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Showing posts from May, 2011

DESERT ISLAND DISCS

Currently the BBC is celebrating its long standing radio programme Desert Island Discs, a programme the first episode of which was broadcast in 1942. The format of the programme, for those who have never listened is an imagined scenario in which a castaway, invariably a prominent person, is sent to a desert island, they have to choose eight records, one book and one luxury item, having already been provided with the complete works of Shakespeare and, rather anachronistically the bible. So in the spirit of this parlour game I give you my eight records, book and luxury item.


1. Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano concerto. The first piece of classical music I fell in love with. A wonderful evocation of the melancholy of exile and the poetry of loss.

2. ‘These Foolish Things,’ Artie Shaw, the king of the clarinet. He produced a number of versions of this song, my favourite is a instrumental studio production of 1938, full of wistful melancholy.

3. ‘Child of the Moon’ The Rolling Stones. Choosing a si…

THE REAL SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

Last week saw President Obama visit the UK, well London to be precise, and gave a speech in Westminster Hall to a session of both houses of the House of Commons. The speech, dripping with honeyed phrases, beautifully delivered, wooed the assembled parliamentarians who swooned like schoolgirls experiencing their first teenage crush as he extolled the wonders of the ‘special relationship.’

Meanwhile across the Atlantic another speech was made, again to assembled parliamentarians, this speech was also declaiming a special relationship, though this time with a little more veracity. Benjamin Netanyahu* was addressing Congress, an occasion greeted with a fervour falling just a little short of that which might greet the second coming.
This speech was an impressive affair; this was a man who knew how, in the vernacular, to ‘press all the right buttons.’ Indeed for anyone who knew nothing of the facts on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank, i.e. your average Congressman, you would have bel…

IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

‘The Erie Silence, Are We Alone in the Universe’ Paul Davies. Allen Lane Books


I have a mug, which a few years ago I took into work with me whilst working in the Mental Health Team in Haringey. It’s a large black mug bearing the motif of the SETI institute in California USA, SETI being The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. The mug was the subject of much derision, so I was a UFO geek, a believer in little green men. No end of protestations that SETI was a respectable organisation based on rigorous scientific principles, that it had enjoyed NASA funding, cut any ice. No the whole idea of the search for intelligent life outside our solar system was risible.
I suppose I ought to state, for the record, as they say, that I am not interested in the outpourings of the so called Ufologists, nor do I believe that we are regularly visited by astonishingly humanoid aliens taken to abducting hapless homo sapiens for the purpose of surgical experiments.
I do however believe that the quest…

THEY GOT THE BASTARD

The sun is shining this morning, interspersed by sharp showers that scatter droplets on the window pane. The news breaks that Radko Mladic has been arrested in Serbia, I feel a sense, albeit momentarily, of exhilaration, that this truly disgusting human being is soon to face trial. .

Modern technology renders one impotent, I check the Internet news sources daily, watch TV news, the BBC, CNN, watch and hear of massacres and the genocidal actions of the seemingly unaccountable, the Gaddafi’s and Assad’s, the Burmese Junta. I watch, rather in the manner of a Roman citizen watching gladiatorial contests, the process can desensitize one. However. one such moment made me feel physically sick, this was the massacre of boys and men at Srebrenica, this took place, not in some flickering black and white footage, but was filmed by contemporary TV, just off stage, the TV camara’s watching the women, children, and Dutch soldiers, protectors of the UN 'safe haven,' * marched away, leaving t…

OBAMA AND THE ISRAEL LOBBY

To be accused of anti Semitism, given the history of the last hundred years, is probably the most heinous of accusations and yet if you point to the role the pro Israel, often called the Jewish, lobby plays in distorting American foreign policy you leave yourself open to just such an accusation. However I do not intend to  undertake an extensive period of throat clearing to establish my bona fide, nor make a secret of the fact that I am no great fan of the state of Israel as it is currently formed and in particular of its current political trajectory.

We are subjected to the spectacle of Barrack Obama the President of the most powerful state in the world being publicly humiliated by Benjamin Netanyahu the Israeli prime minister whilst visiting the white house. President Obama makes the unremarkable statement that the borders of a future Palestinian state should follow the line breached by Israel in 1967. No, says Mr Netanyahu, this is not possible, there are now ‘facts on the ground,…

THIS ENGLAND

Wandsworth council in London now propose to charge £2.50 per child to play in its adventure playground, stating that ‘this delivers best value for money for local taxpayers.’ Thus at a stroke children whose parents are on benefits or low income will be punished for the relative poverty of their parents, leaving the playground free for the children of good middle class taxpayers to enjoy without having to mix with the smelly oiks. *
Meanwhile the government without a mandate continues upon its exercise to reduce the share of GDP spent on public services to below that of the US by 2013.** This of course is the real agenda behind these cuts.

A rally held in support of cuts to public services, indeed protesting that the cuts do not go far enough, is held in central London. This is supposed to be inspired by the Tea Party movement in the States, though here only about three hundred people turn up. Curiously many of the men are wearing boaters and are addressed by right wing Tory MP’s whils…

LEAVING ON A JET PLANE

Growing up in a working class family in the 1960’s flying was something exotic, alien, something for others, inevitably tinged with class. Flying was not for the likes of us. I remember the adventure of being taken by my grandmother to, what was then, Speke Airport in Liverpool to watch the planes take off and land. I remember the astonishment we felt that a woman was ascending the steps into the aeroplane still in her curlers, do women still wear curlers? It still surprises me.


Clive James once said something to the effect the moment you become blaze about flying you loose something. Flying of course being one of the most improbable of activities, you climb on board this great chunk of metal which all logic tells you cannot possibly get off the ground, but each time, wonder upon wonders, it does.

Not that when I was young we did not travel, no it was the train to Liverpool, or more exotically the ‘ferry’ to Belfast. You watched from the deck as the little hamlets and fishing villages…

THE MASOCHISTIC NARCISSISM OF MR CLEGG

And so he climbs from the wreckage, heartbroken, his Liberal battalions decimated, his dreams of electoral reform like shattered glass strewn all around, his face ashen, a mere shadow of his former self, no more glad confident morning, Nick Clegg who so much enjoyed being admired and respected, finds himself the most reviled man in British politics. You would need a heart of stone not to laugh.

He makes his tour of the TV studios bearing up like the martyr he has become, insisting it has all been for the greater good, like a battered woman it has all been for the sake of the children, and like so many battered women he will return to the marriage, insisting that things will be different this time. Sadly we all know it will all end in tears.

Unfortunately it is the rest of us you will be picking up the tab for Mr Clegg’s peculiar brand of masochistic narcissism.

NOT TO BE SILENCED

There were two aspects of last Fridays glossy OK style royal wedding, pretty girls in pretty dresses, young men in Ruritanian military attire, all glass slippers and open coaches teased along the Mall by suitably attired lackeys, which showed the darker side to this affair. I quote Nick Cohen:-

‘The royal family's willingness to ban Labour prime ministers from the wedding has already told us much about the monarchy's ideology. After that cheap snub, I hope to hear less self-deluding babble from Labour leaders about the Windsors being "above politics". If they cannot see that royal rule is a justification for conservatism, surely they must now realise that royals are Tories and their political opponents.’*

Even more sinister was the arrest of people for thought crime.

‘Around 70 people were arrested in the UK in preemptive raids on suspected protesters prior to and on the day of the Royal Wedding.
The police enjoyed expanded stop-and-search powers in Central London o…