human rights, liberty, equality, anti-racism, ant-fascism, fratern/soror-ity, anti-slavery, dignity, respect(all of which have universal application). [This is not a complete list but just some that spring to mind]. People should not be witch-hunted because their application of an ideal does not fit with that of others. People and organisations invited to something like the ESF should be treated with respect and not denied a platform by self-righteous bigots.

    Saturday, October 16, 2004

    Iraq, Trade Unions and the ESF

    It looks like things have been fun at the ESF.

    A splendid post on a meeting at the ESF on the IFTU.

    Another splendid post on StWC and the SWP becoming "apologists for terrorist reactionaries".

    Yet another splendid post on an Early Day Motion condemning the StWC for calling the Iraqi Trade Unions "quislings".

    And before I vanish in a cloud here's another splendid post also on the ESF, trade unions and Iraq.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2004

    Musical recommendation of the day

    Today's musical recommendation is Ver Tanzt? by Black Ox Orkestar. This can be summed up as Yiddish folk-punk or just a damn fine thing. As the label says
    Evenly split between instrumentals and vocal tunes, the debut album of Black Ox Orkestar is a hypnotic blend of pieces pulled from various Eastern European songbooks, along with some originals. Lyrics are in Yiddish and speak forcefully about the bloody history and intractable contradictions of Jewish dispora and 'return'. The record is of appeal to anyone who appreciates melancholy, minor-key melodics and folk music unburdened by antiseptic production and/or cheap sentimentality.


    Rullsenberg rants from a personal perspective on pensions and asks the question "How do you save when your income barely covers your essential outgoings (food, housing costs, work travel - family expenditure)?".

    All may not be as gloomy as forecast. You may not live to pick up a pension. Actuaries believe that "there is no certainty that their children and grandchildren will see a similar, continuing, improvement [in life expectancy to match that of their parents and grandparents]".

    The report from March 2004 found that those born between 1925 and 1945 have had a rise in longevity. However those born after WWII have had no increase in their expected longevity.
    "The future course of mortality rates for younger adults is subject to considerable uncertainty", due in particular to potential threats such as a resurgence of infectious diseases or the much-discussed obesity 'epidemic'.
    So live fat, die young, eat burgers, smoke tabs, base jump,wrestle alligators and save the cost of setting up a pension.

    As Rullsenberg comments that post should be in "irony bold".

    The median income for a single person in this country is about 200 pounds (UK) a week. After paying housing costs, heating, transport, food , clothes and other luxuries how are you expected to save for a pension that might never come?

    Monday, October 11, 2004

    Hemingway and Saddam

    The Iraq Survey Group report reveals that Saddam identifies with Santiago from Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea in his desparate failed attempt to save his catch, a marlin, from sharks.
    "Saddam tended to characterise, in a very Hemingwayesque way, his life as a relentless struggle against overwhelming odds, but carried out with courage, perseverance and dignity . . . Much like Santiago, ultimately left with only the marlin's skeleton as the trophy of his success, to Saddam even a hollow victory was by his reckoning a real one."

    Imagine Saddam sat at a lap top computer doing a personality test, "which literary character are you?". Answering the questions and getting the response "You are Santiago from Hemingway's The Old Man and The Sea".

    "Damm. I so wanted to be Michael Corleone from Puzo's The Godfather".


    Tristram Hunt comments on an interesting serendipity. In 1957 King Faisal of Iraq, invited Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new opera house for Baghdad. The design was ready when along came the 1958 revolution and the opera house never got built. Not wanting to waste his efforts Wright offered his design to a new client. The Baghdad Opera House was built as the Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium at Arizona State University - the location of this week's debate between George Bush and John Kerry.


    Jacques Derrida died over the weekend. The Grauniad has a leader praising his achievements
    He should be remembered as a profound thinker who made a lasting contribution to intellectual discourse.
    Deconstruction, in terms of literary theory, springs from a simple idea that originated with Friedrich Nietzsche: that any text is open to an infinite number of interpretations. That makes it possible to ignore the author's intentions, stated or otherwise, and examine a text for meanings that would otherwise be uncomfortable or hidden. This thought is little different to some of Ludwig Wittgenstein's ideas, but by concentrating on epistemology he avoided the obloquy heaped on Derrida. . .What was important was that deconstruction held that no text was above analysis or closed to alternative interpretation. It is no coincidence that it came into vogue in the 1960s and 1970s, when many cultural and social institutions were being challenged. As a result, Derrida became popular among those willing to question the sterile idea of a "western canon" who wanted to expand literary discourse so that writers such as Mary Elizabeth Braddon could sit alongside the Brontes. Thanks to Derrida, many new voices were heard.

    The Grauniad obituary includes a summary of his life and thought including
    For him the fact that moral values cannot be expressed as simple rules of conduct increased, rather than decreased, the importance of our ethical responsibilities.
    The obituary elides,as obituaries do, over the most disgraceful part of Derrida's life and work:
    The discovery, in 1987, of his friend Paul de Man's collaborationist wartime journalism was a personal blow to Derrida.
    The first three chapters of Jon Wiener's splendid anthology "Professors, Politics and Pop"1 give a detailed account of Paul de Man's collaborationist past in war time Belgium together with a discussion of his supporters, especially Jacques Derrida, in late twentieth century academia.
    In brief, de Man wrote 170 articles for the Belgian paper Le Soir when the paper "was stolen and controlled by the occupiers, the directors and the editorial board of our newspaper having, on the contrary, decided not to collaborate"2.
    In his defence of de Man Derrida emphasises de Man's youth, 21 years old, at the time of writing the anti-semitic collaborationist articles. This may be a supporting argument but here the defence cannot rest.
    De Man's problems continued when he lied and tried to keep his pro-Nazi, anti-semitic writings secret.
    "Derrida answers that telling the truth would have been a "pretentious, ridiculous" gesture for de Man, one that was "indiscreet and indecent," a "pointlessly painful theatricalization". Moreover telling the truth "would have deprived us of a part of his work" because it "would have consumed his time and energy". Thus de Man did the right thing when he hid the truth about his past. Telling the truth should be avoided because it is time-consuming: that is a morally bankrupt argument."3
    Wiener goes on to criticize Derrida for denouncing the press as "full of hatred" when all they did was to report the news on his friend.
    The conclusion one is left with is that what de Man did - collaborate with the Nazi occupiers of Belgium - should be understood and forgiven, but what de Man's critics have done - commit "reading mistakes" - should be condemned as unforgivable. Outside the circle of de Man's most committed defenders, few readers will find this argument persuasive".4
    Derrida let his duty to friendship override his ethical responsibility to accept, reveal and condemn de Man's Nazi, anti-semitic, collaborationist past.

    Notwithstanding the de Man affair, perhaps Derrida's most interesting work was Spectres of Marx and the volume of responses Ghostly Demarcations. (Comment on Spectres of Marx coming soon).

    1Wiener, Jon. Professors, Politics and Pop.London: Verso.1991
    2Ibid p16
    3Ibid p18
    4Ibid p22

    Saturday, October 09, 2004

    Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

    Friday, October 08, 2004

    Universal Rights

    A splendid piece by Hak Mao on the sexual abuse trial in the Pitcairns.

    Rights have to be universal and cannot be "relativised" away. "Cultural difference" cannot be used as an excuse for rape, torture and other abuses.

    Thursday, October 07, 2004

    Naomi Klein on Iraq

    Naomi Klein answers her critics.
    I was accused of making "excuses for the theocrats and misogynists" by Nick Cohen, in the Observer, and of being a "socialist-feminist offering swooning support to theocratic fascists" by Christopher Hitchens, in Slate.

    All this manly defence of women's rights is enough to make a girl swoon.Yet it's worth remembering how Hitchens rationalised his reputation-destroying support for the war: even if US forces were really after the oil and military bases, he reasoned, the liberation of the Iraqi people would be such a joyous side-effect that progressives everywhere should cheer. With the prospect of liberation still a cruel joke, Hitchens now claims that this anti-woman, anti-gay White House is the Iraqi people's best hope against Sadr's anti-woman, anti-gay fundamentalism. Once again we are supposed to hold our noses and cheer the Bradleys for the greater good, or the lesser evil. There is no question that Iraqis face a mounting threat from religious fanaticism, but US forces won't protect Iraqi women and minorities any more than they have protected Iraqis from torture in Abu Ghraib or bombs in Falluja. Liberation will never be a trickle-down effect of this invasion because domination, not liberation, was always its goal.
    Just a point, but what does Klein mean by liberation?
    The Iraqi people are liberated from Hussein's fascist/Ba'athist tyranny. In that sense Hitchens's is right. Is there any sense in which he is wrong? Klein appears to be arguing that the occupation is a new tyranny from which the Iraqi people need liberating. In a country at war with itself (progressives versus reactionaries) where the reactionaries have most of the guns internationalist minded progressives need to support some independent policing action.
    Klein goes on to argue
    Progressives should oppose the attack on Sadr because it is an attack on the possibility of a democratic future. There is another reason to defend his democratic rights: paradoxically, it will help to stem religious fundamentalism's rise.
    This is like supporting the democratic rights of someone who is likely to abolish democratic rights. No. No. No. Democratic rights are universal and permanent. Voting to abolish democracy is profoundly undemocratic - it denies democratic rights to future generations. Democracy is a good thing. Democracy is worth fighting for.

    Harry's Place makes some more good points.

    Monday, October 04, 2004

    Delgados and Sons And Daughters

    Last night I went to a splendid gig. The Delgados supported by Sons and Daughters. One of those gigs that just lives on in the memory. Go read this review and listen to the Delgados and Sons and Daughters.

    A Cloud In Trousers, Part IV

    Part IV

    Maria! Maria! Maria!
    Let me in, Maria!
    I can’t suffer the streets!
    You won’t?
    You’d rather wait
    until my cheeks cave in,
    until, pawed by everyone,
    I arrive,
    toothlessly mumbling
    that today I am
    amazingly honest.

    as you see
    my shoulders droop.

    In the streets
    men will prick the blubber of four-story craws,
    thrust out their little eyes,
    worn in forty years of wear and tear
    to snigger
    at my champing
    on the hard crust of yesterday’s caress.

    Rain has drowned the sidewalks in sobs;
    the puddle-prisoned rougue,
    all drenched, licks the corpse of the streets by cobbles clobbered,
    but on his grizzled eyelashes
    on the eyelashes of frosted icicles,
    tears gush from his eyes
    from the drooping eyes of the drainpipes.

    The rain’s snout licked all pedestrians;
    but fleshy athletes, gleaming, passed by in carriages;
    people burst asunder,
    gorged to the marrow,
    and grease dripped through the cracks;
    and the cud of old ground meat,
    together with the pulp of chewed bread,
    dribbled down in a turbid stream from the carriages.

    How stuff a gentle word into their fat-bulged ears?
    A bird
    for alms,
    hungry and resonant.
    But I am a man, Maria,
    a simple man,
    coughed up by consumptive night on the dirty hand of the Presnya.

    Maria, do you want such a man?
    Let me in, Maria!
    With shuddering fingers I shall grip the doorbell’s iron throat!


    The paddocks of the streets run wild.
    The fingers of the mob mark my neck.

    Open up!

    I’m hurt!

    Look my eyes are stuck
    with ladies’ hatpins!

    You’ve let me in.

    Don’t be alarmed
    if a mountain of women with sweating bellies
    squats on my bovine shoulders
    through life I drag
    millions of vast pure loves
    and a million million of foul little lovekins.
    Don’t be afraid
    if once again
    in the inclemency of betrayal,
    I’ll cling to thousands of pretty faces
    that love Mayakovsky!
    for this is the dynasty
    of queens who have ascended the heart of a madman.

    Maria, come closer!

    Whether in unclothed shame
    or shudders of apprehension,
    do yield me the unwithered beauty of your lips:
    my heart and I have never got as far as May,
    and in my expended life
    there is only a hundredth April.

    The poet sings sonnets to Tiana,
    but I
    am all flesh,
    a man every bit
    I simply ask for your body
    as Christians pray:
    Give us this day
    our daily bread!

    Maria give!

    I fear to forget your name
    as a poet fears to forget some word
    sprung in the torment of the night,
    mighty as god himself.

    Your body
    I shall cherish and love
    as a soldier,
    amputated by war,
    and friendless,
    cherishes his last remaining leg.

    you won’t have me?
    you won’t have me!
    The once again,
    darkly and dully,
    my heart I shall take,
    with tears besprinkled,
    and carry it,
    like a dog
    to its kennel
    a paw which a train ran over.

    With the heart’s blood I gladden the road,
    and flowering it sticks to the dusty tunic.
    The sun, like Salome,
    will dance a thousand times
    round the earth - the Baptist’s head.

    And when my quantity of years
    has finished its dance,
    a million bloodstains will lie spread
    on the path to my father’s house.

    I shall clamber out
    filthy (from sleeping in ditches);
    I’ll stand at his side
    and, bending,
    shall speak in his ear:

    Listen, mister god!
    Isn’t it tedious
    to dip your puffy eyes
    every day into a jelly of cloud?
    Let us why not
    start a merry-go-round
    on the tree of what is good and evil!
    Omnipresent, you will be in each cupboard,
    and with such wines we’ll grace the table
    than even frowning Apostle Peter
    will want to step out in the ki-ka-pou.
    In Eden again we’ll lodge little Eves:
    and this very night, for you,
    from the boulevards, I’ll round up
    all the most beautiful girls.

    Would you like that?

    You would not?

    You shake your head, curlylocks?
    You’re frowning, grey brows?
    You believe
    creature with wings behind you
    knows what love is?

    I too am an angel; I was one
    with a sugar lamb’s eye I gazed;
    but I’ll give no more presents to mares
    of ornamental vases made of tortured Sevres.
    Almighty, you concocted a pair of hands,
    for everyone to have a head:
    but why didn’t you see to it
    that one could without torture
    kiss, and kiss and kiss?!

    I though you a great big god almighty,
    but you’re a dunce, a minute little godlet.
    Watch me stoop
    and reach for the shoemaker’s knife
    in my boot.

    Swindlers with wings,
    huddle in heaven!
    Ruffle your feathers in shuddering flight!
    I’ll rip you open, reeking of incense,
    wide open from here to Alaska!

    Let me in!

    You can’t stop me.
    I may be wrong
    or right,
    but I’m as calm as I can be.
    again they’ve beheaded the stars,
    and the sky is bloody with carnage!

    Hey, you!
    Off with your hat!
    I am coming!

    Not a sound.

    The universe sleeps,
    its huge paw curled
    upon a star-infested ear.


    Friday, October 01, 2004

    Iraqi Trade Unions

    In the Grauniad Sami Ramadani dismisses "pro-occupation Iraqis masquerading as supporters of free trade unionism and self-determination in Iraq."

    Is it not possible to be both in support of the occupation (in the short term) AND in support of free trade unions and self-determination? If so then there is no "masquerading" going on. Or have the rules of logic just been changed?


    While accepting Norm's criticisms I appreciated Gerald Kaufman's display of invective:
    the simple rural yeomanry ..., contains so high a proportion of fascist-minded, racist, foul-mouthed, brutalised, larcenous scum.

    Almost as good as this by Mayakovsky:
    Gobble your pineapple,
    Chew at your grouse,
    Your last day is coming, you bourgeois louse ...

    Aleksander Rodchenko

    Will at a General Theory of Rubbish comments on a futurist exhibition currently in Glasgow.

    It appears that much of the Rodchenko material comes from this splendid exhibition at MOMA NY in 1998.

    Some of Rodchenko's most interesting work was done with Mayakovsky. In the early years of a better nation they worked on advertising that answered "both a pragmatic and an ideological imperative . . .: on the one hand, to sell state-manufactured products, which would help to strengthen the Bolshevik regime financially; and on the other hand, to sell the regime itself, which would help to produce new, ideologically transformed subjects (and, presumably, better customers)."1

    1 "The Propagandizing of Things". Leah Dickerman.Aleksander Rodchenko. New York: MOMA NY, 1998. 71

    A Cloud In Trousers, Part III

    Part III

    Ah, wherefrom this,
    how explain this
    brandishing of dirty fists
    at bright joy!

    She came,
    and thoughts of a madhouse
    curtained my head in despair.

    as a dreadnought founders
    and men in choking spasms
    dive out of an open hatch
    so Burlyuk, panic-stricken,
    though the screaming gash of his eye.
    Almost bloodying his teary eyelids,
    he crawled out,
    and, with tenderness unexpected in one so obese,
    “It’s fine!”

    It’s fine, when a yellow shirt
    shields the soul from investigation!
    It’s fine,
    when thrown at the gibbet’s teeth,
    to shout:
    “Drink Van Houten’s Cocoa!”

    That instant
    like a Bengal light,
    I would not exchange for anything,
    not for any …

    Out of the cigar smoke,
    Severyanin’s drink-sodden face lurched forward
    like a liqueur glass.

    How dare you call yourself a poet,
    and twitter greyly like a quail!
    This day
    brass knuckles
    split the world inside the skull!

    who are supremely worried by the thought:
    “Am I an elegant dancer?”
    Look at my way of enjoying life –
    I –
    a common
    pimp and cardsharp!

    On you,
    steeped in love
    who watered
    the centuries with tears,
    I’ll turn my back, fixing
    the sun like a monocle
    into my gaping eye.

    Donning fantastic finery,
    I’ll strut the earth
    to please and scorch;
    and Napoleon
    will precede me, like a pug, on a leash.

    The earth, like a woman, will flop on her back,
    a mass of quivering flesh, ready to yield;
    things will come to life –
    and their lips
    will lisp and lisp:

    the clouds
    and other cloudy things in the sky
    will roll and pitch madly
    as if workers in white when their way
    after declaring a bitter strike against the sky.

    More savagely, thunder strode from a cloud,
    friskily snorting from enormous nostrils;
    and, for a second, the sky’s face was twisted
    in the Iron Chancellor’s grim grimace.

    And someone,
    entangled in a cloudy mesh.
    held out his hands to a café;
    and it looked somehow feminine,
    and tender somehow,
    and somehow like a gun carriage.

    You believe
    the sun was tenderly
    patting the cheeks of the café?
    No, it’s General Gallifet,
    advancing again to mow down the rebels!

    Strollers, hands from your pockets –
    pick a stone, knife, or bomb;
    and if any of you have no arms,
    come and fight with your forehead!

    Forward, famished ones,
    sweating ones,
    servile ones,
    mildewed in the flea-ridden dirt!

    Painting Mondays and Tuesdays in blood,
    we shall turn them into holidays.
    Let the earth at knife’s point, remember
    whom it wished to debase!
    The earth,
    bulging like a mistress
    whom Rothchild has overfondled!

    The flags may flutter in a fever of gunfire
    as on every important holiday –
    will you, the street lamps, hoist high up
    the battered carcasses of traders.

    I swore,
    fought to fasten
    my teeth into somebody’s flesh,

    In the sky, red as Marseillaise,
    the sunset shuddered at its last gasp.

    It’s madness.

    Nothing at all will remain.

    Night will arrive,
    bite in two,
    gobble you up.

    Look –
    is the sky playing Judas again
    with a handful of treachery-spattered stars?
    Night came.
    Feasted like Mamai,
    squatting with its rump on the city.
    Our eyes cannot break this night,
    black as Azef!

    I huddle, slumped in corners of saloons;
    with vodka drenching my soul and the cloth,
    I notice
    in one corner – rounded eyes:
    the madonna’s, which bite into the heart.
    Why bestow such radiance of the painted form
    upon a horde infesting a saloon!
    Don’t you see! They spit
    on the man of Golgotha again,
    preferring Barabbaas.

    Deliberately, perhaps,
    I show no newer face
    amid this human mash.
    am the handsomest
    of your sons.

    Give them,
    who are mouldy with joy,
    a time of quick death,
    that children may grow,
    boys into fathers,
    girls – big with child.

    And may new born babes
    grow the hair of the magi –
    and they will come anon
    to baptise the infants
    with the names of my poems.

    I, who praised the machine and England,
    I am perhaps quite simply
    the thirteenth apostle
    in an ordinary gospel.

    And whenever my voice
    rumbles bawdily –
    then, from hour to hour,
    around the clock,
    Jesus Christ may be sniffing
    the forget-me-nots of my soul.

    A Cloud In Trousers Part II

    Part II

    Glorify me!
    For me the great are no match.
    Upon every achievement
    I stamp nihil

    I never want
    to read anything.
    What are books!

    Formerly I believed
    books were made like this:
    a poet came,
    lightly opened his lips,
    and the inspired fool burst into song –
    if you please!
    But it seems,
    before they can launch into a song,
    poets must tramp for days with callused feet,
    and the sluggish fish of the imagination
    flounders softly in the slush of the heart.
    And while, with twittering rhymes, they boil a broth
    of loves and nightingales,
    the tongueless street merely writhes
    for lack of something to shout or say.

    In our pride, we raise up again
    the cities’ towers of Babel,
    but god,
    confusing tongues,
    cities to pasture.

    In silence the street pushed torment.
    A shout stood erect in the gullet.
    Wedged in the throat,
    bulging taxis and bony cabs bristled.
    Pedestrians have trodden my chest
    flatter than consumption.

    The city has locked the road in gloom.

    But when –
    nevertheless! –
    the street coughed up the crush on the square,
    pushing away the portico that was treading on its throat,
    it looked as if:
    in choirs of an archangel’s chorale,
    god, who has been plundered, was advancing in

    But the street, squatting down, bawled:
    “Let’s go and guzzle!”

    Krupps and Krupplets1 paint
    a bristling of menacing brows on the city,
    but in the mouth
    corpselets of dead words putrefy;
    and only two thrive and grow fat:
    and another besides,
    apparently – “borsch.”

    soaked in plaints and sobs,
    break from the street, rumpling their matted hair
    over: “How with two such words celebrate
    a young lady
    and love
    and a floweret under the dew?”

    In the poets’ wake
    thousands of street folk:


    thousands of street folk:

    You are no beggars;
    how dare you beg for alms!

    We in our vigour,
    whose stride measures yards,
    must not listen, but tear them apart –
    glued like a special supplement
    to each double bed!

    Are we to ask them humbly:
    “Assist me!”
    Implore for a hymn
    or an oratorio!
    We ourselves are creators within a burning hymn –
    the hum of mills and laboratories.

    What is Faust to me,
    in a fairy splash of rockets
    gliding with Mephistopheles on the celestial parquet!
    I know –
    a nail in my boot
    is more nightmarish than Goethe’s fantasy!

    the most golden-mouthed,
    whose every word
    gives a new birthday to the soul,
    gives a name-day to the body,
    I adjure you:
    the minutest living speck
    is worth more than what I’ll do or did!

    It is today’s brazen-lipped Zarathustra
    who preaches,
    dashing about and groaning!
    our face like a crumpled sheet,
    our lips pendulant like a chandelier;
    the convicts of the City Leprous,
    where gold and filth spawned leper’s sores,
    we are purer than the azure of Venice,
    washed by both the sea and the sun!

    I spit on the fact
    that neither Homer nor Ovid
    invented characters like us,
    pock-marked with soot.
    I know
    the sun would dim, on seeing
    the gold fields of our souls!

    Sinews and muscles are surer than prayers.
    Must we implore the charity of the times!
    We –
    each one of us –
    hold in our fists
    the driving belts of the worlds!

    This led to my Golgothas in the halls
    of Petrograd, Moscow, Odessa, and Kiev,
    where not a man
    crucify him!”
    But for me –
    all of you people,
    even those that harmed me –
    you are dearer, more precious than anything.

    Have you seen
    a dog lick the hand that thrashed it?!

    mocked by my contemporaries
    like a prolonged
    dirty joke,
    I perceive whom no one sees,
    crossing the mountains of time.

    Where men’s eyes stop short,
    there, at the head of hungry hordes,
    the year 1916 cometh
    in the thorny crown of revoluthions.

    In your midst, his precursor,
    I am where pain is – everywhere;
    on each drop of the tear-flow
    I have nailed myself on the cross.
    Nothing is left to forgive.
    I’ve cauterised the souls where tenderness was bred.
    It was harder than taking
    a thousand thousand Bastilles!

    And when,
    the rebellion
    his advent announcing,
    you step to meet the saviour –
    then I
    shall root up my soul;
    I’ll trample it hard
    till it spread
    in blood; and I offer you this as a banner.

    Thursday, September 30, 2004

    A Cloud In Trousers Part I

    Part I

    You think malaria makes me delirious?

    It happened.
    In Odessa it happened.

    “I’ll come at four,” Maria promised.


    Then the evening
    turned its back on the windows
    and plunged into grim night,

    At my decrepit back
    the candelabras guffawed and whinnied.

    You would not recognise me now:
    a bulging bulk of sinews,
    and writhing,
    What can such a clod desire?
    Though a clod, many things!

    The self does not care
    whether one is cast of bronze
    or the heart has an iron lining.
    At night the self only desires
    to steep its clangour in softness,
    in woman.

    And thus,
    I stood hunched by the window,
    and my brow melted the glass.
    What will it be: love or no-love?
    And what kind of love:
    big or minute?
    How could a body like this have a big love?
    It should be teeny-weeny,
    humble, little love;
    a love that shies at the hooting of cars,
    that adores the bells of horse-trams.

    Again and again
    nuzzling against the rain,
    my face pressed against its pitted face,
    I wait,
    splashed by the city’s thundering surf.

    Then midnight, amok with a knife,
    caught up,
    cut him down –
    out with him!

    The stroke of twelve fell
    like a head from a block.

    On the windowpanes, grey raindrops
    howled together,
    piling on a grimace
    as though the gargoyles
    of Notre Dame were howling.

    Damn you!
    Isn’t that enough?
    Screams will soon claw my mouth apart.

    Then I heard,
    a nerve leap
    like a sick man from his bed.
    barely moving,
    at first,
    it soon scampered about,
    Now, with a couple more,
    it darted about in a desperate dance.

    The plaster on the ground floor crashed.

    big nerves,
    tiny nerves,
    many nerves! –
    galloped madly
    till soon
    their legs gave way.

    But night oozed and oozed through the room –
    and the eye, weighed down, could not slither out of
    the slime.

    The doors suddenly banged ta-ra-bang,
    as though the hotel’s teeth

    You swept in abruptly
    like “take it or leave it!”
    Mauling your suede gloves,
    you declared:
    “D’you know,
    I’m getting married.”

    All right, marry then.
    So what,
    I can take it.
    As you see, I’m calm!
    Like the pulse
    of a corpse.

    Do you remember
    how you used to talk?
    “Jack London,
    But I saw one thing only:
    you, a Gioconda,
    had to be stolen!

    And you were stolen.

    In love, I shall gamble again,
    the arch of my brows ablaze.
    What of it!
    Homeless tramps often find
    shelter in a burnt-out house!

    You’re teasing me now?
    “You have fewer emeralds of madness
    than a beggar has kopeks!”
    But remember!
    When they teased Vesuvius,
    Pompeii perished!

    of sacrilege,
    and carnage,
    have you seen
    the terror of terrors –
    my face
    am absolutely calm?

    I feel
    my “I”
    is much too small for me.
    Stubbornly a body pushes out of me.

    Who’s speaking?
    Your son is gloriously ill!
    His heart is on fire.
    Tell his sisters, Lyuda and Olya,
    he has no nook to hide in.

    Each word,
    each joke,
    which his scorching mouth spews,
    jumps like a naked prostitute
    from a burning brothel.

    People sniff
    the smell of burnt flesh!
    A brigade of men drive up.
    A glittering brigade.
    In bright helmets.
    But no jackboots here!
    Tell the firemen
    to climb lovingly when a heart’s on fire.
    Leave it to me.
    I’ll pump barrels of tears from my eyes.
    I’ll brace myself against my ribs.
    I’ll leap out! Out! Out!
    They’ve collapsed.
    You can’t leap out of a heart!

    From the cracks of the lips
    upon a smouldering face
    a cinder of a kiss rises to leap.

    I cannot sing.
    In the heart’s chapel the choir loft catches fire!

    The scorched figurines of words and numbers
    scurry from the skull
    like children from a flaming building.
    Thus fear,
    in its effort to grasp at the sky,
    lifted high
    the flaming arms of the Lusitania.

    Into the calm of the apartment
    where people quake,
    a hundred-eye blaze bursts from the docks.
    into the centuries,
    if you can, a last scream: I’m on fire!