YEARLY ARCHIVE: 2014
London Calling – A Very Brief History
Londinium dates back to Roman times, Where its ambitious administrators hailed from sunnier climes. And with the fall of Rome came new masters aplenty, Vikings, Saxons and Norman gentry. Feudal London was blighted by plague and fire, Life was brutish, living conditions dire.But mercantile trade began to expand, London pre-eminent, king of the land.
London Calling – A Very Brief History
Londinium dates back to Roman times Where its ambitious administrators hailed from sunnier climes. And with the fall of Rome came new masters aplenty Vikings, Saxons and Norman gentry.
Small Island by Andrea Levy
If you need help in exploding the UKIP fantasy of a golden era of England, when there were no thieving, scrounging, terrorist migrants to blight this green and pleasant land, Small Island is the perfect place to start. For in reality, England had no such golden era. Prior to post war immigration, Britain was a miserable class ridden, bigoted island…
Black Mirror by Charlie Brooker
It is difficult to find the superlatives to adequately describe Charlie Brookers Black Mirror. A powerful and disturbing technological dystopia. A masterpiece of futuristic gloom. An unparalleled examination of where our new technological powers might be leading us to.
Fury by Salman Rushdie
First there was John Williams stunningly imagined 1965 ‘Stoner’. Then pops up Ian McEwan’s ‘Saturday’. And more recently, Salman Rushdie’s turn of the century ‘Fury’. All three novels have as their overriding theme the horrors of mid-life existential dread.
Oh how do you do, young Willy McBride, Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside, And rest for a while in the warm summer sun, I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done. These are the opening lines of The Green Fields of France/No Man’s Land, a searing anti-war balled written by Scottish/Australian folk singer Eric Bogle in 1976.
Saturday, Ian McEwan
It has become popular to mourn the passing of ‘community’ and ‘society’ as the juggernaut of global capitalism crushes all before it. But could it not be possible that the seeming inevitability of personal atomisation is a good thing, or if not actually good, then at least a necessary stage in our development?
UKIP – Let All the Pus Run Out
UKIP does not have a monopoly on such reactionary and inward looking ideas. Such ideas permeate all sections and social strata within British society.
Ping Pong and learned helplessness
Charisse Nixon, an Associate Professor of Psychology at Penn State University, explains ‘learned helplessness’, a situation where an individual convinces themselves that they cannot change the outcome of a situation.
Success versus winning in sport
When searching for a unified theory of ‘winning’, it becomes clear that instead of winning we should be looking at ‘success’. Winning is often beyond us, whereas success is always a possibility.
Johnny Rotten versus Russell Brand
Is it possible for two seemingly opposite positions to both be true and at the very same time? Yes it is. Given that truth invariably has a huge dollop of subjectivity wrapped up in it, it is entirely plausible that two opposing positions, contradictory as they may be, both contain at least sizable chunks of truth.
J by Howard Jacobson
‘Karl Marx was once asked what his views were on the ‘Jewish Question’. Marx curtly replied, ‘What Jewish Question?’ In a similar vein, Einstein was asked if he thought there was anything special about the Jews. He quickly replied he could discern nothing special and he was certain that if the Jews ever were to attain nationhood they would soon behave like every other nation.
Iraq – Eleven Awkward Questions
How is the Saudi regime, a supposedly key component of the international coalition against Islamic State, complete with its routine beheadings and draconian subjugation of women and gays, qualitatively different from IS? How does the Saudi regime continue to substantially fund Al Qaida, the Taleban and now Islamic State…
Something of a blessing, something of a curse, A lifetime of thinking only makes things worse. What to do with it, where to take it, Am I getting wiser or am I just faking it? They say it separates us from the birds and the bees, They say it makes us superior to the apes in the trees.
Pride / Two Days and One Night
By sheer coincidence, I have recently watched three films with a trade union/solidarity theme. I should more accurately say two and a half because one, a Ken Loach film called ‘Bread and Roses’, was so full of trite cliches that I was forced to abandon it half way through.
Something of a blessing, something of a curse A lifetime of thinking only makes things worse. What to do with it, where to take it Am I getting wiser or am I just faking it?
Who are the Scots, who are the Brits? During days of Empire, a potent mix. Signing up for the Black and Tans, Killing the Irish with their blood stained hands. What is the border but an arbitrary line, Bosses on both sides sipping fine wine. While the workers either side struggle to survive, Eking out existence like bees in a hive.
Who are the Scots, who are the Brits? During days of Empire, a potent mix. Signing up for the Black and Tans Killing the Irish with their blood stained hands.
Scottish Independence – A legitimate Response to Corporate Globalisation
Most nations turn out to be nothing but artificial constructs aimed at consolidating the rule of a governing elite. Britain is a classic example, consisting as it does of waves of Celtic, Roman, Viking and Germanic invasions and augmented by wave after wave of immigrants from just about every corner of the globe.
Death to the Other, he ain’t my brother, Death to the infidel, let him rot in hell, Death to the Ruskies, Hispanics and Yankees, Death to the foreigner with their foul reeking smell. Death to the Mongols, the Han and the Hun, Death to the Arabs and Death to the Jews, Death to the Christians and Death to the Hindus, Death to them all and their foul smelling crew.
Ethnic Cleansing: Editorial
Death to the Other, he ain’t my brother Death to the infidel, let him rot in hell, Death to the Ruskies, Hispanics and Yankees Death to the foreigner with their foul reeking smell.
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
There’s a strong argument to suggest that all humans, across the planet and throughout time, have three perpetual hurdles to face. The challenge to feed and shelter oneself. The challenge to navigate through the minefield of relationships, and an ever present existential angst to contend with…
What A Wonderful Orwellian World
Events seem to be unfolding at such a pace that even the most dedicated of bloggers will have difficulty in keeping up. On the western borders of Russia, NATO seems intent on provoking Russia into a military confrontation. But how would the United States feel if a foreign power was intent on encircling them with a hostile military alliance?
A Week In December by Sebastian Faulks
A week in December quickly proved to be a gem of a novel, providing both a tense story line, largely credible characters and most important of all, a most thoughtful discourse on what is real and what is illusionary. Sanity and insanity are cleverly juxtaposed until in the end the reader is left to ponder just where the boundaries between the two might actually lie.
Football Has Got Too Big For Its Fancy Coloured Boots by Martin Kettle
The charge sheet against modern football is not difficult to draw up. Too much money. Too many mercenaries. Too little motivation. Too few roots. Not enough skill or nurture. No moral compass. That’s about as comprehensive a summation as is required. But what of the sports which he imagines are somehow more wholesome.
Rape and War – A Marriage Made in Hell
May 2014 saw a number of activists, celebrities and politicians gather in London for a Global Summit. The organizers were the International Campaign to stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict. The campaign has worked tirelessly to highlight the use of rape as a weapon of war. The campaign deserves criticism. This is because the campaign is going to fail.
Jon Snow, Channel Four News
Whatever Snow’s or the viewers opinion of Hamas might be, if you are going to invite the man to give his organisation’s viewpoint, then at least give him the courtesy of giving it uninterrupted. Instead he and we were treated to a pointless haranguing by Snow every time the Hamas spokesman attempted to talk.
Desert Storm, Grant Wahl, Time Magazine
Despite the obvious US corporate nature of Time Magazine, there is a half decent article on Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup preparations. I say half decent, because it is the things that aren’t discussed rather than the things that are, that is the real problem here.
What Was Promised by Tobias Hill
There is a touch of Hilary Mantel about the first section of this beautifully crafted London novel. Just as Mantel is able to take her readers back in time with consummate ease, so too can Tobias Hill. Admittedly Mantel has made a name for herself by travelling back hundreds of years whilst TH contents himself with a more modest sixty…
Rebekah Brooks – Incriminated or Incompetent
It beggars belief that Rebekah Brooks, one time chief executive of Rupert Murdoch’s criminal media empire, would have known nothing of the industrial scale phone hacking that was taking place across the News International organisation that she was charged with running.
British Values and ‘The Other’
As a symbol of its home country, McDonalds is right up there with Coke and Harley Davidson. Nevertheless, the burger chain has become such an ingrained part of the UK cultural landscape that McDonalds can introduce ‘The taste of America’ without anyone batting an eyelid.
World Cup Deliberations
Eight million children sniffing glue on the street, Selling their young bodies for something to eat, Offering sex like a slice of cheap meat, It’s child prostitution in the Brazilian heat, Then it’s back to the glue for a Sao Paulo treat, Where the cops show no mercy on their merciless beat…
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
There was a sense of deja vu hanging over me as this novel unfolded, which could have been the mysterious Marquez magic, or I may have actually read this novel a couple of hundred years ago. Either way, it was an enchanting read that, by the use of magic realism, was able to engage the reader on any number of dimensions.
Gove’s Discriminatory Approach to Religious Schools
Where to begin? Certainly not with Gove’s ill-defined ‘British Values’ because as an arch right wing Tory, Gove’s British values will turn out to be nothing more than a rehash of neo-liberal, corporatist ideology mixed up with some fading British imperialist jingoism and a splash of so called ‘common sense’ Anglo-Saxon Christianity.
World Cup Deliberations
Eight million children sniffing glue on the street Selling their young bodies for something to eat Offering sex like a slice of cheap meat It’s child prostitution in the Brazilian heat
Gary Barlow raises taxing matters
Some people might dismiss the idea of punishing a singer-songwriter by removing an honour as a trivial punishment for a trivial public figure over a relatively trivial offence. They would be right. But this story is really about misdirection.
International Football – A note about soccer and success
At club level, statistics seem to indicate that football is indeed, decided by budget. There is a strong statistical correlation between a club’s wage bill and its final league position. Over the last decade, teams across Europe, have only deviated by plus or minus 2 places from their wage bill.
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
An absorbing fiction based on the scenario that President F D Roosevelt is defeated in the 1942 US election by a pro German fascist by the name of Charles A Lindbergh, a one-time US ace pilot and all round American hero. But when Lindbergh stops being a willing patsy for the Nazis, a full blown fascist coup is orchestrated…
Socialist Worker Party Implodes: No Laughing Matter
If you don’t have a particular predilection for plucky little left-wing groups, even the larger of them, you might allow yourself a quiet chuckle when reading of the inner party difficulties currently being experienced within the SWP. But it’s no laughing matter.
Gerry Adams Need Offer No Explanations to the Remnants of British Imperialism
Fact: The British Empire once spread across the planet and was held together by the use of extreme force including genocide, slavery, state sanctioned torture, endemic racism, ethnic cleansing and mass internment. Fact: the island of Ireland was the first of the British colonial occupations and will most likely be its last.
Big Pharma Needs a Public Stake by Seamus Milne
What are the key defining moments in Britain’s imperial decline? The massive Lend Lease debts incurred during the Second World War, and still being paid to the USA some seventy years later. The rapid loss of colonies after the war, with India, the jewel in the crown, being the most significant…
RMT Tube Strikes – Act of Defiance
The British media, led by the Russian oligarch owned London Evening Standard, describes in rabid terms, how the RMT industrial campaign to halt the closures of the Underground ticket offices is a disgrace to the city of London. The paper could not be more wrong.
Why Ping Pong has Soul
While recently watching a very powerful and moving documentary made by Clark Carlisle, Chairman of the PFA and ex top flight professional Footballer, ‘Football’s Secret Suicide’, it struck me just how different the world of football is from the world I am part of, Table Tennis.
Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen
Here’s the situation. Anyone who stands up to corporate America and its giant military-industrial complex, be it the Occupy Movement, or individuals like Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Naomi Klein or Michael Moore, deserve our respect and support.
Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
Kevin Powers Yellow Birds is the perfect antidote to all that toxic nonsense emanating from and around the Help For Heroes slogan. Whatever the US and UK servicemen and women returning from the bloody imperialist interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan may be, they are certainly not heroes.
Sporting Polemics Marks Its Five Year Anniversary
As Sporting Polemics ratchets up its first five year anniversary, the attached Carl Sagan sketch seems to sum up our meandering, eclectic journey as well as anything might. In that one clever little cartoon, one can spot the intersection and overlap between sport, philosophy and politics that we have been clumsily toying with over these past five years.
Transition by Iain Banks
The point of art, all art is to throw light on the human condition in as imaginative and provocative way as possible. But when all the artistic tricks and gimmicks are stripped away we are invariably left with the usual human stuff; power struggles, empire building, insecurities, and a fear and intolerance of the other.
The Future by Al Gore
This could very easily have been titled, Common Sense for All, and could have been written by any number of well-meaning fellows of the Ed Milliband, Will Hutton, Ja Hoon Chang variety. In fact anyone who ascribes to a more egalitarian, rational, socially responsible world, will find little to disagree with in Al Gore’s Future.
Crimea – A pawn in a gangsters war
If self-determination is to mean anything, the West should back off and respect the results of Crimea’s referendum. If the overwhelming majority of Crimea’s citizens wish to decamp back to the Russian Federation, so be it. In any case, the West is hardly in a position to take the moral high-ground when it comes to illegal foreign interventions.
Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Letham
Letham has produced for his readers an intoxicating cocktail of 20th century New York, complete with communist Jews, Black cops, Irish folkies, hippy Quakers, city communes, Sandinistas and a whole load of the usual Freudian stuff to keep us amused.
The New Brazil
The Observer Magazine ran a feature on The New Brazil which was ok as far as it went, but failed dismally to explain how the new Brazil was, like most developing countries, trapped in the global capitalist economy. What was produced was little more than an eclectic mix of post card sized portraits…
Captain Phillips: But Who Are The Real Pirates?
We are presented with the bad guys, those Somalian pirates seizing and demanding ransom from the law abiding seamen, and the good guys in the shape of the US Navy Seals and other god fearing US military agencies. The good guys naturally win the day with the help of some state of the art technology…
Love and Capital by Mary Gabriel
An outstanding piece of research; ambitious and sympathetic to its subject but by no means sycophantic. The life-long work of Karl Marx to unravel the inner workings of capital and to strip away the more fanciful and utopian notions of socialism are more than adequately dealt with by Gabriel…
Sochi Winter Olympics
Pre 1914 there is a rough consensus that Russia was an imperial power with an autocratic feudal system of government governing over a vast, backward hinterland but with a rapidly expanding capitalist economy in the metropolitan centres of Moscow and St Petersburg.
Australian Open – Climate Change Stops Play
Just how many warnings do we need? Just how much evidence is enough? And how long will the climate change deniers, wined and dined by the fossil fuel industry, hold sway? We are now regularly experiencing the worst storms, the hottest and driest summers, the wettest and coldest winters and the most extreme weather patterns ever recorded…
Sugar is the new tobacco
Every now and then the rabid Tory press comes out with a delightful surprise. Going back about eight years, Murdoch’s Sun, in response to the increasing ghettoisation of Britain’s ethnic minorities, produced a stunning front page with a collage of children’s faces of differing ethnic complexion with the proud headline, We’re All British.
Gove versus Hunt: Two Sides Of The Same Imperialist Coin
Two men slugging it out in the British press. One, a rabid Tory education minister, makes the plea for national patriotism when commemorating the First World War. The other, his shadow Labour Party minister, dons his professional historian hat and calls for a moment of national reflection and respectful debate.
Mark Duggan: No Justice – No Peace
As Donald Rumsfeld would have it, there are the known knowns, the known unknowns and those damn tricky unknown unknowns. That seems to encapsulate the Mark Duggan tragedy perfectly. Was Duggan part of London’s gang culture? Almost certainly. Was he carrying a gun at the time of his arrest and murder? Possibly.
Stoner by John Williams
If you like your novels bleakly existential, then this one is for you. It is every bit as dark as Camus’s The Outsider. Somewhat bizarrely though, every page turns out to be an absolute delight, though I must confess the last chapter was so gut-wrenchingly depressing that it took an extreme effort simply to turn the next page.