Something of a blessing, something of a curse

A lifetime of thinking only makes things worse.

What to do with it, where to take it

Am I getting wiser or am I just faking it?


They say it separates us from the birds and the bees

They say it makes us superior to the apes in the trees.

They say it's akin to the greatest gift

But it's a damn heavy burden and it's damn hard to lift.

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Pride/ Two Days and One Night, Film Reviews, 17/9/14

By sheer coincidence, I have recently watched three films with a trade union/solidarity theme. I should more accurately say two and a half because one, a Ken Loach film called 'Bread and Roses', was so full of trite cliches that I was forced to abandon it half way through. Don't misunderstand me; the politics in the film was spot on, as is invariably the case with Loach films. No, the problem was not the politics but the banal and lecturing manner in which he invariably approaches his work. (The Wind That Shakes the Barley being a notable exception). No nuances, no inner tensions, no unresolvable paradoxes. Predictably with your average Ken Loach offering, it is ninety minutes of the forces of good versus the forces of reaction with no shades of grey for the audience to wrestle with. If only life was so clear cut and simple. Of the other two films, 'Pride' and 'Two Days and One Night', the former sadly fell fairly and squarely into the Ken Loach school of film making, while the latter was an absolute gem both as a defiant political statement and as a piece of subtle contemporary film making .

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Scotland Calling

Who are the Scots, who are the Brits?

During days of Empire, a potent mix.

Signing up for the Black and Tans

Killing the Irish with their blood stained hands.


What is the border but an arbitrary line,

Bosses on both sides sipping fine wine.

While the workers either side struggle to survive,

Eking out existence like bees in a hive.

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Scottish Independence: A legitimate Response to Corporate Globalisation

When you examine things carefully, most nations turn out to be nothing but artificial constructs aimed principally at consolidating the rule of a governing elite. Britain is a classic example, consisting as it does of successive waves of Celtic, Roman, Viking and Germanic invasions and subsequently augmented by wave after wave of immigrants from just about every corner of the globe. Prior to the bloody Norman invasion a thousand years ago, Britain was in effect three separate nations, Saxons in the south, Danish in the English north and east, and Celtic at the northern and western fringes. The ancient Britons, whoever they might have been, were either wiped out by the Romans or assimilated into the new realities.

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Ethnic Cleansing: Editorial

Death to the Other, he ain't my brother

Death to the infidel, let him rot in hell,

Death to the Ruskies, Hispanics and Yankees

Death to the foreigner with their foul reeking smell.



Death to the Mongols, the Han and the Hun

Death to the Arabs and Death to the Jews,

Death to the Christians and Death to the Hindus

Death to them all and their foul smelling crew.

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The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing, Forth Estate, London, 1962


There's a strong argument to suggest that all humans, across the planet and throughout time, have three perpetual hurdles to face. Firstly and obviously there is the material hurdle  the challenge to feed and shelter oneself, to make ends meet and to provide a standard of living close to the local norm. Secondly, there is the challenge to navigate through the minefield of relationships; parents, siblings, offspring, friends, partners and colleagues. And if that wasn't enough to be getting on with, there is an ever present existential angst to contend with, generally kept at bay through some combination of ideology, religion or dearly held projects. But try as we might, we never seem to overcome any of these hurdles. They seem to be hot wired into the human DNA. Leap over one and inevitably crash into another. Materially, even the very rich are forever looking over their shoulders waiting nervously for unforeseen events to wipe out their dubiously acquired wealth and status. And for the rest of us, it's a daily grind to stay one step ahead of the bailiffs. And of course, nobody is ever immune from the realm of chaos that is human relationships and human purpose. In her towering novel, 'The Golden Notebook', Doris Lessing, while somewhat side-stepping the material hurdles of life, is quite majestic in the way she explores that interwoven tapestry of human relationships and human purpose.

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Sporting Polemics: What A Wonderful Orwellian World, Editorial September 2014


Events seem to be unfolding at such a pace that even the most dedicated of bloggers will have difficulty in keeping up. On the western borders of Russia, NATO seems intent on provoking Russia into a military confrontation. But how would the United States feel if a foreign power was intent on encircling them with a hostile military alliance? Would they care for Russian military manoeuvres on their Mexican or Canadian borders? I think not. And remember when the Soviet Union dared to put a missile defence system on Cuban soil? American Imperialism went apoplectic and very nearly dragged the entire planet into a nuclear Armageddon. But when the European Union backed by NATO forces, seeks to lure the Ukraine into the western alliance through economic bribery and a thinly disguised political coup, and Russia makes a predictable counter move, the Pentagon starts beating the war drums... Well in any case, I'm damn sure the military industrial complexes, east and west, are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of a renewed military east-west conflict.

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Football Has Got Too Big For Its Fancy Coloured Boots, Martin Kettle, The Guardian, 14/8/2014


A reasonable article by Kettle that even has the courage to mention old Charlie Marx and the notion of 'false consciousness'. Well done Mr Kettle. And his summation of Premier League football is right on the button. Kettle writes; The charge sheet against modern football is not difficult to draw up. Too much money. Too many mercenaries. Too little motivation. Too few roots. Not enough skill or nurture. No moral compass. That's about as comprehensive a summation as is required. Whole books have been written providing statistics and anecdotes to flesh out the argument and to compare and contrast with a so called golden age of community based clubs. But Kettle doesn't do that. Instead he makes comparisons with other sports which he imagines are somehow more wholesome. On this I think he is mistaken. All professional sport is now contaminated, to a greater or lesser degree, with the social ills that Kettle's list so accurately describes. Doping, cheating and corruption are endemic across the board. And why wouldn't they be. Sport, like all cultural aspects of modern life, merely reflects the wider economic world. If Kettle had really read his Marx, he would be quoting this equally profound premise and building his article around it.

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A Week In December, Sebastian Faulks, Vintage, 2010


After a few early reservations concerning some contrived characterisation and plot, 'A week in December' quickly proved to be a gem of a novel, providing both a tense story line, largely credible characters and most important of all, a most thoughtful discourse on what is real and what is illusionary. Sanity and insanity are cleverly juxtaposed until in the end the reader is left to ponder just where the boundaries between the two might actually lie. There is the socially recognised insanity associated with schizophrenia and other serious mental disorders; the more controversial insanity associated with extreme religious fundamentalism, and finally the rarely talked about insanity deriving from an obsession with monetary gain and social status. Add to that mix our growing obsessions with reality TV, drug induced oblivion, and the parallel worlds of online gaming, and we are provided with a sharp examination of contemporary urban life. In fact, each of Faulk's main characters can be said to be trapped into their own form of insanity and the collisions between them proves to be both illuminating and disturbing.

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Rape and War: A Marriage Made in Hell

May 2014 saw a number of activists, celebrities and politicians gather in London for a Global Summit. The organizers of this event were the International Campaign to stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict.

The campaign has worked tirelessly to highlight the use of rape as a weapon of war. It has specifically targeted conflicts in Burma, Haiti, Congo, Colombia and Kenya where the use of rape as a weapon of war is well documented.


The Campaign's aims and methods are laudable. They are giving a voice to those who have suffered the most from sexual violence. They are supporting survivors groups and are working towards peace within the various theatres of conflict. Most of all they are calling for co-ordinated action from world leaders to help prevent rape from being used as a weapon of war in the future.

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Desert Storm, Grant Wahl, Time Magazine, 4/8/14


Despite the obvious US corporate nature of Time Magazine, there is a half decent article on Qatar's 2022 FIFA World Cup preparations. I say half decent, because it is the things that aren't discussed rather than the things that are, that is the real problem here. Wahl does a good enough job of outlining the three main issues associated with Qatar's controversial bid. Firstly there are the allegations of corruption and kickbacks connected with the original bid. Despite whatever the FIFA 'ethics committee' might come up with, there is almost certainly some meat to these claims. Secondly, Qatar is a damn hot country at the best of times and holding a football tournament in the middle of summer certainly cannot be considered suitable either for players or spectators. A move to the winter months may mitigate against this absurdity but it will be resisted by the powerful European leagues and their corporate sponsors. Thirdly, and most importantly, Wahl gives further oxygen to the damning claims of slave labour conditions under which the imported workers building the huge infrastructure projects are being forced to work under. Over 1000 workers have already died on the Qatar construction sites associated with the Qatar World Cup and that figure is certain to rise dramatically by the time the first kick is taken in 2022. Having fairly outlined these three issues, Wahl correctly reports on the Qatari response; that the criticisms are driven by European racism and anti-Islamic bias. But Wahl, not wanting to upset his US corporate employees, offers no real discussion around this Qatari response. He should because this is the really interesting bit.

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Jon Snow, Channel Four News.


I've stopped watching Channel Four News. Childish perhaps, given that it's probably the best TV news service available in Britain, but I'm just too narked to watch it any more. The tipping point was Jon Snow's interview this week with a Hamas spokesman. It was a blatant travesty of journalism. Whatever Snow's or the viewers opinion of Hamas might be, if you are going to invite the man to give his organisation's viewpoint, then at least give him the courtesy of giving it uninterrupted. Instead he and we were treated to a pointless haranguing by Snow every time the Hamas spokesman attempted to talk. Now I'm all for aggressive journalism, a keystone of any would be democracy, but this tipped way over the bounds of aggressive interviewing. It was nothing short of John Snow trying to foist his opinions onto and over that of Hamas. And in any respect, Snow was surely pursuing the wrong question.

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What Was Promised, Tobias Hill, Bloomsbury Circus, London, 2014


There is a touch of Hilary Mantel about the first section of this beautifully crafted London novel. Just as Mantel is able to take her readers back in time with consummate ease, so too can Tobias Hill. Admittedly Mantel has made a name for herself by travelling back hundreds of years whilst TH contents himself with a more modest sixty, but both have that ability to produce absolutely convincing historical narratives. Just like Mantel, in TH's prose not one word feels out of joint. The second and third sections of 'What Was Promised' might be considered a touch uneven; either it is good, very good or superb. Rarely if ever does it dip below good. But it is the first section, set in 1948 London, that grips the reader with an intensity and authenticity that leaves one breathless and panting for more. TH could easily have set the entire novel in 1948 without in any way leaving his readers wanting. But the ambition of the novel, set over three time zones, is to be respected, and by journey's end TH can be more than satisfied with his labours.

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Rebekah Brooks: Incriminated or Incompetent


It beggars belief that Rebekah Brooks, one time chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's criminal media empire, would have known nothing of the industrial scale phone hacking that was taking place across the News International organisation that she was charged with running. Even more unbelievable given that she was shacked up with Andy Coulson, former News of the World editor and now a convicted criminal for that very offence. If, on the one in ten million chance that she was genuinely unaware of this vast criminal network, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that she was asleep at the wheel. Or more accurately, comatosed in charge of a global media corporation. Guilty or incompetent are the only two possible conclusions. And somehow, whatever Brooks maybe, an incompetent does not spring readily to mind.

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British Values and 'The Other'

MacDonald's has recently returned to one of it's recurring UK marketing campaigns. 'The taste of America'. This might seem somewhat odd as McDonalds is already a quintessentially American food outlet. It makes the majority of it's profits from burgers, an American invention. As a symbol of its home country, McDonalds is right up there with Coke and Harley Davidson. Nevertheless, the burger chain has become such an ingrained part of the UK cultural landscape that McDonalds can introduce 'The taste of America' without anyone batting an eyelid.

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World Cup Deliberations.

Eight million children sniffing glue on the street

Selling their young bodies for something to eat

Offering sex like a slice of cheap meat

It's child prostitution in the Brazilian heat

Then it's back to the glue for a Sao Paulo treat

Where the cops show no mercy on their merciless beat

With their dreams of Selecao but still nothing to eat

Death on their faces and a ball at their feet.


FIFA's in town but they're not offering a seat

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