Archive for December, 2002
The BBC World Service has announced that the World’s Favourite Song is… “A Nation Once Again” by the Wolfe Tones…
A Nation Once Again
When boyhood’s fire was in my blood,
I read of ancient freemen,
For Greece and Rome who bravely stood,
Three Hundred men and Three men.
And then I prayed I yet might see
Our fetters rent in twain,
And Ireland, long a province, be
A Nation once again.
And, from that time, through wildest woe,
That hope has shone, a far light;
Nor could love’s brightest summer glow
Outshine that solemn starlight:
It seemed to watch above my head
In forum, field and fane;
Its angel voice sang round my bed,
‘A Nation once again.’
It whispered, too, that ‘freedom’s ark
And service high and holy,
Would be profaned by feelings dark,
And passions vain or lowly;
For freedom comes from God’s right hand,
And needs a godly train;
And righteous men must make our land
A Nation once again.’
So, as I grew from boy to man,
I bent me to that bidding–
My spirit of each selfish plan
And cruel passion ridding;
For, thus I hoped some day to aid–
Oh! can such hope be vain?
When my dear country shall be made
A Nation once again.
A splendid choice by the peoples of the world, and a fine, fine song.
Chris adds [23.12.2002]: An Irish friend tells me that it has long been known that the Republicans and the Devil have all the best tunes and that this comes as no surprise to the Unionists, for whom they have long been synonymous…
Junius has a recent post about PC boardgames, which reminds me that I still haven’t ever seen Class Struggle, the boardgame manufactured by Marxist political philosopher Bertell Ollman in the 1970s as a socialist-themed alternative to Monopoly. His memoir of those years, Class Struggle is the Name of the Game, would be a minor classic of its genre, except that it doesn’t really belong to any particular genre.
Junius responds [19.12.2002]: Played it!
There’s been a small amount of coverage in the US and UK media over the last few days of the press release put out by the North Korean News Agency condemning the new James Bond film (or “burlesque”) for being insufficiently polite about the great achievements of North Korean socialism, or somesuch.
It is a shame, however, that the Western media only pays attention to the official news from North Korea when James Bond films are involved. Already in December there have been any number of good stories which deserved a wider international airing, including Revolutionary sites visited by many people, Pyongyang Catfish farm commissioned, Slogan of Kirgyz party organ changed, or US urged to drop its brigandish logic (a variation on a theme, one suspects).
Most interestingly of all, “Chicken Farms Rebuilt on Modern Basis” was published on both 7 December and 12 December. And then every few days or so there is a story with the same headline, “Anecdote about Kim Jong Il” (try here, here and here).
I’ve always assumed that the reason why the site is hosted in Japan owes to the fact that the internet doesn’t yet reach North Korea – but I’d be happy to be corrected.
|Anne Norton, Blood-rites of the Post-Structuralists: Word, Flesh and Revolution, Routledge, 2002. This is almost certainly going to be terrific stuff. From the publisher’s blurb (which is the best I can do for now: the copy I’ve ordered hasn’t yet arrived): “In Bloodrites of the Post-Structuralists …[Norton] starts by reminding us of the real interplay between words (laws, scriptures, myths, and history) and the world of flesh (of bloodties and bloodshed, skin color and sexuality). The seemingly precious and all too literary constructs of the poststructuralists really do act on the body politic. The book is written on three historical sites:the revolutions in England and France, the struggle against colonialism, and the modern liberal order. In this telling, we see liberal constitutions born in Terror and regicide, we see a word, a text, a document, write “slave” on the darkness of the body, we see the guillotine release the power in the blood, and we hear the words that declare a people free. Norton re-reads and re-writes foundational myths from Abraham and Isaac on the mountain top in the Bible to legends of the American Revolution. This lyrical and mesmerizing book serves, in its way, as a catalog of oppressions, and a history of the justifications oppressors have made for injustices…”|
Martin wrote [18/12/2002]: I hope and trust that your description of ‘Bloodrites of the Post-Structuralists’ as “almost certainly terrific stuff” is an exercise in ironic playfulness. When I hear of a “wide-ranging study of word and body” and of “the interplay between words and the world of flesh” I reach for my gun or, at the very least, my bullshit detector. Perhaps this is a book which Dr Sandbrook should review for the Turtle?
Chris replies [18.12.2002]: Bollocks, no. I’m serious. [And various email has been exchanged on the subject with Cde Martin on this and other subjects since. I'll spare readers the full correspondence.]
One of the excellent things about working on seventeenth-century authors, is that they said such excellent things. Here, for example, is Pascal, who knew a thing or two about absolute, terrifying silences:
He alone [ = God] is our true good. From the time we have forsaken him, it is a curious thing that nothing in nature has been capable of taking his place: stars, sky, earth, elements, plants, cabbages, leeks, animals, insects, calves, snakes, fever, plague, war famine, vice, adultery, incest. From the time he lost his true good, man can see it everywhere, even in his own destruction, though it is so contrary to God, reason, and nature, all at once.ï¿½
I finally got around yesterday to buying The Band by, um, The Band, a record which I’ve been very fond of for a long time, and was interested to read these online notes on its best track, “Up on Cripple Creek“, which do a very nice job of unpacking many of the oddities of the lyric.
From this week’s New Statesman (but not, sadly, available online to non-subscribers) — and complete with photo! — are two entire pages on a Balliol contemporary, Gerard Russell, “Our man in the land of Zam Zam Cola”, by Christina Lamb:
In a large, high-ceilinged room at the Foreign Office, where the television is tuned to al-Jazeera and three clocks show the time in Washington, London and Abu Dhabi, sits the young (he’s 29) diplomat whose task it is to spread the Blair message in Islamic countries….
Russell may be an anonymous, slightly balding man in a pinstripe suit in London, but in the Middle East he is “Brother Gerard”, recognised everywhere from petrol stations in the Sinai Desert to customs offices at Riyadh airport. When Tony Blair visited the unit, Russell was introduced to the Prime Minister as “the man more famous on al-Jazeera than you are”…
My goodness. Who would have thought it?
In Memoriam Jill Craigie (1914-1999), still, I think, the only film-maker to have had a documentary about Town Planning on general release in the nation’s cinemas, The Way We Live. (But the film was about the rebuilding of Plymouth, and the year was 1945, which might explain matters somewhat).
A perfect Christmas gift…
Martin writes [12.11.2002]: Nice to see your suggestion for the perfect Christmas gift. I don’t have a ‘The President meets the King’ mouse-mat, although I do have the same image emblazoned on a mug. I bought it at the Richard Nixon Library and Museum, in Yorba Linda, Orange County, on a visit there in the Fall of 2001 with Mark Henderson and Andrew Clark. It’s a wonderful place, replete with a video excerpt of Nixon saying “Dick Nixon is not a quitter!” and a copy of the letter which Nixon sent to Ray Krok, founder of McDonald’s, complimenting him on the wonderful quality of his burgers (‘I always said that Pat [Nixon] made the best damn burgers in the world, but yours run hers a close second’). I urge any readers of your weblog who find themselves in Southern California to make the trek out to this wonderful, absurd, hilarious and undervisited place.
And Dan knows what he wants for Christmas [13.12.2002]: it’s the Kant poster, towards the bottom of this page.
I’ve never seen a genealogical demonstration of this, but I have heard it alleged (and it is entirely plausible) that I’m a very distant cousin of Sir James Brooke (1803-1868), the first of the “White Rajahs” of Sarawak, on the northern coast of Borneo. And it is both comic, embarrassing and rather ghastly to record that, according to Sylvia Brooke’s later memoir, Queen of the Headhunters, the Sarawak national anthem used to contain the line, “And tens of thousands yet unborn / Will bless the name of Brooke”.
I’ve been aware of this possible genealogical connection for a while now, but never really paid attention to the activities of the Brookes of Sarawak. In the last six months, however, they are cropping up in the most surprising places.
First, my colleague Giovanni told me all about the Italian Sandokan films and TV series, which are based on an extraordinarily popular set of novels by Emilio Salgari (1862-1911), who is sometimes called “the Italian Jules Verne”). In these films, the hero is Sandokan the Pirate (“the Tiger of Malaysia”); his arch-nemesis is Sir James Brooke (“The Exterminator”), who is leading a crusade against the pirates in the area. Like James Bond, the part of Sandokan has been played by several actors; and just as there is general agreement that Sean Connery was/is the best Bond, Kabir Bedi is generally reckoned to be the definitive Sandokan.
But Sir James Brooke isn’t just a important semi-fictionalised character in Italian popular culture, however. He’s also a man who may or may not have his penis shot off in India, a question to which the London Review of Books has, oddly enough, devoted an entire column of the current issue, and which apparently lies at the heart of Nigel Barley’s “lightweight but entertaining” new biography, White Rajah.
Well, perhaps he hadn’t, after all. While family tradition seems to have insisted that he had (hence his refusal ever to marry), Adam Kuper’s review notes that Brooke eventually come to recognise “an illegitimate son who had been born while he was recovering at home”, and, he asks, “Would Mrs Brooke have exhibited on her mantlepiece a bullet that had been removed from such a sensitive part of her son’s anatomy?” But it’s good to know that the LRB is continuing to discuss the questions that matter.
Raj writes [15.12.2002]: I’ve always been a Kabir Bedi fan. A staple of Hindi movies, he was always far more enjoyable to watch than the cleanshaven identikit heroes who would eventually triumph over him with a loud dooshoom-dooshoom (the fictionalised sound of good fist on evil jawbone, known to all who have ever watched Bollywood).
Richard adds [1.1.2003]: This is a bit late for comments but I’ll send it anyway: small world dept. The Adam Kuper who wrote the review of the book about your (vague) ancestor (featured on 8.12.02) is the father of Simon Kuper, author of the wonderful Football Against The Enemy (and Times football columnist — the only thing worth reading in the Monday pull-out-and-throw-away sports section).
The Cherie Blair – Peter Foster saga rumbles entertainingly on. Mark Steyn in yesterday’s Telegraph entertained:
Nude models, diet quacks, psychics: I cannot speak for Britain, but in North America these are three of the four categories of person that most of us spend the first 10 minutes of our day dumping from the in-box. If Cherie had a fourth confidante with a guaranteed plan to increase the length of Tony’s penis by three inches, the Blairs would have a full set: they could throw the perfect spam dinner party.
Amidst the nonsense, in which we can include the annoying rightist editorials which seem to pretend that this is another version of the US Whitewater affair, the important question is barely discussed (though Oxford’s excellent Ann Black touched on it yesterday): what are the Blairs doing buying property for their offspring to live in while they are at university?Ten years ago you could get a postcard from Public Domain postcards which had this soundbite on it:
‘Her digs… were unspeakable so we said “Sod it” and went and bought a house and put her in that and she was much happier’ — Sir George Young, Housing Minister, on how his daughter Sophia found a home.
And then, at the bottom of the card, there was a box to tick next to the words, “Please send me further details of the Conservative Party’s Housing Policy”.
I went to London yesterday for my fine Trotskyist friend David Renton’s 30th birthday party, in the function room at The Sol Arms pub just off the Euston Road. And it was a happy occasion: the London Socialist Historians’ Group brought their banner, various literature was passed around, and the assembled company follwed the traditional singing of “Happy Birthday” with the similarly-traditional Internationale — in (at least) two languages.
Britain’s finest man of letters Keith Flett, of the Beard Liberation Front, was there too, wearing a Philosophy Football Eric Hobsbawm T-Shirt — which, I thought, was an odd thing to do for a man who is waging a one-person campaign in the correspondence columns of the nation’s magazines drawing attention to the fact that EJH might have had time to write so many excellent books because he didn’t seem to sell many newspapers during his time in the CPGB. Dave, who by contrast both continues to sell a lot of newspapers and to write a lot of books, was distributing copies of his latest, Classical Marxism, which, he tells us, is the first volume of a projected five. If he continues his present work-rate, the other four will, no doubt, be out by Christmas.
It was also excellent to see a comrade from the Voice of the Turtle, Leo Zeilig, for the first time in months. He will soon be in the dock facing preposterous charges of “incitement to violent disorder”, after being the Person with the Megaphone on a recent antiwar demonstration in London, a charge which carries a possible five-year prison sentence. The defence campaign is already organising itself — and the party was a good occasion to collect signatures and donations on behalf of the Trafalgar Square Three (or whatever they will come to be called). More on this soon.