Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (Anchor Canada 2006)

He was lost. He wasn't used to being lost. He was the kind of man who drew up plans and then executed them efficiently, but now everything was conspiring against him in ways he decided he couldn't have foreseen. He had been stuck in a jam on the A1 for two mind-numbing hours so that it was already past the middle of the morning when he arrived in Edinburgh. Then he'd gone adrift on a one-way system and been thwarted by a road closed because of a burst water main. It had been raining, steadily and unforgivingly, on the drive north and had only begun to ease off as he hit the outskirts of town. The rain had in no way deterred the crowds - it had never occurred to him that Edinburgh was in the middle of 'the Festival' and that there would be carnival hordes of people milling around as the end of war had just been declared. The closest he had previously got to the Edinburgh Festival was accidentally turning on Late Night Review and seeing a bunch of middle-class wankers discussing some pretentious piece of fringe theatre.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Beating the Fascists: The Untold Story of Anti-Fascist Action by Sean Birchall (Freedom Press 2010)

This insidiously debilitating idea that racism was in "white peoples' genes", according to a National Black Caucus speaker (Black Flag, issue 203, autumn 1993), gained influence in the 1980s when it formed the basis for 'racial awareness training' (RAT) mainly used in the public sector. RAT was theoretically underpinned by the writings of an American academic, Judith Katz. She believed racism is "a psychological disorder . . . deeply embedded in white people from a very early age, on both a conscious and unconscious level" and that "being white . . . implies being racist" ('Racism, Myths and Realities', International Socialism 95, summer 2002).

From that perspective even the slightest hint of reslstance served only to confirm the original prognosis. For liberals who subscribed to the Katz theory, members of the worklng class needed to prostrate themselves completely simply ln order to be tolerated. In this world view the highest honour any whlte worklng class activist could expect would be to qualify, after serving a considerable time on probation, as a sort of 'racist anti-racist'. Not too surprisingly, militant body language was never going to be sufficiently humble to pass muster. Nor was Jasper's attltude so uncommon. Another Voice columnist, Tony Sewell, also took AFA to task for being "predominately white and male." Clearly it never crossed hls mlnd to consider what effect the common or garden prejudices regularly displayed by hlm and his fellow columnist may have had in discouraging black youth from doing their bit, thus ensuring groups llke AFA remained predominately "white man's business". Instead of any real insight, he offered up some cod psychology. "Their [AFA] deslre to meet violence with violence on behalf of oppressed black people is only an excuse for white men to have a good ruck. This type of rivalry has became a king of war game, where racism is the red rag for men to test their masculinity" (The Voice 28th February 1995).

Of course, in one way he was right. Because, for the vast majority of militants, the idea of AFA fighting are on behalf of oppressed black people would certainly have been regarded as utter nonsense. And while the casual racist comments ln the presence of any AFA activist at the time rarely went unchecked, wlth physical retribution not being an response, as an organisation AFA was at pains to make clear the underpinning for their 'war', as they saw, it had very little to do with race, and absolutely everything to do with class.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Billy Liar (1963)

Stone Over Water by Carl MacDougall (Minerva 1989)

Tuesday, Aprll 22:

Helen ls too attentive. I think she knows more than she pretends to know which would not be hard since she pretends to know nothing.

Miranda's eyes are everywhere. On Monday I phoned her and she phoned me today. The message is always the same.

Last night I went to the attic and found three pages typed on the Underwood. It's bad enough discovering your father was a closet radical without extra evidence arriving daily.

If I find more of my father's writings, I'll burn them.


The ensuing remarks are not intended to trespass upon the domain of such specialist publications as The Scottish National Dictionary or Dwelly's Gaelic-English Dlctionary. I merely wish to inform our English and foreign visitors of certain usages which are common throughout the Lowlands, Borders and most tracts of the English-speaking Highlands and Islands.


A Braw Bugger(1)

One who can shite(2) with the best of them.

A Dour Bugger

One who cannot shite yet refuses to take the medicine.

A Thrawn Bugger

One who can't shite, takes the medicine yet refuses to shite.

A Canny Bugger

One who can't shite, takes the medicine, still can't shite, returns the medicine and has his money refunded.

An Uncanny Bugger

One who can't shite, takes the medicine, won't shite, returns the medicine, has his money refunded, then shites.

Note that the Braw Bugger and the Uncanny Bugger, the alpha and omega of this spectrum, have one common characteristic - their bodily functions are unimpeded by normal imperatives.

1: The term bugger when applied by one Scotsman to another has no sexual significance, even even in sheep-rearing parishes. Since, to the Scot, a man is the highest form of created life, to call a man 'a man' is to overpraise him.

2: The male Scot prefers excretion ro sexuality because, although both are equally inevitable, the first is less expensive.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Deleted scene from The Life Of Brian

Banter around the brazier? Political point-scoring on the picket line? SPGB, SP(EW) and the Swell Maps currently playing on iTunes? Leaflets, lickspittles and (a)lliterations?


Throw another effigy of Alan Woods on the fire.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Border Crossing by Pat Barker (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2001)

Three children were saved that day. A man glances up from his newspaper, see what's going on, acts on what he sees. Accident. A more interesting news story, a thicker coat of dirt on the bus window, a disinclination to intervene, and it might have ended differently. In tragedy, perhaps. It might have. He didn't know. It was his good fortune not to know.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Miami Blues by Charles Willeford (Ballantine Books 1984)

A Hare Krishna, badly disguised in jeans, a sports shirt, and a powder blue sports jacket, his head covered with an ill-fitting brown wig, stepped up to Freddy and pinned a red-and-white-striped piece of stick candy to Freddy's gray suede sports jacket. As the pin went into the lapel of the $287 jacket, charged the day before to a Claude L. Bytell at Macy's in San Francisco, Freddy was seized with a sudden rage. He could take the pin out, of course, but he knew that the tiny pinhole would be there forever because of this asshole's carelessness.

"I want to be your friend," the Hare Krishna said, "and _"

Freddy grasped the Hare Krishna's middle finger and bent it back sharply. The Krishna yelped. Freddy applied sharper pressure and jerked the finger backward, breaking it. The Krishna screamed, a high-pitched gargling sound, and collapsed onto his knees. Freddy let go of the dangling finger, and as the Krishna bent over, screaming, his wig fell off, exposing his shaved head.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon (William Morrow and Company 1988)

At the beginning of the summer I had lunch with my father, the gangster, who was in town for the weekend to transact some of his vague business. We'd just come to the end of a period of silence and ill will - a year I'd spent in love with and in the same apartment as an odd, fragile girl whom he had loathed, on sight, with a frankness and a fury that were not at all like him. But Claire had moved out the month before. Neither my father nor I knew what to do with our new freedom.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Pearls and Pigs (2003)

Powerplays: Trevor Griffiths in Television by Mike Poole and John Wyver (BFI Books 1984)

Although utterly unconvinced by his father’s attempt to make shabby pragmatism in office seem heroic, William none the less decides to defer to him on the grounds that he is ill and that he is, after all, his father. But buoyed up by his own rhetoric, Waite insists that they continue, and like any family row - and Griffiths clearly intends us to see the broad coalition that is the Labour Party as an unhappy ‘family’ - the confrontation proceeds to get more and more bitter. William, played with a dishevelled intensity by jack Shepherd, immediately resumes his attack, condemning the seemingly fatal desire of Labour leaders to ‘prove the papers wrong’, to show that they are ‘responsible’ men. And being ‘responsible’ generally amounts, of course, to not rocking the boat. Thus, ‘in the likes of MacDonald and Snowden the capitalist system found two of its ablest and most orthodox defenders in this century’. Pursuing a line of argument that suggests a fairly close acquaintance with Parliamentary Socialism, Ralph Miliband’s classic study of Labourism (which had been reissued in [973 with an appended postscript on the Wilson years), William continues by accusing successive Labour leaderships of a purely rhetorical commitment to socialism that has very little to do with what in practice they set out to achieve in government:

. . . the rhetoric you never lost. So that you can describe the Attlee legislation as a .social revolution as though what happened during that time was what socialism is all about. A real social revolution would have committed you to the destruction of capitalism and the social order formed and maintained by it . . . It wasn’t a social revolution you achieved, it was a- as it turned out- minimal social adjustment. You drew a section of the working class into the grammar schools, and allowed the public schools to continue training upper and middle~class elites . . . You created a national health service and allowed doctors to practise privately. You created municipal housing and left the building industry in the hands of the capitalists. You nationalised ailing industries and services and allowed the strong to be run privately, for private profit. (Pause) You didn’t create a new social order, you merely humanised an old one.

In a typically dialectical piece of writing, Grifhths allows Waite to come back with some accusations of his own: such as that his son’s socialism is the product ofa theoretical ‘ivory tower’, remote from anything resembling a political base. ‘You read your Marx and your Trotsky’ he tells him, ‘and you get your slide rule out and do a couple of simple calculations and you have your blueprint. Revolution. Total change. Overnight. Bang. Especially bang. You have to have your bit of theatre as well, don’t you? Reality isn’t like that. Reality is . . . taking people with you, Arguing with people who disagree, passionately.'