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We Are Not Amused

February 26, 2009


A democracy is a government in the hands of men of low birth, no property, and vulgar employments.


It becomes an emperor to die standing.

Titus Flavius Vespasian

Democracy, such as it is, is broken. That much is plain. What hope could we have placed in a system that required every citizen to be able to distinguish between a sound monetary policy and a catastrophic one? Between a sensible health policy and a pernicious one? The mass of the populace can’t distinguish butter from margarine, for Christ’s sake.

No, my friends, it just won’t wash anymore. We need change. Not picayune, tinkering changes. The plane is nose-diving toward a mountain. Sending round the drinks-trolley isn’t going to cut it.

While Alistair Dalek dithers about setting the lawyers on Fred Goodwin (Fred stays rich and the lawyers get richer. Brilliant) the rest of the nation goes tits up and is being asked to smile while doing it. The banking crisis is costing the taxpayer almost 1 trillion pounds when one takes into account the toxic assets that are being taken onto the government’s (ie, the taxpayer’s) books.

To put that in perspective, let me quote Hansard:

Mr. Donohoe: What will the NHS budget be in 2009-10?

Mr. Bradshaw: The total NHS plan expenditure for 2009-10 is £102,642 million. This is as set out in the NHS Departmental Report 2008.

In other words, the cost of bailing out crooked and incompetent bankers is almost the cost of running the NHS for 10 years. Democracy has failed us. It’s time for a benevolent autocracy.

I propose that I be made Emperor by popular acclaim. All in favour, raise your hands. Unanimous. Ah…except for Mowbray. My Praetorian Guard will be paying Citizen Mowbray the old surprise visit shortly. Now, as to my title…

Mishari The Just, Mishari The Wise…The Terrible, The Grim, The Magnificent…nah…all been done.

Let’s go with Mishari, Intergalactic Lizard Emperor, Calmer of Storms, Scourge of the Wicked, Succor of the Poor, Lord of the Horizon, Light of This World and The Next…yes, that’ll do.

Could I really be worse than the mendacious, thieving, spineless, amoral scum we’ve got now? Impossible.

Here’s a foretaste of the Al-Adwani Imperium

I will be entertaining petitions from my devoted subjects here.

All together now, “May you live a thousand years, Your Imperial Majesty”…and if you don’t behave yourselves, I just might.

  1. Captain Ned permalink
    February 26, 2009 7:58 PM

    You know that over on The Torygraph Gerald Warner was predicting the imminent end of parliamentary democracy…

  2. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2009 8:06 PM

    I’ll have to read it. GB Shaw pretty much made the same prediction in the preface to one of his plays (Man and Superman? Can’t remember but I have all the prefaces collected in one volume and entitled, erm..Prefaces. Far more interesting than the plays themselves.)

    In it, Shaw said that if benevolent dictatorships failed, what hope was there for democracy? And one can see his point. An autocrat could order Fred Goodwin and his ilk imprisoned, never mind setting the fucking lawyers on him…Jesus.

    Obviously, some autocrats were disasters. But consider Hadrian, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, The Antonines, Haroun Al-Rashid, Akbar, Suleiman the Magnificent…outstanding rulers. They will be my models.

  3. Captain Ned permalink
    February 26, 2009 8:16 PM

    Do read Warner. When I first encountered him, I thought: ‘Wait, this can’t be real. This must be spoof. This is Craig Brown.’ But no. There really is someone in the world as eye-poppingly reactionary.

    Supreme Leader Al-Adwani’s first decree on assuming power? Surely it must involve Bono* and a one-off abrogation of the Geneva Convention, to be broadcast live in place of Big Brother. Bread and circuses – and then to the serious business of government.

    *or Richard Littlejohn/Melanie Phillips/Gillian McKeith

  4. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2009 8:27 PM

    The 4 you name top the list, joined by Blair, Bush, Brown, George Osborne (no reason, he’s just a creep), Mandelson ditto, Michael Gove double ditto Graham Norton (annoys the hell out of me), Alan Dershowitz, the entire Al-Saud family (parvenus and vulgarians), Saxe-Coburg Gothas nee Windsors, Geoff Hoon, Tony McNulty, Hazel Blears, Jaqui Smith and…my word, the headsman is going to be a busy fellow…


    …anyone listening to the slimy George Osborne railing against the government for regulatory failures would do well to go to Osborne’s website where they’ll find his 2007 Budget speech, which contains the following:

    What Government should do to improve productivity is to put in place the right framework: infrastructure, competition, education – and light touch regulation.

    Our economic competitiveness policy group has already proposed a lighter touch regulatory regime for socially responsible companies. They will launch further proposals on deregulation in the coming weeks.

    …evidently, the government thought the same thing. Thanks a lot George “Abbot” Osborne and Gordon “Costello” Brown…

  5. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 26, 2009 10:56 PM

    Mishari the Magnificent? I think not. One can imagine the scene in Buck House:

    Flunkey: Sire, there is an urgent dispatch from… oh, sorry.
    Emperor Mishari: Wait a minute…. all right, come in.
    Fl: Important news from-
    Emperor Mishari: That wasn’t a corset I was wearing.
    Fl: No, sire.
    EM: It’s some new body armour I’m trying out.
    Fl: Yes, sire.
    EM: Those straps are for… extra ammunition pouches.
    Fl: Of course, sire. There is urgent news-
    EM: Seen my fags?
    Fl: No, sire. Very important developments in-
    EM: Hang on. What time is it?
    Fl: Ten-thirty, sire.
    EM: There’s an interesting Japanese film on TV in a minute. Can you give me a couple of hours?
    Fl: Well-
    EM: Might as well call it a night in fact. Ciao!

    The best you could hope for is Undersecretary for paperclips in the Ministry of Office Supplies. A risk for the government even there.

    Rt Hon Member for Bexley: Can I ask the undersecretary why oh why are clerks throughout Whitehall having to tie papers together with bits of string owing to the absence of paperclips?
    Undersecretary: The Right Hon Member can ask and my answer to him is fuck off you fucking windbag do you want to take this outside?

  6. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2009 11:00 PM

    Even as Minister for Bog Rolls, Teabags and Paperclips, I’d still be a goddamn improvement. But you must give the Imperium a chance, O ye of little faith. Oh, I see…you’re one of those ‘wreckers’ that Pietro Mandolinbum’s always getting so het up about.

    The Empire knows how to deal with your sort, chum…

  7. seanmurray permalink
    February 26, 2009 11:15 PM

    Oh Omnipotent Grey-green Intercosmic Pterodactyl ‘Hingmy, might we petition you on poor Sir Fred’s behalf?


    Sean Murray

  8. February 26, 2009 11:24 PM

    There’s the problem: light regulation leads to competitiveness, but also to dubious financial practice. So your economy’s fucked either way.

    I may only get 3 visits a day to my site these days, but today I got mentioned on respected lit digest The Literary Saloon. They said I was naughty.

    I still can’t get over the fact that you don’t look quite like the Kuwaiti Samuel Beckett I’d for some reason been imagining.

  9. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2009 11:31 PM

    Sorry, Sean…Fred has earned my Imperial displeasure, the penalty for which is public strangulation with ones own lower intestines…my people demand it.

    Obooki…naughty? Is that good or bad, in a lit-crit context, I mean…
    Do you mean that old pic (although I haven’t changed much, bit greyer) in La Vanguardia?

    BTW, I pop over to your blog a few times a day, but am usually too intimidated by your scholarly exegesis to comment on your articles…

  10. February 26, 2009 11:31 PM

    what about the binbags in the alley out the back? Whose going to collect them? It’s all very well succoring the poor but apples don’t grow on trees you know.

  11. February 26, 2009 11:34 PM

    Who is this “we” anyhow, who isn’t amused?!

  12. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2009 11:36 PM

    Al, what’s more important…bin bags out back or peace in the valley?

  13. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2009 11:39 PM

    obooki, the Imperial ‘we’, of course, very different from the unearned and slightly pretentious lit-crit ‘we’…

    As in “We hereby declare obooki an enemy of the Empire…” in the unthinkable event that you should become such a wretch and outcast…

  14. February 27, 2009 12:10 AM

    Naughtiness is severely frowned-upon in the litcrit world, as is any suggestion that the study of literature might not be quite the serious affair it likes to believe it is. – I fear my site has degenerated into personal abuse anyway.

  15. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 12:13 AM

    All the more interesting for it, in my view. There’s already far too much of the soft-soap, ‘on the one hand, on the other hand’ havering, back-filling, soft-pedalling and general poltroonery as is…keep it up.

    Ah, now I see what they meant by naughty…basically accusing you of shit-stirring, trying to provoke a ruck between them and your pal Mitchelbore…tsk-tsk…naughty indeed.

  16. freep permalink
    February 27, 2009 12:57 AM

    12.54 am
    Mishari: the examples you give of wise and beneficent rulers all appear to be dead and foreign. This will not do. The model we (the English people, God preserve Us) require is a British one, or more narrowly, English, or even more precisely, a live person, and those of the best pedigree are from Berkshire or Surrey.
    The usual person spec is required: wisdom, valour, fortitude, virtue, legs, prudence, medals, eloquence, ability to light fires, deep pockets etc. The man (and it must be a man, as even Tinkerbell will know, for the voice must be deep and the shoulders hirsute) must be modelled on that great English gentleman the Duke of Wellington . He was Irish, I know, but he thus fulfils the essential quality of the Englishman – of being not quite English. Thus, Mrs Thatcher was a great Englishman, Rabindranath Tagore was a great English gentleman, St Bernadette was a great Englishman and so was Wittgenstein. (And possibly Pongo)
    It is the absorption factor, you see. The English language is great because it absorbs wordlets from other inferior languages: bungalow, alligator, wabbit.
    Just so, the English character, the sponge, the all-inclusive pudding , the monstrous cake of all talents, achieves greatness by its ingredients including the wan and lost flotsam of the world. The same cannot be said of other great nations like Denmark or Canada or Armenia which cannot claim ownership of a whey-faced person from Henley or Woking with a political ancestry that includes Arthur Wellesley and the Emperor Hadrian.
    Mishari, I do not think you fit this spec. But you may be too highly qualified for some of the minor departmental duties. Would you consider the Ministry of Towels, Blankets, Flannels and Winceyette? There is a vacancy at £300,000 for an under-secretary. All you have to do is ensure all towels, pyjamas and flannels are outsourced and in private hands. The leg work is all done by Capita RAS
    (CEO, A. Wellesley KG).

    I have to travel south now. I fear what I may encounter. bodies rotting in the streets of Frome and lurid gibbets in Blandford Forum.

  17. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 1:07 AM

    Don’t come South, I implore you…we’re neck-deep in politicians, bankers and similiar undesirables. It will depress you tremendously.

    I have to disagree with your otherwise cogent thesis. What Britain needs is an Emperor of cosmopolitan tendencies like myself and the late J. Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius Caligula, Claudius Caesar and the gifted poet, musician and arsonist, Nero Drusus Germanicus…I’ll put the ‘Britain’ back in ‘Great Britain’, you betcha…

  18. Captain Ned permalink
    February 27, 2009 8:51 AM

    It’s probably wise of the Graun not to put this on the blog…

  19. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 9:07 AM

    Depressing, Cap’n…who will the Dworkinistas come for next? Shakespeare? Dostoyevsky? Proust? Joyce? Rembrandt? Cezanne? Homer?

  20. BaronCharlus permalink
    February 27, 2009 10:29 AM

    I give it until Monday for you to reach the ‘Incitatus’ stage.

  21. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 10:48 AM

    You know, they say that Rome had worse Consuls than Incitatus and Jupiter knows, Pongo could only be an improvement on Brown.

  22. BaronCharlus permalink
    February 27, 2009 11:05 AM

    Good grief, you didn’t even make it to the weekend.

    But Mishari, hold on, that radiance, that Olympian musk, you’ve….you’ve become a God!

    (cue rolling on the floor like John Hurt: ‘my heeeaaad, my heeaaaad!!!’)

  23. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 11:10 AM

    Ah, Baron…I, Claudius was a gas, wasn’t it? John Hurt, “poncing lethally about” as Clive James put it…great stuff. No, against all the odds and contrary to all the evidence, I retain my humility…

  24. BaronCharlus permalink
    February 27, 2009 11:24 AM

    I, Claudius is mighty. I could accept Christopher Biggins as a light entertainer since seeing him giggling towards his own mother across the bed as the camera goes soft focus. I’m also trying to think of policy suggestions for your Benign Imperium.

    Haven’t heard the Isley Bros track you mentioned. But I did pick up Betty Davis’s They Say I’m Different the other day. I didn’t realise that she introduced Miles to Sly, Hendrix and almost all of the influences that led to Bitches Brew. A good or a bad thing, according to taste, but it certainly makes her a profoundly influential muse (and very funky in her own right).

  25. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 12:37 PM

    Are you kidding? I’m a bit of a Miles Davis bore. I mean, I’ve got virtually everything he ever recorded…you know, stuff like a 6-CD set of out-takes from the Sketches of Spain sessions, that kind of thing…my wife lives in fear of people mentioning Miles Davis at dinner parties or worse, disparaging him, God help them..

    …and here’s The Isley Brothers doing Fight The Power just the original audio track off the LP. There’s a live clip, but this is better..

    I’m kinda fond of Mahavishnu and Visions of the Emerald Beyond has some georgeous stuff on it, especially Lila’s Dance…, again just the LP track. Lovely…

  26. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 11:38 AM

    I have to admit that although there are things I like on Miles Davis’ later LPs, it’s the stuff between 1948-1967 that interests me the most…

    Check out his 1967 quintet doing ‘Round Midnight…

  27. BaronCharlus permalink
    February 27, 2009 11:47 AM

    Great link. I’m turning on Plugged Nickel for the rest of the day. I do think your Radiant Dawn could begin in worse ways than with the opening crash of Pharaoh’s Dance.

    I have different phases with Miles. On holiday last year I only wanted to listen to the 60s quintet, recently it’s been Jack Johnson through to Agharta.

  28. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 11:53 AM

    Funnily enough, I’ve had Jack Johnson on quite a bit lately. I have to admire Davis’ constant movement forward, trying new things…

    I read a great interview with him (tried to find it and provide a link, no luck so far) where he talks about long-time fans yearning for ‘the old days’ and he said something like…

    (imagine that whispery rasp), ” Man, the old days were shit…the recording equipment we had then was shit…I was forever running around trying to find my musicians, who were all fucked up on dope and they’d sold their horn or some shit or they were in jail…and we didn’t get paid shit…man, fuck the old days…now’s better…”

  29. BaronCharlus permalink
    February 27, 2009 11:59 AM

    Sounds like the Nick Kent interview from the Dark Stuff.

    I remember a Miles quote that I admired; when asked (probably in the 70s) why he didn’t play the old ballads anymore he replied that he didn’t play them because he loved playing them so much. i.e. they were safe for him so he pushed himself into uncomfortable new territories. That’s yer real artist.

  30. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 12:20 PM

    You got it, Baron. I know I have the book somewhere, so that must be where I saw it…

    I think like all the best artists, once he found his feet, he led and others followed. Birth of the Cool changed the way jazz was played, then he did it again with Kind of Blue and again with Bitches Brew…protean,that’s the word, God love him…

    And I understood completely why Davis was enraged by being beaten by Chet Baker in the Downbeat trumpeter poll 2 years running.

    Now, I’m very fond of Baker and Pepper and Mulligan and that whole West Coast cool jazz movement, but I don’t think you can even compare Baker and Davis. Davis was a great artist, Baker was kind of an idiot savant…

    BTW, did you ever read Deep In A Dream, the Baker biography? Not pretty but very entertaining. Highly recommended.

  31. BaronCharlus permalink
    February 27, 2009 12:31 PM

    ‘Davis was a great artist, Baker was kind of an idiot savant…’

    Beautifully phrased.
    Miles was also a band leader of genius; not just responsble for his own art but for bringing Coltrane, Shorter, Hancock, Williams, Chick Corea and all those BB dudes into blazing careers of their own (not that everyone would thank him for Mahavishnu). By all acounts he had the perfect balance of cruelty and benign leadership that allowed his musicians to feel off-balance enough to spin outside their safety zones, angry enough to play wild and honoured enough to push themselves. There’s a great story about his holding back the information that the band weren’t getting paid for a charity gig until just before they went on stage. Outraged (to be out of dope funds, i guess) they played a stormer. His legendary put-down to Coltrane was also a masterpiece of constructive cruelty.

    Do say if you don’t want your blog turning into a Miles fan-site. I’ll start posting my water-colour free interpretations of Fille de Kilimanjaro in a minute…

  32. BaronCharlus permalink
    February 27, 2009 12:52 PM

    I have the BB set in the metal box – love the silky, silky design. I don’t have the others – not too keen on alternative versions, even from my favourite artists. I tend to Jones for them, listen once then leave to gather dust. I’ve a great 8cd set of all Trane’s Impulse quartet recordings, though. Tracks his refusal to follow Miles’s advice to ‘take the fucking horn out of your mouth’ very well.

    The Kind of Blue 50th anniversary box was way too far, though. Columbia have been pushing their luck, also with the Dylan Tell Tale Signs ‘de luxe’ box.

    Also, did you hear the conjecture that Bitches Brew was so-named in acknowledgement of Betty’s influence. His attutude to influence seems to have been more generous in the 60s; crediting his sidemen (I still think Bill Evans getting nixed for Peace Piece on Flamenco Sketches is outrageous) and putting his girlfriends on the covers: “I was a pimp to women when I was young. I’m giving something back…”. Yeah, Miles. Right on.

  33. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 12:55 PM

    Oh, well..he was a great artist, not necessarily a great human being. How unlike our beloved Emperor….

  34. February 27, 2009 3:37 PM

    Val Wilmer’s biography “Mama said there’d be days like these” ( I think it’s called ) has great writing about Miles.

    She was a photographer who grew up with jazz as her mum ran a B+B that all the jazz names stayed at in the 50’s. She was a lesbian and did all the feminist socialist stuff in the 60’s/70’s but also photographed, talked to/hung around with and understood all the jazzers from trad to way out there. It’s a great read.

  35. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 3:39 PM

    The name’s really familiar, Al (unless, of course, I’m confusing her with Val Kilmer, who, as far as I’m aware isn’t a lesbian, just an arsehole))…

  36. February 27, 2009 4:05 PM

    She had a book of jazz photography out about 15 years ago and a lot of the photographs in obits of undervalued black musicians of the 50’s/60’s/70’s/80’s/90’s are by her.

    The autobiog is fascinating – she’s right-on but her love of jazz gives her a much broader perspective than you’d expect.

    On series 5 of t’Wire. I thought it was going to be a bit run of the mill but it suddenly snapped into inspired absurdity with the McNulty story-line – what a daring dramatic device to sum up their position. Series 4 was heart-breaking.

  37. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 4:09 PM

    I know…series 4 was a killer. ..and as you say, series 5 is inspired lunacy. McNulty using a pair of false-choppers to leave bite marks on the buttocks of dead men to create a serial killer…surreal…and yet, in the context, it all seems so plausible. Weren’t you sorry to see Omar and Proposition Joe get the chop?(No more spoilers, you dozy prat–Ed.)

  38. BaronCharlus permalink
    February 27, 2009 4:17 PM


    I’ve just started watching the Wire season one this week. Please flag spoiler alerts or I will be forced to pursue my work avoidance elsewhere.

    Yours, etc.

  39. February 27, 2009 4:21 PM

    Mishari I knew Omar would but he hasn’t yet so go easy on the info.

  40. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 4:23 PM

    Sorry, chaps…forgive me. I’ll sin no more. Enjoy…

    (it’s just that I watched the last series almost a year ago and foolishly assume that everyone else has already seen it as well. As I said, sorry about that. You’re in for a treat, Baron. It’s a slow burn, but I think you’ll be impressed)

  41. BaronCharlus permalink
    February 27, 2009 5:43 PM

    Thanks. Well I’m only three episodes in and already been inspired to unsheathe the old Liquid Swords in deference to realness.

  42. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 6:42 PM

    That’s a good soundtrack. However, I’ve got All The Pieces That Matter: Five Years of the Wire, that’s got all the 35 tracks that they play over the 60 episodes.

    This might amuse you–one of the tracks is by Lafayette Gilchrist-(Assume the Position). See how you get on with the series and if you like, I’ll burn you a copy…

  43. BaronCharlus permalink
    February 27, 2009 7:16 PM

    Always nice to see a Gilchrist turn up.

    There’s an old Calypso song (from the same series as the track I sent you) by Lord Invader called The Old Time Cat O’Nine where a ‘Judge Gilchrist’ is praised for his stringent application of the titular punishment which once prevented ‘robustness’. Perhaps an idea for your Imperium. Judge Gilchrist. Hmmm. Has a ring to it….

  44. February 27, 2009 10:37 PM

    Mishari Without leaking too much info to the good Baron series 5 of the Wire really reminds me of a Gogol story where bureaucracy intertwines with the fantastical.

  45. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2009 10:54 PM

    11:00 pm

    It does, doesn’t it? Like Dead Souls meets Diary of a Madman…

    It also reminds me a bit of Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op stories. Hammett was writing from experience (unlike Chandler, who I believe was the superior stylist)…Hammett spent years as a Pinkertons Op and the stories are that kind of mix of Kafkaesque bureaucracy and absurdist crime…

    BTW, if you want to give your hackles a work-out, check out the loathsome Richard Perle’s article on CiF and then read the odious slime-ball Matt Seaton’s insulting, dishonest finger-wagging…half the posts have been deleted already. I’m astonished that anyone bothers to post at that degraded and supine site anymore, given the Grauniad’s undisguised contempt for its readers. Mind you, perhaps they’re justified in being contemptuous of people who read such a shit paper…..

    RIP The Guardian..murdered by creeps, cowards and toadies…

    12 hours later:

    Most amusing. Evidently, someone a bit cleverer than Matt Seaton, John Prescott perhaps, has taken him aside and pointed out just how cretinous it is to give a platform to lying, war criminals like Richard Perle and to then insult readers who point this out. The article and Seaton’s moronic, lick-spittle interventions have vanished as if they never existed. Now it’s back to bashing Iran and Mexico and a slew of articles by neo-con half-wits praising the..ahem..Bush Doctrine and NuLab toadies praising themselves. Truly, CiF has become a vomit-inducing, extended suicide-note.

  46. March 3, 2009 12:48 AM

    Hmm. It seems I missed this post the other day – some comments on the later posts make sense now. I feel too much has passed to get involved, except to nominate myself as minister for chocolate cake… an important position I feel. Oh yes, and Freep, how do you know this lady doesn’t have a deep voice and hairy shoulders?
    Oh and Captain Ned I notice that the top ten sexist films are mostly from the 60s or before – not a very convincing argument to make in modern times with examples from such different times.

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