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

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Blogger off to seaside.

Well, that's it for the time being. This blogger is off on the first Shearings Short Break of the year.
Stay out of trouble 'till I get back.

Peoples Assembly Against Hot Air.

For those of you who have not quite lost the will to live.
Peoples Assembly Against Hot Air.  June 22nd.
It makes more sense than most things.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Eastleigh voters spoilt for choice.

You lucky people! Eastleigh voters that is. Talk about spoilt for choice. Mind you, I'm not sure what kind of turn out the pundits are predicting for Thursday's by election but if the number of people that Channel 4 News were able to muster for last nights interrogation of the four main candidates is anything to go by it seems unlikely that there will be any crowd control issues. I think that Chan4 made a mistake in not substituting Harry Hill for Krishnan Guru-Murthy as anchor man but that's only my opinion of course. John O' Farrell gets way out in front in the "most interesting" category simply by being outed in the Mail as "The Sickest Man In Politics". Wow!  Who will prove the "stroppiest woman"- UKIP or Tory? I don't know but Harry Hill would have had a way of finding the answer: LibDem's Mike Thornton is a Business and Development Manager and a regular churchgoer. Fuck me Mike! Calm down. Calm down.  Oh well! I suppose that in the party of crooks, liars and fat gropers an honest but dull candidate is like the one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. If I were an Eastleigh voter I think that it would be a toss up between Wessex Regionalists, TUSK, Elvis Loves Pets or possibly the Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party. The rest of the field is made up of an assortment of worthy peaceniks, god botherers various, an English Democrat and the very laudable National Health Action. Did I mention Raving Loonies?

Friday, 22 February 2013

Is there life before death?

It's strange how certain phrases creep into the language and suddenly seem to be on everyone's lips. "Work Ethic" is one such phrase. It used to come with the prefix "protestant"; the "protestant work ethic". Hard work was supposedly, along with thrift and sobriety, the hallmark of the grim faced protestants. Quite unlike those lazy, drunken papists. These days the protestant bit is generally dropped but work ethic has become a kind of mantra for success in any field. Time was when an athlete might attribute a recent win to hard training. Now it would all be about having a "good work ethic". A recent study by the Institute Of Education suggests that our brightest maths students are lagging behind their Chinese counterparts by the time they are sixteen and high on the list of possible causes for this aberration is the well known "Chinese enhanced work ethic". Ah! I thought as much.
Do the Chinese have an enhanced work ethic and if so is it in any way connected to China's appalling suicide rate among it's workers?
Anyway, this failing on the part of our kids is  certainly something else for aspirational middle class parents to worry about. There is little that I can say that will alleviate their concerns about possible family disgrace and penury but the following anecdote may offer some small consolation. A few years back I was working on a film location for a costume drama. It was a complex job involving a number of small vessels, mock ups of sailing ships etc.and at one stage I had to consult one of the location scaffolders about some problem or other. Scaffolders are not a breed noted for being backward in coming foreword and this one was no exception. "Look mate," he said, " the Chinese have been cooking for fifty thousand years and they still haven't quite fucking mastered it. You can't expect me to be on top of this in a couple of days".  We grinned at each other and went our separate ways. Whatever problems the future might hold for us ,"enhanced work ethic" was unlikely to be one of them.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Is London Books the next best thing to an independent bookshop?

They do say that people  tend to take a particular interest in the years just before they were born, harking back to, and even developing a false nostalgia for, a time that of course they never knew. Perhaps that accounts for my own fascination with the London pre-war scene, with writings that detail the lives of ordinary Londoners and 1930's crime fiction in particular. As kid growing up in East London I could not wait to go and explore the Soho that was "exposed" in the Sunday papers every week. The truth is that by the time I that was old enough it was almost all over. But the urge to wander the streets of the capital has never left me and to this day I can't look at a quite ordinary row of houses without wondering about the lives of the people who lived there in the 30's. There is a wealth of literature available, fiction and non-fiction, that details the lives of pre-war Londoners with the rise of fascism, the struggle to make a living and the ever present threat of a coming war - the writings of George Orwell and Norman Collin's London Belongs To Me spring to mind. But there is also a rich vein of less known London crime fiction that in it's own way offers a tantalising insight into a London that is lost forever. A lot of the books might have been lost forever as well had it not been for dedicated enthusiasts such as London Books who have republished a fantastic catalogue of classic London crime fiction. At the moment I'm into their edition of The Gilt Kid by James Curtis and it's a cracking read.
The central character, the Gilt Kid himself, is a petty criminal with Marxist leanings but with little patience for the tedium of so called "political work". As he points out to a Communist Party paper seller, " ..... instead of messing about with dopey meetings why don't you give the boys something? Start a riot. Lead a row in Bond Street and loot all the shops. Collect all the bums in London and take them into one of the  flash hotels and let them demand to be fed. You hear about hunger-marchers making rows and demanding grub. Where'd they go? To the Ritz, to Lyons' Corner House even? `No! The workhouse. That's just about your mark, kicking up a shine at the spike."
"Yes, but if we did all that the leaders of the party'd get pinched and the movement'd be all bust up. Anyhow that's not communism. It's just plain hooliganism."
"Call it what you like mate. It's getting something for the bloke on the floor and that's what you reckon to be out for."
Ring any bells? Anyway, check out  London Books and give yourself a treat.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Bakerloo Line. Over your dead body?

This is extraordinary: London Underground has forbidden drivers on the Bakerloo Line from checking to see that their trains are empty before they take them into depots and sidings.  
This has resulted in over 3,000 passengers being carried into depots and sidings, many times more than on all other London Underground lines put together. 
On other lines, staff physically check the train is empty first. 
Last September, a 12-year-old boy got out of a train that had carried him into Queen's Park depot. He wandered around on live track until he was rescued by the driver. He could easily have been killed. 
After the Queen's Park incident, drivers decided that they were no longer prepared to go along with London Underground's dangerous policy and since 15 January 2013, have been insisting on checking that trains are empty before taking them into sidings and depots.

Reposted from Labourstart.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Who will save me from this troublesome Secretary Of State For Work And Pensions?

People can't necessarily help being stupid. They can be irritating for sure , but it's probably not their fault. So Ian Duncan Smith could be forgiven for his obvious stupidity were it not for his spite and malevolence. Mind you, he's not so stupid that he can't tap into a vein of national prejudice against university graduates when it suits his purposes. When an unemployed geology graduate declines to do unpaid work at Poundland but prefers to continue with voluntary work in a museum IDS portrays her reluctance to play ball as snobbishness and bangs on about graduates thinking that they are too good for shelf filling. Army Officer, weapons salesman and professional politician is the sum total of the IDS work experience - no mention of shelf filling on his CV at all.
I'm all in favour of the feckless, idle and over privileged sections of society being forced into unpaid labour down the local Poundland but I just think that we should start with the Tory front bench. Never mind about the undeserving poor, it's the undeserving rich that worry me.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

IOC toss out wrestling.

If the IOC get their way wrestling will no longer be a part of the Olympic Games. It seems incredible that  bureaucrats can, at the stroke of a pen or the click of a mouse, discard one of the original Olympic sports. Wrestling has a history that dates back to ancient Greece, has been integral part of almost all societies and of course was one of the founding sports of the modern Olympic movement. But such are the commercial and political pressures in today's Games who knows what machinations have taken place behind closed doors. Wrestling is not the most natural of spectator sports it's true. The general public may find the idea of watching wrestling appealing but the reality can be difficult to understand and even dull. That is of course why professional wrestling evolved the way that it did. Having said all that can wrestling really be less interesting to watch than air pistol shooting or dressage? Of course there will be a form of wrestling in future Olympics - judo. The history of judo is one not just of a sport but of a physical education system with a huge amount of political clout. The judo movement has always distanced itself from wrestling and indeed many of the early practitioners denied that it was a sport at all. Yes, it may be goodbye to Freestyle and Greco-Roman but the future of Olympic Judo is assured.
I feel sorry for the young wrestlers who, thanks to commercial and political interests that they have no control over, will be denied the pleasure of Olympic competition. There is some consolation however in knowing that people have wrestled since long before the dawn of written history and that youngsters will be coming to grips and testing themselves against each other long after the IOC has been forgotten.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Ice Age art blows my mind.

Just got back from the British Museum exhibition of Ice Age art. It's a mind blowing collection of early art some as much as 40,000 years old. A truly amazing and heart warming window into the psyche of the hunter-gatherers who all of us are descended from.

Monday, 11 February 2013

The rise of the urban fox.

Although common, you don't see that many foxes in the countryside during daylight hours. They are there of course but are wary of humans and tend to avoid us. Urban foxes displayed the same behaviour  until fairly recently but over the last couple of decades the increase in discarded takeaways and the rise of the furry bunny view of the natural world (put some food out for the foxy woksy there so sweet) has meant that, even if their numbers have not increased that much, the urban fox is losing it's fear of man. There won't be a sudden outbreak of fox attacks on babies but foxes will continue to be a nuisance, with the potential to become a dangerous nuisance, unless we do something about their numbers and habits. There, at last I've found something in common with Boris Johnson!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Gove backs down over Mary Seacole.

Michael "The Alien" Gove's plans for yet another reorganisation of education may have come a cropper but he has been able to reintroduce the Great (white) Man view of history into the school curriculum. One consolation has been that thanks in part to the efforts of Operation Black Vote Gove has had to back down over the Mary Seacole affair. Education, will we ever get it right?

Friday, 8 February 2013

Horse lasagne anyone?

The horsemeat scandal has forced the government, the media  and the chattering classes to once again peer into the dark corners of the food industry. Of course there is nothing wrong with horsemeat as such but it is just nice to be able to choose to eat it. The reasons for the state of the food industry are many and complex but certainly globalisation and the cold hand of the market have much to answer for. Food is shipped backwards and forwards around the world "adding value" and  "increasing margins" as it travels from one pool of cheap labour to another. Fancy a nice Findus lasagne ready meal? Pound for pound the horse will probably work out more expensive than last years Derby winner because apart from not knowing what's in it or how it was manufactured, processed food is really bad value. At the moment Domino's Pizza are running a big advertising campaign and all over town huge posters urge us to take advantage of their latest offer. "Feed 4 for £5 each" the posters shout. "All this for £19.99". All this? A couple of medium pizzas, garlic bread, a slack handfull of potato wedges and (this is the best bit) a 1.25 litre bottle of Coke. That's terrible food value and even worse value for money. For twenty quid four people could sit down to a roast chicken and a mountain of fresh veg. You could even throw in a bottle of cheap plonk. Of one thing you can be sure - the CEO and Board  Of Directors of any of the big food companies will not be tucking into the crap they produce, either for lunch today or any other day soon.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Gripped by Dancing On The Edge.

I'm completely knocked out by Stephen Poliakoff's new BBC drama Dancing On The Edge. Two episodes in and I am gripped by the story, the acting, the music, the politics of the tale, everything. An additional pleasure is trying to identify the brilliant locations used and those of you who took part in that great day out that was the 75th anniversary of the Battle Of Cable Street will recognise Willton's Music Hall, but that's just one of many. Interesting interview with Poliakoff here.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Civil partnership for all.

Being neither gay, Tory or for that matter very concerned about other peoples marriages, the Conservative Party tearing itself asunder over GAY MARRIAGE is a bit like stag beetles fighting - interesting enough to watch but you don't really care who wins. What is Cameron playing at? Is the whole thing just to take our minds off the vicissitudes of financial meltdown? Will gay weddings weaken the institution of marriage and shatter the bedrock of society? I'm sure that the answers to these questions are available somewhere - just not on this blog. None the less, I think I may have come up with the solution to the whole problem. A great many couples live together, raise children and go through the ups and downs of a relationship without feeling the need to have their union rubber stamped by the state. Others feel more comfortable within some kind of legal framework and again very many people enjoy the idea of a ceremony of commitment. If a secular "state marriage" or  "civil ceremony" was the only legal form and was open to couples of any sexual preference the problem would go away;  civil partnership for all. If couples also wanted to have their relationships sanctified by The Church Of The Sacred Slave Laundry, Mullahs, Elephant Gods or assorted tambourine bangers of any persuasion they would be at perfect liberty to do so and the faith of choice would be at liberty to be as inclusive or exclusive as they wanted. It would make no difference because such ceremonies would have no basis in law. Civil partnership for all who want it is surely the way foreword.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Freedom rising from the ashes.

Things could be a lot worse down in Angel Alley. The ground floor is pretty much a dirty, smoke damaged empty space now but thanks to the huge effort put in over the weekend all of the undamaged stock has been removed upstairs and amazingly the shop is open for business. Keep up to date on the Freedom website. Pay them a visit, Buy a book. Make a donation. After two world wars and the unwanted attention of generations of secret policemen and fascist fuckwits it will take more than a half-arsed arson attack to stop Freedom. If you are reading this and you are one of those rich anarchists I'm always hearing about well this could be your big chance to put some money where your mouth is.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Freedom arson attack.

 As you are probably aware Freedom Bookshop was the target of an arson attack in the early hours of Friday morning. More details on the Freedom website.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Unlock the inner power of your mind why don't you?

Who am I to dismiss a new scheme to have patients with mild to moderate mental health problems prescribed with a reading list of self-help books? Mind you, some of the American self-help manuals that I have come across have been so badly written and so depressingly trite that they could surely turn a normally cheerful soul to the edge of suicide. But certainly few things in life can bring quite so much comfort and joy as a good book and I do mean a proper dog eared book that you can reach down from a shelf or pull out of an inside pocket or the bottom of a rucksack. The ability to put aside your troubles for a moment and lose yourself in a decent read is a true gift I reckon.  It's just  that you won't  find many such gems in the self-help, self-pity, body mind and wallet section of your local library.