Sunday, January 30, 2005

Socialist Jokes That Don't Include The Words: 'People, Front or Judea'

From the Newsflash Section of the February 2004 Socialist Standard:
Prince Harry Apologises for Not Wearing Nazi Uniform
Shocked paparazzi yesterday snapped Prince Harry in normal working clothes, minus any sign of swastikas or iron crosses. A Palace spokesperson immediately an apology. The statement said "It is well known that the Royal Family has a history of Nazi sympathies going back generations and the Prince recognises that it was in poor taste to appear in public as if he was a normal person. He hopes that no Nazis were offended by his careless act and promises to keep up the family tradition in future.
Huygens Probe Sends Back First Titan Images
The Huygens probe has sent back the first images of Saturn's moon Titan, showing a long dark shape resembling an International Communist Current. One stunning black and white image reveals what seems to be discussion forums on permanent revolution leading out into a remote island of sectarianism. Another shows a flat surface that is apparently strewn with inpenetrable position statements. Scientists and Huygens captured more than 300 images of the ICC and that no activity has been detected. The Cassini spacecraft continues to the edge of the solar system where it will eventually establish whether the dark planet Militant actually exists.

Eduardo Galeano's View From The South

"Haiti is a country that has been thrown away, as an eternal punishment of its dignity. There it lies, like scrap metal. It awaits the hands of its people."
Granted it is an oldish article from the New Internationalist, but any writing by Eduardo Galeano deserves to be signposted.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Eyes On The Prize

Alfred Nobel's descendant, Peter Nobel on the prize that most of us mistakenly believe is called 'The Nobel Prize for Economics', but should in fact be known by its proper title of 'The Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Science in Memory of Alfred Nobel':
"Two thirds of these prizes in economics have gone to US economists, particularly of the Chicago School - to people speculating in stock markets and options. These have nothing to do with Alfred Nobel's goal of improving the human condition and our survival - indeed they are the exact opposite."
From an excellent post at the At Any Street Corner blog on the steps taken to legitimise (a particular school of) economics as science.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Made Me Laugh

From the yahoogroup, Leftist Trainspotters:

"The late Dave Cook, who was National Organiser of the CPGB, had a funny story about the New Worker. He bought a copy on his way to work, and joked to the seller, "We'll be fighting over this at King Street". A week later, he saw a headline in the New Worker, "LEADING CPGB FULL-TIMER BUYS COPY OF NEW WORKER - We'll be fighting over this at King Street, says Dave Cook"."

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Next Door Neighbours

I'm afraid, like this blogger, I am a site meter junkie.
Occasionally, when I have a wee look to see who has been looking at the blog, I spot a referral I don't recognise. First time that happened, I convinced myself that my rantings and ravings where reaching out to a new audience that went beyond Edinburgh Branch of the Socialist Party and a few friends and family. This became a bit feverish when I started imagining such crazy thoughts as a quorate Branch meeting or a write up for 'Small Party of Good Boys' in the blog section of the Guardian, but then I realised that it was little more than a case of someone clicking the 'next blog' button on the top right hand of the screen and stumbling upon my blog.
Surprise, surpise, they never stay longer than 0.00 seconds but it's always interesting to see the blogs out there that exist but which fall outside my remit of ultra-left politics, pop music and Glasgow Celtic. The latest blogger to refer to me is Solutions Publishing. From what I can gather, a blog solely devoted to treadmills and physical fitness. They must be keen on the fitness thing, whoever they are, because they have only blogged three times in three months, which can even allow a lazy swine like me do a Stakhanov impersonation over their Oblomov. And the one before that, was the blog written by a Fundmantalist Christian living in Kansas.
What is blogger trying to tell me exactly?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A Brief History of SE15 (and a longer ramble about nothing in particular)

- "Look at them. How they hell did they get on the guest list? Some of them look younger than the Gang of Four's back catalogue. I bet they've never even seen them live."
- "Have you?" - "No . . . but you know what I mean."
By rights, this really should have been a post celebrating the wonderful world of blogging. It was supposed to be the pay off for all those times I have either stared at a blank 'create post' page, thinking what Socialist Standard article am I going to link to today; or when I have admonished myself with the words: "Okay, tomorrow I'm getting my arse in gear with a new blog", when I've suddenly realised that it was five or six weeks since I last blogged about anything; or even those occasions I have had to defend myself feebly against the accusation thrown at me of: "What is your obsession with eighties pop music, and why can't you fucking write about anything else?"
Yeah, it was all supposed to make up for that but instead this blog post is more about me standing out in the cold last Friday night overhearing that snippet of dialogue reproduced above, and at the time half wanting to laugh along with the guy calling his young mate on his daft petulant outburst, whilst at the same time the other half of me wanting to wrap my arm around the young bloke's shoulder and chime in with: "Aye, too bloody right, mate. Its outrageous that the McFly fan club are swanning in through the door without a care or leave whilst me and you - who know all the words to 'Anthrax' - are standing outside with our noses pressed against the window like a couple of orphan kids in a Dickens' Christmas tale."
What the hell am I wittering on about? Just that on the Friday morning I received an email out of the blue from a bloke who must have just stumbled across my blog whilst google searching for Gang of Four on the web, and was kind of enough to tell me about a secret gig that Gang of Four were doing that night at a pub in South East London, in preparation for their appearance at the Shepherd Bush Empire the following week, and would I be interested?
As I've currently got less capital than an as yet undiscovered Indian tribe in the Amazonian Basin, of course I was up for it. I've not got the money for the Shepherd's Bush gig so I thought I would chance my arm and go down to this pub in New Cross that the bloke mentioned that they would be playing at. The thing is, though, me and South East London just don't seem to get on at the best of times. I remember one time a comrade and myself were leafletting an Animal Rights demo in South East London a few years back, and we just thought we would follow on the march that was making its way to Central London.
Being an Animals Rights demo, the marchers were mostly made up of little old ladies in twin sets and pearls, and punks with the obligatory Shut Down Huntingdon placard in one hand and a can of Tennants Super Strength in the other. This demo, coming as it did at the time of the first upsurge of 'anti-capitalist' demos such as J18 and the November 30th mini-riot* at Euston Station, meant that the police presence was heavy handed and all the pubs along the way of the march were closed to the demonstrators. This other comrade and me were desperate for a drink and half way through the march we decided to nip down this side street in search of a pub for a *cough* piss and a pint. Unfortunately we found a pub, and thought we had walked into that scene at the start of American Werewolf in London - sudden silence falling on the pub and not so friendly glances in our direction by way of a welcoming hello.
Thing is we were safe; we sort of blended in, in a roundabout way. Both dressed smart but casual - otherwise known as the £1 rack at Save The Children Fund charity shop - and with that special complexion that only Scottish people can have on an especially sunny day, we were able to drink our pints in peace 'cos we looked like part of the set up. I spyed a couple of pool players wearing Celtic jerseys so I proceeded to conduct this within earshot conversation about Celtic always hammering Hearts (the other comrade is a supporters of the Edinburgh Huns in purple), just to add extra authenticity. The poor sods were the punk animal rights activists who had had the same idea as us about the P & P, and were met with open ridicule when walking into the pub. I sort of made a mental note there and then not to choose to have a drink in a South East London pub if I could help it.
Sorry, I'm rambling and digressing with a piss poor anecdote, but to get back to the matter at hand of me standing outside a pub in New Cross on a cold Friday night, it turns out that the gig for the Gang of Four was a 'guest list only' affair. Only they had neglected to mention that to the listeners on XFM that morning when they announced details of the secret gig. That meant that a few people turned up with the same idea as myself - seeing up close and sweaty Andy Gill, Jon King and the other two ripping through their back catalogue. I'm afraid I'm not shameless enough to blag my way in, and apart from the nanosecond when I considered the scheme of trying to pass me off as the producer of Entertainment (a fail safe plan only marred by the fact that I couldn't remember who produced the album and, whoever it is, they are probably about 55 now), I decided to cut my losses and head back from whence I came.
Of course, I could have stuck around in the hope of either slipping in if and when some of the Guest List didn't turn up and there would be room to spare, or re-enacting that scene from Fellini's film of me standing the other side of the glass, watching everyone else have a good time, but that would be too reminiscent of Socialist Party branch meetings held in lively pubs whilst we are upstairs reading the minutes of the last meeting, so I headed back on the underground safe and secure in the knowledge that Reidski would be giving an in-depth review of the Shepherd's Bush gig this coming Friday. Don't let me down, man.
* Shame I wasn't blogging then. That would have been a blog and a half.

Friday, January 21, 2005

A Bennetton Moment

Coming so soon after this post, I know I'm in danger of turning into what George Orwell so famously described as one of those "fruit-juice drinker" types that he berates in The Road To Wigan Pier but I don't care, I really love this article by Leo Benedictus in today's Guardian.
Benedictus in the article is in no way naive of the experience and difficulties that beset the coalition of communities that co-exist in London, but what emerges from reading the article is that core sense of decency that I believe we all share irrespective of where we are from, what language we speak or who we think should win Celebrity Big Brother.* As Benedictus himself writes:
"The following articles are based on brief visits and should not form the basis of any new generalisations; instead, it is hoped that they will help to undermine some of the old ones. One principle, however, was confirmed and reconfirmed by every encounter. Vietnamese, Somalis, Congolese, Koreans, Portuguese, Nigerians, Turks and Poles are really just the same as everybody else - they work hard, love their kids and move to the suburbs when they can afford it."
Maybe I'm reading too much into the article, or at least taking from it what I want to see, and I do seem to be using that word 'decency' a lot lately - and it's not even my word - but it is what I truly believe and in my naive fashion what underpins my politics in a roundabout way. Maybe I'll just have to finally get round to stumping up for that thesarus I've always needed.
OK - I'm off to knit myself some tofu for my tea tonight.
* Write in vote for Germaine Greer

Bookshop Memories

Reminder from Hak Mao that today is the anniversary of George Orwell's death.
And yes, like every other sod in the blogsphere, I too went through my phase of discovering the wonderful writings of George Orwell as an adolescent. (And there was me thinking of myself as such a unique type at the time.)
Living in a one bookshop town, I didn't have a lot of choice when it came to what political literature I could buy and read when the political bug first bit me but luckily it was a couple of years after 1984 and that meant that you couldn't go into this bookshop without tripping over remaindered copies of Orwell reprints. In a short space of time I devoured all the Orwell that I could get my hands on (though I've never be able to bring myself to read Burmese Days, and I'm saving Coming Up For Air for a rainy day.)
I know most people will cite Homage To Catalonia as their favourite Orwell book - and I love it too - but I've also always had a soft spot for Down and Out in Paris and London.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Shameless - A Mental Note To Self

I really do need to write more posts on "Bobby Dylan, the young Bobby Dylan"*; Manchester United and the travails of English cricket in future. Just anything that will get Normski to mention me again on his blog.
A couple of mentions on his blog today means that my sitemeter hasn't look this busy since I inadvertently wrote the words 'Jude Law' and 'naked' in a paragraph on a blog I posted once on the subject of Theodor Adorno and the Frankfurt School.
Now, if only 99% of those new visitors could stay longer than 0.00 seconds then I would be laughing.
* Hat tip to Phil Ochs singing 'The Ringing of the Revolution'.

Monday, January 17, 2005

"Every Other Saturday, Surrey's Population Decreases By Fifty Thousand'*

Maybe counting up all the votes for his blog's latest poll, Top Ten Rock and Pop Songs Of All Time, has temporarily short-wired Normski's circuits but I think he misses the point for why United are *cough* not everyone's second favourite team.
It's quite simple - seven Championships in ten years contributes to a scenario where every other snot nosed kid, from Cornwall to Canberra, wants a Man Utd strip for Christmas, whilst a whole generation of adults, whose only previous connection to Manchester was occasionally watching an episode of Coronation Street, suddenly transform themselves into diehard Man Utd fans, claiming they were there at the City Ground in 1990, the lowest ebb of Ferguson's managership at Old Trafford where, if it weren't for Mark Robins late winning goal in the FA Cup tie against Forest, he would have been out on his arse. The things that Norm attributes to people holding against Man Utd are pretty much standard fare for what has always been flung against those clubs that are extraordinarly succesful over a long period of time.
Norm seems to forget is that the same accusations were thrown against Liverpool in their glory days, what with their being so many fans from outside Liverpool who were supporting them when they were winning all and sundry in the seventies and eighties, and it is not that unknown a phenomenon even now to bump into men in their fifties and sixties who have supported Wolverhampton Wanderers all their lives, despite not being from anywhere near that neck of the woods, because of the great Wolves team of the late fifties managed by Stan Cullis.
Who knows, if Chelsea were to do in the next five years what Mourinho's team is doing at the moment, then five years from now everyone will be wearing Chelsea tops, discussing the relative merits of whether Alan Hudson or Damian Duff was their best ever player, and bullshitting everyone about how they stood in the Old Shed in the pouring rain watching Chelsea get beat at home once again when they were still in the old Second Division.
In short, it is good old fashioned glory hunting. I'm not going to knock it. I'd sooner watch United on the telly than sit in the cheap seats at Plainmoor but it was Frank Skinner who hit the nail on the head when determining what football team a person should support: " . . . the only criterion anyone should ever use when choosing a football club - geography. You sit with a pencil, a ruler, and a map, identify the nearest professional football club to your place of birth, you buy a scarf with their name on it and that's that."
But of course I would say that, by Frank Skinner's guideline, that means that I have to support Glasgow Celtic.
* Joke courtesy of the Old Jokes Home.

Deconstructing Harry

It caused a furore all over the media and its mini-me, the blogsphere, but I was never going to get that worked up over Harry - the thick one - dressing up as a Plastic Nazi for some fancy dress party the other week. Truth be known, I guess I am a strange sort of Socialist, in that instead of foaming at the mouth when I see or read about Parasite Family Number One - otherwise known as the Windsors - I yawn rather than yell. That is why I sort of understand Nick Cohen's cynicism about the way that it has been reported in the media when, writing in yesterday's London Evening Standard, he offers the opinion that:
"Upper-class twit behaves like idiot isn't news and, in ordinary circumstances, the Prince Harry fuss would have died in a day. The Windsors have been remorselessly pounded because, with characteristic bad luck, the story broke after weeks of the media being forced to be serious about the tsunami.
In bulletin after bulletin they had to confront the great issue of human suffering, and hated it. This isn't what they want to do or are trained to do. At last the chance came to return to gossip, and the frustrated media's relief burst over the Prince like a tidal wave."

Saturday, January 15, 2005

" . . . paved with nothing but thunderous defeats"

SIAW's post on the 86th anniversary of the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht has already been signposted by Hak Mao, Normski and theVirtual Stoa, amongst others, today, but I am more than happy to do my bit in posting the link when it contains such a powerful piece of writing by Rosa Luxemburg on the history of Socialism and modern revolutions, which she wrote following the failure of the Spartacist uprising.
It is all the more poignant because it was the last thing she ever wrote.

Leaving Your Windows Open in Winter

A half-remembered, but fully embellished, online conversation from a few days back between Kara of the Radio Active blog and myself:
K - I just caught your porn comment. D - Where? K - You know where. D - On my blog? K - God, frat boy. D - Where? I'm confused, I don't know what you are talking about.
K - On your MySpace profile. "Politics, music, watching sports, films (porn preferably), literature - you know, the usual."
D - What !!! K - Your MySpace profile page.
D - Fuck, you know what happened? I've left my MySpace account open on the computer and John has changed it on the quiet. He likes to do stuff like that. He went through my MP3 collection once time on the computer and renamed all the songs on there. According to itunes, I now listen to Britney Spears singing 'Hit Me Baby One More Time and I'll Call The Police To Throw Your Arse in Jail'.
K - Jesus and Ghandi are now your heroes . . . and Nelson Mandela D - yeah? K - and you're a swinger now, apparently. D - He's a cheeky bastard. K - There's a blog for you; explaining your love for Porn and Jesus. D - Mmm - maybe K - If I were you I would go take off the porn and Jesus thing. D - But Jesus loves a sinner. K - Before people might think I'm into a porn-loving Jesus-freak. D - aye, good point. I wouldn't want people to think I'm religious.

Friday, January 14, 2005

"Do the shake and vac to put the freshness back."

This regular blogging lark won't keep up despite Will's suggestion that I must be on the old shake and vac at the moment for the sudden inexplicable burst of energy, but whilst I'm still trying to keep my New Year Resolutions in place (by rights, they should be in a crumpled heap in the corner by now), I thought I would update the blogroll again with a few more recommended reads.
Radio Active is the blog of someone I think the absolutely world of. Kara is funny, smart, honest, opinionated and she never bloody updates her blog often enough! I think her excuse is that she is too busy blogging on MySpace, where her regular blogs gets more readers in a day than this blog gets in a week, to bother with updating Radio Active. However, I'm hoping that she will finally get her finger out and start updating this blog more often.
It is Kara that I have to thank for me finally getting round to reading the brilliant To Kill A Mockingbird; discovering the wit and insight of bell hooks; actually listening to a non-eighties band for a change in the shape of Le Tigre; and who knows, if I can find a DVD player that plays my copy, of actually getting to watch Y Tu Mamá También.
She's also the reason I've always got a daft smile on my face, and my best excuse for not blogging these last few months. I'd sooner be talking to her everytime. I still, however, can't work out what her fascination with Roger Ebert's cardigans is all about, though.
See, it sometimes works to be overly obsessive with late seventies and early eighties music on your blog, 'cos it meant that the good people at Cuonago and Spaves took the trouble to blog roll me just recently when I was getting all dewey eyed about the Au Pairs and Gang of Four. John of Cuonago and Spaves himself likes to get dewey eyed about the Mekons , in amongst his musings on anarchism, football and shaming me in the books he has read by reminding me that one of my 2005 New Year Resolutions is to read more.
Speaking of shaming - ok, writing of shaming - I thought I would mention the blog Timid Maximalist , by way of hoping that he or she would once again start to regularly blog.* Drawing from a political tradition that is still, in my opinion, best explained in an accesible and readable fashion in the now out of print Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century, TM seeks to:
" . . . articulate/discover a path away from maximalist sneering ('we' have the answer, 'you' are wrong; world revolution - good, everthing else - bad), as against absurd avowals for chaos, uprisings, upheavals as it is against the quietism of pacifism or the disingenuousness of democracy, and for/towards a more humble, less masculinist, more open, way of thinking/writing against capitalism and for communism."
I know that the impossiblist tradition that I support can sometimes fall all too easily into that trap of the 'maximalist sneering', and I hope that if and when TM starts blogging a bit more, I can better understand and articulate the politics I endorse through engaging with the arguments that TM and others are articulating. No one person or tradition has all the answers on these matters.
* On mentioning the tardiness of Timid Maximalist in updating their blog to someone recently, they replied: "I've been waiting for a new installment for months. Promises the earth, and delivers nothing.Typical maximalist." Damn, I wish I had thought of a line as witty as that.

Mattick on Trotsky

"The masses had to be led; but the leaders could lead only in accordance with their own necessities. The need for leadership of the kind practiced by bolshevism finally indicates nothing else than the need to discipline and terrorize the masses, so that they may work and live in harmony with the plans of the ruling social group. This kind of leadership in itself demonstrates the existence of class relations, class politics and economics, and an irreconcilable opposition between the leaders and the led. The over-towering personality of Leon Trotsky reveals the non-proletarian character of the Bolshevik Revolution just as well as the mummified and deified Lenin in the Moscow Mausoleum."

The above is an excerpt from the article on the political legacy of Leon Trotsky that the German Council Communist, Paul Mattick, wrote in the wake of Trotsky's murder in 1940. It has been recently added to the Marxist Internet Archive through the good work of a comrade who has been transcribing many of Mattick's forgotten texts and book reviews from Mattick's own political journals, New Essays and Living Marxism, as well as from the sadly now defunct World Socialist Party of the United States journal, The Western Socialist.
Well worth checking out.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Pickpocketing Normski (Part Two)

I've caught it just in time but Normski is doing one of his polls again. This time it is the top ten pop and rock songs of all time. I didn't take part in his previous polls that included the best Jazz Albums* of all time and the best Country Stars** of all time, but I don't need to be asked twice to inflict my taste in pop music on the world and its cousin (see passim blogs for exhaustive proof).
Normski has listed his long list of his top fifty songs, which suggests that he either has too much time on his hands or he is one of this blokes with a row of coloured felt tip pens in the top pocket of his shirt. Only joking, but I can't believe that in his top fifty, Norm has listed The Righteous Brothers 'Unchained Melody' but omitted the classic 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling'. That just doesn't make any sense at all.
I'll just cut to the chase and list my top ten. They are in no particular order, and I know that this time next week, the list will be totally different.
Stevie Wonder - Superstition
The Jam - That's Entertainment
Kristen Vigard - God Give Me Strength
The Smiths - This Charming Man
Rufus and Chaka Khan - Ain't Nobody
The Undertones - Teenage Kicks
The Kinks - Waterloo Sunset
Abba - Dancing Queen
David Bowie - Heroes
Al Green - Let's Stay Together
Damn, I think Norm had the right idea. There are another forty songs I wanted to list. But the top ten isn't too bad: The right mixture of classic soul, guitar based pop and the downright kitsch to cover all the bases.
The poll closes this Sunday. To take part, email your top ten to Normski at

* Okay, okay the proper link is here. ** Same drill - proper link here.

" . . . bring light to the many hidden parts of personal and collective history."

The words in the title of this blog and the picture reproduced above are both from Marcello Brodsky, an Argentian photographer, who has dedicated himself to the memory of the victims of state terrorism in both Argentina and in Latin America. The picture is from his 8th Grade class in 1967, and as he explains in the film, The Quiet and Subtle Cyclone, five per cent of his classmates in that picture are now dead, eliminated by the dictatorship under the military that ruled Argentina from 1976-1982.
Brodsky's piece is part of larger film that was produced by the Guerrilla News Network in 2002 to be shown at the Diamantina Film Festival in Brazil. If you have quicktime on your computer, the film is well worth checking out, as are a number of the other activist films featured on both the GNN website and the Dissidents website.
Both websites make no claim to impartiality, providing in their own words partisan videos and films that serve as a counterpoint to the views that are expressed in the mainstream media. You won't and don't have to agree with everything that is said in any of the films listed, but it helps to be able to see a different viewpoint to compare and contrast every once in a while.
I think old Gil may have got it wrong.

Essential Decency

As Stuart Jeffries writes in today's Guardian, Yasmin, which is on Channel 4 tonight, is definite must see TV. Its lead, Archie Panjabi, was the best thing in East is East and and, with a script by Simon Beaufoy of Full Monty fame, you know that it has impeccable credentials.
So, why am I blogging about it now, rather than waiting till I see it tonight and offering my opinion then? Am I that lacking in inspiration for subjects to blog on that I've rented out the blog as an online listing magazines to reach out to my regular three readers?
Nah, the reason I wanted to mention it was because of the following incident that took place on the streets of Keighley when a particular scene was being filmed, and which is mentioned in the aforementioned Guardian article:
"In that scene, a gang of young white boys throw milk at a Muslim woman wearing a burka in a Keighley shopping precinct and yell at her to go home. Simon Beaufoy's script has the eponymous Yasmin comforting the distressed woman, but what is particularly lovely about the scene is that an elderly white woman, appalled at the boys' behaviour, rushes up to the two women to apologise.
The woman turns out to have been a passing shopper who did not realise she had stumbled on to a film shoot. "It was such a great unscripted moment, we decided we had to keep it in," says producer Sally Hibbin. "There was also an old bloke who started coming over and attacking the kids for what they were doing. He didn't know we were making a film, either.""
I smiled when I read that.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

"Do You Think She Could Do Us Some Doh Wah Wahs?"*

A few months back when I was blogging more regularly, I was really taken by the idea of audio blogging. Of course I was, it appealed that part of me - all of me, according to some people - that can't help but foist my taste in music/books/films/particularly flavoured crisps/politics** on people. Many a half-remebered conversation was along the lines of:
"You don't like Microdisney? Well, you obviously haven't listened to them properly. You must hear this track of theirs. It was only ever available on the cassingle of 'Singer's Hampstead Home'."
"Piss off, Darren."
"OK - I'll burn you a CD so you can listen to it later on. No problem, I understand."
So there was me drawing up the first batch of songs that I would unleash on an unspecting population. First up, the brilliant but criminally neglected, 'God Give Me Strength', written by Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello, sung by Kristen Vigard and which featured in Alison Anders film 'Grace of My Heart'; followed by Flowers track 'After Dark', released on Fast Product's second Earcom's compilation and so on and so on. You get the drift.
Only one problem, I'm a techno-numpty. What I know about computers is only a par with what I know about most things so instead I have had to become an enthusiastic listener of audio blogs.
My favourite audioblog Bubblegum Machine has just celebrated a birthday of sorts. One hundred weeks young this week, it has brought us two download songs every week where, as the words of the Bubblegum Machine's Manifesto itself explains, the only criteria for what songs it includes are that: "If it's ever been on K-Tel or Ronco, it's in. If it features hand claps, cow bells, syrupy orchestration, walls of sound, wrecking crews, sha-la-las, lyrics about hugging, squeezing and rocking all night long, toothy teen idols or candy-based metaphors for carnal acts, it's in."
Of course, over 100 weeks, that can add up to a hell of a lot of sacharrine, but I will just list below a few of the songs that I really love from the Bubblegum Machine, and I'll let you discover your own favourites by yourself.
*Of course the quote comes from Tutti Frutti.*** Need you ask?
** Delete as appropriate
*** Hat tip to radio active for the Tutti Frutti pic.****
**** Christ sake, a footnote for a footnote. Wait up, this in itself is a footnote of that footnote for a footnote. I think I will stop now; I need to go lie down.

'1956 and All That

"It seemed that, as soon as the group began to grow to the point where it could not be controlled by Gerry Healy leaping aboard his “Rififi-type Citroën” (the description is Brian Behan’s) and nipping round the country suppressing dissent, the group needed to be reduced to manageable proportions. In this way a legion of ex-Trotskyists was created. Indeed, if one were inclined to conspiracy theory, one might hazard that all along Healy had been in the pay of the Mikado, the Axis, the State Department and the Deuxième Bureau."
The above quotation is from '1956 and All That', the latest essay from the late Jim Higgins to be added to the Marxist Internet Archive. As I have written previously on this blog, Higgins was undoubtedly one of the most readable of writers on the left in Britain and it is always a pleasure to read his articles. Through the good work of Ted Crawford and Mike Pearn there is a good archive of his writings now being placed on the Marxist Internet Archive, and I would recommend anyone wishing to find out how you can combine political writing with an accesible writing style that employs humour, passion and historical insight than you can't go much wrong in spending an hour or two checking out the archive of his writings.*
From reading the articles and reviews that he wrote in the sixties and early seventies, when he was one of the leading members of the International Socialists, you can see that the caustic wit was always there in his writings but the later pieces are the more interesting because, as well as the illuminating anecdotes and memories that pepper the text, they exhibit a reflection on his politics, both its successes and failures, that is all too rare when reading the writings of those who have spent a lifetime in active politics.**
A critic could dismiss this as merely a reflection of someone who wasn't active in organised left politics for the last twenty years of his life, and had the luxury of acknowledging his own political mistakes and that of his generation, but I would chose his writings with its thoughtful and not so gentle admonishment of both himself, his friends and foes and the politics of the period under discussion, than the hagiography of the Ted Grant or the late Tony Cliff anyday.
* Of course I've spent many enjoyable hours reading his writings, and I still have a saw dust prose writing style so please come back and moan at me if your writing style isn't transformed after reading his work. There is no money back guarantee. ;-)
** The other three British Trotskyist writers - and I have probably mentioned them before - who I greatly admire, whilst, like in the case with Higgins, fundamentally disagreeing with their politics, for that self-same ability to reflect honestly on their political legacy were Harry Ratner, Harry Wicks and David Widgery.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

"I'm ripping down that poster. I fucking hate socialists."

The title of this blog is from The Man Who Feel Asleep's Tube Gossip. One of the funniest things I have read on the web in a long time. If you have a spare half hour, it's worth checking out.
Some more of my favourites are reproduced below (and thanks to SIAW for the original hat tip.)
I got chocolate money, but it was Euros.... I felt very modern.
  • Rebrov's gone from the Champions League to the bench at West Ham. That's the Spurs effect.
  • I smoke cigarettes because I like them, not so that I can get criticised by you every ten minutes.
  • I spoke to God and he told me that he hates you.
  • Anyway, she has to go round everyone in the IT department and remind them not to wank in the toilets.
  • That's not a dog - it's a rat with delusions of grandeur.
  • Osama Bin Laden is like the Tupac Shakur of the terrorist world. He's dead, but they keep re-releasing old statements of his.
  • Some people in the third world can't afford DVDs and have to watch VHS videos.
  • I would never punish my kids by hitting them. I just make them feel guilty and all twisted up inside.
  • I was actually born in Harpenden. But I got out of there pretty fast.
  • He was pretending to play with the phone, but he was obviously trying to photograph me.
  • You have the chin of a Welshman.
  • There’s nothing worse than those white Ipod headphones.
  • Scary Monsters and Super Cheap

    For those of you out there who were under the mistaken impression that Nirvana singing 'The Man Who Sold The World' was the definitive Bowie cover version, old archive footage recently discovered shows that it doesn't even come close.
    Hat tip via Harry's Place who got it from Rob Manuel.

    Pickpocketing Normski (Part One)

    Technically, I lifted this from Virtual Stoa but, British blogging being blogging, the trail always leads back to Normski.* The rules are quite simple:
    'You copy the list [of books] from the last person in the chain, delete the names of the authors you don't have on your home library shelves and replace them with names of authors you do have. Bold the replacements.'
    My revision of Normski's list is as follows:
    Fiction - always plump first for the make believe when you can.
    1. Bernard McLaverty
    2. Mikhail Bulgakov
    3. Carl Hiaasen
    4. Raymond Carver
    5. Grace Paley
    6. Ian McEwan
    7. Patrick Hamilton
    8. P.G. Wodehouse
    9. Fyodor Dostoevsky
    10. Marguerite Yourcenar
    1. David McLellan
    2. Maximilien Rubel
    3. Studs Terkel
    4. bell hooks
    5. Primo Levi
    6. George Orwell
    7. C.L.R. James
    8. Ralph Miliband
    9. Eduardo Galeano
    10. David Widgery
    Mmm, looking at both lists suggests that we wouldn't have much to talk about by way of either fiction or non-fiction. It also reminds me that I need to read A Coin In Nine Hands again.
    * Less an online variant of 'Six Degrees of Separation' as more of a 'One Link From Normski' way of life.

    Saturday, January 08, 2005

    'Who Will Do The Dirty Work?'

    "That's all very well, some say, and anarchy may be a perfect form of human society, but we don't want to take a leap in the dark. Tell us, therefore, in detail, how your society will be organised. And there follows a whole series of questions . . . What methods will be used to teach children? How will production be organised? And supposing all the inhabitants of Siberia should want to spen winter in Nice? And if everyone were to want to eat partridge, and drink wine from the Chianti District? And who will do a miner's job or be a seaman? And who will empty the privies? And who will establish the railway timetable? And what will be done if an engine-driver has a stomach ache while the train is moving? And so on to the point of assuming that we have all the knowledge and experience of the unknown future, and that in the name of anarchy, we should prescribe for future generations at what time they must go to bed, and on what days they must pare their corns."
    Malatesta, Anarchy

    Friday, January 07, 2005

    I Found That Essence Rare

    I think people sometimes forget how bad music was in the late eighties. With the exception of a few groups like the Pet Shop Boys and The Pogues, it was dire out there. Christ, I even had to buy a couple of Wonderstuff and Kingmaker albums for the duration for Chrissake. That's HOW bad it was.
    I ended up doing the sensible thing and delving back a few years, rediscovering a few artists like The Jam, The The, Wire, early Human League and, being the musical sheep that I was, religiously buying those albums that the NME would list every two years as the best albums of all time. (Check out that list next time it comes round. Chances are the same top ten place will be in place as was there five, ten, fifteen and twenty years ago with a wee bit of musical chairs on the parts of the music journalists to give the impression that they give a toss.*)
    Two of the more leftfield groups I got into from the late seventies/early eighties were Gang of Four and the Au Pairs. Part of post-punk music that also comprised of groups like Delta 5, Pop Group, Scritti Politti and Josef K amongst others, it was definitely the case that the music the Au Pairs and Gang of Four wrote and played - all angular, stacatto and with lyrics that would seriously look out of place in Smash Hits - they did fall out of favour quite soon after they were that month's bright young things on the front page of the inky music papers. But every once in a while Q music magazine, or other such worthy, would feature them in a 'Where Are They Now' article, and as suspected the group members had all become respectable upstanding members of society of sorts.
    Since getting into them, I would occasionally stumble across a fellow Gang of Four fan but Au Pair fans were rarer to find than a quorate ICC meeting, and with the exception of Greil Marcus writing at length about them (see Reidski below for more), Gang of Four were little more than a curio down the years for most people. 'Something to do with music in Leeds?' 'Did they form before or after The Mekons?'
    Well, with the advent of groups like Franz Ferdinand and The Killers being played on the jukebox on Emmerdale, I guess the time is right for the Gang of Four revival to kick in now. Reidski has already waxed lyrical about them here, by way of him telling the world that he has a ticket for their Shepherd's Bush gig at the end of this month, and today's Friday Review in the Guardian carries an interview with Andy Gill and Jon King and a tribute from Red Hot Chilli Peppers Flea.
    "In fact, Gang of Four weren't straightforwardly political, taking ideas from the 1968 Paris student uprisings rather than from ideological dogma. The artwork for their debut album, Entertainment!, featured a smiling cowboy shaking a Native American's hand with the caption: "He is glad the Indian is fooled. Now he can exploit him." It was a potted education in capitalist evil."
    As the excerpt from the interview above indicates, it is perhaps because Gang of Four were more influenced by situationism - and I'm sure reading somewhere that they were sympathetic to the autonomist marxist group, Big Flame, of the time - that their politics have not dated as much as some of the agit-prop from the same period. But let's be honest, if the music in the first place wasn't so brilliant no one would give a toss what the political content of their lyrics were like. Just ask Pop Group.
    * A fun game for you and the family: just shuffle the following ten albums every six months or so, and you too can come up with the greatest albums of all time: (In no particular order, as they will be switched around at a later date) The Beatles 'Revolver'; Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going on'; 'London Calling' by The Clash; Bob Dylan's 'Highway 61 Revisited'; 'Exile on Main Street' by The Rolling Stones; Van Morrison's 'Astral Weeks'; John Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme'; 'Velvet Underground' by Nico and Velvet Underground; Love's 'Forever Changes'. I know that is only nine out of the ten but it wouldn't be an all time top ten list if the current favourite album of the CD wasn't inserted in there to give it that contemporary feel. What if it happens to be Keane's debut album this week? Those are the rules.)

    Homage To Catatonia*

    The Song Remains the Same: I’m afraid I’ve been otherwise detained by a combination of bare arsed laziness and a bad case of procrastination which has meant that it has been seven weeks since I last updated this blog. Other than checking up on the blog of the archetypal eternal optimist, The Scottish Patient, who likes to detail the latest score draw for the Hibees, and winding up PB Deb, my favourite (self-described) centrist in his comments box, the truth is I have been giving Blogsphere a bit of wide berth in recent weeks. That means that I have been missing out on all the homilies from Benjamin at Harry’s Place; the latest in Lenny’s recycling of his college essays and Chubby Brown’s old jokes; and it has even been the case that I haven’t been getting under the feet of Will, the self-hating Mackem, at General Theory of Rubbish. New Year’s Resolution or no New Year’s Resolution, it is the usual drill for when I’m kidding myself on that I will be updating the blog more regularly: a supposed wee gentle post that turns into a long winded rant to ease me back into posting, with the obligatory bad jokes, obscure pop culture references and a few meaningless pictures and links thrown in for good measure. Why now discard a tried and tested formula? I’ve finally got round to putting back the links on the sidebar, and even surprised even myself in updating it with new links. All the new links in their own way are recommended reads, but before I do the drumroll bit for them**, I thought I would take the opportunity to wish a belated happy birthday to the Reasons to be Impossible blog. One year on, and it still has that unique mixture of typos, literary allusion and tendency to boot stomp on an opponent - real or otherwise – when a gentle tap would be sufficient. He seems to blog most often on a Monday or Friday mornings, which suggests that UCL students are either too hungover at the start of the week or starting early on the buckfast at the end of the week to concern themselves with hassling the UCL staff.*** Back to the matter at hand of talking up the added blogs . . . . . Taking them in the order that they are listed, the first blog up is Socialism in an Age of Waiting. One of the best known and most regularly read of the blogs out there, it invariably polarises its readers; either you froth at the mouth when reading it or cut and paste large swathes of it with the byline of: ‘I wish I wrote this . . . ’.**** Their blog is always readable and I’m always impressed with the breadth of their reading and their ability to easily turn their hand to literature, politics or art when blogging. Quoting Rosa Luxemburg in their byline: “It is not true that Marx no longer suffices for our needs. On the contrary, our needs are not yet adequate for the utilisation of Marx's ideas . . .”, it perhaps explains why they seem to have a soft spot for Socialist Party impossiblism and our majoritarian view of Socialist Revolution. As a triumverate of writers located somewhere down on the south coast, it always interesting to try and figure out the dynamic of the working relationship of Socialism in an Age of Waiting and wondering who writes what and in which tone. It is definitely the case of good cop, bad cop and sarcastic cop. The question is which of the three is it that likes to wind up Backward Dave so much? Next up is Hak Mao. I owe Hak Mao an apology big time. I’m not suggesting that it was a while back that I promised that I would reciprocate the kind gesture of her blog rolling me but I seem to remember that it was around about the same time that Celtic still had a decent team and, if someone mentioned the words ‘Hot Topic’ to me, I would think of Prime Minister’s Question Time before I thought of a brilliant pop song. Hak, like Normski, shares a love for cricket that I will do a body swerve around to save my kneecaps, and is always interesting to read for her postings on such forgotten figures such as Victor Serge, for her ability to wind up the po-faced left and she also deserves a special mention for giving Will’s blog a well needed makeover. (Now, if she could only do something about his jokes as well.) It’s an old cliche but the further and longer you have been away from Scotland makes you pine for it all the more. Some of the biggest Scottish Nationalists going have the sunburnt faces from where the pale ancestral colouring meeting the hot Australian sun and, for some, a haggis followed by the dessert of the deep fried mars bar (and washed down with Irn Bru) takes on a cultural significance where normally it should induce angina but in my case my past OTT ‘Scottishness’ came in two forms: firstly, a contributory factor to me being politicised when I first read about James Maxton, John McLean, John Wheatley and Red Clydeside, and, secondly, when I dived, head first, into modern Scottish literature. Which brings me to Kevin Williamson’s blog, the Scottish Patient. Of course I went the usual haphazard route of a crash course in modern Scottish literature: stumbling through James Kelman, discovering the sly wit and subversiveness of Alasdair Gray and Agnes Owens in the process when I picked up a cheap copy of Lean Tales; putting on my waders before tackling the purple prose and humanism of William McIllvanney; and even reaching back to read such excellent and neglected writers such as George Friel, Carl MacDougall, Brian McCabe and Alan Spence; through to the fruitless search for a secondhand copy of Alan Sharp’s novel, A Green Tree in Gedde. All great writers and well recommended but rather than wallow in some sort of Scotia nostalgia - from the Kailyard to Cumbernauld New Town? – it was through Kevin’s good efforts (not forgetting Polygon Press and Duncan McLean’s Clockwatcher Press) that I was able to discover such great writers as Gordon Legge, Laura Hird, Michael Cannon and Duncan McLean himself. With Rebel Inc Press, Kevin Williamson also had the good grace to republish writers such as John Fante, Richard Brautigan and Nelson Algren (I’ll bite my tongue on the republishing of Jack London’s overrated ‘Iron Heel’ with its introduction by Leon Trotsky.) Kevin’s blog is, in the main, given over to clips round the ear for the Albion; taking the rise out of the great and the good; reports of how the Hibs are faring with accompanying pictures of supporter friends at the games (he’s no daft our Kev: the pictures he puts up all seem to be taken at half time for some reason. Either he has a strange predilection for taking photos of grown men drinking bovril or capturing the footie moment at half time, he still holds out that Hibs may get that score draw); and giving away freebie CDs,***** whilst doing a public service of bringing to people’s attention the musical thread that leads the Fire Engines and Josef K all the way through to Franz Ferdinand today. Being a man who likes to wear many hats, he also the Rebel Ink Columns blog, where he reprints his articles previously published in the Scottish Socialist Voice, the paper of the Scottish Socialist Party. As he says himself, the mission statement for the articles that appear on the blog is that: “Unlike almost every newspaper columnist in either Scotland or England the author gets carte blanche to write 666 uncensored words on whatever he so chooses. They often upset people. Especially fellow socialists.” I’m not sure if he first mentioned it in one of his columns but one of the passages of his that always stick in my mind is when - as an ex-Millie - he gave the definitive opinion on the hot topic of Stalin versus Trotsky: “They are the right and left cheek on the same scabby arse and that arse needs a boot pronto.” I’m paraphrasing of course but it made me laugh and fingers crossed it hacked off some of the ‘Generals Without Armies’ in the process. Reidski at The Big Blowdown is one of my favourite reads. Think about it, he is an exiled Celtic fan living in London with excellent taste in music, and has that ability in blog writing that I don’t have - mixing the personal with the public - which to my mind makes always the most readable of blogs. Now that I think about it, the bastard may have stole my life and my writing style. He can make reparations by writing more often. He makes me seem like George Simenon in the writing frequency stakes sometimes. Backward Dave has the most ingenius idea when blogging. His disclaimer reads: “This is a blog. Where it says “hurriedly scribbled,” it means just that. These views are not necessarily my considered opinions. Think of them as velleities and lemmas.” As I don’t have the big dictionary next to me I’ve got no idea what “velleities and lemmas” means - though I am still quietly impressed by his use of obscure words – but I think he has got the right idea when blogging: just do the stream of consciousness schtick. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Delete it if need be and move onto the next post. There will sure to be a John Prescott gaffe or another Michael Howard political suicide speech around the corner to comment on sooner rather than later. (Backward Dave and the SIAW have been known to tear lumps out of each other in various commnets box around blog land. I don’t know if it was a beautiful friendship gone bad or mutual loathing from the off, but they do seem bump into each other quite often.) Dead Men Left is the blog of SWP member James M. It’s a fair cop, I wouldn’t normally give the steam off my tea to a member of the vanguard, but James seems a decent bloke and his blog always have interesting posts. Fully paid up to supporting the Respect electoral turn of the SWP, and politically active in the area where it has had the greatest impact – Tower Hamlets – Dead Men Left is informative to read for his take on where Respect is going. I see Respect as little more than an increasingly desperate late throw of the dice of an aging and politically jaded SWP leadership, and that it is confirmation of the largest of the vanguardist groups is increasingly running out of ideas and losing direction. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I? And SPGBers in glass houses shouldn’t really throw the political brickbats about, as they have a tendency to be thrown back with twice the ferocity and we’ve yet to get the windows replaced with flexiglass. For me, 2005 is paved with well meaning resolutions, and one is the commitment to reading more fiction - well to read more books full stop. The end of 2004 has set me in good stead with me finally getting around to reading the excellent ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. A brilliant book and I’m only hacked off that my eyes passed over it on the bookshelf all these years. I missed out. A good blog to help me with that promise to myself is Ready Steady Blog. As well as giving me pointers on what to read, it will also assist me in bluffing my way through all those books that I haven’t read but which I think I should give the impression that I have. You can never bluff too much in this world. Mischievous Constructions is the blog of Michael Brooke. At the moment he seems most concerned in his blog with writing about his New Year’s Resolution of grappling with learning to speak Greek but I especially check out this blog for his writings on film and television history. I get the impression that he is something professional in that field. I’ll try not to hold that against him. Erm - that’s me done, and I’ve just realised why I don’t update my blog more often. I thought I had put this long-winded waffling to one side when I missed that last deadline for writing a college essay all those years ago. I really must memorise Backward Dave’s disclaimer - he has got the right idea on these matters.
    * It's my bad pun and I am sticking to it.
    ** Save yourself some time and just click on the sidebar. The rest is just padding and waffle, but if you have got this bit then you have waded through it already. ;-)
    *** Best place to get a kip in the UCL Library is undoubtedly the Jewish History and Hebrew Library. There is usually nobody about and its always nice and warm. Don't make the mistake that I made a few years back of falling asleep in the History Section of UCL Library, only to wake up in a pile of your own drool to see your personal tutor staring back at you like you are an out patient from UCH. I did the only honorable thing I could do in the circumstances - I promptly went back to sleep and pretended that it didn't happen the next time I saw him.
    **** I will be doing this myself at a later stage.
    ***** The good man bunged me a freebie CD of 'Scotch Rock'. It may be the subject of a post at a later date. I trust that the Lena Martell track will be on Volume Two?