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

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Canine Obesity Shock.

The politics of obesity took an interesting turn with the news that 1 in 3 dogs are overweight and that the problem is worse north of the border.Is there a class factor to canine obesity? Preliminary findings by the Freedom Pass Anarchist Canine Obesity Unit would suggest that there are shed loads more fat labs than porky staffs but the research is in it's early stages.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Is obesity the politics that dare not speak it's name?

There was a time, not really that long ago actually, when obesity was a problem associated with wealth rather than poverty. Look at old photographs of the poor taken at any time prior to the 1940s; there don't appear to be all that many fat people around. It was the comfortably off who tended to run to fat. The poor ate at every opportunity in an attempt to ward off starvation if unemployed, and fuel the body for the long hours of arduous labour if in work. We all know that the situation has been reversed now and it is the low paid manual worker or the unemployed who are most likely to suffer from obesity while the diet and exercise conscious middle class are a beacon of svelte self improvement. How did all this come about? Some maintain that it is the irresponsible marketing of cheap but addictive and fattening junk food that is to blame. Others, like Jamie Oliver and his followers, imply, but never come right out and say, that it is the fault of the victims of obesity themselves; that the working class run to fat because they are too lazy and thick to cook proper food. For whatever reason the poor of the Third World still have the emaciated look that we expect of the near starving and the elites of those societies waddle around like the bloated plutocrats of old. Meanwhile in advanced capitalist societies the poor look increasingly like Regency dandies gone to seed but getting out of it on lager rather than port and madeira. The trim well groomed middle class in contrast, have that glow of self righteousness that I suppose has always been their hallmark. And the toffs? The actual upper class descendants of all those Regency wastrels. Where do they stand in the obesity ranking? There is a certain jowly flabbiness about the Bullingdon Boys that their ancestors would have approved of. Not for them the tight lipped and tight arsed puritanism of the middle class. They have the look about them of people who know the value of a couple of bottles of claret and a decent fry up in Simpson's In The Strand. They probably aren't eating all that many Transfatburgers with a side order of palm oil and sugar either.

Friday, 23 July 2010

No justice for Tomlinson family.

The decision by the CPS not to prosecute Pc Simon Harwood for the assault and subsequent death of Ian Tomlinson is a disgrace but a disgrace that was always on the cards. The policing that day was nervous and spiteful from the start. The police had been hyped up by their superiors and were looking for trouble and poor Ian Tomlinson who was simply trying to get home from work tragically reaped the result of their temper and frustration. From the moment I heard that the post mortem was conducted by the notorious Freddy Patel I was sure that we were about to see a massive cover up and sadly I have been proved right. The Tomlinson family will struggle on in an attempt to find some justice and details of their campaign can be found here.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Muralitharan retires on eight hundred test wickets.

Spin bowling sometimes appears to be operating on the interface of sport and alchemy. It certainly proves to be a mystery to many batsmen at times. No one epitomised this unfathomable craft better than Sri Lankan hero Muttiah Muralitharan. The legendary off spinner with the controversial action has taken his 800th test wicket on the final day of his test career. A fabulous bowler Muralitharan has also been a quietly spoken but determined supporter of both his Tamil people and peace in Sri Lanker.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Americanisation and the Special Relationship.

What is it with this country and the United States? The term "special relationship" was coined by Churchill at the close of World War 2 and I can't remember a single British administration that has not trotted it out at every opportunity. The relationship is special in more ways than one however, and is certainly an unusually complex and psychologically fraught one. I remember as a kid receiving two quite contradictory inputs about America and Americans. Adults were eager to tell me how in two world wars the Yanks had come in at the last minute and stolen all the glory. America was the epitome of flash, know all big headedness; but not a patch on us really. I remember a teacher at school explaining how much better British universities were compared to American ones. As there was no likelihood of any of us setting foot in any kind of university I'm not sure what we were meant to do with this pearl of information.
On the other hand, to us kids America was a wonderland of glittering success. Americans just seemed so much better at everything. Rocky Marciano made short work of our own hapless Don Cockell and even when Randy Turpin outpointed the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson we knew in our hearts that the middleweight title was only on loan and that the result of the return match was a forgone conclusion. The only sports that Americans didn't shine at were ones that they disdained to participate in. Or so it seemed to us. Hollywood was of course the home of celluloid glamour and British movies seemed grey and ordinary in comparison to the American ones. All of the music that was worth listening to, the cars (tail fins, chrome and whitewall tyres) all of the clothes, food, just everything worth having, from chewing gum to Superman, was American. Did the 60s and the Vietnam War change all this America ligging? Not really, just transferred it. Now it was our hippies and revolutionaries who seemed pale imitations of the Panthers, Yippies and Weathermen.
None of this is "true" or "fair". How could it be? That feeling of longing when I hear Delta Blues, of contempt when our foreign policy trots amiably along at the American heel, of mild irritation at having a Border Agency, Supreme Court and "Homeland Security". The feeling of sadness that so few of us know that other America of The Wobblies, Freedom Riders, Studs Terkel and City Lights Bookstore. Is all of that part of the special relationship.? I think that it probably is.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Dave's Big Idea

So little Cameron has discovered that Mummy was wrong all along. There is such a thing as society after all, and it's Very Big.
The reality is that there is a long tradition in this country of ordinary people volunteering to do extraordinary things in order to make daily life a marginally better experience for all of us. You can see this voluntarism everywhere from the RNLI to old folks lunch clubs to the army of unpaid sports coaches and youth workers. This willingness to help one another is the most optimistic facet of our nature and we do not need the dregs of the Bullingdon Club to explain this to us. Nor do we need to have Cameron asking us to let him know if the State ever stops us from doing what we want to do. If Cameron wants to explain something he can start by explaining how the hugely unequal distribution of the wealth of this country came about in the first place and how any of us can achieve our full potential as human beings while that inequality remains. You explain that Dave; and leave us to deal with the State.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Freedom Passes For All.

The Freedom Pass is a boon to the over 60's and for very many people the difference between isolation and being able to get out and about. Now comes news that the Coalition Of Brave New Politics is considering phasing in the increase in age of entitlement to 65 even sooner than already planned. What do I mean by already planned? Well, New Labour had already started to implement the rolling back of the age of entitlement from 60 to 65 before leaving office. The Tories are now talking of speeding this process up. The truth is we don't know what the government have in mind for the future of subsidised travel on public transport but they need to understand - mess with our Freedom Pass and we mess with you!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Badger cull may be the only option.

I don't know enough about the part that badgers play in the spread of bovine TB to have any strong opinions about the rights and wrongs of a badger cull but I do think that there is a real danger of decisions being influenced by an ill informed but vociferous towny wildlife lobby. Badgers are appealing and interesting creatures but if the population is infected with TB and tens of thousands of cattle are prematurely slaughtered every year and millions of pounds paid out in compensation something will have to be done: however distasteful.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Ramadan and Ratzinger.

August and September look like being a bit of a downer for us atheists. As if it wasn't bad enough to have Ratzinger over here moaning about his weird cult having to comply with employment law like any other employer we now hear that Stoke on Trent Council are telling schools to stop swimming lessons during Ramadan in case Muslim kids swallow water and break the fast. I sometimes wonder if this country ever actually experienced The Enlightenment after all.

Continental Allotments.

One of the very best things about train journeys is the opportunity to look into other peoples back gardens and generally see a part of the landscape usually hidden from view. My recent rail trip across France, Switzerland and into Italy was, apart from anything else, a chance to do a bit of peering over the back fence on an international scale and although the passage through the Alpine passes was impressive enough it was the glimpse of other peoples daily lives that was the main attraction for me. One thing that interested me was the allotments. Quite unlike our own utilitarian but slightly scruffy plots the continental version is much more of a leisure garden complete with small chalet. I think I am right in saying that we are the only country in Europe that prevents people from sleeping on their allotment.
The shelves of bookshops are groaning under the weight of lavishly illustrated tomes on how to grow your own veg but very little has been written about the history and politics of the allotment movement. There is one wonderful exception, David Crouch and Colin Ward's The Allotment. Its Landscape and Culture. Available from the usual place I think.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The spying game.

America's Russian spy scandal closes with an exchange of captured agents in Vienna of all places. Cue deep film noir shadow and Harry Lime Theme. Readers of this blog may not be aware of the fact that I am a recognised authority on international espionage. Well, to the extent that I have read every one of John le Carre's books I am. It's the level of sustained deceit required of a spy that intrigues me. In fiction le Carre captures this wonderfully in A Perfect Spy. Magnus Pym is the perfect spy due principally to his huge capacity for deceit. It is no coincidence that Magnus is the son of a master con artist. It is no coincidence either that le Carre based the character of Pym's father on his own conman father. In the real world Kim Philby must count as one of the coolest deceivers of all time. A senior member of MI6, typical establishment figure; and long term Soviet agent. The unpleasant drunken toff hiding the alter ego of unpleasant drunken Stalinist. How do they hold it all together? I would probably be alright at the tradecraft: the secret ink, deadletter drops or whatever and I quite fancy the clandestine meetings in dodgy boozers. But the deceit? I find it difficult to hide the smallest misdemeanours from her indoors. No, espionage is probably not my line of country after all.

Henley it ain't.

No sport has a more snobbish history than rowing and until the 1950's the toff Amateur Rowing Association kept itself a very long distance from the working class National Rowing Association. The two organisations held their own events and had their own champions etc. As you would expect the events run by the two bodies were very different. The toffs had Henley and the workers had - well from what I can make of it they had a right good time. A mate has just been telling me that he has an original programme from one such working class regatta circa 1922. The events included disabled rowing (remember this was not long after the First World War), boxing on a raft, and of all things, POLITICAL DEBATE ON A RAFT. All accompanied no doubt by gallons of ale. No wonder the toffs went to such lengths to keep the oiks out of the posh regattas.

Friday, 9 July 2010

It's not just about football.

Two seemingly completely unrelated news items caught my eye today. One was the news that the death by stoning sentence for adultery passed by Iranian courts on Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtianti has been "reduced" to one of hanging. No doubt idiot lefty apologists for the Islamic regime will be nodding sagely at this evidence of progressive elements in the Iranian power structure.
The other item, and it may seem trite of me to mention it in the same post as the above horror, concerns the FA's decision to not allow mixed football for kids over the age of eleven. What's the link? Well it seems to me that the fear of female sexuality and the desire to control women so clearly evidenced in the Iranian case is best challenged at an early age and what better way then for boys to grow up believing that girls are mates. Later on some of them may become lovers but they are mates first and foremost. I imagine that such an attitude would be anathema to the Islamomentals of Tehran.
When I was young I was convinced that I would live to see the eradication of class society. I may be a little less certain about that now but surely it's not too much to hope that men and women being able to live alongside each other as friends, lovers and comrades is a state of affairs clearly within our grasp.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Pope may drop in for tea.

No Pope! Ratzinger Out! Nazi scum off our......... Just a minute. Bloody hell! The pope is only planing to visit a catholic college 250 yards from my house. They must be planing to chopper him in. I may need a bit of help with this one.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Clegg vows to follow the people's choice.

Cameron's best boy Nicky Clegg's initiative to get us all to let him know what bits of legislation we would like to see struck from the law books was doomed from the start. The overwhelming majority of people will treat this bollocks with the contempt that it deserves and ignore it. A few will fall for it and send off their suggestions no doubt much to the amusement of the Civil Service drones who are detailed to deal with this stuff. We are unable to confirm as yet the rumour that Clegg has promised to repeal the Second Law Of Thermodynamics but we live in hopes.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Nothing to do with me guv.

The massive sums that top footballers earn always leads to the temptation to pour a large portion of it down their neck or shove it up their nose. I have always been a bit more interested in booze and drugs rather than football myself so I'm not entirely unsympathetic. Now comes news that Colombian cops have seized a replica World Cup Trophy sculpted from a solid block of cocaine. Some kind of consolation prize for an as yet unnamed national side I suppose.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Step right up and see the disappearing Arts Council Grant.

I was wandering past Tate Modern the other day and thought that I might as well take a gander at whatever was on offer in the turbine hall. Peering over the balcony I saw that the hall was completely empty save for one girl sitting cross legged in the middle of the floor. I shouted down to inquire if she was the installation but she assured me that she was just having her photo taken by a mate. Well it's not always easy to tell. It was Tate Modern who took the old saying of not knowing a work of art from a hole in the fucking road to it's logical conclusion by presenting a crack in the floor as a modern masterpiece. And why not? The gallery has been in trouble recently for it's association with BP. Perhaps the oil lapping against the Louisiana coastline is in fact a huge art installation.
Readers of this blog will know that I have always been fascinated by the short cons of the fairground, the three card trick, that kind of thing. Sometimes it seems to me that the art scene is the true modern incarnation of that old shadowy world of wrestling and sideshow shenanigans; only not as honest. The snake oil drummers of the past are best represented today I suppose by what we like to call "complimentary medicine". The biggest con of all? Well I think you know what that is.