Wednesday 21 July 2010

Posh Boy has idea

Here's what senior Tories thought of Cameron's "big idea", three months ago:
"Oliver Letwin had this great 'big society' idea, though it might have been an idea to share it with the rest of us," one normally loyal shadow minister said. "People don't really follow Oliver's philosophical discourse."

Another shadow minister echoed this criticism. "The 'big society' needs to be turned into more practical, voter-friendly language. We need to turn Oliver Letwin's Hegelian dialectic into voter friendly stuff."

A third Tory source was even blunter. "The 'big society' is bollocks. It is boiled vegetables that have been cooked for three minutes too long. It tastes of nothing. What is it?"
Well, what is it? Philosophical discourse? Hegelian dialectic?? Or just over-boiled vegetables???

Is this any help: David Cameron reveals 'big society' vision ? Hmm - philosophy, dialectic, or vegetables?

Monday 19 July 2010

Posh Boys: Cunning Stunts

Larry Elliot in today's Guardian explains the Government's cunning plan to get the economy growing by cutting everything in sight. No-one I've heard or read, anywhere - including the Posh Boys themsleves - seems to have the faintest idea how this is supposed to work.

The answer, of course, is that it isn't. As you listen to the daily drip drip drip - should we call them the Three Drips? - of Government announcements you realise that most of them are being introduced with no economic justification whatsoever. The Tories are simply seizing on the excuse of the recession and the deficit to rush through a series of ideologically driven changes that not even Margaret Thatcher managed to force on us in the 1980s; see Gary Younge, on the opposite page of today's Guardian, for an analysis of this.

The Tories are embarking on an orgy of destruction, driven by an urge to demolish anything that could be to the credit or benefit of their political opponents, or anyone else that gets in their way. They need no justification - they're on a mission. So social services, children's services, health, education, pensions, the arts - all are hacked back. Investment dries up, jobs disappear, homes and schools don't get built. VAT is going up and wages are capped, so consumer spending will fall, and businesses big and small will fail. Meanwhile, we are confidently told, voluntary groups will plug the gaps. Without funding, of course. Cameron's "big society" is truly a Very Big Hypocrisy.

And the "Liberal Democrats" are poodling along in their wake, dazzled by being allowed to carry the odd portfolio, happy enough to squeeze into the occasional photo opportunity. For how much longer? Norman, where's that loaf?

NB: for Cunning Stunts, see this article on Spoonerisms; for cunning plans, see this one on Blackadder.

Friday 16 July 2010

From Schlock Rock to Idan Raichel

Idan Raichel: Min Nhar Li Mschiti (From the Day You Left)

My friend Sarah has pointed me to We've Got a Strong Desire (The history of the Jews in 4 minutes) by the brilliantly named Schlock Rock, from New York. It's a pastiche of We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel; it's very funny, didactic, religious-rock, and only a teensy bit Zionist. I can live - and laugh - with that.

But it did get me thinking about the music I'd heard - and seen - in Israel last November. Jewish music, Arab music, Ethiopian music, and a whole lot more besides. This cultural kaleidoscope was embodied perfectly in the Idan Raichel Project, which melds music and musicians from all these cultures passionately and vibrantly together. I wrote a post about the concert we saw in the blog of the trip - Merkavah 09.

I've chosen a live performance of one of the songs that had been choreographed for our trip by the dance leaders, Frida Zalcman and Pablo Scornik: Min Nhar Li Mschiti. There are several versions of this song on YouTube, all beautifully done, by a number of different singers, but I particularly like this one because of the extended lute intro, and the power of the singing. 

It's not a professionally shot video - it's handheld, the camera moves to the side of the stage, there are no close-ups of the singer, the clip finishes before the end of the song - but the sound quality is not bad and it really gives the feeling of being there in the theatre. This other version also has a good live feel - the sound is good and there's a better view of the singer.

The song is sung in Moroccan Arabic; here's an English translation offered by a YouTube user:
Ho mama why did you leave
You are my soul and my life
My eyes to you mama
You thought me and worked hard for me
You're my beauty, The light in my eyes

My merciful mama, My loved mama
Only you, the light in my eyes
How much you ran for me and your life passed while concerning me
I miss your beauty, The light in my eyes

Ho mama, The light in my eyes, You left and left me, Ho mama
How did you leave me orphan without nothing
I die from sorrow, emptiness day and night
I, I that you cried for me and said: All my life I won't forget you my beauty

Where are you mama, We are you my love
I'm broken since the day you left
Bad people cause all this sorrow
Only god can heal me

Ho mama, The light in my eyes, left and left me ho mama
How did you leave me orphan without nothing
I die from sorrow, emptiness day and night
I, I that you cried for me and said: All my life I won't forget you my beauty

I won't forget you my love
I won't forget you my love
I won't forget you my love
The Idan Raichel Project gives us a foretaste of what Israel could be like if only its communities could bring themselves to accept each other's existence.

Thursday 15 July 2010

The Band - The Weight - The Song

A cracking live version from summer 1970. Also found on YouTube: Isle of Wight Festival and Woodstock, both from 1969. The one my friend Rose pointed out is from the film The Last Waltz (1976), with the Staples Singers - it's smoother, but I prefer The Band rougher :-)

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Spain won, Rest of the World didn't

The World Cup wrapped in the Spanish flag (El País)

Two years ago, after Spain had won the European Nations' Cup, I wondered, in an Iberian Studies forum, whether this victory could tell us anything about Spanish society today. None of my expert colleagues responded at the time.
Why are the Spanish footballers suddenly better than everyone else? Why aren't they the ineffectual losers they always have been? And has their success done anything to strengthen a sense of Spanish national identity?
Now after the World Cup victory this weekend, everyone seems to be asking the same questions. Amongst the responses seen today, The Guardian has a thoughtful editorial, followed by some fascinating readers' comments, from a wide variety of perspectives:
- Victory on the football pitch might encourage unity but the economic crisis is more likely to hold the country together

And there's a comment piece from Miguel-Anxo Murado:
- Does Andrés Iniesta's World Cup-winning goal for Spain have a deeper significance, or was it just down to good play?
This has also drawn a stack of interesting responses, including this one which sees the success of the Spanish team as a "very beautiful metaphor that contrasts very graphically with the current political situation in Spain."

But it's not only football. Spain is on a run of success in a number of major sports. Rafael Nadal has won 2 of the last 3 Wimbledon finals, Spanish cyclists have won the last 4 Tours de France (and are not doing badly in the current edition), their men's Basketball team are  European Champions and got to the final at the last Olympics. I have the impression - though I'm not sure how this can be checked - that there is far wider participation in these sports in Spain than there is in (for instance) the UK.

So, does all this tell us anything worth knowing about contemporary Spain? And how can it be explained? Is it something in the genes? The culture?? The diet??? And doesn't all that red and yellow make a nice splash?

Monday 12 July 2010

Three small squid (2)

Jan prepares some squid. Part 2: stuffing and sauce.
See also Part 1: cleaning and preparing

Very very yummy!!!

Three small squid (1)

Jan prepares some squid. Part 1: cleaning and preparing.
See also Part 2: stuffing and sauce.

Very yummy!!

Moving On

Fri 9 July

Every year the children in the final year at local primary schools hold a procession through the streets, and a party in a park, to celebrate 'moving on' to secondary school. It's a sort of a rite of passage, except it's not obligatory - they can still move on, even if they don't take part. But it is a public recognition of one of the major points of change in children's lives, and they love it.

Norman Baker and his loaf

Fri 9 July

Norman Baker declares Lewes Local Food Market open, and is presented with a gift of a wholesome loaf of Lewes bread. Norman is our MP, and a Minister for Transport in our Posh Boys' coalition government. I'm still asking him for my vote back, though I didn't think this was the time to press the issue. So Norman has his loaf - let's see how he uses it.

Lewes Local Food Market

Fri 9 July

Local food for local people, every Friday morning, below the Market Tower. And local blues, played by Lou, who's also local (see him in this earlier post from two years ago - same shirt, different instrument). The market is an initiative of Transition Town Lewes (see the post on the inaugural meeting, 2007), and looks set to flourish - all the bread, and all the cherries, and a lot more besides, had gone by the time I got there!

Artists United

Thu 8 Jul

A group of artists or a football club? Well, it's both. 40 local artists have got together to put on an exhibition in support of the community group which has taken over the running of the town's football club - Lewes FC, the Rooks. This year the club is celebrating 125 years of football, which makes it one of the oldest clubs in England. So, Artists United supporting Rooks 125, to help keep the Rooks flying.

The takeover comes after a period of several years in which the club's fortunes rose, rose, and rose again, only to fall back down with a thud. A couple of years ago Lewes FC had crowned a sequence of successful seasons by winning the Conference (Blue Square) South division. This gained them promotion to the Conference Premier League, which is one tier below League 2, the lowest of the fully professional leagues. Giddy heights for a small local club.

Unfortunately the club promptly got vertigo, sacked the manager who'd got them up there, lost most of the players, and crashed straight back down again. Last year they showed that it's almost as hard to stop losing as it is to keep winning, and only avoided further relegation on the last day of the season. At the same time they found themselves virtually insolvent, and subject to a winding up order which was also averted at the last moment.

Now a number of local organisations and individuals have formed Rooks 125, which has bought the club for a nominal sum, and hopes to be able to run it as a Community Benefit Society, with all profits being used to the benefit of the community, on a democratic one-person-one-vote basis. Just like FC Barcelona.


The exhibition, by the way, was superb.