Thursday, August 27, 2009

French Philosophy Football

A couple of gems from Arsene Wenger:

"I believe really that it was not a penalty but I am also not sure that the keeper didn't touch him with his right knee, having seen it again."

This reminds me of the Barry Manilow fan who rang in to a radio show to defend her idol by saying "Barry hasn't got a big nose. And anyway, big is beautiful"


"Is it acceptable? I never asked in my life any guy to dive to win a penalty."

Oh, I'm sure you don't tell your players to dive Arsene, but conversely do you tell them not to? And do you punish them when they do?

Even as a neutral I was fuming at Eduardo's self-satisfied celebration after scoring the penalty. What must Celtic fans have been feeling?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Drink Tea Even While I Blog, Me

The latest newsletter from Laurie Taylor, previewing this week's Thinking Allowed program.

It was the egg and chips which first made me realise that Jim lived in a different world. We’d gone back to his terrace house in Bootle one day after school and were sitting at the table in the back room when his dad came home from a long shift on the railways. I remember him saying ‘Hello’ as he saw his son and me at the table but he then vanished into the tiny kitchen.

Jim and I went on chatting for a few minutes about school and Liverpool’s chances in the coming Saturday game until suddenly his dad re-appeared and without a single word placed a big plate of egg and chips and a steaming sugary mug of tea in front of each of us.

The egg and chips were delicious. No doubt about it. And the tea was just great. But even as I followed Jim’s example and finger dipped my chips in the runny yolk I felt confused by their sudden appearance. Had Jim exchanged some hidden sign with his dad that said he was ready for egg and chips and tea? And why had I been automatically included? And why had it been so readily assumed that I wanted or even liked egg and chips? And why had no one even asked how much sugar I wanted in my mug of tea? And why, come to think of it, were we so happily wading into such a substantial meal at just after five in the afternoon?

Of course, the answer to all these questions was quite straightforward. Jim and his dad were working class. And members of the working class at that time thought it completely natural to eat five o’clock in the afternoon. But even more, as members of the working class they took it for granted that everyone else ate at that time and would happily regard egg and chips and tea as the perfect meal for the occasion.

How different from my own dear lower middle-class home where eating a heavy meal in the late afternoon would have been regarded as dangerously close to a satanic rite. Neither would my mother have ever tolerated egg and chips on her dinner table, or, even, in her wildest dreams, have allowed any member of the family to accompany any meal at all with a mug of steaming tea.

The more time I spent with Jim the more I came to realise the taken-for-granted aspect of so much of the terraced life around him. In Jim’s road everyone seemed to smoke Woodbines, read The Daily Mirror, take coach trips to Blackpool to see the lights, have a regular flutter on the horses, eat tins of assorted biscuits, drink mild and bitter (‘mixed’), and finish off any evening out with a bag of fish and chips. (No-one I knew in my road in Crosby did any of these things).

I realised, of course, that it was hard cash which determined some of these choices, but I also sensed that everybody did much the same as everybody else because that was a way of saying that you weren’t too posh or stuck up or different.

When I went on from school to college in Kent and began to talk in this way about working class life in Liverpool I was accused of being sentimental and romantic. My new friends pointed out the sins of the working class: their drunkenness and violence and sexism.

At the time I was snobbish enough to accept much of this argument. I began to wonder how I could ever have seen life in Bootle as somehow worth celebrating.

But at the end of my first year I came across a copy of Richard Hoggart’s Uses of Literacy. I read every word, placing ticks in the margin to record the similarities between life in my Bootle and his Hunslet. And I insisted on reading out chunks to my snooty new friends. Compare this, I said imperiously, to your own isolated, miserable, bourgeois lives.

But reading Hoggart did make me wonder why not one of my Bootle friends had ever expressed any personal pleasure at the way they lived their lives. Had they been no more able than I was to see its great strength and vitality? And then one day in the early 70s I heard the perfect answer. The Liverpool sculptor, Arthur Dooley was talking on the radio about the destruction of even more Liverpool terraces. The architect who was responsible for this latest bout of demolition sought to justify his action by telling Dooley that not one of the residents had complained about being moved out to the new tower block estates on the edges of the city. Dooley was not convinced. ‘Let me tell you this’, he said in his strong Liverpool accent, ‘There’s no-one as easy to rob of their culture as those folks that don’t know they’ve got one’.

Fifty years after the first publication of Uses of Literacy, I’ll be talking to three scholars with very different views of Hoggart’s contribution to sociology and cultural studies. Join me for that at 4pm or after the midnight news on Sunday or download our podcast.


Friday, August 21, 2009

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!

Edwyn Collins - Don't Shilly Shally

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth

The August edition of InStyle magazine pays tribute to French cosmetics firm L'Oréal in the form of a selective history that conceals unsightly blemishes such as those awkward war years of collaboration, anti-Semitism and ultra-rightist activities. Truly a makeover of historical dimensions.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Odd One Out

Blue Square Prem

1 Oxford Utd
2 Altrincham
3 Luton
4 Mansfield

It won't last but we'll enjoy it while we can.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!

Nic Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dublin Psychogeographical Society Report 2009: Part Two

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Pancake Day

Dan Lacey, painter of pancakes . . . and so much more.

Spotted at Coddlepot!

Thighs of Steel

Yesterday's Daily Briefing from Foreign Policy magazine.

Analyze This

The Guardian presents an obituary for Analytic Marxist G.A. Cohen.

I can't claim to have known Gerry Cohen very well—the fact that I knew him as Gerry when everyone else knew him as Jerry testifies to that fact, or else my teenage pedantry—but he was one of my lecturers in the early 1980s when I was at university in London. He gave a course on Marx in one of the large lecture halls in UCL, and from what I can recall, most of the lectures were devoted to his idiosyncratic take on Marx rather than on introducing us to Marx's ideas and helping us to understand wherein the controversy lay. He was perfectly entitled to do so, of course, but at the time, the Marx he presented wasn't one I recognized, and I can't say that I gave Cohen's interpretation the attention it deserved. What I do remember is that he was a witty and sharp speaker and responded to students' questions generously and without condescension. I also remember there being lots of anarchists in his lectures; copies of Freedom and Black Flag conspicuously displayed on desks. I'm sure he never noticed.

It has only been in the last ten years, after doing the reading I should have done in preparation for Cohen's course, that I have come to appreciate what the Analytic Marxist school was trying to achieve, namely, to salvage from a project that was already recognizably moribund some justification for socialism that did not depend on discredited economic theories or an overly optimistic conception of the direction of history. Whether or not they succeeded or simply provided us with a moral argument for socialism that is anything but Marxist is not a debate worth pursuing, but I think Cohen at least eventually got to a place and a position which a lot of other socialists, who did not have to go through the detours of Marxism (and this, perhaps, is largely a generational thing), could be perfectly comfortable with.

RIP Gerry.

I Think "Mixed" is the Best Word to Describe Them

Reviews for the Bettystown Court Hotel on Trip Advisor.

Dreadful room, hairs on toilet and bath and walls and windows filthy when we arrived.Housekeeping terrible, two towels for four people.Food poor quality, service poor and attitude on reception a disgrace.Then they tried to over charge us by nearly 100 euro wih no apology for their mistake.All in all a complete waste of money. I intend to contact the irish tourist board to find out how this hotel was ever granted 4 stars?.

one positive was the pool and staff in the leisure centre.

Oh dear. I hope you got your money back.

We stayed in Bettystown over the Easter period and had a great time, the hotel was packed with people staying for the same reason but we didn't have any problems what so ever!!

Room was big with a double bed and 2 singles and also clean which is the main thing, we had a bar snack the first night in the hotel bar which was lovely and we had booked into the restaurant the second night. Breakfast was super all you could want from cereal, fry, fruit, all the juices..................... Brillant selection!! The pool is also great we spent most of the second day in it as it rained and we couldn't go to the beach.

Also you are only a couple of mins walk from the beach and Funtasia which children will love all in all we had a very relaxing time in the Bettystown Court.

Well that doesn't sound so bad. Maybe I'll get a third opinion . . .

While the room was nice we were alarmed to find a piece of broken glass on the carpet in the middle of the floor where we could have easily stepped on it. When we complained they suggested we ourselves had brought it in on our shoes!

The dining room was full of stained upholstery and faded lacklustre ambience. Breakfasts were a bun fight due to what appeared to be a largecouch party of old age pensioners.

Although parts of the breakfast were OK , the porridge was disgusting and the whole experience was very offputting like being in a horrible cut-price works canteen.

And 44 others of the same ilk to help you ponder the virtues of staycationing.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

We're on a Mission from God

In the Aug/Sep issue of Free Enquiry, magazine of the Council for Secular Humanism, James A. Haught reports Jacques Chirac's account of George Bush's divine inspiration for war:

Incredibly, President George W. Bush told French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 that Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse.

Honest. This isn’t a joke. The president of the United States, in a top-secret phone call to a major European ally, asked for French troops to join American soldiers in attacking Iraq as a mission from God.

Now out of office, Chirac recounts that the American leader appealed to their “common faith” (Christianity) and told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”

Mekons: Mercury Lounge NYC, August 1st

Torrent download available at Dime here (signup required).

The "electric" counterpart to the previous night's "acoustic" performance, meaning mostly that Steve got his full drumkit back, and everyone was standing up this time. Susie Honeyman had flown back to England, so Jean Cook from Jon Langford's Ship and Pilot stood in, and was spectacular in her Mekons debut.

As with the rest of this tour, no Tom Greenhalgh; Lu filled in on lead vocals for "Beaten and Broken" and "Last Dance," and Chris Mills for "Heaven and Back." And Tim Tuten, late of the Hideout in Chicago, showed up to deliver one of his patented rambling intros.

It was a hot, packed night at the Merc - Jean in particular seemed about to pass out, with Lu fanning her with stage flotsam at one point - and the band responded with a sweaty, energetic performance, only occasionally delayed by inability to master the nuances of guitar cables. The vibe was not quite as warm and fuzzy as the previous night in Brooklyn - Sally threatened to fight Jon, and Jon threatened to fight an audience member, neither entirely unseriously - but the electric format fit the material much better, including the especially rocking new song "Space In Your Face."

This was recorded while standing on a bench seat at far stage left/crowd right, maybe 15 feet from the speakers on Jon's end of the stage. The Merc's sound system always comes out a bit muddy for me on recordings; I've boosted the treble some here to compensate, and am pretty happy with the results. Enjoy, and for godsakes, buy their CDs!

Friday, August 07, 2009

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!

Lord Cut Glass - Look After Your Wife

(But only because "Big Time Teddy" isn't out yet)

Who Are The Subs?

Hopefully this news will mean that Muppert Murdoch can now afford some decent researchers/sports journalists/sub-editors.

Taking (More Than) The Day Off

R.I.P John Hughes

Tonight I will be listening to my General Public 12"s and watching Ferris Bueller

Thursday, August 06, 2009


Two additions to blogroll: the enigmatic Ampersand Seven from the enigmatic Therese in Brooklyn, and the gorgeous Hyatt Art and Life from the gorgeous John Hyatt in Manchester.

Dublin Psychogeographical Society Report 2009: Part One

Following on from the unalloyed success of the 2006 convention, the member of the Dublin Psychogeographical Society unanimously agreed that no further meetings should take place until all temptation to build on that success had been extinguished in full. The call to hubris thus went unheeded for two entire years, even though demand was such that the member had to go into hiding rather than yield to the urge to compromise. Purity is all.

Thus it is only now that a second derive could have been considered and carried off with the requisite panache and respect for anonymity that the true psychogeopomp holds most dear. This year's action took place, suitably enough, in the heart, or more aptly the belly, of the Beast, Paris, the home of flans, flâneurs, gourmets, gourmands, gourds, sourds-muets, Moëts, Flos, fleuves, Fauves, and flans again. I assembled this time in the Marais, with a stout pair of walking boots, a monocle, a cape, a Thermos of mulligatawny soup, a two-thousand-Franc note for bribing snipers who don't know the war's over, and Nora, my faithful native guide, wily, courageous and bereft of both malice and morals but with the eyesight of a hawk with an infrared telescopic array. In the absence of a common language between us, I resorted to my handy Ordnance Survey Map of Dublin, which I showed to Nora while making pointing gestures and whining noises to indicate the sights I wished most to avoid.

Connolly Station: Emblematic of the engine that drove a once-mighty empire, bringing coffee from Portadown, spices from Balbriggan, rickets from Longford, and the ideologies and hegemonies of oppression from Maynooth, Connolly Station remains an exciting and demanding mistress, albeit bed-ridden, her gaping maw always open, insisting that it be fed with Arrows, Darts, and the occasional Belfast Enterprise, some of them even on time. From her other end she shits forth commuters, lost Sligovians, winos, lost winos from Sligo, tracksuit-and-runner-bedecked gurriers, U2 fans, one-legged pigeons, and tea. Eight hours later, the process is reversed, and in an obscene and diabolical ritual that encapsulates the unnatural deformities that late capitalism twists life into, she takes all that shit back up inside her cloaca and spews it all out through her mouth, spraying the country with her human-laced vomit.

I was surprised to see Frank Sidebottom hanging around by the glass-fronted entry. He too comes here for the anonymity, although when I expressed surprise that he would need to come this far, he told me to fuck off.

O'Connell Street: Even upgraded and updated, this thoroughfare's pretensions to grandeur are transparent. Once the widest road in the world, it now can never be wide enough to separate shopper from Euro. The items on display are frankly trite and evoke only a simulacrum of a simulacrum of desire, a degree of cynicism several strata below even the naivest of natives. Who buys such showiness today? There may be queues outside the cinema and Clery's department store, but they come to gawp not in awe or wonder but in disbelief that this system still manages to churn out so much dross on its deathbed. Nevertheless, I curtailed my bemusement long enough to purchase some postcards and used them to send death threats to James Joyce. It was both a profoundly cathartic and depressing experience.

The General Post Office: When the GPO was redesigned after independence, there was a great deal of concern that it would not adequately reflect the glorious blood sacrifice made by the nation's warrior heroes and instead hold the country up to ridicule or draw attention to James Connolly's Scottish nationality or, worse, his anarchist beliefs and membership of the Wobblies. Fortunately, those concerns were unfounded, and the GPO possesses the bland, statement-free decor that enables visitors to forget the uncomfortable aspects of the struggle for independence while at the same time paying their TV licence in the knowledge that RTE belongs to them and their descendants thanks to what took place on that very spot.

The only brave thing about this building today is this fabulous sculpture of Cú Chulainn. Sadly, Setanta is now in administration.

Jervis Street Shopping Centre: If I was a Dub I'd be insulted by the cheap imitation for a leisure complex that this place represents. It's as though they just threw a load of concrete and mud into a mixer, dumped a few chairs around the place for the sake of appearance, even though the last thing they want you to do is sit down, and then forgot about any other amenities until the unemployment register started to shoot through the roof and the government decided to recognise "masseuse" as a job description and not a euphemism for the commodification of sexual relations. The air is always fetid here, the toilets foul, and one's fellow shoppers tense to the point of suicidal. A treasure palace only in the Freudian sense, i.e. a shithouse. Who in their right mind would pause here to take in the scene? You can see how many strollers are eager to get through the place and out the other side with as little inhalation as possible. They're all most likely heading for Saint Mary's Church, which is now a pub. At least one building in Dublin has been put to good use.

Part Two to Follow.

It's Only Human Nature

The latest issue of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, is devoted to contemporary theories of what it means to be human. Articles are $12 each or you can order the entire issue in hard copy for $13 plus $5 p&p in Europe.