Wednesday, November 30, 2005

humanist meme

A great quiz via Andrew at Bloggers4Labour; according to the New Humanist magazine's quiz I'm a handholder. Andrew is a hardhat, which sounds much cooler, and has a better image, damn.

You go out of your way to build bridges with people of different views and beliefs and have quite a few religious friends. You believe in the essential goodness of people , which means you’re always looking for common ground even if that entails compromises. You would defend Salman Rushdie’s right to criticise Islam but you’re sorry he attacked it so viciously, just as you feel uncomfortable with some of the more outspoken and unkind views of religion in the pages of this magazine.

You prefer the inclusive approach of writers like Zadie Smith or the radical Christian values of Edward Said. Don’t fall into the same trap as super–naïve Lib Dem MP Jenny Tonge who declared it was okay for clerics like Yusuf al–Qaradawi to justify their monstrous prejudices as a legitimate interpretation of the Koran: a perfect example of how the will to understand can mean the sacrifice of fundamental principles. Sometimes, you just have to hold out for what you know is right even if it hurts someone’s feelings.

What kind of humanist are you? Click here to find out.

Hmm. Not so very far off, I suppose. Depressingly, I'm not sure that I have any religious friends, we're all hard-nosed atheists round our way. I don't believe in an 'essential goodness' in people anymore than an essential badness, but I take the point that I prefer to look at people in a positive rather than negative light, although that doesn't mean I'm not critical. I certainly don't wish that Rushdie had attacked Islam 'less viciously', although I'd very much like to see the passages in The Satanic Verses which are vicious, as Rushdie's attitude towards religion in that novel have been completely misunderstood by most people. I like Zadie Smith and Edward Said, yup. And I don't mind hurting people's feelings every now and again if it's necessary. Oh, OK, I do.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

daft people who are real men

The Polish Prime Minister, the delightful Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz has expressed concern that "unnatural" homosexuals might "infect others" with their deviant behaviour. Enough for yer man Peter Tatchell to organise a protest, and enough for the Guardian to post a short message about it on its Newsblog. It's the response from 'Stan' that is worth reading, however, for a sign that we can't get all high and mighty about the grossly unpleasant homophobia abroad before confronting the idiocy closer to home.

Stan comments that "Homosexuality is not a human right. It is a lifestyle choice. Of course, Im sure we'll start hearing about how we need to "educate" the Poles into accepting Homosexuality. Hopefully slavic men, just about the only real men left in Europe, will just laugh at these people". Stan's a real man, too btw. More interesting is the fact that he's not the first to reply with a splurge of drivel - an initial comment mentioned that "most people believe homosexuality is gross. Of course faith groups dont want to engage with you! Youre like someone going to a football game and demanding to watch cricket". This genius of this rather colourful comparison aside, the Guardian chose to delete the comment rather than let it stand. Good old Stan reinstates it. Both utter idiots, obviously, but should the Guardian have deleted the original comment? What do you think?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

rounder records top 40 2005

List season is really gearing up again, it's good to see. Here's the records of the year list by the lovely Rounder Records chaps: Bold and my marks out of five where I've got the record. Italics where I've never heard of it.

1. M.I.A. – Arular *****
2. The Rakes – Capture/Release **
3. The Arcade Fire – Funeral *****
4. Cut Copy – Bright Like Neon Love
5. Soulwax – Nite Versions
6. LCD Soundsystem – s/t ****
7. Vitalic – OK Cowboy
8. Broadcast – Tender Buttons ****
9. Stephen Malkmus – Face The Truth *****
10. Juan Maclean – Less Than Human ***
11. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm ***
12. Sigur Ros – Takk
13. Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock’n’Roll ****
14. Joyzipper – The Heartlight Set
15. And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Worlds Apart
16. Death From Above 1979 – You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine
17. Kanye West – Late Registration **
18. Sons & Daughters – The Repulsion Box
19. Cassetteboy – Dead Horse
20. Supergrass – Road To Rouen
21. Kate Bush – Aerial
22. Annie – Anniemal ***
23. Fischerspooner – Odyssey
24. My Morning Jacket - Z
25. Dangerdoom – The Mouse & The Mask
26. Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom – Days Of Mars
27. Brakes – Give Blood
28. Strapping Young Lad – Alien
29. Pendulum – Hold Your Colour
30. The Engineers – s/t
31. The Fall – Heads Will Roll ***
32. Bright Eyes – Digital Ash In A Digital Urn
33. Who Made Who – s/t
34. Calibre – Second Son
35. The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan
36. Husky Rescue – Country Falls
37. Turbonegro – Party Animals
38. British Sea Power – Open Season ***
39. Mew – And The Glass Handed Kites
40. Gorillaz – Demon Days *****

imperial injustice

Completely unbelievable news from the Imperial College in London, which has just annouced that it is banning all hoodies and headscarves for 'security reasons'!

The college's management board approved the new dress code at the beginning of the month. "Clothing that obscures an individual's face is not allowed on any of the college's campuses," it reads. "Employees and students should refrain from wearing clothing which obscures the face, such as a full or half veil, or hooded tops or scarves worn across the face."

College officials said the move was part of renewed efforts to improve security on campus after the summer bombings in London. It was also an attempt to combat theft and deter animal rights activists on campus. Security staff should be able to match a person's face to their security card, the regulations read.

But students are fighting the new dress code. This week they will debate and vote on a motion that would amend it to allow hoodies and all religious dress. Sarah Khatib, the deputy president of the student union who seconded of the motion, said: "Students should not to have to seek permission to wear any religious item. We all understand that the college wants to identify people, so we're trying to find a middle way.

"People have happily accepted the fact that there is increased security and they have to wear their swipe cards. But they aren't happy about the hoodies. It's a sign of youth, you wear it as a student, but not once you work in the city. People like wearing them and when it's cold the hoods are necessary. They feel it is an infringement on freedom."

Part of my job is going around University campuses (including Imperial) and in the last few years campus security has changed unbelievably; in many cases it's simply impossible to access university departments, libraries or amenities without prior arrangement and/or identification. Imperial is one of the few places where you walk in anytime, get in the lift and go straight to any department unchecked. You would think that fixing this security oversight might be a slightly higher priority than stopping Muslims from wearing headscarves or kids from wearing hoodies to keep out the cold. But no. Ridiculous.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


A quick note on the lack of updates; sorry all, there is a reason: I'm trying to do this nanowrimo novel-in-a-month thing at the moment and the fall-out is that I've not really got time to keep (a) blogging, (b) drinking to excess and (c) writing a novel. One of them had to go. That said, I will try to get a couple of posts up this week: I'm already overdue one for the Art of Noise blog.

In the meantime, writing a novel in 30 days is hard. I've done just over 21,000 words in 22 days, which means I have an almost impossible task ahead of me, but there you go. I need to write 3624 words a day, I think. God. So far I've managed an average of only 955 words a day, which is completely pathetic when you consider that this post already consists, at this point of 150. Ah well. I'm still hopeful!

Friday, November 18, 2005

news quiz highlights

A good observation by the wonderful Jeremy Hardy on the interminable Tory leadership contest:

"Don't you think it's rather funny that people now take longer becoming Tory Leader than they actually do being Tory leader?"

Very good. From tonight's New Quiz on R4.

hush collector

Went to the inaugral gig of Pete's lovely Hush Collector project last night, and really enjoyed it. First gigs are really tricky, especially when your sound is based upon delicacy and balance rather than energy and adrenelin. But the band wisely chose to play in a venue that suited their sound - Hove's dark, warm Sanctuary Cellar, a venue whose low roof and modest size ensured a good, vibey spirit amongst the attendees, amongst whom were myself and the rest of Assistant, Mark, Dan, Michi, Sandra, Chris, Benedict, Keith, and fellow Brighton blogger Abi Rhodes, who beat me to getting a review up.

Having negotiated a support band who sounded like they made incidental music for Richard Curtis films, Hush Collector took to a low stage in the corner of the room and spilled off the edges, giving the pleasant sensation that they were almost stood amongst the crowd at times. Their music is focused and bright, hazy rhythms with warm acoustic guitars and Katie and Poppy's doubled vocals, creating a gentle, country-tinged brand of melancholia. I was expecting them to be ethereal and airy but they weren't at all, the best moments coming when they pushed up the volume and locked into a groove. All the pianos and acoustic guitars might get a bit much for an unreconstructed indie kid like myself but Pete's super guitar playing, which dropped in and out of the mix, was really thrilling at the moments when it would appear unheralded with some new tough, bluesy riff. They were great.

You can visit their deceptively new-agey website here and get a copy of their CD while you're at it!

Momentarily sated with precise musicianship and delicate sophistication, you can see Pete back to form forgetting his guitar parts and hammering out stupid, repetitive indie rock with Assistant at the Cable Club on December 7th, don't forget...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

lost hair

God, I just watched the most boring episode of 'Lost' so far. Actually, it was the most boring hour of TV I've seen in a long time. I do feel sorry, however, for the men, who are forced to grow shaggy sideburns and grey-flecked beards because the women of the island are hogging the razors to keep their underarms and legs hair-free. Surely they could spare the blades for like, an hour? But no. They're in constant usage.

lazy post about music

Tim de Lisle of the Guardian has done of those pointless lists of albums that everyone should own kind of things which we bloggers get very excited about. It's a very bland, predictable list which doesn't contain any jazz or blues, hardly any hip hop and only one reggae record. I won't get into pointing out all the bands that produced awesome records that have been left off the list, just highlight in bold the records I own or, in the case of the iffy suggestion that 'best of' albums are preferable to individual efforts, own enough music by the artists to construct a best-of of my own. And, erm, Crowded House?

Here we go.

Studio albums (42):

Arcade Fire: Funeral/ Beach Boys: Pet Sounds/ The Beatles: Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper, Abbey Road/ David Bowie: Hunky Dory, Low/ Johnny Cash: American IV/ The Clash: London Calling/ Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man/ Elvis Costello: Armed Forces/ Bob Dylan: Highway 61, Blonde On Blonde/ Bryan Ferry: These Foolish Things/ Fleetwood Mac: Rumours/ Fugees: The Score/ Marvin Gaye: What's Going On/ Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man: Out of Season/ Gorillaz: Demon Days/ George Harrison: All Things Must Pass/ Carole King: Tapestry/ Annie Lennox: Diva/ Nick Lowe: Jesus Of Cool /The Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs/ Mary Margaret O'Hara: Miss America/ Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon/ Prince: Sign O' the Times/ Radiohead: OK Computer/ Lou Reed: Transformer/ Roxy Music: For Your Pleasure, Avalon/ Scissor Sisters/ Sex Pistols: Never Mind The Bollocks/ Bruce Springsteen: The River, Born in the USA/ Talking Heads: Fear of Music/ U2: The Joshua Tree/ The Velvet Underground & Nico/ Tom Waits: Swordfishtrombones/ White Stripes: Elephant/ Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life.

Individual compilations (41)

Abba/ Blondie/ Blur/ James Brown/ Kate Bush/ Ray Charles/ Patsy Cline/ Sam Cooke/ Crowded House/ The Eagles/ Eminem (out Dec 2)/ Aretha Franklin/ Peter Gabriel/ Al Green/ Emmylou Harris/ Jimi Hendrix/ Michael Jackson/ The Kinks/ Kraftwerk/ Led Zeppelin/ John Lennon/ Kirsty MacColl/ Madonna/ Bob Marley/ George Michael/ Van Morrison/ New Order/ Randy Newman/ Roy Orbison/ Pet Shop Boys/ Elvis Presley/ Otis Redding/ Rolling Stones/ Diana Ross/ Simon & Garfunkel/ Paul Simon solo/ The Smiths/ Dusty Springfield/ T.Rex/ The Who/ Hank Williams.

Mixed compilations (3)

Shake, Rattle & Roll: 50 Classic Rock'n'Roll Hits/ The Songs of Phil Spector and the Brill Building/ Flashback! Classic Disco Hits.

Soundtracks (2)

The Sound of Music/ Saturday Night Fever.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

no luck for blair

I must say I'd talked myself into thinking that Blair would win today's vote on being able to lock up foreign-looking people forever without trial, but even in my hopeful moments I didn't think he'd lose by 31 votes. Well, he has, which is pretty amazing. I'm not bothered about Blair being given a bloody nose, but this is a rebellion on an unprecedented scale - what happened to Labour MPs being afraid of challenging their leader? That he had to deny that he will quit is pretty momentous stuff. Blimey. Most important is that a crummy bit of legislation failed. Good.

· 291 vote for 90-day amendment; 322 against
· 49 Labour MPs rebel
· Commons backs 28-day detention by 323-290
· PM must 'consider position' - Howard

sue axon and journalistic practices

Oh, blogging has got so hard since bloggers were supposed to start following journalistic principles - Mark has already pulled me up on one point in the comments boxes today where he's probably right but I dunno and I know I should check but I can't be bothered. Which is not good journalistic practice.

Equally I'd dearly like to write a post which proves that Sue Axon, the woman currently fighting a battle through courts because she claims that "parents have a "right to know" about sexual health advice and treatment given to their underage children" and that this is more important than young people's right to confidentiality when they go to a doctor or other health professional, is a stupid bitch. But I can't be bothered. Needless to say it's all about abortion really, and doubtless the fact that she suffers 'guilt and shame' at her own abortion 20 years ago gives her the right to stick her ill-informed head into other people's business.

Like I say, I should back all this up but... it's getting late and I'm tired. Sorry.

assistant mp3s / gig news

OK, apart from you lucky few that got sent a free CD last month, who haven't had to try (and those of you who couldn't care less) I know it's been an absolute bugger downloading Assistant songs for the last couple of months; those of you who haven't heard us yet and would quite like to can now shuffle along to our wizzy new myspace page, where you can hear and download a few songs and say hi. The URL is

Further, fans of what the Cable Club are enthusiastically marketing as a "fantastic night of progressive indie... with a side of melody" will be delighted to hear that in a little less than a month's time Assistant will be supporting the Republic Of Heaven and Boxer at Brighton's Cable Club. We're on first; you can come, watch us, say hello, get drunk, leave early, whatever you like. We're keen.

The Cable Club is at The Pressure Point, 33 Richmond Place, Brighton, BN2 9NA. Entrance is £4/3(conc) and the date (because I almost forgot to put that) is Wednesday 7th December. Our last gig of the year, so we'll bring the Christmas lights and a bunch of CDs. Hope you can make it.

more on paris

A few more links to stuff on the Paris riots, hope this isn't getting boring...

- Police have started, erm, rounding up bloggers who have been encouraging the unrest. I'd better watch my back.
"A 16-year-old French teenager and an 18-year-old of Ghanaian nationality are being questioned by Paris prosecutors, according to reports.

One of the blogs was called "sarkodead", a reference to the interior minister and presidential contender, Nicholas Sarkozy, who referred to the rioters in disparaging terms and has been singled out for criticism by many French bloggers.

The pair have been placed under investigation, which is a step short of formal charges under French law, for "inciting harm to people and property over the internet".
One of the blogs was here, but as you can see, it isn't anymore.

- Elsewhere, John West, a British blogger and journalist living in Paris, makes the following observation:
"Speaking of the rioters here, it is very instructive.The astonishing thing about them is just howpolitical they are. The interviews on the TV show the immigrant youth(whether first, second or third generation) to be eloquent and angry. Theylive in total shitholes. One Morrocan young man held up his French ID cardand said "I've had this three years, three years - but it means nothing.They only see my name and I never get the job." Much of the graffititargets Nicholas Sarkozy specifically, who called trouble makers "rabble"and insisted that the areas had to be industrially cleaned of thesepeople. It is stated fact that he opens his gob and the rioting massivelygets worse. His stoking the fire with hard-line rhetoric will eitherimplode his vile run for the presidency by linking him with division andviolence or will boost his standing with average-Joes who think it's hightime to bring back the guillotine."

- Doug Ireland, meanwhile, draws deserved attention to the disgusting behaviour of Sarkozy in recent days:
"Sarko" made headlines with his declarations that he would "karcherise" the ghettos of "la racaille" - words the U.S. press, with glaring inadequacy, has translated to mean "clean" the ghettos of "scum." But these two words have an infinitely harsher and insulting flavor in French.

"Karcher" is the well-known brand name of a system of cleaning surfaces by super-high-pressure sand-blasting or water-blasting that very violently peels away the outer skin of encrusted dirt - like pigeon-shit - even at the risk of damaging what's underneath.

To apply this term to young human beings and proffer it as a strategy is a verbally fascist insult and, as a policy proposed by an Interior Minister, is about as close as one can get to hollering "ethnic cleansing" without actually saying so.

And "Racaille" is infinitely more pejorative than "scum" to French-speakers - it has the flavor of characterizing an entire group of people as subhuman, inherently evil and criminal, worthless, and is, in other words, one of the most serious insults one could launch at the rebellious ghetto youth."

Back to more conventional media:
- Jonathan Freedland argues that what has happened in France was inevitable:
"The riots themselves are not hard to fathom; several French commentators have said the only mystery is why they didn't break out 15 years earlier. If you corral hundreds of thousands of the poor and disadvantaged into sink estates and suburbs in a misery doughnut around the city, expose them to unemployment rates of up to 40%, and then subject them to daily racial discrimination at the hands of employers and the police, you can hardly expect peace and tranquillity. Cut public spending on social programmes by 20% and you will guarantee an explosion. All you have to do is light the fuse."

- French youths spit invective in Jon Henley's latest round-up from Paris:
"We hate France and France hates us," he spat, refusing to give even his first name. "I don't know what I am. Here's not home; my gran's in Algeria. But in any case France is just fucking with us. We're like mad dogs, you know? We bite everything we see. Go back to Paris, man."
Another states:
"We burn because it's the only way to make ourselves heard, because it's solidarity with the rest of the non-citizens in this country, with this whole underclass. Because it feels good to do something with your rage."

- Agnès Poirier sticks up for the French model, but admits that:
"Some commentators, especially across the Channel or the Atlantic, think the response is self-evident: the Republican model has failed. Intégration à la Française doesn't work. France's grands mots - liberté, égalité, fraternité - are hot air; racial discrimination is the fundamental problem. France must be blind not to see its 6 million Muslims suffer from endemic racism every day.

Those critics are right - but only in part. What do we see when we look at the "burning suburbs"? Dissatisfied youth with little education, hardly any job prospects, from poor and often broken families. Their misery is first of all social and economic. They are white, black, "beurs" (second- and third-generation north African migrants); they are from Muslim, Christian and secular backgrounds. They are the French people who feel they are not represented by any political party, and especially not by the French left. And this is more dangerous than any ethnic minority riot - it constitutes a revolutionary ferment."

quick tony, stop 'em learning

Revealing stuff from yesterday's Guardian which I forgot to post. Cherie Booth has revealed that, as a student from a poor background, she was only able to go to University because of the local authority grant which she received. "The truth is", Booth says, "if I hadn't had the funding from the state to go to university I would have worked in a shop." Obviously given that New Labour abolished free university education in 1998, the temptation is to say, "lucky you!".

Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on education, said:

"I warmly welcome Cherie Blair's recognition that a free university education was vital for her and, by implication, vital for tens of thousands like her.

"It's a terrible tragedy that her husband has decided to pull up the ladder of opportunity behind him".

Granted, it's fairly predictable that everyone jumps on a statement like Booth's as an opportunity to give Blair a kicking, and I'm doing it too, but the facts are irrefutable. The govt. have brought out the usual nonsense about how the new system would still have allowed Booth the same opportunities, but of course that is blatantly untrue, as if she were a current student who received financial help commensurate with her poor background then, she would still amass a prospective debt, taking into account fees and living costs, of £28,540 by the time she qualified. Which would have certainly put me off, and I'm sure it would her too.

The president of the National Union of Students, Kat Fletcher, said: "Like many people of her generation, Cherie Blair had the chance to access education and change her life because of a free and fully-funded education system. Unfortunately her husband's government have decided to take that opportunity away."

Ho hum.

quick tony, privatise it!

It's two years to the day since Britain's sole state owned railway - South Eastern Trains - took over from the much-maligned Connex, so it's a useful time to take a look at it and see how it's doing in comparison to its free market rivals. Of course, the results are no surprise. It turns out that it's outperforming its rivals in terms of both efficiency and cost. As David Henke points out,

"All the more reason for New Labour to rush to privatise it - we can't have state firms proving they can do a better job than privatised companies"

Ho hum.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

the lost doonesburys (reprise)

I hate it when regular bloggers, columnists or cartoonists who I follow are away. Yes, that invariably gives others the opportunity to shine in their absence but i'm far too inflexible to cope with such upheaval, and want my daily fix, goddamnit. Luckily, when Steve Bell or Gary Trudeau are away the Guardian just runs old strips in their abscense, but it's hard not to feel dissapointed. Anyway - the Guardian did a re-run of Zonker getting the sack last week, which was funny the second time and all, but I've just seen the reason why it happened. Mike over at Troubled Diva reveals that there was going to be a week-long Doonesbury look at the controversial US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. However, her resignation made that impossible. Happily, the strips are at the Trudeau website so you can still read 'em and - surprise - they're very funny.

OK, not such a surprise then. Here they are.

love on the web

I do like monitoring the google searches by which people get to this blog - most popular by far at the moment is people looking for a certain female micro-celebrity (and host of Top Of The Pops) without any clothes on. I'm not sure why my blog features highly in this respect, as - sadly - I have no knowledge of the existence of any such photographs. Ah well - it could be worse: Tim's just disovered that he's google's no. 1 hit for 'nobly porno'. Blimey.

Anyway, one google search catches my attention this morning as being rather sweet. I particularly like it when people type questions into google, as if it is not so much a search engine as a genial expert - rather like Stephen Fry - who might be able to help. Today's go was 'Does Alex from Arctic Monkeys have a girlfriend?'. On behalf of the young person who penned that query, I can't offer an answer, but I hope that he doesn't, and that you have a chance.

Monday, November 07, 2005

rrright now i'm...

currently listening to:

1. The Young Knives - Trembling Of Trails (and anything else by the-new-official-best-band-of-2005)
2. Hockey Night - Get Real (Vic pointed me this way - really really impressed; the new Pavement, sorta)
3. Pavement - Harness Your Hopes (well, duh)
4. Faust - The Sad Skinhead (because it has a tune; amazing live last week)
5. Damian Marley - Welcome to Jamrock (farewell Summer!)
6. Modern Lovers - Modern Lovers LP (it was cool to be tone deaf in the 70s, too)
7. My Life Story - Angel (britpop nostalgia, oh no)
8. Gorillaz - Demon Days LP (just gets better with every listen)

rare football post

#Excuse me for crowing, but the new England squad has been announced and there are five Tottenham players in the squad (Robinson, King, Jenas, Carrick, Defoe) and four who plied their trade at the club previously (Campbell, Konchesky, Young and Crouch). Add that to the fact that if there was any justice Dawson and Lennon would be in there too, and surely will be before long, and... blimey.

#It takes a hell of a lot for me to spare Arsene Wenger an admiring word, but I've always been reluctantly impressed by his stylish and cutting response to Alex Ferguson's claim, a season or two back, that Manchester United were the more stylish footballing team. "Everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home", Wenger replied. Ferguson, whose loathing of Wenger is undoubtedly fuelled by his rival's more urbane and aloof persona, took this as a personal insult to his wife, when that was clearly not the barb intended.

Which makes it all the more surprising that Wenger, whose wit only partially redeems him against all the other things I hate him for (he's Arsenal, basically), has taken grave offence at Jose Mourino's similarly cutting remark that Wenger, who is always very happy to offer an opinion on Chelsea, is a "voyeur" - in other words, someone who is always looking at other teams rather than his own. Indeed, for a manager who perpetually "didn't see the incident", he is indeed always very happy to slate other teams.

Yet he genuinely does seem to think that by calling him a "voyeur" Mourinho is making a personal insult. Granted it's a petty trading of insults from men who should know better, but there's something very sad indeed about news that Wenger is thinking of suing the Chelsea manager over the comment. Daft.

#We turn again to Tottenham, then, for closing comments. The Spurs manager, the lovely Martin Jol, had a similar set-to with Iain Dowie last year. Unlike Wenger, Jol and Dowie never went to court. They just got it over with.

Jol said Dowie wasn't "fit to mend my shoelaces". Dowie told Jol to "show some balls". And then they made friends. Jol says:

"He's a nice fellow, and I would drink a lager with him".

Quite proper.

last call...

I think today is the last day for voting at the Brighton and Hove Web Awards. If you're minded to lend me your vote, please click on the icon below and vote for Assistant Blog. Thanks!

burning cars and dodging cops

Interesting that the papers have finally pushed the French riots onto the front pages today; The Independent leads with an aticle entitled 'Libertie? Egalite? Fraternite?'. As a question it barely needs answering but the Indy provides answers anyway:

"LIBERTÉ? French Muslims banned from wearing headscarves in school.
ÉGALITÉ? France's non-whites twice as likely to be unemployed.
FRATERNITÉ? French government admits integration policies have failed.
RÉALITÉ: Riots erupt for eleventh night."

The Guardian travels the half mile from the Cite des 3000 to central Paris, where, in Aulney-sous-Bois, Jon Henley encounters little sympathy for the rioters: "how dare they mock the police?" asks one man. "They should send in the fucking army", says another – conveniently missing the point that the reason all this is still going eleven days on is because of the absurd and provactive reaction of Sarkozy (not the one where he called the inhabitants of the suburbs 'vermin', but the one where he sent in what Naima Bouteldja calls 'a massively disproportionate police presence in the first few days of the riots'). That, after four days – when the riots were calming down – the French authorities took the opportunity to tear-gas a mosque is another indication that sending in the army is, um, unlikely to make the situation any better. In an environment where police brutality is an everyday experience, they mightn't even notice the difference.

Amnesty International reported as recently as April of the "generalised impunity" with which 'the French police operated when it came to violent treatment of young men from African backgrounds during identity checks'. The report states that:

"The French government ministers, judges and senior police officers are allowing members of the police force to use excessive and sometimes lethal force against suspects of Arab and African origin without fear of serious repercussions".

It's naturally very important - and not just because it's tragic watching people tear up their own community - that the French government find a way of stopping these riots as soon as possible. As Hugues Lagrange points out,

"If such attacks are not brought under control, the population of these poor neighbourhoods, initially supportive of the 'kids' in their confrontation with the police, will turn against all rioters. That would again give the upper hand to heavy-handed repression"

John Snow, over on Snowmail, raises some interesting questions. I'm not sure whether they're supposed to be rhetorical or not:

"Watching the ongoing riots in France raises three questions for me: Are the French where Britain was in 1985, when policing and a central government, blind to social reality, lay at the heart of race riots here? And if, as some say post July 7, multi-culturalism in Britain has been deemed a failure, what about French "integration"? Remember it's only a year or so since France pushed through the hijab ban in schools to reinforce the secular foundation of the Republic and the primacy of citizenship over religion. And where are the young women in all of this?"

Melanie Phillips, of course, has something to say on the matter too, although it shouldn't come as any surprise that she's talking absolute shit.

"In line with routine contemporary moral inversion, in which the perpetrators of violence are excused and their victims blamed instead by an alliance of Muslims and western decadents (Britain was blamed for the July bombings of its citizens because of Iraq) the French authorities are being blamed for fanning the flames of discontent by discriminating against the country's Muslims… Is every country to be held responsible for the jihad being waged against it - despite the fact that in every case the alleged provocation is different — rather then responsibility being properly assigned to those who have declared war upon the free world?"

So she gets bonus points for the first ludicrous mention of the word 'jihad' in connection with this protest. Mad woman. To clarify, the Union of Islamic Organisations in France has indicated in the strongest terms that "It is strictly forbidden for any Muslim... to take part in any action that strikes blindly at private or public property or that could threaten the lives of others".

In the meantime, an Interior Ministry statement states that 839 more vehicles were torched overnight. Thirty-four police were injured in clashes and 186 rioters detained. Rioters are now shooting at the police. Chirac, who clearly has no ideas whatsoever when it comes to resolving the situation, is – remarkably - standing by Sarkozy. Christ.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Watching with mounting horror all the stuff that's going on in France - what's most worrying about it is that it's hard to see an end in sight; the event which precipitated it can have no conclusion, and only in any case proved a touch paper for other, far less easily solved problems. Meanwhile French authorities label the rioters 'thugs' and 'scum' and tear-gas mosques. How long will it go on and how far will it spread? You get the feeling the French authorities will have to scalp Sarkozy if they really want to end the conflict.

In the meantime, we have a government which has decided that the French model of forced integration is the answer to the threat of terrorism. Hopefully they'll take a look at what is happening in Paris, Rouen, Dijon, Strasbourg and Marseille and think again.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

lost the plot

You don't half get some stupid adverts. There was one on just now for the DVD set of the first 12 episodes of Lost. The voiceover, in gruff, hollywood style?

"You haven't seen LOST until you've seen it on DVD. Out now".

In what sense haven't I seen it, since I saw it on the telly, eh?
Good advert.

the faust tapes

Wow, saw the incredible Faust at the Old Market in Hove last night and was massively impressed; I woke feeling fragile this morning and wondering how I was going to convey either the music they created or their unique stage presence, so am relieved to note that the also-in-attendence Andrew has done a proper job on it over at B4L, describing how he wasn't quite prepared to see:

"a 50-something French hippy (Jean Hervé Peron) ironing an audience member's jacket on stage, as a burly German drummer (Zappi Diermaier) beats the steel pipes he is holding aloft with a hammer before carving them up on stage with an axle-grinder, sparks flying across the stage. A flautist attempts to play a real clarinet and a child's plastic one simultaneously. A screaming-chorus of local popstrels accompanies one song, a marching band of local trumpeters and saxophonists another."

Musically, they sounded impossibly fresh given their age, veering from bursts of extreme avant-noise to shards of melody. My only regret is that I didn't catch as much of it as a sober version of me would - I kept veering into the bar, although happily, as Andrew noted, "it's liberating to be able to hit the bar during a performance, drift back, and find the band still in full flow."

At one point about two hours into their set, the marching band who had been accompanying them left the stage. With Peron thanking the audience for their support (support which, incidentally, was in places delirious; we stood next to a portly elderly hippy with his shirt open who was clearly transported back to '68) the venue clearly mistook the mood for a finale and raised the house lights. They stayed on for a minute, all of us blinking, (note to Faust, you guys look better with the lights down), during which I was compelled to shout 'turn the lights back off'. I'm not sure if Peron heard me or not, but he seemed to look over in our direction when he reassured us 'Don't worry, we're not even half done yet'.

Best gig I've seen all year, and I missed half of it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

the blogs of brighton

A slightly depressing evaluation of the Brighton blogging scene comes via Mock Duck, who found trawling through the Brighton and Hove Web Awards longlist "as soul-destroying as when I was following links from CVs of hopefuls applying for jobs". Elsewhere, she suggests that "I mean, a blog is pretty much a blog, isn't it, unless it's really remarkable, single-issue or has an unusual purpose" - but I don't think that's true.

There are, on the face of it, comparitively few blogs produced in Brighton which tally with my interests or approach a subject from a particularly groundbreaking subject. But blogging isn't, and needn't be, consistent. To get the best out of blogs you need to read several and find what interests you amongst all the detail. Perhaps some of the Brighton blogs are not immediately diverting, but there's plenty there if you look.

And there are actually quite a few Brighton blogs which contain very high quality content - largely the product of able and articulate writers or talented artists. Of course there are tons of blogs which focus on what might be loosely termed by some as 'boring subjects' or have approaches which might be considered amateurish, but there are blogs out there - I'm thinking of Zender Bender, Naked Translations, The World Is Full of Pisswits, Chicken Yoghurt, Free Speed Nation or Emilie - all of which have exceptionally written content which I'd kill to be able to reproduce here. Sometimes excellent blogs have little more going for them than the commitment of the writer or the faith of the reader. But I was surprised to see the scene dismissed so quickly - there's more to local blogging than you might think.

On a similar subject, I note that I'm briefly mentioned in a nice article on blogging in Brighton from this month's Insight, although annoyingly my life's dream of being interviewed and being dazzlingly brilliant in a newspaper will have to wait a bit, as they asked pretty much everyone for a quote but me!!! And I have friends on that paper!! Bah. It's a great article, however, and I am vain enough to want to tell everyone about it and shout "Look! There!!! That's my name! See!!!".

So you can read it here, if you like. Thanks to Anne So and Jane for drawing that to my attention...