This is the Kate Bush, right? That’s right. The art-pop prodigy and now reclusive doyenne.
What has she done? Is it a new tour? It’s a new tour, right? Please can it be a new tour? Nope. It’s a political opinion.
I’d have preferred a new tour, ideally. Yes, but you’ll have to wait.
It’s not fair! And political opinions are so boring! Just about every artist in the world is either leftwing or very leftwing. Not so fast. Bush is full of surprises, remember. And the latest is that she loves Theresa May.
Commenting on the recent fine handed down by a Dutch court against opposition leader Geert Wilders, Perry de Havilland points out that it’s not just governments on the continent that are working so hard to quash free speech:
Now whatever you think of Wilders, this has been an astonishing attempt to simply shut down free expression in a western nation. And of course this will not silence anyway and will probably prove to be a spectacular establishment own-goal.
And in the UK, more and more infrastructure to censor internet porn is being put into place. Why is this related? Because once control infrastructure exists, it can and will be re-purposed, in much the same way the Department for Education’s “counter extremism unit“, set up ostensibly to prevent violent Islamic extremist views being taught in UK schools, gets re-purposed to shut down a gay secular journalist who has not called for any violence against anyone.
All across the Western World, political verities and assumption are starting to shift, and almost nothing can be accurately predicted any more. We live in times that are a danger and opportunity in equal measure, and people who care about liberty will have to get their hands dirty, making common cause with others who will not pass any purity sniff tests but with whom we share common enemies (however care does need to be taken in such matters for sometimes the enemy of my enemy is my enemy … but sometimes not), however now is the time for engagement and action.
Poor England. First Charles I and civil war, then losing to the French, then the Great Fire of London in 1666. Luckily, Nicholas Barbon comes along to help. And make obscene amounts of money. Who says you can’t do both?
Cory Doctorow on the awful authoritarian “Snooper’s Charter” that somehow slithered onto the law books in Britain recently:
Britain’s love-affair with mass surveillance began under the Labour government, but it was two successive Conservative governments (one in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who are nominally pro-civil liberties) who took Tony Blair’s mass surveillance system and turned it into a vicious, all-powerful weapon. Now, their work is done.
The Snoopers Charter — AKA the “Investigatory Powers Act” — is the most extreme surveillance law in Europe, more extreme that America’s Patriot Act and associated presidential orders and secret rulings from the Foreign Intelligence courts. Snowden nailed it when he said it “goes further than many autocracies.”
The fact that these new spying powers — which conscript tech companies to do the collection and retention of materials for use by the government, usually in secret — comes even as the ruling Conservative Party is barely holding itself together after the Brexit vote and the rise of nativist, racist, pro-deportation/anti-migrant movements who are working their way into the halls of power. Needless to say, any project of mass roundups and expulsions will rely heavily on the legal and technical capabilities for surveillance that the British state has just claimed for itself.
Little Harry blinks at me through his heavy Sellotaped glasses. “What’s that for?”
“It’s a submachine gun,” I say. “It fires lots of bullets.” I mime. “Bang bang bang!”
I’m helping out on a school trip. Normally I avoid volunteering – it’s too easy for self employed parents to end up as the school’s go-to. However this visit is to Edinburgh Castle and my daughter Morgenstern was very keen I should put in a showing…
So here I am helping to herd 5-year olds through the military museum. Morgenstern is nowhere in sight, but little Harry has latched onto me.
“Oh,” says Harry. He copies my mime and sprays the room. “Bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang bang.”
“Not like that,” I say. “Three round bursts or you’ll run out of bullets. Plus the thing pulls up.” I mime. “So like this: Bang bang bang!… Bang bang bang!”
Solemnly, Harry discharges three imaginary bullets. “Bang bang bang!”
“Right,” I say, “Now, the other side have guns too. You have to use cover… better if you have a hand grenade, of course.”
His blue eyes widen. “What’s a hand grenade?”
So together we have a great time clearing each gallery with imagined grenade, automatic fire and bayonet.
Later on the way back to the bus Harry says, “My Daddy says wars are bad because people get killed…”
Yes, I had in fact spent the afternoon teaching (my best recollection of) World War Two house clearing tactics to the son of a local clergyman and peace activist.
There are penguins on your doorstep, spectacular scenery, and, of course, a place that’s rich in history. That’s a good side of the unusual British forces posting to the Falkland islands. The bad side is the icy gale-force winds, freezing conditions, and limited roads and connectivity. For more, visit http://frces.tv/B2P3uR.
The battlefield at the Somme flared into action this week with the same disastrous consequences. The soldiers fighting for the British Army even analysed the problems they were facing in the repeated assaults but to no avail. At the same time, the Serbs, supported by French troops, continued towards their home and fought for Monastir on the Macedonian Front.
A Remembrance Day slideshow using Mark Knopfler’s wonderful “Remembrance Day” song from the album Get Lucky (2009). The early part of the song conveys many British images, but I have added some very Canadian images also which fit with many of the lyrics. The theme and message is universal… ‘we will remember them’.
Private Archie Black (commissioned after the war and retired as a Major), Gordon Highlanders, captured at Singapore (aged 15) and survived a Japanese POW camp
Elizabeth Buller, “Lumberjill” in the Women’s Land Army in Scotland through the war. (Elizabeth’s mother)
Trooper Leslie Taplan Russon, 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, died at Tobruk, 19 December, 1942 (aged 23). A recently discovered relative. Leslie was my father’s first cousin, once removed (and therefore my first cousin, twice removed).
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD Canadian Army Medical Corps (1872-1918)
Angus Deayton presents a film award as Rowan Atkinson plays the bad loser accepting the award on behalf of someone else.
Whether mesmerising us with the sheer visual mastery of Mr. Bean, beguiling us with the acerbic wit of Edmund Blackadder, or simply entertaining us as the suave, but rather hapless British Secret Agent Johnny English, you surely won’t have escaped the comic genius that is Rowan Atkinson.
In Rowan Atkinson Live, co-written with Richard Curtis (4 Weddings & a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually) and Ben Elton, Atkinson runs the whole gamut of his remarkably versatile 30 year career, with sketches, mimes and monologue’s that are guaranteed to have you shedding tears of laughter. Performing live on stage alongside ‘straight man’ Angus Deayton, the show features a number of original and familiar routines, including sketches that appeared in the original Mr. Bean series.
Ernest Brooks’ photos from World War 1 have become icons of the entire war and are even recognised today. But his experience as an official war photographer was not always glorious and especially in the beginning he staged photos instead of showing the real horrors of the war. But as the war dragged on, more and more photos captured small moments in this gigantic conflict that showed the humanity behind the numbers.
Julie Burchill wonders why we enshrine in law the repulsive notion that some lives are more important than others:
I’ve always been somewhat bemused by the concept of ‘hate crime’ – a phrase which first came into use in the US in the 1980s and into practice in the UK in 1998. I must say that the idea that it is somehow worse to beat up or kill someone because you object to their race or religion, than because you’re a nasty piece of work who felt like beating up or killing someone, strikes me as quite extraordinary – hateful, even, implying that some lives are worth more than others. Are we not all human, do we not all bleed? If we’re murdered, do not those who love us grieve for us equally? Why, then, are attacks on some thought to be worse than attacks on others? Indeed, the book Hate Crimes: Criminal Law and Identity Politics claims that hate crime legislation may exacerbate conflict, upholding the idea that crimes are committed by members of groups rather than by individuals, thereby inflaming intolerance between different ethnic communities.
Nevertheless, in a dark twist on Alice In Wonderland’s all-must-have-prizes shtick, gay people were added soon afterwards. Then, obviously realising that it was somewhat stupid to deem an attack on a big strapping man who was more than capable of standing up for himself worse than an attack on a frail, heterosexual OAP, the elderly were added in 2007 to the list of people who it’s especially bad to attack or kill. This being the case, quite understandably the disabled were soon eligible to be victims of hate crime, too.
It’s very easy for me to be offensive about anything, so I’ll tread very carefully here. I do think that there is something particularly vile about picking on those with far less chance of fighting back and that those who do it should be dealt with particularly harshly. On the other hand, I don’t think that ‘hate’ usually comes into attacks on the elderly and the disabled, or on children – simply the very unpleasant fact that sadists, cowards and bullies know they are easy targets. In fact, they probably like this about them.
It’s also quite hard for me to understand how those who claim, and have their champions claim, to be the most chronic and vulnerable victims of hate crimes are Muslims. If you visited this country from another planet, all the ceaseless clatter about hate crimes of the Islamophobic kind might have you believing that a brace of Muslims a week were being butchered in the street due to the sheer molten hatred of the blood-thirsty Christian community. Whereas, in fact, Islamist terrorism kills eight times more Muslims than non-Muslims. In this country, three Muslims have been killed for being Muslims over the past three years – all by other Muslims.