Category: politics


A CUP OF SAKE BENEATH THE CHERRY TREES by Kenkō (Translated by Meredith McKinney)
kenko1

Yoshida Kenkō at work – just to prove that he didn’t just sit around all day doing nothing!

Kenkō was a Japanese Buddhist monk who was probably born in 1283 and probably died in 1352 (nobody knows for sure).

This pocket-sized book is one of eighty 80p  ‘Little Black Classics’ and is a much reduced version of his Essays In Idleness.

Despite its 14th century provenance it has a remarkably contemporary application. It illustrates that the vanity of human wishes change little from century to century or from country to country. Continue reading

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING by Naomi Klein (Allen Lane, 2013)

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding” – Upton Sinclair.

Alternative titles to this brave and important book could have been ‘Everything Must Change’, ‘Everything is Fucked’ or even more despairingly, The End Is Nigh.

Whatever way you look at the situation that Naomi Klein presents, it is clear that humanity is well and truly up shit creek climate-wise.

It would nice to report that this book also provides us with some metaphorical paddles but, sadly, this is not the case.

Klein presents the scale of the problem but in terms of solutions ultimately offers only a faith in the essential resilience of the human spirit. Continue reading

PRIDE directed by Matthew Warchus (UK, 2014)

pride-poster Although I was living in London in the 1980s, the time this movie was set, I confess to ignorance about the unlikely coalition between a small mining community in Wales and the left-leaning activists of the Lesbians And Gays Support The Miners (LGSM) operating from the Gay’s The Word bookshop in Bloomsbury.

I take comfort in the fact that Bill Nighy, one of the excellent ensemble cast of this movie, admits he didn’t know about this either until he was sent the script.

Perhaps this is not so strange given that the tabloids were only interested in shock-horror put-downs of “homos and “perverts” while the broadsheets seemed to have all but ignored the story. Continue reading

INTERSTELLAR directed by Christopher Nolan (USA, 2014)

Looking to the stars for hope.

Should we stay or should we go?

Brion Gysin , the English-born painter and poet who introduced William S Burroughs to cut-ups believed that leaving the planet was the only thing that gave any purpose to life on earth; “we are here to go”, he said.

This perverse notion is one that Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan transform into the interstellar overdrive of their extraordinary cinematic vision – a space odyssey of epic proportions.

Reasons to go are indeed pressing since Earth is rapidly becoming uninhabitable with crops literally turning into dust. We are not privy to the precise reason for this state of affairs but Professor Brand (Michael Caine) alludes to humankind’s selfish tendencies as being a primary cause. This is also something Naomi Klein, in her book This Changes Everything, has rightly identified as a key factor in climate change.

If, as seems probable, the future of humankind is due to the largely man-made catastrophe of global warming, it begs the question as to how we are going to prevent fucking up another planet too. The mysterious Eureka solution that saves the world suggests that a last-minute reprieve is possible; a central message that is as delusional as it is dangerous. Continue reading

Maggie Thatcher and Hilary MantelThe best kind of  killer is one who can hide in plain sight  and  is able to pass unnoticed in a crowd.

Hilary Mantel does not look like an assassin. On the contrary, she seems so prim and proper.  I’m sure she often gets mistaken for a Tory.  She is always well turned out, wears pastel shades and her hairstyle is not so dissimilar to Thatcher’s.

This is what makes her short story The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher – August 6th 1983,( published in The Guardian) seem so out of character.

It has caused a minor storm in a tea-cup among those who still misguided enough to argue that Thatcher saved, rather than ruined,  the nation. To those who merrily sang Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead las year, Mantel is an unlikely heroine. Continue reading

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