Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The rock 'n' roll deadstars

This just in and really it kind of speaks for itself:

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Even in death, rapper Notorious B.I.G. continues to surprise. The artist, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, who died in a March 1997 shooting, "duets" with fellow deceased music legend Bob Marley on a new single, "Hold Ya Hand," which was released Monday via AOL Music. It will also appear on "The Notorious B.I.G. Duets: The Final Chapter," due November 29 via Bad Boy.

"Hold Ya Hand" includes a sample of Marley's "Johnny Was." The rest of the album is still coming together, although Bad Boy promises participation from "some of music's greatest vocalists and MCs" and "the industry's top producers."

Apparently, Tupac will provide backing vocals and Kurt Cobain will rock out on the middle eight. Now that's what I call music.

I mean seriously, has the world gone mad? Answers on a postcard to the usual Lapland address.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

One in the eye for Jerry... and Jeremy

Really like the new Battle of Britain monument by the Thames which reminds me of all those Battle Action comics of yore.

It's reshreshingly triumphalist, unapologetically sentimental and, I suspect, anathema to many of the commentators of our sneery post-modern age. In a way, it celebrates not just a battle past, but a generation passing and their values. Tally-ho!

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Two laugh-out-loud moments in today's funnies (ok, the Guardian). The ever-reliable John Ronson and in the new Experience section of the mag I was a BNP activist... and converted to Islam, the ho-de-ho moment coming toward the end of the article when Muhammed writes: I have been close to the Hizbut-Tahrir group ever since...

So from British fascist to Islamofascist. And that's progress?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Fashion World Rocked by Cocaine Shock

The Evening Standard bill outside my local shop flags up a London Fashion Week Cocaine Shock - yes, you got it, there's a shortage, boom, boom.

Fashion and coke are undemanding bedfellows and its no suprise to anyone that people in fashion, like people in pretty much every other walk of life, from farming to narcotics control, use coke. Quelle surprise.

Admittedly the particular characteristics of coke are peculiarly well-suited to the demands of the party-rich fashion circuit. Great skin-taughtening short-term side affects, you never run out of things to say and you can keep going until it all goes black (or white if you're unlucky) - what more could you want? (Well maybe something to say, some sleep and a bit of the kind of substance that sticks in your memory rather than to the baby oil that some asshole put on all the flat surfaces in the washrooms?... no waaay?) Then again, that said, those grrrreat frosty coke-characteristics suit merchant banking pretty well too.

This inevitably leads me to Bret Easton Ellis' GLAMORAMA - as good an indication as any of the dangers of hanging out with models while taking drugs.

Now admittedly Brett was never exactly Mr Sedate but in Glamorama he really was kind of Cleaning out his Closet, well, OK, Bret's closet never really gets that clean, or indeed that out but, moving swiftly on...

Despite the fact that Glamorama is, well, MENTAL, I like it and I sort of know where Bret's coming from in his reaction to the culture and indeed sub-cultures he's paraodying, though its worth saying that if he could just relax and lay off then, you know, he wouldn't wake up feeling that way... but HELL ain't it cathartic sometimes to just... well, whatever...
In this interview Bret discusses, among other things, the apparently forthcoming movie version of Glamorama by Roger Avary - unsurprisingly things aren't going TOTALLY smoothly, over to Bret:
"He's written a real spellbinding script for Glamorama. I think the problem is that it's an expensive movie to make and I think it's topic, which is Americans committing terrorism abroad, makes it not a very popular movie in development right now. "

Well it might be that but frankly its more likely to be a whole lot of other things I can think of. But still I'm pretty much looking forward to seeing how Roger copes with Bret's late night vision of Pret a Porter vs Abu Ghraib via Fassbinder.

Meanwhile the other battle in fashion's war on reality continues as H&M drops Moss over drug claims to enable non-metro suburbanites to go 'ooh, models drugs - NEVER... cos they, you know, really CARE about their BODIES 'n all...' and half the metro-elite keep writing it up like it isn't while the rest write drug books... and Everybody Gets High On Love naturally - on love.

As noone 'sez', ...keep it real!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Lapping it up

I don't care about the bar of soap jibes, I like Alison Lapper's sculpture on the spare plinth.

Not only did I think it's full of beauty and grace, it made me proud to be part of a culture where someone like Alison is not shut away but can celebrate herself and be celebrated for it.

And I'm not being sarcy, neither.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Hey-Hey its the Thought Police... And They Ain't Monkey-ing A-round

I know, I know terrorism isn't funny any more (like religion - right Homeland Security Secretary Clunkett?)...

So I guess its probably only me that finds the spectacle of our great democratic hope Tony Blair lecturing an audience littered with dictators, demagogues and self-appointed monarchs, many of whom have never faced a democratic election, never mind a focus group of Daily Mail readers from Surrey, about the need for us all to pass laws which make it a crime to incite terrorism.

You can just imagine Robert Mugabe and King Abdullah nodding sagely, Robert turns to his advisor seated behind and to his left and smugly comments 'you see young man, we in Zimbabwe are one step ahead of these lily-livered western liberal imperialists - it has been a crime to incite terrorism against the state in Zimbabwe for many years'.

King Abdullah chuckles at this - 'yes' he says, 'and look at all this nonsense about one dead Brazilian, in Saudi Arabia we know a war on terror when we see one, you wouldn't catch my security forces announcing to the world that we shot the wrong infidel... ach ...I mean foreigner.'

But still Blair throws down gauntlet to UN and the nations pick up the gauntlet with gusto, while naturally failing to agree what terrorism is - not because there's a groundswell of discontent around the notion of accidentally outlawing a legitimate revolutionary or liberation movement (against yourself, because you're going to give a crap about that...) by accident - but because like most things its much better to leave your options open. Better to create your own national definition of thought crimes against your state than let someone else do it for you, right?

This business of The law and inciting terrorism is interesting (as Simon Gallant of Mishcon de Reya, solicitors to royalty, explains) so of course that's why we have a new set of proposals from our legislation-happy government, despite Mr Blair telling us all that its 'pretty obvious' when someone is or isn't inciting terrorism, or, as he folksily put it Bush-stylee on the Today Programme this morning, 'not playing fair' - yes gotcha this whole blowing up innocent civilians thing, that is definitely 'not playing by the rules' - right Tony! How's it go again:
"someone who comes into our country, and maybe seeks refuge here [yeah remember those evil asylum-seekers, yeah I'm talking to yoohoo Surrey focus group, pay attention - asylum-seekers, eeevil, threat to home and hearth, got it yeh? send 'em home? right...], the fact that we say if, when you are here, you want to stay here, play by the rules, play fair, don't start inciting people to go and kill other innocent people in Britain. "

- yeah, right, like those kamikaze-rucksack guys who were born in the North of our fair isle but whatever, we all know what colour they were don't we, so you know they're really foreign innit? Lets quietly forget that they're as British as the Hungerford Massacre Guy or the 'Soho Nail Bomber' ...

...yeah, yeah, I know its not that simple and there's this whole 'international dimension' because as you told the UN yesterday in one of your odder passages (and that IS saying something):

"This terrorism is a movement. It has an ideology and it has a strategy. And the strategy is not just to kill. It is by terror to cause chaos and instability and to divide and confuse us, the enemy of this terrorism.

"It won't be defeated until we unite, not just in condemning the acts of terrorism, which we all do, but in fighting the poisonous propaganda that the root cause of this terrorism somehow lies with us around this table and not with them."

"The terrorist attacks of the 7 July have their origins in an ideology born thousands of miles from our shores.

"The proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons will never be halted outside of an international consensus to do so.

"The UN can be the instrument of achieving the global will of the people. It must give leadership on terrorism.

"There is not and never can be any justification, any excuse, any cause that accepts the random slaughter of the innocent. Wherever it happens, whoever is responsible we stand united in condemnation."

Now the last bit we can't argue with - though all that 'thousands of miles from our shores' stuff does sound a tad like saying 'look guys this is your problem, sort it out'

...Not of course that we are leaving it at that, as Blair defends new anti-terror plans - oh no, over here we're going to outlaw 'glorifying terrorism' - because of course if we outlaw TALKING ABOUT IT that'll stop nutters like the last lot of jihadis with a one-way train ticket to Luton even THINKING about doing anything so downright 'unfair'and 'against the rules' of the hospitality they never had to ask for as British citizens...

...is it just me or are we missing something in our rush to be seen to be employing a firm (and authoritarian) legal response?

Why is it that this is going to make me any safer?

And more appositely is this really the way we go about protecting liberty of conscience and freedom of speech?

Freedom of Speech...Just Watch What You Say

Thursday, September 15, 2005

All change again at the Guardian

As a footnote to the Guardian's move to the European Berliner format this week this week's Private has an interesting little piece on a different kind of switch. Looks like the paper could be considering a permanent switch of politics as well.

The 2005 election saw the Guardian consider backing the Liberal Demoprats, but it seems this was no one off aberration. As the paper's circulation dwindles, it hit a new low in August's Audit Bureau of Circulation figures down 4.49% to 425,737, editor Alan Rushbridger actually wants to move the paper to the centre ground permanently.

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Well it has to do something. The Indescribablyboring is quite practised at stealing the Guardian's left of centre clothes with its endless frontpage sermonising. Of course, the Independent can do nothing else but sermonise - it has no money for reporters and real news, which is what I personally want from my newspaper. But hey, what can I say, I'm funny that way.

From Private Eye:

"For all the acres of broadsheet and Berliner size newsprint the Grauniad - or as it is now appears to be called, grauniad, devoted to its slight shrinkage, editor Alan Rushbridger did not find room to share with his readers one aspect of his future plans they might find mildly more interesting then the shift from Helvetica Bold to Egyptian.

"If I had to choose between occupying a nice on the left or being nearer the centre, whether you display that through your news reporting or your comment or both, I'm more comfortable saying this is an upmarket, serious, mainstream newspaper. There's more potential for growth there than taking comfort in political positioning," Rushbridger said.

Since this is the sort of thing that Guardian readers tend to find very discomforting, one might have expected Rushbridger to have found space in the four pages the paper devoted to the forthcoming redesign to mention it. But while readers were regaled with everything they never wanted to know about the "slightly wider 9.5pt vertical spacing for the body font on news pages" there was not a word about the paper's politics anywhere to be seen.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Happy families

Following a link from the Washington Post about America's declining popularity, I checked out the rest of the data on Transatlantic Trends and found some interesting stuff...

What the trends reveal run largely contrary to the usual media spin. They present a picture of the UK as a surprisingly liberal, green, europhile country. But enough of the editorial, here's some of the raw data...

Would you be willing for the EU to be a superpower even if it impies greater military expenditure?

YES - 51% UK. Compared to 53% France. 35% Germany.

Should the EU increase its military strength, even if this means spending more?

YES - 44% UK (No 49%). 49% France. 30% Germany.

How likely are you to be affected by the effects of global warming?

YES - 72% UK. France 82% Germany 71% (US 64%)

Favourable to the UN?

YES - 87% UK. France 94% Germany 94% (US 81%)

Now this was the thing that drew the US headlines - how they were perceived...

57% UK felt favourably about the US. 50% French. 51% Germany. (86%US)

But also interesting was how others were perceived:

FRANCE: UK 54%. Germany 68% US 53% (France 77%)
GERMANY: UK 56%. France 68%. US 60% (Germany 80%)
UK: France 57%. Germany 60%. US 72% (UK 79%)

So the French liked the British more than we liked them, and even though the Brits weren't too keen on the Yanks, the Yanks loved them almost as much as the Brits loved themselves...

Meanwhile future EU entrants the Turks felt thus:

UK 30%, France 29%, Germany 44%, US 28%... though they felt pretty good about themselves (82%). Given that the Americans are concerned that they are only liked by about half of Europeans, it is somewhat surprising that Europeans aren't less concerned by the relative hostility with which they are regarded by their would-be continental cousins...

Friday, September 09, 2005

Sold out

Having just bought a second pad in Belgium, this article made me smile...

Obviously if one has connections in Eastern Europe (nod to Baz) it can be worthwhile, but otherwise why spend 200,000 on a two bed apartment in Kiev?

Apparently the great British scramble for Eastern European property moves so fast that already countries such as Croatia and Bulgaria are old-hat.

So why not check out Romania, where the rotting hulk pictured below can be scooped up for another 200K? Romania is a little-explored country which has plenty of attractive, inexpensive properties and huge tracts of unspoilt countryside, mountains and beaches on the Black Sea. Hmmm, quite.

I settled on Belgium precisely because the universal response was "Belgium?" in an "are you mad?" kind of way. So, figuring our national blind spot might have prevented the kind of inflation I found across the border in France, I thought I would check it out and scooped up a fully refurbished, period apartment in the centre of Ostend, home of Rene Magritte and Marvin Gaye. Just a minute from the 9K sandy beach, I paid a quarter of what I'd have to cough up in Kiev, or a sixth in Brighton, only an hour further away...

Mad? Maybe, but would you buy a secondhand mansion from this man?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

How to get ahead in China

Do you Yahoo? Errr, no, but should you choose to do so in the near future bear in mind that the US portal will waste no time in putting in a quick shout out to the Chinese authorities.

Information supplied by Yahoo! helped put Chinese journalist Shi Tao away for 10 years.

According to Reporters without Borders Tao Yahoo! provided China's state security authorities with details that helped to identify and convict him.

"We already knew that Yahoo! collaborates enthusiastically with the Chinese regime in questions of censorship, and now we know it is a Chinese police informant as well," the press freedom organisation said.

Tao worked for the daily Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News). He was convicted of sending foreign-based websites the text of an internal message which the authorities had sent to his newspaper warning journalists of the dangers of social destabilisation and risks resulting from the return of certain dissidents on the 15th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre. Chinese state security insisted during the trial that the message was "Jue Mi" (top secret).

Oh why send it out?

While this particular case is one that concerns press freedom, it raises wider issues about the lengths that Western companies, not just media companies, are willing to go to in order to satisfy the regime in Beijing to gain access to the lucrative Chinese market.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

My Everchanging Moods

The article linked to in the title of this piece is a treat - no really it is...

And not just because I'm a big fan of migration, of which more later...

First of all it is a reflection of the realities of modern Britain and our own dear Universal City, as Ken notably termed it when some narrow-minded bunch of northern gimps decided to pay us a farewell visit before catching the ghost train.

Above all though its a treat for its non-sequiturs and paradoxes. At one point the hapless reporter states that "Immigrants now comprise a quarter of the capital's population and in one area, Wembley, just over half of all residents." Fine, but he then goes on to say, in a confusingly separate sentence that "In all, four in 10 people who were born abroad live in London" - crikey - I thought the tube was crowded - clearly this is not surprising given that a quarter of the globe has moved in...OK, OK this is pedantry but further entertaining statements then come apace:

Nick Pearce, director of the IPPR, said the study showed the nature of immigration was changing.
"It shows diversity has changed considerably over the past 10-15 years."

Is it just me or is that funny - first its the cobblerisation of English since it is changing 'diversity' into a noun, rather than an adjective. Secondly its the mistake of talking conehead to the public and thirdly the notion of change within something amorphously varied and generally described just amuses me. Diversity has changed - oh yes - you are so right - its err now MORE diverse and there's err, MORE OF IT... or something like that - oh and its err DIFFERENT (to how it was before, and not just because the only constant is change...) WHATEVER! [I yell, choately, I hope in the sense of the opposite of inchoate...'whaddaya mean is norra word?!']

Moving swiftly onward...

AND on the other side of the ring, IN the BLUE corner, WEARING the BLACK shirt and swastika armband we have:
"Sir Andrew Green of the pressure group Migrationwatch said they welcomed the study.
But he added: "We believe there is a growing realisation that immigration simply cannot continue at these levels."
He said the government were "riding roughshod over the views of the public". "

Hmmm.... which public eh Sir Andy? The white ones with little moustaches that want to keep their pansies purest blue or the brown ones with beards who don't want any of their co-religionists getting their quaint rural bigotries exposed to the corrupting influences of western society? I dare say the late Mr Mohammed Sidique Khan would quite like immigration restricted so that he can radicalise a notionally oppressed and isolated minority while avoiding the irritating interventions of their relatives turning up from Pakistan and saying how great it is to be able to move to such a liberal and free country...

Still Sir Andrew is right, it JUST can't go on like this, because if it does he might find 'his' public isn't 'the' public any more- and that would be terrible wouldn't it, just awful, but where on earth will we send Sir Andrew home to then - the Isle of Man? Well it is an island full of sheep and surrounded by sharks I suppose...

Migration Watch, its such a cute name isn't it, makes it sound like a spectator sport - I watch migration too - round the corner from where I work the Meze Bar is now an Eritrean Meze Bar - it was probably Eritrean before but now it says so - clearly there are now enough Eritreans who can afford to eat in a cheap restaurant for it to make good business sense to advertise this. While sir Andrew shudders I feel cheered that another part of the world has joined our city universe - not drowning but waving.

Rising Tide

From the Times, the best article I have read on the NO tragedy, maybe the best article I have read recently period.

Inequality does not explain why anyone faced with the present crisis should wish to sexually assault a seven-year-old, as happened in the Louisiana Superdome, but it may help to rationalise the communal disintegration of the past week. Many of the boasts made on behalf of Western civilisation are just a handy by-product of Western money. We get along because we can afford to; in New Orleans, wealth was removed from the equation, and what values were left? This was not just a failure for central government but for social scientists, educators, mentors, role models, the supposed civilising influence we wish to impose around the world.

Friday, September 02, 2005


First I want to say that I take no pleasure in other's misery and I work with someone whose hometown is mentioned above.

The news from the US south has been a rollercoster of emotion for anyone with any connection to New Orleans, or for that manner an ounce of human empathy.

First we're thinking:
'They're evacuating the city?!'
'170mph winds?!'

Next we're heaving a huge sigh of relief that the other half of the transatlantic jazz relationship that flourished in the first half of the twentieth century appears to have escaped the worst of a Hurricane named after who exactly? [dunno but it sounds Russian to me]... then things got really f**ked up.

Then they got a lot more f**ked up.

I put it down to hyperbole until I heard this interview this morning:
British Survivors in New Orleans.
Hope that's the right bit but basically I'm talkin about the interview with the father of the British guy in the Super Bowl(?Dome - whatever).

This really was fairly surreal - he's spoken to his son on a call patched through by a US army Colonel
...Basically the guys been in a football stadium run by armed gangs for two days and got no water apparently (they just never get this you scratch mine thing...)
... Anyway he's escaped, and he makes the call via the ARMY but he's told that he's got to go BACK IN or he can't be saved (sub-text they are on-site but not in control - they're like in play but not PLAYERS... I'm REALLY not making this up...)

Anyone remember Escape from New York (1981)
Know what I'm saying...

Now we are told that President Bush condemns Katrina aid effort - well he might, things were pretty bad before some nutjob who'd watched Black Hawk Down one time too many before he mislaid his Qaaludes started taking potshots at the rescue helicopters...

Is this life imitating art or what?
...Or what? We may well ask

Before the ink was dry on the imagined stoicism of the Wretched of the South the crazy loons are taking all that stuff about 'fighting' to 'save their city' a little too (il)literally...

...Did someone mention pressure cookers? (...'lid' anyone?)

As Questions grow over chaos and Refugees tell tales of horror Bush 'condemned the initial response to Hurricane Katrina as "not acceptable"' - apparently 'The president, who is expected to go on to visit Mississippi and Louisiana - but not New Orleans itself [I wonder why] - said: "We're going to get on top of this situation.' - now this is one of the things I love about the USA [in a kind of 'nice to see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya' kind of way] - its the arbitrary factor, the notional powerlessness of the state, the sense in which American civilization is an idea not a reality (calm, I'm not saying they're not civilised...) and state power has a habit of disappearing in a puff of smoke when the shit hits the fan.

Our own dear premier frequently tries this and it just doesn't wash - in Britain we hold politicians responsible - a fact he seems psychologically and ideologically incapable of understanding except when he has a sudden attack of telling us how to bring up our children while being curiously elusive about the choices he makes for his own.

In the US however one just throws up one's arms in disgust at any f**k up and blames some aspect of local government, ...or the mafia, ...or the intrinsic fallibility of humanity, or the devil... even if you're supposed to be the Mr Big who runs the whole show (and has the authority to quite literally send anyone in the nation to their deaths without so much as a by your leave from Congress) .... is this is a marvellous piece of totalitarian trickery or a tacit recognition that 'i got mine' (the power of the state in international affairs and the largest patronage budget this side of Beijing) and 'you got yours' (the right to carry a firearm and form an armed militia, and buy whatever you can afford).

Its too early to say what the fallout from this terrible natural disaster will be and its also too early to speculate about the human factors influencing its scope and progress; though it does call to mind a piece of graffitti on the Holloway Road which states 'Its Global Warming Stoopid' [- its been up there a while by the way gentle reader... ] one thing is for sure however, if it first seemed like an opportunity to re-focus things for President Bush he must be wishing the Louisiana reserve didn't have troops, you know where as In Iraq, Troops Watch and Fret About Home - Los Angeles Times

I'm not saying a huge flood of London wouldn't be bad but having seen how dangerous a rucksack on a crowded tube can be, never mind a denim jacket in south London, I'm just glad I'm not allowed to carry a gun, something tells me it wouldn't make me more responsible ALL the time... And, overall, I think this helps.

OK, OK, I do wish to avoid trying to making trivial points in the face of disaster, but I guess I'm just saying that this reinforces my feeling that the supposedly monolithic power of a superpower is rarely so super at home as it appears to be overseas when its turned on an inferior opponent - and there are few less inferior opponents than the elements. Equally there are some very particular aspects of the organisation of American society and government which I suspect anyone who has been outside the glass and steel metropoli housing the American business elite will have noticed and when the shit hits the fan some pretty crazy stuff sometimes leaks out of the cracks in the American Dream.

But hell I guess we're all only Human - born to make mistakes.