Monday 19 December 2011

Kim Jong Il: power grows from the barrel of a vegetable

"They don't make 'em like they used to."

I'm just getting to grips with the sad news that the man named after Superman's Dad has passed on to the Great Hall of the People in the Sky.

We all know that power grows from the barrel of a gun. Here's Dear Leader practising with veg.

As Sigmund Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and a vegetable is just a vegetable. Or not.

"Hmm, something's missing."

"The people's cheap laugh is deepest red."

"Do we have something a bit nobblier?"

"Well, it's the right colour."

"I may be needing some of these these."

"Huh! Jesus needed twelve of these."

So Hitchens, Havel and Kim are standing at the Pearly Gates ...

This weekend's haul by the Grim Reaper has been an impressive one. First Christopher Hitchens, then Vaclav Havel, now ding dong, Kim Jong Il is dead. Is there no God!!!? Hitchens will know by now but he ain't telling.

The only time I saw Hitch was at Bookmarks where he took on the titans (or were they just tits?) of the SWP on the subject of NATO and former Yugoslavia. I disagreed with him but was shock 'n' awed by his bravura performance, standing on a tiny makeshift stage, drink in one hand, fag in the other, tying up the Greatest Minds of the Left like Danny Kaye in The Court Jester. Shame about Iraq and loving up to Bush, though.

He was a great wit, a beautiful youth and had massive style but, in the end, he was more an entertainer and a token radical for the Bush Right than a serious political analyst.

There were early signs that Hitchens was changing sides, or at least hedging his bets, such as in his support for the Falklands War and admiration for Thatcher. His tectonic rationalisation for siding with the new power in the world got under way once the forces of progress were in retreat after 9/11, famously cheerleading the massacre at Fallujah and laying into the Dixie Chicks for their rather mild statement of dissent days before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The spirit of Hitchens's hero Voltaire was in absentia, as was his great rhetorical style, when during the peak of their monstering — death threats, McCarthyite attacks in the right-wing media, blacklisting and careers almost demolished — he joined in the public baying for their blood by referring to them in Viz-talk as "fat sluts", later correcting this to the "Fat Slags" of comic-book fame. So much for his gallant defence of the laydeez from the evil woman-hating Taliban.

Country music veteran Merle Haggard said of the episode:
I don't even know the Dixie Chicks, but I find it an insult for all the men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching.

We have burqas in the West — they're just invisible.

“Water boarding” is a potentially dangerous activity in which the participant can receive serious and permanent (physical, emotional and psychological) injuries and even death, including injuries and death due to the respiratory and neurological systems of the body. (A clause in the indemnification contract signed by Hitch)

Hitchens is often praised for his moral clarity despite some gobsmackingly blatant murkiness. What, for me, summed up the disjuncture between his sharp mind and his inability to empathise was his failure to grasp that waterboarding hurts, can cause brain damage and kills. He lacked the imagination to understand the terror and pain until it was actually done to him under controlled conditions by friendly practitioners in the US army. "You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning ..." Good for him that he recanted his earlier position on this score in Vanity Fair but most of us don't need first-hand experience of being half drowned to understand that this horror is torture.

The tragedy of Christopher Hitchens was that he absconded just as we needed him. The joy was that he was great entertainment as a live act — just don't take him too seriously.

Latte Labour

Harpy Marx

The Genocidal Imagination of Christopher Hitchens

Norman Finkelstein

He said what!!? about Columbus and the native American Indians?

Gauche obituary

Nick Cohen on his friend

Peter Hitchens on his brother

Saturday 10 December 2011

Ruling elite depravity Pt 4: tax whisteblower Osita Mba prosecuted while Hartnett gets pay-off

Here's another case that goes on the shitlist I'm calling "How depraved is out ruling elite?"

You'd think, wouldn't you, that in these times of austerity, cuts and sharing the pain in our Big Society, that anyone who helped stem the flow of wealth away from the public purse and into greedy corporate maws would be held up as an example to us all. Maybe even a sign that the government is getting something right. But, no. Perverse and self-serving, the system is rigged so that the more outrageous your economic misdemeanour, the more you are rewarded.

Osita Mba is a name that should go down in history as a rare outbreak of courage and integrity in these brutish times. He is the solicitor at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs department (HMRC) who blew the whistle on tax supremo David Hartnett's curious habit of letting corporations off of their huge tax bills: Goldman Sachs £10mn interest and an eye-watering and possibly illegal £1bn for Vodafone. Denying for ages that dinners with corporate bigwigs had greased his podgy palms, Hartnett has finally decided to bugger off but not without a £1.7 million pension fund of our money, and not without setting off a spite-bomb with a slow fuse for the heroic lawyer without whom Hartnett would have still been indulging his generosity for the rich.

When you hear Frances Maude (pension £42,000 pa) and others complaining about Public sector pensions (average: £7,000 pa), just remember this:
Hartnett's package will anger critics. At the most recent valuation, in March 2011, his pension pot was worth £1.7m. He is expected to receive an annual payout of up to £80,000 and a lump sum on retirement of one year's salary, which is recorded as £160-165,000.

In an act that some might suspect of malice, Hartnett has set in motion a prosecution of Osita which may result in his sacking or, worse, his prosecution.

Personally, I'd rather see this fate directed at the hospitality-loving Hartnett rather than Osita, who should be garlanded with flowers and have rose petals strewn at his feet by dancing girls.

If Osita is punished I am personally going to riot.

You can sign a petition here.

UK Uncut's response to resignation of "Whitehall's most 'wined and dined' civil servant" here.

Monday 5 December 2011

How depraved is our ruling elite Pt 3: coalition steals from cancer patients

The bankers are paying themselves bonuses with gusto, Tamara Ecclestone still has her £500,000 shelf of Birkin bags, the rich are getting richer and the rest of us are having to pick up the bill.

And still we hear the shrill call that it's the deficit that needs eliminating. So how well are our masters doing in pursuing their aims?

Have they closed tax loopholes? Asked the rich to cough up some of the increasing profits made, f'rinstance, by supermarkets and energy companies? Whacked a supertax on yachts and skiiing holidays?

Nope, in this big society, the coalition government has decided to turn the bean-counters on to yet another group of the weakest in society, this time, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Under the plans being consulted on, seriously ill cancer patients in the middle of gruelling intravenous chemotherapy treatment will be forced to prove they are too sick to work. Some patients will have to face back-to-work interviews or be denied a crucial benefit - Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This is despite unambiguous recommendations from cancer experts and 30 cancer charities[2] who have clearly stated that patients going through debilitating cancer treatment - and who have to leave work - should be automatically eligible for ESA.

Meanwhile, we all knew it but the Guardian's Randeep Ramesh confirms now it's official.
Income inequality among working-age people has risen faster in Britain than in any other rich nation since the mid-1970s owing to the rise of a financial services elite who through education and marriage have concentrated wealth into the hands of a tiny minority, according to a new report by the OECD.

To them that have much let them have even more. The top ten percenters' proportion of the national wealth has climbed to 12 times that of the bottom 10%, up from eight times.
This trend is especially pronounced in Britain, where the dramatic rise in inequality has been fuelled by the creation of a super-rich class. The share of the top 1% of income earners increased from 7.1% in 1970 to 14.3% in 2005. ... Just prior to the global recession, the OECD says the very top of British society – the 0.1% of highest earners – accounted for a remarkable 5% of total pre-tax income, a level of wealth hoarding not seen since the second world war.

We can no longer expect the government to protect the electorate that didn't vote them in in the first place. In the absence of human agency, the best we can hope for is that divine forces take a hand and do things to infuriate the rich like remove all the snow from Klosters and Aspen. Heh!

Laurie Penny locates decision to pursue cancer patients in Labour government.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Yet more depravity at the top: Jeremy Clarkson's joke

How depraved is our ruling elite: No 2

Ah, yes. A big Number two.

Then there's the BBC okaying Jeremy Clarkson's Pinochetesque outburst calling for strikers to be taken out and shot in front of their families. Under pressure from 21,000 complaints, the public corporation then told him to apologise, exercising more punitive authority over two middle-aged lads making a mischievous phone call in Sachsgate than they have over the popular entertainer so admired by Norwegian killer Anders Breivik and the EDL who are calling for attacks on trade unionists.

I am told by John Mendelsohn that, in the US, Ann Coulter is calling for a Kent State-like response (that is, fatal shootings) to the Occupy movement.

String him up with dental floss and then make him drive a Trabant. Only joking.

Or throttle him with his own oversized gizzards in front of his idiot sidekick. Only choking.

Not that the "only joking" plea worked for the Facebook Two, jailed for four years each after the summer riots, or Paul Chambers convicted and fined over a joke Tweet in the Twitter joke trial.

Before Clarkson fans start bleating about freedom of speech, remember that this is someone who supports the use of super-injunctions for the rich and, indeed, reached for his lawyer to shut up his ex-wife when he didn't like what she was saying about him. He only had the order lifted when he saw that it didn't work.

Comics (I know, Clarkson's not very comical) bust down taboos, paving the way for others to follow: usually good when you are mocking authority and control. But how about when you are facilitating the return of a mindset that divides us, that reinforces the powers of those repressive authorities? The beeb surely wouldn't want their man planting a seed in the collective unconscious for use of the same atrocities occurring in places like Colombia. Surely not just as working people are starting to challenge the pillaging of their their livelihoods by bankers and business, and when the right is on the rise in Europe?

More depravity: Dow Chemicals sponsors 2012 Olympics

Reports that one of the sponsors of our wonderful 2012 Olympics is Dow Chemicals, owner of Union Carbide which killed 15,000 people 27 years ago in Bhopal in India and is still maiming the local population, prompts me to start a "How depraved is our ruling elite" series here at Madam Miaow.

Dow's refusal to fully compensate the victims and clean up properly failed to move the Olympic organisers to do the right thing, and has effectively been rewarded with the kudos and prestige expected to result from the glorious Stratford event. (Oh, hold on. I think I see what Olympics chairman Lord Sebastian Coe and his pack are doing.)

Whether or not this is a cunning ploy to take the evil corporation down with the sinking ship — along with its its ground-to-air missiles, good taste and disposable buildings costing hundreds of millions in dosh — to ignore the plight of poor people continuing to be poisoned really does rank with the lowest of the low. Economic power is all that counts.

No wonder the Indian protesters burnt an effigy of smirking Seb Coe.

Read more about what happened in Bhopal here

Thursday 1 December 2011

St Ives & Me: BBC R4 11.30am today

St Ives & Me: BBC R4 11.30am Thursday 1st December 2011
Available to listen on iPlayer for seven days

Put a face to the voices: pix here

St Ives, a Cornish seaside town 300 miles from comedian and poet Anna Chen's London home has been attracting artists for two centuries. A varied assortment of eccentrics, entrepreneurs and free spirits have turned the pilchard-fishing and tin-mining town into a popular cultural haven.

Anna has been holidaying there since she was ten and knew many of the famous artists who've populated and popularised St Ives.

In the late 1970s the bohemian fashion journalist and novelist Molly Parkin was a regular on the St. Ives scene and she recalls how, in the dark recesses of Mr Peggotty's disco, she introduced Anna to artist Patrick Heron. In his Porthmeor studio by the Atlantic, Heron used to make Anna mugs of tea while he painted and sketched her and their conversations opened her eyes to the arts. Revisiting those studios, she meets two present day painters maintaining the St Ives' tradition.

On a personal tour of the town, she returns to Barbara Hepworth's sculpture garden, hears about the unique light conditions that attract so many artists and reveals the vital roles Napoleon, Von Ribbentrop and the 1960s hippies played in promoting and preserving St Ives.

At lunchtime, in Norway Square, Anna performs her comic poetry in the St Ives Festival, which has been attracting trendsetters for thirty years.

And she waits on the beach, with bated breath, for the legendary 33rd wave.

Producer: Chris Eldon Lee
A Culture Wise production for BBC Radio 4.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

You lucky bastard: pension envy in Life of Brian

Lies, more lies and colossal whoppers brainwashing people who have little to envy those who have little more. Fed up with TV & radio vox pop of private sector workers slating people in the public sector for an average pension of £5,000 per year? The video above will cheer you up.

How about everyone's pensions being decent? What about all those company directors with £4 million pension pots? How about the top ten per cent of earners who haven't been touched by Osborne's attacks on workers?

Government wages war on poor: good luck to the strikers

Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

The best of luck to today's public sector workers and their strike. Yesterday's Autumn Statement by George Osborne — an acceleration of misery for most of us — was a declaration of class war on the poorest in society who do all the useful work.

Polly Toynbee lays out the facts in an impassioned piece in the Guardian:
Not one penny more was taken from the top 10% of earners. Every hit fell upon those with less not more. Fat plums ripe for the plucking stayed on the tree as the poorest bore 16% of the brunt of new cuts and the richest only 3%, according to the Resolution Foundation. Over £7bn could be harvested with 40% tax relief on higher pensions, while most earners only get 20% tax relief; £2bn should be nipped from taxing bankers' bonuses, but the bank levy announced was nothing extra. There was no mansion tax on high-value properties, though owners don't even pay their fair share of council tax, and property is greatly undertaxed compared with other countries.

Worse still, two-thirds of properties worth over £1m now change hands while avoiding all their 5% stamp duty, by using offshore company accounts. But not a word passed Osborne's lips on tax avoidance and evasion. Another 12,000 tax collectors are losing their jobs while some £25bn is evaded and £70bn avoided. In a time of national emergency, Osborne had no breath of rebuke about the responsibility of the rich not to dodge taxes, no threat to curb the culture of avoidance. Despite the High Pay Commission report on out-of-control boardroom pay – which even the Institute of Directors has called "unsustainable" – the chancellor said nothing. How adamantly he ruled out the Tobin tax on financial transactions, called for by those dangerous lefties Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel.

Instead came the great attack on public sector employees on the eve of the biggest strike in memory. This was a declaration of open class war – and war on the pay of women, 73% of the public workforce. After a three-year freeze, public pay rises are pegged at 1% for two years, whatever the inflation rate. That means this government will take at least 16% from their incomes overall. But the plan to abolish Tupe – the rule that ensures public workers are not paid less if their service is privatised – is outrageously unjust, and will lead to mighty resistance to all privatisation from senior as well as junior staff.

Then there are the four myths around today's strike which have been pwned in Left Foot Forward. F'rinstance, that pensions aren't sustainable at the current level:
The assumptions are based on current policies, not government proposals. Confirming earlier findings in the Hutton Report (pdf), they clearly predict the cost of public pensions will fall from 2% of GDP to 1.8% in 2030 and 1.4% in 2060 - without any of the current Hutton proposals.

The reason that public sector pensions are higher? Because so few in the private sector have a pension at all!

As for being the work of "militants", "78 per cent of Unison voted in favour of the strike, 83 per cent of the GMB, 75 per cent of Unite – all mandates which any politician would kill for".
You may remember, of course, that Johnson was elected Mayor of London in 2008. He gained 42.48 per cent of the first preferences in London, on a turnout of 45.33 per cent. So London has a mayor triggered by less than a fifth of the voting population – just 19 per cent.

Faisal Islam of Channel 4 News has ten questions for George Osborne, starting with, "You are announcing unspecified massive spending cuts for the next parliament to meet your target. Isn’t this exactly what you criticised Labour for?"

The BBC says that 60% of the public are supporting the strike so the shameful position of Labour's Ed Miliband and Rachel Reeves are not exactly cutting with the electorate.

Neither are the braying banker sympathisers. As one Tweet put it, if you can write an anti-strike rant, thank a teacher.

Politics Home: A Statement that may seal the Chancellor’s fate. "Look at the decision to cut tax credits which will raise rather than reduce child poverty levels – but refusing to repeat the bank bonus tax as Labour suggested. How out of touch can this Chancellor get?"

Paul Mason on Osborne's £30 billion of extra cuts. "There is now no chance of a sustained recovery, either in the real economy or the public finances, by the time we get to the pre-election period."

All this, and yet Rachel Reeves, a Labour frontbencher marked for higher things (with 666 tattooed under her hair, more like), says: "We do not support the strike because a strike is a sign of failure."

Anthony Hilton, former City Ed for the Evening Standard, on the myth of public-pension Sir Humphreys.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Big business turns TV toxic

My latest NEW INTERNATIONALIST magazine column December 2011

Big business turns TV toxic

The ghost of Milton Friedman must be breaking out the bubbly in whatever Circle of Hell he now inhabits.

Across the globe, his Satanic little helpers have been sucking the wealth out of the system like a parasitic alien virus to feed the plutocrats at the top as public services are 'liberalised'. And now, in the Mother of all Parliaments, the Houses of both Commons and Lords have handed over Britain's glorious National Health Service to the forces of capital.

You know it's a bad thing when Cherie Blair sets up a company to profit from pillaging the NHS. Private clinics in supermarkets, no less. Croesus wept!

The October vote on NHS "reform" represents a massive seismic shift in our society ... but where have the media been in all of this?

It wasn't until the day after that some of the media happened to mention the colossal conflict of interest among those dismantling our national treasure. The TV outlets came to bury the news, not ring out a warning or a danger, or analyse what this would mean for their viewers. So while we were all watching Strictly Come Dancing, the Sopranos were making their major play. It's like the last reel in The Godfather where Michael Corleone attends his son's baptism while his enemies are bumped off.

Business is now more powerful than our democratic institutions, and to prove it, they're all over the media like a poisonous rash.

The Apprentice, Dragons' Den, Secret Millionaire ... All those toxic shows where hatchet-faced middle-managers with thousand-yard stares tell desperate losers which part of their souls they have to hack away in order to be a winner. Noticed how our entertainment is wall-to-wall with Wall Street wannabees naturalising this nightmare? If there was any fairness in the world, we'd be screening They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969) on a 24-hour loop as a warning to dem yoot.

It's not like we can wait for them to die out. Their well-fed spoilt children, like little emperors, are forming a queue, assuming privilege and telling-off rights over the rest of us. Ye gods, when did we last see the child of a sleb actually studying and doing something even two stages away from commerce, where success isn't measured in share-prices?

We're entering the Heart of Darkness as the delicate cultural superstructure is sucked back into Mordor and all the little Orcs start running things, while we're dragged into the 10th century.

Kids, you won't remember this, but there was actually a time when we had the beancounters on the run. When company directors earned only 50 times what their lowest-paid workers received.

Good luck to the protesters in Greece, Spain, America, Britain ... everywhere. We need you.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Brilliant scary alpine-coaster video



GAUCHE: A LEFT TAKE ON THE EURO CRISIS: by Paul Anderson, Tribune column, 24 November 2011

Eurosceptics crowing about how they have been vindicated by the Eurozone crisis are beginning to drive me nuts. I don’t think they have been vindicated, but that’s for another column. What matters now is this:

1. Like it or not, a calm negotiated dissolution of the euro is not possible
It is true that currency unions have in the past been dismantled without catastrophic economic disruption. In recent years, Britain’s currency union with Ireland ended in 1979 when Ireland joined the European exchange rate mechanism; and Slovakia and the Czech Republic introduced separate currencies in 1993 after Czechoslovakia’s “velvet divorce”.

It is imaginable that at some time in the future the Eurozone could be broken up by mutual consent of its participants without precipitating disaster (whether that is a desirable outcome is another matter). This is, however, utterly implausible in the near future. The bond markets are in a state of panic and smell blood, and not even the smallest reduction in Eurozone membership – a Greek exit – could take place without triggering further panic that forced Italy, Portugal and Spain out too. The only plausible scenario for ending the euro as we know it in the foreseeable future is a chaotic collapse.

2. The collapse of the euro would be a disaster for Britain
Such a collapse would be ruinous for every country that was forced out. In the run-up to exit, they would experience catastrophic capital flight. Their banks would implode and credit would disappear. As businesses failed, unemployment would rocket – and people left in work would find their living standards and purchasing power slashed as a result of the devaluation that euro exit would inevitably bring.

The impact would be felt throughout the world. Germany and other countries still in the Eurozone would go into deep recession as their banks took the hit of defaults on loans to the leaver countries and as their exports to those countries slumped. Britain would take an economic hammering. The Eurozone is Britain’s biggest export market, responsible for nearly half of British export revenues, and British banks are massively exposed to Eurozone debt. The disintegration of the Eurozone, and the consequent wider economic downturn, would be a calamity for Britain.

3. The euro must be saved
It follows that it is in everyone’s interests, including Britain’s, for the euro to be rescued. The key question is how. This, of course, is what the European political class has been arguing about for months – without providing a credible answer, which in turn has exacerbated the crisis as the markets have factored in the possibility of meltdown.

The immediate priority is to end the bond market panic to allow the Eurozone debtors to borrow more at reasonable rates of interest. The problem is that this requires the Eurozone as a whole to underwrite their borrowing – which means Germany, as Europe’s biggest creditor nation, taking on responsibility for the debts of southern Europe, either directly or indirectly. Up to now, however, the Germans have refused to do so. The German economic policy establishment, horrified by the prospect of inflation above all else, considers that the priority is for the indebted countries to reduce their debts and has ruled out the European Central Bank acting as lender of last resort. German voters balk at their taxes bailing out what they see as profligate and lazy southern Europeans.

The most likely way out of this impasse is that a deal will be struck whereby the Germans relent on bankrolling the Eurozone, but only on condition that the debtor countries immediately implement draconian austerity budgets and accept tough, intrusive Eurozone-wide budget rules.

That would calm the bond markets, but at great cost:

Austerity would almost certainly strangle what little growth there is in southern Europe, with knock-on effects for everyone else.
Such a regime would place the burden of paying for the sovereign debt crisis – which, lest we forget, is the result of the global banking crisis of 2008 and the ensuing recession, not decades of state profligacy – almost entirely on the shoulders of the working class.
Handing over responsibility for overall economic policy to the Eurozone would mean that the key decisions on taxation and spending would no longer be taken by democratically elected governments – a dramatic erosion of national sovereignty.
So what should democratic socialists do? First, argue for a recasting of the role of the European Central Bank to include pursuit of growth as well as stability. Second, press for a fairer sharing of the pain of austerity by ensuring that the rich pay more, starting with a Tobin tax. And third, demand a massive increase in the powers of the European Parliament, the only Europe-wide democratic institution, to maximise accountability of the new economic policy regime.

It’s hardly a panacea, but it’s a lot better than crowing.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Barbarism 2011 style

Barbarism and utter depravity from the state represented by the university authorities, the police, the bankers and politicians.

Asians Art Museum reports:
UC Davis professor issues Open Letter demanding Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s resignation

“Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

“This is what happened. You are responsible for it. . . .

“I call for your resignation because you are unfit to do your job. You are unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis. In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately.”

Read full letter

Also: Katehi’s $400,000 salary (2009) and “corruption charges” (Sfgate, 6/16/09)

Tuesday 22 November 2011

How Tribune would deal with the economic crisis

Paul Anderson shows us how to do it.

There's more sense in his demonstration here than anything we've been offered by politicians in the past three years since the economy imploded in 2008. Well done, that man.

Taken on our seaside trip last week to Southwold and the wonderfully weird Under the Pier Show by genius Tim Hunkin.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Obama in Yo Mama war with China: Pacific Rimmers look out!

"We never liked their noodles, anyway."

Is it my imagination or is cuddly President Barack Obama picking a fight with China?

No sooner has the world begun to heal after the Bush neocon excesses that led to such bloodshed in the Middle east, not to mention an enormous fillip to the arms industry, than Obama announces a tectonic shift in US imperialist policy.

Only a few weeks since Hillary Clinton announced that the new superpower was in the queue not so far along from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia, Syria, Iran and Korea for whipping into shape, I listened to Obama's speech to the Australian Parliament last night, struck by sabre-rattling out of a bygone age. "The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay." Is he on something?

The Guardian said:
Obama's speech came the day after he announced he would send military aircraft and up to 2,500 marines to northern Australia for a training hub to help allies and protect American interests across Asia. He declared the US was not afraid of China, by far the biggest and most powerful country in the region.

China's sensitive about having gunboats up her Yangtse, and sending in the marines plus warships to the region is like poking a stick at a pitbull. Reminding China of her ignominious past being gang-banged by the West is not the best way to foster good relations, especially if you are seeking her dosh to get you out of our economic crisis. I would suggest less of the, "C'mon if you think you're 'ard enough", and more of the "Gosh, what big mountains of cash you have. May we have some? Please?"

Actually, Barack said: ""Let there be no doubt: in the Asia-Pacific in the 21st century, the United States of America is all in." Which is diplomat speak for: "You spilt my pint. Outside!"

He continued:
"With most of the world's nuclear powers and some half of humanity, Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation, needless suffering or human progress. We've seen that China can be a partner, from reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula to preventing proliferation. We'll seek more opportunities for cooperation with Beijing, including greater communication between our militaries to promote understanding and avoid miscalculation."

Obama held out the threat of the big stick and I understand several horses' heads are now winging their way to Hu, Wen, Hao and Wai.

The cheeky fucka told them: "We will do this, even as continue to speak candidly with Beijing about the importance of upholding international norms and respecting the universal human rights of the Chinese people."

Meanwhile, the US Occupy protesters are being given tea and cakes in the White House and treated to BBQs in New York's Zuccotti Park while sympathetic cops give them foot-massages.

I'm sure the Australian Aboriginal peoples will be most pleased to have the American's using their vast bombing ranges in the north of the continent as well as all the other excercises and "training". Wonder if the School of the Americas will have a chance to shine?

Could the shift in focus to the Pacific be anything to do with the large oil resources in the South China Sea? As George Orwell said, imperialism consists of the cop and the soldier holding down the native while the businessman goes through their pockets. Or as I see it, the school bully is mugging the other kids for their lunch-money. Unfortunately for America, this new kid does kung fu.

Expect proxy wars and monstering of China in the supine media as we all get programmed to cheer World War Three and a Half.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Eurozone Madness: the other story

He may not have been my favourite Celebrity Big Brother contestant, to put it mildly, but George Galloway writes a stunning piece that nails the argument about the Eurozone crisis, little of which has been aired in the mainstream press.

It appeared in the Morning Star and I have it via Socialist Unity but I'm posting the whole thing here as we need to know these things.

This crisis is a time to demand the impossible
Friday 11 November 2011 by George Galloway
Shakespeare would have had little difficulty in relating the drama unfolding on the European and global stage.

The troupe of players from the political class have their "entrances and exits" until they reach this latest scene - a "second childishness and mere oblivion; Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

Toothless, wilfully blind, gaudy and impotent sums up the Cannes summit meeting of the richest 20 countries last week and the ongoing response of political leaders to the crisis engulfing the eurozone and the wider global economy.

Behind the talking heads and cliched headlines lies a barely spoken truth - the whole model of managing global capitalism of the last three decades is breaking down as the financial crisis unleashed with the collapse of Lehman Brothers three years ago morphs and mutates from one geographical or economic area to another. There is no end in sight.

In the case of Europe, it is a 60-year project of co-operation among the elites at the expense of the mass of people that is coming unstuck.

Through the fraying seams are poking the heads of monsters from the last century which we were told were safely shrouded and buried.

For while toothless when it comes to halting the crisis itself, the business elites and their acolytes across the Establishment political spectrum have their claws out and sharpened, slashing into every gain working people have made since the hungry '30s.

Half of young people in Spain are unemployed. In Britain, it's already a record at one million and set to rise much further, not least as the decades-long expansion of university education goes into reverse.

Every aspect of life in Greece is already being lopped and squeezed. The predictable result, according to the prestigious medical journal the Lancet, is that people are dying, more of them and earlier.

The bailout of Greece is anything but. It is like a payday loan of the type that more and more people in Britain are being forced into.

Witness the proliferation of loan-shark outfits popping up in abandoned shops on run-down high streets across the country. No sooner is the money received at exorbitant interest rates than it is handed straight to corporate creditors and banks.

According to the plan for Greece - the plan, remember - the debt-burden is to rise to twice economic output as the austerity measures sink the country into deeper slump.

In 10 years it's supposed to fall back to 120 per cent. That's the level now in Italy, which has just plunged into the eye of the storm.

No wonder no-one really believes the austerity plan will work, even in its own terms.

But still, like some demented general in the bloodbath of the first world war, they press on, hurling men, women, children and the social fabric over the top to be shredded by murderous machine-gun fire.

Perhaps in years to come they'll concoct an equivalent of the poppy to mark another fallen generation. The hypocrites and hirelings can wear it ever larger - maybe chrysanthemums would suit them.

And with the pain inflicted on the millions by the millionaires, come all the old elitism, scapegoating and chauvinism.

Instead of German soldiers bayoneting Belgian nuns, we have the despicable lie that the common people of southern Europe are feckless scroungers who have brought this all on themselves.

Murdoch may be on the ropes, but Channel 4 stepped in, like a tag-team partner, to beat up on the suffering people of Greece this week.

"Greek for a Week" could have bubbled up straight from the Wapping sewer.

Its premise, never questioned, was that the average Greek is lazy, coddled by generous state provision and expecting handouts from the rest of us. Another devious Johnny-foreigner.

In truth, Greeks are at the top of the league table for working hours in Europe and at the bottom when it comes to pay.

The people protected by the state are the oligarchs, the shipping magnates, media barons and associated bankers. Just like here really.

If anyone you know is tempted by this xenophobic drivel, remind them that welfare dependency and pampered public servants are exactly the insults hurled by the government and its friends here in Britain at disabled people, the unemployed, and the nurses, hospital porters, school caretakers and staff who are set to strike later this month against a pensions robbery greater than anything even contemplated by the unlamented Robert Maxwell of 20 years ago.

There are other similarities too which any opposition worthy of the name would be skewering David Cameron on every day.

The Greek oligarchs - the 1 per cent who lord it over us - are not the wealth creators.

They are sucking up everything they can and investing just 7 per cent of output back into the economy.

The rest is being shipped and splashed out in the property market of London's Chelsea and the financial speculation which inflated this crisis in the first place.

That's exactly what the bankers and captains of industry are doing in this country.

Investment in making real things, in infrastructure and in vital services, has plummeted.

Instead, we have more speculation and indulgence on everything from fine wine and property to currencies and lumps of precious metal - as the Christmas bonus bonanza in the City is about to show.

None of the right or centre-left parties, which have in effect converged in a fictitious consensus, are prepared so far to raise the prospect of using the power of government, which after all the bankers all lauded when it came to bailing them out, to force this investment, and therefore economic growth, to take place.

They are not prepared to impinge on the wealth monopoly of big business to invest in the interests of all.

On the contrary, to preserve the system that is failing, they are prepared to restrict the democratic rights of all in the interests of the 1 per cent.

At the time of writing we no longer have an elected prime minister in Greece.

We have a former central banker who has never been elected to anything.

Soon, it seems, we may have a former European Union commissioner as prime minister of Italy.

The Italian president has just appointed Mario Monti a life senator (like a British lord) so he can qualify for the position.

Nero, Caligula and a earlier phase of Roman history spring to mind.

What qualification do these "technocrats" have? They are architects of the order that is collapsing, priests of the god that failed.

They are wedded to the austerity economics and, in the eyes of the IMF/European Central Bank/European Union elite, they are as Thatcher used to say, people like us.

Of course they have no democratic mandate at all. And that's another bonus.

They are not electorally responsive to the people, though the parties that they choose their minister from are.

For the very last thing that the 1 percenters want is for the 99 per cent to have a say over the policies that are ruining the lives of most of them.

That's why outgoing social democrat prime minister George Papandreou came under excoriating pressure for mooting the idea of a referendum on the austerity measures.

He buckled. If ever there was an example of dotage as a second childishness, but without everything, it is the leader of Pasok, a shadow of his father Andreas, who founded the party.

Or as Karl Marx and Frederick Engels observed, all historical personages appear twice, first as tragic giants, second as farcical dwarves - first as the father, then as the son.

The suspension of democratic norms we have become accustomed to should ring alarm bells.

It is social resistance, or the fear of it, that created the political logjam in Greece and Italy.

In that situation, the high priests of globalised capitalism have chosen the most undemocratic of a range of options.

They and others will do so again, unless that resistance can alter the calculus.

They can get away with these manoeuvres, if only temporarily, in part due to the paucity and pusillanimity of traditional social democratic/Labour parties, which have spurned the idea of a big, comprehensive alternative to capitalism red in tooth and claw.

How else can we explain how in Spain next weekend, the sons of Franco in the Tory People's Party are likely to win an election against the outgoing social democrats?

I don't believe it's because the people in Spain want more of the failing capitalist policies.

Many may not see an alternative, but how can they if one is not credibly presented and argued for by those they have historically looked to?

I believe that people are crying out for a big idea, a real one, not bunkum like Cameron's "big society."

That's why the sympathy for the Occupy movement, which goes way beyond the numbers taking part so far, is so great.

It is a sign of people grappling for themselves for a truly democratic and progressive alternative.

And the lack of a radical alternative equal to the scale of the crisis infects everything that Labour says and does.

Just one example - BBC's Question Time this week. On issue after issue Labour's Rachel Reeves failed even to make contact with the ball, let alone put it in the net against a panel that while absurdly right-wing in its composition was hardly fleet of foot, viz the flabby Stephen Pollard at right back.

Forget radicalism, she couldn't even come up with basic social democratic arguments about how private health care is parasitic on the NHS, cherry-picking profitable medical procedures while refusing insurance to the kind of former industrial workers who were doubtless in the Newcastle audience.

The apparent certainties of the age ushered in by Reagan and Thatcher are melting into air.

The left, if we want to have any solidity, has no option but to voice the big alternative and bend every effort to organising around it.

We have resources to draw on. And we have traditions.

As I write, news is breaking of a massive battle at the University of Berkeley in California between occupying students and riot police.

It is a resounding echo of the 1960s movements that were the well-spring of so much that is progressive.

A historical event appearing twice - but this time with all the vigour of its infancy.

It's time again to be realistic and to demand what they tell us is impossible.

Monday 14 November 2011

Anna May Wong Must Die! great pix by Jan Jefferies

We played the final show last night at the New Diorama Theatre (Saturday 12th November 2011) in front of a lively audience.

There was a quantum improvement from Thursday with most tec glitches sorted, the lads louder and rockier now that the awe of the theeayter had abated somewhat. Confidence was up all round and we are looking at ways to take the show further.

Produced by True Heart Theatre as part of the In The Mirror season at the New Diorama Theatre, London NW1, and directed by Wing Hong Li. With legendary music writer Charles Shaar Murray and The Plague’s Marc Jefferies. Jan Jefferies looked after us and took the pix on Anna’s Lumix TZ20.

Some more pix here.

Photo copyright Anna Chen

Saturday 12 November 2011

Surfer takes on record 90 foot wave: video

Ooooh! Almost as exciting as performing Anna May Wong Must Die! at the New Diorama Theatre.

Last night tonight.

Friday 11 November 2011

First night Anna May Wong Must Die! pix

First night done.

Tec hitches aplenty but all performed with great gusto and fun by myself and the wonderful Charles Shaar Murray and The Plague's Marc Jefferies, rockin' the show on guitar and bass.

I'm still making last minute changes to the script which is now at the stage where I can start cutting like a surgeon on speed. Plus the emergence of Tinglan Hong — Hugh Grant's squeeze and mother of Bamboo, or "Happy Accident", as "Ting Ting" mischievously claims is the baby's Chinese name — now doubles the number of Chinese women who can be named by audiences. (The other being a certain custard-pie kung-fu minder for geriatric billionaires.)

I'll be pleased when I'm off-script. But, for now, my baby's growing. Just like Bamboo.

One more show tomorrow then the great uphill task of memorising all 70 minutes of it. Wish I could plug in and upload in my sleep.


Written and performed by Anna Chen
Live music from Charles Shaar Murray and Marc Jefferies
Saturday 12th November 20:30
There will be a Q&A after the Saturday performance
Presented by Wing Hong Li for True Heart Theatre at the New Diorama Theatre, NW1
More info here

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Anna May Wong Must Die! opens tomorrow: satire, crudity and politics

OK, this is it, guys and gals. Anna May Wong Must Die! gets its first London theatrical outing tomorrow night (Thursday 10th) at the New Diorama Theatre, followed by another on Saturday.

Legendary cultural writer Charles Shaar Murray and The Plague's Marc Jefferies will be providing live music.

I'm performing the show as a "work-in-progress" at the New Diorama Theatre as part of True Heart's In The Mirror season. Also performing during the week: Lucy Sheen and Veronica Needa. (Details on the webpage.)

I'll be on-script as it's still early days in the life of this piece (so no press), but I hope to come out of the week with the play nailed. I look forward to to hearing some solid feedback, especially from the Saturday Q&A session where the three of us will be chatting to the audience.

It's unusual, maybe even unique, to get three Chinese diaspora writers and performers together like this in one venue in one week so please do try to make it as we might never get this chance again.

Written and performed by Anna Chen
Live music accompaniment from Charles Shaar Murray and Marc Jefferies
Thursday 10th November 19:30
Saturday 12th November 20:30
(There will be a Q&A after the Saturday performance)
Presented by True Heart Theatre at the New Diorama Theatre, NW1
More info here


"Charming, witty and sophisticated ... I am entranced, won over."
The Sunday Times

"Hard hitting and often hilarious ... arresting ... engrossing and provoking."
The Scotsman

"... sensitive, intelligent ... insistent and illuminating."
The Herald

"It's the stuff of brilliant satire ... riveting."
The List

"Very witty."
Graham Norton

"I'm taking you shoplifting."
Jenny Eclair

“Cutting edge …”
Stewart Lee

More press here

Thursday 3 November 2011

Tony Blair loves Gordon Brown: infantile disrespect video

An immature mash-up of Tony Blair of the most scurrilous kind, entirely disrespectful of this great man. It shouldn't be allowed.

Poor Tony.

Actually, not poor. Quite wealthy, I hear. Which bank did best out of the Iraq war? His wife's doing WHAT with our National Health Service? Placing private clinics WHERE? Surely an ugly rumour.

Friday 28 October 2011

Temple kicks out Jesus while moneylenders cheer

Steve Bell

So, on the day we learn that the FTSE 100 directors' pay has gone up by 49% in the past year (55% the year before), St Paul's Cathedral turns the tables and tells Jesus where to get off while the money lenders carry on with business as usual.

Profits are soaring, David Hartnett of HMRC lets off Vodafone and Goldman Sachs from repaying billions in money we are owed, we are being ripped off by rail, energy, landlords, supermarkets and grasping universities, and the church expects us to be supine in our acceptance of being ripped off.

The anti-capitalist protest group — Occupy London Stock Exchange (OccupyLSX), UK Uncut and various — is to be ejected from one of the few remaining scraps of London where you can protest. The City of London and the cathedral are pressing ahead with legal moves to close down the camp. It's enough to make you a barricade-manning revolutionary.

A word from the church's boss:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can not serve both God and Mammon.

Just sayin'. (Thanks, Skattycat)

How about reinstating our democracy and allowing the protests in Parliament Square? After all, the point of Parliament is to run our country for us, not provide snapshot fodder for tourists.

Omar Sharif not so suave: slaps woman fan

Okay, Omar Sharif is now on my shit-list. Yup, there's a man with charm who knows how to treat a woman.

Although she just stands there grinning like an idiot after being slapped by the grizzled movie star, it looks as if she was probably in shock and too embarrassed to respond. Or hard-wired to take it.

Such a small man.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

The Other Shore: Chinese play-reading at the New Diorama Theatre

Wing Hong, Hugo and Lucy

There's no business like show business ... I had a great time last night onstage with a group of talented Asian actors who'd been brought together at the New Diorama Theatre by director Wing Hong Li.

As an exploration of power dynamics and the madness of crowds, The Other Shore, written by Gao Xingjian, is superb theatre. Writing for an ensemble of actors, Gao renders power relations visible, turning the piece into an effective tool with which to challenge blind authority and the characters who play along either as predator or victim.

An innocent fool is part of a group embarking on a journey from "the real world" to the other side of a river where he witnesses how his fellow travellers deal with a succession of character archetypes who enter their lives and upset their equilibrium.

Last night's rehearsed reading, the first British performance, came together after only one day's work. I played various parts of the chorus and got to read the Card Player, a plum role which I saw as a cross between Marlene Dietrich in Touch of Evil and Heath Ledger as the Joker.

A trickster gambler who's stacked the odds, the Card Player chooses the game, acts as banker, decides on the trump card (her own) and manipulates the crowd into working against their own interests. Now, where have we seen that before?

Gao employs various devices to see the world anew. The use of ropes throws into razored relief the games we play when finding our place in society. The protagonist's increasingly dehumanised brethren become threatening trees and mannequins.

A sort of Chinese Life of Brian with zombies, there's enough sly wit to make the game of spot-the-character-type an amusing one. I did, at one point, expect the hero to lose a sandal and discard a gourd. He's definitely not the Messiah, just a very confused bloke trying to make sense of this twilight world.

The play was banned in China for some unfathomable reason despite there being no explicit criticism of the government. It's a commentary on what happens when human relations get skewed and is a plea for us all to be better to each other ... oh. I see. Right. Understood.

This play is relevant to every region and sphere where creeps are clinging to power. Do catch it if you ever see it being staged.

Friday 14 October 2011

British Chinese and the England riots: South China Morning Post

Here's my South China Morning Post column from 28th August, on the British Chinese take on the England riots and why Tiger Mom's efforts are irrelevant. (Click on pic above for larger version.)

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Anna May Wong Must Die! first draft complete

Last night I finally finished off the first draft of Anna May Wong Must Die!.

I've been thinking about this even before 2008, when I made a BBC Radio 4 programme on one of my heroines, A Celestial Star In Piccadilly, about Hollywood's first Chinese screen legend, Anna May Wong (broadcast January 2009). I'd originally tried to time the show for 2005, her birth centenary, but it took two goes to get the commission.

Rather that tell a straight story about her life, as I did on radio, I decided to take a different approach. You can read all about Anna May in at least two fine biographies: The Laundryman's Daughter by Graham Russell Gao Hodges, and Perpetually Cool by Anthony Chan.

I wanted to show her as refracted through my own experience, of someone in the here and now of the Chinese diaspora, and I came up with Anna May Wong Must Die!: a personal journey through the life and crimes of Hollywood's first Chinese superstar.

It's especially pertinent in an age where, unlike in America, you hardly ever see an Asian face depicted as a normal participant in British society. You'd never know that there were up to 500,000 Chinese (including native-born descendants) in the UK.

We still play Spot The (East) Asian, but mostly all we get are fiendish criminals (Sherlock: The Blind Banker — BBC); Will Self (who ought to know better, much better) dismissing Chinese as "antlike"; trendy progressive theatres laying on yellowface plays where white actors depict the "essence" of the Orient (More Light and The Golden Dragon at the Arcola and Traverse); government and media accusing the filthy Chinese of starting the major disease outbreak of Foot & Mouth when Labour's handling of it went tits-up in 2001 (for which we won an apology from the government, but not the press); London Mayor Boris Johnson claiming that the Chinese are "incapable of original thought" (isn't that unoriginally nicked from Mark Twain, Boris?); Morrissey working out of the Dr Mengele handbook and declaring the Chinese to be a "sub-species"; China used as a hysterical diversion during the Copenhagen Climate Change summit in 2009 when news was about to break that the wealthy nations were stitching up the rest of the world with the "Danish text", and Ed Milliband playing his own part in the Copenhagen cover-up — but at least Ed admitted in February this year that he'd been wrong and acknowledged the resources being chucked at the problem, not to mention that a third of China's emissions are produced through making stuff for us.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't criticise China for getting things wrong. As part of the global community, and a force that may lead us out of the recession, China should listen to valid, productive comment, just as Western nations should. But using Chinese people to bash the new economic rival and mask racism with politics is, by any civilised standards, dirty pool.

We know — post-Macpherson — that institutional racism has to be identified and called out for what it is. So it is astonishing to see practically no Chinese in fiction or news. I break out the cava whenever I see our one ubiquitous telly face, Gok Wan, or rare sightings of James Wong, ethnobotanist, and other fabled mixes (Alexa and the BBC newsreader woman). Then there are the enlightened BBC Radio 4 commissioners who occasionally allow me to make programmes for them. But these few swallows do not a summer make — and I prefer to spit.

The rest of it is effectively a nasty bit of social engineering: dehumanising us, excluding us from our own society and our culture, rendering us invisible, unknown and a bloody big target for when a collective scapegoat might be needed. And, with some major unpleasantness coming down the pipeline as a result of bankers' greed and world recession, that situation had better be reversed, toot sweet. When you create a vacuum like this, you allow all sorts of horrors to fill up the space — the sleep of reason produces monsters. Bit by bit, we're chipping away at the cultural coalface but, in a way, our work is done. China is set to be the world's biggest and richest superpower and no-one, not the media, and especially not the advertisers, will be able to pretend for much longer that we aren't here.

You can see me try out Anna May Wong Must Die! as a work-in-progess (I'll be on-script) next month.

Anna May Wong Must Die!
A work-in-progress
Written and performed by Anna Chen
New Diorama Theatre
15 - 16 Triton Street,
Regents Place,
London, NW1 3BF
7.30pm Thursday 10th & 8.30pm Saturday 12th November 2011 (plus Q&A session afterwards)
Tickets £8.50
Part of the short "In The Mirror" season of Chinese one-woman shows.

Friday 7 October 2011

The Human Centipede: not a bad horror film, as it 'appens

Viewed from my sick bed — how apt! — Tom Six's The Human Centipede was a perfectly good horror tale of power. Two American women and a Japanese tourist find themselves in the clutches of a mad scientist, Teutonic Doctor Heiter (creepy Dieter Laser), in his modern house deep in a German forest, so it may have been some sort of Nazi allegory a la Salo: 120 Days of Sodom by Pasolini, and not unlike my time in the SWP.

The attractive young victims find themselves sewn together — mouth to anus — to make one long organism that has to do tricks for its owner. How I laughed when the Doc tried to make it fetch a newspaper! Had he got his pet selling it I'd have been transported to Saturday lunchtime paper sales. Now those were a shudderfest.

Some have dismissed the movie as shit, but it's beautifully-shot shit and strangely moving, not to mention darkly funny in parts. There's only one visceral scary moment that made me squirm and nothing that made me jump. It was more one long queasy realisation that something ain't right, not unlike my time in ... but now I repeat myself.

I thought it unfair that the guy was at the head, a placement I shall fondly think of as District Organiser — definitely pole position under the circumstances. You really didn't wan't to be any further down the food chain, spluttering out someone else's used food like edicts freshly squeezed out by the CC that morning.

Is it nasty? Of course it's nasty. Just like ... oh there I go again.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Wall Street protesters on Brooklyn Bridge give hope

This is impressive — and long overdue. Some 700 have been arrested. How many bankers who caused the crisis have been even looked at sternly by the authorities?

Sunday 25 September 2011

St Ives Festival Heaven 2011: Artists & Tate Balloons

Martin Creed's balloon installation in the Tate St Ives mezzanine

Denise and Steve Ingamells at Tate St Ives

Jan Jefferies and Charles Shaar Murray

Charles Shaar Murray

Clare Wardman & Anna Chen, Porthmeor Studio 7

View from Porthmeor Studio 7

And not forgetting the visual artists exhibiting in St Ives and a couple of concepts that worked.

Martin Creed's balloon installation was simple but effective. With the balloons filling the Tate's Rotunda mezzanine level higher than head-height, it's like walking into a wall, except the wall is full of air so you experience the instinct to duck, flinch or push the obstacle out of your way, and the conflicting pleasure in the softness. It's a dreamlike feeling. And it makes your hair stand on end with the static.

Tate St Ives got through 165,000 balloons when they'd budgeted for 120,000, but inflatable latex shrinks and pops. There was the time a series of mini-explosions could be heard and, after a search, a small boy was discovered sitting on the floor wielding a sharp pencil ... He's lucky he wasn't in an inner city or some magistrate might have jailed him for months for riotous behaviour. The balloons had the power to transform adults into kids, as well as releasing the child's inner child, such as the 65-year old pensioner who decided to surf the balloons from the window ledge. Alas, the Tate's mezzanine is no mosh-pit and she was carted off with a broken clavicle, bruised face and maximum embarrassment factor.

We caught the last few days of Roman Ondak's Measuring the Universe. Everyone who enters the room is invited to be measured and the wall marked up with height-line, name and date. Those of us who are of average height watch the markings disappear against the black of months-worth of previous measurements. Only the very short and tall survive the black band of the average. The gallery was due to paint over the wall yesterday, but we are now all part of the patina for years to some.

I like Clare Wardman's work so much that I have a small one at home. She works alongside her husband — artist Iain Roberston — who shares Porthmeor Studio seven with her. They made lovely interviewees for the Radio 4 programme.

St Ives Festival 2011: Intro and "Kicking A Dinosaur" video
St Ives Festival 2011: "Big Society: on a conversation in the Foundling Museum" video
St Ives Festival 2011 pix: The Island and St Nicholas Chapel

A big thank you to Jan Jefferies and Charles Shaar Murray for taking many of the pix of me on my Panasonic Lumix TZ20.