Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't Leave Me This Way

Rain or Shine

Thorn In My Side

Is it really 25 years to the month that the following two copies of the Socialist Standard - with a copy of the SPGB's 1978 pamphlet, Questions of the Day, thrown in for good measure - landed on the doormat?

What was I thinking buying that particular issue of the NME?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease (1940)

I asked, weren't we taking the pistol, or anyhow the long, murderous-looking pike which has hung across our broad kitchen chimney ever since I can remember? I was disappointed when my father whispered, "No," and more than disappointed—in fact, I felt mad—when Tom said, in that sneering superior way that elder brothers have:

"What do you think this is, kid—a raid against the Scots? Or do you fancy you're marching against the Spaniards?"

I was glad it was pitch dark in the kitchen where we stood whispering. There wasn't a glimmer from the fire, though that fire has never gone out in my lifetime, nor for a few years before that. But, as usual, mother had covered it with slabs of black, damp peat before we went to bed, and it wouldn't show a gleam till morning, when one poke would stir it into a cheerful blaze.

I was glad it was dark, so that Tom couldn't see my face. I was getting tired of the way he made fun of me

Friday, September 23, 2011

Laidlaw by William McIlvanney (Pantheon Books 1977)

'I'm going to miss the compassion you bring to the job,' Harkness said.

Milligan was looking out at the passing scene with a kind of sunny malice.

'No,' he said. 'Where you're going you'll get plenty of that. Laidlaw? You'll have to wear wellies when you work with him. To wade through the tears. He thinks criminals are underprivileged. He's not a detective. He's a shop-steward for neds. It'll be a great experience for you. Boy Robin meets Batman.'

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stone Cold Red Hot by Cath Staincliffe (Allison and Busby 2001)

My first impression of Roger Pickering was of nervous tension. He stood on the doorstep, hiding behind his fringe of light brown hair, eyes cast anywhere but at me.
"Sal Kilkenny?" He managed to get my name out.
"Yes, MrPickering. Please come in."
I led him along the hall and downstairs to my office in the cellar. With the self-absorption of the painfully shy, he made no small talk, no comment on our location, and politely refused coffee.

Corporate mans laughter

Quote of the Day

"I refuse to believe corporations are people until Texas executes one." - Ara Rubyan

Hat tip to Danny L. over on Facebook.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris (Bay Back Books 2007)

We believed that downturns had been rendered obsolete by the ingenious technology of the new economy. We thought ourselves immune from things like plant closings in Iowa and Nebraska, where remote Americans struggled against falling-in roofs and credit card debt. We watched these blue-collar workers being interviewed on TV. For the length of the segment, it was impossible not to feel the sadness and anxiety they must have felt for themselves and their families. But soon we moved on to weather and sports and by the time we thought about them again, it was a different plant in a different city, and the state was offering dislocated worker programs, readjustment and retraining services, and skills workshops. They'd be fine. Thank god we didn't have to worry about a misfortune like that. We were corporate citizens, buttressed by advanced degrees and padded by corporate fat. We were above the fickle market forces of overproduction and mismanaged inventory.

What we didn't consider was that in a downturn, we were the mismanaged inventory, and we were about to be dumped like a glut of imported circuit boards. On the drive home we puzzled over who was next. Scott McMichaels was next. His wife had just had a baby. Sharon Turner was next. She and her husband had just purchased a house. Names - just names to anyone else, but to us they were individuals who generated our greatest sympathy. The ones who put their things in a box, shook a few hands, and left without complaint. They had no choice in the matter, and they possessed a quiet resignation to their ill-timed fates. As they departed, it almost felt to us like self-sacrifice. They left, so that we might stay. And stay we did, though our hearts went out to them. Then there was Tom Mota, who wanted to throw his computer against the window.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta (St Martin's Press 2011)

The coverage felt different from that of September 11th, when the networks had shown the burning towers over and over. October 14th was more amorphous, harder to pin down: There were massive highway pileups, some train wrecks, numerous small-plane and helicopter crashes - luckily, no big passenger jets went down in the United States, though several had to be landed by terrified co-pilots, and one by a flight attendant who'd become a folk hero for a little while, one bright spot in a sea of darkness - but the media was never able to settle upon a single visual image to evoke the catastrophe. There also weren't any bad guys to hate, which made everything that much harder to get into focus.

Depending on your viewing habits, you could listen to experts debating the validity of conflicting religious and scientific explanations for what was either a miracle or a tragedy, or watch an endless series of gauzy montages celebrating the lives of departed celebrities - John Mellencamp and Jennifer Lopez, Shaq and Adam Sandler, Miss Texas and Greta Van Susteren, Vladimir Putin and the Pope. There were so many different levels of fame, and they all kept getting mixed together - the nerdy guy in the Verizon ads and the retired Supreme Court Justice, the Latin American tyrant and the quarterback who'd never fulfilled his potential, the witty political consultant and that chick who'd been dissed on The Bachelor. According to the Food Network, the small world of superstar chefs had been disproportionately hard hit.

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939)

For some reason I could only find the Swedish poster for the film online. I can't believe there aren't any Arsenal geeks out there who wouldn't go out of their way to hunt down the original British poster for the film.

Nice enough film, with a good comical turn from Leslie Banks as Inspector Slade. I remember it always used to be shown on Channel 4 back in the day but for some reason I never checked it out. I guess football international weekends call for desperate measures and I have to get my football fix from somewhere.

One thing, though, and it may just be my feverish imagination, but isn't that a portrait of Karl Marx hanging on the wall of the basement apartment of Greta Gynt's character in the still below?

(Click on the pic to enlarge.)

Did the SPGB have an industrial branch at Denham Film Studios in the late '30s?

More Beer by Jakob Arjouni (Melville International Crime 1987)

"OK. chief, I see what you're driving at. Not a chance. I have nothing to do with any of it, I don't know any fifth man, and I'm not the least bit interested."

He crossed his arms and looked me up and down. More down than up. He was about thirty-five, lived in a run-down apartment, and knew that his train had been and gone. It was obvious that he felt somewhat illegal because he knew the fifth man's name but did divulge it, and he was proud of that, without having the faintest idea who it was he was protecting. He was the kind of guy who walks down the street with you and at some point, a tear glittering in his eye, points at a window and whispers, "That's where Ulrike Meinhof hid for a while."