February, 2003

Celebrity Nonsense

OK – so last it was The Brits. Somehow, these are still painted as a creditable awards ceremony, even though they’ve patently been nonsense since the 1989 Samantha Fox/Mick Fleetwood fiasco.
Somehow, for a brief moment, I always find myself watching some of it. It’s a bit like caring what The Sun has on its front page – you don’t, but you’re still interested.
The awards are spurious, awarded in the main by the record industry to themselves, and the presentation this year was woeful, with no obvious stage, and a poor machine layout.
But that’s only part of the problem. This mornings trash press had copious copy generated from the non-affair (not broadcast live in case those mad rockers swear. What’s the chance of Will Young doing that?).
It’s the whole celebrity thing – personified by Heat magazine (no website because it’s owned by EMAP, and they’re crap at things like that – probably worried that they’ll give away all their “content”). This is a magazine that was so close to being put out of its misery, but sadly we’re stuck with. There’s a whole range similar products that are devoured far too much.
Now BBC Three has brought Celebdaq to us. They’ve been running Liquid News for ages, having morphed it from Midnight Thirty on BBC News 24. A slightly cynical look at the day’s celebrity “news”, it has spawned a whole channel’s worth of nonsense. And I guess that Celebdaq is the lowpoint. I have no objection to a celebrity newsprint coverage index based game per se, I just don’t see why the BBC are doing it.
There’s always been a celebrity obsessed lifestyle, but now it seems to be to detriment of all else.
At least BBC Four had a programme on Art Theft last night that was worth watching.

The Human Factor

The latest in my reading of the full Graham Greene oeuvre. This novel is about the life of Castle, a middle ranking official working in intelligence within the Foreign Office.
There’s a leak within the department, and the devious Dr Percieval is on the case. There’s no major scandal going on – it’s all very slight, but Castle used to live in South Africa where he married a black woman.
Overall quite enjoyable in circus era Le Carr� manner. Speaking of which, when is the next Le Carr� likely to be published?

Swings and Roundabouts

It’s strange to read about Soho bookshops in Graham Greene’s The Human Factor, and find yourself shopping in a similar enterprise the same day.
There’s a place called The Soho Bookshop which has two branches as such – similar to the setup in the Greene novel. They both sell standard fare on the ground floor – albeit largely remaindered books and videos. But downstairs they’re your usual “adult” fare. I try not to venture down there…

A Busy Day

So it was quite a dilemma for me! Arsenal meeting Man Utd at Old Trafford in the FA Cup while in London the big march was taking place today.
I decided to watch the match at work. I didn’t reach Oxford Circus until about 11.30, and it was becoming obvious that there were quite a lot of people milling around central London. But you just couldn’t tell how many.
The match kicked off at 12.15 and I watched it in the company boardroom. We dominated them – particularly so in the first half, and won 2-0.
Then I ventured out. The march was supposed to start at 12.30 from two different places – Embankment and Gower Street. The merge point was Piccadilly Circus, close to work, so it was there that I went. There were thousands, and I’ll have some photos to follow when I’ve uploaded them.
I walked along Piccadilly, amongst the thousands. There banners everywhere and I wide range of people, including many Asians and Muslims.
The crowd was very happy, and it was remarkable seeing so many in one place. After I while I took a couple of back roads, to leave the march and reach Hyde Park more quickly. There speakers were addressing the masses including Harold Pinter, Bianca Jagger, Ken Livingstone and Jesse Jackson. Finally Ms Dynamite sang a song, and the crowds began to disperse.
I inadvertantly wandered back via the US Embassy, which police had surrounded – and many more in vans which seemed to have riot gear loaded in the back (I guess this is pretty much to be expected). There was the inevitable burning of the Stars and Stripes but most of the crowd were good natured, and frankly cold. The burning of a flag was not going to warm up anyone.
What about numbers? I have absolutely no idea. Half a million were expected, but I couldn’t tell you if more or less actually came out. On stage in Hyde Park, and electronic scoreboard of sorts had 1.5 million when I arrived, and this was later revised to 2 million. The BBC are reporting the police as saying that the crowd was “well beyond” the 500,000 expected. I have no doubt about that, but 2 million is an awful lot of people. I always think that it’s best to be a bit conservative about numbers.
But then I get this Snowmail from Jon Snow of Channel 4 News:
London sees largest demo in British political history:
Just back from London’s Hyde Park and what I can only describe as the largest demonstration in British political history and I speak as one who attended the Vietnam war protest in 1968 in Grosvenor Square.
This was a protest like no other, unaffiliated ordinary people with their children their friends their neighbours and in some cases their entire streets.
Tony Blair embattled at his spring conference in Glasgow delivered a speech just before most of his Party faithful dashed out on to the streets beyond.
The Prime Minister looked both shaken and stirred. Sometimes a leader must lead, sometimes that means being unpopular — adding there IS a moral case for removing Saddam.
Tonight the demonstration here…well over a million people…in Rome, well over a million, Berlin, half a million…New York, still counting…Auckland, Canberra and the rest –and Blair’s response.
The sense too that Blair may have to accept that to go to war without wholehearted UN endorsement could now cost him his leadership and damage the party’s hold on power.

The largest demonstration in British political history? Remarkable. Blair made a speech earlier this morning, and it seems he really does believe he’s doing the right thing. He’s wrong, but it’s difficult to tell how much he’s really risking. I still don’t see IDS getting elected even if Blair takes us into war.
So was it worth going? Well, yes, it most certainly was. Will Blair listen? Probably not – he can’t now. But will cabinet colleagues resign as a result?
Fortunately it’s not just going to be one other member of the Security Council that blocks another resolution against Iraq. Aside from Spain (and Kuwait), most of the world, and certainly the people, are against another war.
Pictures and videos to follow…

War In Iraq

Things are getting serious now.
France, Germany and Russia are dead against the war, and Nato is teetering with France, Germany and Belgium blocking the use of bases in Turkey for attacking Iraq.
Meantime, papers like The Evening Standard, The Sun and the Daily Mail accuse France of betrayal since the US helped free France twice in the last century. Surely the worst and cheapest argument that can be made. We are talking about an unprovoked attack on another country after all; a country which has not attacked either the US or Britain.
The Stop the War March on Saturday now looks like being one of the biggest marches seen in years. I’m just trying to work out how I can go on the march and see the big Man Utd v Arsenal match which kicks off at 12.15. The rally in Hyde Park ends at 5.30, so we should be able to make that.
And should I be cynical about the terrorist threat that is currently causing major disruption on transport in London (several major stations closed for a while this evening) and airports – particularly Heathrow which has tanks around it! Maybe there really was going to some kind of attack, but can such a response really be necessary? I wouldn’t wish an attack on anyone, but I feel there’s more to it than that.

Norwegian Wood

The latest book I’ve been reading by Murakami, it’s a little different to the previous two that I’ve read. The same themes of loneliness and isolation are there, but this is a slightly more straightforward love story. And although some the behaviour of characters is maybe strange, there’s no supernatural element to it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which was something of a publishing phenomenon in Japan by all accounts. Already scouting out the next one – although my unread bookshelf remains groaning…

Bereft

A bit strong I suppose, but that’s how I feel at the moment, lacking internet access. There’s some kind of problem at the BT exchanges – well a couple of hundred of them anyway. Demon are ever so coyly not naming names, but it’s evidently BT’s fault. The fault seems to have been around since mid-afternoon, so I’m unfortunate that at 22.00 it’s still the case.
Can’t check my email or anything! I suppose if it was really bad I’d chuck my modem card back in PC and connect that way, but I have plenty of videos to watch and books to read. Maybe I should be honing my writing skills some more (that’ll make sense in the fullness of time).