YEARLY ARCHIVE: 2012
Homeland (Series 2) Channel 4
With just one final episode to go in this second series, I have to confess it was worth the effort. This is the first attempt by a mainstream US TV to explore the notion that the US ‘war on terror’ is a complex and multi-faceted beast, and that the terrorists might not all be from far away Muslim countries.
BBC Sports Personality of the Year: Yuk!
I am rapidly developing an obsession about the BBC. First it was their OTT patriotic Olympic coverage. Then there is the endless sycophantic fawning over monarchy births, engagements, marriages, divorces, and jubilees. It’s not so much they report the news, more that they try to create it…
Jessica Ennis: Unbelievable
I wasn’t expecting very much and my lowly expectations proved well founded. Someone should tell athletes, even ones like Jessica Ennis, that they don’t automatically produce great autobiographies. This one was obviously rushed out post London Olympics in time for the Christmas market…
Brazil’s Decade Of Sport
The mainstream media is usually content just to report on Brazil’s growth figures spectacular before the 2008 crash and still respectable at 4% four years after the crash. The EU would die for those sort of figures. But these sort of broad brush statistics only tell part of Brazil’s story…
Cuba’s New Now: National Geographic
Gorney adequately summarizes the new government policies that are being tentatively rolled out in Cuba and convincingly expresses both the enthusiasm and scepticism of the Cubans for these reforms. But what Gorney does not do, is to put these new policies into some sort of theoretical perspective.
Brazil’s Decade of Sport Bulletin: No 1
The first significant off-plan event of Brazil’s decade of global sport has just hit the streets. 200,000 protesters took to the streets of Rio to protest a new statute that calls for a wider distribution of Brazil’s oil wealth. The protesters claim this will cripple Rio’s ability to host the World Cup 2014 and the Olympics 2016.
BBC TV: Not Fit For Purpose
To be honest, the golden age of the BBC is well and truly over, and what remains is a sad residue of lack-lustre dramas and dumbed down soaps. The dialogue and acting is wooden, the actors and plots seamlessly interchangeable, and the emotional range limited and cliched. And the least said about the directing the better.
UK Uncut to target Starbucks
What does the global financial crisis, climate-change, the never-ending crisis of under-development and the ever-expanding crime of corporate tax evasion all have in common? All these 21st century crimes, committed by the one percent against the ninety-nine percent, have long transcended national borders.
The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton
When I first blogged on Armstrong a few years back I was moved, naively it turns out, by his, ‘It’s Not About the Bike’ story, a story of human endurance against all the odds. Deep down I believed no one could tell such a moving story while at the very same time being up to their neck in doping and lying.
Occupy Movement is Right, Says Bank of England, Richard Hall, Independent
It is one thing when a few principled souls in the Church of England come out in support of the anti-capitalist occupations but quite another when the BoE executive director of financial stability comes out publically in support of those very same occupations. What’s his game? What’s he up to?
Jimmy Saville, Tip of a Misogynist Mountain
Abusing physically and mentally disabled children ought to be beyond anyone’s moral boundaries. But the more they delve into Saville’s past, the more the spotlight shines on Britain’s hidden culture of rampant child abuse, of hypocritical moral standards, and of deeply ingrained misogyny and exploitation.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
I had never read a single line of Rushdie’s work despite all the global attention his notorious Satanic Verses has attracted. It was time to make amends, but where to start? Obviously with his Midnight’s Children, and then work my way forward from there. And what a supreme treat that turned out to be.
Occupy by Noam Chomsky
Chomsky does give the whole Occupy movement a sense of gravitas, a sense of historical perspective. For someone as pre-eminent as Professor Chomsky to give his philosophical and spiritual blessing to this ill-defined but nevertheless cutting edge movement is no small thing.
Hillsborough and Ireland – Don’t Mention the War
Britain, at the time of the Hillsborough tragedy was at the height of its bloody campaign to crush the body and spirit of those brave Irish republicans who had the temerity to claim self-rule for not just 26 counties but for all 32 counties of Ireland. So what exactly is the connection between the two?
John Terry the History Teacher
In his own inimitable style, in a clarity and eloquence far exceeding even the best of history teachers, John Terry has reminded us that Europe, with Britain as no exception, has a long, bloody five hundred year colonial history, and that that history has been singularly defined by a deep seated poisonous racism
NW by Zadie Smith
I’ve always felt a tad sorry for those who produce a genuine classic very early in their careers and then have to spend the rest of their lives living in its shadow. Bob Dylan with Blonde on Blonde and Blood on the Tracks, Stanley Kubrick with 2001 and A Clockwork Orange. Zadie Smith is in danger of falling into this category…
The Social Conquest of Earth by Edward Wilson
Starting with the big bang some 14.7 billion years ago, progressing through to the formation of our own solar system 5 billion years ago, onto the emergence of single cell life 3.5 billion years ago, and then proceeding through the major steps of organic evolution, including of course, our own transition from ape to man.
The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
Whilst Wolfe has created a towering novel exposing the social tensions and personal absurdities emanating from the extremes of wealth and power to be found in a city like New York, he has totally underestimated just how far those tensions and absurdities would develop over the succeeding twenty five years.
The Paralympics – What it Means to be Human
Jackie Ashley, in The Guardian, tells part of the story of what the Paralympics means today. On the one hand it means a far greater acceptance that people with disabilities, both physical and learning disabilities, are just people with the very same complex natures and the very same aspirations as the non-disabled.
Julian Assange- Journalist extraordinaire
The purpose of journalism, in the past, in the here and now, and for all time, is to hold power to account, to make bureaucracy transparent, and to expose injustice and uphold the rights of the marginalised and alienated.
The Better Angels of our Nature by Steven Pinker
With one foot barely in the camp of historical materialism, and the other firmly in the camp of pycho-babble, Pinker takes his readers through meandering pseudo-science, meaningless anecdote and bar-room chat, all in an effort to prove that we humans are becoming less violent and more civilised.
BBC Olympic Coverage – Crass National Chauvinism
There are many ways you could describe the BBC’s coverage of the Olympics, crass; unimaginative, myopic, blinkered, shallow or just plain predictable. For me, while all those adjectives apply, more than all that, their coverage has to be described as sickeningly chauvinistic…
Be Careful What You Wish For by Simon Jordan
Like so many of Britain’s self-made men, Jordan is full of himself and his sense of self-importance. Alan Sugar comes to mind in this respect as does Barry Hearn. Anyone can set out in business to get to the top but only a handful actually make it. Does that make them special or just lucky?
The Circus is Coming to Town
Hurrah, the Circus is coming to town, And my heart is beginning to pound, With the runners and jumpers, And swimmers and punchers, And Ronald McDonald the clown, Yippee, the Circus will soon be in town, With its lights and its smells and its sound, With the food and the dips, And the burgers and chips
The Banks – What is to be Done?
To even be posing the question is quite exhilarating. Prior to the collapse of Northern Rock and Lehman Brothers only starry eyes young socialists and grisly old Marxists would have even contemplated the question. These days everybody has got something to say, right across the political spectrum…
The Circus is Coming to Town
Hurrah, the Circus is coming to town And my heart is beginning to pound With the runners and jumpers And swimmers and punchers
The Real Chariots of Fire, ITV
Who could forget it, with that memorable, stirring soundtrack that, once in your head, stays there for days, weeks, months, years. I wouldn’t bet against it being the number one soundtrack of the London 2012 Olympics, inspiring Team GB to run faster, jump higher, hit harder and swim stronger.
The Shard – Monument to Moribund Finance Capital
London is in need of social provision like local hospitals without chronic waiting lists, local schools that have enough places for London’s kids and are fit for purpose. And modern leisure and sports facilities, so kids have somewhere safe to play and something constructive to do.
Wild Swans by Jung Chang
In order to get into Jacques book I needed to get into the whole China mood. Set the scene so to speak. Relive those old monumental battles. Rethink the meaning of the Cultural Revolution. Place the modern, dynamic, absurdly contradictory China in its historical setting.
When China Rules the World by Martin Jacques
Martin Jacques has a simple and sobering thesis. The West is in terminal decline and the 21st century will belong to China. More significantly, it will not be simply a rerun of western democracy. No, this will be a competing modernity complete with eight distinct Chinese characteristics.
Stadiums of Hate, Panorama
Everybody has their own list of who should face a sporting boycott. For me Israel should be high on the list for its treatment of its Palestinian neighbours. The United States of America and the UK should definitely be on any boycott list for their wholly illegal war in Iraq…
Simon Jenkins versus Polly Toynbee: A Tale of Two Editorials
The guts of Jenkins article is that the monarchy is a rather harmless affair mercifully free of the grimy politicking associated with elected presidents. Don’t take the thing too seriously, just enjoy the pageantry and the nation bonding that it provides. He could not be more wrong. The monarchy is far from being a harmless, above-the-fray institution.
Luck: What It Means and Why It Matters by Ed Smith
So it’s game on – Ed Smith versus Matt Syed. It’s a well rehearsed game that has been played out for decades. Nature versus nurture, with Syed batting for the primacy of nurture and Ed Smith, in his latest literary offering, waving the flag for the luck involved in our genetic and environmental inheritance.
The Olympic Torch Relay – A Symbol of Austerity
As the Olympic torch passes from region to region, city to city, town to town, will the BBC and the rest of the cringing, servile media make reference to the boarded up shops in our high streets, the growing homelessness in our cities and the ever expanding ranks of unemployed and alienated youth?
Jeremy Paxman: Imperialism – Your starter for ten
George Monbiot has all but KO’d Ferguson, Paxman, Marr and all the other pro-establishment apologists for British Imperialism. What all these learned gentlemen have in common is their inability to come to terms with the systematic and institutionalised brutality of the little mourned planet-wide British Raj.
Capital by John Lanchester
Lanchester has conjured up a fictitious street in South London and then proceeds to follow the lives of its inhabitants through their various trials and tribulations, and by some clever plot devices links all the key characters together creating a compelling tension throughout.
Ping London Goes National
Dear Creator of all things, please tell Lord Coe, Cameron, Boris and the rest of the Old Etonians to stop pretending there will be a legacy from the London Olympics and instead spend a few quid on community sports and leisure, because there won’t be a legacy from the Olympics – there never is.
Footballers wage Problem
Wayne Rooney is on approximately 250k-a-week, adding up to 12 million pounds a year for you non-mathematicians. No wonder Manchester United are in debt! My question is, isn’t it time to introduce a wage cap to stop these footballers from earning obscene amounts of money?
Many of the top brains in computing and science plus a liberal sprinkling of entrepreneurs and billionaires have gathered together in a think tank, called the Singularity University, in order to brain storm all those stubborn earthly problems like poverty, hunger, disease and environmental degradation.
Chelsea and AVB – The Wrong Project
Andre Villas-Boas, freshly departed Chelsea manager, kept repeating, like a religious mantra, that he was working on a project and needed more time. To be very cynical I suspect his real project was not so much to revamp an ageing Chelsea side, but to model himself as the next Jose Mourinho…
Adbusters: The Big Ideas of 2012
I used to be given back-copies of Adbusters, the counter-culture magazine, which I think is Canadian based. Many of the articles drifted off into a new-age feel but there was, nevertheless, a distinct undercurrent of anti-capitalist sentiment. Even some of the more way-out articles had a link, however tenuous, to the real world.
The Spirit Of The Game by Mihir Bose
Don’t rush out to buy a copy of Mihir Bose’s new book inappropriately entitled, The Spirit of the Game: How Sport Made the Modern World. It is dull. Deathly dull. Dull as dirty dish water. It is also highly unoriginal.
Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere by Paul Mason
Paul Mason’s blog turned book is definitely the read of the moment. It’s compelling reading and its explosive content is being updated and underlined by the minute. At the time of writing there is a forty eight hour general strike rolling out in Greece. Once again Athens is the scene of angry rioting and police attack.
The King of the World: Muhammad Ali by David Remnick
It’s been somewhat remiss of Sporting Polemics not to have touched on the mighty Muhammad Ali, and his recent 70th birthday gave me the necessary prod. For all the mountains of literature on the great man, I stumbled across what is often considered the best of the best; David Remnick’s, King of the World.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
With time on my hands and nothing looking to match or better Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things, I opted for Wolf Hall, Mantel’s 2009 Booker prize winner. What a Christmas it turned out to be. From the opening sentence through to the very last some six hundred and fifty pages later I was mesmerised.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Very few novelists are cable of intertwining the particular, the historical and the universal with such ease and with such profound effect. How dare Ms Roy not devote her life to churning out more of the same. How dare she fritter her life away battling this injustice and that.