Wednesday 26 November 2008

Whore watch

The Devil's Whore has been watched and appreciated (with some caveats). I'm not sure about the devil, or the whore come to think of it, but I won't go into too much detail here as I intend to write a longer piece on the series. If you need to catch up on the first episode from last week, click here.

If you need to quickly swot up on the English Revolution why not read Christopher Hill's seminal 1940 essay, The English Revolution 1640. [All complaints about the poor standard of transcription should be made to the CPGB (do they still exist?) and/or Andy Blunden at - it's enough to give Marxists who care about accuracy a nad mame!].

The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution was written by Hill in 1972 and is regarded as one of the classic academic texts on the Civil War and a major contribution to twentieth century historical analysis. I'm plodding through it now and am getting to know my Levellers from Diggers. The Devil's Whore would not have been written without Hill's contribution to our understanding of this period and the worm's eye view of history that he took.

See you after episode 2.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

'Tis Pity She's a Devil's Whore

My expectations are being ramped up to the max before tomorrow's screening of The Devil's Whore on Channel 4. Co-writer and co-executive producer, Peter Flannery, was on Radio 4's Start the Week and actor John Simm was interviewed in today's Times. I am sure you blogged-out, newshounds have tracked down other stuff.

Anyway, the 4-parter has a time and that'll be 9pm. So, I would advise you to get the kids to bed on time (isn't government advice 7:30pm?), open a bottle of red and hopefully (I'm praying), sit back and enjoy an insightful journey into our revolutionary past.

The Devil's Whore is on tomorrow (that's Wednesday 19th November) night at 09:00. Live in the here and now by enjoying a bit of BIG TV now and then. (Of course I'm going to Skyplus it. All precatuionary steps are being taken).


OMG, I've just earwigged someone in the pub recruit a new believer to the Socialist - Degenerated Workers' State variety - cause. The English Revolution must be in the air tonight...

Friday 14 November 2008

Going up

We all know what's going down, but what's going up?

1. Fawlty Towers DVD sales soar

2. Egg Sales up by 22 Per Cent

3. Sales of The Communist Manifesto have risen by more than 700%

Did someone say "Diana moment"?

"I too rooted for Obama and I too was moved by his victory speech. I expect him to be far more liberal and successful than his predecessor. But he was swept to power on a wave of emotion - it was, albeit in happier circumstances, another "Diana moment" - from which almost nobody dared to dissent. As hard times approach, I do not think that augurs well for democracy and newspapers in either country."
Peter Wilby with some sensible words.

Thursday 13 November 2008

Dreaming about Obama

"I had a dream about Angelina Jolie, Barack and Michelle Obama last
night," said my wife (R) over breakfast today.

"Was I in it?" I asked.

"Don't be stupid!" R said.

I had already started to lose interest but I thought I would play along.

"Oh. What was Barack doing there?" I inquired.

"He wasn't actually there. He was somewhere else. Me and Angelina were bodyguards protecting the Obamas," R explained.


"There were a pair of leather gloves outside the White House. I told Angelina that she should leave them but she didn't listen to me and she went and brought them into the White House kitchen," R described.

"Whose gloves were they?" I asked.

"That doesn't matter. They exploded in the kitchen!"

"Oh dear. Was anyone hurt?" I asked whilst debating in my head whether I should have a third piece of peanut butter on toast.

"No. It was only a small explosion. I went ballistic. I was fuming. I told her not to bring the stupid gloves into the building," R recounted.

"What did Michelle say?" I probed.

"She was fine - very relaxed considering. Made us both a cup of tea," R explained as some kind of closure on the dream was achieved.


I am convinced dreams like this are happening across the world. What can we make of them? Are there any Freudian, or non-Freudian, dream analysts that could give me the lowdown on this one? Comments encouraged and welcomed.

My own personal take? Well, there is no dream or metaphor to interpret here, as such. R feels good about the election result and wants to protect the Obamas from any threats. Simple. There have already been at least two widely reported far-right plots to take out Obama, if we are to believe the stories...

...but the gloves, the gloves, why the gloves and why does Angelina get it so wrong? And why does Mrs Pitt take such a telling off from my wife...


I'm Angelina!

Monday 10 November 2008

Bring on the English Revolution!

The Devil's Whore is coming to Channel 4. It is difficult to contain my excitement. In a preview in The Sunday Times a whole list of treats are placed before us. First and foremost, this new television drama is written by Peter Flannery the writer of Our Friends in the North. All right, a very close second is that The Devil's Whore is about the Cromwell and English Revolution. Here's a list of other things to get excited about:

- the cast includes Dominic West (The Wire) as Cromwell
- there hasn't been a prime time civil war drama since 1983
- it was filmed in South Africa
- it has a big budget - £7m for a four-parter
- Flannery read the King James version of the Bible (1604) to research dialogue and the use of "muscular metaphor and simile" (it might not rock your boat but it's rocking mine)

Flannery unashamedly engages his audiences with big ideas, his characters are complex and he wants to take you on an unforgettable journey. What more could we want?
"I'm not selling this as a way of passing your GCSE in 17th-century history... I'm trying to write a thrilling story about those times and what the issues were..."

[England's civil war in The Devil’s Whore, The Sunday Times]
Bring on the English Revolution! See you at the Channel 4 barricades on November 19th. [I'm guessing 9pm but the online listings aren't giving up crucial information like that just yet].

My changing reading habits: from A(nalogue) to E(lectronic)

The credit crunch has brought home to me how my reading habits have started to change, especially in respect to hard news. I buy The Guardian or The Times every day but my hunger for news from the blogosphere, from BBC correspondents to obscure US libertarians (read unhappy Republicans), is unsated. Get out more! Yes, I know I should but while I am not, I am going to carry on hunting and reading. Discovering a blog, maybe a gem that only a small number of people are reading, has a tragic equivalence with the under-the-bedclothes listening of the late John Peel Radio 1 show (10pm-midnight, Monday-Thursday in the late 1970s). I listened through hours of experimental dross just to catch that edgey, indie band that none of my mates might have heard of. Cassette tape in my Bush cassette tape radio recorder at the ready, great tracks would get recorded for later consumption and distribution. Today, Google Reader and Delicious are the modern equivalents of my cassette recorder for my news reading habits.

I am not sure I am ready to start reading novels electronically, but it will happen*. 2008, and the global banking/financial crisis in particular, mark a turning point; I am almost reading equally from analogue and electronic ones. UK newspapers have got up to speed on the web in such a comprehensive and efficient manner that I don't even have to buy their paper versions anymore. Even I would have thought this as sacrilegious a year ago, but it now seems like a saving worth making. Someone might be able to explain how they are monetising (as the business lingo goes) this web access but that is not something I have to worry about; I'm just enjoying the benefits. One immediate benefit is the slowing down of my annoying (to my wife) newspaper clipping habit.

*I've just looked at and caressed a Sony PRS-505 in a John Lewis store. This is one of the market leaders in eReaders. An eReader is a small, book-like computer that can store (e)books and all other kinds electronic reading matter. The pages have this disarmingly dead white un-screen like feel to them. I had to touch them just see it wasn't actually paper! There are still loads of questions about their functional purpose that remain unanswered, like for instance, if you are not an academic why would you need to store 160 books on one device? But that's probably just early techno-philistinism creeping in on my part. I loved it and it will fit down my chimney, Santa.

Saturday 8 November 2008

Bursting the Obama bubble

There is at least one Guardian journalist who has been prepared to swim against the Obama tide (of near hysteria) and his name is Simon Jenkins. In an article entitled: All the cliches about colour obscure the real challenges awaiting Obama, Jenkins lays down a gaunlet of liberal common sense. I think we should take up the gaunlet and start to get a grip.
"The most overheard media cliche is that "America will never be the same again". Yes it will, as it was when it last elected a Democratic president. Only if we break from the crypto-racist mindset that sees Obama as a black man first and all else far behind can the odds on a successful presidency be assessed."

Thursday 6 November 2008


John was woken at 2.30am on Wednesday 5th November by a telephone call from Mary.

"John! He's done it!" said a merrily drunk Mary.

"Who's that? Who's done what?" groaned John.

"Obama is president! It's Mary... it's amazing isn't it?" Mary carried on.

"It's 2.30am in the morning. I was asleep. You've got to be joking." John complained.

"Now don't try and get angry with me, John. This is history. Isn't it great?" Mary enthused.

"I'm going back to sleep Mary."

John put the phone down. Helen, John's wife, has woken up.

"Who was that, John?" asked a crotchety Helen.

"Mary. Obama's won."

"I'll kill her..."

[The names have been changed to protect my friends identities].

I imagine this script may have played out across the UK, if not the world, in the early hours of Tuesday morning [GMT]. My friends John and Helen have not been caught up in the Obamarama thing but Mary clearly has and at the moment the Obamaphiles seem to be everywhere. The hope that has been pinned onto Barack Obama's campaign, and now imminent presidency, is BIG HOPE for BIG CHANGE. I'm afraid some of us our suffering from extreme self-delusion and others are just going to be plain disappointed.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning [6.45am GMT] and turned on the television, there was the news: America elects its first black/mixed race/biracial - [delete as you feel appropriate] president. My wife was happy - emotional even. My 3rd daughter is 'planning to be born' 9 days after Obama's inauguration on 20th January 2009. My mixed race daughter will be born into a world with a mixed race leader of the free world. It would have been churlish not to reflect on this moment and recognise a sense of achievement, but now we need to move on.

Yes, move on. Snap out of it! Wake up! I've always believed in the human potential of all races to achieve at the highest level because I believe in racial equality. A non-white man has reached the highest political office proves in one simple sense what anti-racists have known along: that anything and everything is possible.

Unfortunately Obama's election promises don't fill me with hope: withdrawl from Iraq but puruse the war in Afghanistan with more vigour, being one of them. The hope invested in Obama has a lot to do with America's internalised self-loathing generated during George W. Bush's two terms in office. So, if Americans now feel freer to engage with the world about the best ways forward during these difficult times then we will all be enriched. However, the narrow, illiberal political agenda of the political class prevalent in the West from Barack Obama to Gordon Brown, fills me full of dread. Without any real economic solutions politicians tend to ramp up the control agenda and want to tell us 'how we all have a responsibility to tighten our belts for the good of the economy and the environment'. Ughh!

Reading across the blogosphere, I find libertarian fears described by American Republicans palpable (and entertaining).

"I want all these willing volunteers who are so eager to help Obama achieve his vision to leave me strictly alone. I prefer that they sink into apathy, or go off and get drunk or do drugs. I don't want to be part of Obama's corps of concerned citizens."

Obama's worker bees [Blog: Miriam's Ideas]

"I don’t need a cult leader and I have no interest in worshipping. Obama represents mob rule and I want no part of his cult of personality. I’m interested in human freedom. I’m interested in less government. I’m interested in choices, rational discussion and education. Where are my people? Where is my party?"

The cult of Obama [Blog: The will to exist]
'Miriam' goes on to describe a less liberal society where Big Brother drones (read former Obama supporters) police her eating habits and gasoline usage. Truly a nightmare. I think we might already be living in it in the UK!

For more in depth analysis, I regularly read spiked. Frank Furedi's article Obama and the fall of ‘the silent majority’, Brendan O'Neill's Voting for Obama: a badge of superiority? and The morning after History was made by Sean Collins raise serious questions about the real trends underlying Barack Obama's victory.

For a humorous take on what the young, and unemployed, Obamaphiles are going to do now the campaign is over, watch this clip from The Onion:

Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Humour bypass

The coverage of the build up to the US presidential elections has had to compete with Brandgate (or Manuelgate or Sachsgate or Whatevergate). The US is about to elect a new leader and we have had another media scandal that engulfs the media in a cannibalistic feeding-frenzy. This alone is quite shocking.

I must admit my head has been spinning with issues that sometimes appear very trivial and then very serious, simultaneously. Ross and Brand weren't funny on this particular occasion - there seems to be a wide consensus on this one. (I'll come clean: I can find Ross funny and on occasions his cheeky childish wit can amuse but his rude, boorish, self-congratulatory shtick - a large part of his act - has started to wear thin. Or put another way, "sisters", I think if I were a female celeb I would think twice about appearing on his chat show. Juliette Binoche, Jane Fonda, Nicola Kidman and even our own Jade Goody have all been subjected to Ross's sexist, car crash sense of humour. Brand's humour has always been too obscured by his ego for me to appreciate his "talents").

Anyway... talk about a diverting issue. As some intelligent articles have pointed out this isn't about Ross or Brand. The column inches devoted to the subject aren't an extension of a public debate about the nature of humour and what makes us laugh. "Can the comedy of cruelty ever be justified. Discuss." No, the official liberal media response to "Brandgate" has betrayed a papable disgust with the thousands that have complained about the Brand-Ross Radio 2 show. Charlie Brooker's column - a very funny column that I read regularly - in The Guardian was entitled: "Want a rush of empowerment? Join the angry idiots registering their disgust with Ofcom". His opening salvo was: "So it's here at last. The dawn of the dumb has broken in earnest."

At the beginning of the week I must admit I was caught up in the fears of the liberal media elite (being a lesser member with aspirations). In particular, the worry that a "Daily Mail witchunt" against Ross and Brand might increase the likelihood of a knee-jerk and censorious response from the BBC, troubled me. But there was something else going on here...

...and then I stumbled on Neil Davenport's article on spiked: A revolt of the masses against the BBC?

Neil takes apart the issue and really explores the BBC's contempt for its audience. The Ross-Brand affair is set in the context of "the media’s low horizons and lack of faith in its audience". This article is a devastating critique of dumbing-down whilst also being a fresh clarion call for funny, and intelligent, comedy. I couldn't recommend it more.