Monthly Archives: February 2012

Never Buy The S*n

I have been reading and enjoying Steven Baxter’s excellent ‘Musings Of A Monkey’ this weekend. In a chapter he describes as hastily cobbled together, but which I would call a very astute summary of the phone hacking scandal of Summer 2011, he makes the point that the subsequent closing of the News of the World so celebrated at the time was only:

speeding up the merger between the weekly and Sunday operations.

At the time the idea was officially scoffed at, but what a difference a few months makes and now the new S*n on Sunday should be in Britain’s newsagents ready for when they open in a couple of hours. Today also sees Liverpool take on Cardiff City in the Carling Cup Final at Wembley.

Regular readers of ten minutes hate may remember this post and this one, detailing the ongoing campaign by Liverpool fans to boycott the newspaper for the lies it told – under a banner headline declaring them to be ‘THE TRUTH’ – about the Hillsborough Disaster.  Full details of the paper’s lies and the fan’s campaign are available here.

Today, any day, but especially on this day: Liverpool fans ask you to remember the 96 families still seeking to know the truth about the deaths of their loved ones. Regardless of the team you support, whether you will be rooting for the Reds or the Bluebirds, don’t put money in Murdoch’s pockets.

As Billy Bragg tells it:

Tabloids making millions betting bullshit baffles brains
And they cynically hold up their hands if anyone complains
And just say “Well, we’re just giving the people what they want”
Well they’re crying out for justice, people crying out for justice

Allow your brain to remain unbaffled by bullshit.

Never buy the S*n.

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The Arab Awakening – Tweets from Tahrir

For someone who sat on the sidelines cheering on the revolution of 12 months ago and who still wishes to see Egyptians achieve all they dream of for their country, this film from Al Jazeera English is moving and inspirational.   I cannot recommend it highly enough – you must watch it.

And if you haven’t yet read a copy of the book that informed the documentary, the excellent Tweets from Tahrir – compiled from real-time tweets and pictures as events in the Square unfolded – be sure to rectify that immediately.

The Egyptian revolution famously became known as the first Twitter revolution.  Both the film and the book show how that happened, although as blogger and activist Tarek Shalaby notes in the film, if the revolutionaries hadn’t had Twitter, they would have used something else!  Still, this is a demonstration of how to use social media for something more lasting than the dissemination of memes and LOLZ.  Let’s hope it can be followed in other squares before too long.

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Top 5 doomed literary loves

Perhaps it isn’t in keeping with the spirit of the season, as everyone loves a happy ever after, but sometimes it has to be acknowledged that the really great literature lives elsewhere.  With that in mind, and with Valentine’s wishes to all readers, here are ten minutes hate’s favourite star-cross’d lovers…

1. Anna and Vronsky – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The fairytale prince (though really a Count) escapes his destiny to marry the sweet-as-sugar Princess Kitty and skips off with the more captivating Anna instead.  Russian society at the time taking its cues from Paris, they might have been forgiven for carrying on behind her husband’s back.  Yet it is when the pair decide they can’t breathe without the other in the room and decide to throw career (him), family (her) and sanity (both) on the bonfires of love and lust that all hell really breaks loose.

Anna watching her lover fall from his horse mid-race and having to contend with his possible death under the suspicious eye of her husband is one of the finest scenes in the book, or possibly ever written.  And while the parallel story of Kitty and new love Konstantin provides a more realistic portrait of the early years of a marriage as well as acting as counterpoint, it is the raging, ultimately destructive, passions between Anna and Vronsky that linger long after reading.

2. Helene and Jean – The Blood of Others by Simone de Beauvoir

Few things are more tragic than the discovery of crucial knowledge too late to do anything useful with it.  Witness reluctant hero Jean Blomart’s night of remorse and reflection as he only realises how deeply he cares for on-off girlfriend Helene after she has taken a bullet helping her ex escape from the Nazis.

The long vigil allows him the chance to reflect on the choices he has made in his life, politics and behaviour towards Helene – while wrestling with the decision over whether to send others out on a similarly dangerous mission – all in a suitably existential manner, of course.  But the philosophy never detracts from what is a cracking tale of betrayal, deceit, love, and ultimately, death.

3. Jake and Anna and Hugo and Sadie – Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

Perhaps not since A Midsummer Night’s Dream have the forces of love got it so spectacularly wrong, with emotions in Murdoch’s first novel entangling to such a degree that no-one seems likely to get what (or who) they actually want.  Perfectly capturing the often comic choices of still-young-but-old-enough-to-know-better hero Jake Donaghue as he attempts to sort his chaotic life out enough to get the money, the acclaim and – of course – the girl he deserves.

His continuing mis-steps on that path to contentment, made due to his unvarying misconceptions of his world, are handled with such a light touch that it is impossible not to sympathise, even while desiring to give him a good shake!  A scene where he trails Anna through Paris, seeing her without her ever realising he is there, is beautiful in its longing and sense of loss.  This is another philosophical novel which never betrays the humanity of its central characters.  The inadequacies of language in conveying our perspectives – the ‘net’ of words we are all caught in – will resonate with anyone who has ever tried to tell someone they love exactly how it is and how it’s going to be.

4. Robert and Maria – For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

The whispered conversations, while curled in his sleeping bag, their hopes for their life together, the brutal intrusion of their final goodbye.  It is a short yet grand passion, full of idealism and beauty, despite – or perhaps due to – the death and horror that surrounds them.  The earth even moves.

Yet, like the Republic they are fighting for, it is not destined to last.  As with The Blood of Others, Fascist bullets ultimately prove too strong for even this perfect love to overcome.

5. Winston and Julia – Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

What else could it be?

Boy meets girl, boy hates girl, boy realises that is because he wants girl really.  Boy gets girl.  Boy convinces girl to join him in overthrowing a ruthless dictatorship.

Fails.

Looking back over my choices I realise that perhaps there is a common theme, that love can’t survive in a world bedevilled with totalitarian regimes, Fascist atrocities and the stern disapproval of a rigid society.  Those structures will always be incompatible with such deep feelings because, as noted by Jonathan Carroll, in his excellent tale of un-doomed love, White Apples:

…real love is always chaotic. You lose control; you lose perspective. You lose the ability to protect yourself. The greater the love, the greater the chaos. It’s a given and that’s the secret.

The idea of love as anarchy works better for me than all the diamonds and flowers and chocolates paraded at this time of year.  Perhaps Saint Valentine, killed for his opposition to the Roman Emperor, would approve.

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Bruise, a drama by John Maguire

Yet another reason for me to be missing Liverpool!  If you are fortunate enough to be in my home town at the end of February, don’t miss the latest from brilliant local playwright John Maguire…

Love, Lust, Deception, Rejection.

BRUISE is a new piece of theatre exploring a destructive gay relationship.

Two Gay Males, early thirties.
One Professional, one Writer.
Love and Lust,
Hedonism and passion,
The domestic cycle of their lives.
The usual merry go round of nitpicking, arguing, the making up.
Begging the question, what exactly is love?
And how far would you go to push it?

The play will be performed at Lantern Liverpool 24-25 February at 7:30 pm
(£8.00, £6.50 concession) and is also being used to raise awareness of the LGBT charity Broken Rainbow

More information on the cast is available at Firecracker Fashion site.

The Bruises they will fade away, you hit so hard with the things you say.

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FiveBooks: Robert Cottrell

ten minutes hate brings you Sunday reading from the excellent FiveBooks feature on the Browser website, featuring Robert Cottrell’s choice of writing about journalism.  As a former worker on the physical Fleet Street, rather than the metaphorical one, I can completely support this one:

With its lyrical descriptions of the area’s many drinking establishments, once catering to the needs of thirsty journos but now more often home to a motley collection of smart-trousered misanthropes, Michael Frayn’s Towards the End of Morning is a must-read.

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Shivers of fear

Palms feeling clammy and drenched, pulse doing cartwheels, heart close to my teeth, fighting an urge to run back from the edge towards all that is familiar.

That is just from sitting at my desk looking at these photographs of Detroit taken by urban explorer Dennis Maitland, featured on the The Atlantic’s Cities sister-site.  It is an unusual perspective on the city, usually thankfully reserved for steeplejacks and window cleaners, but still a beautiful one – so long as there is a sheet of glass or a computer screen in between me and it.

The photographs are also a timely reminder, as I seek to make my life closer to how I have imagined it – dealing with all the fear and doubt that attends such endeavours – that while the drop may be long, the view is so awe-inspiring that it is all worthwhile.

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Kicking the crutch

Bankers, the targets for so much vilification, are not usually noted as great philosophers.  But perhaps they have been judged unfairly if this observation, by former Deutsche Bank CEO Hilmar Kopper, is true:

As a banker, you have no lack of opportunities to look into the human soul.

Although what the bankers see there is unlikely to inspire much compassion for one’s fellow humans, if his next comments – taken from a candid interview with Spiegel International – are anything to go by:

This entire nation, the entire world, is ultimately running after money. The amount of influence money has on people has always fascinated me. You forget almost everything while in its shadow.

Yet chasing money has never seemed so futile as it does once it is revealed how much of it is controlled by so few.  The publication of a study showing that a core of 1,318 companies control 20% of global operating revenues directly, with perhaps another 60% via shares, should make it obvious how stacked the dice have been in this particular casino.  Compared to such power, political influence is puny and easily bought off.  Money and the control of it have become more important than the lives sacrificed on the way to a balancing of the metaphorical books.  This is nothing new, but while times were good we could convince ourselves that all was fine, so long as it wasn’t your head in the vice.

The economic crisis has thrown that complacency out of the window.  Once-great nation states have been reduced to the status of housewives, clucking over their shopping lists while wondering if the grocer will extend enough credit to keep meals on the table until payday arrives.  And while economists bicker over whether we are in or out of recession, whether inflation or deflation or stagnation is the biggest risk and whether too much or not enough austerity is the best cure, the real effects are felt very far away from the boardrooms and treasury offices.  As Thompson writes:

Government borrowing… replaces a lack of private sector spending. It is a crutch. If we kick out the crutch out from under the economy, it’s possible that this patient will learn to walk very, very quickly.

Or it is equally likely that it will fall on its arse.  From Spain to Ireland to Portugal and the UK, the argument that austerity is killing Europe seems unassailable.  Yet adding additional borrowing to the terrifying debt mountains in an attempt to spark more growth brings its own misgivings, not least because it seems like robbing future generations to pay for such essentials as the Olympic Games and bank bailouts.  The UK’s Coalition Government has been quick to seize on these misgivings as justification for their zeal in cutting budgets to ‘make savings’.  These claims have been challenged by a report commissioned by disability activists – nicknamed the ‘Spartacus Report’ – which notes that:

Cuts to DLA [Disability Living Allowance] cannot cut disability, they simply shift the costs elsewhere. One in three disabled people already live in poverty and many feel [the] proposals… can only see this increase.

This demonstrates a move from a metaphorical kicking away of the crutch to an actual one – with even massive public opposition, including that of their own supporters, failing to prick at what remains of the Coalition’s consciences.  Instead, politicians are demonstrating compassion towards the captains at the controls of our current financial tailspin, while stamping down hard on the unfortunate ones with chronic conditions or terminal illnesses.  This will save £94 per week per cancer patient so that the millions can still be handed out in bank bonuses.  It is  little wonder that bankers see chasing money as a futile endeavour, when they can screw everything up so royally and still have it land in their bank accounts!

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