“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Capitalism survives 2009. Official.

At this late hour it now seems very unlikely that 2009 will witness a coke and champagne fueled capitalism finally stagger from the stage of history. Things looked promising at the start of the year but once again the man was able to convince us all that the market is the only game in town. c'est la vie.
For myself, I remain optimistic. As I have mentioned before on this blog, nothing lasts forever. We truly do live in interesting times. Happy New Year.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Good old English vitals.

I hope that you have all recovered from the Christmas blow out. I am not a huge lover of the festive season myself but I do like the grub on offer. It seems to me that traditional Christmas fare represents the best of English food. Roast goose or turkey, game pie, fresh vegetables, all those cold cuts on Boxing Day, steamed puddings, rich fruit cake, mince pies. You have to admit; it almost makes the twin evils of religion and commercialism worth while. I'm minded to go on like this because I have recently revisited George Orwell on English Food and it was something else that the man was right on the money about. But if traditional English food is something to be celebrated, traditional English catering certainly has been pretty dire. In the sixties our eating habits, along with much else, changed dramatically. Chinese and Indian restaurants proved to be a boon because you didn't need to worry about not understanding the menu - nobody did. It seems almost unbelievable now just how hidebound by convention and class was the simple act of eating a meal out. In my own personal journey of discovery two memories stand out. In 1959 I left home and lived above a coffee bar that served spaghetti bolognese. It was the first time that I realized that spaghetti need not come from a tin. By the mid sixties I was working in the Mediterranean and had perhaps got a bit up myself. On a visit home to my parents I informed them that I would prepare a salad. This announcement was greeted with blank stares but undaunted I pressed on and asked if there was any olive oil. "Yes", replied my mother, "there's a bottle of it somewhere, your Dad rubs it in his feet".

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A Christmas Tale.

Once upon a time there was a handsome (but not very bright) prince who decided to show his sympathy for the poor homeless people who had to sleep out on the streets by spending a night sleeping out in the city himself. The members of the Royal Guard who had to sleep out with him were not very pleased but it made what the Town Crier used to call "good copy" and improved the princess popularity rating. Some people said that the prince had inherited his interest in charity from his mother who had been a beautiful (but not very bright) princess much loved by the common (and not very bright) people. From his father, the eco-friendly (but not very bright) Prince Regent, the prince was due to inherit huge wealth. Yet more wealth was held by the prince's (not very bright) grandmother, The Queen. The people loved their queen and always looked forward to her Christmas Message but some of her subjects had been heard muttering that it might have been better if the Royal Family had let all the homeless people sleep in one of the Royal Palaces and mansions by giving the property to Crisis at Christmas. That way EVERYONE, including the prince, could sleep in the warm. A Very Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Children's fitness levels continues to decline.

Research at Essex University has shown a significant reduction in the fitness level of children over the past decade. This is a trend that will no doubt continue unless there is a radical transformation of the way that we live; and specifically the way we raise our kids. Over the past thirty or so years a number of social changes have combined to bring about this sad decline in children's well being. First we have experienced the total denigration of any kind of physical work as the thing that kids aspire to has become sitting in front of a computer screen and writing reports, entering data or gambling with other peoples money. The other thing that young people aspire to of course is celebrity. And the possibility of achieving celebrity has become to a large extent the reason behind sports participation.
Schools used to provide a considerable proportion of our sport and physical training but this has been eroded as playing fields have been sold off, continuing expansion of the curriculum has left less time available for sport and the disenchantment and increasing workload of teachers has all but done away with after school clubs. There remains in this country a dedicated band of amateur sports coaches who's selfless work gives kids a chance to have fun, develop their potential and, in some cases, find a meaning in life. But these unsung heroes can only ever reach a minority and can only have a limited impact on the overall physical fitness of the nations children.
The main cause of a decline in fitness is to do with what is in my view something quite sinister - the theft of childhood. A combination of technological innovation providing more and more "on screen" life, virtual rather than real life,( who needs open space when you can play in cyberspace?) and parental fears (cranked up by the media) about the world beyond the front door has resulted in children leading increasingly isolated and inactive lives.
Between now and the 2012 Olympics we will no doubt see a deluge of government propaganda dedicated to justifying the huge Olympic budget in terms of increased physical fitness and sport participation. Some of this rhetoric will be well intentioned, some of it less so. Increasing children's fitness levels has little to do with eye wateringly expensive sports facilities and certainly needs no long (and costly) government think tank reports. Put very simply, it's all about getting outside and charging about with your mates. Just try not to get arrested.

Friday, 18 December 2009

I had that William Caxton in the back of the cab the other day.....

Back in the day girls and boys, before there was internet and blogging and such, we used to communicate by means of leaflets, pamphlets and magazines; what I think you call "hard copy". Small groups of malcontents would spend hours typing propaganda on special stencils and yet more hours of cranking the handle of something called a duplicator. You had to be very stoned. Offset litho could only be undertaken by specialist (equally stoned) community printers and was expensive and also pointless unless you needed a big print run. There was a third option, letterpress. This last, involving the traditional cast metal print, was usually the preserve of commercial printers but there was one exception to this rule. Exchange and Mart was always full of ads for various get rich quick schemes whereby you could escape from wage slavery forever. Among the more sensible of these schemes was the idea of home printing, business cards,wedding invites, that kind of thing. This could be achieved by the purchase of an ADANA hand printing press. The ADANA was a wonderful little machine but required a fair bit of skill to achieve good results. I had forgotten all about the ADANA until researching hand printing for a mate the other day when I discovered that it is still possible to buy reconditioned machines for a couple of hundred quid. Next week - How to start a food co op and claimants union.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A Very Public Sociologist: Beat the Trafigura Gag on the BBC

There are some environmental problems that we can do something about and I'm obliged for the following - A Very Public Sociologist: Beat the Trafigura Gag on the BBC

Climatic jargon made easy.

If you have been following the Copenhagen summit with interest but like me have difficult telling your Anex1 from your LULUCEF there is a useful glossary over on the BBC News site.

Nothing lasts forever.

The Copenhagen summit seems doomed to failure as thousands of accredited delegates are left standing outside in the cold, spiky and brave young protesters are battered by cops and the worlds politicians grapple with the insurmountable problem of dealing with climate change without threatening the economic system that brought it all about in the first place. Part of the problem is that collectively we find it very difficult to visualize a way of life, an economic system, radically different to the one that we have grown up with. We tend to feel, even when intellectually we know it to be untrue, that it was ever thus; that the set of economic relationships we endure are the natural order of things. Is change, real change possible? Of course it is. I can't predict how this will come about but nothing lasts forever. We lived for hundreds of thousands of years as hunter-gatherers. We have been farmers for a mere ten thousand years and industrial capitalism has been around for a trifling couple of centuries. In fact the New World slave plantation economy lasted longer than modern capitalism has and most probably all those Gone With The Wind characters thought their system was the end of history as well. Nothing lasts forever. Change will come alright. The question is will we be the passive victims of that change or will it be the result of our conscious desire for a different way of relating to each other and to the world around us?

Monday, 14 December 2009

Simon Cowell - A Berlusconi for our nation.

What a wonderful leveler a punch (or a brick) in the face is. The pictures of a bloodied Silvio Berlusconi that appeared in the papers this morning show a scared and confused politician who for all his huge wealth and power is brought to the level of any other human being by a simple act of physical confrontation. In this country there has been a tendency to sneer at Berlusconi and patronisingly assume that such a crass figure could never make it in British politics. News that Simon Cowell is considering introducing the X factor format into politics should give pause for thought however.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Traditional MCC match for Abu Dhabi.

There must have been a few old duffers choking on their pre-lunch gin and tonics this morning when it was announced that next seasons traditional MCC v County Champions (Durham in this case) match will not be played at Lords but in Abu Dhabi. Not only that but under floodlights and WITH A PINK BALL. Anyone fancy a punt on the likelihood of a Dubai ABA finals?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The market can't fix climate change.

I paid a visit to the Trafalgar Square Climate Camp today. "It's anarchy in action", I was assured by one of the campers. I'm not entirely convinced of that, but their hearts are in the right place and you have to respect the initiative. Anyway, the campers can't have any less impact on climate change than the Copenhagen talks that I'm sure will only benefit the Danish hotel and restaurant trade.
Is it me or is there a serious lack of joined up thinking in the mass media regarding the whole question of climate change? Time after time a piece on the future horrors of global warming and the pressing need to reduce emissions is followed by a report on the equally urgent need to get the economy growing again and increase consumer spending. Are these two issues in any way connected? I think that we should be told. And anyone thinking that all this can somehow be fixed by loft insulation and waterwheels needs to get a serious grip.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Class War - tidings of comfort and joy all round.

The so called Run Up To Xmas now seems to kick off shortly after August Bank Holiday so by now the full on retail frenzy is climbing toward it's climax. This is the time of year when us Grumpy Old Men really come into our own and I am reminded of the acquaintance who reckoned that the best Xmas he ever had was the one spent in bed with the flu. Unsurprisingly I suppose, his wife maintains that it was also the best one she has had as well. One thing that is cheering me up a bit is the hope that the New Year looks like seeing a return to some good old fashioned class politics. Not before time.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Keep The Tories Out. deja-vu all over again.

As the reality of a future Tory government looms ever closer more and more people, many of whom really should know better, are once again climbing aboard that rusty old train to nowhere - Vote Labour To Keep The Tories Out. It's as if all of the neo-con policies of New Labour have been forgiven and forgotten at the first whiff of Old Etonian grapeshot. Blair, Brown and the rest of this sorry bunch of City Spiv front men have presided over a redistribution of wealth that Old Labour politicians can only have dreamt of - trouble is it was a redistribution from the less well of to the already wealthy. Times have changed, but nothing about New Labour on the back foot makes me at all hopeful that a further term in office would make them any more likely to question the basic tenet of Blair/Brown philosophy; all hail the market. And yet. And yet hidden deep in the Labour Party is a vein of collectivism and a current of decency that recognizes that there is more to politics than political careers. You don't see much of this tendency these days, certainly not on the Front Bench, and maybe it is doomed to forever be just another fringe meeting. Socialism - remember that? It's the part that all those mandarins of twenty years ago thought made the party unelectable.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Dark Mountain.

I am obliged to the My Arse blog for pointing me in the direction of the Dark Mountain Project. Brainchild of dark mountaineers Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine the project has received a fair bit of attention from the mainstream press and has obviously made a few people sit up and take notice. I recently read Kingsnorth's Real England and found none of the apocalyptic visions of this latest offering. I'm not quite sure what to make of Dark Mountain, which is not to say that I don't welcome it. Check it out for yourselves.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Yachties explain themselves to mullahs. Could be interesting.

I am not at all surprised to hear that the crew of the British yacht being held by Iran "somehow strayed into Iranian waters". Having spent a large chunk of my life working with merchant seamen, Thames Watermen, fishermen etc. I think that I can honestly say that yachties are without doubt the most clueless bunch of bastards you are likely to drift into. In fact the old saying that "the two most useless things that you can have on a ship are a lawnmower and a ex-naval officer" could equely well apply to yachties. I am not able to confirm the rumour that three of the five crew members are called Ollie, but it seems likely.