Friday, January 30, 2009
I have added things to almost every post I've done this week, apart from the big one, so even if you've already read them, go read the bonus links at:
I've been spending time at Reading the Maps lately. I have some responses to make to Comrade Maps' comments in a couple of my posts. In the meantime, read this, and follow the fascinating comments thread. Well, don't follow it all the way as it gets quite tedious about half-way through (but feel free to jump to my contribution comment no.41!).
Finally, I know I've been down on the London Review of Books lately, but I want to recommend this article by Jenny Diski to Noga and any other Jewish shoe-lovers who might be among my readers.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
- Remembering - for Holocaust Memorial Day
- Fascism watch: South London (no.2) - on the BNP in Downham
- Sense/nonsense - on Nick Cohen versus Entombed Stalin
- A propos of the BBC's "impartiality" - giving to gaza
- Antisemitism watch - British prejudice, elite and lumpen
- Follow-up questions - on liberal idiocy in the age of Obama
Note: I am writing this as someone who opposed the Israeli blockade of
The LRB, a key platform for the
Siegman purports in the piece to take apart a number of
“First, for all its failings, Hamas brought
If we were to accept what Siegman says here as true, the argument would have the same structure as the following argument: “The notion that
Quite simply, the extent to which Hamas brought
But even if we ignore Siegman’s request that we look the other way (at Fatah’s corruption and the Saudi’s religious totalitarianism), we cannot avoid the fact that he is lying about Hamastan. Gaza under Hamas has been lawless: a law and order situation that is summed up in the labyrinth of tunnels beneath its borders, by the persistence of independent terrorism by Islamic Jihad, by the extra-judicial detention, beatings and murder of Fatah activists and other oppositionists, by the naked rule of Hamas-linked warlords on the streets, by the carte blanche given to Hamas client clans such as the Doghmush, by the repression of trade unions including those of journalists and doctors. And, of course, beyond this, Hamas uses densely populated civilian areas as the base for its paramilitary assaults on
As for religious tolerance, the period of Hamas rule has not only seen a Holy War against the Zionist entity; it has seen an attempt at the ethnic cleansing of the Christian population. In build-up to the Hamas coup in 2007, 40 purportedly Christian internet cafes and book outlets were bombed in
Moving on, Siegman takes on
But what of his claim that “the Zionist movement” was a “terror organisation”? It is true that the IZL and LHI committed acts of terrorism from 1937. However, IZL (Irgun, the military wing of the right-wing Revisionist minority current) were marginal within the Zionist movement; LHI (the Stern Gang) was even more so. The overwhelming majority of the global Zionist movement and of the Jewish community in
Benny Morris characterises the war as really two wars: a guerrilla civil war between two armed citizenries up to May 1948 followed by a conventional war between the State of Israel and the combined armies of its Arab neighbour states. It was during the second phase of the civil war – after the Jewish community had suffered sustained damage at the hands of Arab guerrillas who initially outgunned them – that the Haganah committed the acts of ethnic cleansing Siegman mentions. Although I would condemn those acts, they cannot be seen as “terrorist”, but as part of a spiralling guerrilla war. They comparable not to Hamas’ ballistic assaults but to some of the phases of KLA action during the Balkan civil wars or to some of the atrocities of the Republican armies during the Spanish Civil War.
To talk of “the Zionist movement” as terrorist in this period, then, is like talking about “the socialist movement” as terrorist because of the brief existence of the Red Army Faction and the Weather Underground. This kind of sloppy totalising narrative, with “the Zionist movement” presented as a single, homogeneous, undifferentiated and eternally unchanging entity plays into the antisemitic narrative of “the Zionist entity” and mirrors right-wing discourse on the inherently terrorist nature of “the” Arabs or “the” Palestinians. In fact, LHI had far less claim to represent “the Zionist movement” as a whole than Hamas has a claim to represent the Palestinian nationalist movement as a whole.
And what of Hamas? Siegman says “it is too easy to describe Hamas simply as a ‘terror organisation’.” True. It is too easy to describe a chicken “simply” as a “bird”, but it is a bird nonetheless.
The terrorist actions of the IZL and LHI were disastrous for the Zionist cause. The 1937-8 IZL anti-Arab bombs turned neutral Arab opinion in
Added: Martin M, linking to Peter' post, writes:
To assault the Jews is to assault civilisation and life; the eruption of the Satanic principle last time, and its toxic outworking of the poisons built up throughout the European mind, proved it. And, guess what, Adolf? They are still here and still singing. They will so long as human beings exist, and then some.A comment at his post takes us to the wonderful Sephardic Music site, which I strongly recommend.
Added 2: Alternate YouTube links for Savina Yannatou singing "El Rey de Francia", h/t Jogo: 1, 2. Jogo sez:
This is one of the greatest classic songs of the Sephardim. I have it and others on David Saltiel's magnificent CD. You should buy the CD for the excellent booklet that it comes with. Saltiel is not a concert Sephardic singer. He is not even a "recording artist." He is the real thing, a down-home Thessalonika Sephardic uncle. Here is a review of Saltiel's CD.ADDED 3: Now read Noga's lovely post here, on her Salonika in-laws, rembetika fans.
Keywords: Ladino music, Salonika
Thanks to T for tip.
Fascism Watch South London no.1. All BNP posts. Previous Tess Culnane post.
Monday, January 26, 2009
[Some hat tops to the Sots]
Bonus link: Joseph K analyzes the left's politics of ressentiment. [H/t: Anti-German]
Bonus link 2: BBC radio hosts have to think quick
Bonus link 3: Howard Jacobson on the Israel Must Lose letter
Friday, January 23, 2009
But it will be interesting to see the extent to which those European liberals who have clamoured so vocally for its closing are equally vocal in welcoming the released inmates to their shores.
And, as inmates are released but cannot be returned to their home states because they will be tortured or executed there - such as the ethnic Uyghurs, who cannot be returned to China because of the routine detentions and extra-judicial executions of those Uyghurs who call for the self-determination of their 8 million-strong people, or the Algerians, whose government imprisons its lawyers simply for calling attention to the impunity of its judiciary - it will also be interesting to see the extent to which the liberals' loathing of George W Bush for his war crimes is transferred to these other regimes, whose carceral systems make Camp X-Ray look like Sunday School.
2. In yesterday's Independent, Robert Fisk rather uncharitably criticised Obama for not using the word "Gaza" in his inauguration speech. (Note: For this, Fisk not surprisingly gets plaudits from Respect [sic].) Well, it's odd to say this, Robert, but Israel-Palestine isn't actually the centre of the world. Why did Obama not mention the war in Sri Lanka in his speech, which parallels, but is far more brutal than, the one in Gaza? Or the war in Congo, which has now claimed 5.4 million people and intensified in the same period as Operation Cast Lead?
3. I notice that David Miliband has provoked the ire of India and what we might call the India Lobby in mildly suggesting a solution needs to be found to the Kashmir and Jammu situation. Miliband is probably the most Eustonite of Labour Front Benchers, and hence is held in particularly low esteem by the Indecents. Kashmir is a hot topic for Islamists, probably fourth after Palestine, Iraq and Chechnaya in the litany of oppressed Muslims, although it provokes less sympathy among the Islamists' white leftist useful idiots. Now Miliband appears to be siding with the Islamists, will they take up his cause? And will claims that the India Lobby tries to silence all "dissent" about Kashmir start flooding the Indecent blogosphere?
(For what sin was she slain?)
On her shirt flowed the blood from twelve fountains of blood.
In the dust of madness laid her twin jasmine braids.
streams of blood ran down her body as if not from wounds.
her mouth was open, as if an angel had made her smile.
It was as if her clothes were not sprinkled by a tyrant’s lead,
but the sky had sprinkled starts in the cup of her body.
She who sat in my class, politely, for a year, has fallen.
She does not mind me anymore.
What would Ahriman want from an angel so pure?
His kiss and death have branded her breast,
even though the two buds there had not yet blossomed.
Who has the heart to surrender to a shroud
a body like porcelain, once accustomed to wearing silk?
Her presence will never again light up her father's eyes.
Brothers, what happened to her shirt in the thick of the night?
What was her sin? Tell me. It must be asked.
Don't keep it a secret, if you hear anything about it.
From A Cup of Sin - Selected Poems.
Written in 1985 the poem was inspired by the death of one of her students during a crack down of dissidents. The 12 fountains refers to the number of bullets in a clips used by semi automatic weapons used by Iranian armed forces at the time. The quote at the top is from the Qoran (The Sura of Darkening) "When the seas shall be boiling, when the souls shall be paired with bodies, and when the girl who was buried alive shall be asked for what sin was she slain"
The Blog Opium and Saffron has a superb post on Simin Bebhahani. It is well worth a read.
More: Wikipedia, Iranian.com, archipelago, Artists Without Frontiers, Washington Post, Iran Chamber Society.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Transpontine informs us of a Deptford archive project, inviting you the local resident to contribute, and reminds me a of some happy Deptford memories: the Use Your Loaf squatted social centre which closed in 2004. At the other end ofoma the High Street, the Deptford Dame pays homage to SE8's fish shops.
At Transpontine's other place, History is Made at Night, he celebrates London's urban radio scene.
Which brings us to the question of racial profiling and grime music. Personally, I don't see grime as being higher risk than other urban music genres, or black youth as higher risk than other ethnicity youth, and thus am against the "Form 696" profiling that appears to be going on. I say that on the basis of some experience of young people and the music scene in inner South London, rather than any kind of quantitative break-down of trouble at venues (although it is interesting that, as far as I know, the Metropolitan Police have not presented any such breakdown to justify their actions. It is true that there is a strand of grime that aestheticises urban violence - but equally there is a strand decrying it. More typically, like the early pre-commercial days of hip hop, the music is more often story-telling about urban reality rather than either glorifying or criticising crime. It is also a defining feature of grime that it is a very trans-ethnic scene, not an exclusively black thing.
Moving on to a very different genre of music, I've featured some of the wave of Balkan-, klezmer- and Gypsy-influenced music on this blog in the past. Murúch reviews (and posts mp3s from) Luminescent Orchestrii, another example of the genre s/he calls the "demented circus" genre.
If you haven't been keeping up with Locust Avenue's journey through the twentieth century, 1911, including the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, Bartok, and young Mao and music from Bahia, is great.
I've been meaning to put together a music post to celebrate Obama's inauguration but just haven't managed. Instead, then, go to Locust Avenue, Star Maker Machine, Cover Lay Down and Keep The Coffee (1,2).
Finally, a beautiful poem by Simin Bebhahani at The Poor Mouth.
Monday, January 19, 2009
First, some links about the "Israel must lose" letter I blogged about on Friday. For Snoopy, it crosses a line. For David Hirsh, it's right on the line. Yaba Yaba points up the absurdity of the us/them delirium, and to some actual forms of concrete solidarity it would be much better for the British left to "start with". The Rebbetzin's Husband also writes on the us/them delirium.
For the academo-Marxists of the "Israel must lose" letter, we need to "start with" a campaign of boycott, divestments and sanctions. As I wrote, that translates all too easily into the harassment of underpaid workers and of Jewish university students. Brett gives some examples of the idiotic war on Starbucks of the pro-Hamas direct actionists who are the academo-Marxists' lumpen disciples. (Francis: "This proves that anti-Zionists do on occasion serve a useful purpose … in providing work for glaziers.")
The logic is also followed in the smashing up of an AWL placard at a Palestine solidarity demo in Sheffield. I spent some time looking at the photo-essay at Indymedia. The placard says "No to IDF. No to Hamas." (One carried by the same group says "Solidarity with Women, Workers and the Left".) How can anyone on the left object to that? But a steward, after apparently shouting through a megaphone at its carrier, grabs the placard and stomps it. An SWP paperseller adds some muscle, white peaceniks applaud, and Muslim children get an education in democratic politics. (It may or may not be relevant that the person carrying the placard was a woman and the steward was male.) Luckily, not everyone on the left shares this sort of idiocy: the Anarchist Federation and Workers Liberty stand out. (At the same demo, see here for cool terrorist chic. More reportage here, here. Plus London reportage from Kate Belgrave and DZ. Via the latter, beautiful photos from Deptford Visions, clearly showing antisemitic placards, masked conspiracy theorists, histrionic flag-burning, and, from the previous London demo, Holocaust relativisation and fascist flag-waving.)
Brett makes an excessive Holocaust analogy, calling this Kristallwoche. However, the more common Holocaust analogy is that which compares Israel's actions to the Nazis', or tendentiously claims the Israelis are using the Holocaust to legitimise their actions. Snoopy gives Sir Gerald Kaufman the Sir Gerald Nincompoop of the Year Award for his version of this Holocaust abuse. Ben Cohen provides analysis.
Are the attacks on Starbucks part of a growing trend of antisemitism? CST stats and JC reportage suggests so. Perhaps, if Julia Pascal* is right, the success of Rowan Atkinson in the revived Oliver also suggests so. The Elder of Ziyon certainly thinks so.
Meanwhile, in the real world, there is a fragile ceasefire. Read reflections on that from Jeff Weintraub, Ben Cohen and Eamonn McDonagh.
UPDATE: Have failed to check in with Daniel Z, who has returned to blogging with a vengeance. Read him at Liberal Conspiracy and at his own place (1,2,3,4,5) as well as voices he brings us from Israel-Palestine.
*h/t: Jogo. h/t Engage. ˚h/t Flesh is Grass
Friday, January 16, 2009
As members of the Jewish Black Asian Forum, we are distressed and outraged at the pointless loss of life and humanitarian disaster in Gaza. The values we share, and the stories of loss and exclusion we bring to our discussions , drive us to speak out together. As members of British communities closely connected to Israel and Palestine, we call on Israel to immediately end its use of military force in Gaza and on Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel. Our government, together with other governments and international actors, must engage with the authorities in Israel, Palestine and Gaza to help facilitate a lasting peace in the region and an end to the occupation.More or less what I think, although the word "the occupation" is a little ambiguous.
At the other end of the liberal spectrum is a letter from Eva Figes, which is so vitriolic I'd like to believe she fired it off while drunk if it weren't for the fact she has previous:
At last the west is coming clean. Palestinians are freedom fighters, not terrorists, who have suffered 60 years of injustice inflicted by the real axis of evil, Israel and the US. The murderous attack on Gaza is an insane attempt at ethnic cleansing before Obama takes over.What, all Palestinians are freedom fighters? No terrorists at all?
Somewhere in between on this spectrum was a long letter (the top one on the page) by a very long list of people, some of whom I respect a lot (indeed, one even links to this blog!).
Many of the signatories profess one or another form of Marxism. Yet, in the utterly ahistorical framing of its argument, the letter violates one of Marx's core principles: that politics is always historical, that categories are always in movement. A "a war that Israel has been waging against the people of Palestine for more than 60 years. The goal of this war has never changed..." Here, history dissolves. "Israel" becomes a mythical beast, frozen in the endless repetition of its evil actions. Did the Israel of 1948 use "overwhelming military force"? Or, rather, were not the weapons it had to hand those the Palestinians used in the First Intifada?
And what do "the principle of democratic self-determination" and "the right to resist military aggression and colonial occupation" mean in concrete terms? What, specifically, is the democratic self-determination of one ethnic group, if it denies that to another? What, even more to the point, does "Israel must lose"? The obligation to take sides the signatories claim is no more pressing in this case than it is in the case of the Hutu and the Tutsi, where self-determination for one can mean extermination for the other in a zero-sum game. "Justice and peaceful co-existence" cannot spring from the defeat of Israel by Hamas, any more than justice and peaceful co-existence can be achieved by bombing Gaza into dust.
It is true, of course, that the conflict is not symmetrical, and that Gaza's electorate voted for Hamas. But the signatories of the letter are stuck in the reality of the First Intifada, when the figure of "Palestinian resistance" was the child throwing stones at an Israeli tank. Since then, we have seen the militarisation of the Palestinian struggle, the evacuation of all social content from it: the suicide bomber rather than the stone thrower. And, now, in this Third Intifada, the stones have been replaced by rockets supplied by the Iranian theocracy.
So, when the signatories talk about "the right to resist military aggression and colonial occupation" and say "Israel must lose", the reality is the triumph of a fascist state, not the beginning of justice. The Hamas regime, which continues to fire on Israel, which continues to deploy its its children as human shields, which murders its political opponents, which brutalises its own population, does not represent "the people of Gaza and the West Bank", any more than the Ayatollahs represent the people of Iran or the Nazi state represented the people of Germany.
What the people of Gaza need, rather than this sort of hollow gestural pseudo-solidarity, is precisely a ceasefire and humanitarian assistance. Cheering on their war-mongers will not bring them justice or peace.
The reason this letter is not just nonsense, then, but pernicious nonsense, as J Frank Parnell might have said, is the politics that follows here in the UK. The "British people must take all feasible steps to oblige Israel to comply with these demands," they write, "starting with a programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions." Starting with boycott, divestment and sanctions means starting with the harassment of underpaid workers in Belfast shopping malls and London Starbucks branches. It means starting with besieging scholars at SOAS and violently demanding their political loyalty. It means starting with racist threats against Jewish citizens in the UK.
And if that's where it starts, where does it go next?
UPDATE: MORE HERE.
Israel, Gaza, Hamas
- Lots from Adloyada on the pro-Hamas siege at SOAS (1, 2) and on Hamas media dis-information and war crimes (1, 2)
- Sally Feldman: Brooking the chasm - on the need for engagement with Palestinians and Israelis
- Colin Shindler: Israel's universities are under siege, too
- Brendan O'Neill: Israel, Starbucks and the new irrationalism
- Sunny Hundal: The left's portrayal of Hamas as brave freedom fighters sticks in my craw
- British Muslims Against Antisemitism: Michael Weiss and Pickled Politics
- Jimmy Bradshaw: Imagine if there was a left...
- Judith Suissa: Philosophy, anti-Semitism and Israel’s war in Gaza
- ThePeople'sCube: "Warsaw Ghetto an overreaction" - I guess this could be read in either direction...
- Simply Jews: Erotic nude dance on Hamas television - I couldn't resist...
- Nicely segueing into Max Dunbar: The pornography of anti-imperialism
- From Berlin’s Hole of Forgottenness, a Spell of Songs - extraordinary piece about Bruno S (h/t Jogo)
- Two fantastic posts on music and race by Shiraz-soaked Jim: Motown at 50, That Drummin’ Man (on Gene Krupa)
- Bullied Blogger: “Can you find it? Find it!” - an Arcade Fire fan reports from the frontline of the new managerialism in academia.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
As Charlie Brooker – one of the first people to donate to the Atheist Bus Campaign – says: "Public transport in Britain suggests there isn't a God anyway, but in case anyone hasn't noticed, or feels isolated for thinking such a thing, this campaign should help."
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
- Platypus 1917: Who made Gaza into a 'bloody trap'? (also this pdf: 60 years of Israel-Palestine) [h/t Les in comments]
- Bob at Z-Word: A Dignified Protest
- Keith Kahn-Harris: British Jews and Israel - a new relationship?
- Flesh is Grass: on Gaza
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Israel, Gaza and Hamas
- David Semple: Relative to the Holocaust (thoughtful socialist perspective) (see also this post on the solidarity march and this one on whatabouttery)
- Slugger o'Toole: Good God, Gaza and Gonzo (on Palestine "solidarity" in Belfast) [h/t Kellie]
- Your Friend in the North: Left-wing fascism - an infantile disorder
- Azarmehr: Death to Everyone! (more idiotic "solidarity"); Death to peace lovers! (on the Iranian theocracy's reoression of the Mothers of Peace); Raising 'awareness' (on the Press TV coverage)
- Mary Honeyball: women and the Gaza peace process [h/t Martin M]
- Z-Word: Getting Gaza wrong (read the last two paragraphs) and Mugabe's declares solidarity
- David Rosenberg reports on Saturday's demo
- False Dichotomies: Monotony (" The IDF is not free to do what the Sri Lankan Army is doing - defeating the Tamil Tigers, while displacing 200,000 civilians in the process. For white people will not march for the Tamils, and nor will they paint swastikas on the Sri Lankan flag."); Five comments.
- Robert Fine: as a Jew (response to IJV statement).
- Brigada Flores Magon: Direct Action? (on not going to the demo)
- David Horowitz: the war against the Jews (I hate to find myself agreeing with a lot of what Horowitz writes, but it is distressingly true) [h/t Jogo]
- More (older) links from Martin that I missed at the start of the year.
UPDATE: YET MORE HERE.
- Slack Bastard: crackpots engaged in pigwork (on the perverse survival or Maoism and Maoism-Third Worldism)
- Martin in the Margins: Christmas music and movies (I know this is a bit out of date now, but I missed it in December); Alan Bennett's LRB diary (my thoughts exactly)
- Martin M: Tales of three women (on Jade Goody, Shabana and Ms Rezayee)
- Ernest Sternberg in Telos: on BHL on the revivified fascist left
- Keith Kahn-Harris and David Hayes: The politics of ME, ME, ME (on on-line vitriol)
Monday, January 12, 2009
- Terry Glavin: on Shalom Lappin, on the incredibility of the slogan "stop the violence", on Canadian boycotters, on the failure of the anti-war movement, on the decent position, on the debasement of language, on the failure of the left.
- George Szirtes: on "stealing" land, on how to respond to the situation, on "disproportionate" violence.
- Greens Engage: statement on Gaza.
- Orthodox Anarchist: Epic morality fail (on the moral idiocy of Jews Against the Occupation).
- David Hirsh: Naomi Klein is wrong to call for boycott.
- David Rosenberg at Stroppyblog: The left needs a bigger picture.
- Janine: Which placard to pick?
- Eric Lee on the left and the "Holocaust" analogy.
- Michael Walzer: on proportionality.
- Jeffrey Goldberg: the world's pornographic interest in Jews' moral failure.
- Charles Lenchner on the pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
- BHL: Liberate the Palestinians from Hamas.
- International Marxist Tendency: Hamas rockets kill working class Arabs too.
- Orthodox Anarchist: Thoughts on Gaza.
- Jewish Labor Committee statement on the conflict.
- Hitchens on Gaza.
- Contested Terrain on the left's instrumentalisation of the Holocaust.
- Forward: Grasping Gaza.
- Thomas Friedman: the Mideast's Ground Zero.
- Rumi: move beyond an attachment to names.
- Lisa Goldman: wartime tales from Gaza and Sderot.
- Venezuelan trade unionism between the servile bureaucracy and the hired killers
- The libertarian tradition in Venezuela
Friday, January 09, 2009
In the "UK Blogs" category, I will not (unlike Phil) be voting for last year's winner, Neil Clark, who may be less distasteful than Melanie Phillips but should not be seen as in any way a representative of progressive politics. Recent weeks, for example, have seen him relatavising and minimising the Holocaust by comparing Israel's actions in Gaza to the mechanised mass murder of millions and saluting authoritarian thug Hugo Chavez.
Instead, of course, I voted for the wonderful Olly's Onions, currently trailing somewhat, although thankfully ahead of Ian Dale.
Like Phil, though, I voted for Madame Miaow in the "culture blogs" category.
In the "religion blogs" category, I voted for Dervish, for this post and this post.
In the "Middle East or Africa" category (not exactly sure if it should be), I voted for Michael Totten. Although if I'd realised he was winning so handsomely, I might have voted for the Elder of Ziyon.
Polls close Tuesday. You can vote every 24 hours, if you feel so inclined.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
- The great Madame Miaow has included me in her "Political punditry" section (nicely and bipartisanly sandwiched between Blairwatch and Boriswatch).
- Ben of Hungry Blues features my 2008 music post in his "around the web" feature, via his Tumblr page. I was rather pleased about this, because his was one of the very first blogs I ever spent time with - although I think I am way overdue in updating my bloglink! (And, like me and Keith, he is a fan of Y-Love.)
- I'm not sure if this is a new link, or I've just noticed it, but Swords and ploughshares, a blog I'd strongly recommend, has put me in the blogroll.
- Ditto Potlatch, with whom I spent a memorable drunken evening in November...
- Not sure if I've gotten around to reciprocating the link from Passion of the Weiss, who has rather an excessive blogroll if you ask me. Regular readers might recall that PotW regularly appears in my Bob's Beats and Jew-ish Music features. Note: some cool stuff (including mp3s) in a top 50 albums of 2008 feature: Why? and Erykah Badu, Al Green and Esau Mwamwaya, Seaun Kuti and the Menahan Street Band.
- And I'm not sure if I've reciprocated the link from the lovely Clare's Diary.
Well, thanks, and happy new year to all of you. Blogroll additions/amendments to follow.
And happy new year to all the rest of my (oh, so many) readers. And, in particular, to those who have linked to me, created conversations in the comments boxes, and sent me blog fodder, such as Arieh, Jogo, Waterloo Sunset, Andrew, Noga, TNC, FiG, Transpontine, Kellie, Jim & the other Shiraz Socialists, Graeme, Will & the other Sots, Snoopy, Roland, Jams, and those who have momentarily slipped my mind.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
I tried, over the Christmas period, to block out the Middle Eastern situation, and indeed the whole world outside the cocoon of my extended family. I also managed to avoid TV almost completely (apart from a bit of Wallace and Gromit). My media highlight of the seasonal period was the extracts of Alistair Cooke's Letters from America that Radio 4 was featuring. I feel overwhelming nostalgia when I hear his warm, mid-Atlantic voice: my parents listened to him when I was a kid, and he reminds me of my late grandfather, both for the way you can hear the h in words like "where" and "overwhelming" and for the lucidity of expression.
I had some nice presents, with a bit of a Yiddish theme: the final (Ghanian!) album by the king of Yiddish song, Leo Fuld; a book of beautiful poems by Emmanuel Litvinov; a wonderful French collection of postcards of Yiddishland; Jonathan Lethem's awesome superhero comic Omega The Unknown; the Seasick Steve album (uneven, but growing on me); a collaboration between Cuba's heavenly Omara Portuondo and Brazil's divine Maria Bethânia.
2008 was a quite good year for music - although a bad year in terms of great musicians dying. Looking at my Windows Media Player library, I only have 3 tracks rated five stars with release dates in 2008. They are:
- Bruce Springsteen "I'm On Fire (Cousin Cole's Bad Desire Mix)" (Download at Planet SHHH or elsewhere on the interweb)
- Cat Power "She's Got You" from the deluxe edition of Jukebox - a song by Hank Cochran whose Patsy Cline version is one of my favourites
- Glyn “Bigga” Bush as Lightning Head "AfroSpot" from the Afrobeat 12" EP (listen in the Giant Step jukebox)
- Adele's 19 was overrated, but she's sort of from South London and it had a couple of stand-out tracks, including "Hometown Glory" and "Make You Feel My Love".
- Sticking with white girl soul, the Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip mix of Amy Winehouse's "No Good": you don't realise it's a remix, until Scroobius' rap kicks in at about 2 minutes. I think I stole this from Music Like Dirt.
- Andrew Bird's freaky indie-chamber-blues cover of "Jesus Gonna Make My Dyin' Bed" (see Fong/SMM/CBC for details).
- Loads of great remixes of classic soul and funk, including the Bobby LaBeat Re-work of Archie Bell's "Tighten Up", the Shoes re-edit of Bill Withers' "No Hands, Gramma", Santogold's remix of Aretha Franklin's "Save Me", Kenny Dope's remix of James Brown's "There Was a Time".
- Lots of great remixes of classic rock tracks, such as the Springsteen one above, and Canned Heat "Wanda Road Again" (Wade Nichols Edit).
- Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See that my grave is kept clean" as performed in a funky gospel fashion by the god-like BB King on his new One Kind Favor. B.B. King was one of the first great artists I saw live. I saw him twice when he was merely in his 60s and touring 300 days a year. He's now well over 80 and his new album is a knock-out.
- Bar Kokhba Sextet "Sother" from Bar Kokhba plays Lucifer: Book of Angels Volume 10 on Tzadik. Cyro Baptista, Greg Cohen, Marc Ribot and others play John Zorn.
- Obama election year covers of Sam Cooke's beautiful "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Ben Sollee and Chango Malo.
- Billy Bragg "The Beach is Free (Solo Version)" from Mr. Love And Justice. A socialist anthem for the 21st century.
- Calexico "Victor Jara's Hands" from Carried To Dust. A solidly good album, with a couple of highlights. Mariachi, spaghetti western, ska, atmosphere, emotion, dust.
- Calle 13 "La Perla" (ft. La Chilinga & Ruben Blades) from Los De Atrás Vienen Conmigo. 2008 was a good year for this sort of mutant electronic music from the southern hemisphere, a category I call "global crunk" in my Media Player library.
- Erik Byrd's tribute to Ray Charles "I've Got News for You" on Brother Ray. Bluesy, sexy, cool.
- Esau Mwamwaya, Santogold, M.I.A & Radioclit "Get it up". Also falls into the "global crunk" category, but is pretty deep and intense.
- The Felice Brothers "Whiskey in my Whiskey" off their rather uneven eponymous Americana album, overly loved by the mp3 blogosphere.
I'm going to stop there, even though I'm only up to F, as I've got better things to do!
- How George Galloway earns his money (Jan 06)
- Irrelevant mention of Jodie Marsh (Jan 06)
- Buying George Galloway's sweaty Big Brother cast-offs on E-bay (Feb 06)
- Celebrity Big Brother: the Hamas connection (August 06)
- Tommy Sheridan, What a twat 1 & 2 (September 06)
- George Galloway, Tommy Sheridan and their mis-named parties (October 2006)
- Tommy Sheridan and the killing of the SSP (October 06)
- George Galloway as pussy [pornographic] (November 06)
- Tommy Sheridan, pervy scab (December 06)
- Gratuitous: Shilpa Shetty, Danielle Lloyd and Winston Churchill (Jan 07)
- Helmund, Pro Celebrity Boxing, and other reality TV ideas (Jan 07)
- Jade Goody and Bermondsey chavness (Jan 07)
- Shilpa Shetty and anti-racism (Jan 07)
- Tommy Sheridan comes out swinging and George Galloway hates Polish plumbers (March 07)
- Ugly Rumours: George Galloway and bad pop music (March 07)
- Tommy Sheridan loses his seat (March 07)
- Big Brother: Noone likes us - on Charley Uchea and Carole Ann Vincent (June 07)