" Madam Miaow Says: June 2009

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Anna Lo, UK's first Chinese politician under threat from Northern Ireland racists


Having chased out 100 Romanians from Belfast, racist loyalists in Northern Ireland have set their sights on Anna Lo, the United Kingdom's first Chinese-born politician elected to national Parliament, and the sole ethnic minority member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

According to a report in the Belfast Telegraph, police have warned her that she is under threat of attack.

Far right groups have also threatened Polish and Islamic centres in Belfast. Brain-bogglingly, some of these charmers are said to fly the flag of Israel beside their own. Go figure!

It's hard to understand why there's been a revival of old hatreds with foreigners now added to Catholics as fuel for bigots. How would they like it if decent hard-working Protestants who work abroad were given the same treatment? Actually, come to think of it, they probably wouldn't even care.

Anna Lo is incredibly brave and I hope she gets maximum support from everyone who wants peace in that beleaguered nation.

Hat tip Splinty

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Crosstown Lightnin' debut gig: Charles Shaar Murray plays blues

The Cowboy, the Punk and the Queens of Funk

For all you NME babies and blues fans out there, Charles Shaar Murray's new band, Crosstown Lightnin', features the Cowboy, the Punk and the Queens of Funk: CSM on guitar and vocals, Buffalo Bill Smith on harmonica, the sublime Max Doray on bass and JoJo Ruocco bashing the hell out of her drumkit.

Following a 30 minute warm-up at Mitchum festival the other week, the band played two 45-minute sets at the Green Dragon in Croydon for their very first gig on Thursday 18th June 2009 and delighted all the old blues fans as well as assembled bright young things.

Here they are with their opening number, Freddy King's classic instrumental Hideaway.

More videos to follow.

Crosstown Lightnin' debut gig: Charles Shaar Murray plays blues

The Cowboy, the Punk and the Queens of Funk

For all you NME babies and blues fans out there, Charles Shaar Murray's new band, Crosstown Lightnin', features the Cowboy, the Punk and the Queens of Funk: CSM on guitar and vocals, Buffalo Bill Smith on harmonica, the sublime Max Doray on bass and JoJo Ruocco bashing the hell out of her drumkit.

Following a 30 minute warm-up at Mitchum festival the other week, the band played two 45-minute sets at the Green Dragon in Croydon for their very first gig on Thursday 18th June 2009 and delighted all the old blues fans as well as assembled bright young things.

Here they are with their opening number, Freddy King's classic instrumental Hideaway.

More videos to follow.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Filipino prisoners do Thriller: Michael Jackson RIP



Oh, no! It's Michael Jackson looking brown bread ...!

In memory of the King of Pop, here are 1,500 inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Phillipines performing Thriller with an interesting leading lady. It's a pleasure to see these prisoners inspired by Jacko's funky groove, or a sad indictment of the way showbiz functions to keep us all in line under capitalism, depending on mood, politics and where I am in my monthly cycle.

Worth listening again if only to hear Vincent Price uttering the immortal lines, "The foulest stench is in the air, The funk of forty thousand years ..." and so on.

By the way, it's looking like Michael was taking Demerol, an elephantine pain-killer that was a favourite of William Burroughs due to its similarity to heroin.

UPDATE: Jacko's doctor, Dr Tohme Tohme [edit: we now know the doctor was Conrad Murray], who pumped him full of Demerol less than an hour before he passed out, has done a runner. The Daily Mail reports: One website quoted a hospital source as saying: 'Shortly after taking the Demerol, he started to experience slow, shallow breathing.

'His breathing gradually got slower and slower until it stopped. His staff started mouth-to-mouth and an ambulance was called. He never regained consciousness.'

Filipino prisoners do Thriller: Michael Jackson RIP



Oh, no! It's Michael Jackson looking brown bread ...!

In memory of the King of Pop, here are 1,500 inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Phillipines performing Thriller with an interesting leading lady. It's a pleasure to see these prisoners inspired by Jacko's funky groove, or a sad indictment of the way showbiz functions to keep us all in line under capitalism, depending on mood, politics and where I am in my monthly cycle.

Worth listening again if only to hear Vincent Price uttering the immortal lines, "The foulest stench is in the air, The funk of forty thousand years ..." and so on.

By the way, it's looking like Michael was taking Demerol, an elephantine pain-killer that was a favourite of William Burroughs due to its similarity to heroin.

UPDATE: Jacko's doctor, Dr Tohme Tohme [edit: we now know the doctor was Conrad Murray], who pumped him full of Demerol less than an hour before he passed out, has done a runner. The Daily Mail reports: One website quoted a hospital source as saying: 'Shortly after taking the Demerol, he started to experience slow, shallow breathing.

'His breathing gradually got slower and slower until it stopped. His staff started mouth-to-mouth and an ambulance was called. He never regained consciousness.'

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Michael Jackson heart attack may be fatal


Uncomfirmed reports say that Michael Jackson suffered a cardiac arrest today, wasn't breathing when paramedics arrived at his Bel Air mansion and attempts to resuscitate him with CPR may have failed.

Initial suspicions that it was another sickie in order to get out of his imminent live tour have proved wrong and Peter Pan may be dead at 50.

UPDATE: Michael Jackson pronounced dead at 3pm.

Also dead today are Farrah Fawcett, 62, and former NME journo Steve "Swells" Wells at 49.

Michael Jackson heart attack may be fatal


Uncomfirmed reports say that Michael Jackson suffered a cardiac arrest today, wasn't breathing when paramedics arrived at his Bel Air mansion and attempts to resuscitate him with CPR may have failed.

Initial suspicions that it was another sickie in order to get out of his imminent live tour have proved wrong and Peter Pan may be dead at 50.

UPDATE: Michael Jackson pronounced dead at 3pm.

Also dead today are Farrah Fawcett, 62, and former NME journo Steve "Swells" Wells at 49.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The King & I review: go you Orientals!

Daniel Dae Kim and David Yip

Hah! Here's one show you can't accuse of yellowface. Last night's Rodgers & Hammerstein 1951 musical The King & I, revived at the Royal Albert Hall, had so many Asian actors they must have emptied out every Chinatown in Britain. About thirteen kids and 20 or so women swamped the handful of white actors on the stage in something out of Margaret Thatcher's worst nightmare. How I laughed.

The latest King in a list that includes Yul Brynner, Jason Scott Lee and Chow Yun Fat, Daniel Dae Kim cuts a handsome dash as the barefoot monarch of 19th century Siam who'll do anything to avoid a charge of "barbarian", even importing an English governess, Anna Leonowens, played by Maria Friedman, who will tutor his (many) children and civilise the brute. (Hmm, do I really need to elucidate?)

As a Buffy and Angel fan I was keen to see DDK, who will always be evil lawyer Gavin Park of Wolfram & Hart to me. I'm pleased to see he's also notched up an impressive TV CV with Lost, CSI, Charmed, 24, The Shield, NYPD Blue, ER, Seinfeld (??? I don't remember him in that), Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise (oh well, there had to be at least one turkey) prominent.

Charismatic and handsome DDK may be, but a singing voice isn't his strong suit. Mind you, neither was Brynner's and the role cemented his career. Still, the other actors were phenomenal in this department. The two young lovers, Yanle Zhong as the rebellious Princess Tuptim (a gift to the King from Burma), and Ethen Le Phong, as her secret lover, Lun Tha, had powerful lungs and a sensitive delivery typical of the glory days of the stage musical. Their duet, We Kiss In A Shadow, had me quite teary and masking my snuffles as my current bronchitis.

My friend, David Yip (The Chinese Detective) as the King's Minister, didn't have to sing or dance but marched around as the power behind the throne, sounding most urbane and looking very professorial in his spectacles. I am so glad he didn't have to do "sinister" in this role.

The coup de theatre of the evening was the hilarious and spectacular show-within-a-show, The Small House of Uncle Thomas, staged by Princess Tuptim as a pointed indictment of the King and his insistence on mastery over the lives of his slaves despite his ambitions to be a "civilised" man and appease the British who are considering replacing him with their own puppet ruler.

The dancing, singing and choreography were a joy. Even my Lovely Companion, a rock 'n' roll/blues/trashkulchur fiend who complained that this was the worst thing I'd done to him since making him sit through Ivan The Terrible, Parts 1 AND 2, conceded that this visually lavish section was a delightful entertainment. I especially liked Uncle Tom, Little Eva and Topsy prancing Thai-fashion in white face. Heh!

The orientalism of The King & I is so transparent that I hope we know by now what we're looking at. The notion that the British project was to bring civilisation, a superior culture and democracy to "primitive" societies has been so thoroughly debunked, not least by the debacle of Iraq, that I hope we can all laugh at the show's assumptions. Cruelty, we now know, is not the unique attribute of that psychological landscape we know as the "Orient". British and US forces are as adept at this as was any eastern despot in history.

Suspend your critical faculties rather than bury them, and you will have a lovely evening. Personally, I found it to be a lot more honest that the execrable More Light, a modern regurgitation of orientalist stereotypes with a huge dollop of pretension and dumbed-down feminist politics without the excuse that it was written more than half a century ago. The King & I is a breath of fresh air by comparison.

Runs until Sunday 28th June 2009

Cast list:
Daniel Dae Kim, Maria Friedman, Jee Hyun Lim, Ethan Le Phong, Yanle Zhong, David Yip, Michael Simkins, Stephen Scott, Mischa Goodman, Hugo Yamaguchi, Miwa Saeki, Aiko Kato, Karen Cadogan, Victoria Sahakian Rogers, Adam Wong, Azumi Ono

Directed by Jeremy Sams
Musical director Gareth Valentine
Choreography Susan Kikuchi
Set and costume design Robert Jones
Lighting design Andrew Bridge
Sound design Bobby Aitken
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

The King & I review: go you Orientals!

Daniel Dae Kim and David Yip

Hah! Here's one show you can't accuse of yellowface. Last night's Rodgers & Hammerstein 1951 musical The King & I, revived at the Royal Albert Hall, had so many Asian actors they must have emptied out every Chinatown in Britain. About thirteen kids and 20 or so women swamped the handful of white actors on the stage in something out of Margaret Thatcher's worst nightmare. How I laughed.

The latest King in a list that includes Yul Brynner, Jason Scott Lee and Chow Yun Fat, Daniel Dae Kim cuts a handsome dash as the barefoot monarch of 19th century Siam who'll do anything to avoid a charge of "barbarian", even importing an English governess, Anna Leonowens, played by Maria Friedman, who will tutor his (many) children and civilise the brute. (Hmm, do I really need to elucidate?)

As a Buffy and Angel fan I was keen to see DDK, who will always be evil lawyer Gavin Park of Wolfram & Hart to me. I'm pleased to see he's also notched up an impressive TV CV with Lost, CSI, Charmed, 24, The Shield, NYPD Blue, ER, Seinfeld (??? I don't remember him in that), Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise (oh well, there had to be at least one turkey) prominent.

Charismatic and handsome DDK may be, but a singing voice isn't his strong suit. Mind you, neither was Brynner's and the role cemented his career. Still, the other actors were phenomenal in this department. The two young lovers, Yanle Zhong as the rebellious Princess Tuptim (a gift to the King from Burma), and Ethen Le Phong, as her secret lover, Lun Tha, had powerful lungs and a sensitive delivery typical of the glory days of the stage musical. Their duet, We Kiss In A Shadow, had me quite teary and masking my snuffles as my current bronchitis.

My friend, David Yip (The Chinese Detective) as the King's Minister, didn't have to sing or dance but marched around as the power behind the throne, sounding most urbane and looking very professorial in his spectacles. I am so glad he didn't have to do "sinister" in this role.

The coup de theatre of the evening was the hilarious and spectacular show-within-a-show, The Small House of Uncle Thomas, staged by Princess Tuptim as a pointed indictment of the King and his insistence on mastery over the lives of his slaves despite his ambitions to be a "civilised" man and appease the British who are considering replacing him with their own puppet ruler.

The dancing, singing and choreography were a joy. Even my Lovely Companion, a rock 'n' roll/blues/trashkulchur fiend who complained that this was the worst thing I'd done to him since making him sit through Ivan The Terrible, Parts 1 AND 2, conceded that this visually lavish section was a delightful entertainment. I especially liked Uncle Tom, Little Eva and Topsy prancing Thai-fashion in white face. Heh!

The orientalism of The King & I is so transparent that I hope we know by now what we're looking at. The notion that the British project was to bring civilisation, a superior culture and democracy to "primitive" societies has been so thoroughly debunked, not least by the debacle of Iraq, that I hope we can all laugh at the show's assumptions. Cruelty, we now know, is not the unique attribute of that psychological landscape we know as the "Orient". British and US forces are as adept at this as was any eastern despot in history.

Suspend your critical faculties rather than bury them, and you will have a lovely evening. Personally, I found it to be a lot more honest that the execrable More Light, a modern regurgitation of orientalist stereotypes with a huge dollop of pretension and dumbed-down feminist politics without the excuse that it was written more than half a century ago. The King & I is a breath of fresh air by comparison.

Runs until Sunday 28th June 2009

Cast list:
Daniel Dae Kim, Maria Friedman, Jee Hyun Lim, Ethan Le Phong, Yanle Zhong, David Yip, Michael Simkins, Stephen Scott, Mischa Goodman, Hugo Yamaguchi, Miwa Saeki, Aiko Kato, Karen Cadogan, Victoria Sahakian Rogers, Adam Wong, Azumi Ono

Directed by Jeremy Sams
Musical director Gareth Valentine
Choreography Susan Kikuchi
Set and costume design Robert Jones
Lighting design Andrew Bridge
Sound design Bobby Aitken
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Blair keeps dirty Iraq secrets in the dark


Thanks to Louise who just found this item on Tony Blair and Iraq at the Observer.

Tony Blair urged Gordon Brown to hold the independent inquiry into the Iraq war in secret because he feared that he would be subjected to a "show trial" if it were opened to the public, the Observer can reveal. ...

... six weeks before the war, at a meeting in Washington, the two leaders were forced to contemplate alternative scenarios that might trigger a second UN resolution legitimising military action.

Bush told Blair that the US had drawn up a provocative plan "to fly U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, painted in UN colours, over Iraq with fighter cover". Bush said that if Saddam fired at the planes, he would put Iraq in breach of UN resolutions and legitimise military action.

None of which Blair wants made public. What was that about exporting our home brand of democracy to poor deprived nations?

This is positive as revelations go. Perhaps with a public "trial" Blair will have to spend some of his ill-gotten gains from interested parties — such as JP Morgan bank, Israel, Kuwait, and the US lecture circuit — on a legal defence and lots of PR.

The widespread revulsion over MPs expenses will be as nothing compared to the personal and institutionalised corruption exposed with an open inquiry. Which is why, of course, Blair, who has thus far gotten off light, must be in a bit of a sweat. I wonder what posterity will make of the state of his underpants right now.

Gary Younge on Labour's road to corruption. "If you keep resorting to the lesser of two evils, you just end up with evil."

Blair keeps dirty Iraq secrets in the dark


Thanks to Louise who just found this item on Tony Blair and Iraq at the Observer.

Tony Blair urged Gordon Brown to hold the independent inquiry into the Iraq war in secret because he feared that he would be subjected to a "show trial" if it were opened to the public, the Observer can reveal. ...

... six weeks before the war, at a meeting in Washington, the two leaders were forced to contemplate alternative scenarios that might trigger a second UN resolution legitimising military action.

Bush told Blair that the US had drawn up a provocative plan "to fly U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, painted in UN colours, over Iraq with fighter cover". Bush said that if Saddam fired at the planes, he would put Iraq in breach of UN resolutions and legitimise military action.

None of which Blair wants made public. What was that about exporting our home brand of democracy to poor deprived nations?

This is positive as revelations go. Perhaps with a public "trial" Blair will have to spend some of his ill-gotten gains from interested parties — such as JP Morgan bank, Israel, Kuwait, and the US lecture circuit — on a legal defence and lots of PR.

The widespread revulsion over MPs expenses will be as nothing compared to the personal and institutionalised corruption exposed with an open inquiry. Which is why, of course, Blair, who has thus far gotten off light, must be in a bit of a sweat. I wonder what posterity will make of the state of his underpants right now.

Gary Younge on Labour's road to corruption. "If you keep resorting to the lesser of two evils, you just end up with evil."

Friday, 12 June 2009

Caryl Churchill's Gaza play in Tel Aviv

David Horovitch in Seven Jewish Children

You can watch a video extract of Seven Jewish Children, the Caryl Churchill play about Gaza, that's causing an uproar. It has now played in Hebrew in Tel Aviv, while the BBC has "declined to commission" a radio production of it.

Guardian's Michael Billington gives it four stars

Analysing the charge of anti-semitism.

Tony Kushner in The Nation on Churchill's play.

Read the full text of Seven Jewish Children at the Guardian.

Caryl Churchill's Gaza play in Tel Aviv

David Horovitch in Seven Jewish Children

You can watch a video extract of Seven Jewish Children, the Caryl Churchill play about Gaza, that's causing an uproar. It has now played in Hebrew in Tel Aviv, while the BBC has "declined to commission" a radio production of it.

Guardian's Michael Billington gives it four stars

Analysing the charge of anti-semitism.

Tony Kushner in The Nation on Churchill's play.

Read the full text of Seven Jewish Children at the Guardian.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Tiananmen Square: a view from the bridge


Twenty years and the best part of a couple of weeks ago I was praising the Chinese government to the skies. There was a prolonged demonstration in Tiananmen Square which coincided with a visit from Gorbachev and the government was patiently sitting it out.

"You see," I enthused to friends with the four students shot dead at Kent State University in Ohio by President Nixon's tin soldiers sharp in my memory, "if this was America they'd have sent in the National Guard". Instead, they were allowing the dissenters to make their point peacefully. It was as if Chinese communism had come of age and the new generation of leaders, remembering their debt and responsibility to the masses, had their welfare uppermost in their minds.

My father had promised us that the People's Liberation Army would never be turned on its own. The protest would probably peter out with some arrests to save face but also some positive steps taken to ensure grievances were addressed.

Then June 4th happened and ripped a hole in the universe.

You can't look at the photo above and not be awestruck by the guy's bravery and the potent symbolism he created. Neither should we forget the courage of the General heading the first incursion into the Square who refused to open fire, especially as his own daughter and her student friends were there. Or the ordinary people who gave sanctuary and medical assistance to unarmed protesters being mown down by a fully tooled-up army.

Andy at Socialist Unity has written an excellent piece that deals with the complexities of the situation at the time. This was certainly no straight forward Manichean good versus evil struggle that the western media would have us believe. The protest was comprised of a range of dissenting forces, from those who demanded an accelerated rush to capitalism and the further erosion of workers' rights that we've seen taking place ever since, to demands with which I am much more sympathetic — for a end to corruption and an increase in genuine democracy.

There were concerns that:
... economic liberalism would clash with the economic and social interests of the working class, (and to a much lesser degree the peasantry) who benefitted from the full employment, price regulation and social benefits of the “iron rice bowl” ... adventurist price reforms that deregulated the cost of basic necessities, at the same time as getting workers to sign agreements that cut their wages, and factories were laying off workers. So the economic reforms were experienced as a direct attack on the working class.


Anyone taking comfort that the protest sought a return to Western-style capitalism should remember this:
Left intellectual Wang Hui argues that the working class majority in these protests were not “pro-democracy” but anti-capitalist. They wanted an end to the price reforms, an end to growing inequality and the conspicuous wealth of the new entrepreneurs, they wanted to defend the social safety net of the Iron rice-bowl, and they wanted to defend full employment. ... Paradoxically therefore the June 4th Movement expressed polar opposites of political objectives, and the working class were demanding the cessation of the process that the students were arguing should accelerate.


It is somewhat nauseating to see Western media making propaganda capital out of these events when their own side has done so well out of the Iraq war and other adventures with very little comment. You wanted capitalism back in China? Well done. You got your wish and now 6,000 billionaires have been made in the country that once looked like it might create a fair and equitable society based on need, not greed.

Perhaps the best commentator on this hypocrisy is Ron Paul.
" I wonder how the US government would respond if China demanded that the United Nations conduct a full and independent investigation into the treatment of detainees at the US-operated Guantanamo facility? ... It is hard to exercise credible moral authority in the world when our motto toward foreign governments seems to be 'do as we say, not as we do.'"

Thanks to Splintered Sunrise for the Ron Paul link

See also this article by Liang Guosheng in Green Left Weekly (1996)

Tiananmen Square: a view from the bridge


Twenty years and the best part of a couple of weeks ago I was praising the Chinese government to the skies. There was a prolonged demonstration in Tiananmen Square which coincided with a visit from Gorbachev and the government was patiently sitting it out.

"You see," I enthused to friends with the four students shot dead at Kent State University in Ohio by President Nixon's tin soldiers sharp in my memory, "if this was America they'd have sent in the National Guard". Instead, they were allowing the dissenters to make their point peacefully. It was as if Chinese communism had come of age and the new generation of leaders, remembering their debt and responsibility to the masses, had their welfare uppermost in their minds.

My father had promised us that the People's Liberation Army would never be turned on its own. The protest would probably peter out with some arrests to save face but also some positive steps taken to ensure grievances were addressed.

Then June 4th happened and ripped a hole in the universe.

You can't look at the photo above and not be awestruck by the guy's bravery and the potent symbolism he created. Neither should we forget the courage of the General heading the first incursion into the Square who refused to open fire, especially as his own daughter and her student friends were there. Or the ordinary people who gave sanctuary and medical assistance to unarmed protesters being mown down by a fully tooled-up army.

Andy at Socialist Unity has written an excellent piece that deals with the complexities of the situation at the time. This was certainly no straight forward Manichean good versus evil struggle that the western media would have us believe. The protest was comprised of a range of dissenting forces, from those who demanded an accelerated rush to capitalism and the further erosion of workers' rights that we've seen taking place ever since, to demands with which I am much more sympathetic — for a end to corruption and an increase in genuine democracy.

There were concerns that:
... economic liberalism would clash with the economic and social interests of the working class, (and to a much lesser degree the peasantry) who benefitted from the full employment, price regulation and social benefits of the “iron rice bowl” ... adventurist price reforms that deregulated the cost of basic necessities, at the same time as getting workers to sign agreements that cut their wages, and factories were laying off workers. So the economic reforms were experienced as a direct attack on the working class.


Anyone taking comfort that the protest sought a return to Western-style capitalism should remember this:
Left intellectual Wang Hui argues that the working class majority in these protests were not “pro-democracy” but anti-capitalist. They wanted an end to the price reforms, an end to growing inequality and the conspicuous wealth of the new entrepreneurs, they wanted to defend the social safety net of the Iron rice-bowl, and they wanted to defend full employment. ... Paradoxically therefore the June 4th Movement expressed polar opposites of political objectives, and the working class were demanding the cessation of the process that the students were arguing should accelerate.


It is somewhat nauseating to see Western media making propaganda capital out of these events when their own side has done so well out of the Iraq war and other adventures with very little comment. You wanted capitalism back in China? Well done. You got your wish and now 6,000 billionaires have been made in the country that once looked like it might create a fair and equitable society based on need, not greed.

Perhaps the best commentator on this hypocrisy is Ron Paul.
" I wonder how the US government would respond if China demanded that the United Nations conduct a full and independent investigation into the treatment of detainees at the US-operated Guantanamo facility? ... It is hard to exercise credible moral authority in the world when our motto toward foreign governments seems to be 'do as we say, not as we do.'"

Thanks to Splintered Sunrise for the Ron Paul link

See also this article by Liang Guosheng in Green Left Weekly (1996)

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Bill Killed: David Carradine found dead in Thailand



He may have done Bruce Lee out of his coveted role as Kwai Chang Caine in the 1970s series, Kung Fu, and looked damn stoopid in yellowface, but actor David Carradine still gave lots of pleasure once you got past the adhesive tape.

Now the man who played the psycho Bill, boss of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, and who met his nemesis in Uma Thurman's Beatrix AKA The Bride in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, is dead. Found with a rope around his neck in Thailand.

All that eastern spiritual hokum and you still go out this way. So sad.

RIP David Carradine, 1936-2009

Bill Killed: David Carradine found dead in Thailand



He may have done Bruce Lee out of his coveted role as Kwai Chang Caine in the 1970s series, Kung Fu, and looked damn stoopid in yellowface, but actor David Carradine still gave lots of pleasure once you got past the adhesive tape.

Now the man who played the psycho Bill, boss of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, and who met his nemesis in Uma Thurman's Beatrix AKA The Bride in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, is dead. Found with a rope around his neck in Thailand.

All that eastern spiritual hokum and you still go out this way. So sad.

RIP David Carradine, 1936-2009

Who's Left?: how the Left failed the Big Test


In my latest New Internationalist column, Who's Left (May 2009), I wonder why the far-left has been so useless in putting forward the socialist argument when capitalism has been caught eating itself so spectacularly.

I watched stunned while over ten years the dominant strand within the Marxist left did over other leftists whenever a wave of solidarity manifested in positive action. Every time they welcomed someone with "talent", you gradually realised this was a ticket to ostracism, backstabbing and gleeful fantasies of Kronstadt-style discipline ("We should have shot them down like partridges", I kid you not).

It wasn't as if the movement was big or vibrant enough to withstand such losses. They may have stood on podiums lecturing the grunts about how every member is like gold dust in their "every sperm is sacred" spiel, but in practice they squandered the chief resource of any movement: its activists.

Corruption isn't just the preserve of bourgeois liberal politicians; it's a mindset. I was shocked to see the same motives of greed, power, fame and jealousy totally eclipsing the common cause in an Olympic bout of territorial pissing. Totally bonkers when they themselves had identified a limited window of opportunity following Blair's election in 1997 and the inevitable disillusion for anyone who hadn't been observing the upwards trajectory of the Tory creep.

Now that the public has seen through the political class the Left is nowhere. Today's local elections should have sent votes into the stratosphere, even if it was just in protest. But we know they won't.

It's good to see Independent columnist Mark Steel picking up on this at last, but as so many of them knew about this problem for ages and declined to help those of us who were trying to challenge such destructive behaviour, why has it taken so long? It's no good waiting until the axe is about to fall on you. That's not what comradeship and good politics is about. Anyone who's read the Pastor Niemoller T-shirt knows that: "First they came for the Communists ..."

I'd suggest that in turning a blind eye and failing to support dissenters those stalwarts of the left have been part of the very problem they now condemn. They can hardly complain now their own past practice is biting them on the bum.

Who's Left?: how the Left failed the Big Test


In my latest New Internationalist column, Who's Left (May 2009), I wonder why the far-left has been so useless in putting forward the socialist argument when capitalism has been caught eating itself so spectacularly.

I watched stunned while over ten years the dominant strand within the Marxist left did over other leftists whenever a wave of solidarity manifested in positive action. Every time they welcomed someone with "talent", you gradually realised this was a ticket to ostracism, backstabbing and gleeful fantasies of Kronstadt-style discipline ("We should have shot them down like partridges", I kid you not).

It wasn't as if the movement was big or vibrant enough to withstand such losses. They may have stood on podiums lecturing the grunts about how every member is like gold dust in their "every sperm is sacred" spiel, but in practice they squandered the chief resource of any movement: its activists.

Corruption isn't just the preserve of bourgeois liberal politicians; it's a mindset. I was shocked to see the same motives of greed, power, fame and jealousy totally eclipsing the common cause in an Olympic bout of territorial pissing. Totally bonkers when they themselves had identified a limited window of opportunity following Blair's election in 1997 and the inevitable disillusion for anyone who hadn't been observing the upwards trajectory of the Tory creep.

Now that the public has seen through the political class the Left is nowhere. Today's local elections should have sent votes into the stratosphere, even if it was just in protest. But we know they won't.

It's good to see Independent columnist Mark Steel picking up on this at last, but as so many of them knew about this problem for ages and declined to help those of us who were trying to challenge such destructive behaviour, why has it taken so long? It's no good waiting until the axe is about to fall on you. That's not what comradeship and good politics is about. Anyone who's read the Pastor Niemoller T-shirt knows that: "First they came for the Communists ..."

I'd suggest that in turning a blind eye and failing to support dissenters those stalwarts of the left have been part of the very problem they now condemn. They can hardly complain now their own past practice is biting them on the bum.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Dalai Lama the Teenager: it's so unfair!


Pity the poor Dalai Lama. For twenty years his followers have been grooming his chosen reincarnation of a spiritual leader and treating him like a god ever since they found him as a three-year old in Granada. And what does the little ingrate go and do? He discovers girls 'n' football and now won't sport a shaven head as a mark of his holiness, but wears it long like like his peers instead.

"They took me away from my family and stuck me in a medieval situation in which I suffered a great deal," said Osel Hita Torres.

They also made him live next to Richard Gere. Ker-rist! Can he sue?

Anyhow, good to know that all the Chinese have to do with the next one is swamp him with Playstations and telly and that's Tibet sorted.

Dalai Lama the Teenager: it's so unfair!


Pity the poor Dalai Lama. For twenty years his followers have been grooming his chosen reincarnation of a spiritual leader and treating him like a god ever since they found him as a three-year old in Granada. And what does the little ingrate go and do? He discovers girls 'n' football and now won't sport a shaven head as a mark of his holiness, but wears it long like like his peers instead.

"They took me away from my family and stuck me in a medieval situation in which I suffered a great deal," said Osel Hita Torres.

They also made him live next to Richard Gere. Ker-rist! Can he sue?

Anyhow, good to know that all the Chinese have to do with the next one is swamp him with Playstations and telly and that's Tibet sorted.

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