Thursday 28 November 2013

John Sinclair performs Twenty One Days in Jail

Following the awesome appearance of 1960s icon, poet and political jailbird John Sinclair on Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge at Resonance FM on Tuesday, I'm posting the video I took of John when he played at Café Oto a few years back.

He performs Twenty One Days In Jail, accompanied by Gary Lammin on guitar, Martin Stacey on bass, Jim Jones on piano, and Paul Ronnie on harmonica.

Listen to John Sinclair on Breaking a Butterfly on a Wheel: Modern Heroes, programme 7 in Anna Chen's Resonance 104.4FM series, Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge. With Oliver Shykles of Queer Friends of Chelsea Manning and Charles Shaar Murray.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

John Sinclair and modern heroes on Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge Resonance FM, 5.30pm today

John Lennon sings "John Sinclair"

News, music and poetry
Presented by Anna Chen
5.30-6.30pm Tuesday 26th November 2013
(To listen to Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge series on Resonance FM for WINDOWS, download VLC media player)

Guests: John Sinclair and Oliver Shykles. With Charles Shaar Murray.

What happens when the state gets nasty? A new breed of modern hero is emerging, casting light on what our "democratic" governments get up to: Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, David Miranda.

John Sinclair, now a grand old man of the counterculture, was an early victim of the US government and who subsequently became a cause célèbre. He was a militantly politicised hippy, the manager of the MC5 and a founder of the White Panther Party.

In 1969, he felt the full spite of the state when he was sentenced to 10 years for supplying 2 joints to an undercover narc. Only widespread protest — including John Lennon writing and recording a song, "John Sinclair" — got him an early release.

John Sinclair is in the studio today alongside Oliver Shykles from Queer Friends of Chelsea Manning, who'll be talking about Manning, Edward Snowden and why we should be wary of governments siezing extra powers.

With tips from Oliver Shykles on how to stay private.

Breaking a butterfly on a wheel — 5.30pm TUESDAY 26TH NOVEMBER
Listen live
or afterwards
listen online

Previously …

The Borgias - 0 Tudors - 6: review of the Showtime series starring Jeremy Irons

Suffering from withdrawal symptoms at the end of my DVD box set binge of The Tudors — superb pacy story-telling, complex characters you cared about, stunning costumes and jewellery — I looked for a replacement. One friend assured me that The Borgias with Jeremy Irons was as good as. How could it not be? The most infamous family in Christendom, politics, power, treachery and sex.

I'm afraid my friend was wrong. Very wrong.

It's like wading through wet cement and I'm having a problem staying with it in the 2nd season. I can see why it was dropped after three seasons. Jeremy Irons is more a peeved country squire than the satanic but charming Roderigo Borgia transforming himself into Pope Alexander. No matter how much he seethes and flashes his eyes, he does not have the gravity of Daddy Borgia.

Same with Cesare Borgia played by Francois Arnaud. These are not bad actors, just a sadly miscast reflection of the programme's middle-class audience.

The real problem is the script. Ye gods: pompous, ponderous, on the nose, overlong. Scenes that outstay their welcome, the writing puts the bore in Borgias. I mean, how can you make Nicolo Machiavelli a smirking clerk? None of the lethal intelligence of the age is even approximated at, only shallow posturing. Neil Jordan needed someone on the team to give him a counter-balancing wit and verve, the sort that made The Tudors sparkle.

Not just in the style, but the content. The Tudors is excellent in showing how complicated politics worked in Henry VIII's time and swings you with masterful ease around all the perspectives, so you always understand the motivation behind dodgy choices even if you don't agree with them. The Borgias just have one dreary linear one-damn-thing-after-another plot but with long gaps. It's mostly telling with little showing, and all on one note.

We are told the fact that certain things happened and that choices were made, such as the French King Charles's change of mind when he captures Lucrezia — but there's never a convincing demonstration of why he suddenly held back. And then Charles simply agrees with Roderigo that the French army should go on to Naples rather than stopping to sack Rome. We are told the surface facts but are never shown the emotional and subtle reasons why this should be. This was never a problem with The Tudors.

Some of the characterisation is rivalled only by cardboard. Performances veer off grand guignol and into amdram. I mean, the affected nasal whine of the Naples prince and King Charles of France's uglification may have neen historically true but here it's apparent that it's being acted.

The only character who seemed to have any complexity is Giovanni Sforza (Ronan Vibert), Lucrezia's first husband who comes a cropper after serially raping her and trying to extract himself from the political commitments that went with the marriage.

The film set is the star. The bonus feature showing you how the vast beautiful hall of St Peters was made is fascinating. If only the series was half as interesting.

Showtime obviously felt the same as me and hunted for a replacement series to fill the Tudors gap and settled on what should have been a no-brainer. Unfortunately, this is no I, Claudius, Game of Thrones or ... dare I say it one mo' time, The Tudors.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Orwell Prize 2014 launch panel: Internet and the modern self with Anna Chen

Had a fun time as a guest speaker for the Orwell Prize 2014 launch event held at the Frontline Club last month, talking about 'Internet and the modern self: manners and abuse online.' Paul Anderson took this video of my bit.

Also on the panel, Helen Goodman MP, Professor Suzanne Franks and Dr Aaron Balick. Chaired by Jean Seaton.
21st October 2013

Monday 18 November 2013

Paul Robeson on Resonance FM 5.30 Tues, Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge

News, music and poetry
Presented by Anna Chen
5.30-6.30pm Tuesday 19th November

Guests: Tayo Aluko and Dr Diana Yeh. With Charles Shaar Murray.

In this Tuesday's Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge on Resonance FM, the world's first internationally renowned African American singing star Paul Robeson and the Hollywood screen legend Anna May Wong chat about their lives and why they are now cultural icons. Well, they would if they were still alive.

However, we do have Tayo Aluko whose award-winning show, Call Mr Robeson, has played around the world. And Anna Chen — who introduced new audiences to the Chinese American film star in her 2009 BBC Radio 4 profile, A Celestial Star in Piccadilly, and has performed her solo show Anna May Wong Must Die! — talks about Anna May Wong who became chums with Robeson when they met in Europe.

With Dr Diana Yeh talking about some of the forgotten pioneering Black and Asian stars of the stage in the early 20th century, and Charles Shaar Murray.

As a famed singer and actor persecuted for his radical politics and civil-rights campaigning, Paul Robeson has the dimensions of an American tragic hero. ... Tayo Aluko does a fine job in evoking his dynamic presence and in reminding us of the inhospitable attitude to dissent in the land of the free. Michael Billington, Guardian

or afterwards

Previously On Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge …

(To listen to Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge series on Resonance FM for WINDOWS, download VLC media player)

Thursday 14 November 2013

Nick Clegg on Roma and Bedroom Tax ... lovely man

Voting for Bedroom Tax, legitimising attacks on Roma ...

Oh Little Nicky Clegg!

He's a sheep in ba-lamb clothing,
A bugger born to beg,
The wolves they want their mojo back
From little Nicky Clegg.

In fits and starts, he's good in parts,
A proper curate's egg,
Sold his soul for a minor role
And cut away his legs.

You've nixed your reproduction,
You'll die out like the steg
osaurus and their mates
Coz little Nicky Clegg

Goes down with the voters
Like a cup of coldest smeg,
Like VAT on pasties
Cooling down in Greggs.

Like student fees and markets free
Your promises lie wrecked
From the noblest of motives
To swimming with the dregs.

A little bit of power
Went soaring to your head,
You failed the test of character
Your soul lies stony dead

(by Anna Chen June 2012)

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Lily Allen's Hard Out Here video: the lady doth protest. Or does she?

Is Lily Allen having her cake and eating it with her video, Hard Out Here? The lyrics are sort of subversive but the women in the video are still having to shake their booty for a payday.

The lady of the manor doesn't have to twerk (for a living) to make her point but the hired help do. And she gets to say bitch. A lot.

Charles Shaar Murray says, "What would have been really subversive is if the women in the video turned out to be guys in drag."

Lily Allen and misogyny in the Independent.

Suzanne Moore points out the race dimension in the Guardian.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Monkey goes Western: Madam Miaow on Resonance FM, Tues 5.30

News, music and poetry
Presented by Anna Chen
5.30-6.30pm Tuesday 12th November 2013
Listen live
listen later online

Monkey goes Western: Chinese cultural innovation in the West

The Innovators: Dr Who's 50th anniversary; Chinese science fiction; China music and drama in the West

In this Tuesday's Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge on Resonance FM, Anna Chen looks at Chinese cultural innovation in the 21st century, with actor Lucy Sheen. Charles Shaar Murray reviews Big In China, Alan Paul's new book about forming a blues band in China.

Exploring Beijing Blues; Mayday the Chinese Beatles; Chinese science fiction at the 50th anniversary of Dr Who; and is this a new era for Chinese in British theatre after the Royal Shakespeare Company's Orphan of Zhao casting debacle?

[EDIT: Steven Ip has problems with his Tardis so can't make it but will be a guest next year when Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge comes back.]

MONKEY GOES WESTERN: Chinese cultural innovation — 5.30pm TUESDAY 12TH NOVEMBER
Listen live
or afterwards
listen online

Previously … the shows so far ...

(To listen to Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge series on Resonance FM for WINDOWS, download VLC media player)

Saturday 2 November 2013

Madam Miaow on the Super Rich: Resonance FM Tuesday 5.30pm

News, music and poetry
Presented by Anna Chen
5.30-6.30pm Tuesday 5th November
Listen live
listen later online


The Super Rich
Guests: Aditya Chakrabortty and Kate Belgrave. With Charles Shaar Murray.

In this Tuesday's Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge on Resonance FM, Anna Chen turns her attention to the Super Rich, accompanied by Aditya Chakrabortty, Kate Belgrave and Charles Shaar Murray.

Happy days are here again: for some. The economy's bouncing back, profits are up, taxes are down, but we're still sticking it to the have-nots rather than the have-yachts.

Bras that cost a million pounds, rounds of drinks topping a quarter of million, diamond-encrusted everything and the steady insistence on that £20 a week in bedroom tax. Is the relentless hammering of the poor, the elderly, the disabled and immigrants just tiresome old schtick?

The BBC's new series, Britain on the Fiddle, says "don't look here, look over there at the benefit scroungers". Madam Miaow says, hell no, let's take a closer look at where the real money is and exactly what all that saved tax and super-profits can buy you.

Remember — there is no recession at the top.

Listen live
or afterwards
listen online

Previously … the shows so far ...

Even Labour ... Another reason we need meaningful change. Gordon Brown allowed the Co-op bank to merge with Britannia Building Society and has wrecked it.

Legalised larceny: Aditya Chakrabortty on how the train companies hog the profits while investing little.

Aditya Chakrabortty's Guardian article on how champagne-swilling councils are selling off our housing to developers.

John Kampfner on the history of the super rich.

Myth-busting: #inactualfact
Follow: @inactualfact

Friday 1 November 2013

Overwhelming China: Philip Dodd on the roots of sinophobia, BBC R4

I just appeared on BBC Radio 4's Overwhelming China, presented by Philip Dodd and produced by Simon Hollis of Brook Lapping.

What a wonderful intelligent take-down of the all-pervasive sinophobia for a change. It's like a grown-up walked into a playground full of preening bullies.

Programme contributors included Daniel York, Ben Chu, Dr Ann Witchard, Paul French, Martin Jacques and Will Hutton.

Philip Dodd explores China's continued haunting of British intellectual and cultural life.

He traces current anxieties about global economic takeover back through the political sinophobia of the Cold War period to earlier, pulp fantasies of Yellow Peril, Limehouse Chinatown and the 'discovery' of the enemy within.

The British media report daily on China's economic clout, its ability to buy up land and businesses here (from yacht makers to the Lloyds Building), its willingness to mount cyber attacks on our commercial enterprises, and the rise of viruses such as bird flu coming from China. If Britain feels besieged by China, perhaps this should come as no surprise. What is more surprising is that the current panic attack about China is just the latest episode of a century long concern.

This programme looks back at earlier moments when Britain's sinophobia was rampant. In the '50s and 60s, there were worries about China's political clout from the Korean War to the insurgent counter culture of the 60s that some believed was Maoist influenced. This was the time when Sean Connery's James Bond was facing the 'Chinese' Dr No, dressed up in Mao gear. The programme also goes back further, to the turn of the 20th century, when the Yellow Peril was at its height, with the fear that the 'yellow race' would overwhelm us physically by sheer numbers  — the time of Fu Manchu.

In 1904, the arch anti-imperialist JA Hobson wrote that he feared China would economically undercut prices and undermine our living standards. If China is haunting our dreams now, it has been so for a very long time.

For me, Top Three fails on the sinophobia naughty step are:

Julia Lovell diminishes Britain's role in the Opium Wars in her book.

Freudian sinophobia alive and (not) well in Niall Ferguson: "Lock up your daughters".

A blind eye turned to sinophobia in the Blind Banker episode of Sherlock on BBC TV.

With a (dis)honourable mention for "national treasure" Clare Balding who, as far as I am aware, has never apologised for unfairly accusing 16-year old swimmer Ye Shiwen of cheating when she won her gold medal in the London Olympics last year.

Why we need to look at the Super Rich: BBC's Britain on the Fiddle is a disgrace


You'd suspect all that talk about the BBC being left-biased is a crock designed to take our eyes off what the corporation is doing in service to the Tory mindset.

Their new series, "Britain on the Fiddle", sticks it to the poor again. Their blurb implies that we lose £20bn per year to benefit cheats. (It's actually £1bn while £16bn goes unclaimed.)

It's a national disgrace - £20 billion stolen from the state in 2012 by fraudsters. Richard Bilton goes on the front line with investigators chasing a woman who won £95,000 in a game show but did not stop claiming benefits.

The disgrace is that this is more smoke and mirrors taking our eye off who's wreaking havoc with the economy. Only this month, the Royal Mail was sold to private interests at a loss of an estimated £1.6 BILLION while the banks advising the government received not only a £17mn fee, but sold the shares they bought at the knock-down price for a profit of £29mn.

Vodaphone, Boots, Amazon, Ideos, Starbucks all escape paying proper tax while people already on the breadline are charged more than £60 per moth for a measly extra bedroom. Building more homes might be a more civilised solution to the housing crisis.

And pressure on companies to pay a living wage to their workers would do wonders to get people off the dole ... if only the government, whose job it is to create jobs, would do their job instead of blaming desperate people for not finding jobs that don't exist because the government isn't doing its job. Big jobs all round.

Join me for Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge this Tuesday 5th November when Aditya Chakrabortty and Kate Belgrave will be looking at the Super Rich. With Charles Shaar Murray.

Madam Miaow's Culture Lounge
The Super-rich
Resonance FM
5.30-6.30pm, Tuesday 5th November 2013
Listen live
listen afterwards online.

Above: Tax the Rich: an animated fairy tale narrated by Ed Asner, produced by the California Teachers Association and recommeded by the Ripped Off Britons blog.

Aditya Chakrabortty's Guardian article on how champagne-swilling councils are selling off our housing to developers.

John Kampfner on the history of the super rich.