Tuesday, 28 February 2012
About the time that I suppose the cops and the bailiffs were turning up for their final briefing before the St Paul's eviction I was safely tucked up on the sofa watching the Hockney and Marr Show on BBC2. Hockney is always good value for money and very easy to listen to. Which is more than can be said for the fawning creep Andrew Marr. The program was designed to showcase Hockney's Bigger Picture exhibition at the RA. Not that I would have thought it needed any more publicity because regardless of what critics like that archetypal spiteful old queen Brian Sewel may think about it, the punters are climbing over each other to get in. But as I say, Hockney is good value, talks a good painting if nothing else and in truth seems to have matured into quite an amiable old cove. What really made me sit up and listen was his views on the importance of actually producing the works himself rather than directing a team of underlings as is the practice of Hirst and Emin. I can't see anything wrong with having a team of people create a big work of art, it's been a practice from renaissance times and probably back to cave paintings, but at least give credit where it is due. If the work is the product of a collective why not say so. It's rather like hearing that so and so is building a house round the corner. No they are fucking not. Builders will build the house. The Union Pacific Railroad that opened up the American West was not built by the Union Pacific board of directors but by countless unnamed Chinese labourers and, strange to say, The Shard is not actually being built by the consortium of Quatari suits who are putting up the money. Whatever we think of David Hockney's politics or his interpretation of the Yorkshire landscape, and personally I have my doubts about both, his honesty and his pride in craftsmanship are surely to be admired.
Monday, 27 February 2012
For years it was a central plank of my politics that no matter what levels of poverty still existed in the world, the trend was toward greater affluence, that for all of it's injustices and inequalities advanced capitalism at least came up with the goods. I felt then, and still do now, that true liberation is unlikely to be the product of a struggle to obtain a crust of bread. Where I think that I, and all those comrades of the generation who were so influenced by Paris '68, went wrong was in assuming that we would not see again the pauperisation of the working class. Big mistake. A recent report suggests that as many as nine million people in UK could be living in fuel poverty in four years time. Homelessness is on the increase again. Climate change, water shortages and a crisis in food production will impact on those at the bottom of the heap. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
Stumbling through the undergrowth we suddenly find ourselves on the edge of a precipice. Peering tentatively over the edge are we staring into the abyss, the apocalypse? Or is what we glimpse spreading out before us the Lost World of our dreams? Only time will tell but of one thing I remain convinced, "it may sound absurd to talk of revolution - but it's even more absurd to talk of anything else."
Friday, 24 February 2012
It's a given that if, for example, you run a fruit and veg stall you will take stuff home with you at the end of the day. The local butcher will not be popping into Tesco to pick up some steak on the way home. Viewed in this light A4e boss Emma Harrison's decision to use her unemployed "clients" as slave labour in her company office makes sense. I suppose this is how she viewed it. Just a perk of the job. Bit like the landlord pulling himself a pint. Certainly nothing that would justify being forced to step down from her position as Cameron's Family Tsar. Mind you, how many people would want to have Harrison coming round the house when they were having a bit of trouble with one of the kids? And that's another thing - was Harrison called in to help with the unfortunate issues that have befallen Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman's family? I know Caroline, teenage boys can be a problem.
Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Monday, 20 February 2012
I don't know! No sooner do I post about the Brawl In Porthcawl and what a well disciplined sport boxing is in general when Chisora and Haye kick off at the post fight Chisora - Kilitschko press conference. This comes on top of Dereck Chisora's pre fight slapping and water spitting. Cue outrage and moral indignation from press pundits and huge sighs of relief at Tory HQ as those wonderful Battling Brits distract attention from bankers bonuses, NHS reforms and suchlike trivia. The trouble with British heavyweight boxing at the moment is that we lack the restraining influence of Herbie Hide.
Saturday, 18 February 2012
The Environment Agency have published figures that suggest that there is a serious risk of drought in a wide band of the country stretching from the South Coast up as far north as Lincolnshire. Low rainfall, emptying reservoirs and a depleted aquifer all indicate that this year could be the worst drought since 1976. Already the talk is all about UK agriculture adapting to a Mediterranean climate and we prepare for the prospect of our once lush countryside being transformed as a few goats browse in amongst the Ambridge olive groves. Not only will the 2012 Olympics be remembered for the Transport for London meltdown and a total security lockdown of the capital but now, while millions of gallons of bottled water is sped along those VIP lanes, the rest of us will be queuing at standpipes to fill our buckets and saucepans as well.
Worst since 1976? For me at least, '76 and '77 tend to blur into one. There are historical (and pharmaceutical) reasons for this. 1976 was an Olympic year of course and one that the city of Montreal will not forget in a hurry. For the good folk of Montreal the Olympic legacy was a financial disaster, an unwanted stadium and a debt that took the next thirty years to pay off. As well as the driest summer on record, '76 also gave us punk and I was beside myself with excitement about it. '77 was a Jubilee Year of course as well as being the year that punk, and the Pistols in particular, got increasingly notorious (and recuperated). We also had above average rainfall! So there you have it. 2012 is essentially two years for the price of one. We are getting a draught, a jubilee and an Olympics. Not only that but this year is the end of the Mesoamerican Long Count (or Mayan) Calendar with all that that entails; end of universe, punk not dead etc.
All of this stuff about the Mayans was discovered by the renowned archaeologist Michael D Coe, uncle of our own Lord Coe of Olympia. Look it up - don't take my word for it.
I tell yer, and to quote Her Majesty, "there are forces at work about which we know little."
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
What do we mean by financial or political corruption? We can all offer examples of what we consider to be corrupt behaviour but where do we draw the line? A corrupt police officer takes a backhander from a journalist but is that any more corrupt than running a private security firm? If we went to the doctor and they told us that we could only be treated for a considerable sum of money - would that be corruption or just private medicine? If the necessities of life can only be obtained by crossing the right person's palm with silver is that corruption or a wholly admirable entrepreneurial spirit? You can't smell sweet in a sewer.
Monday, 13 February 2012
You don't need to be a financial genius to understand that economic downturns do not impact equally on all of us. The trade in art, fine wine and super yachts is perfectly healthy and the top end of the London property market is as buoyant as ever. Recently we have had an influx of rich Greeks who quite understandably feel that a large house in Belgravia might be a better use of a few million Euros than say paying tax in Greece. For years now properties in the posher bits of London have been being bought up by wealthy foreigners. Arab princes wary of all this "spring" malarkey, Russian oligarchs hedging their bets in case they fall out with Putin, all have been hoovering up London real estate like it was going out of fashion. How gratifying in the face of all these incursions from abroad to see that our own wonderful royal family are not being left behind in the property development racket. The crown estate (who deal with tacky commercial matters for the House of Windsor) are in the final stages of their £300m redevelopment of the old Regent Palace Hotel. Posh shops and exclusive restaurants will share the space with offices (Al Gore's new bank is taking over the top floor) and luxury apartments. There's no doubt about it - when it comes to austerity we really are all in it together.
Sunday, 12 February 2012
Compared to many sports, and certainly compared to premier league football these days, professional boxing is a disciplined affair. The very nature of the game encourages self control so respect for opponents and never losing your temper are axioms of the ring. This holds true almost all of the time but on the rare occasions when things do turn sour the result can be not only a "disgrace to boxing" but, and nobody wants to admit this, hugely entertaining at the same time. Both Brian London and Welsh heavyweight Dick Richardson were good value for money fighters but when they got together in this 1960 match at Porthcawl they surpassed themselves.
Switch to full screen, turn the volume up and enjoy the full British Pathe experience. The girl with the ices will be round shortly.
Friday, 10 February 2012
An interesting BBC 2 Horizon last night looked at research into the possible biological causes of psychopathy. A few points caught my attention. 1) It may be possible to identify psychopaths by means of a brain scan. 2) The biggest concentration of psychopaths is to be found not in prisons but in the upper echelons of The City. 3) By their ability to charm and manipulate others, psychopaths are able to rise to the very top of business and financial institutions but although they can talk a good job and blag their way to the top their results are often terrible. Having bullshitted their way to a top post they make a huge cock up of it. So, the financial meltdown is beginning to make a bit more sense now. Should everyone in the financial sector be given a brain scan in order to keep the psychos out of the boardroom? Can we rescue the economy by getting rid of the amoral spivs who run it? Should banking be put back in the safe hands of the Captain Mainwarings of the world rather than being run by a bunch of Private Walkers who have a screw loose as well? Discuss.
Thursday, 9 February 2012
If there is one thing that no anarchist need be short of it's reading matter and the number of libertarian papers and magazines is out of all proportion to the number of people involved. Anarchist magazines come in all shapes and sizes and all kinds of formats and production methods. Some publishers hold that attention grabbing copy and art work are the main things with posh production values coming well down the list of priorities. Others opt for a high quality crafted publication partly for the sheer satisfaction of producing it. The Cunningham Amendment sits firmly in the second category. Full of gentle humour and printed in good old fashioned letterpress this little magazine is a joy to read. Don't bother searching the internet for this gem. No computers are involved in production or distribution. Available at discerning radical bookshops usually at £2.50 a throw. Or you could try writing to:
TCA. Room 6.
Norfolk. NR20 4RT
You might be lucky.
Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Foreign aid is always a contentious issue. Unbelievably rich elites in developing countries can sour people's otherwise generous spirited feelings of solidarity with the poor. It's as if the poor must not only provide the wealth of the ruling elite but are doomed to take the blame for this wealth as well. We hear so much about India's booming economy, Bollywood, the space programme and mega rich entrepreneurs that it seems absurd for us to be granting aid. Tell that to the millions of kids who go to bed hungry every night. NUJ President Donnacha De Long has a thoughtful post on his blog about aid to India and the historical parallels with 19th century Ireland. Well worth a look.
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
GREAT NEWS! That lovable ex-Take That singer, top Royalist and charity worker GARY BARLOW had only gone and organised the best DIAMOND JUBILEE GIG that you could even imagine. For starters the venue is unbelievable. It's only right outside BUCKINGHAM PALACE. Her Maj, The Duke Of Edinburgh and other Royals will see the show FROM THEIR BALCONY. Not only that but Harry and Wills have had some input into the choice of acts so it's bound to be REALLY COOL. This is SO rock 'n roll. I'm that exited I could bite my own dick off. The line up will include Sir Cliff Richard, Sir Elton John, Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Tommy Trinder, Dame Vera Lynne, Sir Henry Hall etc, etc. Hello! ......... Hello!
Monday, 6 February 2012
How many times do you hear the remark that, in spite of someone's political views, he/she is "very nice". Just as the Daily Mail is dedicated to categorising everything in the world into those things that either cause or cure cancer, so it seems we are all doomed to separate the sheep from the goats; the nice from the not so nice. If only it were that simple. When faced with the "but she's very nice" view of someone that you know full well holds political views that you find totaly abhorrent, I can usually do no better than some trite remark about some people having found Hitler "very nice". Leaving Hitler aside for a moment, the trouble is that as we go through life we meet many people who we find easy to be around in spite of serious political disagreements. Many years ago I was working on a coaster and the Irish Mate was a pretty decent bloke. Easy to work for, a good laugh and well up for a pint with the lads, us deck hands should have been grateful and we would have been had it not been for his political views. We could cope with the Irish republicanism but the man was also a keen supporter of the extreme right and claimed to have been a member of Colin Jordan's loathsome gang. Did I mention that the Second Engineer had fought with the International Brigade? Somehow we all had to live and work together and the Mate was "very nice".
Whether it's standing together against the boss, rubbing along with the neighbours or building a post revolutionary society we can't always choose to be around people with views very similar to our own. Sometimes "very nice" is as good as it gets.
Friday, 3 February 2012
Last night saw the launch of Paul Mason's Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere at the QE Hall on the Southbank. Paul debated the implications of the title with Ewa Jasiewicz, Costas Lapavistsas and Mark Fisher. It was an interesting enough evening, Jasiewicz was a real breath of fresh air and there where plenty to think about as we left the hall. But, Oh! I don't know. I just get this edgy feeling when surrounded by left-wing intellectuals sipping Chablis and discussing the likelihood of world revolution. One thing's for sure, the much talked of international proletariat were conspicuous by their absence and at ten quid a ticket and one of the most expensive bars in town it's not surprising. But it was a good evening and I'm glad that I went. One thing that came across loud and clear from all concerned last night was that regardless of the importance or otherwise of information technology, our futures will be decided on the streets. If you doubt that you can rest assured that your doubts are not shared by the state and today brings news that 3 Para are undertaking special training to deal with civil unrest. Kicking off? We ain't seen nothing yet.
Thursday, 2 February 2012
The seedy world of professional boxing captured so well by writers like Damon Runyon and AJ Liebling has a stock of classic locations including the smoke filled small hall and the losers post-fight dressing room, but it's the old style boxing gym that has always captured my imagination. I'm talking about real gyms here, not the ludicrous chrome and carpet fitness emporiums so loved by the chattering classes, but the gym as a workplace for one of the worlds toughest jobs. The smell of sweat and lineament, the sound of skip-ropes and the rat-tat-tat of the speed ball, the pounding of the heavy bag and the grunts as fighters hone their craft in the ring. All this is overseen by that most venerable of fight game characters - the trainer. The old time boxing trainer belongs to an age before degrees in sports science. He is a master in the art of staunching blood, taping hands and looking into the eyes of a young fighter and deciding whether or not to send his charge out for one more round. The knowledge has been handed down from generation to generation or gleaned from the hedgerows of experience.
The boxing game mourns the loss of Angelo Dundee at the age of ninety. Angelo was best known to the general public for his work with Muhammad Ali but the venerable trainer and corner man had worked with many of the top fighters of the post-war era including Carmen Basilio, Willie Pastrano and the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard. He was a true boxing great.