Category Archives: Uncategorized

Obligatory Olympics Post

I can’t add much more to the acres that have been written about the Olympics over the last two weeks. Sorry to stick to the party line, but yes I thought it would be awful, a farrago of branding police, cops with guns and transport gridlock, all topped off with two solid weeks of rain. I’d bought tickets, but I was cynical in as much as that I assumed (from 40 years of experience) that Britain’s biggest ever sporting event would magnify all the country’s very worst defects – its mean-spirited obsession with security, its woeful short termism and unerring ability to cock things up.

Needless to say, it didn’t turn out that way. Myself and a friend went down to the Olympic Park, tickets in hands last Monday and like everyone we were flabbergasted at the friendliness and enthusiasm of the volunteers and the good spirit amongst the crowds. In just a week these statements have become cliches. But they still bear repeating, and comparison against what we were expecting on July 26th.

But I also wonder whether it marks another staging post on the way to an era where civic minded communitarian ideals are pre-eminent once more. It feels like something is happening. We’ve had thirty years of rampant neo liberalism rammed down our throats with its concomitant view that sees humanity as nothing more than atomised individuals, all out for whatever we can get. And we’ve seen where that’s got us. If you want to look at a sporting insitution has been bent out of shape by these forces just fix your gaze on the English Premier League. And turn away. In disgust.

Of course, we still have a Tory government in power but the Olympics made Cameron look nervous for a number of reasons. And it wasn’t just the U turn on schools funding, the embarassment over sales of school playing fields or the fantastic NHS tribute in the opening ceremony. The Tories already look like a government that has run out of ideas, whose tired free market mantras currently reside on a cul de sac, on the  opposite side of town to where all intellectual, economic and cultural traffic is currently flowing. The answer to where all that traffic is eventually heading is, I suppose, what everyone on the left is waiting for. I suspect that whoever it is that eventually articulates that vision will base it around the values we saw on display during this dream-like fortnight – ordinary people working together towards a common goal, a generosity of spirit and a modest, guilt-free patriotism based on quiet achievement rather than imperial arrogance.

Mind you…the closing ceremony was still rubbish though, wasn’t it?

Another Fantastic New Record Alert!

Things that make go you ‘awww’ (Part 523)

It’s rare these days that a pop son truly touches me.

But I don’t know, but Ladyhawke’s current single ‘Sunday Drive’ really hit home this week for me, something about the way she sings ‘Please don’t go/ I need your love’.

There’s something terribly vulnerable about Ladyhawke aka Pip Brown as a pop character. We’ve all read about the New Zealander’s battles with Asperger’s, how she dreads playing live and finds interaction with other people extremely difficult. Boy band members being ‘sensitive’ are ten a penny, but these days it’s a rare female singer indeed who’s brave enough to sound really truly fragile. I hope she’s alright.



A night at Occupy London

Last week my girlfriend and I spent a night camped out at St Pauls. Obviously having jobs and lives outside activism we were not able to stay there indefinitely, so spending one night there seemed an easy way for a pair of lightweights to support the cause and salve our consciences a little.

What did we find there? Well, this isn’t some patronising ‘aren’t these young people wonderful’ Gruandiad-style piece nor an Evening Standard demolition job. Overall, I’d say I found the experience invigorating and inspiring. My hat goes off to all the main organisers. They still hold the upper hand in the propaganda battle and have already achieved a great deal – for one thing, they have already been there longer than their comrades in New York.

But I wonder if their major weakness might be the ‘come in come all’ stance they’ve adopted. To put it bluntly, Occupy London XS seems to have attracted a number of people with serious mental health problems. Some of these are homeless, others are clearly drug addicts or alcoholics. My girlfriend was followed round during the morning by an crackhead who said he used to be a member of the IRA. We met one girl whose tent had been stolen and there were various other stories of theft. We also encountered other individuals, some of whom lived on the street and were clearly in serious need of professional help but had been attracted to St Pauls like flies to amber. Perhaps it was the free food and tea. Hanging around the enampment there were clear signs of alcohol being consumed and spliffs being smoked, in clear contravension of the ‘no drugs or alcohol’ signs that the organisers have put up.

What do you do about this? It’s clearly a problem for the Occupy movement and one they really need to confront sooner rather than later. Do you eject people displaying signs of chaotic lives? Can you attempt to police this utopian enclave? But how? And through what sort of force? In my opinion charging people for the food and refreshments would be a start. But many would argue that that would run contrary to the anti-capitalist spirit of the camp.

I don’t have the answers but I have seen these same problems occur at social centres before. And I do know that no matter how ideal the ‘alternative’ society, some sort of class stucture usually ends up reasserting itself pretty quickly. Outcasts usually end up becoming outcasts once more. But Occupy have objectives and it would be a huge shame if these were thwarted by the wooly-minded idealism that (in my mind, at least) undermines the movement as a whole.

Talking of objectives…yes, contrary to what the majority of the media believes, Occupy London Stock XChange do actually have a number of concrete goals. Last week they offered three demands to the City of London – to publish year by year breakdowns of the City cash account, that the City be subject to the Freedom Of Information Act and that a detailed account be provided of all the advocacy undertaken on behalf of the UK’s banking and finance industries since the 2008 crash.

Now, to my mind these are not unreasonable. In fact why on earth aren’t the Lib Dems and Labour demanding these very measures themselves?

Brilliant new record alert!

Taking ages and ages to make a record is usually a sure sign that something is seriously awry with a band. Think of how the five year gap between albums was the undoing of the Stone Roses, how endless procrastination derailed the career of Kevin Shields and don’t let’s get started on Guns N’ Roses.

For my money Portishead are the only group whose lengthy gaps between product aren’t a sign of creative cowardice, but a case of merely wanting to make sure that everything is just right. Or in other words the records Geoff Barrow and co put out are simply worth the wait.

They released another one a few weeks ago. A single this time, though it’s not completely new – Chase The Tear was released in download form back in 2009 as a fundraiser for Amnesty. It’s only now that it’s got a proper (ie physical) release.

And it’s brilliant. Other reviews will have mentioned the way it resembles I Feel Love, but filled with foreboding rather than ecstasy. For me, the best bits for me are when Adrian Utley’s guitar starts nibbling at the edge of a gently burbling Moog and then after five and half minutes, just as everything is building nicely to a head, it suddenly it stops dead in the road, leaving you with gasping for more.

But soon, please.