Friday, 29 September 2006

Wir fahren auf der autobahn (Kraftwerk)

This is an appalling carbon-centric view of the late C20 from German "group" Kraftwerk. Instead of celebrating the various militarily active socialist groups around in the early 70s, it chooses to issue a tedious clarion call to the users of this murderous waste of concrete. The album's cover suggests that the ignorant manslaughterers of the roads, both rich (mercedes) and poor (VW) are heading both to, and in a very real sense, from, a sunlit upland. The pointlessly continuitive melody demonstrates the incubating effect of road travel on the intelligent mind; the occasional sub-sonic breaks the service stations with their dead life. The use of synthesisers is, surely, a satire on the un (or should we say-sub, or even preter-) natural existence of the endless, soulless, moralless roads. It reminds us that we are non-eternal sounds on the false road of unliving - it is, in short, a trial, that we all attend, and when we find ourselves guilty of the greatest crime - that of destroying our planet - what do we say? "Jesus!" (oh!! how ironic); "get bent!" or, worst of all, the cry of the fascists - fuck off - ?

Charlie "Democracy" Falconer

I loathe and detest the political animal that is Charlie "lord" Falconer. As a passionate democrat, I refuse to capitalise the l in "lord". Here is a man who only today on Radio 5 Live was pontificating on the type of society we wish to have: clearly, for him, an ideal modern democracy contains unelected politicians who are able to change the constitution and then argue that it represents greater modernity on public radio. Don't get me wrong: I wish for a fully elected house of lords, if I am ambivalent about de-monarchisation that is because I think QEII has greater integrity and wisdom than any unelected president (please don't be fooled into thinking that becoming a republic would mean an elected president - Australia's debate showed the fallacy of this reasoning well enough). And yet, for this man, and presumably, for many other like minded lawyers (sorry, I meant "devoted defenders of our ancient constitution"), the Human Rights Act is great because it means we have an active duty of care over people who hate our guts and come here precisely to act this hatred out. For such people, according to Charlie Falconer - "ordinary people have rights just as criminals have" (as near as dammit a direct quote from R5L this morning).

My loathing and mistrust of him is equal to his loathing and mistrust of me and the rest of us ordinary people. The man is a shit. Before getting rid of Blair, who at least is a democrat, get rid of Falconer, who is a destructive, anti-democratic and blissfully ignorant pus-filled boil on the arse of Britain.

Sorry. I really don't like him at all.

Thursday, 28 September 2006

Hang on....

Someone else on CIF (see below) has nominated God. I think this is a bit harsh, as I have quite a bit of affection for the old bearded fellow, but you have to admit he's made a tremendous hash of things. Not least in getting all the people who believe in him to hate each other's guts; in which bizarre case they neatly resemble the political Left.

CIF Rubbish Classics

This is a great thread on Comment is Free. Name some classics you think are actually a load of rubbish. Pour moi:

1. The Beatles
2. James Joyce (except Dubliners)
3. DH Lawrence (aye your ladyship, 'appen am gonna 'ave thee up the jacksie)

On the other hand some clot nominates Ian Curtis. This is extremely offensive and out of the bounds of such a discussion as this. I'm tempted to ring Greater Manchester Police and see if they wish to prosecute a hate crime.

Business As Usual at the ICC

Inzamam gets off the charges of ball tampering; is found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute; is handed the least possible suspension of 4 ODIs which Pakistan may well appeal against.

In other news: Pope "not yet ready" for conversion to Islam and bears to shit in woods for "the forseeable future".


Excellent news - the abolition of maths coursework for GCSE and the supervision of all other coursework. This will, after a short drop in grade standards, lead to the improvement of our nation's mathematical skills. Coursework has for many years been the means by which people who are crap at maths, like me, get grades they do not deserve, like me, and thereby think they are better at maths than they are, like me. I did mine some years ago now and, by dint of pure time (not thought) and some nice presentation, as well as some judicious conversations with friends better at maths than me, came up with a near maximum mark. This propelled me to an A I did not deserve, being rubbish at the actual process of calculation.

A small change like this could lead to a real rise in standards. But when are the government going to improve our appalling take up of the sciences in schools? Introducing a "Friends of the Earth Propaganda for GCSE" isn't going to win us any Nobel prizes or lead to any great discoveries, unless everything is completely mad already. There are hardly any physics teachers, university chemistry departments are closing down, and many students already don't cover the three sciences. Blithering on about the unsustainability of the conservative dominant scientific paradigm isn't going to cut the mustard. We need more real science, and fast, before Britain's scientific community actually starts to forget stuff. That means - experiments, formulae, and maths. Well, one out of three isn't bad.

Monday, 25 September 2006

Gordon's Speech As It Happens on Radio 5 now. Gordon says "we must never forget that we are servants of the people" [paraphrased]. Rubbish. He doesn't believe that and nor does anyone else who governs Britain or part of it today.

He also says that his relationship with Tony Blair has been at times a bit shaky but he is proud to have worked with him. Ho ho.

Jeez, he is talking about the next 10 years now! Of course the programme for government will be different, Gordy, that's because it will be a different government as soon as the public have the chance to vote you out as a totally uncharismatic, aloof and narrow-minded prime minister. Does anybody still believe this guff about New Labour being for everyone, instead of for a small cadre of like minded North London liberals?

Parents into it now. He loves his mum and dad. "Each of us had to live by a moral compass" said his parents. Well why are you a member of a government that hates the very concept then?

It's only been 10 minutes or so and I am bored already. I'll never make a true political junkie. I'm off to the co-op.

Dangerous Dogs

This sort of thing happened at the fag end of Thatcherism too. Attacks by rottweillers, media panic (Radio 5 Live has talked about little else bar Andrew Lloyd Webber all morning), and calls for new laws.

Sunday, 24 September 2006


I have, as usual, to revisit some of my previous opinions on stuff. In my post about White Heat I drivelled on at length about the author's less than deep coverage of culture. What I totally failed to point out, and something else that I really like about the book, is that quite long bits of it work well as metaphors and allegories. It is almost as if Dominic Sandbrook is an historian who thinks we can learn from the past (which is quite refreshing). For example, the Brown/Wilson relationship is discussed at length. George Brown comes across as, no doubt, what he was: vain, drunk, aggressive and unreliable. Wilson's paranoic and manipulatively selfish approach to politics is shown to be part of his outlook from 1966 onwards (at least); and the cabinet infighting between characters and departments obsessed with their own power that prevented the serious decisions being taken before the economic situation became desperate is told with some sadness, as well as acuity.

The Brown/Wilson thing is there in such depth, not just to shed light on mid 60s politics, but to hold up a mirror to our own era with its important decisions hidebound and suffocated by personal political relationships: Blair/Brown; Blair/Bush; Brown/anyone else. In the 60s of course, the country faced more serious economic problems than it appears to today; but the result is similar - stagnation, inaction, disaster. In our case it is foreign policy and therefore domestic unrest that has been caused by all this, as well as constitutional chaos, criminal justice being completely ignored, and the gradual, perceptible severing of the links between governed and government. In today's Sunday Telegraph for example, Nigel Farndale recounts a letter he has received which carries all the pomposity and self-importance of the President of the USA - from his local council, giving serious and detailed consideration as to whether to let him have another bin.

The chapter on Swinging London has echoes of the Cool Britannia nonsense that Blair's government started off by championing, in which a time where there is a genuine cultural renaissance (however small in the late 90s' case) becomes instead a byword for the sordid and ultimately boring lives of a few celebrities, often drunk on their own importance, to the exclusion of ordinary people. Sandbrook points out that the Swinging London phenomenon was essentially an elitist and restricted one, but one which people were encouraged to see as the centrepoint of culture. The parallel with today's celebrity rubbish, a hangover from the sudden celebrity boom of the late 90s, is evident.

I must point out that these readings of the subtexts of the book are mine; I have literally no idea whether the author would agree or not. But sentences like this one seem to support my case:

...the effects of change were often manifested in ways that seem disappointingly mundane to writers who like to sneer at "Middle England".(p190)

This, surely, is a modern habit of people who live and work in a similarly restricted circle to the Swinging London celebrities, but who happen to think their circle is the entire ethical and political world. Fortunately for us, blogging's rise means this won't last. It also brings me back to my previous point, which I still agree with, that Dominic Sandbrook writes with as unbiased a style as anyone who has read the likes of Kenneth O Morgan, Clive Ponting or David Childs -all on postwar Britain - could wish for.

Apropos of nothing, today's Catholic Herald prints that speech of the Pope's in full. It also reserves its fiercest criticism in the whole row for the BBC, who, in its view, by failing to provide the persectives of Catholics on the dispute, and leading so consistently for nearly two days with the story in its bulletins, as well as by giving what it thinks is ludicrous amounts of airtime to Islamic extremists, has stoked the fires very effectively. It is a view I've seen on the blogosphere and one it is, frankly, hard to disagree with.

Still on the Catholic Herald (but not wishing to turn my blog into papist propaganda), I liked this quote on the Westminster Cathedral demo last week from Assistant Commissioner of the Met Tarique Ghaffur on the lack of arrests despite the calls for the death of the Pope:

We have a long history of facilitating lawful demonstration and are keen to continue dialogue with any group wishing to protest.

I'd like to know if this applies to the likes of Stephen Green, or is it just people who threaten actual violence who get away with it?

Thursday, 21 September 2006

White Heat

Currently reading White Heat by Dominic Sandbrook, the follow up to his highly regarded Never Had it So Good. both are detailed social and political histories of Britain (and, in fact, mostly England at that) during a short space of time: 1956-63 for the first one and 1964-70 for the second.

Both books are good, excellent on politics, particularly on the thoughts and personalities of the politicians concerned, through a judicious mix of whitehall documents and MPs diaries. They also like to do a bit of soft revisionism: ie Douglas-Home was quite good and a bit more ambitious than previously thought; and Harold Wilson's government was pretty poor from quite early on, especially in financial matters (even if a lot of it was Reggie Maudling's fault). But both books are I think a bit weak on culture; the author spends a lot of time writing about the Beatles, or New Wave, and drops in mentions of sundry other cultural icons, but you never really get the feeling he is that keen on it. The stuff about New Wave theatre and film in the first book was particularly vaguely thought out. He wrote a lot of it off as inferior to anything other countries had to offer (and thereby seeming to hint at a cultural decline), while almost completely ignoring the amazing contribution to culture that British tv made from 1953 onwards. Sure, Doctor Who got one or two mentions, and does in the second book, but not as part of an overall understanding that Britain has had, for 50 or so years, a televisual culture to rival or surpass any. Dramas and concepts like The Wednesday Play or 1954s Nineteen Eighty Four, Coronation Street, and later Made in Britain and Threads, stand comparison as art with many many films of the past 50 years, and it is silly to patronise this achievement as just being for tv, or to ignore it on that basis.

I'm not necessarily accusing Sandbrook of this - but it occurred to me reading his books - many critics seem to be in love with grand gestures, sweeping films, existentialist philosophy; things that glory in deliberate complexity. (I think AN Wilson is often guilty of this) It means that works of great art in their own right - like some of Kingsley Amis - are dismissed because they appear, in comparison with the great themes, to be trivial. But they are of course, the great themes in microcosm and in symbol form. And British culture has often specialised in the ironic, the trivial, the sardonic and the deflating. This is all the more so, since the war, for probably obvious reasons.

Sandbrook is very keen on the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, which may seem to disprove my point. But there was a vast amount more to 60s music than these guys, which he only really touches upon. Perhaps for reasons of space.

I am also not sure about his habit, especially marked in the first book, to discuss (say) public concerns about crime, and then dismiss them with a vague "the rise in crime had already started" or something. It seems, occasionally, that things do not quite fit into the vision he has, so they need to be squeezed out. The Cuban Missile Crisis is given fairly short shrift in the first book, compared to the detail that Peter Hennessy gives to it in his book The Prime Minister; Sandbrook totally plays down the significance of the British government's role and of the incident itself in the British consciousness. Fair enough. That is his view.

I don't want to seem nit-picking or critical because I really do like the books and he has a very easy style. They cover a vast amount of ground in a remarkably unbiased way (compared to a lot of postwar histories I've read) and deserve a wide readership.

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Catholic Londoner

I am such a hypocrite. Well actually this post is not about the Pope as member of the evil trinity (Bush, Blair, Pope) - my god, I am actually tempted to believe that this trinity really exists as a demonic conspiracy - but about a chap called or rather a chap who blogs by the name of catholiclondoner. He has some extremely funny photos of the Westminster Cathedral protest and he causes me to take back one of my earlier posts. In no way should any prosecutions result from this protest. It has furnished us with theological truth and comedy of the highest degree.

And it is clearly a deliberate attempt to incite.

So the right response? According to Mr CL? Pray the Rosary for them. Sounds good to me, as a practising Catholic*.

*with due deference to atheist readers, I mean in no way to demonise or criticise them ("Dawkins is St Paul's slave!!!!!"). Also I am a practising Catholic largely because I am not very good at it.


I read the Eye, of course, used to read the Onion, watch the occasional tv show like Time Trumpet but otherwise I'm at a loss. I gave up with the Onion because of its increasingly knee jerk leftism. Maybe it is like the Eye of the 60s, which as Richard Ingrams said, became more left wing as the only response to the outrages of Macmillan's government, and particularly the appointment of the Earl of Home as PM. In other words, when events became too bizarre for rational argument and standing on one side shouting abuse was the only option. Time Trumpet is just too surreal for me, I wonder if Armando Ianucci is really a satirist of the human condition, (an existentialist maybe) rather than of politics per se. I fail to see where the political punches are really landing in that show. I find more accurate and biting satire in Viz these days than anywhere else. but the writers of Viz don't want a satirical magazine, they want jokes about toilets, which is fair enough, because when I read Viz, that is exactly what I want too.

But although I love satire I worry about its health. Does satire work? Is it actually worth anything at all for the Eye to print a few spoof articles about the Rev ARP Blair? Has it ever really done anything, apart from raise a few wry grins or temporary moral panic?

There is no cold war anymore, to be sure; there may be no semi-permanent heated argument being played out in the nation from the Commons down through business, the unions, to the streets anymore - but there is a government stealing our privacy and rights away; causing death on an industrial scale; and sitting in the middle of the festering corpse of the United Kingdom's constitution apparently enjoying the smell.

So where is the outrage? where are the humanists with anger and pity in their hearts to expose and reflect all of this and hold up the vileness for public consumption? I suppose the likes of George Galloway are the satire on modern politics we need, given (say) his ridiculous and laughably hypocritical statements on all manner of issues from Palestine to um, other Muslim-concerned issues. But the sad thing is I think he really means it.

We might, given some proper satire, take more interest in politics. We might be tempted to act on certain issues. We might, at the very least have a wider (ie not blogger based alone) debate on the key problems facing us. I don't think satire should have a definite, firm standpoint, because then it just risks being selective political pointscoring, which I think is now the Onion's problem. It needs people of intelligence, anger, honesty and thoughtfulness to bring more than just spoof articles; there has to be other kinds of visual and literary satire too in which targets other than the soft ones are hit. Arguments, made in a polemical style (after Swift, maybe); a new Gerald Scarfe (sorry, Steve Bell doesn't count- he is propagandizing) is needed; something completely new like an interactive satirical webpage maybe (or am I missing this already) or computer games, downloadable ones like Stickcricket but with a satirical theme.

You see that I am short of ideas already. Is it me, or satire, which has the problem defining what it should be? More spoof articles, however acute, will do nothing, change nothing, attract nobody to political thought or engage anyone with a sense of scepticism or anger. We need less of Marcus Brigstocke taking the piss out of the old lefty targets (cah! those Daily Mail readers, eh? cah!) and more of someone willing to evenly puncture authority whenever it is not in danger of bursting. But maybe, as I heard on Radio 5 Live today, in our advanced, nearly technocratic society, we will have to trust authority and "experts" more and more, because we just cannot get it (in this case, the rationale for closing hospitals to provide a better service). Maybe that is the reason for the lack of satire. Also, of course, the fact that the leftists who write most of the satire I've read recently actually quite like authorities like LEAs, councils, unions, loudmouth MPs, Brussels, media scientists (especially if they can put some environmental problem down to capitalism), academics and so on. They just don't seem very keen on having a go at stupid academics, like the 75 US idiots who recently confirmed their moonbat belief that 9/11 was caused by the evil Bush government.

So who is going to be honest and stand up for true satire? Not me, I'm afraid. Not up to the job (as Attlee would have said, in between puffs on the pipe).

Monday, 18 September 2006

CIF etc

Actually the temperature on CIF is a little higher than I thought....

I think you do have to give the Guardian credit for this (shudder). It is a great forum. Often the posts are rubbish but there is always something in the comment threads. It is exactly this kind of thoughtful and intelligent intellectual revival conservatism needs and I am really not sure it is getting a great deal of it at the moment.


I said I wasn't going to bother with the pope/Islam debacle but there is a pretty good debate going on at CIF about it, based on something of a one-sided "Christianity is aggressive and horrible and all the problems are caused by Christian ignorance" article by Karen Armstrong, the former nun who seems to have made it her job since she quit the convent to put the knife into her old employers. Among the usual personal abuse and mud-flinging are some excellent and well-reasoned posts on both sides of the argument, including serious doses of what I assume is worthwhile history.

Today's rubbish includes the photos at the BBC website of the protests outside Westminster Cathedral. The BBC must take their share of the blame for this nonsense by making it the lead story across almost all Sunday and Monday news bulletins on 5 Live (at least) and helping to stoke the rage. They have been a lot quieter on the consequences for innocent Christians of the reaction across the Muslim world. A quick inspection of the online news now (7.30pm) reveals a prominent article on the protests against the pope and the reasoned and tolerant reaction "in pictures", but the articles on the consequences or Sunday's protests a lot harder to find. Teletext pointed out this evening that Sunday's protest passed off peacefully and without arrests. Given the rather inflammatory (or at best mildly irritating) nature of the slogans being chanted you'd think it merited a caution or two, or even a prosecution, such as Stephen Green is expecting for his leafleting a gay rights meeting or something. Au contraire, but the police are "investigating" some comments made by Anjem Choudhary about people who insult Islam being executed, although in his defence he was pointing out that this was under Sharia Law (R5Live 4.30pm).

Expect, as before, the "investigation", to be quietly dropped when the stupidity has all died down and everyone is back to normal. Forgive me for thinking that while the police will happily feel the collars of people they don't think are real threats to lawandorder, where they do sense a threat they will refuse to act; fine and dandy for short term community relations but in the long term it will leave peace-loving people without the protection they need while denying genuine peaceful and non-threatening protest.

Sunday, 17 September 2006

Pope Crisis

I don't want to get involved with this, it really is tiresome.

But I do love the idea that the merest suggestion that Islam is intolerant will inevitably cause violence. I presume the MCB will now be queuing up to apologise for the burning of Christian churches in Palestine, the threat to kill the pope, and the shooting of the nun in Somalia, that have all resulted from this outrageous and unfair criticism of the religion.

Saturday, 16 September 2006

Iain Dale's Top 100 Conservative Blogs

Get in! I've just discovered that I turn up in Iain Dale's list of top 100 Conservative blogs at 99! Given that I don't post as often as I should, and haven't done as much politics as I'd like to, this is cool, assuming that there are in fact, more than 100 Conservative blogs in the world.

Some of our old favourites pepper the list but I'm really not sure about Conservative Home as No.1. For me it seems more like a chat-site, or a media hoover, and less like the kind of Conservative intellectual revival that some of the other blogs on the list represent. My personal favourites are linked to from here, so I'm not going to go into them now. I do notice that Biased BBC is not on the list. That can hardly be because it isn't conservative: more likely because it can be way over the top sometimes.

It is good to see a genuine, if sporadic, reappearance of conservatism as a thought-through worldview, capable of being defended and advanced; the clear question for me now is whether this can be translated into practical policies. I'm really not sure about Cameron - at least, about how far he has thought about policies. He has done the key thing, to make the Tories appeal outside their core vote, the only surprise about which is that it has taken so damn long to get to that point. But the Tories cannot just "go green" - so much of the environmentalists' world view is anti-individual, anti-success, anti-progress. If he is to make this a centrepiece of his policies he must combine it with a strategy that does not seek to punish individuals for (say) putting rubbish in the wrong bin, but positively encourages the "right behaviour". Tories should stand up against the punishment through higher taxes and prices and advance the cause of the market in developing green technologies, or at any rate provide incentives rather than penalties. The "progressives" advocating taxes on everything, surveillance of bins, the use of the courts to enforce recycling policies, and the closure of power stations are showing their loathing of ordinary people (Mr Brown's "hard-working families) .

Apropos of nothing, no-one has yet wondered aloud how much CO2 has been expended jetting Al Gore across the US and the world showing his wretched film on climate change. He says himself he has given the lecture hundreds of times. I notice no criticism of him for this, but "hard working families" cop the outrage of George Moonbat if they go on holiday once or twice a year by plane.

Conservatives cannot go back to the past on social policy and Cameron is right to change that. Whatever your views, being perceived as anti-women, anti-minorities and anti-gay has been tremendously damaging. I don't think the Tories as a party have ever hated anyone in the way they are often accused of doing, I just think they were very slow to realise that identity politics was an essential part of modern political discourse. But Conservatives should demonstrate that there are not merely two diametrically opposed views: the tolerant and the full of hate, the right and the wrong. There are shades of opinion and people should not be coerced by employers to support worldviews they disagree with. Maybe this would just make them seem like hypocrites in the current climate, but I don't see any contradiction between having a full set of legal rights (including gay marriage, and the right to children) and the right of an individual to disagree with these. Conservatives should challenge the view that says disagreement on these issues is inseparable from physical attacks and is motivated purely by hate.

I'm sure all of this is discussed by better minds than mine all the time. But my little political handbook at the moment is After Blair by Kieron O Hara, which lays down the possible route of a revived, coherent, modern Conservatism. Well worth a look; I hope Cameron has already read it.

Thursday, 14 September 2006

Nineteen Eighty Four

I've always been a fan of this novel, and a somewhat more qualified fan of the Michael Radford film - amazing visuals and wonderful Winston but not entirely sure about the music or the way bits of the story are compressed. I know that it is not, technically, a "great" novel -the characters are just not sharp enough (though I've always thought that was part of the point: how can you have sharply drawn characters for an era where character has been poured down the drain?), the language is a bit clunky at times (odd for Orwell, whose prose is usually, as he wanted it, crystal clear, and the story is a bit one dimensional. However, leaving its obvious and now cliched political import to one side, a few things have always bothered me as to the story's meaning:

1. O Brien. Bear with me here. Imagine for a moment that O Brien is an extremely clever, but extremely ruthless member of the Brotherhood. The only way around the Party's mind control for such a character would be to adopt it absolutely, as he does. Such a person would duplicitously attempt to uncover thought criminals, in just the way O Brien does, passing on knowledge of the Brotherhood while being able to use it in an interrogation also (to dismiss Winston's claims of humanity). Such a person would be as fanatical a Party member as possible, would work inside and with the Thought Police to identify possible recruits. They would, as O Brien says outright to Winston in his flat, employ the most brutal methods to overthrow the Party, knowing for certain that such a victory will not be achieved for many many years. The Brotherhood do not have to be nice, social democrats - almost certainly they are not. It does not matter how many people are caught, emptied out, and shot. The word is spread, the possible methods of resistance out there, somewhere. The game, a member of the Brotherhood might say, is too big to be lost by taking stupid risks - like a punt on an unreliable Winston for longer than is absolutely necessary to spread, however slightly, the word of "the Book" and so on. To be a member of the Inner Party and to work for the Brotherhood might therefore be two sides to the same coin - something an outstanding pracitioner of doublethink could easily accomplish. O Brien punishes and interrogates Winston as fully as possible because once suspicion is aroused and other people know (Winston's rebellion is obvious, even to the Parsons boy who shouts "you're a thought criminal" at him) he has no other option. Smith is an agent lost, and O Brien's prediction comes to pass: "When eventually you are caught, you will confess." O Brien will do this to everyone and anyone he comes across, sooner or later, while still, slowly, achieving tiny successes for the Brotherhood.
Plus: he wrote "the Book"; refuses to deny the existence of the Brotherhood (despite being quite keen in the interrogation that there is no alternative to Ingsoc anywhere - surely a simply "no" would have sufficed); and he clearly makes reference to Smythe's disappearance in an ironic way.

Hmmm. Well, maybe.

2. The Appendix is written in the past tense. Has Ingsoc been defeated by this time, hence the workings of its language could be explained in detail? Or is it just a simple part of the rest of the past-tense narrative?

3. To leave 85% of the population free from interference is hardly the act of a party which cannot allow anyone to conceive of a different way of life. Why let so much power drift away from you like that? I know that to some extent it is a satiric point, but does it indicate a much weaker Party than we are led to believe?

4. Where does Julia get all her nice stuff from? Is she still sleeping with Inner Party members? In which case why does she proclaim her love for Winston so loudly? Perhaps he doesn't mind - it is quite possible - but it does make you wonder whether Julia, whose interrogation was apparently "a textbook case", was more than she seemed. What she has done, after all, is not that much cleverer than what Charrington did.

I suppose it is highly unlikely that a writer with clear aims, like Orwell (and in many respects the themes of Nineteen Eighty Four grow naturally out of Coming Up for Air) would leave such minuscule clues as these. But I have always, while nodding sagely at the political parallels, wanted the entire Ingsoc edifice to be destroyed; so I am trying to comfort myself with this. Any further "hints and guesses" that it isn't quite as monolithic as it seems would be welcome!

Tuesday, 12 September 2006

Modern Life is Rubbish

There is a letter to the Torygraph today from academics, teachers and children's authors which claims that children are being poisoned by modern life.

Fair enough. After all, broken relationships, splitting families, exposure to adult sexual behaviour, and a prevailing sense that children should just discover values for themselves must make life confusing for children.

Or rather it doesn't:

Childhood creativity is being stifled by a combination of junk food, school targets and mass marketing, a group of authors and academics has claimed.

Oh, right. So, in other words, idiot parents and cynical capitalists. And schools asking children to work hard. As if some of the prep-school and/or Oxbridge educated authors of the letter didn't. Junk food is of course a modern swipe at the working class idiots who really don't know how to bring up children. It is a scapegoat that conveniently allows for socialist preaching on the evils of big business as well. Shouldn't the letter have been sent to the Guardian? I thought they loved "ordinary people are idiots" stuff there.

So who signed the letter? Lots of people, including Jacqueline Wilson, who has made a superb living writing about the poisoned lives of children, and Jonathan Porrit, who has never made a secret of the need for millennial environmental education.

From the BBC website again:

The end of their letter reads: "Our society rightly takes great pains to protect children from physical harm, but seems to have lost sight of their emotional and social needs.
"However, it's now clear that the mental health of an unacceptable number of children is being unnecessarily compromised, and that this is almost certainly a key factor in the rise of substance abuse, violence and self-harm amongst our young people."

Quite so. So presumably they will queue up to denounce the teaching of abortion to 11 year old children, which is currently being proposed:

Gill Frances, head of the advisory group, said in a message to ministers yesterday: "Pregnant young women and their partners need to understand all the options open to them, including abortion, so that they can make an informed decision about whether or not to continue with their pregnancy.
"We are concerned that PSHE programmes very often avoid the subject and do not provide sufficient evidence-based information about abortion, therefore leaving pregnant teenagers ill-equipped to assess abortion as an option." []

[Incidentally I love the implication of this person's view - there simply aren't enough teenagers having abortions!]

So are 11 year old children to be protected from junk food, or are they "young women" with their "partners" who need to have abortions? What a weird world it will be when children can no longer watch adverts for burgers, but go out and have abortions and then play happy familes again with their uninvolved and excluded parents (who are needed to protect them from school targets of course), until the next time the safe and sensible option of abortion is needed. And so on. This is the point: many people, including "advisory groups", would like to make sure children's ethics have nothing to do with their parents, and everything to do with a certain progressivism (the kind that loves to "combat myths", as in the story above,). They would like to guarantee that children are sexually active (there is no indication anywhere at all in the above story that sexual activity before the age of consent might not be a good idea), would like to treat them like sexual adults. But junk food - no way! Exams - far too stressful for the poor little mites! Maybe even leave school and work before 18 - ugh! capitalist slavery. So the objects of this little political tussle are children when it comes to chips, but young people and their partners when it comes to sex. Strange world.

No wonder they're ****** up. The parents I mean.

link to the thisislondon story:

(hat tip:

Friday, 8 September 2006

Thanks Ants. Thants.

I've just seen Look Around You 2 on DVD. It's ok, in fact often it's appallingly funny. But I'm really not sure what it's for. Is it a Pythonesque surrealist fantasy? Is it a satire of 70s science shows (people who say it's 80s have no idea what they're talking about)? Is it just a parody of television (it seems acutely aware of modern piss-poor factual tv)?

I prefer to think it's a parody. Why? Because it is obviously set up as one. But for a parody, it pulls almost all its punches. There are no political references at all. There are very few cultural references that could place it in its design-inspired environment (say, 1973-1981) except for, say, the item on Cobbles, which is obviously AIDS but done in rather poor taste. The title sequence and many of the effects act against the parody, horribly (as if the programme makers were worried we would really think it were real - For ****'s sake!). It just seems as if the producers got cold feet on the idea of the parody. For me though, the glaring own goal is the Ros Lamb feature in "sport". There is a golden opportunity there for an item like this: "Ros Lamb won this year's 400 000 metres with the aid of a new development in running science. It's called an "anabolic steroid" and it threatens to revolutionise athletics...". Instead of which we get a sub- Python sketch of an athlete speaking funny and getting smaller. Even the majestic Peter Serafinowicz fails to convince as a science show host. Though his voice work is amazing. Is that a Peter Donaldson I hear before the opening titles? Having said that, Robert Popper is clearly Howard Stableford, even down to the slightly nasal, ever so slightly smug voice.

So maybe it is surrealist fantasy after all. I think it does better as this, even if the best jokes are the least weird. The best jokes of all are the ones I thought were rubbish on first viewing. Thanks Eddie. Theddie. Thanks ants. Thants. And so on. I can't explain why I now think this is great. Because it is crap, probably. Because it is Chris Morris-lite, maybe.

It's worth watching, and worth a laugh. But it's too lame for satire, which is a shame, as we are desperately short of real satire.

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Alice Thomson today

Alice Thomson in today's torygraph (linked to above):

Forty per cent of Muslims say they would like to introduce Sharia in Britain. When I interviewed Muhammad Abdul Bari, leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, he suggested Britain should adopt arranged marriages and women should cover up. But Molly is right. Anyone who wants to live a strictly Muslim life under Sharia should consider following her example and go to live in an Islamic state.

Not much to disagree with there. In Radio 5 Live's coverage however, there is a lot to disagree with. Their headlines at 7.45am and news at 8.00am both said: "Misbah Rana, whose mother calls her Molly..." Well unless I am much mistaken, the child is a citizen of the UK and so her passport and birth certificate will probably say "Molly Campbell" or something similar. Where is the documentation calling her "Misbah Rana"? I also like the nice touch that it's just her mother who calls her Molly, as if it were a nickname.

12 year olds are too immature to be detained for crimes, work, or do exams. They are, however, old enough to use contraception or go to Pakistan to live without telling their legal guardian*. I love the beeboid mindset.

*Yes I am aware that the two things are causally related in this case.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Cricket's Shame part 94

Aggers has mentioned on TMS during today's ODI that there is Sky TV footage of the Pakistan bowlers that might be useful in the defence of Darrell Hair. I've heard no other mention of it at all, but I gather there is quite a discussion among the viewers of Sky, and the BBC messageboards have a couple of threads devoted to it.

Monday, 4 September 2006


A couple of news stories that have taken my attention lately. Firstly, the death of the Australian naturalist Steve Irwin; it seems a bit unfair to call him a "nutter" now he is dead, but I don't think I am saying anything revelatory when I say that I think a lot of people felt he was a bit mad to take as many risks as he did. He always maintained he knew the physical and behavioural limits of his animals and perhaps he did, but the manner of his passing - effectively being stabbed by a stingray he was probably holding at the time - suggests that he could be overconfident or even arrogant about it. I liked his shows but in a voyeuristic sort of way (though I guess that was the point of them) and I feel a bit guilty for being part of his enthusiasm for such dangerous activities. He knew what the audience tuned in for. We knew what we wanted. He went to get more of it. He died. It's all very well saying he was an environmentalist and a naturalist and so on - fair enough- but it wasn't for that he gained his global reputation: it was for doing risky stunts with dangerous creatures.
And there is often a reason why people aren't afraid of things that should inspire fear. It's not fame or fortune either.

Another story that has caught my eye today is the ICC telling Pakistan to shut up and stop crowing about Darrell Hair and the inquiry into ball-tampering and bringing the game into disrepute. Is this the ICC showing teeth, or is just to fool us into thinking anything will actually happen? Since I last posted on the subject, the ICC have shown themselves, through the unexplained activities of Doug Cowie, to have been effectively entrapping Darrell Hair over the payoff incident. Such evidence would be dismissed in a court of law, which is why we have been told that Pakistan will win any ball tampering case (Hair's evidence practically inadmissable). So now will Hair be allowed to umpire as normal, as Pakistan can play as normal? Will he bunnies.

The third story is the firemen punished for not attending the gay rights parade story. In common with other conservative inclined bloggers, this concerns me. For one thing, I have yet to see any evidence at all that, as Stonewall have claimed, gay firemen have been sent to (say) Christian Voice meetings and accepted it as part of their job. I don't remember any firefighters at any of the church fetes I've been to, nor am I aware of their regularly turning up to masses to hand out leaflets. Secondly, the men would have been forced to watch their religion being lampooned. How is such a thing legally enforcable? The fire service doesn't need to discriminate; it could have sent people who weren't bothered. But it didn't want to. Which leads me to the third point. That is exactly it. The men are being punished for having religious views and attempting to live by them. This is why they are being punished by being sent on diversity awareness courses (do atheists ever get sent on these, I wonder. As we know, religious belief is a choice, so it is ok to be hateful towards people who have it. Abitrary reasoning, but it seems to work). It is the same with laws discussed recently in Europe to remove a doctor's right of conscience over performing abortions. If you have different views you may not express them or live by them in the public sphere. But there is no point in having a right of freedom of conscience if you are not allowed to act on it or to live by it. The alternative is to say that religious people cannot work in the public services. This itself constitutes a ridiculous breach of human rights; people who wish to fight fires or be medics should not have to sign up to the demands of gay rights groups or pro-abortionists. There should be space and opportunity for diversion of thought. Of course, once you accept the principle, as we seem to have done, that the positions these firefighters have taken are based purely on hate, there is no reason to give that space.

Incidentally, have made clear that matters of conscience are private, I wonder if Stonewall is supporting the policeman who wants to wear a stud in his ear to work as an overt statement of his sexuality, and I assume they would not support conscientious objection in wartime.