" Madam Miaow Says: February 2010

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Colour Me: Atone poem


COLOUR ME: ATONE POEM

Yellow sungold egg-yolk on the diagonal red
Crushes beetle blood to crimson cochineal.
Blue, blue, cerulean hue embedded in baked earth tones,
A green corner invades in fresh relief like an emerald army
Hardened to blood pooling on the wooden battlements.
Scarlet butts up and overwhelms
the callow verdigris, virile viridian, ice blues melting in the heat of the sun.

The Purple Emperor empowered, prides himself a sun-god beside the gold,
The old gold, the fresh bright lemony zing of the yellow Tang Emperor and his bronzed hordes.

On these battlements, these ramparts, marching these boards,
Colour swells and vibrates, tingling in the air,
The earth shuddering as colours clash, the world crashes in time and space.

Colour. Colour sizzles my brain, tangles nerves, jangles synapses,
Kick-starts old neurones into spinning, spitting life.
Dry powder pigments incendiary as gunpowder await the spark to heave it off and streak across the heaven of my senses.
Spectra ad astra.
Planets and creatures in wavelength forms, tiny pockets of frequency.
Mad eruptions, moonscapes and Martian fields
Licked by searing tongues of fire, zingy tingling violets,
The violence done by red storm dust devils quietened by placid blue waters lapping azure skies.

Colour. Give me colour I can eat.
Colour I can bathe in, marinate and toast me in.
The entire spectrum beyond ultra-violet, beneath infra-red,
all the colours I can’t yet see, waiting to be deciphered by my primitive brain like hieroglyphs to an ape.
Invisible as x-rays. Ever-present as dark matter.
Meaning hidden now but coiled spring-like hissing to me like a King Cobra.

Stuff my mouth, fill my ears with it. Span those chromatic scales.
Music for the eyes, soul food.
Damn my lightless wardrobe of relentless black, funereal widow’s weeds for the nearly dead.
A Black Hole absorbing every photon, imprisoning the spectrum deep in the void.
Hear the prisoners howl.

Give me the feast of colour that was there in the first breath,
The first instant my infant eyes opened and beheld all,
When I laid my eyes on life and no logic, no words,
No engineering manual told me one light beam from another.
Now the mote in my eye is all growed up into a beam.
Mote and beam in my glowering eye, sun-ray Sun Ra,
My little ray of sunshine in the darkest hour.

Yet stir up all these vivid hues and eat mud.
Each one separate gives beauty to each.
The difference is the reflection of the god-head in the Not-I.
The evanescence of All.
Mud and colour.
Dark and light.
Colour me delighted.
Shape the world, paint the cosmos, throw the spotlight.
I am dun.

(c) Anna Chen, Feb 2010

Colour Me: Atone poem


COLOUR ME: ATONE POEM

Yellow sungold egg-yolk on the diagonal red
Crushes beetle blood to crimson cochineal.
Blue, blue, cerulean hue embedded in baked earth tones,
A green corner invades in fresh relief like an emerald army
Hardened to blood pooling on the wooden battlements.
Scarlet butts up and overwhelms
the callow verdigris, virile viridian, ice blues melting in the heat of the sun.

The Purple Emperor empowered, prides himself a sun-god beside the gold,
The old gold, the fresh bright lemony zing of the yellow Tang Emperor and his bronzed hordes.

On these battlements, these ramparts, marching these boards,
Colour swells and vibrates, tingling in the air,
The earth shuddering as colours clash, the world crashes in time and space.

Colour. Colour sizzles my brain, tangles nerves, jangles synapses,
Kick-starts old neurones into spinning, spitting life.
Dry powder pigments incendiary as gunpowder await the spark to heave it off and streak across the heaven of my senses.
Spectra ad astra.
Planets and creatures in wavelength forms, tiny pockets of frequency.
Mad eruptions, moonscapes and Martian fields
Licked by searing tongues of fire, zingy tingling violets,
The violence done by red storm dust devils quietened by placid blue waters lapping azure skies.

Colour. Give me colour I can eat.
Colour I can bathe in, marinate and toast me in.
The entire spectrum beyond ultra-violet, beneath infra-red,
all the colours I can’t yet see, waiting to be deciphered by my primitive brain like hieroglyphs to an ape.
Invisible as x-rays. Ever-present as dark matter.
Meaning hidden now but coiled spring-like hissing to me like a King Cobra.

Stuff my mouth, fill my ears with it. Span those chromatic scales.
Music for the eyes, soul food.
Damn my lightless wardrobe of relentless black, funereal widow’s weeds for the nearly dead.
A Black Hole absorbing every photon, imprisoning the spectrum deep in the void.
Hear the prisoners howl.

Give me the feast of colour that was there in the first breath,
The first instant my infant eyes opened and beheld all,
When I laid my eyes on life and no logic, no words,
No engineering manual told me one light beam from another.
Now the mote in my eye is all growed up into a beam.
Mote and beam in my glowering eye, sun-ray Sun Ra,
My little ray of sunshine in the darkest hour.

Yet stir up all these vivid hues and eat mud.
Each one separate gives beauty to each.
The difference is the reflection of the god-head in the Not-I.
The evanescence of All.
Mud and colour.
Dark and light.
Colour me delighted.
Shape the world, paint the cosmos, throw the spotlight.
I am dun.

(c) Anna Chen, Feb 2010

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

St Tebbit and the dragon: Tory kicks child at Chinese New Year


Bah, humbug! Is this to be a new tradition inaugurated by the Tories and implemented in Barking councils across the land?

Oblivious to the customs of swarthy interlopers and unaware that the noisy hordes near his house in Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk were celebrating Chinese New Year, Conservative peer and Thatcher favourite "Lord" Norman Tebbit threw an epic wobbly.

First he tried to shut down the joyous ushering-in of the New Year of the Tiger being enjoyed by the locals by hurling himself into the crowd, sending them flying. Then he cleverly tried to silence the drums by putting his hands over one as it was being played with the inevitable result that the drummer kept playing and his hands took the brunt.

Even kids weren't safe as Tebbit "viciously" put the boot into the rear end of the dragon which happened to contain a child.

Shiver me chopsticks, Norm, I thought you liked dragons considering you worked with one for so long.

Luckily for him, Patrick Chung, the restaurant owner who organised the New Year celebrations, happens to be a Tory councillor.

Tebbit magnanimously said, "I forgave Mr Chung and will not be taking this any further."

Expect an ethnic-friendly selection sometime soon.

Kung hei fat choy and God bless us every one.

St Tebbit and the dragon: Tory kicks child at Chinese New Year


Bah, humbug! Is this to be a new tradition inaugurated by the Tories and implemented in Barking councils across the land?

Oblivious to the customs of swarthy interlopers and unaware that the noisy hordes near his house in Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk were celebrating Chinese New Year, Conservative peer and Thatcher favourite "Lord" Norman Tebbit threw an epic wobbly.

First he tried to shut down the joyous ushering-in of the New Year of the Tiger being enjoyed by the locals by hurling himself into the crowd, sending them flying. Then he cleverly tried to silence the drums by putting his hands over one as it was being played with the inevitable result that the drummer kept playing and his hands took the brunt.

Even kids weren't safe as Tebbit "viciously" put the boot into the rear end of the dragon which happened to contain a child.

Shiver me chopsticks, Norm, I thought you liked dragons considering you worked with one for so long.

Luckily for him, Patrick Chung, the restaurant owner who organised the New Year celebrations, happens to be a Tory councillor.

Tebbit magnanimously said, "I forgave Mr Chung and will not be taking this any further."

Expect an ethnic-friendly selection sometime soon.

Kung hei fat choy and God bless us every one.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Paul Foot on libel laws and the left


Apropos of nothing in particular, here's what the late Paul Foot had to say on libel laws and the left.

An appeal by Paul Foot on behalf of the socialist bookshop Bookmarks.

This is an appeal to all socialists and free thinkers to contribute to the enormous costs of a case brought against socialists by socialists. In August last year, the editor of Socialist Review, Lindsey German, and Bookmarks Publications, the socialist publisher, got a letter from the well known libel lawyers Peter Carter Ruck and Partners on behalf of their clients Quintin Hoare and Branca Magas.

The letter complained about an article written in 1993 by Alex Callinicos (who also got a letter) and included in the book The Balkans, Nationalism and Imperialism, published in 1999 by Bookmarks. The details of the complaint were spelled out in a statement read in open court recently.

Hoare and Magas complained that one passage in the article meant they were both 'apologists' for Franjo Tudjman and his regime in Croatia. This letter is not concerned with the allegations in the original publication. It has been a long tradition in the labour movement that arguments between socialists should be conducted openly and should not, except in extreme circumstances, be tested in the courts by the libel laws. The reason for this tradition is simple. As soon as lawyers get involved in these arguments, the expense of the action in almost every case far exceeds both any damage done by the libel and anything a socialist publisher or author can possibly afford.

This history of this case vindicates that tradition. Quintin Hoare and Branca Magas are well known in British left wing circles. From the outset Bookmarks Publications and Lindsey German made no attempt to justify their article. They sought to settle the matter as soon and as cheaply as possible.

After much correspondence they agreed to make a statement in open court apologising for the article and agreeing to pay each of the plaintiffs £1,500. Carter-Ruck's bill for these proceedings is likely to be over £10,000.

This means that the total bill for bringing the action and pursuing it, though it was undefended, is more than three times the payment made to the two people who made the complaint. And this for an item in a book whose total sale at Bookmarks and other bookshops in the year before the complaint was less than 50!

At no stage did Mr Hoare or Ms Magas approach Bookmarks Publications without their lawyers. They went straight to their lawyers, at no expense to themselves, since Carter-Ruck were operating on a "no win, no fee" basis.

Bookmarks Publications is a small left wing publisher with very few funds, all of which go into developing new publications. The publisher, Lindsey German and Alex Callinicos cannot possibly afford these sums. Hence this appeal to anyone in the socialist and labour movement who would like to express their disapproval of pursuing political arguments through the law courts.

Paul Foot
“... It has been a long tradition in the labour movement that arguments between socialists should be conducted openly and should not, except in extreme circumstances, be tested in the courts by the libel laws. The reason for this tradition is simple. As soon as lawyers get involved in these arguments, the expense of the action in almost every case far exceeds both any damage done by the libel and anything a socialist publisher or author can possibly afford. ... Hence this appeal to anyone in the socialist and labour movement who would like to express their disapproval of pursuing political arguments through the law courts.”

[Quintin Hoare and Branka Magas v Alex Callinicos, Lindsey German and Bookmarks Publications Ltd (Eady J, 6 October 2003)]

Paul Foot on libel laws and the left


Apropos of nothing in particular, here's what the late Paul Foot had to say on libel laws and the left.

An appeal by Paul Foot on behalf of the socialist bookshop Bookmarks.

This is an appeal to all socialists and free thinkers to contribute to the enormous costs of a case brought against socialists by socialists. In August last year, the editor of Socialist Review, Lindsey German, and Bookmarks Publications, the socialist publisher, got a letter from the well known libel lawyers Peter Carter Ruck and Partners on behalf of their clients Quintin Hoare and Branca Magas.

The letter complained about an article written in 1993 by Alex Callinicos (who also got a letter) and included in the book The Balkans, Nationalism and Imperialism, published in 1999 by Bookmarks. The details of the complaint were spelled out in a statement read in open court recently.

Hoare and Magas complained that one passage in the article meant they were both 'apologists' for Franjo Tudjman and his regime in Croatia. This letter is not concerned with the allegations in the original publication. It has been a long tradition in the labour movement that arguments between socialists should be conducted openly and should not, except in extreme circumstances, be tested in the courts by the libel laws. The reason for this tradition is simple. As soon as lawyers get involved in these arguments, the expense of the action in almost every case far exceeds both any damage done by the libel and anything a socialist publisher or author can possibly afford.

This history of this case vindicates that tradition. Quintin Hoare and Branca Magas are well known in British left wing circles. From the outset Bookmarks Publications and Lindsey German made no attempt to justify their article. They sought to settle the matter as soon and as cheaply as possible.

After much correspondence they agreed to make a statement in open court apologising for the article and agreeing to pay each of the plaintiffs £1,500. Carter-Ruck's bill for these proceedings is likely to be over £10,000.

This means that the total bill for bringing the action and pursuing it, though it was undefended, is more than three times the payment made to the two people who made the complaint. And this for an item in a book whose total sale at Bookmarks and other bookshops in the year before the complaint was less than 50!

At no stage did Mr Hoare or Ms Magas approach Bookmarks Publications without their lawyers. They went straight to their lawyers, at no expense to themselves, since Carter-Ruck were operating on a "no win, no fee" basis.

Bookmarks Publications is a small left wing publisher with very few funds, all of which go into developing new publications. The publisher, Lindsey German and Alex Callinicos cannot possibly afford these sums. Hence this appeal to anyone in the socialist and labour movement who would like to express their disapproval of pursuing political arguments through the law courts.

Paul Foot
“... It has been a long tradition in the labour movement that arguments between socialists should be conducted openly and should not, except in extreme circumstances, be tested in the courts by the libel laws. The reason for this tradition is simple. As soon as lawyers get involved in these arguments, the expense of the action in almost every case far exceeds both any damage done by the libel and anything a socialist publisher or author can possibly afford. ... Hence this appeal to anyone in the socialist and labour movement who would like to express their disapproval of pursuing political arguments through the law courts.”

[Quintin Hoare and Branka Magas v Alex Callinicos, Lindsey German and Bookmarks Publications Ltd (Eady J, 6 October 2003)]

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour at the National Theatre 2010: review


Every Good Boy Deserves Favour
Tom Stoppard, André Previn
Dir: Felix Barrett and Tom Morris
National Theatre January-Feb 2010

This may have been cold-war commie-bashing but it was superior cold-war commie-bashing.

I have previously sat through Tom Stoppard’s all-day trilogy The Coast Of Utopia in abject misery as boredom made me want to chew off my own limbs. Possessing tenacity and fortitude, and hoping against hope that some sort of political illumination or dramatic denoument would take place over the course of HOURS and HOURS of this drek, I stayed put. It didn’t. But I do remember someone done up like a large marmalade cat wandering through the Marx-Bakunin drinking and fighting marathon, presumably to ensure the audience (and cast) was awake. Or perhaps we did nod off and dreamt it. Collectively, of course.

I have endured Rock ‘n’ Roll (about Syd Barrett and communist oppression in Czechoslovakia) which, while feted by critics, disappointed me with its stagey dialogue and puppy Marxism, improved only a little by the addition of the historian Eric Hobsbawm as consultant and the presence of Brian Cox.

Yes, I have done all this and wondered what anyone saw in Stoppard except his usefulness in his role as one of our most prominent cultural cold war warriors.

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour tells us what (actually, as does Rosenkrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead). This 65 minute piece is the playwright at his absolute best. The dialogue sparkles and fizzes with some uproarious laugh-out-loud moments and clever-clever lines as well as intelligent ones. (And, yes, I can tell the difference.) He can flip from axioms of Euclid to some wonderfully bad puns about harps being “plucky” and throwing a trombone to the dog, and all within an informed argument on the brutality of the Soviet state towards dissenters.

Written in 1977, long before Guantanamo, creeping acceptance of torture closer to home and assassination, and the growing awareness that any state will do whatever it needs in order to counter meaningful dissent (whether that state be the old Soviet Union, China, the US or Britain), the play scathingly critiques the Soviet mental asylum system where political opponents were sent until they shut up or died.

Alexander Ivanov (Adrian Schiller) is an internationally renowned intellectual (based on Vladimir Bukovsky) whose complaint that the state locks sane people in asylums, lands him in one himself. He shares his cell, sorry, “ward”, with another Ivanov (Julian Bleach utterly believable as a lunatic) who really is demented and believes he has an orchestra. In a wonderful theatrical device, the play requires a full orchestra on stage (the Southbank Sinfonia), seen only by Ivanov and us, making us part of his madness. It’s also a master metaphor for how we function as members of an orchestra when we take our place in society.

The music, written by André Previn, references the great Russian composers and is so good that I later looked everywhere for a recording. Sadly, it appears that there isn’t one.

Alexander goes on hunger strike and begins to reek of acetone as his body eats itself, much like Soviet Russia is doing. During one visit from his son, Sacha, (Shea Davis or Wesley Nelson on different nights) Alex tells him, “A girl removing her nail-varnish smells of starvation.” “Russia is a civilised country,” he says, “very good at Swan Lake and space technology, and it is confusing if people starve themselves to death.” Bobby Sands, who died of his hunger strike four years later under Thatcher, might have agreed.

In one of many musical jokes, the violinist doctor (Jonathan Aris), who really does have an orchestra, uses emotional blackmail concerning Alexander’s son to get him to retract his accusations and abandon his refusal to eat, plucking the strings EGBDF as he tells him, “He’s a good boy. He deserves a father”.

The fifty musicians conceal several dancers who emerge at the climax when culture descends into chaos. The soldiers among them beat up the musicians and smash their instruments: the nail that sticks up has to be hammered down.

The play is resolved by a cheeky and most effective solution which has been perfectly set-up and which I can’t possibly reveal. You’ll have to catch it next time around. Which may be a long time as it is apparently pretty damned expensive to produce. Shame.

If you read this play as an indictment of authoritarianism everywhere then you will enjoy.

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour at the National Theatre 2010: review


Every Good Boy Deserves Favour
Tom Stoppard, André Previn
Dir: Felix Barrett and Tom Morris
National Theatre January-Feb 2010

This may have been cold-war commie-bashing but it was superior cold-war commie-bashing.

I have previously sat through Tom Stoppard’s all-day trilogy The Coast Of Utopia in abject misery as boredom made me want to chew off my own limbs. Possessing tenacity and fortitude, and hoping against hope that some sort of political illumination or dramatic denoument would take place over the course of HOURS and HOURS of this drek, I stayed put. It didn’t. But I do remember someone done up like a large marmalade cat wandering through the Marx-Bakunin drinking and fighting marathon, presumably to ensure the audience (and cast) was awake. Or perhaps we did nod off and dreamt it. Collectively, of course.

I have endured Rock ‘n’ Roll (about Syd Barrett and communist oppression in Czechoslovakia) which, while feted by critics, disappointed me with its stagey dialogue and puppy Marxism, improved only a little by the addition of the historian Eric Hobsbawm as consultant and the presence of Brian Cox.

Yes, I have done all this and wondered what anyone saw in Stoppard except his usefulness in his role as one of our most prominent cultural cold war warriors.

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour tells us what (actually, as does Rosenkrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead). This 65 minute piece is the playwright at his absolute best. The dialogue sparkles and fizzes with some uproarious laugh-out-loud moments and clever-clever lines as well as intelligent ones. (And, yes, I can tell the difference.) He can flip from axioms of Euclid to some wonderfully bad puns about harps being “plucky” and throwing a trombone to the dog, and all within an informed argument on the brutality of the Soviet state towards dissenters.

Written in 1977, long before Guantanamo, creeping acceptance of torture closer to home and assassination, and the growing awareness that any state will do whatever it needs in order to counter meaningful dissent (whether that state be the old Soviet Union, China, the US or Britain), the play scathingly critiques the Soviet mental asylum system where political opponents were sent until they shut up or died.

Alexander Ivanov (Adrian Schiller) is an internationally renowned intellectual (based on Vladimir Bukovsky) whose complaint that the state locks sane people in asylums, lands him in one himself. He shares his cell, sorry, “ward”, with another Ivanov (Julian Bleach utterly believable as a lunatic) who really is demented and believes he has an orchestra. In a wonderful theatrical device, the play requires a full orchestra on stage (the Southbank Sinfonia), seen only by Ivanov and us, making us part of his madness. It’s also a master metaphor for how we function as members of an orchestra when we take our place in society.

The music, written by André Previn, references the great Russian composers and is so good that I later looked everywhere for a recording. Sadly, it appears that there isn’t one.

Alexander goes on hunger strike and begins to reek of acetone as his body eats itself, much like Soviet Russia is doing. During one visit from his son, Sacha, (Shea Davis or Wesley Nelson on different nights) Alex tells him, “A girl removing her nail-varnish smells of starvation.” “Russia is a civilised country,” he says, “very good at Swan Lake and space technology, and it is confusing if people starve themselves to death.” Bobby Sands, who died of his hunger strike four years later under Thatcher, might have agreed.

In one of many musical jokes, the violinist doctor (Jonathan Aris), who really does have an orchestra, uses emotional blackmail concerning Alexander’s son to get him to retract his accusations and abandon his refusal to eat, plucking the strings EGBDF as he tells him, “He’s a good boy. He deserves a father”.

The fifty musicians conceal several dancers who emerge at the climax when culture descends into chaos. The soldiers among them beat up the musicians and smash their instruments: the nail that sticks up has to be hammered down.

The play is resolved by a cheeky and most effective solution which has been perfectly set-up and which I can’t possibly reveal. You’ll have to catch it next time around. Which may be a long time as it is apparently pretty damned expensive to produce. Shame.

If you read this play as an indictment of authoritarianism everywhere then you will enjoy.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

SWP implosion, Part Deux: And You Will Know Them By The Trail Of Dead



Society breaks down, we're ripped off by banks and government, stomped on by bureacracy, Marx is looking vindicated to more and more of us. And just as we need a strong movement fighting our corner we are left with the clusterfuck that is the SWP and their associates.

Yes, go ahead and join them and their spin-offs. But do watch the promo video first.

More here and here

Cassandra Miaow says I told you so


UPDATE: Splintered Sunrise with possibly the best article on the subject of conscience — or absence of it — in the left. Plus an impassioned case for the exercise of conscience over self-interest from Harpymarx.

Maria at Dolphinarium on top UK Leninist's alleged secret ambition to defect to Daily Sport

SWP implosion, Part Deux: And You Will Know Them By The Trail Of Dead



Society breaks down, we're ripped off by banks and government, stomped on by bureacracy, Marx is looking vindicated to more and more of us. And just as we need a strong movement fighting our corner we are left with the clusterfuck that is the SWP and their associates.

Yes, go ahead and join them and their spin-offs. But do watch the promo video first.

More here and here

Cassandra Miaow says I told you so


UPDATE: Splintered Sunrise with possibly the best article on the subject of conscience — or absence of it — in the left. Plus an impassioned case for the exercise of conscience over self-interest from Harpymarx.

Maria at Dolphinarium on top UK Leninist's alleged secret ambition to defect to Daily Sport

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Abbey Road Studios up for sale: Beatles history down the pan


For years whenever I've driven or taken the bus into town down Abbey Road in north London, I've been amused by the tourists playing with the traffic on the famous crossing outside the EMI studios, re-enacting the cover shot from The Beatles' Abbey Road album (1969).

The graffiti builds up on the white walls under the railings with love-lorn messages they probably think are there for posterity, only for it to be whitewashed every few weeks and the whole process starting over.

Pop groups, rock bands and classical orchestras have recorded here for decades, making use of one of the biggest and best equipped recording studios in Europe, dating back to 1931.

And now, beaten by the technology that means we can produce our own albums on Garageband in our bedrooms plus a massive debt of £3.3bn, EMI are putting it up for sale. However, the question does remain of how big orchestras are going to record. Yet another example of a society's culture imploding under the limitations of capitalism, the superstructure collapsing into the economic base like a cake left out in the rain.

EMI is just the latest and best-loved studio going the same way as the iconic Routemaster bus and the red telephone boxes. Bollards to this. (Has anyone noticed those disgusting dinky 2-dimensional yellow flaps replacing our beautiful solid white bollards in certain London councils?)

When the block is turned into the inevitable luxury flats, I trust the fans will carry on graffitiing. I may very well join them.

Abbey Road Studios up for sale: Beatles history down the pan


For years whenever I've driven or taken the bus into town down Abbey Road in north London, I've been amused by the tourists playing with the traffic on the famous crossing outside the EMI studios, re-enacting the cover shot from The Beatles' Abbey Road album (1969).

The graffiti builds up on the white walls under the railings with love-lorn messages they probably think are there for posterity, only for it to be whitewashed every few weeks and the whole process starting over.

Pop groups, rock bands and classical orchestras have recorded here for decades, making use of one of the biggest and best equipped recording studios in Europe, dating back to 1931.

And now, beaten by the technology that means we can produce our own albums on Garageband in our bedrooms plus a massive debt of £3.3bn, EMI are putting it up for sale. However, the question does remain of how big orchestras are going to record. Yet another example of a society's culture imploding under the limitations of capitalism, the superstructure collapsing into the economic base like a cake left out in the rain.

EMI is just the latest and best-loved studio going the same way as the iconic Routemaster bus and the red telephone boxes. Bollards to this. (Has anyone noticed those disgusting dinky 2-dimensional yellow flaps replacing our beautiful solid white bollards in certain London councils?)

When the block is turned into the inevitable luxury flats, I trust the fans will carry on graffitiing. I may very well join them.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Jeff Beck makes Eric Clapton sing "Hi Ho Silver Lining", O2, 14 Feb 2010: review



What could be better than spending Valentine's Day evening at a concert starring two of the most revered rock guitarists in the history of music? Even the transport ran smoothly and we were on our train home from London's O2 Centre within minutes of the show ending — amazing for a Sunday.

Jeff Beck appeared with his new line-up, minus the fabulous Tal Wilkenfeld but plus the sleazegrindy Rhonda Smith who wore a fabulous array of silver jewellery that I feared would reduce her bass to splinters. Shrek-alike Narada Michael Walden, only not green and without funny ears, smashed the living daylights out of his drum kit like a happy baby with an endless supply of breakable rattles. Jason Rebello, the only survivor from the previous line-up, did the Jan Hammer biz as required from any Beck keyboard person.

In typical Jeff fashion, both his guests were of the female persuasion. Sharon Corr with blue violin and fetching pectoral butterfly, accompanied the band on a new track off his next album (EDIT: "Mna Na H'Éireann" "Women of Ireland", thanks OzQueen ) and Imelda May in an elegant flame-coloured gown reprised her favourite, Lilac Wine.

Not content with this musical grouping, Jeff was also backed by a small orchestra. The man himself abandoned his customary all-white garb and pixie-boots which did make him look like an Essex refugee and added black to his wardrobe, with a cute black top over a white under-shirt. Tonight we were mostly wearing sleeveless as usual to show off his all-year-round tan and arms toned to within an inch of their lives, set off with a wide silver bangle.

There were a lot of new numbers I didn't recognise but he climaxed with spectacular rendition of Nessun Dorma. I didn't manage to record that but you can see a video of the same from last August here. Hmm, last night's version was a lot more intense. Hopefully, you'll get to see it when the DVD comes out.

Jeff's hair, the colour of well-waxed furniture, looked like Heather Mills had got hold of it and given it the Macca treatment. (Loved One insisted Jeff's hair has been the same barmaid black for aeons so it may have been the lights.) Eric Clapton, on the other hand, is proud of his grey locks. He played an understated blues set with two keyboard players, drums, bass and two backing singers. And no orchestra.

I Shot The Sheriff was brilliant with an exciting lengthy guitar solo. "Why isn't that noodling?", I asked my handsome escort who had acquired great seats in the first block of banked seating. "Because it goes somewhere, " came the wise reply.

Cocaine was magical (hmm, maybe I should rephrase that). Refraining from indulging his fans too much, he stayed away from his other greatest hits (I wanted Layla, I'm that unsophisticated) and played basically a blues set plus some others such as Living On Faith and Tell The Truth.

The treat of the night was when Jeff walked back on to play with his mate. They make a lovely couple, completely different and yet brilliantly matched. Their history goes back 40 years to when Beck replaced Clapton in the Yarbirds in the 1960s. Nice to see them together. The set climaxed with I Wanna Take You Higher which did just that.

One video person is uploading onto YouTube so check out their page. I'm posting the video I shot on my mobile of the encore, Hi Ho Silver Lining, which Beck once complained hung around his neck "like a pink toilet seat". It was most amusing to see Mr Clapton singing this and we loved it.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Cannibal robots in the US army could eat human flesh


Is it my imagination or did I just hear Stephen Sackur on BBC Radio 4 asking a rather furtive American scientist about the new "organic matter-eating" combat robot now being developed by the arms corporations?

"Did this mean it could end up eating the flesh of dead (or live!) soldiers in the battlefield?", he asked. "No," came the shaky and utterly unconvincing reply. "That wouldn't be allowed by the Geneva Convention."

Oh, how I laffed. "Be All You Can Be" is now "Eat All You Can Eat".

Remember, boys and gals, the choice is socialism or barbarism. Civilised pundits are already making the arguments for the latter.

All of which reminds me that Caprica, the prequel series to the magnificent Battlestar Galactica, has hit UK TV screens. Episode four next on Sky 1. It all kicks off with a ruthless scientist whose genius daughter has been killed in a terrorist attack. Typical of the creators who enjoy twisting our melons, this is far from your average mawkish tale of grief-stricken loving father. Oh, yes. Review to come later.

Cannibal robots in the US army could eat human flesh


Is it my imagination or did I just hear Stephen Sackur on BBC Radio 4 asking a rather furtive American scientist about the new "organic matter-eating" combat robot now being developed by the arms corporations?

"Did this mean it could end up eating the flesh of dead (or live!) soldiers in the battlefield?", he asked. "No," came the shaky and utterly unconvincing reply. "That wouldn't be allowed by the Geneva Convention."

Oh, how I laffed. "Be All You Can Be" is now "Eat All You Can Eat".

Remember, boys and gals, the choice is socialism or barbarism. Civilised pundits are already making the arguments for the latter.

All of which reminds me that Caprica, the prequel series to the magnificent Battlestar Galactica, has hit UK TV screens. Episode four next on Sky 1. It all kicks off with a ruthless scientist whose genius daughter has been killed in a terrorist attack. Typical of the creators who enjoy twisting our melons, this is far from your average mawkish tale of grief-stricken loving father. Oh, yes. Review to come later.

Awesome waves injure US surfing contest spectators






It's an overused word, I know, but "awesome" is what these giant waves are. That top picture gets the hairs on the back of my neck standing up and the skin on my scalp shivering.

The waves were mighty enough to injure fifteen spectators at a US surfing contest south of San Francisco. Despite the danger — or because of it — you can see the lure of the sexy deathly sea in all its moods. Now that is a sport I would love to do.

Madam Miaow says ... Ooh! Ah! Respek nature.

BBC Video here

Awesome waves injure US surfing contest spectators






It's an overused word, I know, but "awesome" is what these giant waves are. That top picture gets the hairs on the back of my neck standing up and the skin on my scalp shivering.

The waves were mighty enough to injure fifteen spectators at a US surfing contest south of San Francisco. Despite the danger — or because of it — you can see the lure of the sexy deathly sea in all its moods. Now that is a sport I would love to do.

Madam Miaow says ... Ooh! Ah! Respek nature.

BBC Video here

Friday, 12 February 2010

SWP implosion: alpha female goes crazy ape bonkers



I was going to write about the implosion of everyone's favourite left cult, the SWP. But then I thought, nah! Fuckit! Let's just watch baboons shagging.

More on the exciting goings on in the British left here at SU and at Splintered Sunrise

Cassandra Miaow wrote this

SWP implosion: alpha female goes crazy ape bonkers



I was going to write about the implosion of everyone's favourite left cult, the SWP. But then I thought, nah! Fuckit! Let's just watch baboons shagging.

More on the exciting goings on in the British left here at SU and at Splintered Sunrise

Cassandra Miaow wrote this

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Alastair Campbell breaks down in tears on TV over Tony Blair


A distressed Alastair Campbell broke down in tears during a TV interview with Andrew Marr when quizzed about Tony Blair and his new relationship with the British public.

"It's so unfair, why does everyone hate him?", sobbed Campbell when probed by BBC's Marr about the role the public would play in his crumbling reputation.

My Little Tony
Choking back tears he declared, "All us pretty fan-boys are heart-broken. Richard "Dick" Madeley even went on YouTube to defend Tony. Everybody hurts and Simon Cowell may step in with a record to raise funds for any court case he may have to face after the devastation that Iraq has wreaked on him. Did I mention this was unfair?"

Campbell is also thought to be under pressure due to screwing up at Chilcot despite his smugness and a friendly panel. In a second bite at the cherry, he said:
... he had "misunderstood" a question and in a memo to the inquiry said he feared he had given the wrong impression that the then prime minister could have claimed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction "beyond doubt" even if intelligence chiefs disagreed.

When pressed with a cup of tea from Marr, he replied," He did not sleep with that woman. I mean, he did not mislead Parliament. Look, I've been to hell and back over this so I get confused. Have you read my latest work of fiction? "

Tony Blair is an honourable man.



Satire on life-support. Paul Routledge replies

More on Blair's eccentric take on corruption and BAE:
Ms Short's complaint that the sale of military radar to poverty-stricken Tanzania "stank" of corruption did not prevent from Mr Blair forcing the deal through. ... Britain is too lax in dealing with corporate corruption and bribery ...

Tony Blair is a wealthy man.

Alastair Campbell breaks down in tears on TV over Tony Blair


A distressed Alastair Campbell broke down in tears during a TV interview with Andrew Marr when quizzed about Tony Blair and his new relationship with the British public.

"It's so unfair, why does everyone hate him?", sobbed Campbell when probed by BBC's Marr about the role the public would play in his crumbling reputation.

My Little Tony
Choking back tears he declared, "All us pretty fan-boys are heart-broken. Richard "Dick" Madeley even went on YouTube to defend Tony. Everybody hurts and Simon Cowell may step in with a record to raise funds for any court case he may have to face after the devastation that Iraq has wreaked on him. Did I mention this was unfair?"

Campbell is also thought to be under pressure due to screwing up at Chilcot despite his smugness and a friendly panel. In a second bite at the cherry, he said:
... he had "misunderstood" a question and in a memo to the inquiry said he feared he had given the wrong impression that the then prime minister could have claimed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction "beyond doubt" even if intelligence chiefs disagreed.

When pressed with a cup of tea from Marr, he replied," He did not sleep with that woman. I mean, he did not mislead Parliament. Look, I've been to hell and back over this so I get confused. Have you read my latest work of fiction? "

Tony Blair is an honourable man.



Satire on life-support. Paul Routledge replies

More on Blair's eccentric take on corruption and BAE:
Ms Short's complaint that the sale of military radar to poverty-stricken Tanzania "stank" of corruption did not prevent from Mr Blair forcing the deal through. ... Britain is too lax in dealing with corporate corruption and bribery ...

Tony Blair is a wealthy man.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Wilko Johnson live video: 'Going Back Home' with Charles Shaar Murray



Here you are, dear reader: Wilko Johnson's band play 'Going Back Home' with Charles Shaar Murray guesting on harmonica. Norman Watt-Roy on bass and Dylan Howe on drums. Videoed at the premiere of Julien Temple's Oil City Confidential documentary film about the early days of Dr Feelgood and their roots in Canvey Island, Essex.

Movie and gig screened from Koko's, Camden in London, to 40 plus cinemas around the UK on Tuesday 2nd February 2010.

Review of the event here.

Wilko Johnson live video: 'Going Back Home' with Charles Shaar Murray



Here you are, dear reader: Wilko Johnson's band play 'Going Back Home' with Charles Shaar Murray guesting on harmonica. Norman Watt-Roy on bass and Dylan Howe on drums. Videoed at the premiere of Julien Temple's Oil City Confidential documentary film about the early days of Dr Feelgood and their roots in Canvey Island, Essex.

Movie and gig screened from Koko's, Camden in London, to 40 plus cinemas around the UK on Tuesday 2nd February 2010.

Review of the event here.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Wilko Johnson gig and Oil City Confidential premiere at Koko's, Camden: review



Last night's premiere of Julien Temple's Dr Feelgood documentary, Oil City Confidential, was stunning, a combination of movie screening and Wilko Johnson gig simultaneously beamed from a packed Koko's in Camden to 40 plus venues across the UK.

Singer/guitarist Wilko Johnson's charismatic amphetamine-charged performance reminded me why I used to go to gigs. Tall, lean and lanky, he struts the stage like a cross between Nureyev and Max Wall. Possessing one of the most beautiful male faces ever, the Nureyev factor may have morphed into the late Ken Campbell now he's 62, but, as with Campbell, time hasn't withered his beauty, only seasoned it. There are few seats at Koko's, my back was killing me, but I'd have stood for another four hours to see that gig again.

The sense of occasion was kicked off with an introduction by Keith Allen and a few words from director Julien Temple. Then the screening of Oil City Confidential, set mostly in the Feelgoods' home town of Canvey Island on the Thames estuary. Solidly working class, this Essex locale was double-blighted by the devastating flood of 1953 which killed 58 people, and the construction of the huge oil refinery. A TV clip shows a young John Wilkinson articulately arguing the case for the local residents and against the might of the oil companies: a wilful Wilko as ever.

I hadn't realised Wilko had been an English teacher before turning his childhood passion into a successful career. I envy his students. I bet he was wonderful, just the type of inspirational class-warrior we'd have loved at my East End school with his long hair and determination to keep the human spirit alive. When the head-teacher gave him a dressing-down for dressing down, he resigned, telling the old fogey that he'd travelled further in his mind and geographical locations than some of the dead-heads in the staff-room and that he'd be back in a pink Cadillac. Dunno if he ever drove that pink Caddy through the streets of Canvey but he had the last laugh.

Not that the band was always a bundle of giggles. The three Johns and Lee Brilleaux who formed the rhythm and blues band, Dr Feelgood, in 1971 embraced gangster miserabilism and won fans across the world with their high energy and angry music while prog-rock hippies were Mooging themselves into cosmic oblivion. The freshly shorn Wilko and frontman Brilleaux held audiences mesmerised and won over the New Musical Express even before they'd been signed. Not one but two massively talented divas in the band meant the social divide between sensitive moody Wilko (who'd charge up on speed and spend tour evenings in his room writing the album) versus the pisshead contingent (everyone else) turned into a chasm and an eventual split.

The film splices current interviews with documentary footage and witty movie clips telling the story of the Feelgoods and their huge influence on popular music, defining British pub rock and affecting fledgling American punk.

The gig never lagged. For the 50- and 60-year-olds pogoing in the mosh pit this was one area where they could still keep it up all night. Bassist Norman Watt-Roy (Blockheads) was fantastic and energetic, a right little showoff. Dylan Howe (son of Steve) delivered crisp, snappy drumming. A freshly slimmed Alison Moyet guested, wowing us with her lovely blues-tone voice, and had some of us women wondering what her fitness regime was. Man-mountain zydeco accordionist Slim (The Urban Voodoo Machine) played great despite having to battle heroically against deafening low-frequency feedback.

And Charles Shaar Murray — NME veteran journo, author, harpist and guitarist/singer — shared the stage with Wilko for the first time in almost thirty years to play Brilleauesque harmonica on four numbers: Dimples, Boom Boom, Going Back Home and Route 66. He threw shapes and blew that thang like it was the '70s all over again. From our perch at the side, Charles's Crosstown Lightin' compadre, harmonica player Buffalo Bill Smith, gave him a ten, and his bassist Marc Jefferies yelled, "Charles is the coolest dude I know". (CSM says Marc needs to broaden his circle of acquaintances. But I say, STFU, CSM. Whadda you know?)

Wilko Johnson gig and Oil City Confidential premiere at Koko's, Camden: review



Last night's premiere of Julien Temple's Dr Feelgood documentary, Oil City Confidential, was stunning, a combination of movie screening and Wilko Johnson gig simultaneously beamed from a packed Koko's in Camden to 40 plus venues across the UK.

Singer/guitarist Wilko Johnson's charismatic amphetamine-charged performance reminded me why I used to go to gigs. Tall, lean and lanky, he struts the stage like a cross between Nureyev and Max Wall. Possessing one of the most beautiful male faces ever, the Nureyev factor may have morphed into the late Ken Campbell now he's 62, but, as with Campbell, time hasn't withered his beauty, only seasoned it. There are few seats at Koko's, my back was killing me, but I'd have stood for another four hours to see that gig again.

The sense of occasion was kicked off with an introduction by Keith Allen and a few words from director Julien Temple. Then the screening of Oil City Confidential, set mostly in the Feelgoods' home town of Canvey Island on the Thames estuary. Solidly working class, this Essex locale was double-blighted by the devastating flood of 1953 which killed 58 people, and the construction of the huge oil refinery. A TV clip shows a young John Wilkinson articulately arguing the case for the local residents and against the might of the oil companies: a wilful Wilko as ever.

I hadn't realised Wilko had been an English teacher before turning his childhood passion into a successful career. I envy his students. I bet he was wonderful, just the type of inspirational class-warrior we'd have loved at my East End school with his long hair and determination to keep the human spirit alive. When the head-teacher gave him a dressing-down for dressing down, he resigned, telling the old fogey that he'd travelled further in his mind and geographical locations than some of the dead-heads in the staff-room and that he'd be back in a pink Cadillac. Dunno if he ever drove that pink Caddy through the streets of Canvey but he had the last laugh.

Not that the band was always a bundle of giggles. The three Johns and Lee Brilleaux who formed the rhythm and blues band, Dr Feelgood, in 1971 embraced gangster miserabilism and won fans across the world with their high energy and angry music while prog-rock hippies were Mooging themselves into cosmic oblivion. The freshly shorn Wilko and frontman Brilleaux held audiences mesmerised and won over the New Musical Express even before they'd been signed. Not one but two massively talented divas in the band meant the social divide between sensitive moody Wilko (who'd charge up on speed and spend tour evenings in his room writing the album) versus the pisshead contingent (everyone else) turned into a chasm and an eventual split.

The film splices current interviews with documentary footage and witty movie clips telling the story of the Feelgoods and their huge influence on popular music, defining British pub rock and affecting fledgling American punk.

The gig never lagged. For the 50- and 60-year-olds pogoing in the mosh pit this was one area where they could still keep it up all night. Bassist Norman Watt-Roy (Blockheads) was fantastic and energetic, a right little showoff. Dylan Howe (son of Steve) delivered crisp, snappy drumming. A freshly slimmed Alison Moyet guested, wowing us with her lovely blues-tone voice, and had some of us women wondering what her fitness regime was. Man-mountain zydeco accordionist Slim (The Urban Voodoo Machine) played great despite having to battle heroically against deafening low-frequency feedback.

And Charles Shaar Murray — NME veteran journo, author, harpist and guitarist/singer — shared the stage with Wilko for the first time in almost thirty years to play Brilleauesque harmonica on four numbers: Dimples, Boom Boom, Going Back Home and Route 66. He threw shapes and blew that thang like it was the '70s all over again. From our perch at the side, Charles's Crosstown Lightin' compadre, harmonica player Buffalo Bill Smith, gave him a ten, and his bassist Marc Jefferies yelled, "Charles is the coolest dude I know". (CSM says Marc needs to broaden his circle of acquaintances. But I say, STFU, CSM. Whadda you know?)

Monday, 1 February 2010

Serial Killer Cat Fools Everyone: Tony Blair takes tips


Oscar the cat has his pawprints all over 50 deaths at an old people's home in America. He chooses his victims, curls up with them overnight and secretly dispatches them. Oddly, the authorities have mixed up cause and effect and credited the murdering moggy with a supernatural ability to detect imminent doom, comforting the dying in their final hours, when it's obvious to the rest of us that he's been bumping off persistent bed-blockers.

And now he has been given a book deal: "Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat." (Hyperion, $23.99). JP Morgan want to sign him, he stands to make a fortune on the lecture circuit, and world-class villains want to stroke him. Except for Tony Blair who is watching developments and has complained, "It's not fair. How come Oscar gets away with it? I want to see how well he'd do in front of the Chillcat Inquiry".

Oscar says, "No more Kit-E-Kat and the odd mouse for me. I'm hob-nobbing with the big guys, now. Where's my beluga?"

Beware, if Oscar decides to help you and promises to bring democracy to your sad life, this is the kiss of death and you will be dead by dawn. Tony Blair is taking tips.

Yeah! You may look cute ...

UPDATE: 1st Feb 2010 Iraq inquiry may recall Tony Blair over conflicting evidence

Serial Killer Cat Fools Everyone: Tony Blair takes tips


Oscar the cat has his pawprints all over 50 deaths at an old people's home in America. He chooses his victims, curls up with them overnight and secretly dispatches them. Oddly, the authorities have mixed up cause and effect and credited the murdering moggy with a supernatural ability to detect imminent doom, comforting the dying in their final hours, when it's obvious to the rest of us that he's been bumping off persistent bed-blockers.

And now he has been given a book deal: "Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat." (Hyperion, $23.99). JP Morgan want to sign him, he stands to make a fortune on the lecture circuit, and world-class villains want to stroke him. Except for Tony Blair who is watching developments and has complained, "It's not fair. How come Oscar gets away with it? I want to see how well he'd do in front of the Chillcat Inquiry".

Oscar says, "No more Kit-E-Kat and the odd mouse for me. I'm hob-nobbing with the big guys, now. Where's my beluga?"

Beware, if Oscar decides to help you and promises to bring democracy to your sad life, this is the kiss of death and you will be dead by dawn. Tony Blair is taking tips.

Yeah! You may look cute ...

UPDATE: 1st Feb 2010 Iraq inquiry may recall Tony Blair over conflicting evidence

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