Friday, 29 August 2008
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Sunday, 24 August 2008
Saturday, 23 August 2008
Since the inception of this protest campaign in November 2005, India and various parts of the world are witnessing intense agitations against M. F. Husain. Agitations that include over 1250 formal police complaints, 7 court cases, burning of Husain effigies, citywide strikes, rasta bunds (road blocking), as well as several protest demonstrations in the US and UK. At times, the inaction and passivity of the Indian media and government forced the agitators to lose patience and take a violent turn, as in the case of an attack on the Husain-Doshi art gallery, mob destruction of public property in some cities in India, and public announcements of rewards for maiming or killing M. F. Husain, as well as the closing of the Husain paintings exhibition in Asia House gallery in Oxford Street London after protest demonstrations and a vandal attack.Nice work, lads. No one can say that maiming and killing aren't ecumenical.
PS I realise how inappropriate the title to this blog is, given the weather England has been having this summer, but I drank too much sangria last night and this really is all I can come up with. I welcome all suggestions.
PPS I typed England wrong and the spell check gave me Gangland.
Friday, 22 August 2008
Nick Harkaway, in his first novel, The Gone-Away World, provides us with a handle on the world that actually works, that actually opens a sort of window we otherwise wouldn’t have. It does this in a number of ways. In part, by describing a world that we recognize as essentially the world we know, a world in which Tupperware and Star Wars and, er, cake-making remain points of reference; in part by drawing on other richly imagined worlds, or arcane worlds – I’m thinking martial arts, here - as imaginative ballast. He mentions his debt to the great story tellers of the past, from Wodehouse to Dumas in the acknowledgements (and this tells us everything about the range of his style), but much of the strength of the tale comes from its equally firm footing in the dozens of less formal narratives that compose us: education, cooking, friendship, love, not to speak of the popular imagined pre-/post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max and Dr Strangelove. In part because the exuberance and invention and sheer delight of the language is unfailing, with a goon-show-like energy that only occasionally veers into flippancy. In part because Harkaway knows how bruschetta should be pronounced. (Yes, it matters.)
But all this would count for nothing if the novel weren’t also preoccupied with what Harkaway describes as ‘the whole business of how to be a person’. The novel is haunted by alienation, from the early reworking of it in its pure Marxist state (cf. Fingermuffin, capitalist) to the central trope of the novel, which I won’t reveal. It’s concerned with who we are, as individuals and in our relations with others. The core of the novel is a moving recognition of community and how it might survive, against all odds. This seriousness is never far beneath the fun to be had, although there are moments I feel the latter may be overdone. The riff on fashion towards the end of the novel, for example, struck me as heavy-handed, though enjoyable (and then, with an odd swoop, utterly creepy). And there are passages in the second half of the novel, after it’s caught up with itself (you’ll know what I mean when you read it), when the thrust of the story is slowed down by a tendency not to miss a trick in terms of language, when a surface glamour distracts both the teller and the tale. But mostly it’s spot on. A grand job.
And a hard act to follow. I'm looking forward to the next one.
Thursday, 21 August 2008
Except that, as with most stories in Italy, this one doesn't quite add up. The mother's lawyer says one thing, the local magistrate another. In the meantime, the boy, whose father has accused him of hanging out with drug-riddled subversives, is studying for make-up exams and going to the beach. What makes this a story is the odd - and justifiable - anxiety in Berlusconi's Italy that basic political rights are being eroded.
If you want to read what La Repubblica has to say about the story, click here.
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
You can find out more here. He's particularly good on the relative dangers of thin and thick ends of wedges. But he would be, wouldn't he?
There is no constitutional role for the Prime Minister to reprimand individual Members of Parliament who are accountable to their electorate for their own comments.
The Government is committed to strong equality legislation in Northern Ireland and citizens in Northern Ireland are protected against discrimination on grounds of race, religious belief or political opinion, gender, sexual orientation, age or because of a disability. If anyone in Northern Ireland believes that they have been discriminated against on any of these grounds they may be able to bring a complaint to a tribunal or to a county court. Further details are available from the Equality Commission whose website is at www.equalityni.org.
In respect of sexual orientation specifically, the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 make it unlawful for employers and others to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation in the areas of employment, vocational training and further and higher education. The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2006 extend the protection against discrimination to the provision of goods, facilities and services, the management and disposal of land or premises and the provision of education in schools.
In addition, section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 requires designated public authorities to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between 9 different groups: religious belief; political opinion; race or ethnic group; age; marital status; sexual orientation; gender; disability; and persons with dependants.
The Government’s vision is an equal, inclusive society in Northern Ireland, where everyone is treated with respect and where opportunity for all remains a priority.
The cemetery has grown with time, the oldest deaths at the centre, more recent ones spiralling out like an image of a newly-born galaxy, a swirl of marble slabs placed one against the other, shoulder to shoulder, each with its name and date and motto, each with its container for flowers. Some of these have a sort of metal top, like a waffle, with holes for the stalks. Other slabs, either older or more modest, have improvised vases, the most common being Steradent tubes, the perfect size for a single rose. Generally, the outer slabs are in better shape than the ones at the heart, the deaths still recent enough to warrant weekly visits, fresh bouquets. A spray of yellow roses has been pushed into the earth at a short distance from the path, it's not clear for whom. The roses are artificial. My sister wipes my father's stone clean. We haven't brought flowers because we don't want to think of them dying; we talked with our mother about the virtues of artificial flowers, but decided, in the end, to do without. The stone wiped clean, my sister darts off towards one of the trees, returning with a sprig of oak leaves.
Coming down one side of the hill is a swathe of stones laid so tightly against one another that the impression they give is of a wide grey road, an uninterrupted sweep of paving slabs. It's hard to see how people can visit their dead without treading on others'. Yet somehow they manage, performing a jittery respectful dance between one stone and the next, leaving their elderly relatives at the kerb or alone, in parked cars, as close as they can drive. On the other side of the cemetery, as we leave for home, are the graves of children. These are decorated as if for a party, with massive paper flowers and grinning dolls that come up to my waist and rain-sodden teddy bears. The impression they make is undeniably poignant, but also creepy, as though the bereaved one's attempt to recall the innocence, the playfulness, of the child had been subverted into schlock.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
And now I really must go.
Monday, 11 August 2008
I'll be leaving the insufferable heat of central Italy tomorrow for a week in the more temperate climes of the English Midlands. I can't wait. The blissful vacancy of travel. M&S duck à l'orange and Jeremy Kyle (my guilty secret, alas no longer), Thornton's chocolate gingers, traditional pork pie from Kirk's, my mother's (and her mother's) favourite butcher's, the Guardian and the Independent actually printed on paper, my favourite Chinese all-you-can-eat-for-£4.99 buffet on School Street. Yes. Yes.
And you know what? I'm worth it.
Friday, 8 August 2008
I was sad to see that Simon Gray had died. I started reading him when an extract from the first of his diaries to be published - The Smoking Diaries - appeared in Granta some years ago, and I've been buying each new instalment as it came out, in hardback, unusually for me, because I couldn't wait. I remember reading the first volume at more or less the same time as an edition of the journals Christopher Isherwood kept when he was living in Los Angeles in the late 50s-early 60s and coming to the conclusion, with a heavy heart, that I preferred the stubborn, tetchy, doubt-ridden, heterosexual, pet-loving, regretful, easily irritated playwright to the vacuous bed-hopping star-fucking campy pseudo-Quaker that Isherwood had become. Both men wrote their journals to be read, Isherwood presumably - and wisely - after his death, Gray as soon as possible, and there's a wonderful feeling in the latter's diaries of a very public confession going on, of an opening out. I'm not a theatre-goer, and I've never seen any of his plays, I'm not even sure that I want to, but his diaries were a source of great and constant pleasure to me. He wrote about animals as well as he did about himself and other people; at one point he wonderfully describes the 'dainty waddle' of a cat. There is, apparently, a final volume waiting to be published, and that's it.
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
The way Lambert handles relationships, and how small betrayals and minor secrets can divert their course, reminded me of Milan Kundera...You can find the rest of it here.
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
Well, I don't get it. I don't say people shouldn't climb mountains, any more than that they shouldn't dive from high places or wrestle big cats in Las Vegas. I'm sure these are all pretty exciting ways to pass the time. But I don't see the intrinsic difference between using a lump of snow-covered rock to get high and using a rock of crack or a line of snow to achieve the same effect. Let's face it. They're dragging their expensively kitted bodies up the side of Everest, or wherever, for the kick. They're not doing it for anyone else's good. In human terms, Reinhold Messner and Amy Winehouse are each worth as much as the other, except that Amy Winehouse is also a genius, and Messner just climbs things.
It's as though physical exercise were, in itself, ennobling. It's rather like the shocked reaction to these new drugs that may induce fitness in - horror of horrors- people who don't deserve it. Why not? Because they just sit around thinking, or reading, or watching TV, instead of running in endless circles or lifting weights. Well, good for them. Pass me the pills while I read Omega Minor.
Interestingly, the only time I remember seeing a climber criticised for failing to consider the social fallout their addictive and selfish activities might have on someone else was when the climber in question was - wait for it - a mother. A woman's place is clearly not up the Eiger. Leave that to the (sponsored) boys.
Sunday, 3 August 2008
The classical type of the “castrating woman" leaving man with an inferiority complex, represents a combination of high parameters of authoritativeness, rivalries and criticalities of thinking.If you'd like to know more, or think you recognise this woman (try imagining hair) and are feeling low-level anxiety, go straight to the site in question, where you will find this kind of crystalline explanation:
The principle of reverse afferentation (the mechanism of reverse connection) gives an opportunity to influence on the specified basic psychological feature by conscious activation (or relaxation) of correlating mimic elements. Training techniques created on the basis of Autogenic Training by J.Shultz and regulating mental processes, connected with emotional conditions, by a muscular relaxation, optimize the general emotional state of the person. The proposed technique (STEMA) allows selectively influence on concrete psychological features directly in a phase of the daily activity of the person, depending on requirements of an environment, or the certain professional specificity.
Should you feel the need for a bit of extra STEMA, you can ask the site directly for counselling. All you have to do is send a photograph. Here are the instructions:
The person on video / photo image should behave naturally (not to sit with the frozen face, as on documents), head and neck should be opened.
Given this irony - which is reassuring but, well, insufficient - we started to wonder about whether the mixture of envy and admiration that accounts for a good part of one's feeling inferior is a quality that might be useful, even indispensable, in a writer. Feeling inferior sharpens the eye wonderfully. You watch the others, the superior ones, with the attention of a fearing and doting child, but also with that of a servant, whose service is bought at the cost of his contempt; and finally with that of a dog, alert to whatever might fall from the table. Aren't these Proustian characteristics? Isn't this what Thackeray did? And Waugh? And Genet? How often the narrator's eye seems both pitiless and enamoured.
And then there are the others. Dickens, Penelope Fitzgerald, Rohinton Mistry...