Sunday, August 31, 2008

"A truly wretched, nausea-inducing waste of film"

Since its my birthday this week, since I still have some more time off work and since I’m still trying to readjust to the shit Irish weather again after seven days in the Mediterranean, I have decided to indulge slightly by posting a full-length film for my pleasure and no one else’s. Could there be a better way to end the summer?

The movie in a question is Le Vent d’est, a relatively minor piece of work by the greatest director in the history of cinema (à mon avis), Jean Luc Godard. The film was made during Godard’s revolutionary period when he and a number of other Maoists formed what was known as the Dziga Vertov Group. Le Vent d’est may not be as visually beautiful as À bout de souffle or as provocative as La Chinoise but like the other works produced by the Dziga Vertov Group it is an intriguing and stimulating work which is very much of its time (a sign of the impact the events of May 1968 had on Monsieur Godard can be seen by the fact that Daniel Cohn-Bendit was one of the scriptwriters on this production).

I have been trying to track down a copy of Le Vent d’est for several years now but with no success. Never broadcast on television, very little written about it and as far as I know never released commercially, this film has proved elusive ever since I first read about it in some tatty Marxist rag back in my university days. Then yesterday I found it (on the extremely non-revolutionary Google Video website). OK, so the quality is terrible but if you are a fan of Godard that won’t really matter to you. However, I warn you in advance, you will either love or hate this. Example: I checked out imdb.com to see what feedback people who had watched the movie had given. One person had grainted it 10 out of 10 and deemed it “Godard’s lost masterpiece.” Another reviewer awarded it 1 out of 10 and described it as a “truly wretched, nausea-inducing waste of film.” Anyhow, I’ve waffled on long enough. Appréciez:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Enough!

I've finally broken. Despite being someone who normally doesn't give a damn about the weather, Belfast over the past seven days has just been taking the piss. I'm off to Malta.

Back next week.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Jews? What Jews?

After stumbling upon the story outlined below on the website of the Alliance for Workers Liberty I wondered if there is anything the Socialist Workers Party in Britain can now possibly do to make themselves look even more foolish than they already are. Well, the answer to that probably is yes but for now this ranks up there in the stoopid ratings with publishing photos of sexy Hezbollah girls in a bid to convince us that the Party of God are actually a nice bunch of guys who just happen to be misunderstood.

It probably didn’t escape your notice that last week there was a bit of a hoo-ha in Derbyshire where several hundred demonstrators turned up in Codnor to protest against the far right British National Party holding their annual Red, White and Blue festival in the village. Proper order, as they say in my neck of the woods. While it is in reality as vile as any gathering of reactionary racist filth you would find anywhere in the world, the BNP are crafty and PR savvy enough these days to have public gatherings that have more in common with the Austrian Freedom Party or the French Front National than more outwardly thuggish neo-Nazi elements. Hence the attempts then to make the RWB festival look like nothing other than a family fun day out in rural England where BNP folk and their families can celebrate British culture, eat ice cream and use words like ‘darkie’ and ‘Paki’ without fear of being laughed at by civilised human beings. However, is it possible that one-eyed Führer Griffin and some of the so-called leftists on the other side of the line of riot police have something in common? You could be surprised.

The Socialist Workers Party were present at the protest and were doing their usual thing of collecting names and phone numbers on a petition which they will then use to call you at various hours of the day inviting you to mind-numbing meetings held in the back of draughty old pubs. The petition was, as is pointed out by Gerry Bates on the AWL website, slightly odd as it achieves something of a triple whammy. First, it claims to be a Unite Against Fascism document, asking the reader to join UAF and displaying the organisation’s web address (the UAF is not - I repeat not - an SWP front group). Secondly, at the bottom it asks for this form to be returned to Love Music, Hate Racism (LMHR is not - I repeat not - an SWP front group). Thirdly, it states that this petition was “initiated” by the Socialist Worker newspaper (OK, that publication does have something do with the SWP). Usually these guys are a bit more subtle than this and will maintain with a straight face that Globalise Resistance and the Anti Nazi League and a whole array of other such proudly named campaign organisations have damn all to do with their party, although you can normally spot a front group a mile away by the simple fact that the telephone numbers listed in the contact us section of their publicity material will usually the same as all your local SWP members telephone numbers. Maybe they’ve just decided to do their bit for the environment and print all these stooge groups names on the same bit of paper.

But that’s not the really stupid bit. That comes next. The petition states that the British National Party is a Holocaust denying organisation. No problem there of course. Nicky G has the conviction to prove it. However, the SWP then decided it was necessary to give a definition of what the Holocaust was, just in case someone attending an anti-fascist demo had never come across this mere point of detail in the history of the Second World War. The document explains that the Holocaust was the incident “where thousands of LGBT people, trade unionists, and disabled people were slaughtered.” Now hang on a moment, isn’t there a notable group missing here? You know, like, the Jews for instance. Perhaps my school taught me the wrong stuff, but didn’t a few of them die in Nazi death camps? Hmmm.

There are two ways you can view this. One, that Jewish victims of the Holocaust were deliberately omitted from the petition so that there would be no offence taken by the SWP’s various Islamist pals, some of whom would hold a view of these events that would share much with the outlook of David Irving or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Or two, that this was an oversight. The second explanation will probably turn out to be the official justification for this little episode but it isn’t a very good one, is it? To mention the Second World War without remarking on the Holocaust is difficult. To bring up the Holocaust without making reference to the slaughter of Europe’s Jews is simply impossible. I find it incredibly difficult to believe that the authors of this petition simply forgot to mention the Jewish victims of the Nazi slaughter. So too does Gerry Bates. He states that “for such a slip to pass unnoticed through writer, typesetter, printer, organisers, and distributors, without anyone at any stage picking it up, must say something.” Regardless of whether this one done on purpose or by accident matters little. For an organisation whose Jewish-born founder had family murdered in the Nazi gas chambers, its speaks volumes for the state of the SWP that its current members do not even think this part of our history warrants as much as a couple of words on a flyer. How sad.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The SWP, clerical reactionaries and cute bums

It appears the ongoing flirtation that the pro-faith Socialist Workers Party is having with the forces of Islamofascism has officially reached a new low. Until now the usual tactics employed by the SWP to explain their ‘conditional support’ for militant Islamists has been to point to comments made by Marx on the Fenians and Lenin on the Easter Rising and then apply those remarks from two previous centuries to the current threat posed by al-Qaeda, Hamas and other such brutes. Sex, to the best of my knowledge at least, has never previously featured in the arguments put forward by party supporters. However, one IST-aligned blogger has decided to use some lovely girls to illustrate his point that reactionary terrorists aren’t all that bad.

The 19th Brumaire is a website listed in the so-called Lenosphere, which just in case you don't know is a collection of several dozen International Socialist Tendency related blogs all striving to become the next Richard Seymour. In his most recent entry, blog author Jamie has posted pictures of a handful of attractive Lebanese girls attending what appears to be a Hezbollah rally and has decided to accompany it with the heading "This is what an 'Islamofascist' looks like." How clever. Clearly pathetic infidels such as ourselves are supposed to look at these alluring images and then reconsider all of the preconceptions we had about Hezbollah being nothing more than a band of ruthless, anti-western, anti-democratic and anti-Israeli butchers.

Take the top picture first. It depicts a blonde girl wrapped in the Hezbollah flag with its Koran-based slogan proclaiming "then surely the party of God are they that shall be triumphant." She is wearing blue jeans, a brightly coloured belt and a small yellow top that reveals a bit of tummy and a tattoo at the bottom of her back. The photograph immediately below this shows two more pieces of reactionary totty. This time the ladies in question are a couple of dark haired lassies sporting Hezbollah t-shirts adorned with a picture of a grinning Hassan Nasrallah.

There isn’t any need for me or anyone else to say what is wrong here. The article ridicules itself simply by existing. Jamie and his comrades will have to do much more than post pictures of hot chicks on the internet in order prove how progressive the Party of God and their fellow travellers happen to be. For the time being when I hear the name Hezbollah I will continue to think of suicide murderers, the bombing of synagogues, rabid anti-Semitism, the fascist salute that their members perform in public shows of strength and the indiscriminate slaughter of scores of civilians at a Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aries a decade ago. I'll continue to think of their hideous leader's overt racism, his sickening homophobia and his declaration that there is no such thing as an innocent Israeli.

You may choose to disagree. Perhaps you think that a girl with a tattoo and a nice bum is enough evidence to rubbish all those years of vehement anti-Semitism on the part of Hezbollah. If you do then you are more shallow than you could possibly appreciate. If I were to go to a British National Party meeting I could probably find an attractive woman somewhere in the room amongst all the beer-bellied halfwits that would surround her. The same could be said if I were to turn up at a loyalist band parade in the Shankill Road area of Belfast. Only a fool of the most preposterous kind would imagine that their presence would somehow act as a barometer for how progressive a movement the BNP or Protestant loyalist flute bands were. For some people within the SWP and the wider Cliffite movement it appears that such things can be used in precisely that fashion. By the way, if I can find a few fetching pictures of Eva Braun and her pals from the 1930s can I assume that his too means that Nazism wasn’t as bad as we thought? On second thoughts, don't bother answering that.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tories are (still) vermin

I hope the 20,539 people who voted for the ‘new’ Conservatives in Crewe and Nantwich back in May are pleased with themselves. This is what David Cameron’s favourite think tank, the Policy Exchange, had to say about those very northerners this week:

“Many of Britain's towns and cities have failed - and been failed by policy makers for too long. It is better to tell uncomfortable truths than to continue to claim that if we carry on as we are then things will turn out well. Just as we can't buck the market, so we can't buck economic geography either. Places that enjoyed the conditions for creating wealth in the coal-powered 19th century often do not do so today. Coastal cities, whether large like Liverpool and Hull, or small like Scunthorpe and Blackpool, are most vulnerable ... They are almost always at the end of the line. They have lost their raison d'etre and it is hard to imagine them prospering at their current sizes. Sunderland demonstrates just how hard it is to regenerate such a city. It is time to stop pretending there is a bright future for Sunderland and ask ourselves instead what we need to do to offer people in Sunderland better prospects.”

And what do they offer the workers of Sunderland and elsewhere? They think they should - wait for it - move south. Yes, I said move south. When I heard this I thought either a) my calendar is buggered and its April 1st or b) a journalist was deliberately misreading another mundane think tank report because he couldn’t make head nor tail of what was going on in Georgia. But it was neither. The report actually states that the three million new homes being planned by the government should be built in London, Oxford and Cambridge:

“Cities based on highly skilled workers are the most dynamic. Oxford and Cambridge are unambiguously Britain's leading research universities outside London… No one is suggesting that residents should be forced to move, but we do argue that they should be told the reality of the position.”

Oh, so you don’t plan on forcing people to move. Well, that’s alright then. For a moment there I had images of thousands of Scousers and Geordies being transported by Virgin Trains cattle cars down to newly built concentration camps housing estates somewhere out on the fringes of London and far enough away so nobody from Toxteth steals Cameron’s bicycle. However, the real stomach-churning thing that hits you when you read this report is that the Policy Exchange fuckers that authored it are paid shitloads to sit around and come up with this bollocks. Vermin they are. Vermin I say.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

No news? Give them some Maddie

“... But it was not the public telling the story. It was always a moment of private grief exploited by an elite struggling to find a narrative in which society might meaningfully engage with itself. Now, with each ridiculous headline, the cynical core of the media and cultural elite’s manipulation of a private tragedy comes ever more to the surface. And the saddest thing of all is that in turning a family tragedy into a volatile commodity, an object for public mourning and anger, the genuine loss of the McCanns has been trivialised. Like stories of pregnant transsexuals, or talking dogs, it’s just another tale in the morass of silly season distractions.”

Tim Black
Spiked
August 13th 2008

Maybe my feathers are easily ruffled in my old age. Maybe I am just a cantankerous old shit. Or maybe I'm just thinking the same thing as lots of other people. But regardless of whether people share my opinion on this, I am simply fed up with the tabloid soap opera that is the hunt to find Madeleine McCann. To be honest it's probably a bit inaccurate to say that I'm fed up as I was never really all that enthusiastic about it to begin with. As an old fashioned type of a guy I believe that news should be about current affairs, politics, wars, peace, strikes, economic issues - stories that affect the masses. The McCann story definitely had a place, but the lead story in television news bulletins and the front pages of newspapers was definitely not it.

This is by no means a callous or uncaring response on my part. Yes, I feel sorry for the girl. Yes, I also feel sorry for her parents, which is more than can be said for a lot of those self-righteous bastards obsessed with lambasting the McCann’s for leaving their kid alone in a hotel room. Do I think the media reaction would have been different had the parents been an unmarried couple of boozed-up chavs who had abandoned their youngster on their own while they went out to a nightclub in Benidorm? Of course I do, but then that says more about the way the public and the media think than the poor parents. I've even come to accept some of the more vulgar things the family have done over the past year and a bit. By that I mean things such as Gerry McCann's blog on findmaddie.com where you can read about the search for Madeleine as well as the more mundane events in Gerry's life such as his love of "mince and tatties" plus whether or not he needs a haircut.

No, none of the above really bothers me all that much.

What I hate, despise, loathe and simply cannot abide is the 'Maddie' story that inevitably pops up in The Daily Mirror or The Sun if it happens to be a dry news day. I'm sure nobody out there is naïve enough to genuinely believe that our cynical media somehow give a damn about this young girl. At least Kelvin MacKenzie is honest when he calls this episode “the greatest story of my life.” The reason that this particular missing person inquiry has occupied so many column inches is because it is a distressing tale that tugs on the strings of the hardest of hearts. Any sad story involving a child is guaranteed to shift the morning rags from the shelves of local newsagents, hence the almost daily obsession certain publications have with paedophilia. Yesterday was no different. Tuesday August 12th was not even all that dry on the news front yet a war in the Caucasus involving a nuclear superpower was not considered serious enough to avoid that particular story being relegated to the inside pages of some publications. The reason? You guessed it. We have another ‘sighting’ on our hands.

I'm sure Kate and Gerry have more sense than to begin getting their hopes built up by reports from a section of the press that was quite happy in the past to publish stories claiming Elvis Presley had been spotted shopping at a Tesco store. Only a few days after she was allegedly seen in both the Netherlands and Venezuela, hopes were 'raised' yesterday morning by a Sun report that Madeleine had been seen with a woman walking along a street in Brussels.

A couple of things aggravated me about this. The first irritating thing was the headline, which as is normally the case with this newspaper was a 'quote' from a man they interviewed in Brussels which he in all probability never uttered. It stated: "I sold an ice cream to 'Maddie' - It was choc… missing tots favourite." There's enough saccharine-draped bogus sincerity in that heading to make you physically ill. Maybe the Sun should just have added 'Cry Here' as a sub-headline just in case we proletarian idiots didn't get what they were hinting at.

However, a more disturbing element of this and other tabloid reports of these yeti-like sightings of Madeleine McCann refer to her being accompanied by someone of North African or Arab appearance. In this most recent report the woman holding her hand was wearing a hijab. Intriguing, isn’t it? I have been wondering what it is about this recurring theme in the Madeleine sightings. Could it be that some people would actually prefer it if it were discovered that the child had been abducted by a Muslim or an Arab rather than a white European Christian? Don't deride my theory too quickly. Here in my part of the world (i.e. Northern Ireland) we are warped enough to take comfort in blaming 'the other side' for things completely unrelated to politics or our long-running sectarian conflict. The difference is we are conscious of the fact when we're venting our anger about a Prod paedophile or a Fenian child abuser. The paedophile scandals that dogged the Roman Catholic Church in the 1990s were the source of numerous sectarian exchanges - many of which I had the pleasure of witnessing as a teenage schoolboy at the time. One particular piece of graffiti that stands out in my head was that which appeared in a loyalist area of Portadown stating “all your Priests are queer.” Perhaps the overwhelmingly white Christian writers and the readers of right wing British tabloids aren't fully aware of their own Ulster-style desire to have this crime shifted onto the shoulders of a different community, and indeed a contemporary enemy at that.

There is now no longer a Madeleine McCann 'story' worth speaking of. Fifteen months on and all that is left to generate interest in this subject is the odd grainy CCTV image of a child plus a few equally trivial human interest stories about how Kate and Gerry are getting on with life. Hard facts and information about new developments? Forget about it. Unless you are a Maddie junkie who just needs another fix of some non-news then I suggest you change channels or turn the page of your paper and read a bit more about what’s taking place in South Ossetia. Now that the near cult euphoria that built up around this event has died down a bit we will hopefully be able to move on. The tragedy is that the youngster at the centre of this is still missing, nobody knows where she is and unfortunately that is how things will always stand until the only other major development that can possibly now occur actually does take place - that is the reports that will feature in news bulletins on the day she is eventually found.

Finally, just to get back to the news item that triggered this particular gripe, I see this morning that The Sun website has announced that a "Belgian man has claimed that the girl in the footage was his daughter." So it wasn’t her after all. Astonishing. The child seen on a street in Brussels is actually the daughter of a Belgian man. And the Arab woman who was suspicious because she was an Arab? Well, it turns out she is fully qualified child minder who is legally working in Belgium. Who would have thought it, eh?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fáilte go Béal Feirste

The English rid themselves of this brand of ‘no dogs, no blacks, no Irish’ poster many, many moons ago. So, it obviously says a lot for Belfast that we’ve only got around to discovering them in 2008. Click here to read the whole story. If you really want to that is. Depressing. Very depressing:

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Brum deal

I’m off to Birmingham - England, not Alabama - for the weekend as there is a wedding going down on my partner’s side of the house. There are three things I don’t particularly have much time for in life: weddings, families and the West Midlands. A lethal cocktail of all three awaits over the next couple of days. To be fair, Birmingham isn’t really all that bad. The people are pleasant. The accent is amusing. There are a few decent watering holes. And, er... right, I’ll leave on a Brummie theme. Back on Monday:

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Navel gazing

"We have disgraced ourselves again. We are the laughing stock of Europe. A pretty girl wears a club strip and it brings out the Ulster ayatollahs; this is a non story…"

Comment posted by 'Mark' on Belfast Telegraph website
July 31st 2008

Look at this picture. Look at it carefully. Concentrate. Now, tell me if you see anything wrong? You don't? Good, because I didn't notice any problems with it either. Sadly not everyone in our dear province feels the same way. In yet another sign of just how trapped in the dark ages Northern Irish society really is, this promotional photo of Linfield's new kit for the 2008/2009 Irish Premier League season was one of six 'provocative' images withdrawn from the website of the north's biggest and most successful football club.

The circumstances surrounding this little episode are still a bit shady. The Belfast Telegraph states that the "revealing pictures were highlighted to the club's board members" and that following this the images in question were dropped. This triggered two questions for me.

Firstly, are these photos featuring former Miss Northern Ireland Lucy Evangelista really that risqué? The only thing that shocked me about them was learning that Ms Evangelista hailed from Ballymena (apologies to anyone from the town reading this but Lucy didn't strike me as one of the Evangelista clan from north Antrim). I've looked at the other five pictures - in the name of research obviously - and this one above is about as racy as it gets. How is it that in the year 2008 the sight of a woman's navel can still provoke enough of a storm in Northern Ireland to warrant a large front page article in our best selling daily newspaper? The second question it raises is just who exactly are the oddballs that "highlighted" these supposedly suggestive images to the board of Linfield? This one may take a bit longer to get to the bottom of but, as the comment from 'Mark' at the top of this piece says, one senses that the "Ulster ayatollahs" aren't all that far from the centre of this episode. The whole kafuffle will be discussed at the next board meeting on Monday and until then the Belfast club will not make any further statements on the matter.

The story reminded me of a similar tale I encountered last year that involved the fledging Afghan television station Tolo TV and the furore it prompted in that part of the world by its decision to transmit a Shakira concert. Concerns that the Colombian singer's tight clothing and all-round general foxiness could lead to an increase in suicide bombings were slightly eased when the broadcasters opted to show the gig with her chest pixelated (one can only assume that Islamofascism had no political or religious objections to her arse). What was interesting to note was that despite - or more probably because of - all those years of Taleban rule and the crazed decrees of the mullahs ordinary Afghans didn't really seem to bothered about the South American temptress appearing on their screens. Some may even possibly have enjoyed it.

I don't know Afghanistan that well and indeed may never have a chance to visit that far flung location. However, I do know the natives of south Belfast quite well and I know more than a few Linfield fans. Like most football fans in these islands, the Linfield faithful are unlikely to be too concerned about a pretty lady showing off her belly button while wearing their club's home shirt. In fact, like many of those Afghan men interviewed last year regarding the Shakira gig, I have a feeling some fans of the blues may have quite enjoyed the photos.

The past few weeks have been depressing even by Northern Ireland standards. We've had Iris's 'cure' for homosexuality, sectarian attacks on southern football teams, ongoing racism throughout the province and now the saga of Lucy's navel. On the bright side the annual Gay Pride parade takes place in Belfast city centre tomorrow afternoon. At least that will help restore our standing in the world as a pillar of diversity, open mindedness and toleration. Won't it?

Friday, August 01, 2008

An innovative way to deal with inflation

Is your economy well and truly buggered? Inflation running at 2,000,000%? A tray of eggs costing your citizens 600,000,000,000 in your currency? Well, why not take a leaf out of the Mugabe book. A couple of days back the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe decided to simply drop ten zeroes off the Zimbabwean Dollar in order to make Z$10,000,000,000 now equal to Z$1. I must admit to not studying economics at university but I sense that there may be a slight flaw in this approach. Still, best of luck lads.

According to Gideon Gono, the governor of the RBZ, the Zimbabwean economy currently faces some “challenges.” No shit, Gideon.