Friday, July 30, 2010

French letters

I note that our friends in the former colonies have come up with a film called Dinner for Schmucks, a remake of Francis Veber’s Le dîner de cons (1998). When Veber’s film was shown in English-speaking territories, it was called The Dinner Game. One might ask why it is seen as bad form to have a film with a French word for female genitalia in the title; but perfectly OK to have one that includes a Yiddish word for male genitalia.

Everyone’s a bloody designer all of a sudden

Ooh, look. Blogger’s posting interface just got that little bit more user-friendly.
The temptation to aimless self-indulgence must be resisted at all costs.

(meanwhile, here’s my new favourite band)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stanley and the fruit

Something a wee bit different here. I’ve never published any fiction, unless you count the outright lies that make my non-fiction writing more interesting. But, I suspect in common with many writers, I have plenty of half-finished doodles, synopses and opening chapters lounging around on various hard disks. Over the weekend, I was searching for something else, and found the following, and on some devilish whim decided to put it here. Let me know what you think. Would you read on?
Stanley Pidd’s parents would never admit that he had disappointed them; but neither would they pretend to be proud of him.

His father was a lawyer, and his mother was a doctor. He had an older brother, who was studying to be a doctor; and a younger sister, who wanted to be a lawyer. When Stanley was about 14 or 15 or 16, his parents asked him if which he wanted to be, a lawyer or a doctor.

“Neither,” said Stanley.

“Or a dentist or an architect?”

“No thanks,” said Stanley.

His parents looked at each other, slightly concerned. “Erm… a teacher?”

“Not really,” said Stanley. “I think I’d like to be a musician.”

“But we sent you to piano lessons,” said Stanley’s father, the lawyer.

“And you gave up after three weeks,” said Stanley’s mother, the doctor.

“I don’t want to be a pianist,” said Stanley. “I want to be a musician. I can play three tunes on my ukulele.”

Stanley’s mother looked in her big books to see if he was suffering from some kind of illness. Stanley’s father looked in his big books to see if he was breaking some kind of law. But they couldn’t find anything.

“Give him a few years,” said Stanley’s father.

“Yes,” said Stanley’s mother, “he might come to his senses.”

But Stanley didn’t come to his senses. After he left school, he got a job in a café, cooking sausages and pouring tea and picking off the dried-on bits from the ketchup dispensers. Then he got a job selling tickets in a cinema, then a job cleaning windows. Then he got a job as a dog walker. He still played his ukulele in the evenings, but he never really called that a job. By now he could play more than three tunes on his ukulele; about eight or nine, in fact. He was in a band with his friends: Wilbur, who played the melodica; Doreen, who played the drums; and friend Cuthbert, who played the tuba. The band was called Cuthbert and the Bottom Feeders. Then Cuthbert left, and Wilbur wanted to call it Wilbur and the Bottom Feeders, but Doreen and Stanley just wanted to call it the Bottom Feeders, and they had a big fight and that was the end of that. If a music journalist had asked, they would have said that the split was down to musical differences. But no music journalist asked. Stanley worked out that in all his time as a Bottom Feeder he had made almost enough money to pay for a new set of strings for his ukulele, if they were on special offer.

Then he lost his job as a dog walker. Times were tight, said his boss, and people were walking their own dogs, or just letting them stay at home watching daytime TV, or maybe getting goldfish instead. Stanley tried to go back to his job as a window cleaner, but now there were no window-cleaning jobs, because times were tight. People were washing their own windows, or letting them get dirty, or just doing without.

So he went to the office where they give you money if you haven’t got a job. The big sign outside read ‘Job Centre’. The sign on the door read ‘Social Security’. He went inside, and saw a sign reading ‘Jobseekers’ Allowance’ and another sign reading ‘Welfare’ and yet another reading ‘Signing On’.

“Where am I?” asked Stanley.

“You’re in the Dole Office,” said a lady with scarlet hair. Her badge said ‘Department of Work and Pensions’.

The lady with scarlet hair asked Stanley if he was working, and he said “No”. She gave him a form that asked him if he was working, and he ticked the box that said ‘No’.

“Does anyone ever tick the box that says ‘Yes’?” he asked. It was a sort of joke, because he knew that if you ticked the box that said ‘Yes’, you wouldn’t get any money. The lady with scarlet hair gave him a strange look. Stanley wondered whether that was the sort of thing you just don’t say, like talking about bombs at airport check-in.

The lady with the scarlet hair pressed a few keys on her computer keyboard. Her nails almost matched her hair, but not quite.

“There’s a vacancy that might suit you,” she said. She wrote something down on a piece of paper. “Call this number. Ask for Mr Bland.”

So he called, and asked for Mr Bland, who told him to come to his office in Soho at seven minutes to ten the following morning.

Stanley was very careful to make a good impression, and arrived at nine minutes to ten. He had polished his shoes and flossed his teeth and ironed his shirt and shaved his face and blown his nose and drunk three cups of rather strong coffee so he wouldn’t fall asleep during the interview.

He gave his name to the receptionist, and sat down on a big leather chair. There were some magazines around: Fruit News; Fruit Monthly; You and Your Fruit; Yo! Frootz, the Magazine for Young Fruiterers. He picked up a copy of You and Your Fruit, and began reading an article about making lychees last longer.

He looked at his watch. It was seven minutes to ten, and there was no sign of Mr Bland. He flipped over a few pages, and began reading an article about persuading people in Gloucestershire to eat more raspberries. The photos of the raspberries were nicer than the photos of the lychees. He made a mental note of that. Maybe that could be the sort of relevant observation that would impress Mr Bland. “Raspberries are more photogenic than lychees.”

He looked at his watch again. It was three minutes to ten. A door opened and a short gentleman came out.

“Stanley Pidd?” he asked. Stanley nodded. “Hello,” he said, “I’m Mr Bland.” Stanley wondered whether Mr Bland had seen him looking at his watch, and whether he’d minded. Would he think him impatient? Or maybe eager, which was better. Nobody had ever described Stanley as eager.

Mr Bland asked Stanley to come into his office. There was a lady sitting behind a desk, and Mr Bland went to sit next to her, and asked Stanley to sit opposite.

Mr Bland and the lady had pieces of paper in front of them. Stanley could see his name at the top of the pieces of paper, although of course it was upside-down. The pieces of paper also had pictures of Stanley attached to them, and they were upside-down as well. Stanley wondered where they’d got the pictures from. He hadn’t given a picture to the lady with the scarlet hair.

“Do you like fruit?” asked Mr Bland.

“Yes,” replied Stanley. He knew that wasn’t enough, and tried to think of something more interesting to say. "Yes, yes I do.” He thought back to the magazine articles. “I find raspberries especially attractive.”

“Raspberries, eh?” said Mr Bland. “Good, good.”

Stanley wasn’t quite sure what it was that Mr Bland thought was good. But at least nothing seemed to be bad. Or if it was bad, Mr Bland wasn’t saying...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Don’t regret the error

I’ve always preferred the films of Terry Gilliam to those of Martin Scorsese. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the former is in some objective sense a better director than the latter; it’s just that while Scorsese’s films often deal with characters who are teetering between sanity and insanity, triumph and disaster, with Gilliam you’re aware that the whole production is doing that, with the director balanced precariously on top of the whole edifice.

So I have an instinctive sympathy towards the notion of a ‘festival of errors’, of the sort being staged in Paris this weekend. The French education system, in common with so many others around the world, has become so fixated on targets and examination results and serving the needs of business that students have become pathologically averse to making mistakes, and as such they’re unable to make intellectual discoveries of their own. The moment a teacher says “He’s a nice kid, but he asks too many questions”, you know there’s a problem, and it’s not with the kid. The only permissible query now seems to be “Will this come up in the exam?”

Paradoxically, by encouraging children to experiment with failure, we’re actually raising our expectations of what they can achieve, what they can cope with. The alternative is that they’re unable to deal with ideas that exist outside the parameters of the syllabus, the phenomenon of “we haven’t done that”. Although maybe it’s too late, when we get to the stage that books have to be written because 21st-century children can’t understand the antiquated language. Not Chaucer or Shakespeare or Milton, mind you, or even Dickens or the Brontës; they need help with the Famous Five novels of Enid Blyton, the first of which was published less than 70 years ago.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What’s in the box?

About the only bit of quantum theory I can really get my head around is the idea that observation affects results; that once the box is opened, Schrödinger’s cat is no longer in its dead/undead state, it’s one or the other.

So although we may have a desire to know, sometimes we hold back from investigating in case we affect the result, and thus become the story. In the aftermath of the Raoul Moat saga, there was much harrumphing about the Facebook page set up in his honour by one Siobhan O’Dowd; did tens of thousands of people really think this pink-faced slab of self-pity was really a legend? Well, possibly not. It’s been suggested that a good number – possibly a majority – of those who nominally ‘liked’ the page actually did so to tell the Moat fans what a bunch of idiots they were. And the more people who did that, the higher the number of apparent Moat fans rose. If you just wanted to find out out the relative numbers of pro- and anti-Raoulards, you still had to press the ‘like’ button, skewing the numbers still further.

There was a similar dilemma for those who wanted to find out how well the Times website was doing since it introduced its new paywall. It wasn’t simply a matter of not wanting to drop a few quid into Murdoch’s pocket; it was the knowledge that to take a peek would skew the statistics, making the reader part of the news. Of course, it would be harder in this case to be able to put a number on the readers, or indeed to distinguish between the merely curious and those actually willing to pay because they wanted to read the words and look at the picture. But one could get an idea of how successful the enterprise was by, for example, the number of readers appending comments to the latest Jeremy Clarkson article, presumably along the lines of “ROFL Jeremy Clarkson You Legend”. Incidentally, I’ve always been impressed by Clarkson’s use of metaphors that seem to imply that a car is a beautiful woman, and at the same time his own penis; a paradox that even Schrödinger may have struggled to explain.

And on a slightly different note (but back to Facebook), the tale of the Dr Pepper campaign that referenced the notoriously scatological 2 Girls 1 Cup film clip. The story broke on the tediously ubiquitous Mumsnet (of course it did) and immediately presented professionally disgusted news outlets with a dilemma of their own; how to communicate the depravity of the film under discussion, without actually naming it, or saying why it’s so depraved? The Telegraph had a go with a reference to “a hardcore pornographic film which is notorious for the obscene practices it depicts”, although one wonders what sort of hardcore pornographic film doesn’t depict obscene practices. And of course whether unhygienic but consensual behaviour should be a matter too disgusting to be discussed by the same media outlets that had been covering in forensic detail the activities of a murderous sociopath just a few days previously.

PS: David Hepworth also reflects on whether you can talk about swearing when you’re not allowed to swear.

Monday, July 19, 2010


I’m not old, but not that not-old either. I still retain a passing interest in any new manifestations of social media, but sometimes I have to wait for an article in the Daily Telegraph to explain them to me, which is why I’m now an expert on this Foursquare thingumajig that you young persons are getting so excited about, daddio.

And although I think I get it, I’m not really tempted to get into it. When I joined Twitter and Facebook, when I started blogging even, there was a certain leap-in-the-dark element to the whole thing. Quite clearly, a bare-bones description of the products couldn’t communicate why people found them so addictive, so useful, so much fun. You had to get involved to understand them. Fundamentally, they offered things I already liked doing (sharing thoughts and ideas and dreams and fears, getting to know those of others) but on a rather larger scale than was previously possible, with the opportunity to get new and unexpected voices involved in the conversation.

Foursquare, however, doesn’t appear to revolve around people’s thoughts, or even their words. Like one of those dire TV shows about buying houses, it’s all about location. When you tweet, you tell us where your head is at; when you check in on Foursquare, you tell us where the rest of you is, which frankly isn’t as interesting to me, unless I’ve arranged to meet you for lunch.

So to add a little pizazz to the banausic details of users’ daily peregrinations, Foursquare adds a gaming element to the whole thing. The more you check in, the more badges of honour you attain. If you’ve checked in at a specific location more than any other user, you become “Mayor” of it. There are elements of loyalty cards and frequent flyer programmes to all this, and it’s not unexpected that commercial partners, such as Starbucks, have got in on the act, offering privileges to those whose loyalty can be measured by GPS.

And none of this really appeals. I don’t care that you're in the Starbucks on Goodge Street; I might have a passing interest in the combination of happenstance, fatigue, thirst, hangover, boredom and inertia that brought you there; I’m far more likely to pay attention to what thoughts are popping between your synapses as you wait for your Deep-Fat Burberry Pendolino; all of which can be communicated to me by other means. Maybe I’m just being like the dinosaurs who claim to have no use for this newfangled internetty nonsense, because I’ve got real friends, thank you very much, and when I want to talk to them I can talk to them properly, face to face, and sometimes there are biscuits, nice ones too. But I think I’ve had enough experience of other social packages to understand the various components of Foursquare. What it seems to offer is a combination of the most annoying bits of 21st-century information technology. There’s the people who have no qualms about their every move being tracked and recorded, because “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide”; the persistent intrusion of advertising; the inane games, Farmville and their ilk, that pollute Facebook; the people who don’t understand that Twitter is not a monologue; and above all, the dreary monotone from three seats back, announcing: “I’m on the train.”

Unless someone can convince me otherwise...

PS: And the Telegraph can’t stop with the Foursquare lovin’. Hey, you guys, get a room.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Decline and #fail

From the Time obituary of Evelyn Waugh, April 22, 1966:
...and he depicts the society they dominate as a moral chaos, a twittering world in which bored women leave their husbands for men they do not even like, mothers regret the death of children only because mourning limits social life, and convicts given tools to stimulate their creativity employ them to decapitate the chaplain.
If only the modern twittering world were so thrilling.

PS: Actually, to be fair, it can be quite lively, as both Doctor Gillian McKeith and Jemima Khan discovered recently.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Getting down to business

If you’ve ever spent any time in Asia – unless you’ve spent your whole time secluded in tourist hotels – you’ll have encountered the squat toilet. Opinion is divided on the merits of the device. Some argue that it is more hygienic, in that the feet are the only part of the body to come into contact with apparatus; and also that the squatting posture is a more natural one for the elimination of food wastes. Others find it very difficult to keep their balance, resulting in all manner of mishaps. Essentially, though, it’s a question of what you’ve become used to; when Mao Zedong visited the Soviet Union, he always insisted on taking a Chinese-style loo with him, which he would have placed on top of the barbaric occidental seat.

Increasingly, at least in premises where foreigners tend to congregate, sit-down, flush toilets are becoming the norm; although it’s also fairly common to have both styles represented in the same set of stalls, which surely is the most helpful and civilised solution in a global, polycultural society.

Well, you’d think that, wouldn’t you? The management of a shopping centre in Rochdale has apparently been advised that some customers from Asian backgrounds might prefer to use squat toilets. And seeing as how they’re in the business of making money by giving the customers a wide choice of goods and services, they decided to install a few squat loos, for those who might want such a thing. You know, a bit like when you couldn’t get organic vegetables in supermarkets, and then some people said
“It would be nice if we could get organic vegetables in supermarkets”, and then suddenly you could get organic vegetables in supermarkets, but you could also get non-organic vegetables as well, if you preferred.

Then the
Daily Mail got hold of the story. Now, to be fair, they could have really gone to town on this one. Granted, they interview someone from the British Toilet Association, who says he thinks it’s a bad idea, but doesn’t mention that installing squat toilets is rather cheaper than the alternative, so it’s obviously bad news for his members. And they quote the response of Philip Davies, the Conservative rentaquote bell-end MP for Shipley, who, after the Pavlovian bit about political correctness, informs us that “We in Britain are rightly proud of our toilets”, which is just plain weird, and perhaps a little sad.

But it’s only when they throw it open to the readers that things get really silly:
  • What happened to western civilisation! I am certainly not interested in his backward money wasting scams.
  • Absolutely disgusting that these things should be used in a pubic [sic] place in Britain, may as well squat in the street, yet more of the trend to Islamify Britain.
  • You must be joking!? They are welcome to do number ones and number twos here, but don't take our toilets away from us aswell as everything else!! I can't read the Daily Mail whilst squatting down.
  • I see, so now we English are not even allowed to sit down on the toilet anymore in case it offends "asians".
And so on. To be fair, there’s an occasional blip of common sense, such as this remark from a reader in Shanghai:
  • Great news. Don't British people expect Western toilets wherever they go in the world regardless of the culture of their hosts?
which is immediately red-arrowed into the ground. But that’s the thing about Mail readers. Wherever they go in the world, it’s not actually a foreign country or a foreign culture they’ve arrived in; it’s just a bit of Britain that hasn’t quite got the hang of proper, British civilisation yet, where, with a bit of encouragement and, if necessary, a sound thrashing or two, the natives will eventually learn to speak English, drink sherry, and defecate in a manner that is only right and proper, preferably with the assistance of the Daily Mail.

PS: Just wondering if a branch of this restaurant might appear in Rochdale. Although the seating appears to follow the Mail-approved model.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Biba Kopf? Who’s she?

Regrets, I’ve had plenty, and I don’t mind mentioning them. At inordinate length, to anyone who’s buying.

According to a profoundly unscientific straw poll on Twitter and Facebook, these are just some of the pseudonyms I could have chosen if I’d really wanted to be a highly successful music journalist: Dirk Nastie; Glen Thrips; Rick Ord; (Tim?) Phutmon; Ace Ventura; Jeff Senstarship; Tim Shaar Footy; Tim Shaar True; Tommi Fanto; Tom Fantomi; Tad Foot-Tapper; Mitch Carper. Thanks to all who contributed to the experience. At last, I know where I went wrong in my life.

Actually the real reason I never became a successful music journalist was that I was always trying to write stuff like this, but never quite pulling it off:
Everywhere you look, there seem to be increasing signs that we are living inside a novel that JG Ballard started to write at the exact moment he died, a novel that takes the form of a reverberating hallucination that just keeps giving. Perhaps the novel/hallucination ends when Ballard himself is the most followed character on Facebook, his brain radiating astounding time-bending realities at the centre of the new post-internet universe where the numerous and multiplying levels of our existence interact. For reasons that help the writing of this column, the soundtrack to this novel/hallucination would be best supplied by Prince, himself currently mucking around with reality and his possible mysterious connection to it in ways that mix up the Ballardian with splashes of obsessive Gaga narcissism, madcap McLuhan theorising, larky Russell Brand lunacy and teasing Dylan masking.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Poop show

A thought-provoking article by David Mitchell in today’s Observer. He argues that, whatever we might think of Rupert Murdoch and his deeds, the decision to impose a paywall on the Times and Sunday Times doesn’t deserve the opprobrium heaped upon it by bien-pensant liberals. Ultimately, it is important that a professional, independent, accountable news media exists, and by weaning consumers off the notion that information is free, Murdoch might be helping to ensure that. The alternative, Mitchell suggests, is to hand the whole process over to the blogosphere:
Not that there’s anything wrong with amateur bloggers – except that there’s masses wrong with thousands of them. While some of the stuff written for free on the internet is brilliant, a lot of it – probably most of it – is shit. For every badly written, offensive, incendiary tabloid column, there are hundreds of online opinions that are worse and contain even more lies – provable lies in many cases, but usually coming from someone whose anonymity or poverty effectively preclude their being sued. The press can’t stray too far from the truth or its legal bills get out of control.
The problem is, it’s not just about incendiary tabloid columns, the Littlejohns and the the Moirs, is it? It’s every article that’s nothing more than a rehashed press release, with no independent research or second opinion. It’s every disguised advertorial for the newspaper proprietor’s other products or for his political proclivities. It’s every narcissistic lifestyle column about how exasperating middle-class life in London’s more fashionable postcodes can be. It’s the remorseless encroachment of vacuous celebrity culture into areas that were once free from its sulphurous embrace. Just as with blogs, there’s masses wrong with thousands of them. Sturgeon’s Law, as ever, prevails; 90% of everything is crap.

But the most galling wrongness in this context is when articles are blatantly lifted from blogs and other online sources without attribution, because just as bloggers are too poor to be sued, they’re also too insignificant to be able to create waves when they’re the victims of plagiarism. For all that legitimate journalists complain about amateur media, many of them would find life considerably tougher without it.

There is much that is good about the mainstream news media. David Mitchell’s columns for one thing; he’s a clever, funny polemicist whose one-liners often make their point more cogently than any number of ‘proper’ journalists can manage. I don’t know how much he’s paid, but I’m sure he’s worth it. However, his conclusion, that “many people only really value something they’ve paid for” deserves rather more analysis than he gives it. It’s not just money that persuades consumers that something is better than it is; it’s an association with what many still perceive to be ‘real’ media – whether it’s The Times or The Observer, BBC or CNN, Angling Times or Kerrang! – that often persuades them that what they’re reading or watching or hearing is rather better than it really is.

PS: Meanwhile, Shane Richmond deals with the paywall side of Mitchell’s argument.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dead president

The ANC has expressed its outrage over a painting by Yiull Damaso, depicting Nelson Mandela on the autopsy slab. According to spokesman Jackson Mthembu, the image, based on Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson, is reprehensible on a number of counts:
It is in bad taste, disrespectful, and it is an insult and an affront to values of our society... In African society it is a foreign act of ubuthakathi (bewitch) to kill a living person and this so-called work of art … is also racist. It goes further by violating Tat’ uMandela’s dignity by stripping him naked in the glare of curious onlookers, some of whom have seen their apartheid ideals die before them.
It’s not clear exactly how the painting is racist, especially since its depiction of non-white people in positions of authority significantly improves on Rembrandt’s original. But the allegation of ubuthakathi does raise one tricky question: will the painting suddenly become less problematic when Mandela does actually die? Moreover, Mr Mthembu’s vitriol leaves another matter unaddressed: as is so often the case with supposedly shocking works of art (see the Danish Mohammed cartoons), the picture is really a bit rubbish. The dead Mandela looks more like Morgan Freeman.

Doctor Hoo

This is just blimmin’ brilliant. By Pu-Sama @ deviantArt, via Benjamin Russell and James Blue Cat.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I’d rather not Jack

Jack Vettriano, the artist who might as well have been designed by a committee to create art for people who don’t know much about art but know what they like but aren’t really sure why, has apparently remarked that proposed cuts in arts subsidies are a good thing because they will force galleries to pay more attention to public taste. In common with popular but critically derided artists in other media (John Grisham, say, or Status Quo) he seems dissatisfied with mere popularity and the hard cash it brings; he wants love from the critical establishment that he affects to despise, and which certainly appears to despise him, or at least the porny cheese that his fans so adore.

There’s certainly a serious discussion or several to be had here about the formation of a critical consensus and a critical canon. What exactly are the objective criteria by which an artist such as Vettriano is deemed to be less good than Lucien Freud or David Hockney or Paula Rego, the Chapman Brothers or the Stuckists or Banksy? Are there any? Who decides? Does Vettriano’s very popularity count against him? Which leads into really juicy questions about taste and utilitarianism, snobbery and aesthetics and money, Ruskin and Morris, Pater and Wilde and all good stuff like that.

But Vettriano and his ilk don’t seem to be interested in such a debate, possibly because his argument, if followed to its logical end, means that James Cameron is the greatest film director of all time. Hey, maybe he thinks that as well. It boils down to the notion that because more people like his paintings, more public money should be devoted to letting more people look at his paintings; and on those terms, Cameron and Grisham and the Quo all deserve subsidies as well.

If he really has the courage of his populist convictions, why doesn’t he just open a public gallery devoted to his own art, and that of Rolf Harris and Beryl Cook; polite watercolours of the South Downs; Athena prints and the covers of 70s prog rock albums; dogs playing snooker and the tennis girl scratching her bum? And there could be music by Dido and Coldplay, and Avatar projected on the ceiling over and over again. That would be what the taxpayer wants, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it?

But never mind all that: Billy has a new blog! Hurrah! (Although that means tweaking the buggering blogroll. Hmmff.)

Monday, July 05, 2010

Friday, July 02, 2010

And they had the best uniforms

I remarked a few weeks ago on the fact that to many people in Asia, Hitler is simply another figure from history, with little of the bogeyman baggage that he brings in the West; he’s just one more Dead White Male, neither better nor worse than Churchill or Shakespeare or George Washington. Many Indians, it appears, would see nothing odd about the notion of a Bollywood movie called Dear Friend Hitler, dealing with the pragmatic alliance between the Nazis and the controversial Indian nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose, although the actor who was meant to play the Führer seems to have woken up to the fact that there’s something a bit iffy about the whole notion. But Mein Kampf has been selling well in India for years; and when a Mumbai scholar says something along the lines of
I didn’t find the book inspiring at all. It was interesting to read how he coped with his days of struggle, but his ideology of racial purity smacked of racism.
we want him to be more angry, more disgusted. Simple disapproval falls short. I bet Hitler would be mightily miffed to learn that his life’s work only smacked of racism.

But is it possible to be too angry about the Nazis? Forget the bloody football for a moment, and a hundred headlines dredged from the Stan Boardman songbook. Consider instead the people complaining about River Island selling a badge that resembles the Iron Cross; so full of loathing for fascist iconography that they forget that the decoration was first awarded in 1813, when Prussia was engaged in the Napoleonic Wars, when they were on our side. Which surely makes them the good guys, doesn’t it?

A moon with a view

EM Forster, to Christopher Isherwood, while watching the first lunar landing:
I don’t think they should be doing that.
(This is my 900th blog post, by the way.)