YEARLY ARCHIVE: 2011
Surface to Air Missiles to protect Olympics – Olympic Notes No11
So it has come to this. The much proclaimed ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, a sporting jamboree to celebrate extreme human endeavour and to lift the spirits of a planet ground down by recession and poverty will now, we learn, be protected by surface to air missiles. This has to be the final Olympic joke.
The Best of Times, the Worst of Times (In memory of Christopher Hitchens)
That damn dialectic just keeps grinding on. From the humble atom with its feuding sub-atomic particles right through to the whole crazy mixed-up universe itself, forever expanding and contracting as it will, till the end of time and beyond. There’s just no way of escaping the ubiquitousness of the thing.
Table Tennis Dreams
The English Table Tennis Association, the governing body for table tennis, has been dreaming and scheming about producing a world ping pong champion. As an interim and more realistic measure, they settle for dreams about how many players they can get into the world’s top one hundred.
Senna (Film Review)
This film, compelling as it is, raises more questions than it answers. It charts the rise and eventual untimely death of Ayrton Senna with great passion and intensity and even one such as I, who has an inbuilt distaste for Formula One, couldn’t help but be drawn into the internal politics of it all.
Seven Billion Citizens
Along comes an unsolicited email presentation beautifully presented and stunningly bleak in content. It asks us to imagine that the world has been reduced to a mere one hundred people all living in a single village but significantly in the exact same socio-economic proportions that the real world is today.
School Wars by Melissa Benn
It is the story of the half hearted attempt to set up a comprehensive education system in Britain and the subsequent, never-ending endeavours to undermine and destabilise that which was achieved. The work by Melissa Benn is a meticulous but at the same time a very readable one…
Occupy Wall Street
By contemporary matters I refer to any of the political tussles between the two great competing socio-economic classes that have at once simmered and raged over the past five hundred years that historic struggle between the capitalist bourgeoisie and the natural antithesis to that great class the global proletariat.
Some ten years ago, maybe more, an Israeli father and son table-tennis playing duo arrived at London Progress Table Tennis Club and proceeded to make a bit of a splash. They could both handle themselves competently on the table: the father, I believed, was a former Israeli international and the son looked to be heading in the same direction.
Dude, Where’s My Country? by Michael Moore
Michael Moore has had more than his fair share of troubles over the years. You don’t take on the National Rifle Association, the US Health Insurance Industry, the entire Bush Administration and the associated US military-industrial complex, Fox News and their religious fundamentalist lunatics constituency, to name but a few…
Jamie Oliver for World President
If we had an elected post of President of the World, Jamie Oliver wouldn’t be the worst candidate. In fact he would be quite high on my short list, if for no other reason than his tireless campaigning for decent food. This campaigning is now taking him directly to the UN…
Simon Jenkins; Bourgeois Historian
Simon Jenkins has entered the debate about exactly what should be taught in the teaching of history and his contribution is a contradictory one. On the one hand he argues, correctly in my view, against the hotchpotch approach to history teaching, whereby no discernible connection is made between each taught unit…
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
‘Freedom’, Jonathan Franzens big follow up novel, arriving some ten years after his widely acclaimed ‘Corrections, is trumpeted as a great American novel for our time, and worthy of a Tolstoy. This may be pushing things a bit far, but like Corrections, there is plenty to enthuse about this latest offering.
Why Marx Was Right by Terry Eagleton
For me, when Eagleton is at his least didactic he is at his most effective. When he debates and explores and hypothesises Eagleton provides his readers with a timely gem, but when he lapses into uncritical mode he does his own cleverly constructed project a disservice.
London’s Burning – Olympic Notes
The chickens have come home to roost. How I love that saying. It first lodged itself in my brain when Malcolm X controversially used it immediately after the assassination of JFK. He was pilloried by both middle-America and his own Nation of Islam for daring to state the obvious.
The problem of modern globalised corporations: Felicity Lawrence, The Guardian
Here is a hard hitting example of Lawrence’s well constructed thesis a thesis that is becoming increasingly difficult to refute, even for the most ardent neo-liberal free-marketeers, as each new day passes.
Channel 4 Dispatches – How to buy a Football Club
A few months ago Matthew Syed was waxing lyrical in The Times about football being the ‘beautiful game’. I wasn’t convinced then and I’m even less convinced now having watched Channel 4’s Dispatches which outlined the shadowy world of shady businessmen buying and selling English football clubs in order to make a quick buck…
Everything You Know is Pong: How Mighty Table Tennis Shapes Our World.
I don’t think the book quite lives up to its grandiose title, but aspiring as it does, to be part of the genre of New York satire, I don’t suppose it ever intended to. It does however provide some useful ammunition to my half-baked thesis that it is ping pong and not football that has the real claim to be the peoples sport.
Fast Food Olympics – Olympic Notes No 9
It is as depressing as it is predictable. McDonalds have just announced that they are going to construct their largest ever restaurant in the Olympic village, one of four McDonalds outlets serving the Olympic Games underlining their official monopoly on the distribution of fast food at the London Olympics.
George Monbiot: Hold Power to Account
Unsurprisingly the sharpest journalistic account so far of the unfolding Murdoch saga has come from George Monbiot writing in his weekly Guardian column 12/7/11. Precisely exposing the myth that the tabloid press somehow represents the voice of the much put upon working class…
Manchester United: The Biography by Jim White
This brilliantly crafted history of Manchester United contains, in reality, three stories running parallel to each other. The first and obvious story is that of the football club from its humble working class origins through to the billion pound corporate global monolith that it has become today…
Can Capitalism Ever Be Regulated?
Can capitalism ever be effectively regulated and if it can, will it really still be capitalism? Clearly, we have reached a stage in the rise of monopoly capitalism where some five hundred global corporations, some now state owned in China and Russia, largely control the world’s economic production.
Attacking the LTA during the Wimbledon fortnight is almost as much fun as the tennis itself. It’s near on impossible to resist. Faced with all that privilege and middle class, self satisfied smugness oozing from our TV screens, no self respecting journalist or self styled blogger should remain silent.
Fire In Babylon: Film Review
Fire in Babylon is anything but dull. In fact, it is wholly uplifting. The history of the all-conquering West Indian cricket team of the 70’s and 80’s, set to a mesmerising reggae soundtrack, brings back to life the history of one of the greatest sporting teams in the history of team sport.
Alex Higgins: My Story – From the Eye of the Hurricane
Here was a great, great sporting talent, just like his contemporary, George Best, hell bent on personal destruction; of career, of relationships and of his prodigious talent. Something akin to a Shakespearean tragic character whose fatal flaw all can see, except of course, the leading protagonist himself.
Britain Still Constrained by Class – Olympic Notes No 8
Two articles appeared in the media last week that confirm, yet again, the rigid class structures that still hold Britain in a vice like grip. In the Saturday Guardian under the heading; ‘The New Boys network: Etonians flood into Who’s Who’, we see in hard figures just how little class mobility there really is in this country.
Bob Dylan at 70
Aficionados of Bob Dylan like to play a little game, either with themselves or other Dylan obsessives, concerning the ten greatest Bob Dylan songs of all time. As someone who proudly falls into this category of fanatic Dylanites, I can tell you it’s no easy game. If you love the Zimmerman then the permutations are endless.
FIFA executive corruption
No less than a third of the FIFA executive have had substantial allegations of corruption made against them.’ It is alleged by Lord Triesman, The Times and the BBC that Qatar won their 2022 World Cup bid by employing some FIFA fixers to organise the appropriate backhanders, worth many millions.
Terror Police Warned Not To Abuse Their Powers During The 2012 Games
Sometimes, quite often in fact, I get the feeling while blogging away, that I have become dangerously paranoid. Most people on the left get this feeling from time to time. We are forever warning of the creeping fascism all around us. Then suddenly, you get the unnerving thought that it’s all in the mind…
Al Qaida – Made in the USA
Memories are short and Western Imperial propaganda is ubiquitous. We conveniently forget, even assuming that we ever knew, the bloody march of European and more latterly, US colonialism. After all, we in the West are the beneficiaries of these past five hundred years of European colonial plunder.
Royal Weddings – Just another Opiate
Kings and queens from the feudal epoch were tyrants, bloody barons that usurped power without a shred of legitimacy. The kings and queens of Britain in the early capitalist era were no less tyrannical – all aristocratic thieves, enclosing the common land for their own gain and stealing foreign wealth at every opportunity.
Sectarian Hatred in Football and Religion
For those of a superstitious disposition, gods and religions are quickly summoned. For the more rational amongst us, a never-ending quest for scientific understanding is our form of spirituality an ongoing endeavour to deconstruct the universe and our puny place within it.
Respone to Niall Ferguson by Viktor Vijay
British subjugated India and sent Indians as virtual slaves to different islands from Fiji to Mauritius, to West Indies to South Africa to work as indentured plantation labour, they occupied an independent country and used its resources and humans in a bland exploitative manner over nearly two centuries.
Civilisation, The West and the Rest, a Review by Alex Von Tunzelmann
Niall Ferguson is a dangerous man. Victor Vijay is right to lambaste him for being an apologist for imperialism. Alex Von Tunzelmann is no less damning. Why is Ferguson so dangerous? After all there is no shortage of history texts whitewashing the brutalities of the British Empire.
Wiff-Waff for the Riff Raff – Olympic Notes No. 6
Under the cleverly constructed heading, ‘Wiff Waff for the Riff Raff’, I recently received’ a request for a donation towards a bid to win some Olympics table tennis tickets for some youngsters in a hard up community table tennis club. For those unaware, ‘wiff-waff’ was the original name for ping pong…
The London Marathon
Life’s a marathon. Some drop out early and some struggle on to the finish. Of the finishers, some are nearly crippled; others just take it in their stride. Personal physiology, psychological aptitude, training routines and, most significantly, the necessary economic circumstances to allow that training, all come into the equation.
Time For Outrage by Stephane Hessel
Hessel must be a huge embarrassment to today’s authorities because while they, the Bush’s, the Blair’s, The Sarkozy’s and the Cameron’s, pretend to stand for the democratic ideals that helped defeat fascist aggression, Hessel indicts them precisely for having abandoned those very ideals.
Civilisation: The West and the Rest, Niall Ferguson, Allen Lane, London
There is one very important point to which I am in accord with Niall Ferguson, and that is the need for a clear and consistent narrative in the teaching and understanding of history. The current vogue of offering school kids an eclectic patchwork of bite size mouthfuls of history is simply of no value.
No Logo: (10th Anniversary Edition) by Naomi Klein
I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to revisit Naomi Klein’s updated edition of the rightly celebrated, No Logo, to see what take she has on the past decade, particularly in light of the Great Recession that we, in the West are still limping through. I was not disappointed.
The Promise, Channel 4
At last, something intelligent on a terrestrial channel. It’s been a long time coming. There was a time, of course, when the BBC and the others regularly produced gems, but the years between these classics just seems to get longer and longer. American HBO is different. They are churning them out in rapid succession.
Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men Who Stole the World by Nicholas Shaxon
The fact that large corporations and criminally wealthy individuals have been moving their wealth off-shore to avoid the tax man, and the serious fraud squad, is nothing new. What is new in Shaxton’s book is the exposure of the magnitude of, not only the sums involved, but the Byzantine methods employed…
Sir Alan Sugar, The Biography by Charlie Burden
Without doubt, quite the most awful book I’ve read for many a year; a totally sycophantic tribute to a man who comes across as a total narcissist. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sugar commissioned Burden to write the thing himself. No self respecting biographer could come up with such a shallow account…
The clash of civilistions
David Cameron ventured to open up on the vexed question of multiculturalism and made a complete arse of himself. To almost universal condemnation, save for the EDL and the rabid Tory right wing, Cameron made assertions that will certainly exacerbate community tensions rather than assuage them.
A spot of Tennis While Cairo Burns
Last weekend millions of Brits, egged on by hundreds of sports journalists, turned on their TV sets on Sunday morning to witness a British tennis player win a Grand Slam tennis event after an agonisingly, ingloriously long 75 year wait. It didn’t happen but it was good fun getting all worked up…
China China China
When China was awarded the 2008 Olympics it was considered a landmark in that nation’s extraordinary economic development. That it put on a well organised showpiece Olympics and swept the medals table in the process merely emphasised the growing economic status of the country.
Chris Blackhurst in Fantasy Land
Chris Blackhurst, City Editor for the London Evening Standard, produced a pretty fair piece of journalism 20/1/11 when he called on the City of London to end its indifference to the plight of the poor. The only real flaw in the article, entitled, Why Goldman Must Repay Its Debt to Society was its timing.
Libraries Deserve a Sporting Chance
I soon learned that the lady of the house had recently been made redundant from her job as a librarian and I naturally enquired as to why that was so. I was duly informed that her library had been closed down as part of the new wave of capitalist austerity measures.
Full Time – The Secret Life of Tony Cascarino by Paul Kimmage
While perusing the selection of sports books in my local charity shop I was faced with the daunting choice of biographies/autobiographies concerning Dennis Wise, Ruud Gullit, Gianfranco Zola and Tony Cascarino. What didn’t strike me then but is glaringly obvious now is that all four have had a substantial Chelsea link…
Pornography Penetrates Sport
Two excellent pieces of journalism appeared in the press today though I suspect few commentators will choose to make a connection. A damning expose on UK sex gangs where young vulnerable white working class girls in Britain’s northern cities are being lured into prostitution by Asian gang…
The Arms Trade, New Internationalist
The Government plays it part, all but suggesting that it is our patriotic duty to spend, spend, spend in order to pump prime our sick and wasting economy. The joke is, in order to rescue the dying patient we will likely plunge ourselves even further into personal debt. Help, get me out of here!
The Queen’s Speech
In the context of her hopelessly ahistorical understanding of the real repressive role of Christianity, her cliched sentiments on the role and value of sport are consistent and equally inept. No mention in our monarch’s speech about the cheating, corruption and chauvinism that is the daily staple of globalised sport.
Tottenham Versus West Ham Is No Choice At All
A classic example would be the economic and political choice between Tory cuts and Labour cuts. It’s a clever ploy. By presenting one draconian programme of cuts against a slightly less draconian programme the electorate conveniently forgets who was responsible for the economic mess in the first place.