Friday, 31 December 2010

more self-indulgent wanking

P.S. (i) the song i remember euphorically losing it to more than any other whilst out this year was 'Katy On a Mission'

(ii) one mix i loved more than many this year is actually about ten years old, but i only discovered it this year (!)

it's our man Droid, with his Droid Inna Dancehall Vol. 1, which somewhat improbably starts with some almost twee, rather beguiling Mike Paradinas electronica before edging into fairly urgent chat.

and obviously big up Cee Lo Green and i look forward to seeing Janelle Monáe and Chas and Dave in the next few months with any luck.

oh i'm also going to get into yank telly show Burn Notice, having caught one random episode the other day.

any programme with Bruce Campbell in a loud yellow shirt eating a slurpee can't be all bad.
"Class war: your boss believes in it, even if you don't"

one thing i learned today is that Daily Express journalist Richard Palmer shares at least a trait or two with David Cameron and Nick Clegg: all three mischaracterise the state of things, and all three have, at times, blamed the last Labour government for problems not, in fact, caused by the last Labour government.

now, we all know Clegg is a liar *, as he does like to mention how he's all about the fairness (this is, of course, simply untrue) and we know Cameron is a liar, as he will go on about the mess he's inherited from Labour, something Clegg has occasionally joined him in (to say they are being disingenuous is an understatement).

Palmer, in noting a welcome bit of official recognition in the New Year honours list for Aylesbury estate tenants' association chair Jean Bartlett, writes whose plight became a symbol of Labour's failure in the inner cities.

now, the last Labour government did not do enough on issues of social deprivation and social mobility and fairness, that's self-evident (though, as Owen notes, their extremely necessary investment in public services is the one thing that made New Labour particularly distinct from preceding Tory govts on the home front), but, to have a writer for an extremely conservative newspaper - strong supporters of neoliberal extraordinaire Margaret fucking Thatcher, let's not forget - almost airily summarise decades of neglect in this manner basically takes chutzpah to new and exciting levels.

to quote Graeme (i borrow the class war phrase at the top from him), quoting David Harvey:

My view is that [neoliberalism] refers to a class project that coalesced in the crisis of the 1970s. Masked by a lot of rhetoric about individual freedom, liberty, personal responsibility and the virtues of privatisation, the free market and free trade, it legitimised draconian policies designed to restore and consolidate capitalist class power. This project has been successful, judging by the incredible centralisation of wealth and power observable in all those countries that took the neoliberal road. And there is no evidence that it is dead.

* no fashionable and oh so easy cynicism about mendacious politicians in democracies please: these are demonstrable falsehoods on a big scale about important, structural matters that have the potential to really reshape society

on a lighter note, another thing learned (or perhaps that should be reminded of) today watching the pop video telly year round-up is that whilst i don't exactly care buckets for every last Katy Perry single this year, there's one kind of almost fey number ('Teenage Dreams') about a boy she digs i really like (plus it's hardly the same but i've seen quite a lot of lush, lovely, hushed neo-folk gigs this year and it evokes some of these for certain reasons), and the euphoric sounds of that Starstrukk tune's chorus she's involved in are mint (and i like her "set them up" lines), and, yes, still dig the cast of Glee doing Journey.

and i adore Alicia Keys, adore adore adore her.

out to the London club Night Slugs, and out to anyone caning it to Plaid and Weatherall and Moss Side's finest in SE1 tonight, and out to Nicki Minaj, among others.

here's a LRB piece that makes a really good point about John Cage.

(via the magnificent Will, no longer at the greatest politics site i've known, but at least tweeting.)

the below 8 minute long YouTube is from Britain's Channel 4, and their journalist (a proper journalist), a bloke called Miller.

it was originally broadcast a few weeks ago.

(contains graphic images.)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

incidentally, it's hardly the biggest (or, to be blunt, gravest) headline from the continuing intrigues thrown up by the UK's Tory-led government, but culture secretary Jeremy Hunt's (who, to be fair to him, is nowhere near as big a cock as his boss) musing aloud that cuts to the arts sector could be an opportunity for the UK to foster an American-style philanthropism in the arts is classic small state baloney, the sort of line of shit that British Tories and their Liberal Democrat accommodationists (well, certainly the Orange Book wing of that party) just love to further due to it being in their DNA.

wealthy individuals helping the cause of the arts is all well and good, but, let's be honest, today it's the arts, tomorrow it's something else.

fuck the Tory party and fuck Nick Clegg and the horses they all rode in on.

out to the city of Derry for winning that European capital of culture award; a fine town.

i've only been once, spent about four nights there, mainly looking at things, eating fried food, drinking a lot of alcohol, and talking to locals (and some other English) in her pubs and bars and clubs.

big up.

my fellow greater Mancunian Owen Jones has a blog, now up in my links bar just past the lovely Maura Johnston as one of the newer additions up there.

check out his first proper post, 'Will Cameron build a new political consensus?', here.
(i hope Owen's conclusion is proven right.)

Owen has a book forthcoming next May on Verso, 'Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class'.
I am absolutely sure that our wise people will have absolute trust in the first president, the leader of nation, which means stability in the society and the well-being of every Kazakh citizen

- Vladimir Nekhoroshev, parliamentarian

("Kazakhstan's parliament has backed a plan to scrap the next two presidential elections, allowing Nursultan Nazarbayev to stay in power until 2020.
Parliament, made up entirely of members of his party, said the proposal would go to a referendum.
Mr Nazarbayev has led Kazakhstan since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.")

Monday, 27 December 2010

great quote from yer man Richard Dowden in an Observer piece yesterday about Gbagbo.

Gbagbo is a big and blustery character, a bit of demagogue, but his wife is really scary. When the civil war started, she was saying things like, 'We cannot have Côte d'Ivoire ruled by foreigners', which is just language for northerners. His wife and other allies do seem to be driven by racism towards the north. The idea of the country being handed over to a northern Muslim is terrifying.

there's a tangential point from today's wires here: "Ouattara still draws his support from the northern half of the country, where residents feel they are often treated as foreigners".

as with a recent flare-up in violence around Jos, seems instructive that fault lines in African society that can be seemingly sectarian, may have deeper roots, be they structural causes, or manipulation by powerful people.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

i want to mention that this day of surrealist lectures at Tate Modern last month included a talk from young artist Simon Fujiwara that was not 'just' a talk (as all the other participants gave, all with illuminating screenings accompanying their presentations, or in the case of Liz Rosenfeld, two fine short films of hers), but was something rather special, and a real privilege to catch.

i'm just going to quote a Frieze piece at length to describe Fujiwara, and the lecture of his we saw that day.

‘I am my work,’ Simon Fujiwara told me when I visited his studio. The implications of this revealing statement are two-fold, for not only does the artist personally deliver the performative elements of his work, but much of his material is rooted in the autobiographical. Born in Japan to a British dancer mother and a Japanese architect father, Fujiwara, who is the recipient of this year’s Cartier Award, studied architecture at the University of Cambridge, then spent time at the Städelschule in Frankfurt and became an artist. Or did he? Artist, architect, novelist, cellist, son, father, lover: these defining terms become impossibly entangled in a body of work that may take the form of imaginary buildings, erotic fiction or live cello performances. Fujiwara adopts a quasi-anthropological approach – presenting evidence and interpreting it – during which a simple autobiographical fact is quickly swept along on a current of metaphor, exaggeration and pure fabrication.

Take the series ‘Welcome to the Hotel Munber’ (2006–ongoing), a work that, as Fujiwara puts it, ‘retells my parents’ life as erotic fiction’. Before he was born, the artist’s parents ran a hotel and bar in southern Spain during the final years of General Franco’s dictatorship – a fact Fujiwara uses as a springboard to considering Franco’s censorship of pornography and homosexual activity, making up for the absence of gay erotica of the time by concocting his own, with his father as the main protagonist. The artist’s conceit of casting his own father as a homosexual adventurer in what is effectively an intra-generational exchange of sexuality is an uncomfortable one, which is amplified by the protagonist satisfying his repressed desires using the objects and architecture of the hotel itself as sexual surrogates; more revealing, perhaps, of Fujiwara’s own psycho-sexual investments in architecture than the approach of his architect father.

Part of ‘Welcome to the Hotel Munber’ takes the form of a lecture in which Fujiwara describes this awkward conflation of political and family history, reading extracts of erotica and illustrating the talk with a number of props arrayed on a desk in front of him. These include snapshots of and original relics from his parents’ hotel, newspaper clippings, flags, a copy of a typewritten manuscript, pornographic images and an ostrich egg inscribed with Franco’s name. Setting up this pseudo-academic environment of accumulated evidence, Fujiwara spins a tale that veers from the touching to the absurd, culminating in the plaintive admission that his erotic novel is incomplete, the artist-as-writer blocked by the improper conflation of family values and deviant sexuality.
(now for something, er, slightly different)

10 for '10: a year list

10. Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2010, the ICA.

mixed bag.

glad i went.

(also spent the day with old, dear friend L here, and at no.7, and eating soup, which helped.)

9. Facing East: Recent Works from China, India and Japan from the Frank Cohen Collection, Manchester Art Gallery.

another mixed bag (including some large sculptures appropriately enjoyed by many adults and children the day i visited; Yoshitomo Nara's mixed media house attracted a lot of attention, too, and Murakami's mushrooms seemed popular).

it was Yue Minjun's disconcerting canvas Between Men and Animal, and a big Thukral and Tagra canvas that were up there, personally.

but out to Fang Lijun, a member of the Cynical Realist bunch, though. 'price of admission' pick for me, astonished by his large canvas of repeated, faint men in cloud.

(the same gallery had a few Ron Mueck sculptures in the next room during the time of Facing East; he is always worth mentioning.)

8. A World Observed 1940 - 2010: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm, Manchester Art Gallery.

first ever full retrospective.

great stuff, from exquisite early portraits, sublime landscapes and later streetscapes containing the planet: a world observed, truly.

7. Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works, Hauser & Wirth.

to quote L (see 10), a "lovely footnote".
(L's art teacher thinks no. 3, below, has over-rated colours!)

6. Steve McCurry retrospective, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.


5. Aloe Blacc's I Need a Dollar song.

a catchy neo-soul tune with a title like this would always be a relevant anthem for many people; sadly, more people than ever would find something first-hand in it in recent years.

4. the Bridget Riley Hayward touring exhibition, Flashback, seen at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

epiphanies from Riley, yet again.

3. Gauguin, Tate Modern.

ignorantly, i thought he was basically Polynesian smut.

not so.

multi-faceted wonder.

2. Mike Nelson's 2000 installation The Coral Reef is at Tate Britain these days.

the Guardian's Jonathan Jones said "a modern masterpiece".


1. the Toronto-Dominion Gallery of Inuit Art.

a small (200 or so pieces) yet, actually, perfectly formed gallery in a downtown bank, and, seemingly, without too much fanfare locally AFAICT.

game changing.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Bad to worse in Côte d'Ivoire.

Fucking A.

Elsewhere, i had a Christmas drink with an old pal earlier.

J teaches PE in a tough school in inner Nottingham.

He spoke eloquently, movingly and angrily about the Tory govt's Michael Gove and Gove's attempts to starve school sport (since partly reversed, thanks to ordinary people, children, athletes and the Labour MP Andy Burnham rightly fighting back against Gove's odious intentions); one remarkable 16 year old girl, a teen campaigner who sounds like a fabulous young woman, was name-checked.

Feliz Navidad and that.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Death squads and disappearances: from Abidjan in the Guardian.

"We are most frightened when we hear them speaking English and wearing balaclavas. Then we know they're Liberian mercenaries, and if you are a woman, they are the ones who will rape you."

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

On Tuesday, Mr Gbagbo appeared on state television for the first time since the election to restate his claim to be the country's legitimate leader.

He blamed his "opponent's refusal to submit to the law" for the recent unrest.

Shorter Laurent Gbagbo: Wot, me guv?

P.S. 'At least 50 people have been killed in violence linked to the dispute, the UN says.'

Saturday, 18 December 2010

the D.C. based NGO Friends of the Congo has a page of links for the UN Mapping Exercise, including the uploaded report (.pdf) from the UN in the original French and their English.

documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003

Thursday, 16 December 2010

out to everyone protesting on the streets of Italy against that asylum seeker persecuting thug Silvio, yeah?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

WikiLeaks mirrors are here.

here's ThaiLeaks - they've recently released a load of Thailand-specific cables.


Friday, 10 December 2010

11 years ago today Franjo Tudjman died in Zagreb's Dubrava clinic.

Tudjman was 77 and it is understood he had been battling cancer for the final three years of his life.

the contemporary, well-informed obituary in the London Independent by Branka Magas is masterly, and remains well worth reading.

the opening two paragraphs and closing paragraph pretty much said it all:

AS THE one who led Croatia to independence, Franjo Tudjman secured a special place in the country's history. Yet history will judge him harshly, because of his cavalier attitude to the country's true interests, because of his policy towards neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina, and not least because of his persistent hostility to Croatia's citizens of Serb and Bosnian descent - all of which has contributed to the country's present international isolation.

Death arguably saved him from indictment by the Hague Tribunal, for his overall responsibility for war crimes committed by Zagreb's proxy forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the unpunished brutalities visited upon defenceless Serbs who have remained in, or tried to return to, Croatia.


The aberrations associated with Franjo Tudjman's period in office were exacerbated, no doubt, by the aggression to which the country was subjected from the very moment of its proclamation of independence and by the policy of appeasing Belgrade long followed by Western governments. It remains the case, however, that dismantling his legacy remains a precondition for Croatia's democratic development.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

UK housing benefits to be slashed: analysis here.

The government spin was that their cuts were all about capping benefits for a small number of families in inner London. But even their own reports spell out the truth – these cuts will hit hundreds of thousands, will increase homelessness and overcrowding, disrupt the education and attainment of poor children, disrupt services for disabled people and force people on low incomes into even poorer quality housing.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

(from the Tuesday December 7th edition of my local paper, the South London Press)

FOUR men have been cleared of killing an innocent teenager in a drive-by shooting.

The group were accused of gunning down 18-year-old Ryan Bravo as he entered a shop to buy a pint of milk on August 6, 2008.

It is claimed Ryan was caught up in a clash between the Organised Crime, or OC, and the Peckham Young Guns.

Jurors have heard that the OC gang were chasing two rival gang members who pushed past Ryan to hide in the Costcutters store, in Camberwell Road, Walworth. In the hail of bullets, Ryan was hit once, in the back and died.

Prosecutors said the five were Terrell Lewis, 20, Nathaniel Bailey, 19, Nathaniel Grant, 19, and Anthony McKenzie, 21, and Ashley Bucknor, 21.

But halfway through the Old Bailey trial, all but Bucknor were cleared on the direction of the judge Gerald Gordon. He ruled there was no case to answer due to insufficient evidence.

It is claimed the murder was in revenge for a shooting on the Myatts Field Estate in Brixton earlier that same day.

Bucknor, of no fixed address, denies murder.

Eighteen years of age.

shot dead for buying a pint of milk.
another one of the most essential sites anywhere right now is the UK's Channel 4 page on the Sri Lankan civil war

Monday, 6 December 2010

it seems characteristic that Hole's frontwoman Courtney Love rest her left foot on a speaker, as in this clip; a pose i've seen before from her.

i love Courtney.

i fucking love her.

her voice is amazing.


the undemocratic Thai govt is more bothered about Bangkok vendors selling flip-flops with satirical images printed on the soles than they are by the fact that they (the Thai govt) massacre their own citizens by the dozen for the, er, crime of protesting the Thai govt's increasing authoritarianism
Guardian's US embassy cables - one of the most essential websites on earth for a minute now