Friday, March 26, 2010

You're Welcome to It

Nina's unrepresentative* photo-essay on Dublin

*The sun's out.

Ta, Donagh.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How Would You Feel to Have a Foreign Policeman Beating You Up on the Streets of Dublin (Again)?

Somewhat delayed post (my fault) via Gadgie

From After the Greek Riots:

It is early in the morning of Tuesday, March 9th. Bemused audiences tuned in to an Athens news station to listen to an evidently uncomfortable police spokesperson. How could he not be? He must explain a rather embarrassing incident: days earlier, on March 5th, the police had tear-gassed Manolis Glezos in the face for trying to prevent a youth’s brutal arrest. Glezos is 88 years old today; it was almost 70 years ago, on May 30 1941, in Nazi-occupied Athens that he and Apostolos Santas climbed up the Acropolis and tore down the Swastika – an action for which he was arrested and tortured the following year.

Trying to justify the police’s action and to show that things must stay under control at any cost, the spokesperson made quite a revealing statement: “if the local police fail at their task”, he claimed, “the EU and the Greek government are ready to dispatch a 7,000-strong European police force to repress what might seem like an upcoming revolt”. “Imagine it!”, he added, “how would it feel if a foreign policeman was beating you up in the streets of Athens?” A funny question, that one. You would imagine police baton blows feel similar regardless of the passports of those holding them. Whether or not his statement was a slip-of-tongue, it definitely seems to hold some validity: a supra-national police force, the “European Gendarmerie Force” (EGF) does exists already and is prepared to take operations in countries where local governments invite it []. The Greek government have so far declined to answer questions on the issue in parliament. I don’t think Manolis Glezos was expecting to see German public forces on the streets of Athens again in his lifetime. But then again, if they tear-gas the way the Greek cops do, there won’t be that much for anyone to see…

General strikes are more common in Greece than in most European countries – but still, they tend to come in the rate of one or two per year – not per calendar month. Thursday’s general strike is the country’s third (two full-day and one half-day) in the few weeks alone. Panepistimiou Avenue, part of the main protesting route – and one of Athens’ major thoroughfares – has been closed off for a week by strikers of Olympic Air; on March 10th, an attorney general ordered the police to disperse the crowd of about 2,000 who have gathered there.

The country’s official printing-house (where state laws are printed in order to come into effect) is currently occupied by employees in protest against the newly-introduced austerity plan. The general accounting office (this, ironically, in charge of monitoring the effects of the implementation of the austerity plan) is also under occupation by its employees. In the small northern city of Komotini employees at a local troubled company went straight to the source and occupied two of the city’s main bank branches.

December’s revolt had been a strong warning sign. The “700 euro generation” (in a country where everyday living expenses closely compete to the UK’s) had every reason to revolt. The death of a 15-year old boy? Cities smash and burn for days. An “austerity plan” pushing labour rights back by a few decades overnight; severe wage cuts, VAT increases, pension-freezes…

It is Wednesday, March 10th – the eve of the third recent strike in Greece. “I don’t really earn enough to get a cab to tomorrow’s demonstration”, writes a commentator on Athens IMC. “And there’s no public transport, as everyone is participating in the strike. Good for them. We are driving down there tonight, staying with a friend. And we’ll be using the car’s engine oil to wash the streets, our little gift to the thugs of the police’s motor-cycle Delta force.” There is anger building up in Athens’ streets and many expect to see it outpouring in the event that multi-national force descends in the city, if not before… Whether national or international, next time Manolis Glezos takes on the security forces he most certainly will not be alone.

Friday, March 19, 2010

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!

Lawrence Arabia - Apple Pie Bed

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Half-Baked/Soaked Book Reviews

Back from visiting Manuel Estímulo, a week devoted mostly to the consumption of ultraviolet light, red wine, and books. I particularly recommend the wine. And a couple of the books.

Cosmopolis: the Hidden Agenda of Modernity, by Stephen Toulmin

In a fit of cruelty, I left this book behind for subsequent holidaymakers to peruse. Toulmin's argument was largely lost on me but seemed to involve a sociology of philosophies in order to relativize enlightenment thought. I was hoping it would say something interesting and novel about urban modernity and cosmopolitanism, but if it did, it passed me by. Charles Lemert reckons that Postmodernism Is Not What You Think; Toulmin believes that Modernity Is Not What You Think. But then what you think modernity is is not what he thinks you think modernity is. I think.

Anyway, here's the blurb from Richard Rorty, which makes the book sound more interesting than it is:

In the seventeenth century, a vision arose which was to captivate the Western imagination for the next three hundred years: the vision of Cosmopolis, a society as rationally ordered as the Newtonian view of nature. While fueling extraordinary advances in all fields of human endeavor, this vision perpetuated a hidden yet persistent agenda: the delusion that human nature and society could be fitted into precise and manageable rational categories. Stephen Toulmin confronts that agenda--its illusions and its consequences for our present and future world. "By showing how different the last three centuries would have been if Montaigne, rather than Descartes, had been taken as a starting point, Toulmin helps destroy the illusion that the Cartesian quest for certainty is intrinsic to the nature of science or philosophy."

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, by Slavoj Žižek

A philosopher for our age, if by that one means a philosopher lacking any rigorous empirical standards of reference. Anything's fair game as a source of evidence for Žižek, including Wikipedia, Newsweek, and Lacan, FFS. This is just bricolage in the service of producing original and novel interpretations of the world without having to measure them against any objective criteria. His books offer the jouissance of avant-gardism while reinforcing the idea of philosophy as conspicuous consumption. The perfect postmodernist thinker, and I don't mean that as a compliment.

The Equality Illusion: The Truth about Women and Men Today,
by Kat Banyard

It's pretty depressing that a book like this still needs to be written. There isn't a huge amount in it that's news to anyone who's read de Beauvoir, Friedan, Greer, Dworkin et al., but it does no harm to reiterate their arguments for another generation of women who may need to be reminded of the persistence of sexual inequality. There's obviously some material that covers the past decade or so, thereby updating the argument, but little else has changed, as Banyard herself points out.

The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

Well, this should be a compulsory textbook in schools. Based on a combined five decades of research by the authors, it does pretty much what it says on the cover, namely, demonstrates that the more equal a society it is, the healthier it is in a myriad other ways: less crime, less mental and physical ill-health, less ecological impact, less drug addiction, greater social cohesion and public-spiritidness, etc., etc. The authors clearly found it difficult to spin their research out into a full-length book, mind you. They extend their argument beyond their own research, drawing in evidence from elsewhere to support their case; stuff about mirror neurons, social intelligence, and the like. Difficult, all the same, not to love this work, but then the authors are preaching to the converted in my case. €5.47 at the Book Depository right now, including postage and packaging. Of course, you should get it second-hand if you can.

Diplomatic Baggage: The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse, by Brigid Keenan

Laugh-out-loud memoir of the wife of an EU ambassador as she is forced to follow in his wake to the outer reaches of the diplomatic comfort zone. A gentle comedy, at the same time, because the reader cannot but feel sympathy for Keenan, not just as an innocent abroad but also as a much-put-upon appendage to her husband's career. One or two politically incorrect episodes—making fun of foreigners' silly names isn't exactly high comedy—but nonetheless one of the funniest books I've read in a long long time.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames, by David Sedaris

It's difficult not to like David Sedaris's bitter but self-aware writings. Here you get the usual fayre, the same stuff to be found in Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Holidays on Ice, and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Only not quite as entertaining. Maybe I'm suffering from Sedaris overload. As one-trick ponies go, though, he's a superb writer and clearly knows his audience well.

The Black Jacobins, by C. L. R. James

It is greatly to my embarrassment that I have not read James's book on the birth of Haiti before now. This is a fascinating piece of historical writing that covers a series of events that have been marginalized by English-language historians and yet which played a major role in the formation of Western civilization, and the repercussions of which are still with us. You have to get past the odd bit of Marxist doggerel here and there, but James is a warm and attractive writer who draws you into his work with lively but judiciously succinct accounts that keep the narrative tight and moving, in both senses of the word.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ah Pook The Destroyer

Saturday, 13 March 2010

League Two

Burton Albion 5-6 Cheltenham FT
(HT 2-0)
Harrad 2................Richards 54
Harrad (pen) 32.....Elito 56
Townsend (og) 58...Pook 84
Kabba 72...............Pook 87
Kabba 85...............Richards 90
............................Pook 90+4

For no other reason than to quote William Burroughs

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fashion. Turn To The Left!

What happens when you cross early Mekons with Bernard Herrmann? Well Malcolm McLaren came up with this for the Dries Van Noten Fall/Winter show.

It's Friday. Let's Boogie!

Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers - Where's The Devil?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Move Along Please. Nothing to See from Here

"The most wickedly indiscreet and elegant political memoirs since those of Alan Clark."

Thanks Mail on Sunday. You've just saved me from reading any more political memoirs published since those of Alan Clark.

I approached Chris Mullin's A View from the Foothills in hope of gaining some insight into the Blair years, some salacious gossip about spin and iniquity in high places, and with the expectation of gaining some greater understanding of the way politicians come to think about and see the world they live in. However, as Mullin tells us at the start, this is his diary cobbled together at the end of the week from notes. And that is exactly how it feels. There's no insight, no depth, and all we really learn is how little control this particular politician feels he has over his own career, over party policy, and over life in general.

Mullin comes across as a somewhat bumbling, well-meaning fan of all things Blairite (with a concomitant, almost visceral fear of all things Brown), and with no particular principles other than an aversion to New Labour's constant setting of targets it can never reach and use of jargon that only serves to alienate the public. There's little sense of his own complicity, other than the occasional "oh dear," but perhaps that's because he doesn't feel any great responsibility for affairs, given his lack of power. Not that this excuses his adoring references throughout the book to Blair as "The Man," however, which is both nauseatingly fawning and a feeble literary conceit. And it's a sign of Mullin's distance from the heady heights of the party that the best stories in the book are actually about the Royals: the Queen Mother telling Neil Kinnock in the strictest confidence not to trust the Germans (the fact that we have this story tells us she shouldn't have trusted Neil Kinnock), and the Queen's intervention in a conversation Phillip is having with a group of women "empowerers" from Birmingham; seeing him about to explode with derision, she distracts him by pointing out some nonexistent pottery on the other side of a wall.

These are diaries that cover the period of 9/11 and the Afghan and Iraq wars, but you'd barely know it. So bogged down in his work is Mullin that he seems to have less time to follow current affairs than the rest of us. One might have wished he'd have spent less time making notes for his memoirs and more time paying attention to the world around him.

Attempting Suicide? Best Be on the Safe Side

As cries for help go, this one is pretty definitive:

Whenever she felt tempted to contact her ex-boyfriend, Alexa Ray Joel would throw herself into work. "Sometimes writing songs is the one thing that keeps me from goingcrazy or calling that person," she told People last year. But the lyrics to her new single "Invisible" sound more like an SOS than a helpful distraction: "I'm the girl you broke in two . . . You say you're movin' on, now I gotta let it go/And this is not healthy anymore."

Indeed, distraught as the second anniversary of her breakup from her former bassist Jimmy Riot approached, the singer and daughter of Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley took eight pills on Dec. 5, then called 911 when she had trouble breathing. The dispatcher reported that the caller said she "wants to die" but then "feels funny. Now wants to live." Fortunately Joel, 23, wasn't in serious danger from ingesting Traumeel, a homeopathic aspirin alternative that is not lethal at that dosage. She left New York City's St. Vincent's Hospital several hours later and is currently recuperating with her parents, who split in 1994 but remain friendly. "She is looking forward to getting back on track," says her rep. Adds a source: "This was not a suicide attempt. It was more like a cry for help."

Or maybe she'd caught wind of this.

The Reichstag Fire: New Suspect Emerges

Only a cynic would wonder if she has a new album coming out.