Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Another Musical Interlude

If you can stand the amateur video some You Tube denizen has cobbled together to accompany it, this is worth a play. It's from the new Interpol album. Yes, it's been done before - it's a strange mix of Joy Division and the Pixies. They do it well, though. I can't listen too much to the CD at the moment because it makes me too depressed - will play it to death once I finish that thing which shall not be named here.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Capitalism, Crisis and Wellies

Capitalism has a tendency towards occasional highly disruptive crises. These can stem from a number of factors (although they often combine and are difficult to separate out). Amongst these factors are 1) the tendency for the organic composition of capital to rise (the good old TRPF), 2) problems of over-accumulation of capital, 3) intensifying international competition driving down general rates of profit, 4) uneven development and sectoral imbalances leading to bottlenecks, over-production, mismatches of supply and so on, 5) financial market instability leading to panic, capital flight and 'contagion' and 6) (while remaining wary of the Glyn and Sutcliffe thesis) we might say that high wages can constitute a drain on the rate of profit.

There's another distinctively 21st Century type of capitalist crisis emerging however - ecological crisis. This is a 'non-economic' kind of crisis given rise to, in great part, by capitalism's driving imperative - accumulation. Capitalism, as Kovel and Löwy point out, is a 'system predicated on the rule: Grow or Die!'. Could it be that while the last great global capitalist crisis - the inter-war slump - was often represented, symbolically, by those photographs of unemployed men in flat caps standing around in the sooty streets of the industrial north, the next big crisis will, later, come to be symbolised by images of people in wellies wading through flooded villages, towns and cities?


Race, Gender, Class and 'Erection Guy'

Two wonderful articles in today's Guardian. Gary Younge points out that the left-liberal love affair with Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama is based on an inadequate 'identity-politics' understanding of progressive political struggle. Younge doesn't mention the 'c' word, but it's clear that's what he's getting at - US politics is the politics of capitalist democracy par excellence in that issues of class and structural economic inequalities have been almost completely excluded from the political frame of reference.

Charlie Brooker has produced what I think is one of his finest pieces so far. It's about the various personalities - 'Night Guy', 'Morning Guy', 'Booze Guy' and others - that jostle for control of his brain:

Most men have their own Night Guy, not to mention a Snack Guy, a Mindless Channel-Surfing Guy, a Lie-in Guy and several hundred Procrastinating Guys. We could be possessed by any one of them at any time. Worst of all is Erection Guy - the most goal-oriented, driven individual imaginable, prepared to do absolutely anything to achieve his aims. Erection Guy will lie, mislead, cajole, persuade and even beg if necessary. And the closer he gets to his objective, the more demented and demeaning he'll become - until the Mission Accomplished sign lights up, and he abruptly vanishes, leaving his owner back on Earth, blinking and somewhat embarrassed, like a volunteer in a stage hypnotist's act who's just been finger-clicked awake to discover they've been impersonating a chicken for the past 10 minutes. Erection Guy doesn't deal with the immediate aftermath. He never volunteers to go and get a bit of tissue. He simply goes back into hibernation, leaving you to make faintly disinterested small talk for a few minutes until Snooze Guy shows up to hammer your eyelids shut.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

What's Going On Here Then?

One of the problems about blogging - especially those prone to mental spirals of second guessing other people and what they may think about you and what they might think about you if they knew that you were thinking about what they might think about you etc etc (all of this is essentially introspective, of course, despite the putative focus on readers 'out there') - is that when you make some sort of announcement about what you are doing or going to do, you feel obliged to follow it up later and tell your readers how it went. You are never quite sure whether you are simply revealing your own essential narcissism in providing readers with some form of 'update' on your own progress - did anyone really read what I mentioned below? does anyone really care about what I said about it anyway? if I explain what has happened will I then look absurdly self-important - as if I imagine visitors to this site give a monkeys about what I said or what I have done?

Anyway, given that I (rather unwisely it turns out) indicated that I was about to submit my thesis (which I now struggle to refer to without the prefix 'that fucking...') and have not yet, as promised, filled this site with acrobats, lions and fireworks, I feel that some explanation is in order.

The explanation is that I have not yet submitted that fucking thesis. I was, as indicated below, proof-reading the damn thing (and thought, therefore, that I was all finished apart, perhaps, from some minor typo correcting) - so when I was reading through the penultimate chapter and lost all confidence in one of the major arguments and realised that I needed to do a little more work on it, you can imagine that I was a little disappointed. That is, of course, an understatement - I was (and am, though it's getting better) rather upset about it. Still, after some considerable degree of distress and something verging on sustained round-the-clock, mild- to-medium terror which lasted for about a week(and in these situations, a blow to the confidence can quickly spiral into a process in which you lose all confidence - which, indeed, in this case, it did) I now feel able to face the thing and tinker around with it again without feeling that I want to run off into the woods, never to return to civilisation. Don't know when I'm going to submit. I'm not far off. I just have to improve what I argue in one of the chapters and then make sure that it still fits well into the rest of the thesis. I think I need a break from it though, before I can make that final push - so I'm going South (not running away - I'll be travelling in a dignified and controlled manner for the most part) to the sea, where the friendly dogs run free, where the mums cook you meals and where fewer people ask me every day whether I have handed in my fucking thesis yet.

What I've learned from this whole thing, is that it's never wise to make public predictions about when you're going to finish a piece of work.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Bishop-Spotting 2007

It's General Synod time again at York University. I'm a bit too busy at the moment to bishop-spot properly this year - normally I'll draw up a little check-list and sit outside central hall for a couple of hours a day. This year, I'm just making occasional forays across campus at the sorts of times when the bishops and lesser clergy gather in polite clumps on the walkways. I've not seen any celebrity bishops yet. Sentamu would be a good spot, as would be the Bishop of Liverpool and the holy goat of Canterbury. I'll keep my eyes peeled. I haven't seen this unsavoury chap yet either - one must always remember that although bishop-spotting is fun, some of the blighters aren't so harmless. One mustn't become too frivolous in this game.

I've noticed this year that you can normally estimate the rank of clergy fairly accurately by the size and type of their crucifix. The administrative ranks at the General Synod - the photocopier-tenders, message-runners, ushers and tea-brewers (mostly nuns, curates and small parish vicars) - tend to wear small, unostentatious silver-metallic crucifixes. As you get higher up the hierarchy (Canons, Deans and Archdeacons) the crosses get slightly bigger and the chains get chunkier. Bishops usually go for a large mock-rustic looking crucifx (wooden and slightly rough - as if it's been fashioned by shepherds without access to precision wood-cutting instruments) and, very often, the crucifx will have some sort of embellishment - a half-circle at the top (like an ankh) or an extra small beam crossing the main beam diagonally. This mock rusticity plus ornamental embellishment is just showiness masquerading as modest simplicity if you ask me. It's like putting a hot-tub in the front garden of your semi-detached while naming it 'Old Farmhouse Cottage'.

I find nuns strangely fascinating. I think most non-nuns probably share this fascination. I'm not sure exactly what it is. It might be their painfully nice nicey-ness that makes you feel a mixture of half-disdain, half-shameful admiration in their presence. You feel like you'd like to share a nice cup of tea and current bun with a nun but tell her, at the same time, that she really ought to stop all this silly being-a-nun business. I once, rather gallantly, helped a nun in distress. It was last winter but one on a very icy morning - the pavements were pretty treacherous. I was walking down Micklegate Street near where I used to live and I saw two elderly nuns coming towards me. It's strange - I knew immediately that this slippery pavement was simply no place for a nun, and that frankly they were asking for trouble. Sure enough, within seconds of me thinking this, one of the nuns slipped and tumbled habit over sensible shoes, landing flat on her face on the pavement with an unpleasant thump. There was even a bit of blood coming out of her nose like in a film. I did that stupid thing that you normally do in these sorts of situations which is to stand over her and ask 'er... are you all right?' in a rather embarrassed and awkward way. Clearly she wasn't all right. So anyway, after a few seconds of self-conscious dithering, I called an ambulance on my mobile and then went and got a chair from one of the offices near to the accident spot for her shocked friend to sit on. After two or three minutes a pharmacist from a near-by chemists came out and took over. Then the ambulance came and took them away. So, anyway I'm pretty sure I probably saved this nun's life. But did she thank me as she was being stretchered into the ambulance? No. I'm still pretty sore about that actually. I'm fairly certain, however, that most nuns have better manners and so I don't hold it against the whole profession.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Alex Petridis on Interpol (and Editors)

I am rather fond of Interpol and indeed of Editors. Alex Petridis provides a rather rude review of the former's new album which incorporates a few digs at Editors, too. I like Petridis' unkind, waspish humour though (I'm sure it was him who memorably described Mika - that intensely irritating twit with the doe-eyes who sings god-awful 'songs' in a teeth-on-edge-setting falsetto voice - as 'like Kenny Everett pretending to be the Bee Gees. Only not funny.') and, to be fair, he does land a few well-aimed punches on the two bands. He's completely right that you can't listen to either Interpol or Editors without thinking 'this really is very very much like Joy Division isn't it'. I'm not quite sure how Petridis manages to detect something like the voice of Cilit Bang's Barry Scott, however - 'you listen to Editors with the creeping fear that, at any moment, the songs might be interrupted with a deafening cry of "BANG! And the dirt is GONE!"'. As far as I remember Barry Scott speaks in an hammy, over-excited and high-pitched shouty voice (which is, apparently, deliberately intended to make you hate Barry Scott so much that you can't get him out of your head - meaning that Cilit Bang is always, always, there, lurking in the back of your mind - the ultimate in brand awareness and brand recall) whereas the Ian Curtis-esque lead-singers of Interpol and Editors sing in gloomy, stentorian booms. It's probably comedic license.

Anyway, all of this provides me with an excuse to put an Interpol video on here by means of the hi-tech You Tube internet video playing device (which creates a rift in space while simultaneously generating a wormhole dimension bridge between this site and the You Tube data banks many many miles away).

By the way, I have nearly submitted my thesis. Expect things to go wild on this site from about the middle of next week. I'm going to have acrobats and lions and fireworks. I still have to do all the proof-reading, however, which is perhaps the most tedious job known to humanity.


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