Monday, March 31, 2008


I've posted Jewish heavy metal here before, and oddball Woody Guthrie covers. Check out Blackfire, a Navajo Indian hard rock band, doing Guthrie's "Mean Things Happening in This World", via 3hive.

More heavy metal here: Meshuggah, In Extremo, Gevolt.
More Woody Guthrie here: Staple Singers, The Klezmatics/Asch Recordings, if I want to take a breath between verses I play a few extra chords, The Dap Kings, more Klezmatics.

Mourning a Friend: Anthony Minghella

Mourning a Friend: Anthony Minghella
A lovely obituary for a great film-maker from Boycotted British academic.

Perfect use of one of my favourite words, menschlichkeit (or mentshlikhkayt as I like to spell it)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Your friend in the north

So much I wanted to post about today, but I've run out of time. So I'll leave you for the weekend with a quick a blog recommendation: yourfriendinthenorth.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Catching up

So much to chatch up on!

First of all, I was the subject of a Normblog profile last week: read it here (hyperlinks helpfully added by Norm). Welcome any Normsters reading this who got here from there.

And I have a fair few acknowledgements to make.

1. Martin Meenagh cited me in a piece on Ken Livingstone. Actually, the text he cites was written by Daniel Z, before he became a blogger. Although most of what I have written about Ken on this blog (see my KenWatch series) has been very critical, I will be supporting him in the forthcoming Mayoral elections, for reasons very similar to Martin's, which I intend to write up on this blog.

2. Contentious Centrist here continues the fascinating Brecht/Hannah Arendt/Lisa Riddick discussion thread. Well worth following!

3. Continuing the Tibet ambivalence/confessions discussion thread, the New Centrist adds his fascinating perspective to Martin in the Margins' and mine. Chinese in Vancouver also cites Martin's, NC's and Flesh is G's posts, but I am not too keen on the Chinese nationalist implications of the post.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The near enemy of compassion, the rage for order, and the politics of the semi-colon

I just read Noga's post that took the Brecht poem mentioned here as its starting point. I strongly recommend reading it, and thinking carefully about Hannah Arendt's argument about pity as a corrosive force in politics.

Arendt's argument resonates with a piece by Lisa Ruddick which Martin Meenagh links to. Riddick's (long) article in The Chronicle is very, very good, written in the wake of 9/11 and indicting the dangerous orthodoxies of the liberal humanities. There are many important, mainstream, left-wing academics who are exceptions to the orthodoxies Ruddick discusses. Martha Nussbaum, Richard Sennett, Zygmunt Bauman, Charles Taylor, Les Back and Robert Fine spring to mind. Interestingly, none of these are in English literature departments...

The reason the piece resonates with Arendt's argument is that Ruddick uses the interesting concept "near enemy"; what Arendt is saying is that the near enemy of compassion is pity. Compassion - especially in the form of solidarity - is a necessary element in politics; pity leads only to terror.

I also only just noticed that Norm picked up on the same semi-colon news item that aroused such passionate debate here. (Should I be writing "semicolon" instead, as Norm and the NYT do? I need Mr Neches' help on that!)

Norm uses the item to present a fascinating, thought-provoking anecdote about the Nuremburg Charter. Which would neatly lead me on to what I have to say about Samantha Power, except I haven't written it yet...

And, this seems sort of related, another inspiring academic, Bernard-Henri Levy. BHL was the subject of a debate-let on this blog as to whether he is a "candy-ass intellectual" or not: 1, 2, 3. (Incidentally, BHL's daughter, Justine Levy, was Jean-Paul Enthoven's wife before he had his affair with Carla Bruni, who is now Nicholas Sarkoszy's wife, about which I will pass no comment.)

Ambivalence on Tibet/Confessions

Having confessed to my earlier suspicion about free Tibet, I should say that I haven't become an enthusiastic advocate of it, largely because I take a pretty Rosa Luxemburg/John Lennon line on national liberation struggles in general.

Martin in the Margins has a great post on his ambivalence about a free Tibet, complete with his own autobiographical confessions.

And here are more confessions to a former self from Flesh is Grass.

How can agencies notch up aid in risky Iraq?

Reuters AlertNet - How can agencies notch up aid in risky Iraq?

Bob's beats 2

This is a continuation of yesterday's music post.

First, there's more mp3s by Why? (aka Jonathan "Yoni" Wolf) at Pop Tarts Suck Toasted, This Recording, and Stop Okay Go. It's hip hop, but in a very leftfield, un-ghetto way: it will appeal to people that like Beck more than people who life Kanye West. I particularly like "By Torpoedo Or Crohn's" (listen at Winter Academy), with a gentle sound and smart lyrics. But I like it least when it strays furthest from hip hop into droney emocore territory, as with "Close to Me".

Continuing with Jewish hip hop, from Why? to Y-Love (aka Yitz Jordan), as recommended by Matt. I've been meaning to check him out since I read a really engaging profile in the JC (which I can't find on-line). He's a black, American, Orthodox Jewish rapper. I like his music: intelligent, multi-lingual (English, Hebrew and Aramaic, as far as I can tell) rapping about all sorts of topics. Metal Jew has posted on him, and he blogs. Here's a good post on Arab attitudes to Hamas, and a fascinating post about the spread to Brooklyn of the bizarre haredi feminist fashion for the burqa, whose Israeli manifestation has been reported in the JC. Read more about him at Zeek and NYC24 (former including free download).

Yesterday, we had some very un-klezmer music with Yiddish or Yiddishy titles. Here's another: Meshuggah. According to It's a Trap, they have "the market cornered for hyper-syncopated metal".

It's a Trap also posts some Scandinavian jazz, with this preamble:
I had been a fan of [John Zorn's] work with Naked City among other projects, but it's his roots-based work with Masada that I consider to be his best. Did you realize that there are many similar tonal qualities in Middle Eastern, Eastern European and Scandinavian folk? It's true. The styles blend together far more easily than you might expect. That's why me, as some Jewish kid getting into Masada, can also similarly appreciate a "polska" piece from Jonas Knutsson. Now, I'm not actually posting a polka today, but you get the idea, right?
On to politics. Jewish/Buddish rappers the Beastie Boys and Bjork are among those attacking the Chinese government over Tibet, the latter being banned by the Chinese regime as a result. According to Wikipedia,
In Tokyo, Björk dedicated her set-closing song "Declare Independence" to independent Kosovo, which did unilaterally declare independence from Serbia a few days earlier on 17 February 2008. According to her management, she was subsequently and consequently dropped from July's Exit Festival, which is held in Serbia, in the city of Novi Sad in the northern province of Vojvodina, a major event that each year draws over 150,000 people, half of them from abroad.[17] The festival organizers denied that they have ever dropped any artist for political self-expression, and contend that doing so is against their principles.[18]. However, Björk's representatives revealed an e-mail from the chief organizer, warning the singer not to dedicate the song to Kosovo during upcoming concerts in Europe or "relate to Kosovo" in interviews [17].

On March 2nd, 2008, she dedicated the same song to Tibet at the end of her performance in Shanghai, China [19] causing local upset [20][21]. Some of her Chinese fans, who waited 12 years for her second visit since 1996 in Beijing, announced that they are no longer fans [22][23]. On the other hand, there are Chinese fans who did not care, saying "She is not Bjork if she did not get on your nerves"[24]. Most of the audience probably did not even understand "Tibet", according to many Chinese bloggers and online forums[citation needed]. Björk explained her dedications in a 4 March 2008 statement on her web page [25].

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bob's beats

It's been a while since I last did a music post. (Cool music, and its post-scripts on the Owls and Marc Ribot, over a month ago.) So, here's one.

First off, a song that brought back to me my 18-year old self, from the period of my life when I had no time for freeing Tibet (do the maths: it was more than 15 years ago...): "I'm Comin' Down" from Primal Scream's Screamadelica, posted at Ear Farm, a blog that seems to specialise in reminding me of moments in my earlier lives (q.v. Billy Bragg, bringing back my joining the Labour Party age 15 and New Labour winning the election in 1997 [at the TUC May Day festival in Finsbury Park, days after the election, Bragg said "even the rain feels better under Labour", which, at the time, it actually did... ]).

Another adolescent memory is prompted for me by The Rising Storm's post on Leonard Cohen's New Skin for The Old Ceremony, the soundtrack to my angstiest teenage moments.

I thought I was up on the 1970s deep Americana/singer-songwriter thing, but I did not know midwesterner Bob Martin, to whom this post at the wonderful Rising Storm introduced me: "a stark, beautiful blend of folk and country that reveals it’s depth with repeated listens. Each song has something new to offer, and Bob brings us into his working class world with great American stories about local drunks, small town farm life, hard times, prison convicts, and working on the mill."

There's more rebel music from the Rising Storm, this time from
Brazil, with this tropicalia post.

Moving straight to the present, but back to the
Midwest, Cocoa Tea's reggae tribute to Barack Obama, posted at Analog Giant. And SoundRoots posts some cool Spanish language Obama and Hillary tributes: Clinton Norteno-style and Obama cumbia.

Back to rebel music, Berkeley Place posts lots of Clash covers, including a version of my favourite, "Guns of Brixton", by The Beautiful Girls, and "Train in Vain" by
South London's Kirsty MacColl. The Clash's "Hateful" is also used by If It's Good to soundtrack the report on the rise of antisemitism globally.

Hahamusic asks: "Who says middle aged Jews can't like hip hop?", a question raised by a Forward article and soundtracked by a Del Tha Funkee Homosapien track. And if you want to listen to more of Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, try Some Velvet Blog, Pop Matters, Crust Cake, or Orange Alert. For actual Jewish hip hop, try Why?'s new album Alopecia, as posted by Surving the Golden Age.

I think that the most far-out Jewish music I've posted is Harold Stern, Yiddisher cowboy, or Al Tijuana and his Jewish brass. Topping that is "nice Jewish boys Borrah Minevitch and His Harmonica Rascals", on YouTube at PowerPop. The Meshugga Beach Party's surf rock "Shalom Alechem" (via SoundRoots) is, ahem, blown out of the water.

Continuing with a Yiddish tip, The Shondes are a
New York indie rock band who take their name from the Yiddish word meaning shame or embarassment. Their new album is called The Red Sea. Listen to them at Electronic Voice Phenomenon. Another indie band with some Jewish-inspired naming are Casey Dienel's White Hinterland, whose new album is called Phylactery Factory. Read about and listen to them at Linesthroughlines.

Finally, a Matisyahu track at The World Forgot.

Bob's beats genre keywords: indie, country, hip hop, punk, tropicalia.
Bob's beats artist keywords: Leonard Cohen, The Clash

US politricks: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton

Keywords: mp3, mp3s, music downloads, music to download

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tibet: a confession

When I was younger - say, 15 years ago - I was deeply dismissive of the Free Tibet campaign. It was not that I was against the rights of the Tibetan people; I just didn't care that strongly for them.

Partly, as a pretentiously iconoclastic radical secularist, I was suspicious of a national liberation movement led by the Dalai Lama, who I saw as basically a huckster (I also hated Mother Theresa, Archibishop Desmond Tutu and Gandhi. I'm no longer sure which ones of those I was right about), and suspicious of the filthy rich Buddhists who led the campaign from the West, such as Richard Gere. That was, to me, sufficient cause to differentiate myself from it.

Probably more significantly, I saw the support given to the movement (which was very fashionable then, probably second to the anti-apartheid movement in being generally accepted as right-on) as an easy option, because it fit in so well to the anti-Communist Cold War ideology that was dominant in the Thatcher/Reagan era.

I now diagnose this dismissiveness as part of the Stalinophilia that afflicts much of the left, even in its ostensibly anti-Stalinist varieties. By Stalinophilia, I mean the worldview that sees the Peking and Moscow families of state socialist regimes as bulwarks against the "real" enemy, Western capitalist/imperialism, and therefore, despite their evident evil, worth supporting (albeit "critically").

I am ashamed of that.

On Tibet, meanwhile, read this great post at Flesh is Grass. And a slightly different view from the Jura Watchmaker.

P.S. Today's version of this Stalinophilia, of course, is Islamophilia, the idea that political Islam should be supported ("critically" or not) because it is the enemy of the "real" enemy, Western capitalist/imperialism.

Today's links

Martin Meenagh's blog
I don't think I've visited this blog before, until Martin commented on my Leon Greenman post. I very strongly recommend it.

Rosie Bell
Another blog which is new to me and which I strongly recommend. (Found via Shiraz Socialist, where Ms Bell is guest-blogging.)

Martin In The Margins: On second-guessing the motives of terrorists
This is another good post from Martin, on the liberal tendency to blame the West for the actions of brown people, reducing them to simple reactions to what "we" do. (A similar point to the one I made in these posts: They raped me because I was wearing a miniskirt and stockings, “Provocation”.)

Flesh is Grass: My new Pilger and its whatabouting
Confession: a long time ago, John Pilger was one of my heroes. Embarassing.

The Poor Mouth: Galloway beggars belief once again
On one of the most disgusting of George Galloway's antics - a defence of the brutal, murderous homophobia of the Iranian regime, equating the theocracy with Texas and Tunbridge Wells and calling Peter Tatchell "the pink end of the khaki machine". (The video is also, I just noticed, in Shiraz Socialist's post on Respect Renewal, also worth reading. Oh, and now I realise that it's lots of other places too, such as ModernityBlog and StroppyBlog,

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Four links

1-2. Two from Martin in the Margins: Maryam Namazie on universal rights and Gordon Brown's regressive patriotism.

3. Hocemo Li Na Kafu finds an unexpected good article in the Grauniad on queer Palestine.

4. Flesh is Grass on Galloway and Stop the War, and what's wrong with the left.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Leon Greenman: anti-fascist

Leon Greenman, Auschwitz survivor and anti-fascist campaigner, has died.
Added: more from Martin Meenagh.
Image from ANL.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Back on

Well, I'm back, or at least slightly.

Glad to see there was some continued heated discussion on the semi-colon, Hezbollah and Chomsky (but not, alas, Jane Austen) and glad to see you all finding out if you were liberal airheads or whining rotters. My oddest search term referral while I was away was almost certainly "helen lederer stockings".

I'm trawling through the backlog of stuff in my inbox and my favourite blogs, and I'll be amending this post once or twice more today as I share some of it with you.

To start with, two interesting takes on the on-going Rowan Williams shariah law debate (and its ramifications for other areas of multicultural and faith-related politics), from Andy Newman and from David Aaronovitch. I don't agree 100% with either, but I found them refreshing in the way they grope, in different ways, towards a more intelligent version of secularism than the one which is dominant on the liberal left.

Next, via Arieh, an interesting post on the newish Z-Word blog on the "end" of German guilt over the Holocaust, and the implications of this for relations between Germany and Israel.

Here's an excellent new blog, Socialism of Fools (with, naturally, a high-quality blogroll...).

Two from Daniel, one on the miserable situation in Israel/Palestine and one on not being proud to be British in Gordon Brown's Britain.

Here is a post on Samantha Power, which I will respond to (I know I keep breaking these sorts of promises!) in the next day or so!

A tale of two Finks: Simply Jews takes the Norman Finkelstein story, and runs with it alongside a Deborah Fink story.

Two posts on the contemporary persistence of human slavery, from Second Hand Conjecture and from Another blog is possible.

A good post on poetry and politics from David Semple. It includes a great poem by Brecht, while this post on Rosa Luxembourg at The Durutti Column includes a rather trite Brecht poem.

As it is the anniversary of the Kronstadt uprising this week, watch these videos at Marx and Coca Cola of the Russian revolution in colour (nice title: Suck it Trots).

Staying to the left, this post at Recording Surface criticises the fixation of the Northern (that's as in global North, rather than as in grim up North) left with Hugo Chavez.

Totally unrelated, a bit of South Londonism: Sonic Truth on a night in New Cross.

Finally, here is something that really disgusted me.