Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld: Book Review.


Book review: Curtis Sittenfeld's Rodham imagines Hillary not marrying Bill  Clinton, Arts News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

“One might say that the publication of a novel takes a village” says Curtis Sittenfeld in the acknowledgements of her sixth novel, Rodham. But in the case of Rodham one could easily expand this acknowledgement way beyond a village, to a nation and perhaps more accurately; a gender.

Because this is a book that every American woman should read and feel that, whether persecuted or empowered, this novel was written for them.

And then every American man should be made to read it as punishment. As a warning that what we have taken for granted (first dibs at opportunity) might not , should not, last forever.

In a year where Black Rights have dominated the non-Covid news this is a book about women’s rights and it seems appropriate that this, and Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys were, by a long chalk, the most compelling ones I’ve read.

This novel doesn’t just ooze restrained moral authority, it takes those that flaunt sexual democracy by the bollocks and kicks shit out of them.

This is the feminist book that makes feminism real, for all.

It’s an unbelievable achievement in writing.

And yet it’s so, so damn prosaic. It’s so, so kind of uneventful.

Despite its monumental subject matter and the giddy heights to which it aspires, and attains, the fact it’s written as a kind of diary, where the author never tires of listing the most banal aspects of a setting, again and again, without ever boring the reader, makes it firstly seem real and secondly incontrovertible. Hillary Clinton would never tell us about the time her aide wiped a snotter from her nose before she went on stage for a speech unless it was real/true. Right?

In roller coaster terms it reaches the zenith but then never drops, suspending you above reality in a construct so simply but brilliantly inconceivable that it seems it must be true.

It’s difficult to explain, without telling you the story, how brilliant Sittenfeld is at taking a fantasy, making it a reality and then laughing to herself as you try to unravel the one from the other.

Time and again I found myself stopping to marvel that this was, you know, all made up.

But let’s pause in this gushorama.

Let’s start from the beginning.

The pitch is this. “Rodham. What happened after Hillary didn’t marry Bill Clinton.”

And that’s it.

Except it’s not. Sittenfeld could have gone loopy on us, could have stretched her political imagination beyond any horizons we have to adhere to in reality.

Instead she writes Hillary Rodham’s autobiography, in the first tense, including, you know, that time she had Bill bring her off on a freeway, while he was driving. That time he… (I’ll save it for you to find out the other often quite sordid, eyebrow raising details).

So far, so titillating. But, titter ye not.

This a work of absolute seriousness. The autobiography (except it’s not) of the famous wife of a famous philanderer, but the most popular, and let’s face it, most handsome philander on the planet. A philanderer she married and stood by through thick and thin.

Except, not here. Because she didn’t marry him. Not here.

Why not?

I ain’t tellin’.

One third of the novel takes us up through her girlhood up to the point of her not marrying Bill Clinton. The next two thirds follow the consequences.

Would either go on to political success?

Would they remain in contact?

Would their parting of the ways influence American politics?

Would Donald Trump rise to the heights that he did (the one spoiler I will give you is that Trump makes several cameo appearances to great humorous effect)?

Would there, in fact, even BE any consequences? After all, in this history it was simply an imagined (but real) relationship between two law students. One extremely handsome. One extremely clever.

Even though the entire novel is a fiction it is teasingly stitched together with truths. Real things that did happen but, in the words of Eric Morecambe, “just not necessarily all in the right order”.

It really is a breathtaking literary achievement with deft touches like (How Marvellous!) – a diary entry of an impressionable teen – but it’s not a diary entry, (how disappointing!) it’s the autobiography of one of the most famous women in the world. But it’s not.

Twice Sittenfeld evokes the vision of a cerulean sky. In a novel of plain speaking it is a word that stood out to me, that sent me scurrying to Google dictionary. It’s use was allowable.

It’s also prescient. She was published in early 2020, but there’s an important reference in it to Kamala Harris, Kamala was only appointed Biden’s Vice Presidential candidate in August 2020. There were 5 or 6 women in the running for that role, most notably Katherine Warren, But Sittenfeld doesn’t write her in. She writes in Harris. And Harris wasn’t even the only black woman in the running. So it’s not sleight of hand. I repeat, it’s prescience.

You’ll need some basic knowledge of American politics to get the most out of this. I have a little more than average for a non-American and that helped me, but I’m pretty sure you’ll get the point if your knowledge only stretches to the big names we all know.

I don’t know Sittenfeld. I don’t know her work. But I’ll certainly be looking out her back catalogue after this.

Absolutely 10 out of 10 and thank you Helen Howden for spotting this and lending me it to read.

A gift from above.

2020: The year in retrospect.


Trump's demands for $2,000 stimulus checks, explained - Vox

I’m not even going to mention the obvious subject as it’s affected us all in different ways, other than to say my list of theatre and cinema highlights is extremely short and has been replaced by TV and podcasts.

One of the highlights was moving from self employed to employed status after 15 years.

Things were looking uncertain until an unlikely opportunity arose with Whitespace, a company I have been involved with, one way or another since its inception 25 or so years ago as a subsidiary of 1576. Finally I can wholly lay claim to the title of being a ‘Whitespacer’ as a Strategy Director. It’s been immense having worked on not one, but two, global cosmetics brands, a global pitch for a motor company and a series of successful pitches and client engagements including a huge Oil and Gas start up, a home builder, the new www.netzeronation.scot website, Business Gateway, the Port of Leith Housing Association rebrand, a University, an online learning business, a charity and a lovely tech start up in pharma. Stimulating, all of them.

Sadly my time with Front Page came to an end after a long and happy relationship, it still is. And I’ve worked throughout with another long term client in the wonderful Nexus 24.

The experiment with The Marketing Centre proved to be unsatisfying in the end but I gave it my best shot and they are good guys.

I’m grateful to them all for their support, friendship and income.

Two more relationships came to an end, after 10 years I stood down as Chair of FCT and simultaneously my nine years as Chair of Creative Edinburgh came to a happy conclusion. Both were my choice and I wish both of them well in the future.

But my role as Scottish Chair of NABS remained deeply satisfying and we ran a tremendous National Music Quiz and Art Auction plus the 15th Scottish music quiz, all going online for the first time, and resulting in a record year of income for NABS. A great result driven by an amazing voluntary team in Scotland. Special thanks has to go to Anna Kormos and to Marian in Manchester for their huge contributions.

My Mum’s dementia (Alzheimer’s) has worsened steadily and in August we took the inevitable decision to put her into a care home. It’s been a great decision because the staff at Northcare Suites (100 Telford Road) have been superb. It’s the lap of luxury and although she remains terribly confused, and visits have been strictly limited, she has settled in well and is in good overall health otherwise.

Amy continues to amaze us with her tenacity, creativity, drive and ambition and she started not one, but two, new businesses this year. One in Health and Nutrition (https://www.amygormanhealthnutrition.co.uk) which has seen her build a solid portfolio of clients and a part time role at The Foundry in London, the other as a freelance fundraiser where she has enjoyed great success with at least four clients this year. All the more incredible because she left CAFOD to go it alone in February just as the unmentionable struck. She is awesome.

Ria and Tom both worked at Amazon over the summer. The job from hell. But Tom, in particular, immersed himself in it so hard (60 hour night shift weeks) that he saved enough to escape the UK and move to Whistler in Canada for the next two years. It was brilliant having them and Keir with us all summer and we miss them terribly.

Of course Ria skooshed her first year in Dentistry at Dundee and is back there, living with Keir in Perth where he has an interesting job at a whisky auctioneers. She’s working like a trojan and filling us with pride. All three of them are.

This gave Jeana the opportunity to reignite her homemaking career which she revelled in (but I’ve/we’ve missed our steady procession of AirBnB guests, her second career, that we grew to love so much). Next year maybe.

She started a new career and excelled, as a baker! Brilliant lockdown sourdough and maybe even better fruit bread. Both to die for, and if we eat too much of either, or both, that’s exactly what we’ll do. Dangerous!

Of course, having finally succeeded (after five failed attempts) in the Glastonbury lottery it was cancelled, as was Primavera (who still haven’t refunded me by the way). That was a big blow and I missed the chance of escapades with the boys in Barca and Alan in Somerset. Next year? Hmmm, dunno.

No holidays at all, not even Perthshire in November. I desperately missed our annual pilgrimage to Italy in particular. Next Year? Hmmm, dunno, maybe.

The most exciting and preoccupying thing, for me, of the year was seeing the 45th President of The United States of American undone. He’s scum, and election night found me beside myself as it looked at one point as if he’d gone and done the impossible, but the good people of America proved they DO have a conscience and 80 million of them at least have a brain.

It puts the achievement and humanity of Obama onto an even greater pedestal and the man has become a beacon of brilliance for the world to see, if he wasn’t already.

Biden and Harris (the 46th and 47th Presidents) were not perhaps the most dynamic offering for the American electorate, but decency is back and soon I expect to see a woman in the White House Oval Office. She will be great once Biden passes the baton. He did what he had to do – carefully, graciously and in a dignified manner that befits the office. He’ll no doubt have to buy his own lightbulbs on movers day, but the fact that he knows his way around will not obligate the outgoing filth to show him round.

Sadly we, in the UK, are stuck with filth for now. The disgrace that has held office in Downing Street is there for all to see and no further comment is necessary.

Turning to the best bit.

My best of’s.

It wasn’t a vintage music year but I enjoyed, very much, the following:

Michael Kiwanuka rightly won the Mercury, although I backed Moses Boyd.

I also greatly enjoyed Songs for our Daughter by Laura Marling (even though she doesn’t have one) and she would also have been a deserved winner.

Taylor Swift’s two albums were excellent folksy releases.

I listened to a lot of Dub Reggae, mainly from the 70’s.

Sudan Archives’ Athena was excellent.

Big Thief and Dirty Projectors both brought smiles to my face.

Janelle Monae’s sole single release, Turntables, is awesome.

And I loved Weyes Blood’s Titanic Rising (although I think that was a 2019 release).

What I can’t understand is the adulation Fiona Apple’s Fetch The Bolt Cutters garnered. I tried, believe me.

Here’s a link to my Best of 2020 tunes on Spotify. (Too much old stuff on it for my liking.)

In cinema there was little to thrall about so Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series almost picks up the ‘best of’ gong by virtue of its feature length running times (particularly Lover’s Rock).

But the prize goes to another Adam Sandler masterpiece. The quite ridiculous Uncut Gems. Wow!

Parasite was a big disappointment to me, as was Fincher’s Mank.

True History of the Kelly Gang (pre you know what) was epic and wonderful.

I also saw and really liked Little Women before the shutdown and 1917 which is outstanding and a contender for my movie of the year.

I liked the Go Go’s documentary.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 was great Sorkin fare and gets there on merit, but hardly a classic.

The Borat sequel only makes it onto the list because of the lack of competition and the brilliant expose of Giulliani.

And so to TV. The year of TV.

It kicked off with something I thought wouldn’t be bettered, Normal People, but it just got better and better.

I Will Not Destroy You.

The Crown.

We Are Who We Are.

The aforementioned Small Axe.

Unorthodox (a little gem).

The Queen’s Gambit.

Song Exploder. (A Podcast conversion to Netflix)

Homecoming (another podcast convert – especially Season 2 with Janelle Monae)

The Plot Against America.

Educating Greater Manchester.

Des.

Dracula (on BBC).

Quiz (it was a good year for ITV drama).

Dirty John.

The Third Day on C4.

Industry (a late contender for series of the year. Please bring it back. Filthy and brilliantly performed).

And another was the excellent Criminal. A franchise that extended across Europe using the same police interview room (with different casts for different countries) to create unusual very cleverly plotted procedurals that were anything but procedures.

But, at the end of it all I’m going to give it to The Comey Rule for the remarkable performance of Jeff Daniels.

In podcasts, my new found love, there was so much it was ridiculous:

Shout outs for Adam Buxton and Louis Theroux.

Steve Richard and Matt Forde made politics lovable.

5:38, Hacks on Tap, Left Right and Centre and Pod Save America enthralled me through the American election.

In drama podcasts, Tunnel 42 was magic, as were both seasons of The Horror of Dolores Roach.

Slow Burn is brilliant but Season Four (David Duke) wasn’t its best. For that you need to listen to the Clinton and Watergate series’.

Hunting Ghislaine was also brilliantly horrifying and it was great to hear yesterday that the bitch is not being bailed.

In music Soul Music (BBC Radio 4) and Song Exploder were both joys to behold. As was The Clash Story.

But my Podcast of the Year is a toss up between 13 Minutes to the Moon (Season Two about Apollo 13), Transmissions (the story of Joe Division and New Order) and Wind of Change, the conspiracy story about the CIA writing The Scorpions’ classic song of the same name.

And then there’s Desert Island Discs of course.

Turkey of the year was Phoebe Reads a Mystery. Appalling schmuck.

I had a terrific reading year too, finally joining a Book Club:

Feck Perfunction by James Victoire is a great business read.

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

One Two Three Four about the Beatles by Craig Brown is superb. And Kraftwerk: Future Music from Germany was another great musical read. A musical trilogy was made up with The Eavis’ Glastonbury 50. An event I never made. Naeb’dy did.

Pine by Francis Toon is a good Scottish book. Not as good as Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (but I still don’t think it should have won the Booker – far better were last year’s TWO winners Girl Woman Other by Bernardine Evagelisto and The Testaments by the incomparable Margaret Atwood – not her best but still fantastic).

I really enjoyed Ian McEwan’s rewriting of history in Machines Like Us, a real return to form.

I read two McEwan’s this year. Solar was the other, but it was shit.

The Testament of Gideon Mack is a great wee Scottish story by James Robertson and I’m also enjoying his 365 Stories as my bog book this year.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney wasn’t as good as Normal People (the TV series).

Worth Dying For – The Power and politics of flags was good fun.

I finally read Small Island and loved it. As I did in reading Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. Hilarious.

Tender is the Flesh: by Agustina Bazterrica is a tremendous, undiscovered, Brazilian novel about post apocalyptic times where humans are grown as food.

But my two books of the year were epic masterpieces, each of them. Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. Both dealt with American discrimination, the former of women, the latter of Black lives. Both are beyond excellent.

My walk of the year was Glen Etive, with Ria, all 26 miles of it.

Oh, one last thing. I lost weight.

Hunting Ghislaine with John Sweeney: Podcast review.


Image

The fact that Sweeney, best known for his work on the BBC’s Panorama and Newsnight, felt the need to include his name in the title of this tells you something.

He’s a man on a mission and, until the last episode, it felt that mission was being delivered with a cool disdain that nevertheless erred on the side of balance. He wraps the production with a rather more pointed conclusion that undoes a little of the, earlier, brilliant work.

But that’s a minor gripe, because this is a beast of a production in so many ways.

Firstly the music chills you to the core, right from the off.

Secondly, Sweeney himself is a class act. A formidable presenter with an intellect to match.

And thirdly, the content and its protagonist(s), are, indeed, beasts. And not the cuddly sort.

By the closing credits Sweeney has annihilated Maxwell and, jury aside (we’ll have to wait till July for that decision), he has good reason, if not proof.

She’s a piece of work is Ghislaine Maxwell.

Brought up by a monster and in a long term relationship with another (both dead, maybe both by suicide) she inherited an attitude of princessly, entitlement from her, probably sociopathic, criminal of a father, whom Sweeney further paints as a narcissistic sadist.

She’s a daddy’s girl extraordinaire, spoilt but not spared the lash (which Sweeney conjects she may have developed a taste for) she treats others around her as expendable trash on her rise to the top.

But the top of what? The top of nothing, frankly. OK, the top of a society invitation list, maybe. But this woman has not contributed an iota of ANYTHING to the furtherment of any aspect of the human race.

Her lover, Jeffery Epstein, needs no introduction, and although we nevertheless get plenty of that from Sweeney it’s really her role as his handmaiden and chief pimp that constitutes this story.

And the story is brilliantly, quite lasciviously told, in tones of barely concealed glee as Sweeney hacks her legacy to pieces and feeds it to the listener in bite sized pieces.

She is devoid of goodness.

She’s a coward (running away into hiding the second Epstein’s protective layer peeled away).

And she’s a rapist. So entwined with Epstein’s actions, sometimes joining in after hunting down and luring his prey that she can only be seen as conjoined with the filth that his (stolen) money facilitated him.

It’s gripping, frightening and disgusting.

It’s no wonder Sweeney seems so emotionally involved.

He’s a man on a mission and I , for one, sincerely hope his target rots in a jail cell for the rest of her entitled days.

Bravo John. Bravo.

Prescient, moi? The day the hotdesking experiment died.


Minneapolis, U.K. | STUFF FROM THE LOFT.
An ad from our heyday.

When we moved our company, 1576 Advertising Ltd, from Edinburgh’s Old Town to its new New Town home in 1997, or so, we were determined that we wouldn’t create a series of ghettos in its Edwardian Town House of five floors (30 rabbit holes) so we instigated a policy, from day one, of ‘hotdesking’.

Hotdesking you say?

In 1997?

Surely this couldn’t work either technically or socially?

You’re right on both counts, sort of.

Technically it was tricky. (I mean, just look at the email address.)

But we made it work. We’d run Ethernet cabling throughout the building, at great cost, and we were 100% Macced up.  (No-one else was.  It was a PC world in those days.)

But we were obstinate determined.

So, although the logging in and out was tricky it was by no means impossible.

It was the social experiment that really failed.

We wanted to stimulate fresh thinking by having creatives mix with planners, producers and account handlers. 

We wanted variety in people’s lives.

We wanted to discourage the collection of desk detritus that comes with nest-building in a permanent workspace.

And, as it turns out, some 20 years later, in this post-Covid world, I truly believe this is about to become the norm.

People will now have the option to blend working from home with office based toil.

Work spaces will shrink so that 100 workers can fit into the space that served only 50 before. Technology-sharing (and therefore hotdesking) will become de rigour – we are already seeing it in co-working spaces anyway.

Where our 20th Century social experiment failed was that it was too soon. We couldn’t convince our otherwise pioneering people that rather than seeing us as GIVING them variety we were perceived as freedom-thieves.

It broke my heart. 

I thought I was right, then. 

I know I was right, now. 

But prescience can represent pearls to swine. (Although I was no swineherd.)

It was all part of our belief in the importance of culture. Underpinned by this quote I just unearthed from Campaign Magazine in November 1999.



“1576 went through some serious rites of passage this year. After what

seemed like a charmed relationship, the agency split up with Direct

Line, the lucrative mainstream account that had given it the freedom to

build its creative profile on less profitable accounts. ’It was a

watershed,’ Mark Gorman, one of the three founding partners, says.

’Direct Line was a significant piece of business but the relationship

wasn’t working any more. We resigned it because we put a lot of thought

into our culture. We want to differentiate ourselves from other agencies

by the way we work with our clients.’

Campaign 1999.

Oink.

Bill Gates and life after Covid.


Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions - Podcast | Global Player

He’s a great man (with a horrible voice, it has to be said).

A truly great man.

And an example for humanity of what you can do with wealth. Not only is he leading the fight for the developing world in medical research and disease control through his donations, but by his fundraising too.

And he has a new podcast with Rashida Jones called “Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions”.

The first episode is excellent and I was really interested in an optimistic view he took on post-Covid society. It may not be a unique view, or even his own, but it struck me as relevant.

His postulation is that post-Covid our life patters will have been so fundamentally disrupted and restructured that they may never return to the old way of working.

One, positive, consequence of not being “downtown” office-based will be that instead of gravitating to massively busy city centre drinking dens (post work), we will instead socialise in our communities far more. So that suburban bars and restaurants will massively benefit and the city centre hostelries will be permanently maimed.

I would speculate further.

As the “High Street” collapses, and the bars and restaurants that populate them, follow retail in its demise the city centre will entirely re-purpose into residential areas and those bars and restaurants will become community hostelries rather than after work boozers.

All of this will, in my view, contribute to a levelling out of geographic meaning and a better balance to all of our lives.

Go Bill.

A Promised Land: Podcast review. Barack Obama’s autobiography. (Part 1)


Not so much a podcast, as a sharing of BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week by Barack Obama, narrated by the great man himself.

In interviews, Obama can be a bit ponderous but narrating his life story he rattles along without hesitation and takes your breath away with the quality of his written word and his beautiful almost soporific rendition.

It’s a thriller of monumental proportions picking off, in turn, his Primaries for President, the first election, The credit crunch, the ACA, Michelle’s visit with The Queen and, most grippingly of all, the killing of Bin Laden.

It’s two and a half hours of majesty that I devoured in one (long) walk and wanted more, much more.

And I’m wondering if the audio book, given this, would be a better bet than the written version; although I’d want the spine to grace my bookshelves to prove that I am an advocate for the man that will go down in history as one of greatest presidents (human beings) of all time.

I love him, man.

I really, really do.

Are you a Brexidiot?


All news about Brexit | Euronews
It’s time to say what I really think, now that the game’s up the fucking pole.

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING POST CONTAINS STRONG VIEWS AND LANGUAGE THAT SOME PEOPLE MIGHT FIND OFFENSIVE.

“It’s an oven ready deal.”

“The NHS will get £430m a week.”

“We’ll save £50 billion a year.”

Did you actually, really, fall for that? Did you?

Did you really?

Did you factor in that Boris Johnson is a fucking lying cunt?

Did you believe that Dominic Cumming was a human being?

Do you think the moon is made off cheese?

Or did you just want to get rid of those foreign bastards that are are stealing our jobs? You know, the ones where they’re looking after your old dear in what was later to become a pox ridden no go zone.

I cannot even begin to say how angry I am with this government of lying, self-centred, evil cunts. A cabinet of nodding yes men and women having their strings pulled by a fucking moron. An actual fucking imbecile. A man who makes me want to physically violate my television every time I see the smirking, stuttering bag of shit utter a sentence that is packed so full of obfuscation and, just nonsense, complete nonsense and piffle, and condescension, as to render it entirely redundant.

This, a government that has lined the pockets of its equally smirking cunt friends as they buy their untested plastic vials while people wait for their inevitable redundancy. Thank fuck Johnny Foreigner has been banished to the eastern wastelands eh? Less competition for them.

It’s all so brazenly arrogant.

It’s all so, so fucking entitled.

It’s all so redolent of The Emire, but not striking back. We, the British EMPIRE, will retake what belongs to us: our sovereignty.

And these European, fucking, Beaurocrats will bow down to our Oven Ready Rights.

Well, actually Boris. Cunt. You were always fighting 27 against 1 and these Europeans think you are as much of a cunt as I do and they’ve made you look like a fucking fool and a cheat and a clown and a hopeless, simply appalling negotiator. A toff playing Ibble Dibble with a competitor, 27 in fact, that sees you for what you are. Arrogant, unprepared, deweaponised, trading on past glory. A threat.

And what do we do with threats?

We mitigate them. We extinguish them.

Go fuck yourself Boris. Your citizens fucking despise you. Well, if they think about it rationally for even a nanosecond we do.

As ‘dishy Rishi’ takes away our support to the developing world do you still see the good in him?


Rishi Sunak - Wikipedia

We’re a nation of paradoxes, most are.

But one of our greatest virtues was our willingness, enshrined in law, to share some of our great wealth with others less fortunate; 0.7% of our income in fact. Part of the Tory party’s manifesto pledge to never reduce.

Until last week.

At which point Rishi thought that a 28% cut in our foreign aid, to save 0.2% of our national budget, was a good thing.

In a year where we borrowed $400bn how on earth could saving $4bn (exactly 1%) be significant?

Cutting 28% from our support for those that need it for water and shelter, rather than trinkets and indulgence, (yes, I acknowledge we have a poverty issue in the UK but that $4bn ain’t being transferred to UK food banks is it?) hardly befits a nation that has held the right for decades to hold its head high among its international peers.

Maybe Rishi admired Donald Trump’s devastating snubbing of WHO? (Thankfully to be resolved by Biden.)

Or maybe it’s because multi-millionaire accountants simply see it as a number, not a lifeline.

I think its shameful and disgusting.

Sleep well you despicable, glory-grabbing bastard.

Decoder Ring: Podcast Review.


What do Cabbage Patch dolls, Metrosexuality, Unicorn poo, Jennifer Aniston’s depression, the Jane Fonda Workout, The Mullet and The Karen have in common?

They’re all the subject of episodes of Decoder Ring, the great monthly podcast by Willa Paskin from Slate.

As eclectic as they are REAL, each episode pretty thoroughly researches a cultural phenomenon tracing it back to its origins and explaining the impact it has had on society and culture as its influence grew.

Sure Unicorn Poo may be less life changing than having a mullet, but trust me: these are THINGS.

These are things that matter.

And, with her tongue firmly embedded in her cheek Haskin treats each with reverence and respect.

She could be exploring the rise of Marxism in Tsarist Russia (if that’s even a thing). But she’s not, she’s wondering why a doll with eyes too closely set created monsters out of suburban housewives.

It’s that good.

Honestly, it’s like a little dollop of nectar has been spat into your ear by a hummingbird each time a new episode drops.

Go get gooey eared.

And thank me.

Slow Burn Season 4; David Duke: Podcast Review


Wow. This is strong stuff.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a white supremacist became an American political phenomenon. David Duke’s rise to power and prominence—his election to the Louisiana Legislature, and then his campaigns for the U.S. Senate and the governorship—was an existential crisis for the state and the nation. 

That’s how Slate sells the fourth in their outstanding Podcast series (The Watergate Scandal 10/10, The Clinton Scandal 9/10 Tupac – didn’t enjoy that, and now Duke.)

Heavy stuff with heft.

Slow Burn really is an outstanding editorial platform with a great track record and this adds further weight to Slate’s enviable reputation with a gripping tale, riddled with back stories and sidebars that add colour and context to the rise of a fascist to a position of influence, but no power.

Who could ever imagine a fascist in power in the USA?

Until 2016-2020. When it became a reality.

The difference between Duke and Trump is that Duke, ex Grand Wizard of the KKK was an acknowledged Nazi who tried to cover up his past, whereas Trump is only waves the flag of fascism (No brown short and swastika) albeit with the ability to create an authoritarian police state in the world’s third largest country.

Duke sought a Nazi state, for sure, but under the auspices of The GOP, The Republican Party.

Just like today.

And, yes, the GOP was embarrassed to shit by Duke, as those that will admit it are of his fascist successor.

Where Duke failed was through his ostentatious official past. His espousal of anti-semitic, anti black politicking stated for what it was. The cross burning couldn’t be airbrushed from Duke’s history, whereas Trump gets the police to enact his enmity and racism with only a powder puff hairs and an orange fake tan that says;

“Me, a Nazi, looking like this? Oh come on.”

It’s wonderfully narrated with relish, and a degree of awe (fear really) by Josh Levin. His anguish is palpable as he tells the tale of what could have been…

…and is now.

The Dropout: Podcast Review.


The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is an unbelievable tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong.

So say ABC Studios in promoting the podcast of Elizabeth Holmes’ outrageous fooling of too many people that shouldn’t have been fooled.

Theranos was her college idea (for which she dropped out hence the title) a machine that analysed single droplets of blood to diagnose up to 100’s of health conditions like diabetes in a single drop with no need to draw blood via syringe.

A life changer for the planet. And Chiat Day’s ads fell nothing short of that claim.

Except every single analysis ever done by Theranos required a syringe draw. Because they weren’t analysed on Theranos machines.

She fooled Walgreens into signing an exclusive distribution deal.

She copied Steve Jobs by wearing all black turtlenecks.

She adopted a deep baritone voice that was 100% fake, to give her an air of authority.

She suckered US Secretary of State for Defence George Schultz, but not his grandson.

Henry fucking Kissinger sat on her board.

Bill Gates invested millions, so did Rupert Murdoch ($125m to be precise).

And at one time it was valued at $9billion.

All on a bare faced lie. A hoax of grand proportions. Gargantuan in fact.

You have to feel sorry for the small investors, more so for the poor people that were given incorrect diagnoses, but the big boys were simply suckered, and failed in their due diligence.

It’s a brilliant story, brilliantly researched and brilliantly narrated by Rebecca Jarvis.

High quality stuff that you should seek out now.

Fake Heiress: Podcast Review.


Now this is glorious-if you can forgive the drama-documentary approach that makes it sound a little like ‘All ‘Allo until you zone that out.

It’s often a problem with a new podcast; you need to snuggle in and ignore the itchy sheets until you’re comfortably numb.

It’s the true story of, as described by the BBC who produced it (so no ads), “The rise and fall of Anna Delvey, who conned New York high society into believing that she was a multi-millionaire heiress.”

And, oh my, how wonderful the story is.

In America she’s hailed as something of an anti-hero because people like how she ‘beat the system’ but the simple truth she’s a lying, thieving scumbag, maggot that fooled a lot of rich wannabe suckers – although not quite as many as the story might want you to think.

Because, for a New York socialite she was struggling pretty hard to scrape together enough freeloading liggers to her bashes to make them even seem like bashes in the first place. (The one she leaves after pretending to need the bathroom as the night drew in and without paying the bill is particularly amusing.)

We are regaled with tales of how she melted a few high end hotels just by sheer gallousness, checking in to 5 star boutique joints by pretending to know the manager and so not have to leave a credit card imprint then running up thousands of dollars of bills on champagne and caviar.

She took banks to the cleaners, camped it up to put plans down for landmark statement buildings in which to house her Anna Delvey Art Foundation and generally just made a nuisance of herself.

It’s a rip roaring tale in which pretty much everyone involved is some form of a tosser, which makes it a delight for those of a Schadenfreudy nature, like me.

And it’s coming to a TV screen soon, not just in one form but two (Netflix and HBO both having different characters’ rights, although not hers).

It’s a blast. Enjoy.

Mercury Prize nomination 2020. The year of the women. (But probably a male winner.)


I’m grateful to BBC News for the graphics below. Please don’t throw me into prison for using them.

Indeed you can read the BBC’s view on this link

It’s not the greatest list, is it? And why isn’t Nadine Shah on it? Crazy.

Anna Meredith – Fibs

Anna Meredith album artwork

She’s amazing but the album is too patchy. I love her, and I’d love her to win, but her contemporary masterpiece has not, as yet been recorded.

Short presentational grey line

Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now

Charli XCX album artwork

I have little to say about this. Not a fan. A surprising nomination in my view.

Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

Dua Lipa album artwork

This reviewed well but I am too old. No, sorry.

Short presentational grey line

Georgia – Seeking Thrills

Georgia album artwork

She’s the guy from Leftfeild’s daughter. That’s where the greatness ends. Absolutely not the winner.

Short presentational grey line

Kano – Hoodies All Summer

Kano album artwork

Grime. I don’t listen to Grime.

I mean, I saw Dizzee Rascal at Glastonbury, but he’s pish. No thanks.

Short presentational grey line

Lanterns On The Lake – Spook The Herd

Lanterns on the Lake album artwork

I don’t know this at all so I can’t comment.

Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter

Laura Marling album artwork

Her fourth nomination, and rightly so. Laura Marling is a queen of UK indy folk and this one, whilst not immediately her best, is a grower. A certain contender in my view.

Short presentational grey line

Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka album artwork

His third nomination (already?)

He may be too ‘popular’ now to be the favourite but this is a very good record indeed. A soul classic steeped in 70’s funky ooze. It’s a lovely joyous record with much in common with Marvin Gaye at his best.

A contender in my view.

Short presentational grey line

Moses Boyd – Dark Matter

Moses Boyd album artwork

The token Jazz record. He’s a drummer and his album is decent, extremely decent, as was Sons of Kemet’s last year and I put my fiver on them. Misguidedly as it turned out. However jazz records never win. Even in this new age of jazz.

(He’ll win then.)

Short presentational grey line

Porridge Radio – Every Bad

Porridge Radio album artwork

Too bad a name to consider. But my pals like her.

Sports Team – Deep Down Happy

Sports Team album artwork

I liked the singles from this but they are highly derivative. They couldn’t lace IDLES shoes.

Short presentational grey line

Stormzy – Heavy Is The Head

Stormzy album artwork

Heavy is the Head is a truly wonderful song but I didn’t really like his Glastonbury set and this genre is winning too much, so it’s a no from me.

So, that means it’s a shoot out between Moses Boyd, Laura Marling and Michael Kiwanuka.

I initially predicted Marling would win, but having listened to Moses Boyd a lot now I’m coming round to that.

The Missing Cryptoqueen: Podcast review


The great podcasts keep on coming. The seam is rich and golden and here’s another to indulge in.

This is a BBC publication about a Bulgarian businesswoman, Dr Ruja Ignatova, who persuaded millions to sign up to her rival to BitCoin, called OneCoin, reaping billions of pounds of illegal takings.

The trouble is, this crypto-currency has no blockchain and therefore cannot be spent anywhere.

It’s Fools’ Gold, and it’s worthless.

Then she disappeared.

Jamie Bartlett takes us through the story in double-quick time and leaves you gasping at Dr Ignatova’s bravado, ruthlessness and greed and the gullibility of the millions who fell for her classy veneer.

It’s pretty scary to be honest.

But it’s riveting and that’s why you should invest a few hours of your time listening to it.

Simplify, then exaggerate.


urban-beekeeping.jpg

I was struck by this quote from the editor of the Economist in the 1950’s (Geoffrey Crowther) who held by his personal maxim to “simplify, then exaggerate”.

Now, many of my readers will agree that I have rarely had any difficulty in living up to the second part of Crowther’s instruction and I do my best to live up to the primary challenge so it struck me as a perfect rule by which to live one’s writing life by.

Indeed, much of my professional writing has involved editing of complex proposals and tender documents to a variety of commercial and public sector organisations and I’d like to think that what I bring to the party in this respect is Crowther’s approach.

It’s one I didn’t realise, until today, that I believed in wholeheartedly.

But I do now.

Simple!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

World 2.0. After the lockdown. Can I help?


IMG_0674.jpg

It can surely be no exaggeration to say that the business world needs to hit reboot.

I’m not really sure when, or how that might start to happen (although starting now, to get ahead of the pack, might not be such a bad idea) because we will be entering a new reality.

I’m calling it World 2.0 for simplicity’s sake.

World 2.0.  The new reality?

We’ve had three Industrial Revolutions so far – in turn they were the consequences of the steam engine,  science and mass production, and the rise of digital technology.  They were all born of opportunity and technological advance.

None of them were caused by nature and all of them created booms.

But we’ve also had the opposite.

That has been the domain of World Wars and crashes; one of them financial (2008/9) and one of them (1929) founded on greed and wild speculation.

When we return to our desks, post-virus, post-furlough and scan our opportunities, most likely with a sense of doom, we’ll need to prioritise.

Big style.

It’s highly likely that workforces, everywhere, will be trimmer.

It’s highly likely that plans will be in disarray.

It’s highly likely that the idiom regarding loneliness at the top will never have been truer.

What’s the last thing you’re likely to be looking for?

Consultancy.

That’s what.

I dislike that word at the best of times but, you know, it’s what I do.

I bring to bear the biggest asset I have in my toolkit.

Experience.

The thing is though, I’ve never weathered an apocalypse, because let’s be honest here, that’s what we’re talking about.

So I don’t actually have any experience to offer you.

Right.  So should you read on?

Please stick with me, because my core skills will be as valid as ever as difficult decisions need to be taken about future investment, planning, positioning and your business’ true value proposition.

It simply won’t cut it if they’re flabby, comfortable – designed for World 1.0.

A trimmed down offer.

I’ve been using the lockdown as wisely as I can – or at least I think I have been.

I’ll be honest with you.  I gave up my latest role (with The Marketing Centre) only weeks before the tsunami struck.  I was looking to operate differently anyway, to go back to my own personal basics – little did I know just how differently that might be.

Since the turn of the year I’ve been exercising, dieting and then – enforced to some extent – resting and building up my energy for World 2.0.

Of course, that’s not all of choice.

My business has been hit hard.

Total and utter cessation of income at this point in time.

And at the time of writing I’m, physically, 17.8%  leaner as a result of my efforts.  I have aspirations to progress further but I can only report on fact. (Something much overlooked by many authorities in recent months.)

See these rocks?

thumbnail.jpg

They weigh exactly 17.8% of my body mass.

I’ve been building a wall of them for months.

It’s a metaphorical wall now; one I can help you smash through as you look to re-establish your messages, your proposition, your value in this new world.

And I’ve decided that my contribution to your leaner outlook should be leaner fees, that’s why I’m knocking 17.8% off my World 2.0 invoices – every little helps.

I can help you with your marketing strategy, your business strategy and in visioning what World 2.0 might look like for you.

You never know; it might actually be a better place.

 

 

Virus reading. An excellent novel about the aftermath of a global pandemic in animals. Tender is the Flesh: by Agustina Bazterrica. My review.


71ABRyuT-9L.jpg

Clearly this will not appeal to everyone.

As we ride out the early stages of a global viral pandemic it struck me as a good time to read a novel about a global viral pandemic.

This one infected animals so that their meat became poisonus.  Consequently a global order was put out to kill ALL animals.

Then there was ‘The Transition.’

In a carnivorous world what meat will carnivores then eat when there is no ‘meat’?

Well, obviously they eat human meat, but not wanting to sound like cannibals the authorities do not allow the citizens to call human meat, ‘human meat’ – that’s punishable by death,  and the sale of the resulting cadaver as ‘meat’.

So they are called ‘Heads’, have their vocal chords surgically removed just after birth so that they can’t talk/scream, and are raised to a variety of quality standards.

The hero of our novel is a slaughterhouse manager who is responsible for the buying of Heads and their processing, by way of slaughter.

But his life is complicated.

His beloved Dad is dying, his sister is horrible and leaves him to manage the care of their father, his wife has left him and his young son has died.

He’s lonely, he hates his job, his life and his family.

Then, one day, as a thank you for doing good business with a Head-seller he is given his own young, living, prime-grade female to take home and butcher.

This is an Argentinian novel and is quite heavily stylised, with little or no emotion – that’s left to the reader to take their own views on the proceedings, much of which describes this new, very odd and strangely acceptant society, in dispassionate terms.

It’s short, sharp and to the point and much of it is an allegory for how we consider the meat we consume today.  In that respect it’s a great book for vegetarians/vegans to enjoy triumphantly.

The way Bazterrica describes the slaughtering and butchering process is exactly how our animal meat is processed today.  Her trick is to anthropomorphize the process and, in so doing, begs the question as to whether this is morally acceptable.  “You wouldn’t do it to humans…’ is the central tenet here, if not actually stated.

It’s clever.  It’s interestingly, if a little coldly, written and it’s page turning.

It’s a really good political polemic and I found it engrossing.  Much is made of societal mores – class, privelege, behaviour, tradition, sexual politics.  It’s actually a pretty complex and multi-layered read.

I recommend it.  (But only for those of a stout literary constitution.)

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan: Book Review


unnamed.jpg

I’m a lifelong McEwan fan, but he has been infuriating me in the last decade with his inconsistency.

I have previously reviewed and lamented Sweet Tooth and Solar – both stinkers, but sandwiched between them was The Children Act, a book of great beauty and provocation.

I’m glad to say that Machines Like Me finds McEwan right back at the top of his game and it’s clear to me that what is making him write his best work these days is moral ambiguity and his adeptness at turning that ambiguity into superb storytelling.  It’s at the heart of  what makes this book, and The Children Act, so great.

The moral conundrum here is truth.

Humanity allows us to decide the difference between ‘white lies’ and despicable self- serving perjury.  But can Artificial Intelligence be expected to compete?

This novel works on many levels.  It’s essentially a sci0fi book about Artificial Intelligence yet it’s set in the past.

A fake past.

1982 to be precise.

A 1982, in which Thatcher has just lost the Falklands War, Alan Turing is alive and kicking, Britain is contemplating a form of Brexit, the poll tax disputes are raging and many of today’s political challenges are being reframed as 1982’s.  Most notably the rise of an elderly Labour leader (Tony Benn) has swept to power on the back of an adoring youth.

It’s playful and brilliant.

McEwan plays with the value of things like money.  Everything seem so cheap: cheaper than the reality of 1982 prices. (The effect of a global recalibration of worth?  It’s unexplained.)

Into a 32 year old dropout’s life (Charlie) arrive, almost simultaneously, a stunningly beautiful but enigmatic 21 year old neighbour (Miranda) and a ‘robot’ of almost perfect physical attributes (Adam – one of 25 AI humanoids – 13 male, 12 female).

Charlie’s bought Adam thanks to an inheritance from his mother and the book explores the relationship between the three main protagonists, but throws in a secondary moral dilemma in the form of a four year old abused boy, Mark, who inveigles himself into their lives.

In Miranda’s past an event of monumental emotional significance has consumed her and the repercussions of this form a significant strand of the moral backbone of the story.

So we have fun (made up history) sci-fi (lite but fascinating in the form of a humanoid robot, whom it turns out is capable of great knowledge – Google, before Google existed- but also a form of moral judgement) relationships (tangled) and simply brilliant storytelling.

The science is interesting, the philosophy just light enough to engage dullards like me and the story so compelling as to turn pages lightning fast.

The whole premise throws up so many genuinely interesting questions that it’s like manna to McEwan who feasts on the riches that his great invention feeds him.

I adored this book.  One of McEwan’s best ever and leaves only Nutshell, out of his 17 novels, for me to read.  It’s a noughties write, so who knows.

 

 

11pm, Friday January 31st 2020. The hour the music dies.


Just because I’ve shut up about Brexit recently doesn’t mean I feel any less saddened, deeply saddened, by the UK’s xenophobic attitude towards its island nation state.

We now have a fool, a dangerous one at that, at the helm, leading our country into a black hole, one that no right-minded economist recommended.  One where international trade deals are talked of in multiple-year time frames, some even in decades.

The fool continues to gainfully employ the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg – a man who in any other capacity would find himself on the dole queue for his outrageous sociopathic views and utter disregard for humanity, despite his fervour about the Roman Catholic faith – a faith that proclaims love of thy neighbour; ABOVE ALL ELSE.

As the bell tolls I will be contemplating what it means to live in Scotland – a nation that rejected this nonsense, OUT OF HAND – although that doesn’t mean I will be banging the drum for Scottish Independence.

One of its 2014 clarion calls was that Scottish independence was the only way to guarantee remaining in Europe (at best an optimistic call even then).  That prospect, (or at least the prospect of re-entry to the European family), if the last 36 months or so is anything to go by, seems an unlikely one now and a colossally difficult task.

For those bunting-waving leavers that will be popping their English sparkling wine and guzzling their John Smiths on Friday night, you were warned of the consequences of this before you voted for change ( I’m particularly looking at you Sunderland and South Wales).

I won’t be schadefreuding you in years to come.  I’m doing it now.

London didn’t vote for this nonsense, Northern Ireland didn’t vote for it and certainly Scotland didn’t vote for it.

Even Nigel Fargae didn’t vote for this outcome.

God bless Europe.

 

 

Succession Series 1 and 2. Review.


succession-s2-ka-1920.jpg

And here they are.  All of the pigs in one big poke.

Stupidly I missed Season 1.  For some reason I didn’t zone in on its qualities on first airing and let it go by me.  But the early rave reviews in the national press for Season 2 made me reconsider it and I started again, binging the 20 episodes over the last month or so.

And what a treat it was.

Jesse Armstrong (the show runner) was previously responsible for Peep Show, The Thick of it and even, back in the day, contributed to the excellent Smack The Pony.  He wrote the hilarious Four Lions too.

What this means is that although Succession is essentially a drama it is, in fact, a full blown comic feast with one liners ricocheting across the screen with siege-like ferocity and quantity.

Chief gag thrower is the astounding Keiran Culkin, the weasel-faced runt of the Roy Litter who you’d never tire of punishing, but whose acerbic put downs are guaranteed to split your sides ten times an episode.  he takes particular fun in tormenting the, also excellent, Jeremy Strong who plays his inept, drug-consuming brother Kendall with doe-eyed misery as his privileged life gradually falls into greater and greater disrepair.  He’s a car crash of a human being.

The other comic character who never ceases to amuse with his rhinoceros-skin dimness is Matthew Macfadyen as Tom, the dipstick husband of the power hungry Shiv (daughter of the patriarch from hell Logan Roy – Brian Cox in his greatest ever role).

A good sport in this show is to decide which of these feckless fecks you hate the most.  For not a single one of them has any redeeming features.

That said, my wife had a soft spot for the manslaughterer Kendall and I could at least tolerate the inept (but surprisingly devious) Greig – the limpid cousin.  But that’s it, the rest are as hideous human beings as you could make up.

Or are they made up?

The reality is that this is just a great big mash up of the Trumps, Weinsteins and the Murdochs.

Everything in this cesspit is about power and success.  They are consumed with the need, as a media conglomerate, to acquire more and more businesses and with manslaughter and sexual misconduct (and subsequent cover-ups) thrown into the mix the result is a mosh pit of vanity and greed.

Supporting roles of note go to Helen Hunter who is delicious as the two timing competitor CEO who briefly joins the company.  And the outstanding Peter Freidman as Francis and Jean Smith-Cameron as Gerri – Roy’s Nick and Margaret.

The milf- (or gilf-) like attraction that Gerri has for Roman makes for some of the show’s highlights with truly hysterical moments aplenty.

But at its core, and the bedrock of all that is truly awful in the human race, is the commanding presence of bastard-in-chief, Brian Cox, as the patriarchal Logan who surely has never been gifted a role as meaty as this.  Despite over 200 roles on TV and cinema only once has Cox been recognised at the big ones, a lone nominee in the Golden Globes nearly 20 years ago.  This is surely about to change.  His presence is so all consuming that this has the look of certainty about it.

It’s utterly compelling TV with a cinematic quality and a soundtrack to rival the best that Hollywood has to0 offer.  And, oh, that theme music.  My tune of the year, bar none.

Enjoy!

 

Sir Vince Cable’s valedictory virtuosity.


It may have sported on T shirts for months so it’s not exactly original, but to make it your campaign slogan for a major election is, to my mind, quite the thing.

7518.jpg

Sir Vince has had a relatively short career in the spotlight, despite his years, but this has the campaigning chutzpah of a rebel, a challenger brand – which should be exactly what the Liberal Democrats always should have been.

Anyway Sir Vince I doff my cap to you for this.

I think you will be pleased with the outcome, come May 24th.

Local Hero by Bill Forsyth & David Greig: My Thoughts.


Local_Hero_Musical-2.jpg

It was announced that Local Hero could be a possibility while I was still on the Royal Lyceum board three years ago and it seemed like a wild dream, almost a fantasy really; that one of Scotland’s most iconic movies could be turned into a stage play, and a musical at that.

Even though it rates only a solid, but unspectacular 7.4 on IMDB, it has been taken to Scotland’s heart.  I only watched it myself, a month ago, in anticipation of this production finally, miraculously landing.  But I wasn’t overly taken with the movie I have to say.  It has dated and I found too many of the performances pretty easy to criticise and that let  it down. So I approached last night nervously.

There was no need to worry.  This is a smash hit in the making.  The buzz around The Lyceum was palpable and the after show party felt like the West End had dropped into Edinburgh.

The Director is John Crowley for God’s sake – he of the Oscar-nominated movie Brooklyn: the man who has just directed the most anticipated movie (for me anyway) of 2019; The Goldfinch.

The set designer is Scott Pask – Book of Mormon – heard of that?

And, of course, the music was developed and expanded by none other than Mark Knopfler himself.

The cast is not a Take The High Road reunion, indeed only two of the 15 have ever appeared on The Lyceum stage, and have Girl From The North Country, Kinky Boots, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, Les Mis, This House, Wolf Hall , School of Rock and Sweeney Todd, amongst many others, littering their CVs.

This is the real deal.  This is monumental ambition for a 600 seat theatre in  Scotland. (Albeit the Old Vic are co-producers).

So, onto a couple of old upturned fish boxes sidle Matthew Pigeon, as Gordon the hotel-owner and chief negotiator, and Ownie (Scott Ainslie) to conclude Ownie’s accountancy requirements with change from a fiver.  If only Gordon had change.

It’s a quiet start that does not prepare you for the technical wizardry that underpins the first showstopper of the night, “A Barrel of Crude”.  And there’s a laugh right from the off. Light humour that litters an excellent script.

Through the opening half hour the lilting lament that formed the musical motif of the movie slips and slides into earshot before finally emerging fully formed.  It’s beautiful.

The story is pretty much as per the movie, but the morals feels somehow even more upfront as we chart the greed of the locals over the environmental consequences of their signing away their home village of Ferness (You can’t eat scenery though).

The big bad American oilman (played impeccably by Damian Humbley) is a great foil to Katrina Bryan’s Stella and Matthew Pigeon’s Gordon in a love triangle that doesn’t really quite come off (that would be my only real criticism of the show).

I particularly liked the movement in this (directed by Lucy Hind).  It’s a play about contrasting scales (big skies, small villages, small-mindedness and big ambitions) and what she skilfully does is play with that scale through subtle but lovely choreography to bridge scenes and dramatise that juxtaposition of scales.  It’s really nice to see great movement that’s NOT trying to be John Tiffany: again.

The dance movement is slick and light of touch.  With a big mixed-age, mixed-size cast that’s no mean feat.

The band is top notch and excellently MD’d by Phil Bateman on keys.

Although the score is inspired mainly by the Celtic canon it succeeds much more than Come From Away (that I saw on Monday) which too draws from that canon – but does it to death.  Here we have ballads, tangos, a bit of rock and roll and, yes, that plaintive motif.

The light and shade in this production’s musical content, for me, frankly blows the multi Olivier-nominated Come From Away out of the water.  Indeed, on every level this is a much more enjoyable evening of theatre – so roll on the Oliviers 2020.

The comparisons can’t fail be made – both are Celtic musicals set in tiny communities, in wildernesses where big America comes to visit.

The Local Hero ensemble is universally excellent, the direction superb but the showstopper of it all is the scenic design.  You’ll need to see it to appreciate it.  I ain’t gonna do it any justice here.  All I’ll say is this.  You haven’t seen the aurora borealis until you’ve seen Local Hero at The Lyceum.

Bravo Lyceum.  Bravo.

The show richly deserves both its standing ovation and the Sold Out boards you’ll find in Grindlay Street for the next six weeks.

(I did take a peek at the website box office and you CAN get tickets for late in the run.  I’d do it if I were you.)

 

“Computer says no” culture alive and kicking at Ryanair.


homepage.jpg

Empty.  Like their customer service soul.

If I were attempting some sort of covert or criminal undertaking by attempting to sneak, unnoticed onto the 12:35 Ryanair flight from Stanstead to Edinburgh today the least I could have done was attempt to fake my identity.

Then the sullen ranks of Ryanair’s “customer services” team could at least feel sullied.

But I was too honest for my own good.

Rewind 24 hours.

I’d flown to Stanstead from Edinburgh, using my Passport as photo ID as I headed to an appointment at OIS in Fleet Street to have my Passport checked in advance of my trip to Nigeria next week.

Armed with a bag of application forms, letters of authorization, passport photographs (two of which remained in my possession) and other sundry items of proof of my existence, and tolerable citizenship credentials, the appointment passed without incident.

Relieved of my passport for 48 hours (for official reasons) it wasn’t even then that I realized I had faux passed.  That was the next day on the coach to Stanstead when I realized that with my passport now in the hands of the Nigerian Government I was identity-less, unless you consider;

  • The letter from The Nigerian High Commisssion acknowledging temporary receipt of my passport
  • All my bank cards
  • My boarding pass from the previous day – proving I had travelled from Edinburgh and was simply returning
  • My phone and laptop
  • A printed card with my photo and place of work
  • My Tesco Clubcard

But no, they weren’t to know who I was because I didn’t have

  • A library card
  • A bus pass or
  • A driving licence

Or my passport.

I made the mistake of getting to the airport early and taking the ‘opportunity” to wait for 20 minutes in the Ryaniar “Customer Services” queue (now there is a misnomer if ever you’ve seen one).

As one particularly sullen faced operative finished with the customer in front of me I tentatively stepped forward, eyes wide looking for approval to enter the Stalag.

“No!” she barked.

Not another word or gesture.

It was the end of her shift, it would appear, as she then packed up her ‘stuff’ for the next five minutes before disappearing without a nod, wink or how do you do.

Home, to her loving family for a giggle in front of Pointless.  (A programme she must think, on a daily basis, is a metaphor for her life. )

Upon finally being seen I desperately explained my predicament only to be told

“God, we’re getting everything today, this is all I need.”

The operative, assumed the facial expression of a Wild Boar, speared through the ribcage in a prehistoric hunt with the spear having just missed its vital organs, as she vainly sought advice for a while and eventually said “Well you don’t have ID so you can’t fly”.

She sort of grudgingly suggested I could maybe get an ID from the train station but wryly noted, under her breath, that would mean I would miss my flight before adding “…but you don’t get ID for travel passes, do you, anyway?”

So, I took fortune into my own hands, reasoning that ID isn’t always checked, and even if it was perhaps I’d receive a warmer reception at the Gate.

So I thought I’d just chance it.

After all, it’s not as if I was going to Scotland to do anything criminal or as reckless as bungle its constitution and economy (there are people better at that here in London who don’t need photo ID for that).

Security was a nightmare.  I had left a coin in my pocket that bleeped, but then the full body scanner broke down.

Tick tock tick tock. 

Re-runs of Midnight Express pricking my sweat glands into action.

Nevertheless, thanks to my excellent earlier time-keeping, I got to the gate at the allotted time and tried the old confidently shoving the boarding pass forward whilst moving at speed, without a care in the world trick.

“ID?”

“Ahh. I have a small problem here” I responded. “ I don’t have any.”

“Did you tell customer services this?”

“Yes, but they weren’t very helpful.”  (Unless you consider “the computer says no” as helpful.  Informative yes, helpful, no.)

I got the distinct impression that that was a fatal error (going to the Stalag).

Being honest had cost me my flight.

They didn’t actually say it but they might as well have – “Really?  You didn’t tell customer services, did you?”

In their defence the ladies on the gate at least TRIED to help, but eventually had to concede “the computer still says no.”

They suggested I look for a more sympathetic hearing at Customer Services, ( a sort of Meaningful Vote 2 if you like), so back I trudged only to be met by the stone wall of Gomorrah.

“You don’t have ID?  Then you can’t fly.”

Nothing had changed.  The speaker had spoken.

“How can I get back to Edinburgh though?”

“The train?” she shrugged and at that I left.

£166 later, I got the train.

It’s my fault.  I didn’t figure out that I needed TWO photo IDs to get from Edinburgh to London and back via a Nigerian High Commission Visa office (and it wasn’t on the checklist).

Yes, entirely my fault.

But, you know what, I think with the right attitude and the right people we could have found a workaround. (Seemingly BA have a form you can fill in but no one at Ryanair had heard of such a thing.)

And did I mention the signaling problems between Peterborough and York?

(That wasn’t Ryanair’s fault either.)

 

 

Trump rumbled.


ma and the donald.jpg

My face-off with our new Donald Trump toilet brush.  Like the Democrats, I won, just as they did at the Mid Terms.  

New York Times.  25 January 2019.  Day 35 of the Federal shutdown.

He did not get any funding for a wall. And on Friday, he did not advance any new arguments for building one. In fact, many of the claims he made were recycled heavily from previous comments and contained many of the same misstatements and exaggerations.

Also notable was something Mr. Trump did not say, namely that Mexico would pay for the wall, one of the most often repeated, and unsupported, claims he has made on the border funding dispute.

But…

He also indicated that he was open to declaring a national emergency or shutting down the government again if Republicans and Democrats cannot reach an agreement on wall money by the February deadline.

He has agreed to back-pay employees very quickly or as soon as possible.  I suspect Mr Trump has not got a strong grasp on tautology annuls there is a significant distinction between the two.

He thanked and praised the people he had completely and utterly fucked over on a point of principle that the Democrats in the Senate will never give in to,  because it is singularly the most ridiculous policy objective in the modern American history.

On Friday, Mr. Trump praised federal workers as “fantastic people” and “incredible patriots” and acknowledged the toll they had suffered. But several federal employees said they still felt angry after being treated like pawns, they said, in a five-week-long Washington standoff. They said the shutdown had left deep scars on their families and finances and undermined their faith in elected leaders, and in the careers they had chosen.

A Homeland Security policy will certainly be forthcoming in the next 21 days.  Fair enough.  But it will not come in the form of a very big nasty wall.

“Everywhere you go in the world walls work.” he claims in a Watch With Mother speech. Andy Pandy would have been very, very impressed.  Very.

The Guardian reported…

Later on Friday, the president argued that he had not backed down in the feud over wall funding, claiming the agreement “was in no way a concession”.

Ann Coulter, the influential conservative commentator, called Mr Trump “the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States”.

The Telegraph reported…

The president also suggested he was still considering taking unilateral action by declaring a national emergency, which would allow him to use the Pentagon budget to build the wall. However, that would face legal challenges.

Mr Trump said: “I have a very powerful alternative, but I didn’t want to use it at this time.

“They [The Democrats] are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first. We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier.

“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on February 15, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”

Jeremy Corbyn. How the mighty have fallen.


When Jeremy Corbyn scrambled into the Labour throne it was initially slightly comedic but quickly settled into something that most certainly became a breath of fresh air.

Love was in the air.  Something fresh, invigorating, and exciting was blowing through British politics.  It may have been populism, but it was GOOD populism,

For some time I wore this T Shirt to in a small way articulate my disappointment (hatred frankly) with Tony Blair’s New Labour (new Tory more like) neoliberal rhetoric.

labour-prefer-early-work-tshirt_5_blacktshirt.jpg

But all of a sudden, under Corbyn that T shirt became redundant.

Instead I opted for this one.  It garnered smiles, back slaps and an incredibly warm response.  Especially from young people who loved Corbyn’s attitude.

corbyn_cotton_mock_2048x.jpg

Corbyn was the new face of democratic politics in the UK that almost moved me away from the solid social democracy of the excellent and consistent SNP.

But as Brexit has unfolded he has steadily unravelled and shown himself to be as conceited, party political, AT ALL COSTS, as his disgusting opposite number, Theresa May.  His handling of the anti-semitism accusations was laughable.

Now, imagine him running a whole goddam country.  It doesn’t bear thinking about.

His party is every bit as divided as the Tories and well he knows it.

But it has reached a zenith this week. In particular, his decision not to join May’s cross party ‘outreach’ discussions, that begin today, makes him both unelectable and dangerous.  He has lost the fucking plot.

Sure, May’s  ‘reaching out’ might be in name only – but you’ve got to be in it to win it – and Corbyn is sat sulking, like a stupid little schoolboy, in some corridor while the biggest decision in my political life is made without him.

The look on his face when his vote of no confidence lost was pathetic; a scowling, sulking brat.

Jeremy.  You blew it.