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


Friday, 29 January 2010

I know what I like.

I try. God knows I try, but me and art do struggle a bit. That old chestnut, "I know what I like" could have been coined especially for me. It's not that I don't enjoy art, I frequently do, but when it comes to the meaning of it all I'm am usually left without a clue. Mind you, if a lot of art leaves me bored or confused the art world, the dealers, critics (especially Brian Sewell), the value placed on a few random daubings, all of that strikes me as being hugely funny - and when the whole pretentious scene is the victim of a massive scam it's as funny as fuck. Now I wouldn't know a Degas from a hole in the road but I do like to see all those experts being taken in by something knocked up in somebody's garden shed. Yesterday I had a look at the V&A's exhibition of Forgeries and Fakes and it's well worth a visit. The only shame is that the craftsmen who created these wonderful examples of honest art have all been banged up. The exhibition is courtesy of the Met Police and some of us think that they should be out there catching real criminals. While in the V&A I checked out the Digital Design show. Good fun actually. What's it all mean? Search me. At the entrance to the museums new Medieval and Renaissance Gallery is a statue of Samson Slaying a Philistine - could they be trying to tell me something?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Waitrose Anarchist link revealed.

I reckon that Freedom is a better read now then it has been for years and I was pleased to have the opportunity to say as much to to Andy last Sunday. The current issue is packed with interesting stuff but one small item in particular caught my eye. Waitrose that bastion of the sun dried tomatoe and parma ham, has been granted the Freedom seal of approval.(In Brief, page 2) "I bloody told you so", remarked Her Indoors who has been telling me for years that the John Lewis Partnership is a force for good and quite unlike those crypto-fascists over at Marks and Sparks.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Britain lurches to the right according to report.

According to a new report by the National Centre for Social Research we all moving to the right economically with a decreasing interest in collectivism and the redistribution of wealth. Fewer people then ever intend voting and those that do are well up for a Tory government. We can however cheer ourselves up with the knowledge that those us who are gay or have raised a family out of wedlock are no longer considered to be social pariahs. So that's alright then.

Monday, 25 January 2010

The Fat Of The Land

I have been reading John Seymour's Fat Of The Land for the first time since I was in my twenties. It was a book that had a profound influence on the early 70's "back to the land" movement and a whole strand of British sub-culture that followed on from it. There was much that I disagreed with at the time and disagree with now. For a start Seymour appeared to lack any kind of class analysis and of course to a large extent, as a successful writer and broadcaster, his was a contrived attempt to be a middle class peasant. Perhaps more was owed to The Good Life than to Proudhon. None the less, re-reading it now I can see that on a practical level John Seymour's ideas on the nuts and bolts of food production shaped my own pragmatic approach to the subject both as a anarcho-hippy years ago and for that matter as a Freedom Pass Allotmenteer today. As a blueprint for social change Fat Of The Land left much to be desired but say what you like about John and Sally Seymour - they didn't just talk about it but got stuck in and did it.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Buy to let landlords drop tenants in it.

Becoming a buy to let landlord as opposed to, or at least to supplement, working for a living is something of a tradition in this country and has been taken up by everyone from Peter Rachman to that nice couple down the road. I have always had misgivings about it myself and now I hear that an increasing number of tenants are being turned out by the bailiffs when buy to letters are failing to keep up their mortgage repayments. So you could be paying your rent on time and consider yourself the perfect tenant only to arrive home one day to find your belongings out on the street and the locks changed. Find out more here.

The Islington Hercules

All that is solid melts into air....Karl Marx wasn't referring to the mat game when he wrote that, but he might have been. In the smoke and mirrors world of old time professional wrestling few things were as they appeared. What looked incredibly dangerous was highly crafted make believe but the injuries sustained were real enough and many wrestlers retired to a life of crippling arthritis. The characters that matmen portrayed in the ring frequently bore no relationship to their real life personas and wrestlers who appeared as little more than flamboyant showmen or brutal thugs might in reality be highly skilled shooters. Jack Pye was an example of this. By the same token someone put over by the promoters as being a "scientific" master grappler might be nothing more than a clever worker with little or no background in real competition. One man who really was what it said on the tin was the Islington Hercules - Bert Assirati. I only saw Assirati wrestle once. I was a callow youth and Bert was at the back end of a career that had spanned three decades. At five feet six or seven inches tall but weighing in at eighteen stone he was an awesome sight. At one time recognised as one of the strongest men in the world with an 800 pound deadlift and a 200 pound straight arm pullover to his credit, he also had the agility of the professional gymnast that he had been in his youth. A globe trotting grappler of the old school he wrestled all over the world against anyone the promoters chose to put in front of him. Known as a "stiff worker" with a violent and unpredictable temper, Assirati could and would really hurt opponents and was treated with a wary respect both in the ring and in the dressing room. At various times holding versions of World, European and British Heavyweight Titles, Bert became somewhat of a celebrity in the 50s and was recognised as a "London Character" at the time. When not wrestling he would do a bit of door work and I don't imagine that many punters argued about his decisions on dress code.
Bert Assirati was that most unusual of wrestling phenomenon - the real deal.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Will the real party of aspiration please stand up.

So which is the party of aspiration, Labour or Tory? More to the point, who gives a shit anyway? Cameron and Brown can huff and puff about aspiration as much as they like but I doubt if anyone apart from media hacks and fellow politicians will take much notice. Aspiration toward what? Home ownership? A second home? A third property? (it's a pension) Private schools for the kids? (well, you want the best for them don't you?) A boat on the drive? New 4x4? The labour movement was never opposed to aspiration. Education was always valued but it was assumed that if you managed to climb up the ladder a bit you might aspire to reach down and offer a hand up to the rest of us. I suspect that aspirations of that nature are considered to be totally risible by Cameron, Brown and the entire front bench of both parties.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Haitian disaster. We should thank our lucky stars.

So much of what befalls us in life is just down to luck, fate, being in the right place at the right time, even being born in one place rather than another; and we can thank our lucky stars that we are not poor Haitians right now. As the awful horror of the earthquake become apparent we can only wonder how much more misery these people can endure. With a history of almost unbelievable colonial cruelty, independence was to bring only crippling debt, poverty, superstition, environmental degradation and one natural disaster after another. Add to this a brutal, greedy and corrupt elite (is there a more obscene image in the media than the collapsing National Palace?) and we should truly count our blessings. Send what we can afford ( I have opted for Merlin but there is no shortage of other options) and hope that the future will bring a marginally better life to these unlucky people.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Womans Hour.

I listen to quite a lot of Radio 4 and the recent bad weather and a touch of man flu have resulted in me listening to it even more than usual. Just so there is no misunderstanding I want affirm at this point that I am dead hard and very manly but I also want to admit to being a big fan of Womans Hour, one of the best progs on radio in my view. For starters Jenni Murrey's voice has the ability to make you feel like you are being given a really good cuddle and she seems happy to discuss anything from politics to music, taking in cooking and thrush on the way. Today we had piece on retro furniture followed by the wonderful Camila Batmanhelidjh discussing the "Selfish Generation" and the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive Judith Hackitt who talked more good sense about the much maligned subject of H&S than I have heard in some time. Top women. Top program

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Is Reichian Therapy the only hope for Stormont?

Anyone who has explored the wilder shores of Wilhelm Reich will know that it's, well, pretty wild. In many respects however Reich was more than a bit perceptive and nowhere more so than on the subject of sexual energy. Powerful old stuff the sex drive and it will not be suppressed. The more that individuals or societies try to keep a lid on it the more it seeps out from around the edges, frequently manifesting itself in ways that are unexpected and sometimes far from pleasant. Nowhere has continued to suffer the results of sexual repression more than Ireland - North and South. Catholic and Protestant.
Iris Robinson, formerly voted "Bigot of the Year" by Stonewall, is but the latest in a long line of sexual hypocrites who have failed to live up to their own sad credos. Personally I think that getting into a legover situation with a nineteen year old could be the least worst thing about Ms Robinson and certainly her constituents might be more interested in her financial shortcomings rather than her sexual failings.
I very much doubt if my old skipper had heard of Wilhelm Reich but the wise old bird was on the money when he told me with regard to sex, "that ull draw you further than gunpowder ull blow yer boy". How right he was.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Snow rant 2010

During last winter's snow event I mentioned on this blog the disappearance of the practise of clearing the snow outside your home. Blamed it all on Thatcher, demise of collectivism, no such thing as society, all the usual stuff. This year I have once again been clearing the pavement in front of our drum but now people are telling me that I will be "responsible" if someone slips on the area I have cleared and could end up the victim of crippling litigation. Give me strength!
I saw a car sticker the other day - MAKING GUILDFORD A SAFER PLACE. Guildford? Safer? It's not exactly Southern Sudan now is it? Fucks sake! What's wrong with us all?

Thursday, 7 January 2010

At last, a positive suggestion from this blog.

Regardless of any watering down by Sir Ian Kennedy's Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, one simple proposal for making MP's living expenses both transparent and more acceptable is just not getting sufficient attention. Do away with the second home allowance altogether and provide a MP's hostel within walking distance of Westminster. Accommodation could be simple but comfortable. An old fashioned Hall Porter could be installed downstairs. " 'evening Sir Peter, bit parky out innit". I see it all. Slight smell of boiled fish wafting up from somewhere in the bowels of the building. Garish patterned worn carpet. Constable prints, even a Green Lady. We need to get this sorted now. Further suggestions for the MP's Hostel welcome.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Political Compass.

I am obliged to Barnsdale over at the excellent My Arse blog for drawing my attention to the Political Compass site. Not only do they reproduce the kind of diagram that I mentioned in regard to Floodgates of Anarchy but there is even a questionnaire so you can locate your own position in the political kaleidoscope. According to my own test results I'm very close politically to the Dalai Lama! Well, it keeps me off the streets I suppose and makes a change from poring over seed catalogues and watching the twenty four hour news coverage and in depth analysis of a few inches of snow.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Open those floodgates.

It's tempting to view politics in a linear manner, as an extreme left to extreme right progression of ideology. This is the usual way of discussing politics but it has serious shortcomings. The problem is that so many political ideas don't seem to fit into or are hard to locate in this left-right view of the world. Why are those of us who claim to be "anti-state" frequently among the most vociferous supporters of the NHS and state education? Does the authoritarian left actually belong on the right and does being a liberal place you in the middle of the spectrum - or nearer one of the extremes?
Sticking to the left/right model can make it difficult to explain anarchism and can also tempt us into a knee jerk reaction to events rather than working things through and arriving at conclusions that have no regard for left or right but simply feel "right".
I seem to remember that all this was explained, complete with a brilliant diagram, in Stuart Christie and Albert Meltzer's The Floodgates of Anarchy. I lost my copy of this little gem from the 1970's years ago so was pleased to hear that it is soon to be reprinted.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Terry Lawless dies.

Sometimes it is difficult to justify my love of professional boxing. The courage, nobility and skill displayed in the ring allows the sport to rise above being merely brutal but the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing are frequently less than charming. The image of the heartless manager with no thought of anything but his percentage is one well known in fight game fiction, and sadly in pugilistic fact as well. Terry Lawless who died over Christmas was one of the honourable exceptions. No doubt that as a businessman he was as sharp as the rest but Lawless had a love of boxing and a genuine affection for the fighters that he looked after. As a coach he was sometimes accused of producing one dimensional fighters but not only did he instill a simple step and jab approach but also the need for the highest level of physical fitness and no Lawless boxer ever entered the ring at less than the peak of fitness. Operating out of his gym in Canning Town, the list of fighters that Terry Lawless brought to championship honours reads like a who's who of 80's British boxing. With a genuine concern for his charges he was a calm and reassuring cornerman who must have been wonderful to go back to after a dodgy round. If there is any merit in professional boxing it's due to the likes of Terry Lawless - a credit to the game.
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