Daily Archives: July 23, 2012

And now trending on Twitter

Peter McKay, at the Mail, (otherwise “McLie” or “McHackey” in Private Eyeputs a boot in:

This is not how it was supposed to pan out for Cameron & Co. They might have expected to bask in public satisfaction over the Diamond Jubilee and 2012 Olympic Games. 

But the dreadful early summer weather and BBC TV presenters’ inane commentaries during the Thames river pageant reduced any prospect of the Jubilee being a plus for the Coalition. 

As for the Games, the crass commercialism and embarrassing collapse of the multi-million-pound, private sector security arrangements created another ordure storm.

Now the Games are upon us, cheerleaders have replaced whingers. We’re urged to forget the maladministration and get behind the athletes. But this doesn’t translate into getting behind our ruling politicians.

To which Malcolm would add that, say about 5pm on Friday, exercising a Freeman’s right to drive a flock of sheep across London Bridge would generally add to the prevailing hilarity and mirth.

Those who have any doubts about the very bridled enthusiasm of Londoners over the next dose of bread-and-circuses should resort to the Twitter hashtag #disobeyboris. There you will find such gems as:

  • Head to Heathrow. Wear an Olympics t-shirt. Tell everyone that the games are cancelled and they’re not allowed in #disobeyboris
  • #disobeyboris make pepsi stickers and stick them on every 2012 coca cola advert you see
  • Tell American tourists that Boris Bikes are ‘I Speak Your Weight’ machines. #disobeyboris
  • Do not get ahead of the games. Get behind the games and follow them around. Whistle nonchalantly whenever they look at you.#disobeyboris
  • Go to work using public transport & ultimately live your life like your hometown hasn’t become a pyre on which to burn £11bn#disobeyboris

For those who haven’t got it, the Mayor of London, Blasted Boris, tells us:

… concerns over security and transport before the Olympics is a “necessary pre-curtain up moment of psychological depression”

Not sure whether that grammatical infelicity is pure BoJo or the BBC.


Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, Boris Johnson, London

And it’s only Monday

Meanwhile, from the BBC website:

London 2012 Games lanes: Traffic delays of two hours

Drivers coming into London have faced delays of up to two hours after new restrictions came into force for the Olympics.

Lane restrictions have begun to be applied on the A12, A13 and A40…

Don’t mind us. We only live here.

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, human waste, London

Piling it on

So how’s the guilt pile coming on, Malcolm?

Not too well.

As predicted, Thursday Next edged out Giordano Bruno, and great fun it was, too.

Then, thanks to Diarmaid MacCullough’s headline review in The Times Literary Supplement, Malcolm went off onto a medieval tangent.

He is now engaged in a pedestrian trek (though it is no plod) through R.I.Moore’s The War on Heresy.

OK, OK: Malcolm is a sucker for anything Cathar; but Moore is the remedy to that addiction. The book’s sub-title gives the game away: Faith and power in medieval Europe.

So far Malcolm is a third of the way in, and still working up to Pope Innocent III and the Albigensian Crusade. Innocent? — hardly.

Moore has filleted contemporary and post-contemporary documents and chronicles to unearth repeated tales of innocence persecuted and ignorance sent to the pyre. In every case, the reader is left with awareness that all of it was a matter of social control.

As for “power”, at this stage of history power stemmed entirely from land-ownership. The church and the rising nobility were in competition for land. When there was a surfeit of land-hungry younger noble sons, pushing them into the church was one obvious solution. That necessitated celibate clergy, else church lands would be divided between married canons who would, in turn, generate dynasties hostile to the noble interests. So (as on page 61):

… the land of western Europe [was divided] into two distinct and watertight categories, transmitted on one side through blood and the sword, on the other by ordination and appointment to office. To be qualified to hold land in either capacity was ipso facto to be disqualified from doing so in the other. So fundamental was this distinction to the new European society being shaped in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that its dismantling by reformation and bloody revolution between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries is now considered an essential pre-condition of modernity.


You don’t get insight like that at a penny a pound.

Back to the guilt pile

As a result, the pile continues to teeter. While Malcolm is one Fforde down, he is otherwise up three. The Parris Sacrilege has slipped down the heap: there’s now the first book in the Bruno sequence, Heresy (see a connection at all?) atop and before it. There’s also:


Apart from the teeth-grrrinding triviality of that sub-title, Malcolm can help you. The six are: “multilevel competition”, scientific progress, English property laws, medical advances, the consumer society and that famous (and recently visited) protestant/calvinist work-ethic. There, didn’t that save time?

As far as Malcolm can quickly scan, “democracy” and “equality” do not feature at all. “Socialism” gets one fleeting reference (page 208-9). Oh, and:

… the 1968 revolution was all about clothes. [page 246]

But this is Ferguson, after all.


Filed under History, Jasper Fforde, Literature, Niall Ferguson, Times Literary Supplement


Malcolm has an excellent relationship with a near-neighbour who subscribes to The Spectator. As a result, rather than pass directly to trash, the magazines are by-passed through Malcolm’s letter-box.

This may mean that as much as a month may have intervened before the next batch arrive; but that only puts into due proportion all passing enthusiasms of James Forsyth. Odd as it may seem, Forsyth’s weekly and presumably more leisured reflections in The Speccie do not gain in weight or wisdom compared to his instant frothings, on a more regular timetable, for the Mail

This delivery system may be laboured, but what does not stale is what happens back of the staple-fold.

The Spectator’s Book & Arts section is unfailingly worth the trip, even a month stale.

So here is Malcolm with the issue for 23rd June, where the main essay is A tough broad — Sam Leith on Lilian Hellman (the peg that is hung on is Alice Kessler-Harris’s Life and Times. Leith reviews Hellman, whereas — as far as Malcolm can judge — the book is something else: a distinguished academic historian‘s take on issues broader than a personality:

She was one of my heroines in the 1970s; I thought surely she would already have been taken, and grabbed her when I discovered that she had not. I was eager for something that would take me beyond the trade union women with whom I’d spent most of my life up to that point. And once I started to work on her, I was hooked.  Her life intersected in so many ways with elements of subjects that I had long been interested in. It spoke to questions about women, about Jews, about labor, about economic independence, about sexuality, about the peculiar nature of American radicalism…

I found myself relatively comfortable writing the parts of the book that had to do with the 1930s – Hellman’s relationship with trade unions, her viewpoints on the feminism of the 1970s – because those things are in my bones. I did my homework, but I didn’t feel as though I was researching an entirely new subject. When it came to writing about areas I knew less about – Hellman as a playwright in the 1930s, for example – that was more challenging. I had to think about who the major players and actors were; what it meant that Hellman was not a member of the radical left theater movement of the period; why she decided to be a serious writer and yet mount her plays on Broadway all the way.

No: that won’t be added to Malcolm’s guilt-pile (of which more later).

Nor will Harry Belafonte, My song: A Memoir. That is not because of any (by the look of it, considerable) worth of the text itself, nor because Ian Thomson’s review fails to do the book justice. It’s just that Malcolm doesn’t do celebrity memoirs. Still, Thomson makes almost a fair fist of it:

Like Duke Ellington before him, Belafonte was motivated always by a belief in black self-improvement. Rather than engage in a Garveyite agenda for black redemption , however, he chose to celebrate the African American experience through music. Later, he helped to finance Martin Luther King in his struggle against America ‘s racial divide. Belafonte did all this independent of Fifth Avenue patronage: by creating a single appreciative audience from both black and white (more often white), he was an important, even trail-blazing figure. Black celebrities such as Josephine Baker and Paul Robeson who had angrily denounced racism in 1930s and 1940s America soon found themselves out of work . Belafonte understood this. His insistence on snappy dressing and a hotel­circuit clean appearance was part of a plan to create a parallel world on a par with that of the white man.

Belafonte’s air of urbane calypso­cool helped to instil an image of racial pride in the American mind. Beneath the suave manner, however, was a gently subversive spirit, which served him well during times of ‘Jim Crow’ prejudice. Las Vegas in the early 1950s, where Belafonte often performed , was equally as prejudiced as the Deep South. In the showbiz city of champagne-corks, broads and finned convertibles, Frank Sinatra held sway with the Rat Pack; under Frankie the King Rat was Sammy Davis, Jr. In Belafonte’s view, Davis was a tragic, self-demeaning figure who, distressed by his blackness, chose to play court fool to white audiences; his ‘little black-boy routine’ looked undignified to Belafonte.

There’s nothing particularly original in that assessment. As for Sammy Davis, Malcolm felt uncomfortably embarrassed by the Rat Pack films and performances when they were new, and time — happily — has rendered them so excruciatingly obsolete they are no longer repeatable.

What Malcolm did enjoy in that review was the typo:

As their disenchantment deepened, Belafonte’s parents began to loose all affection in each other’s company and became, it seems, a mystery to each other.

On mature consideration, perhaps the Spectator‘s issue of 23 June (headlining James Forsyth extolling the coming neo-Cons on the Tory back-benches) wasn’t the finest example of the marque.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Music, Racists, reading, The Spectator, Tories.