Skip to content

The Empty Shell of a Newspaper…

January 29, 2009


My father came to London a few years after the war to train as a doctor at Barts (St. Bartholomews Hospital), the oldest hospital in Britain. It was founded in 1123 by Raherus, (died 1144, and entombed in the nearby priory church of St Bartholomew-the-Great), a favourite courtier of King Henry I.

His fellow medical students were the generation who defeated the Nazis. Many had interrupted their University education to fight. They had come home determined, after 6 years of destruction, to create a better society–more equitable, more just, more free.

They were predominantly Labour voters with Socialist leanings and they believed fervently in the newly created NHS. They couldn’t be bullied, intimidated, silenced or suborned. Hitler had tried and failed miserably. They were idealistic, passionate, argumentative and engaged and they were virtually all Guardian readers. Shortly after his arrival, my father became a Guardian reader too and remained one for the rest of his life.

In due course, my father qualified as a doctor, specialized in neurology, became a Fellow of The Royal College of Physicians and returned to Kuwait, where he was appointed a cabinet minister, (health, naturally). His first act of office was to make health care in Kuwait free for all. Until that time, health care had been free for Kuwaiti citizens, then as now, a minority in our own country. All others paid.

My father went to see the Emir, (who was married to an Al-Adwani) and persuaded him that it was grotesque that those least able to afford health care should be the only ones to have to pay. With the stroke of a pen, my father re-created the NHS that he had so admired in Britain. His thinking formed by those brave and commited men and women he’d trained with and whose ideals, ambitions and thoughts had been best articulated in the Guardian. The first newspaper I ever read was the Guardian. I suspect that the first printed matter I was ever aware of was the Guardian.

So when people say to me, “why get so upset? It’s just another crap newspaper”, I reply, “yes, but it used to be so much more than that.”

Looking at the Guardian now is like discovering that a clever, funny, kind and beautiful girl you once loved has become a raddled crack whore. The newspaper that Marx and Engels read devoutly now deems 6 People Poisoned by Blowfish Testicles worthy of its front page. A newspaper that once felt a responsibility to explain itself to its readers now treats its readers like importunate scum, ingrates who have the effrontery to ask questions. I’m more sad than angry.

Watching the death of an old friend is always a melancholy business. As I sat gazing out of the window and wondering how to end this elegy, (and it is an elegy) some lines from an early poem by Auden popped into my head. I can’t explain exactly why, but they seemed to perfectly express how I feel:

“O where are you going?” said reader to rider,
“That valley is fatal when furnaces burn,
Yonder’s the midden whose odours will madden,
That gap is the grave where the tall return.”

I think the tall returned long ago. It’s taken me until now to accept it.

  1. BaronCharlus permalink
    January 29, 2009 2:02 PM

    Passionately told, Mishari. Nothing else to say, I guess. Very sad.

  2. January 29, 2009 2:11 PM

    Mishari – good post but I wonder is it what people are asking or is it the tone with which they ask it that is causing the problems?

    The McCrum blog was particularly bad as the message and the means of conveying it seem to have got mixed up. Zadie Smith seems to me to be unfairly getting it the neck for having been chosen by someone else and having the temerity to ask someone not to write about her like that. Not an unreasonable request I would have thought.

    I’m not in favour of cutting anyone and at least when someone has acted like a cunt everyone can see it for eternity if it’s left up there.

  3. January 29, 2009 2:13 PM

    Sorry not clear in the second paragraph -The McCrum blog was bad because the mods were mixing up the message and the way of conveying it.

  4. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 2:18 PM

    Al, I think Cap’n Ned’s post couldn’t have been more civilized, moderate in tone and sincere in seeking engagement. What he got was the chop.

    My beef is far more encompassing. The Zadie Smith kerfuffle was of very little interest to me and from what I saw, McCrumbly was to blame for being an ass.

    This has been a long time coming. The moderation has got completely out of hand.
    When they delete Joyce quotes and mild rebukes from freep, the most gentlemanly of posters, it’s past bearing…

  5. January 29, 2009 2:30 PM

    Mishari I quite agree but I’m just wondering whether they are getting defensive about it all so that anything off-topic or critical gets instantly lumped in with the unnecessarily abusive.

  6. January 29, 2009 2:41 PM

    Do you sense a novel set in the gulf coming out, Misha: Something like “Couples” perhaps. It could be quite cool too. Just showing the complexity and modernity of the place. I’ve never been to the Gulf, but I am sure a novel about it that was a touch risque and honest would sell very well. Publish under a pseudonym. I know: Arthur Pepper

  7. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 2:46 PM

    That’d be Al-Thour Philphil, (The Bull Pepper) in Arabic. With a name like that, you know the books going to be a…erm…not bodice…ah..abaya-ripper. What the English call a chador, which is the Pashto/Urdu word for it…

  8. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 2:51 PM

    But Al, that’s either brutishly insensitive or plain incompetent: neither an appetizing prospect. Wouldn’t it be nice to know who the fucking mods are and how exactly they’re qualified to make these judgements? Or is being Rusbridger’s daughter and a 2/2 in Media Studies from Ealing Tech good enough?

    (Rusbridger’s daughter was and may well still be a mod…)

  9. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 2:53 PM

    Take the Joyce quote they deleted. Was it that they didn’t recognize what any tolerably literate person would recognize or worse, they did recognize it but deemed it offensive anyway? Inquiring minds want to know…

  10. BaronCharlus permalink
    January 29, 2009 3:00 PM


    If you’re talking about my Joyce Limerick, I even asterisked out the rude word.

    If you’re talking about something else, then…they deleted my Limerick!

  11. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 3:06 PM

    D’you know, I can’t remember. It was either your limerick or para quoting Joyce in response. The point is, they bombed my granny’s chip shop and I hate them…

  12. January 29, 2009 3:09 PM

    Mish yes to both of course. Deciding what is offensive is such an subjective activity even when you’ve got past the “wogs out, women are merely sex objects, I hate homos” brigade that it becomes impossible to say what could be offensive to others..

    A while back there was a “what is art” debate on one of the poster poems threads. Some people said art is what they recognise to be art whereas I’d hate the definition to be that subjective and dare I say it narrow.

    Same as on the GU I reckon – comment should be free. But I’ve no idea whether at a stage further up the chain they are weeding out the stuff from Christian Voice, Fundamental religions advocating destruction of the West and how to go about it and Nigerian businessmen looking to invest.

    The Commmods are now answering the critics on the McCrum thread – in a wholly defensive manner of course.

  13. parallax permalink
    January 29, 2009 3:10 PM

    yep – poignantly put Mishari – I’m there with you, conveyed as ever by your way with words.

    but here’s the rub – do we fight (in the spirit you mention) to keep that publication honest? Shame it, constantly barrage it with expectations? Will it, into what we expect from a socially-aware voice? Or do we allow the wave of fascism (disguised as moderation) to engulf it? and walk away from the fight?- mutter to each other and say that there’s no point and that it’s inevitably going to become a clone of every other testicle-blown-up-fish of a voice?

    Separate spin-off blogging is brilliant, but then again splinter groups are a product of a divide and conquer regime. So, yeh, fuck ’em … but we also have to fight ’em.

    Consolidate comrades :) – let’s not head off to the sideline cafes unless the cafes become meeting houses for organising mass strategic assaults – otherwise we’ll just end up talking about the quality of coffee, watching others through the window and wondering why they’re dislodging the cobblestones

    seriously… and in the memory of those that allowed us our freedoms

    omg – any moment now I’ll be calling for a rousing chorus of The Intenationale – but shit yeh..

  14. file permalink
    January 29, 2009 3:14 PM

    sucked in by the void you left at Billy’s place and blissfully ignorant of the other tales here referenced, only moved to comment as your story so vividly echoes my own! [Dr.Dad trained at St.Mary’s, went to Canada, pioneered free health care for Native American Indians, suckled on El Gonadian, left with genetic disorder known as poetry and banned from aforementioned tabloid (as file) for suggesting the FA was a branch of Opus Dei, forsooth]

    feel sure you’d be welcomed back at the B’s blog by all there, even if cunningly disguised at artpfeffer or some such, if not there’s always Zeph’s Other Stuff @
    where banned GU ites are common (which you are not [common that is, obviously]) but boxing history would not be unheard of…

    file O’file

  15. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 3:18 PM

    I take your point, para and it’s a fair one. I’ve never been much of one to back away from a fight. I’m a belligerent man by nature, though somewhat mellowed by age, children and a wife I don’t deserve…still…it’s just that it seems so pointless. There’s no way to engage with the enemy. Civil requests for answers don’t work. See Cap’n Ned, above. Nothing works. One is deleted or disappeared.

    Ocasionally a mod will pop head over parapet to bleat about Talk Policy as if it were Holy Writ brought down from fucking Sinai, but that’s it. If I could just come to grips with the lily-livered bastards, I’d happily stay and fight, but it’s like trying to punch gnats…

  16. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 3:23 PM

    …I mean, the tossers just told stevenaugustine that he could communicate with the mods privately by email. Doubtless they’d make him sign a non-disclosure agreement so we’d still be none the wiser..did I say punching gnats? Hell, it’s like trying to punch ninja gnats…

  17. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 3:28 PM

    PS, The great John Martyn has died. I always liked him, even though I could barely understand half of what he was saying/slurring. I still listen to Solid Air quite often and it’s stood the test of 30 odd years pretty damn well.

    Poor bugger was only 60. Why, that’s only half Mowbray’s age…

  18. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 3:35 PM

    Hello, file…I’m not banned, just fed up of having posts deleted and disappeared for no good reason. I’ll just respond to Billy’s set tasks here instead of there.

    Here I can say whatever the fuck I like, however fucking often I fucking like, whenever I fucking like..

    I think you get the idea: I can say fuck a lot, if I feel like it and more besides.

    Interesting about our kind of parallel lives. You’re always welcome here, of course…

  19. January 29, 2009 3:35 PM

    Yes John Martyn – brilliant the first timer I saw him but so bad the second time that I vowed never to bother again.

    A good anecdote if you’ll allow me. Someone I know did a music project about Danny Thompson John Martyn’s regular double bassist. Thompson actually played on the piece and spoke a lot about his time touring with him. Apparently he loved/hated Martyn with equal passion.

    One time Martyn passed out on the dressing room floor after bollocking them all. Danny Thompson found a roll of carpet a hammer and some tacks and fitted a carpet over Martyn’s unconscious body making sure it was properly tacked down.

  20. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 3:44 PM

    Yeah, I’ve heard quite a few stories about Martyn over the years. Apparently, he was quite prepared to accept a drink, even if he had to knock you down to get at the bottle.

    I heard him on…dunno, might have been Late Junction…last year where he did a long interview with (I think) Verity Sharp and he was funny and engaging and pleasant as hell.

    I saw him 2 or 3 times years ago. 2 times were terrific, one was catastrophic…
    Mind you, I saw Van Morrison in about 1971 and all he could do was moan into the mike “I’m so fuckin’ drunk, ah am sooo fockin’ pished…” they carted him off and cancelled the show.

    Danny Thompson’s dead good and backs Richard Thompson, who I love dearly, on most of his albums…

  21. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 4:46 PM

    I’d never considered that, but you’re right. It is weird. Of course, everything about the US-inspired 20th century disconnect vis a vis drugs is weird.

    When I was a boy, there was hardly a man over 50 who didn’t smoke opium (very high grade, imported from Iran, just across the Gulf). It wasn’t illegal and was sold in the souk at all the spice merchants.

    The first time I ever smoked it, I was about 16 and a friend sat me down with his father after dinner, which is when men smoked. Nasser’s old man encouraged me to make a pig of myself, I’m guessing to teach me a valuable lesson, ie. a proper respect for narcotics.

    I felt wonderful for a while, then I was as sick as I’ve ever been in my life. Treated with respect, however, opium is a lovely, civilized drug. I have a small, 40 acres or so, property in rural Spain, very remote, quite primitive, where I’ve planted about an acre with papaver somniferum (the sleeping poppy).

    I just let it go to seed and dry out into poppy straw, then soak it, strain it and evaporate the water…presto, pure opium.
    Like all good things, taken in moderation it does no harm.

  22. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 3:58 PM

    I see from the obit that Martyn was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list. The shame of it prolly kilt ‘im…

  23. file permalink
    January 29, 2009 4:30 PM

    “… curl around me like a fern in the spring
    Lie down here, let me sing the things you bring
    And we can go down easy”
    RIP John (sorry to hear this here first) Thanks for the story Al. sfunny I’d always thought he was more into the green than the grain…

    and “I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome
    Swooping down from heaven to carry me home”
    the very great RT ( )

    m/c’s and green “my favourite colour scheme”!

    I wonder if you ever graced the square ring M, perhaps you are me, how strange

  24. January 29, 2009 4:30 PM

    It’s odd that athletes get stripped of any awards when they are found to be using drugs yet OBE’s are given to John Martyn and habitual dope-smoker Paul McCartney is knighted.

    So drugs are acknowledged as adding to creativity in one corner yet the ruin of it all in another.

  25. file permalink
    January 29, 2009 4:35 PM


  26. file permalink
    January 29, 2009 4:44 PM

    …been posting links to JM (RIP) and the very wonderful RT (Vincent);
    m/c’s and green “my favourite colour scheme”!
    but comments don’t seem to register, have I been banned from here too, so soon?

  27. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 4:48 PM

    sorry, file…let me check. However, if you post more than 3 links in a post it gets held for fucking moderation. It’s an anti-spam thing. I might have to re-configure that. In the meantime, I’ll see if I can retrieve your post. Sorry about that…

  28. file permalink
    January 29, 2009 4:50 PM

    blimey, M, (do the comparisons never end?) I’d invite you to my smallholding in N. Thailand but I’m afraid you’d smoke it all…

  29. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 4:59 PM

    Geez, file…I have no idea why your posts were held. They only had a single link. Anyway, I’ve set the bugger to allow up to 5 links before it has a paranoid break-down…

    Ah, Thailand…over 30 years ago, I spent a few months in Thailand, where a Thai hooker taught me how to smoke smack in cigarettes.

    Empty a little tobacco out of the tip, replace with finest H, roll between fingers to distribute evenly (although it never really did), remove filter, tear in half length-wise, re-insert, light…nod, dream and scratch…happy days

  30. file permalink
    January 29, 2009 5:07 PM

    well it was here and then it went, not unlike hookers with hooka’s eh?

    try again (not that you don’ know it”

    ko samui 20 years ago was my personal baptism but only ever the herb for me, lightweight smoker, heavyweight boxer!

  31. file permalink
    January 29, 2009 5:08 PM

    gotta go, later dood, will look forward to your pome on potery…

  32. January 29, 2009 5:28 PM

    Mishari, Just to confirm the invitation issued by File – you’re always welcome over at OtherStuff. It started as an offshoot of PseudsCorner which was set up by a bunch of people banned from the GU sportsblogs .
    I empathise with your GU disillusionment, the mods do have to contend with some pretty hideous onslaughts from professional trolls on some subjects (climate change, Gordon Brown) and blindly aggressive loyalists on others (football, Australian cricket) but you’d think they’d be trained to tell the difference between them and, well, us.

  33. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 5:44 PM

    Hello, Zeph. Good to see you…I take your point about the mods having to contend with trolls and assorted riff-raff…but on the book blogs? On the poetry blogs, for Christ sake?

    No, no, no…they have to excercise some discernment, otherwise they’re worse than useless, they’re infuriating.

    Do you mind if I add a link to your blog?

    I did visit a few weeks ago but as the subject was, (I think) football, about which I have nothing useful to add to a conversation between real afficianados, I kept shtum…boxing, cycling, horse-racing…those I’m happy to blather on about…

  34. Parisa permalink
    January 29, 2009 6:02 PM

    I wrote this on the Poster Poems too – ie that I think I once heard it said that great art is often provoked by great annoyance though I can’t think who by. Anyway I click my tongue in disbelief – I still don’t know what it’s all about (putz me) & wish I did but there it is. What on earth happened?! But it has to be sad & I also empathise but then…. Misha, great blog title!

    best, Parisa.

  35. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 6:13 PM

    Hello, Parisa…I’m just fed up with not knowing what’s acceptable to the mods and what isn’t. They’re too arbitrary and they answer to no-one, least of all us. I’ve just had enough.

    Now, I get to have interesting conversations with all the people from the GU blogs, including many I haven’t got to know properly, another big plus, and do it all without having to guard my words.

    Free at last, free at last…thank God almighty, I’m free at last.

    Drop in anytime. Maybe you’ll show us some of your new paintings…I’d be happy to put them up.

  36. Parisa permalink
    January 29, 2009 6:25 PM

    And now I’m tearing up…..UGH – it won’t be the same any more – you do realize! I shall certainly drop in – thanx – & I’m sure you have made a smart move, btw. But even so…….boo hoo!

  37. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 6:31 PM

    I haven’t actually gone anywhere, kiddo…I’m just a click away. Same man, same warped humour, same rotten doggerel…just a different logo. You’re always welcome…

  38. MeltonMowbray permalink
    January 29, 2009 6:48 PM

    My personal abuse in re artpepper and para has been allowed to stand. Are these posters less valuable human beings than ZS? OK, that’s not a fair question, but they still have rights. I shall certainly be protesting in the strongest possible terms forthwith (well, after The Bill).
    I rebought Solid Air for my wife last year after ‘losing’ the vinyl copy in 1978. After being locked into the car with it on a journey I was tempted to lose it again. Strictly for girls and femimen.
    I tried and failed to enter obooki’s blog last night. Perhaps he’s trying to discourage comment.

  39. seanmurray permalink
    January 29, 2009 7:33 PM

    Parallax —

    ‘Consolidate comrades :) – let’s not head off to the sideline cafes unless the cafes become meeting houses for organising mass strategic assaults’

    Bang-on. Btw you’re not from the north-east of Scotland, are you? We use the word ‘sook’ up there.

    The suggestion that pissed-off ex-booksbloggers might team up with the ex-sportsbloggers is pretty interesting. Need we stop there? Plenty of posters from the main CiF site have set up their own sites too. Might just nudge us a little further towards critical mass.

  40. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 7:46 PM

    Research has shown that men who don’t like Solid Air are morally and sexually deviant. Fact. Turn yourself in now, Mowbray. It’ll go easier if you do.

    Yeah, I couldn’t post on obooki’s blog either. It asked me to log in (huh?) then did something funny so I buggered off.

    Have you had a gander at Zeph’s blog, Sean? It already looks like a collaboration between lit bloggers and sporty types.

  41. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 7:55 PM

    BTW, MM…I sent those books off today. 2 Charles Willefords, 3 Don Winslows and a couple by Robert Ferrigno and Dave Barry that you and Mme. MM might enjoy. Oh yeah, and one called The Ones You Do by Daniel Woodrell. James Crumley and James Ellroy loved it and so did I.

    Also Generation Kill. I’ve got the last season of The Shield, if you want it. Terrific stuff, very downbeat, no happy ending for Vic Mackey or anyone else…

    I dunno, I download everything from the pirate bay the day after it’s shown. Maybe they’ve shown it here already?

  42. seanmurray permalink
    January 29, 2009 8:03 PM

    Could only see sportsbloggers there, mishari. Maybe some of the lit types are more recent GU-ers.

    Whine time:

    I have been using fucking wordpress for 2 years now and it STILL won’t let me format properly (e.g. justified text with palatino linotype font). Most frustrating program I have ever used, bar none — in fact it’s the only program that’s ever given me ongoing problems. If in your few days using it, you’ve discovered how to format easily I’d much appreciate any suggestions.

  43. seanmurray permalink
    January 29, 2009 8:04 PM

    Oh and cheers for the Furst nudge on obooki’s site. Dark Star was bloody storming.

  44. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 8:08 PM

    Glad you liked it, Sean. It’s a cracker, isn’t it? Furst has a real gift for atmospherics. Mowbray read Night Soldiers , Dark Voyage and The Polish Officer. I believe he’s a convert, too.

  45. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 8:40 PM

    Wish I could help. I did what I expect you did and googled around, checked forums etc…no soap. Does palatino present some special formatting problem?

  46. seanmurray permalink
    January 29, 2009 8:54 PM

    I’ve started Dark Voyage and have Foreign Correspondent lined up.

    My current thriller recommendation is Flicker by Theodore Roszack. Here’s a review off Amazon that captures how I felt when I finished it (though I’ve calmed down slightly since):

    Flicker is my favorite novel of the past twenty years or so. An extremely rich and multi-layered text awaits those who yearn to learn a little more about film as art (and just how pervasive an art it can be) and our treasured persistence of vision. Expertly plotted, with a wonderful sonority to the prose, Roszak has taken on everything from Pope Innocent to Orson Welles – and done so with such conviction and honesty that you truly believe. I am currently (I’m 34) pursuing my Doctorate in Cinema studies – just like our trusty hero Jonny Gates. Now, when I first read this over a decade ago (and have read it since a dozen times over) I was just out of College having received a B.A. in Film. This many years later, I still hold this amazing novel as my favorite in recent memory. Having a background in production, I always wanted to make the film myself someday – but alas, my secret is out and Mr. Aronofsky is bringing his vision of this text to the screen. I hope the adaption is one of great skill as FLICKER demands a gifted hand to refine the necessary elements and do away with what won’t translate (as with any adaption) but, with such a self-reflexive text – and one that superbly incorporates mystery, romance, theology, history, horror, social melodrama – etc. etc – an ispired adaption and exellent casting are of prime importance. Please, if you love movies and are not afraid of their metaphysical aspects – read FLICKER!’

    It’s very strange and wonderful book indeed. A highlight’s the scene where the Pauline Kael-like character persuades the protagonist of the joys of film noir by taking him up her dark star. I suspect it may be to your tastes, man!

  47. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 9:04 PM

    Never even heard of it. Sounds intriguing…I’ll order it from Amazon if they’ve got it.

  48. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 9:10 PM

    Have you ever read Water Music by T.C. Boyle, Sean? I re-read after a 10 year hiatus and I’d forgotten just how good it is…

  49. seanmurray permalink
    January 29, 2009 9:30 PM

    No, I haven’t. Another one for the list!

    If we’re at the recommendations, here are some crackers I’ve read recently:

    At the limits of strange: Maldoror by Lautreamont and The Theory of the Four Movements by Charles Fourier. The former might be the most brilliant text I’ve ever read, Joyce & co not excluded, but Christ is it a nasty old screed. The latter (in case you don’t know) is one of the first socialist theses, written soon after the French Revolution, and was an influence on Marx and Engels, though they didn’t seem to lift too much from the passages about the streets running with lemonade and the planets humping each other.

    Morally gorgeous hardboiled Expressionism: Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West, an extremely intense and moving 60 pager.

    Back to wordpress hell now.

  50. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 9:40 PM

    I’ve been a great admirer of West since I read The Day of the Locust at age 14 (wherein I encountered Homer Simpson), Miss L. followed then A Cool Million and The Dream Life of Balso Snell. A great writer and a tragic loss so young.

    I’m also a rabid fan of his brother-in-law S.J. Perelman. Someone was comparing West and Fanti on the GU blogs the other day and concluded that Fanti was better.

    A ludicrous judgement, I thought. Like comparing Apples to Oranges. You may well prefer one or the other, but to state that one is “better” is absurd.

    I’ve read a bit about Lautreamont and Fourier but never actually read their work.

    I’ll send you Water Music, if you like. (I can’t help myself when it comes to prosletyzing. I’m like one of those fucking awful God-botherers who insists on pressing a copy of Watchtower on you).

    Email me your address : and I’ll post it tomorrow. A wonderful read.

  51. seanmurray permalink
    January 29, 2009 9:45 PM

    Oh aye and this animated adaptation by Alexsandr Petrov of Dostoevsky’s Dream of a Ridiculous Man:

  52. seanmurray permalink
    January 29, 2009 9:58 PM

    Excellent. I’ll send you on Flicker.

    If you go to no. 9 on this page there’s a sort of Maldoror remix halfway through (subject: lice; best avoided if you’re eating):

  53. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 10:14 PM

    Too late, I’ve already ordered it from Mammalzone. Basically for the price of postage. But thanks anyway…

  54. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 10:24 PM

    Experiments conducted under laboratory conditions have shown that rats exposed to The Bill for 4 or more hours start wearing brown shirts and holding torch-lit parades. Shortly thereafter, they try to invade Poland.

    QED, I think.

    The Bill appeals to crypto-fascists. Beware, Mowbray, lest you end up like Roderick Spode, a figure of contempt and ridicule down the ages.

  55. freepoland permalink
    January 29, 2009 10:45 PM

    Falling behind. This should have been on today’s.

    A fellow can only stand so much. Civil? Mild? Polite? By Gox, mish, you’ve done it now. I’m going to walk my Vicious Jack Russell down to the riverside and compose something … something … rash. yes, that’s it, I’m going to post a rash and something beginning with V poem on your jolly impudent and swaggering website. That’ll teach you, and then you’ll know that I’m actually extremely bold and I read the Beano. And I bet Pongo can’t catch shrews.

  56. MeltonMowbray permalink
    January 29, 2009 11:18 PM

    Ah, the Blackshorts….. what fun we had! Those gypsy fellows were such crybabies!
    The Bill isn’t what it was, I’ll give you that. Losing DS Bolton (Result!) was a blow from which it’s never quite recovered.
    Thanks for sending books and DVD. Let’s hope the postman doesn’t take a fancy to them again. Are you talking about the final series of The Shield? If so, then yes please. I’m beginning to feel a little like a vampire. Anything you need? I wouldn’t recommend my blood or any of my organs (def. not the liver). One of my knees has been admired, but I’m currently using it.
    I’m halfway through The Foreign Correspondent, which is another excellent read. I think I’d rate Dark Voyage highest at the mo-I got the feeling there might be a sequel one day.

  57. mishari permalink*
    January 29, 2009 11:36 PM

    Yeah, it’s the final series, just finished in the US a few weeks back. I only just remembered you mentioning ages ago that you rather enjoyed The Shield, else I would have mentioned it sooner. I’ll post it down.

    freep, do your worst (chuckles indulgently)…

  58. pinkroom permalink
    January 30, 2009 2:14 AM


    Can I join in here? I’ll be good.

    Have just been totally bullied off wordn’s blog for no good reason I can see. I really tried there.

    On this topic I agree that the Crum/Sadie thread was outrageous but also very, very funny. I tend not to comment on his blogs… the man is the epitome of “the slow moving target”. Did Crum, Hughes and ZS go to the same Oxo College…not sure about the other one? Yet again it absolutely hummed rotten of the old boy/girl network and yet again he expects nobody to see through all that.

    The insta-moderation is sinister though. Has anybody else had the experience of a post being deleted before you actually post it? Happened to me once and it was downright chilling I can tell you. I couldn’t sleep afterwards.

  59. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 2:36 AM

    You’re very welcome, pinky. We tend to be a good-natured ribbing bunch, rather than an acrimony and recriminations crowd…although obviously you have to sign an oath of loyalty to the Divine Obama and me…in blood.

  60. pinkroom permalink
    January 30, 2009 6:58 AM

    Thanks… good natured ribbing is what I like best… with a substantial goose feather… both ways.

    Bit like the death of Diana, I wonder what those now trying to instantly beatify Ob. will think of their gushings in 2/4 years hence. I’m hopeful but…

    I was serious about that deletion/moderation “as I was writing”btw. I was writing (can’t remember exactly) about the next generation growing up with this software constantly over their shoulder and the words deleted back away from me… I had obviously typed some super sensitive combination of words that was the ultimate heresy. Really strange.

  61. BaronCharlus permalink
    January 30, 2009 9:44 AM

    Mowb, if you’ re there. The Mods didn’t like your adieu to Mish after all…

  62. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 10:36 AM

    Baron, has MM had a post “disappeared”? The Grauniad’s march towards a world of desaparecidos continues apace…damn..and I never even got to read it.

    Yeah, pinky…I was delighted to see Obama win, but anyone who thinks you survive the brutal machine politics of Chicago by being a sweetheart needs their head examined.

    Obama’s tough and smart, but he’s a politician and politicians are much of a muchness. He will, I’m certain, disappoint.
    I’d be delighted to eat my words, but I doubt I’ll have to…

  63. January 30, 2009 2:54 PM

    Re: Obama:

    One can’t be expected to get *that* far in the process and be “good”. System ain’t configured that way; neither is it designed to dismantle itself (re: that good old dream of “changing the system from within”). Not that Obama’s election won’t make a difference to a few hundred thousand (or several million) brown-skinned lives around the planet… it will, because he’s less profligately cavalier about kicking on armaggedon’s rusty, string-fastened gate. The man clearly sees the wisdom in using YouTube and subcutaneous chips, instead of phosphorous bombs, to enslave the planet (if the Nazis had had MTV we’d all be speaking German now… instead of only me).

    Still: it’s like putting a hip new fella in charge of a prison. It’s still a flipping prison, innit? Paisely jumpsuits for all the inmates, though: that’d be nice. Yeah and vaseline on tap.

    Re: GUblog:

    I only bothered in that extended chat with COMMOD yesterday to show the place up for the glorified cat blog it is (instead of fluffy cat pix: insert pix of fluffy writers). The irony of being called “sexist” by Zadie and her lowermiddlebrow hoardes was that at the very moment I was being called that, my *much*-younger-than-me, movie-star attractive, sexually submissive girlfriend was washing the dishes wearing nothing but the lower half of a leopard-print bikini. Get a new crystal ball, bitches.

  64. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 3:51 PM

    Hello, MrSA. Well, exactly. Do drop by and gift us with your invariably astute analysis and delightful apercus.

    BTW, do you mind if I link to your blog? I always think it’s courteous to ask. Some people regard any association with me, no matter how remote or tenuous, with horror. I don’t suppose one can blame them…

  65. January 30, 2009 4:56 PM

    I suppose one can speak of a “hoarde” of hordes…

  66. January 30, 2009 4:57 PM

    Or a hoard (no peace for the sexist)

  67. January 30, 2009 5:15 PM

    Link and I’ll link back, sah

  68. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 5:28 PM

    …consider yerself linked, kiddo.

  69. January 30, 2009 6:33 PM

    Blimey Steven I had no idea as to the extent of your mid-life crisis.

  70. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 6:50 PM

    Yeah, Al…it’s very sad…aging hipster, married to spud-faced hausfrau aspires to the fabled artpepper lfestyle…mind you, he’s just the market for my combined penis extension-Nigerian bank millions once-in-a-lifetime offer…the e-mail’s on the way.

    “Beloved friend, thanks to your help in this difficult mattter, $28 million is awaiting your attention in the Bank of Bamboozle. Please remit $200 for handling costs…”

    He’ll go for it. Just tell him it’ll be delivered by some bimbo in a leopard-skin bikini…

  71. January 30, 2009 10:01 PM

    And how exactly do you know it’s a “mid-life” crisis until I’ve died and you’ve measured my lifespan? eh? Or have you had a peek at my file?

  72. January 30, 2009 10:26 PM

    Steven you’ve mentioned in the past about doing stuff whilst I was still in short pants so me saying it’s your “mid-life” crisis is being polite.

  73. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 10:57 PM

    …tsk tsk, Al…how could you mistake SA for anything but a willowy youth? Even his prose has a young feel. It wears baggy trousers and a back-to-front baseball cap. It’ll be round to steal your car later….

  74. January 30, 2009 11:08 PM


    I paid a dear enough sum for photos proving you were in “short pants” as recent as last week, laddie. I’d change the subject if I were you.

  75. January 30, 2009 11:36 PM

    money well spent Steven. Enjoy them over the weekend.

    I’m not coming out of this well but I fear neither are you.

  76. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 11:57 PM

    Please forward all compromising pix of Al to me for posting on this blog. Nothing personal, Al…just the biz, ya know?

  77. Parisa permalink
    January 31, 2009 6:02 AM

    Well I’ve read that McCrumb thread – & as usual it’s opinions, opinions, opinions. Some amusing too. Perhaps it needed atf’s critical analysis & Freudian insight – just teasing. I can’t see the lumping together of Smith, Sebald & Hughes but there we are. All greats in their own right, for me.

    I guess on the Grauniad threads we’re out in a public forum & like the middle of the high street, we can’t indulge our emotional whims without getting an arrest or caution occasionally. Not that I always agree with it but there it is. We just can’t walk around in the nude or have sex in the middle of the road like dogs!

    However…. freedom of speech is a biggy & has been dearly won by generations of those in democracies.

  78. January 31, 2009 10:00 AM

    No problems Mishari. There can’t be enough pictures of me in shorts …… as I’m sure Steven will confirm later in the weekend.

  79. January 31, 2009 11:43 AM

    “I guess on the Grauniad threads we’re out in a public forum & like the middle of the high street, we can’t indulge our emotional whims without getting an arrest or caution occasionally.”

    This makes it sound as though someone on that thread was spinning blue fantasias about condomless anal sex with Native American infants. When in fact, all that happened was Robert McCrum compared Zadie Smith (a phenom of the market place, with her half-baked books and cool looks; take the money and run, I say) to *Hughes and Sebald* … so Oscar MacSweeny, sick of empty-headed, shyt-shilling, anti-literary hyperbole of that sort, commented angrily that McCrum’s absurd comparison is alright if and only if McCrum is “screwing her”. To which I chimed in: “Or would like to”. That (and the phrase “great deadpan” about something else) was the extent of my comment.

    Not quite worthy of Gilles de Rais, is it? In fact, *nobody noticed* until her Smithness (notified by Google Alerts?) swooped down, found, to her horror, that she was not considered a “modern great” by the majority of the commenters, and complained. Well, she couldn’t very well complain explicitly that not enough commenters considered her a “modern great”, could she?

    So she deliberately misread Oscar ‘s (and my) comment as a sexist jab at her, whereas it was clearly a tepidly crude swipe at Mr. McCrum. Her wounded appeal to the hysterical sanctimony of her lowermiddlebrow coalition was the ugly work of a PC demagogue, plain and simple. Putting so much energy into hoping to be taken for an actual intellectual seems pointless if you’re going to pull the “for shame, in the name of sisterhood, naughty man!” card at the first hint of rhetorical strife. You’re supposed to be good with words in a professional sort of way, Zadie: couldn’t do better than that, then?

    The fact is I wrote at *her* level as a college freshman. Lacking breasts (or nice ones), the era-appropriate genealogical CV and mercenary acumen, of course, all I got out of this initial facility with words was the ability to improve, over the years, into a writer. I sincerely wish Zadie the same great fortune, since even she’s aware of the fact that money (“success”) isn’t everything.

    Meanwhile: re: Alarming playing dress-up (and who’s that in the Thatcher mask, btw?): I paid a *packet* for those pix, chums, and I ain’t sharing.

  80. mishari permalink*
    January 31, 2009 12:59 PM

    Basically, and I do want to break this to you as gently as humanly possible, a lack of firm and shapely poonts is what’s stopping your career from taking flight.

    Look what Jordan’s did for her. She gets Herr Prof. Rosen springing to her defense when vulgar oafs like me question her right to be described as an author.

    Herr Prof. Foo Foo Rosen pointed out the picayune, petty, envious nature of my carping, which was based on the fact that Jordan had never read a book, much less written one.

    I’ve seen the light. Get some implants, toot sweet, my friend, or resign yourself to obscurity.

  81. mishari permalink*
    January 31, 2009 1:05 PM

    …aside from that, I believe yours was an excellent analysis of what has come to be known as The Crumbling Smith Affair (soon to be a major motion picture)…

  82. January 31, 2009 2:58 PM

    “Basically, and I do want to break this to you as gently as humanly possible, a lack of firm and shapely poonts is what’s stopping your career from taking flight.”

    My mistake (I’m still paying that one off) was in getting botty implants. It’s just not the same, is it, no matter what your friends claim. It’s just not.

  83. January 31, 2009 3:03 PM

    Steven Those photos? If you go to they are set number 21 on web page 3 you can download them for free. I thought you meant the “other” photos.

    Btw the ones of you ( and how one wishes for pants of any length in these photos ), the runner-up of the Martin Amis look-alike competition and an industrial supply of fags are on web-page 7.

  84. mishari permalink*
    January 31, 2009 3:44 PM

    …one sees metrosexual poseurs swanning around with silicon builder’s-bums, but they’re fooling no-one.

  85. January 31, 2009 3:52 PM


    I don’t know whether to slap you… or… or… (*pulls off glasses whilst a slo-mo glossy-black tumult releases itself from the sassy topknot over his fontanelle*)…

    Sadly, the link you provide is dead, man (or my firewall wouldn’t touch it with a monkey’s)

  86. Parisa permalink
    February 1, 2009 2:26 AM

    “This makes it sound as though someone on that thread was spinning blue fantasias about condomless anal sex with Native American infants.”

    I was speaking generally not about this specific incident if such it could be called. I see nothing wrong in what either you wrote or Oscar MacSweeny & suspect that the Grauniad was simply covering it’s liberal ass in case Ms Smith got litigious with them – but then the Grauniad wouldn’t tell her if they thought they’d be sued so I dunno. I do like her writing though I do also find her a tad pompous – having seen her in interview here. Anyway that’s my take for what it’s worth. What I don’t understand really is why weren’t those comments disappeared if they were sooooo godawful?! I mean lesser stuff has disappeared hasn’t it? And in this case what is all the to-do about? I mean if they weren’t removed. Why are you pissed off?

  87. Parisa permalink
    February 1, 2009 2:30 AM


    @ SA

    I hope you didn’t mean moi in the “Thatcher mask” – I went on marches at college against her!

  88. parallax permalink
    February 1, 2009 7:26 AM

    Hi Parisa, I shouldn’t worry – I didn’t read it that way – I’m sure the “Thatcher mask” comment was aimed at Alarming . By all accounts SA has some compromising photos of Alarming which somehow involve some masked dominatrice with a handbag and a stiff perm

  89. February 1, 2009 8:21 AM


    Those comments were disappeared the moment Zadie Smith complained about them, although, in violation of the GU policy, Zadie Smith’s comment, which thereafter referred to deleted comments (by excerpting them) was left to stand. We’ve had many commenters feigning horror at the hideousness of said remarks without having actually read them, conveniently; like the evil spectral force in the (original version of) The Haunting, it’s the negative presence of the monster that really, really scares the kiddies in their pyjamas.

    Re: the Alarming (literally) pix: obviously, I’m whipping the pre-bidding frenzy to a fever pitch by dropping hints here and there. Whoever’s in the Thatcher mask is rather tall, but the one in the Mugabe mask is short and stocky. I’ve titled that photo “Alarming Sandwich” but here I’ll say no more…

  90. February 1, 2009 8:46 AM

    “Why are you pissed off?”

    After a dozen or so “shame on you, Steven Augustine” bleats (starting with Ms. Smith’s), I began to develop a low opinion of some of her fans/lackeys/arse-lickers, is all.

  91. February 1, 2009 9:03 AM

    Steven It’s not Mugabe it’s Bokassa. Honestly!

    Since we’re asking questions who’s the guy on the Shetland Pony in your photos? The Shetland Pony in the foreground that is. Near you with the nosebag ( I’m hoping that’s a nosebag ) It’s not Bruno62 is it?

  92. Parisa permalink
    February 1, 2009 10:28 AM

    Personally I think what was said re Ms Smith was actually a compliment. Shame on her, really. Bit of a storm in a teacup?

  93. February 1, 2009 11:01 AM


    The “Shetland Pony” was me, actually. Thanks, man!

    (Look at me blushing).

  94. February 1, 2009 11:28 AM

    Shetland ponies leads us rather inelegantly to De Sade.

    Last year I saw Jan Svankmajer’s film “Lunacy” which was all about him. Svankmajer is always good but in this one you couldn’t put a hair between De Sade’s extravagances and their consequences and the people who imprisoned him and tried to normalise him.

    What does the panel think?

  95. February 1, 2009 12:15 PM

    One more on the GU and then I’m back to (the respectable) porn:

    This was just deleted from the ZS thread:

    **To quote a beloved celebrity: “because what turns up on this thread tends to be taken as gospel, and is never checked”…

    It bears repeating that the “offensive comments” of Steven Augustine were deleted on January 27th and few of the subsequent commenters had actually read them. They were, in their entirety, as follows:

    “Or would like to” and “perfect deadpan” (in reference to something else). That was it. Hair-raising stuff, isn’t it? Shocking. And, again: the first phrase was a satirical amplification of a remark that the writer Oscar MacSweeny (yes, it’s writing, my philistine fetishists, even when it isn’t sandwiched between two slices of cardboard stamped with a pretty face) made against Robert McCrum. Or McCrum’s impulsive hyperbole, more like.

    About half of this thread is an OTT demonstration of PC’s genteel Yobbism. Don’t really need much evidence to go on one of these witch-hunts, do we? I wonder how few books, every year, some “reader” must have acquainted herself with in order to actually be offended by the notion that anyone might object to referring to a young writer with three not-earthshaking books behind her as a “modern great”? Yes: and how many of those readers actually read White Teeth to its end? A sad Menckenian joke combining the typical and the unlikely.

    Either Ms. Smith is now a little embarrassed over her part in this mob’s dim little catharsis (sadly, their best work was deleted by Commod, but I’ve preserved a bit of it on one of my sites; you’re immortal, Greenball!), or she’s merely human, after all.***

    (along with this next one, obviously):

    ***Wait. You won’t delete comments referring to deleted “smutty” comments that were never actually made, but you delete my comment showing how absolutely smut-free my deleted comments were?

    Commod, I do believe you’re suffering from a personality defect. I hope you’re not also driving a bus to supplement your income here; lives could be at stake.***

  96. mishari permalink*
    February 1, 2009 1:07 PM

    Your problem, Steven, is that you refuse to accept the mod’s infallibility. Have you not seen the mysterious nimbus of light that’s left behind when a post is deleted? Evidence, if any were needed, of the passing touch of a superior being.

    Being deleted by such beings is akin to having your loaf and fish divided by Mr. J. Christ, the popular evangelist..rejoice, Steven…rejoice.

    Never heard of Svankmajer, Al…I’ve always been interested in De Sade…not his dreary sexual obsessions, which are tedious and a little pathetic, but his writings on morality, the nature of freedom etc etc.

    Pasolini’s Salo, which I’m sure you know is an updating of De Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom, is the only film I’ve ever seen to clear a cinema.

    A friend of mine at the time, Lou, lead singer of NYC New Wave/Punk band Lou Miami and The Kosmetix (whose Surfin’ Nazis has surely earned them a place on Parnassus) dragged me to see it.

    To the sounds of outrage and disgust, the cinema emptied. By the end, perhaps half a dozen people remained. Clearly, box-office reciepts weren’t foremost in Pasolini’s mind when he made it. I admired him for it.

  97. February 1, 2009 1:18 PM

    Mishari Svankmajer makes incredible animated films. His short film Dimensions of Dialogues in my humble opinion is one of the 20th century great pieces of work. Eye popping stuff with content. Worth a Google or YouTube search – examples of his work must be up there, everything else is.

    In Lunacy ( a live action feature film ) the consequences of De Sade’s sexual obsessions are made clear but it’s more about the nature of freedom and about who is running the asylum. It’s provocative stuff.

  98. mishari permalink*
    February 1, 2009 1:24 PM

    Sounds good, Al. I’ll seek his work out…

  99. mishari permalink*
    February 1, 2009 1:27 PM

    BTW, it’s funny that you should bring up animation. An old friend of mine, a Croatian, knowing my love of animation, has sent me a set of DVDs packed with Zagreb Studios stuff. It’s an absolute feast. A lot of the stuff is just so eye-poppingly good…

  100. February 1, 2009 1:44 PM

    Do you know Tale of Tales by Yuri Norstein? A Russian animation which is 2-D but you’d swear it was 3-D models. He used to build up scenes on layers of glass so there’s a genuine depth to the backgrounds with back-lighting and other subtle effects It was made in 79 and it’s”about” childhood memory. Quite, quite beautiful, intensely poetic and again recommended.

    There’s a DVD of all his stuff. Not surprisingly he’s not a quick worker. He’s been making a versio of Gogol’s Overcoat for the last 20 years which has got mired in funding difficulties.

    I’ve droned on about him in many GU blogs so thanks for another opportunity!

  101. mishari permalink*
    February 1, 2009 1:52 PM

    Nope, that’s another one for the list. I love the sound of his on-glass technique. I can imagine how that’d work.

    I got a set of the collected works of the Fleischer brothers, Dave and Max, the other day. I’m sure you know their work–the original Popeye cartoons, The Little King, Betty Boop and Out of the Inkwell–it’s wonderfully surreal stuff and years ahead of its time (the ’30s)…

  102. mishari permalink*
    February 1, 2009 2:09 PM

    …actually, thinking about what I just said, perhaps it wasn’t so much that the Fleischers were ahead of their time as much as the fact that animation of the period was made for adults, not children…it shows.

  103. 3p4 permalink
    February 1, 2009 3:22 PM

    exceptional animation,,recommended for poets

Comments are closed.