YEARLY ARCHIVE: 2013
Heathrow Expansion – The Irrationality of Finance Capitalism
The endless expansion of Heathrow Airport symbolises the irrationality, the sheer insanity of finance capital. It’s a text book case of the tail wagging the dog. In this particular case it is international finance capital seeking to remorselessly and shamelessly expand itself in the face of widespread social criticism.
The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing
A great read, which is obviously dated from a plot point of view, but the themes that Lessing toys with are as contemporary, timeless and universal as they ever could be. Lessing offers a wonderful interplay between the idealist political aspirations of young revolutionaries and those most inconvenient things we might call human frailties.
Hull: City of Culture, City of Debt
At the very moment that Hull was awarded the UK City of Culture 2015, it was revealed by the BBC that Hull has the highest levels of personal indebtedness anyway in this dis-United Kingdom of ours. This cruel juxtaposition of images, one of life enhancing cultural pursuit, the other of debilitating personal indebtedness…
Mandela Dies: Now Hear the Tidal Wave of Hypocrisy
All sing praises to Nelson Mandela, all ring out condemnations of the wicked apartheid system. All tearfully celebrate the saintly life of the magnanimous one. It seems we’re all rainbow democrats now. It makes you wonder how apartheid managed to last a day let alone fifty years.
The Selfish Giant – Director Clio Barnard
Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant, a story of two young lads from the north of England who struggle to survive at school, at home and in the world at large. They may be from a traveller’s family or they may not. What is certain is that they and their respective families are desperately poor and generally desperate.
Russell Brand: Capitalist Democracy is Junk
It perhaps takes a junkie, or a recovering junkie, or at the very least, an ex-junkie, to be able to speak with such clarity where normally there is only fudge and subterfuge. I missed Russell Brand’s recent Paxman interview but I did catch up with his line of thinking via his follow-up Guardian article, and without over-egging it, it was hot stuff…
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
For as long as I can remember there has been this music category called World Music. More recently there has emerged a genre of novels which might usefully be termed World Literature. Loosely speaking, World Literature includes novels that shine a light on the horrors and misery of corporate globalism….
John Barnes – Passionate, Articulate But Undialectical
John Barnes, writing in The Guardian, argues that one-off high profile racist incidents in football grounds ought not to be of concern, it’s deep seated racism in society that we need to focus on. The other stuff is just a distraction.
Twin Ambitions by Mo Farah
Quite an absorbing read though to be honest, in a rather predictably and superficial way. Behind the exceptional athletic achievement of Mo Farah’s story, there are at least three important sub-plots, but each one of them is dealt with in only the most cursory of ways.
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
With the centenary of the first great, global imperial slaughter rapidly approaching, a simple parable like War Horse is sure to be drafted into active service. I recently stumbled across the original 1982 story and I’m pleased to say it had an unambiguous anti-war sentiment. I sincerely hope the stage and film adaptions remained faithful to that sentiment.
Harvest by Jim Crace
What a joy. What a craftsman, and what a timely reminder that the very embryo of English capitalism, the enclosure of the common land, was not that long ago. With these class sanctioned, criminal enclosures, came the wool trade, and with the wool trade came a cash surplus that could be put to no end of new profitable endeavours.
I’ve always had a little bit of a soft spot for the Commonwealth Games because, from the very parochial point of view of English table tennis, here is a realistic chance to be amongst the medal winners, whereas in the World Championships or Olympic Games, England doesn’t have a hope in hell.
Prince Charles – The Crusader Prince
If Charles had an ounce of real integrity about him, he would renounce and denounce the entire edifice of monarchy, exposing it for the antiquated, anachronism that it is.
Daily Mail – Daily Bile
The Daily Mail and the The Mail on Sunday, regularly spew forth bucket loads of bile against anyone and everyone that dares challenge the iniquitous status quo in this country or anywhere on the planet for that matter. Complete with its history of fascist support, The Mail is contorted by its hatred of all things progressive and humane.
Slave labour in Qatar
FIFA has excelled itself. Not content to take Qatari kickbacks in return for handing the resource rich Sheiks the 2022 World Cup, they are now embroiled in a bleak controversy which has seen the death of hundreds of Nepalese and Indian labourers as they toil in subhuman conditions on Qatari infrastructure projects…
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
It seems that however we organise ourselves, we humans have a predisposition towards neurosis. Jhumpa Lahiri, in her latest literary offering, zooms right in precisely on this arena of fraught family life to great effect.
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
The intellectual journey that Ali travels is truly inspiring and one can only hope that her journey is not yet over. As a very minimum, Ali is demanding that Islam undergo its own reformation, jettisoning all that is medieval and barbaric. The western modernity that Ali so marvels at must not, Ali persuasively argues, stop at national borders.
Red or Dead by David Peace
A microscopic examination of the footballing life of Liverpool Football Club under the stewardship of a one Mr Bill Shankly and a towering exploration of a footballing world long since gone, a world where celebrity and bucket loads of corporate cash have tainted the once deeply cherished leisure pursuit of thousands of working class communities…
Bob Crow for London Mayor
Do you ever get the feeling that after listening to Labour politicians, you cant remember a damn thing they said. They always garble off a shopping list of things they have done or things are going to do, but somehow you never quite feel convinced. Its different with the Tory MPs. They speak with the arrogance of those who believe they are born to rule.
Syria- Welcome back to 1914
Barack Obama missed a trick when he was first inaugurated; after decades of US jack-booting around the planet, Obama could have declared all war between nations illegal. Not that one simple idealistic statement, no matter who issued it, would have prevented future wars, far from it. We are still far too tribal for that happy day to dawn.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
A truly subversive text by Aravind Adiga, one whose relevance sweeps way beyond the shores of its native India. This is a novel that is destined to set a parameter for the 21st century, a novel that sheds light wherever there is a master-servant culture and that of course, is in every country and in every corner of every country.
Taking On the Trolls, The Guardian
Two articles appeared in the Guardian, by John Henley and Hadley Freeman, both trying to make sense of what to do with the internet. It’s generally accepted that the internet is a sort of ‘wild west’, complete with cyber bullying, child pornography, misogynistic abuse, and of course, illegal government surveillance. What is not generally accepted is what to do about it.
The Steep Approach to Garbadale, by Iain Banks, RIP
Just finished reading ‘The Steep Approach to Garbadale’ by Iain Banks. None of the stuff I’ve read by Banks I would consider a true literary classic, but each in their turn throws clear light on the human condition, and each one leaves the reader with a sense that they have been embraced by a true craftsman.
Moscow World Athletics Marred By Medieval Anti-Gay Legislation
Another international sporting event tainted by bigotry and ignorance and once again we are left with the dilemma of how to react. A boycott automatically comes to mind but by adopting that tactic, every international sporting event on the planet would have to be boycotted, for which country on earth can declare itself free of prejudice and injustice.
Fatherland by Robert Harris
What if the Germans had won the Second World War? I found my thoughts meandering all over the place, imagining exactly what the world might look like today if Stalingrad and Moscow had fallen, England had been forced to capitulate, and the Americans had simply adapted to the new European reality.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
I’d been somewhat sceptical about the book from the very outset anyway, having read that the author had fought for the wholly reactionary Afghan Mujahedeen. But the stubborn fact of the matter, contrary to the reviews and my own reservations, was that I had thoroughly enjoyed the first hundred pages and was instinctively inclined to ignore the reviews and carry on regardless.
FIFA’s Confederation Cup Reeks of Tear Gas
It started, much like it did in Turkey, with a protest over something seemingly as minor as a 20cent increase in the price of a bus ticket. Within a week, hundreds of thousands were on the streets across many Brazilian cities, screaming about a wide range of grievances including corruption, police brutality and inadequate public services.
WW1 Centenary: We have Learnt Nothing
The mini-industry growing up around this sickening centenary is now in full flow. It’s all there, the centenary books, the school trips to the battle fields, the Imperial War Museum exhibitions, and right on cue, the replay of the England-Germany 1914 Christmas truce football match.
The Dark Road by Ma Jian
Ma Jian produces a compelling narrative on the brutal implementation of China’s, One Child Policy, but on occasion Ma allows his dialogue to lapse into crude propaganda against the Chinese Communist Party. It’s not that his criticisms are not merited they probably are. It’s more that he fails to develop the dialectic…
Brazil’s Decade of Sport – Bus 174
The Brazilian World Cup is a mere twelve months away and judging by the well-fed faces in the beautifully revamped Maracana stadium, it promises to be a welcome diversion from all the political and economic doom and gloom currently sweeping the planet. But not for all Brazilians…
The Wall by William Sutcliffe
It’s probably fair to say that every nation has its dirty little secrets, and the more powerful the country, the bigger and more plentiful those secrets tend to be. Successive governments in Australia, for example, have long hidden the truth about the near extermination of its indigenous people and the on-going humiliation of those descendants that have survived.
A Delicate Truth by John le Carre
I have never read a single le Carre novel before this, his latest offering. The best I can boast is having seen the remake of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and probably the original if I care to remember that far back. I’ve also watched the Constant Gardener a few years back without being aware it was based on a John le Carre novel.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a Film Review
An absorbing enough film and watchable in the same way that Homeland is. The leading characters are a little contrived as is the plot, but, like Homeland, grapples with contemporary issues. Terror begets terror and it is left to the viewer to decide who is most culpable, western Imperialism or Islamic fundamentalism.
Alex Ferguson: From Govan to Global Brand
Thirteen titles in twenty seven years. A staggering forty-nine trophies in a blisteringly successful career. Simply staying in the job for that period in a sport so unforgivingly turbulent is glory enough. But to ratchet up the silverware year after year at national and international level while never losing sight of the need to build and rebuild puts Ferguson in a rarefied world of his own.
The Untold History of the United States by Oliver Stone
The Global Occupy movement has a new weapon, and what a powerful, incendiary weapon it is. Oliver Stone, better known for his thought-provoking catalogue of films, has teamed up with historian Peter Kuznick to produce a genuine stick of literary dynamite entitled, The Untold History of the United States.
New Statesman: What Makes Us Human
It turns out it is to be an on-going series, starting with Jonathan Sacks Chief Rabbi and general purveyor of sickly-sweet home spun morality. Well, you have to start somewhere I suppose, and to be fair to the old Sacks, Judaism has been around for a fair old time so I guess he has as much right to go first as anyone.
Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel
By creating her epic Thomas Cromwell trilogy (the final part is still in production) as Mantel has, wittingly or otherwise, shone a spotlight on the embryonic development of English capitalism asserting itself at every opportunity, invariably at the expense of the ancient structure of Lords, Earls and Dukes in Medieval England.
The Fix by Damien Thompson
Damien Thompson’s ‘The Fix’ is an outstanding, and if he’ll excuse the pun, addictive account of how our everyday human preoccupations and obsessions are rapidly turning into destructive addictions, made all the more potent by the speed and availability afforded by the internet.
Thatcher Dead, But the Unregulated Market Still Reigns Supreme
Even if we humans manage to live for another thousand years, I’m pretty certain that the dialectic between the individual and the collective will go on unimpeded. But I would suspect that as the years roll by, the pendulum will swing radically in favour of cooperation and the collective good…
Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
Amidst the mountains of commercial crap there are still literary gems to be found, and for me, Tash Aw’s ‘Five Star Billionaire’, is definitely one of them. It would seem another master story-teller has arrived on the scene with a highly compelling style of prose to match his absorbing narrative.
The Madness of George Monbiot
George Monbiot is a fine and courageous journalist. He has been at the cutting edge of progressive thought both domestically and internationally for many years. Yet, if we are to go by his latest offering in The Guardian, we can detect a certain madness creeping into his once acute mind…
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Much of the commentary on the Satanic Verses has centred on the non-literary aspects, and I must apologise for now adding to that mountain of over-heated polemic. But before I get going, a few words on the story itself. It’s a cracker! And I would bet my last five quid that most of the religious fanatics that so damned the book have not even read the thing.
Adbusters UK March/April 2013
The articles present a sparklingly refreshing anarchic narrative, supplemented as usual with powerfully unnerving graphics that get to the very heart of our quite insane world. A world where growth invariably means the never-ending purchase of capitalism’s alienating gadgets and potions…
Is Israeli Football Racist? Wrong Question!
Albert Einstein was once reputed to have said, when asked if he thought there was anything special about the Jews; I have every confidence that, if given the chance, Jews would behave exactly like all other nations. How prophetic those thoughts turned out to be.
Daily Mail School of Hypocrisy
Tony Rennell, writing in The Daily Mail, 28/2/13, had the temerity to criticise China for behaving like a typical capitalist big power. That’s rich coming from a newspaper that has dedicated much of its existence to lambasting any and every country that dared to try and escape from the capitalist orbit.
Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
Unlike his magically imaginative novels, this one is his very own grim real-life story, focusing primarily on the ten years of living life under an Iranian inspired fatwa a criminal death sentence pronounced on Rudshdie for daring to write critically and creatively about Islam in his marvellously sardonic and satirical Satanic Verses.
Australian Sport: Fair Go for Cheats, Dopers and Gangsters
Australia is no worse than other nations when it comes to cheating and corruption in the sporting arena. It becomes a story only in the fact that Australians have long been in denial about such matters. They have been happy to engage in the collective myth of ‘fair play for all’ on and off the sporting field.
One Billion Rising
At last we have something serious to celebrate on Valentine’s Day, rather than that infantile, wholly manufactured, sickly-sweet thing propagated by the high street chains. Global misogyny didn’t drop from the sky. It is firmly rooted in our socio-economic development dating back to the origins of human settlement and farming some ten thousand years ago
The Famished Road by Ben Okri
Okri is able to shine a fierce spotlight on Africa’s rural poverty and thwarted dreams like no dry political text book could ever hope to do. In fact, the more fanciful the images that Okri summons up, the greater the impact of his prose when directed at the day to day impoverishment of Nigerian village life.
Peter Hitchins: Nasty ‘Little Englander’
Peter Hitchens argues that ‘The person who knows no history remains forever a child, unable to see when he is being fooled and robbed.’ How absolutely true. On this single point I am in one hundred percent agreement. The problem is, Hitchens and I have completely different concepts of what our history is.
The Metro: Beware of free newspapers
Beware of free newspapers. They are starting to proliferate in London and other major UK cities and of course, they have their own agenda. Firstly they are not community newsletters, far from it. In the case if the London Evening Standard, it is the property of the Lebedev’s, an influential family of Russian oligarchs.