Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Wishbones by Tom Perrotta (Berkley Books 1997)

Stan popped the trunk and handed Dave the bass drum, open side up like a big round box. In the natural light, his eye looked worse than before, not so much black as a repulsive amalgam of green and purple.

"Jesus," said Dave. "Where'd you get that shiner?"

Stan reached into the well and pulled out the pillow he used to muffle vibration inside the bass drum. The pillow was an eyesore, shapeless and sweat-stained, a sack of old feathers and bad dreams. The least he could've done was hide it in a pillowcase.

"You really want to know?"

"I'm not sure."

Stan stuffed the pillow into the drum.

"Walter," he said. "The piano player in Phil Hart's band."

"The old guy with the shakes?"

Stan nodded. In spite of everything, he seemed amused.

"I've been hanging out with him the past couple of weeks. He's a great guy."

"So why'd he slug you?"

Stan grabbed a foot pedal from the trunk and set it down on top of the pillow.

"We had one too many. I said some things I shouldn't have."

"Like what?"

Stan's tongue made a thoughtful tour of his month, poking at one cheek, then the other. His expression remained inscrutable behind the glasses.

"Well, for one thing, I said Thelonious Monk could suck my dick."

Dave couldn't help laughing. "He hit you because of that?"

"That was part of it," Stan looked up at the sky. "Then I said something about Brubeck. That was when he popped me."

"What'd you say?"

"I can't repeat it. It's too disgusting."

"Come on," said Dave.

Stan blew a weary raspberry and shook his head.

"I'm serious," he said. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

All socialists are the 'other kind'.

Weekly Bulletin of The Socialist Party of Great Britain (70)

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the 70th of our weekly bulletins to keep you informed of changes at Socialist Party of Great Britain @ MySpace.

We now have 1375 friends!

Recent blogs:

  • A professor defends capitalism
  • A call to action
  • 'The fruits of labour'(John McCain)
  • Coming Events at SPGB Head Office, 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 (nearest tube: Clapham North):

    A Season of Free Film nights from Sunday 14th September to Sunday 23rd November at 52 Clapham High Street, London.


    All films start at 4 p.m.

    Sunday 9 November: Zeitgeist

    Sunday 23 November: The War on Democracy

    Quote for the week:


    "You think this man is the enemy? Huh? This is a worker! Any union keeps this man out ain't a union, it's a goddam club! They got you fightin' white against colored, native against foreign, hollow against hollow, when you know there ain't but two sides in this world - them that work and them that don't. You work, they don't." From Matewan, 1987.

    Continuing luck with your MySpace adventures!

    Robert and Piers

    Socialist Party of Great Britain

    Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)

    Saturday, October 25, 2008

    A burger with relish

    Nice wee anecdote from FN Brill over at the WSPUS discussion list:

    "I've spent a fair bit of time in Europe hanging with various radicals of various stripes. I was at a party in the squatted anarchist bookshop in Brixton, London. IT was a three story affair with huge kitchen on the top floor. I went up to get something to eat. Now, I can pass as English, so I walked up to the guy selling the food and he says in a parody American accent (not knowing I'm not British) "Do you want a hot dog or Burger?" Emphasis on the vowels, very long and nasally. My reply "Well since I'm American I should celebrate my countries' culture with a Burger". To which I got the most outrageous "American culture is nothing more than Imperialism and the Pershing Missle!" I quietly replied, "Yes, just like British culture is nothing more than the Irish Famine and the Raj." He was stunned and sheepish, I took my burger and had a splendid time."

    Radical Film Forum - 'The Corporation'


    Sunday 26th October at 4pm

    The Corporation

    A film critical of the modern-day corporation, considering it as a class of a person and evaluating its behaviour towards society and the world at large as a psychologist might evaluate an ordinary person. This is explored through specific examples.

    A Season of Free Film Evenings

    From Sunday 14th September to Sunday 23rd November

    Radical Film Forum - 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 (nearest tube: Clapham North)

    - Tired of mainstream films?· Bored of the blockbuster?

    - Want more than just passive consumption?

    Find out about other films featured in the Radical Film Forum season here.

    A review of The Corporation from the December 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard can be viewed here.

    Friday, October 24, 2008

    Strange Friday headline, here it comes

    The Smiths set for comeback?

    I can't see it happening myself.

    Mozzer's already belting out the songs from The Smiths back catalogue on the solo tours; Johnny Marr can't pick up a guitar at the moment because he refuses to put down his blackberry for a second in fear that he will miss the email informing him that the critical tide has finally turned with regards to his 2003 album, Boomslang. (Rolling Stone has taken his petition into account and revised the review up to 2.5 stars); and the Other Two? Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler are fully booked for autograph signings at Smiths Fan Conventions for the next three years (see them tomorrow night at Apsley Village Club . . . entrance fee 75 pence).

    But as far-fetched as this particular one-off reunion sounds, it would be a nice bookend to this book. Real life so rarely imitates fiction . . . unless you take into account that time I borrowed Jimmy McGrory's old football boots and scored seven goals in a double period 5 a side game as the gospel truth.

    Today, and only for today, let a hundred Smiths song titles bloom as post titles on a thousand blogs.

    Profit versus the Planet

    Via the SPGB website:

    *Launch of new pamphlet -- Saturday 25 October*


    Saturday 25 October, 6pm

    SOCIALISM AND THE ENVIRONMENT

    Speakers: Brian Morris (guest speaker) and Adam Buick (Socialist Party)

    Chair: Gwynn Thomas (Socialist Party)

    Forum followed by discussion.

    Socialist Party Head Office, 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 (nearest tube: Clapham North).

    Questions regarding the environment are constantly in the news. If it's not global warming and climate change, there is concern over future energy resources and rain forest depletion. The environmental list seems never-ending with the increasing human impact making serious inroads on finite resources. Hardly a day goes by when politicians, economists, environmentalists and the scientific community are not voicing their opinions and offering various explanations for the continual global degradation. The Oscar winning film by Al Gore, 'An Inconvenient Truth' exemplified not only these concerns but also the solutions on offer. Without exception none of the solutions query the root cause of global environmental destruction. Consequently, all of the solutions are pro-market and pro-profit and the degradation continues unresolved.

    Obviously, what is needed is an alternative solution outside of the capitalist mindset and one that takes into consideration the ownership and control of our productive processes; in short the social ownership of the means of life. Only then will we be able to address solutions which will not only benefit all of humanity but also the global environment. To this end the Socialist Party have recently published a pamphlet: 'An Inconvenient Question - Socialism and the Environment' .

    You are cordially invited to attend the official launch of the pamphlet at our head office at 52 Clapham High Street, Clapham, London, on Saturday the 25th of October at 6 pm. The guest speaker, Brian Morris is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London and is well known for his fieldwork on human interaction and the environment. The Socialist Party speaker, Adam Buick, has written many articles on the environment, human behaviour and political economy. With both speakers holding different political perspectives, the launch promises some lively discussion on what positive action is required to replace the market incentives of putting profit first and the environment second. If you acknowledge that we are just as much dependent on the environment as the environment is dependent on us you will find this discussion forum educational and engaging.

    Free refreshments and free literature.

    New Pamphlet

    An Inconvenient Question. Socialism and the Environment

    In recent years the environment has become a major political issue. And rightly so, because a serious environmental crisis really does exist. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat have all become contaminated to a greater or lesser extent. Ecology - the branch of biology that studies the relationships of living organisms to their environment - is important, as it is concerned with explaining exactly what has been happening and what is likely to happen if present trends continue.

    Since the publication of our Ecology and Socialism pamphlet in 1990 environmental problems facing the planet have got much worse. We said then that attempts to solve those problems within capitalism would meet with failure, and that is precisely what has happened. Recent research on increasing environmental degradation has painted an alarming picture of the likely future if the profit system continues to hold sway. Voices claiming that the proper use of market forces will solve the problem can still be heard, but as time goes on the emerging facts of what is happening serve only to contradict those voices.

    In this pamphlet we begin with a brief review of the development of Earth and of humankind’s progress on it so far. We then examine the mounting evidence that the planet is now under threat of a worsening, dangerous environment for human and other forms of life. The motor of capitalism is profit for the minority capitalist class to add to their capital, or capital accumulation. Environmental concerns, if considered at all, always come a poor second. The waste of human and other resources used in the market system is prodigious, adding to the problems and standing in the way of their solution.

    Earth Summits over the last few decades show a consistent record of failure - unjustifiably high hopes and pitifully poor results sum them up. The Green Party and other environmental bodies propose reforms of capitalism that haven’t worked or have made very little real difference in the past. Socialists can see no reason why it should be any different in the future. Finally we discuss the need, with respect to the ecology of the planet, for a revolution that is both based on socialist principles of common ownership and production solely for needs, and environmental principles of conserving - not destroying - the wealth and amenities of the planet.


    Contents

    Introduction

    What is ecology?

    Earth under threat

    Profit wins, the environment also ran

    The waste of capitalism

    Earth Summits - a record of failure

    Green reformism

    Socialism - an inconvenient question?

    To get a copy by post send a cheque or postal order for £2.50 (made out to “The Socialist Party of Great Britain”) to: The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN.

    Thursday, October 23, 2008

    Quote of the Day

    From the intro to Ian Bone's recent radio interview with Tony Wood, organiser of the long established - and just passed for this year - London Anarchist Bookfair:

    "Good evening anarchists, everywhere . . . On October 18th the most momentous event - some cynics would say the only event - in the annual anarchist calendar takes place, the Anarchist Bookfair. Thousands of anarchists suddenly appear like Brigadoon for the day before promptly vanishing again. Prompting the immortal quote from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, "Who were those guys?"

    An mp3 of the interview can be downloaded here.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    1979: Rod the Mod models the LA Aztecs away strip

    Weekly Bulletin of The Socialist Party of Great Britain (69)

    Dear Friends,

    Welcome to the 69th of our weekly bulletins to keep you informed of changes at Socialist Party of Great Britain @ MySpace.

    We now have 1371 friends.

    Recent blogs:

  • Ballyhoo and Baloney (US National Conventions)
  • Gordon Brown’s solution : “ethical” markets
  • Crime and the causes of crime
  • Coming Events at SPGB Head Office, 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 (nearest tube: Clapham North):

    A Season of Free Film nights from Sunday 14th September to Sunday 23rd November at 52 Clapham High Street, London.


    All films start at 4 p.m.

    Sunday 26 October:The Corporation

    Sunday 9 November: Zeitgeist

    Sunday 23 November: The War on Democracy

    Quote for the week:


    "Well, if crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that part to us, do they?" George Carlin.

    Continuing luck with your MySpace adventures!

    Robert and Piers

    Socialist Party of Great Britain

    The indignity

    Via BBC Sports:

    See if you can singalong:

    'You're Cetic, united, last night's result left my sporting life blighted.'

    Monday, October 20, 2008

    Palin for President?

    Hat tip to On A Raised Beach blog.

    Owen Eugene Youngs-O'Neil borrows this blog for one time only . . . he prefers Wordpress

    'I'm only three days old and I already need a haircut.'

    "I refuse to go to the same place that dad goes to. According to mum, his barber never cuts his bangs right.'

    'I still can't believe Chris Iwelumo missed that sitter.'

    'This green and white hat will do until I get my Glasgow Celtic bunnet from Uncle Graham.'

    'Go figure. Turns out I share the same birthday as this well-known Eugene and, therefore, people will assume that I was named after him but I was actually named after that lesser-known Eugene. Don't ask me why. I understand that it's an Indiana/Socialist thing.'

    'PS - You didn't ask for a speech, but I'm giving one anyway.

    'Thank you to Auntie Anne for taking the pics. You've really captured my best side. I'm sure I will work with you again.

    'Thanks for all comments in the post below. Really appreciated . . . even if you do all come across as a bunch of scruffs with varying tastes in music, politics and football . . . Dad, did you write this speech?

    ' I'm off to investigate wordpress - blogger's so 2005 - and then I have plans to disrupt the sleeping patterns of a certain twosome I know for the next couple of years.'

    Friday, October 17, 2008

    The apartment is now quorate


    Thursday 16th October 2008 (17:43)


    Owen Eugene Youngs-O'Neil (9 lbs 1 oz)

    Strange Loyalties by William McIlvanney (Harcourt Brace 1991)

    'Four experts had an appointment with an ordinary man. They needed him to ratify their findings or anything they achieved would be meaningless. As they drove to meet him, they knocked down a man on the road. He was dying. If they tried to save him, they might miss their appointment. They decided that their appointment, which concerned all of us, was more important than the life of one man. They drove on to keep their appointment. They did not know that the man they were to meet was the man they had left to die.'

    I wish I had more whisky.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Socialist Party meeting: 'Capitalism in Crisis'

    There'll be a meeting on "Capitalism in Crisis" this Saturday 18th October 7.30 p.m. at the Socialist Party Head Office, 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 (nearest tube: Clapham North)

    Capitalism in Crisis

    With the banks refusing to lend to each other the flow and circulation of global capital is being disrupted on scale not seen since the depression of the 1930's. Share values have declined and major financial concerns are under pressure from the credit crunch. There have been massive bail-outs and buy-outs or state intervention and nationalisation in an effort to save the situation for capitalism. But whatever happens the short-term prospects for capitalism globally look bleak now that the consumer bubble fed by easy credit has finally burst.

    The only course of action now open to the powers that be is to get us to tighten our belts till the economy starts picking up. How long this will take is anybody's guess for in the cutthroat world of competition the market determines who survives and who goes under. What is clear is that millions of workers will be unemployed. And consequently poverty will increase, health will deteriorate, homelessness will grow, deprivation and destitution will accelerate, crime will multiply and, in the so-called Third World, food riots become a regular occurrence.

    This is nothing new because throughout the history of capitalism there is only one course of action available. In short - no profit no production. However, despite what the supporters of capitalism would have you believe there is one course of action available to the workers. The capitalist class won't even contemplate it because it means a future without profits, private and state ownership, borders, money and inequality. Find out more about the economic crisis we now face by coming to the meeting.

    More information about the Socialist Party:

  • Email: spgb@worldsocialism.org
  • The Socialist Party of Great Britain website
  • The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta (St Martin's Griffin 2007)

    For as long as he could remember, Tim had been drawn to this feeling of community; it was something he'd sought, at very different points in his life, from both punk rock and the Grateful Dead, and in each case, for a little while, he'd found what he was looking for. But it hadn't lasted, and in any case, the communities in which he claimed membership were disappointingly narrow and homogenous compared to this one. The punks and the Deadheads were overwhelmingly white, suburban, and young; almost everyone wore similar clothes and hairstyles, and had had more or less the same experience of the world. Not like here, where you saw grandmothers and little kids, people in wheelchairs, whole families, interracial couples, immigrants who barely spoke a word of English, college teachers, twelve steppers, cancer patients who'd lost their hair, lonely people who didn't have a friend in the world until they stepped through the door of the Tabernacle.

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    With the benefit of hindsight . . .

    . . . the labels should have been:

  • BooksIvejustfinishedreading
  • Booksivejustfinishedrereading
  • But I didn't think it through.

    Didn't want you to think that I was just absent-mindedly picking books off the shelf and then proceeding to cut and paste a random paragraph from said book to keep the blog ticking over.

    That's what YouTube clips are for.

    As We Saw the Thirties edited by Rita James Simon (University of Illinois Press 1967)

    Another thing to remember about the twenties is that, after a brief postwar depression, it was a decade of unusual prosperity. Big business and we thought of as its government seemed absolutely impregnable. And most of us were in one way or another beneficiaries of national prosperity. How was H. L. Mencken able to publish a glossy journal such as the American Mercury? Because the publishing business of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., was flourishing. How were the expatriates able to live abroad? Because they were taking advantage of a favorable rate of exchange. Why did I get a raise in salary at Smith College? Because papas were able to pay increased tuition fees.

    Then the depression came. It began, of course, with the stock market crash of October, 1929, but our awareness of it did not begin then. I had started teaching that fall at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and one or two of my colleagues got squeezed, but I thought it served them right for playing the market. After all, they still had their jobs, and their families would not starve. Some of the big operators had been badly hurt, and a few committed suicide, but we had no great sympathy for the men of Wall Street. This, we said to ourselves, was what a business civilization was like.

    But as 1930 went by, we began to wonder what was happening, and in 1932 it seemed clear to some of us that this business civilization that we had been belaboring on cultural and moral grounds had collapsed. The machines - those wonderful machines that had given so many of us a high standard of living - had stopped running. And more and more people were out of jobs. By 1932 some economists said that as many as 17 million people were unemployed, and that meant that every fourth person we met was jobless . . . [From ' Writers in the Thirties' by Granville Hicks.]

    Sunday, October 12, 2008

    Looking In . . .

    Bullet points come in 3s:

  • At the time of writing, Kara is five days overdue. At this rate Chinese Democracy will see the light of day before we see the inside of the delivery room.

    Things are still up in the air with regards to the baby's weight, eye colour and hair colour but we do already know that his or her first words will be, 'How the hell did Chris Iwelumo miss that bastard sitter?' Better put a swear box in the baby's room. It'll help fund their college education.

  • Kara's iBook decided to commit hari kari during the week. Logic board . . . hard drive . . . even the solitaire game on the desktop decided to go kaputin. At this point it would be cheaper bailing out the American banking system than it would getting the iBook repaired.

    I don't want to shout conspiracy theory but I was looking at the AWL's website 15 minutes before the laptop's demise. Serves me right for checking out Sean Matgamna's poetry.

  • In happier news, Darren Redstar fortuitously finds a fascist politician to go with his blog headline and the class war started apace late last month. Granted, it was the Lehman Brothers gym, rather than barricades across Wall Street, but it's got to kick off somewhere. (Hat tip to Marx and Coca Cola blog.)
  • Saturday, October 11, 2008

    Loose Connections by Maggie Brooks (Abacus 1984)

    Sally nodded vigorously. There was nothing more exhilarating than arguing a thesis among intelligent people who were all in total agreement. There was a heady self-righteousness about it that went to the head like champagne.

    'Quality of life, economic survival, these are the issues. They can't be tackled from the old narrow base. The parties have to face this . . .'

    Sally was just about to launch on a favourite theory of wealth redistribution when the chandelier tinkled out a warning note, stirred by the rising heat of the silver candelabra. She had a strange, disorientating sensation, sitting in this Homes and Gardens interior discussing socialism. She examined it. What was it she wanted them to do? Give all their money away and then discuss it?

    Thursday, October 09, 2008

    The war for David Broder's ear

    From the latest issue of the Weekly Worker comes the (unintentionally funny) quote of the day from Mark Fischer:

    It is also very much on display in the leadership's attempt tp whip up anger against David Broder and Chris Ford, two comrades who resigned from the AWL (primarily over the organisation's pro-imperialism, but also citing the sect's lack of operative democracy) to form the grandly named International Communist Group, organised around the Commune website . . . . [My emphasis.]

    Why is it so unintentionally funny? Only because Mark Fischer is the National Organiser of the equally "grandly named" 30-40 strong Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee).

    If I could make this stuff up I'd be writing King of the Hill episodes.

    Wednesday, October 08, 2008

    His favourite waste of time

    Weekly Bulletin of The Socialist Party of Great Britain (67)

    Dear Friends,

    Welcome to the 67th of our weekly bulletins to keep you informed of changes at Socialist Party of Great Britain @ MySpace.

    We now have 1361 friends!

    Recent blogs:

  • Who needs finance?
  • Rights Act is promise to pay of the bankrupt
  • Imagine a world without law
  • Coming Events at SPGB Head Office, 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 (nearest tube: Clapham North):

    A Season of Free Film nights from Sunday 14th September to Sunday 23rd November at 52 Clapham High Street, London.


    All films start at 4 p.m.

    Sunday 12 October: Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on trial

    Sunday 26 October:The Corporation

    Sunday 9 November: Zeitgeist

    Sunday 23 November: The War on Democracy

    Quote for the week:


    "You see things as they are and ask, "Why?" I dream things as they never were and ask, "Why not?" George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah, 1921.

    Continuing luck with your MySpace adventures!

    Robert and Piers

    Socialist Party of Great Britain

    Monday, October 06, 2008

    "Look up your facts . . . "

    No apologies for returning to this. Absolutely love it.

    I could listen to this between now and the next time Newcastle Utd win a trophy. Pete and Dud . . . . . The Troggs . . . Lenny Bruce . . . . Ray and Dave Davies, piss off.

    Sunday, October 05, 2008

    After the watershed

    I know it's through a glass darkly but don't you think that Billy Mehmet looks a wee bit like Henrik Larsson in the pic?

    I think what makes me think that way is the combination of the bald head and the joyous expression on his face after his team have gubbed R*ngers.

    Brings back happy memories.

    Before the watershed

    R*ngers supporters in humour bypass shocker.

    This time next week: *Pope admits to wearing pointy hat*.

    Thursday, October 02, 2008

    Roger Mellie ("The Man on the Telly") ("The Manager of Newcastle Utd')

    Sheer unexpurgated genius. Joe Kinnear does Roger Mellie from the dugout.

    It's official: Newcastle Utd now populated by a cast of cartoon characters. Dennis Wise as Cockney Wanker . . . Joey Barton as Brown Bottle . . . Danny Guthrie as Rat Boy . . . Alan Smith as Terry Fuckwitt . . .Michael Owen as Spoilt Bastard . . . Chunky Viduka as both Fat Slags . . . and, er, as someone previously pointed out, Mike Ashley as Bobby Hill.

    Shay Given as . . . nah, I like Shay Given. He should sign for a decent team.

    Pictures of Perfection by Reginald Hill (Dell Publishing 1994)


    Wield drank some more and said, "You talk like this place were special, I mean, really special. Almost like, perfect."
    "Good Lord, no! Enscombe is very much fuctatus rather than perfectus, I'm glad to say. Perfection is unnatural, Sergeant, because it implies the absence of either development or decline. Haven't you noticed it's the political parties and the religions with the clearest notions of the perfect society that cause the most harm? Once admit the notion of human perfectibility, and the end can be made to justify any amount of pain and suffering along the way. Besides, it would put us both out of work. No crime in the perfect society, and no desire to read about the imperfect past either! So here's to imperfection!"
    They both drank deep.

    Wednesday, October 01, 2008

    "Comrades, Get your kicks with bulletin 66!"

    Weekly Bulletin of The Socialist Party of Great Britain (66)

    Dear Friends,

    Welcome to the 66th of our weekly bulletins to keep you informed of changes at Socialist Party of Great Britain @ MySpace.

    We now have 1351 friends!

    Recent blogs:

  • People's capitalism
  • The right to be homeless
  • A Culture of Violence
  • Coming Events at SPGB Head Office, 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 (nearest tube: Clapham North):

    A Season of Free Film nights from Sunday 14th September to Sunday 23rd November at 52 Clapham High Street, London.


    All films start at 4 p.m.

    Sunday 12 October: Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on trial

    Sunday 26 October:The Corporation

    Sunday 9 November: Zeitgeist

    Sunday 23 November: The War on Democracy

    Quote for the week:


    "Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion." Oscar Wilde, The Soul of Man Under Socialism, 1891.

    Continuing luck with your MySpace adventures!

    Robert and Piers

    Socialist Party of Great Britain