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The Natives Are Revolting

February 24, 2010


I took my children to see James Cameron’s new blockbuster ‘Avatar’ not long ago. I had some other things on my mind and only watched the film with half an eye but it seemed like harmless, cartoon-ish fun: noisy, colourful and simplistic. But something about the film bothered me, so I downloaded a copy and watched it again in the small hours; only this time, I paid attention.

The story, in a fast nutshell, concerns a planet–Pandora–that a space-faring mining corporation is intent on exploiting for a rare mineral. A mineral so rare, in fact, that it’s called ‘Unobtanium’ (the fact that it is obtainable kind of negates the name, but let it pass). “This stuff fetches $20 million a kilo” drools the corporate shit-weasel who runs the project and is one of the two main ‘bad guys’. The other ‘bad guy’ is the head of security, an ex-marine Colonel turned corporate mercenary who runs a small army, bulges with veins and muscles like a condom stuffed with hazelnuts and who appears to be in a constant state of ‘roid rage: the man’s positively pop-eyed with testosterone and aggression.

The good guys are of two species–the human scientists accompanying the mission, led by Sigourney Weaver (whose experience of aliens made her a cinch for the role) and the natives of Pandora–the Na’vi: blue, nine-foot super-models with prehensile ears and a taste for Mohican haircuts.

The ‘avatars’ of the title are lab-bred or grown simulacra of the native people. These are controlled by human ‘operators’ whose mind or consciousness is transfered into the avatar. Thus they can move amongst the native peoples, gain their trust, learn their ways, etc etc.

The main storyline concerns a paraplegic former marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) recruited by the mining corporation to befriend a particular clan of the blue natives.

In the form of an ‘avatar’, Sully’s task is to persuade them to move off a valuable tract of land the company wants to mine, lest the head shit-weasel (played with a sort of callous, reptilian charm by Giovanni Ribisi) sends in the Colonel and his para-military security force to blast them out of the way with helicopter gunships.

To call the tale ‘simplistic’ is misleading: Little Red Riding Hood is a rigorously multi-layered morality play by comparison. All the characters are black or white, good guy/bad guy archetypes; the dialogue is a cringe-inducing mish-mash of sacchirine platitudes about the glory and beauty and innate wisdom of nature. It’s like the Bush Tucker Man and Black Elk Meet Buck Rogers.

Essentially, it’s a jungle-set fairytale written by some bean-sucking hippie. The Na’vi are noble savages with pure hearts . They live in a gigantic tree, ‘the Home Tree’ (shades of Tolkien’s elves). They literally ‘plug in’ to animals. Their sacred site is luminescent and has magical restorative powers. The forest is full of will ‘o’ the wisps that can judge a man’s nature and character. Everything on the planet is bound by a network of energy that flows through all living things. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Dalai Llama had put in an appearance.

To cut a long story short, our hero Sully goes native in a big way, shacks up with a local girl and turns against his corporate masters. He makes a ‘stirring’ speech to an assembled host of local rowdies, all about ‘our land’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘fighting in a just cause’ etc etc. Battle is joined, the corporation is defeated and driven off planet and Sully stays on, fully transformed into a Na’vi by the power of erm..Gaia? Ayia? Something like that…

Now, here’s the really odd thing about all this: the film’s message is clear–oppressors must be fought by any means necessary. It is right and fitting that one should die driving invaders off your land. Violent insurrection is not only legitimate but absolutely required because evil corporations and governments can’t be reasoned with.

It’s a message that will resound with people the world over: natives of New Guinea whose land is being strip-mined and polluted by Rio Tinto Zinc; Amazonian tribes losing their habitat to loggers; Australian people whose sacred lands are despoiled by Broken Hill Properties in collusion with government; the Ogoni people of Nigeria fighting against the ruination of their Niger River wetlands by Shell and BP and last but not least, the Palestinians, whose people are killed and whose land is stolen from them on a daily basis.

In one scene, gigantic bulldozers plow through the lush forest, tearing down groves of ancient trees sacred to the Na’vi and I thought ‘Israeli army bulldozers/Palestinian olive groves’. Palestinians got the same message which is why a group of them made themselves up like Na’vi last week to protest against more Israeli land grabs.

Avatar is saying it loud and clear: fight or the land-rapers, the culture-destroyers, the corporate shit-weasels and their bought-and-paid-for governments will roll right over you. Take that, Israel. Take that, America and your corporate masters. Take that Rio Tinto Zinc.

This is The Clash asking:

When they kick in your front door
How you gonna come?
With your hands on your head
Or on the trigger of your gun?

…and Avatar answering: with your gun in your hands and, oh…don’t forget the grenades.

Compare this with the anodyne soft soap of John Lennon’s:

If you go carryin’ pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow:
Don’t you know it’s gonna be..alright
Don’t you know it’s gonna be-ee..alright.

Yeah? Alright for who, Jack? Some pampered multi-millionaire rock-star? Fuck that noise.

But the most curious aspect of all this, for me, is where this message of revolt and rebellion is coming from: 20th Century Fox, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, one of the most egregious, inhumane, anti-democratic and exploitative corporations on earth.

Rock music has turned inward or anecdotal, Art has become a dog and pony show about money and most film has become bubble-gum for the eyes. Things have reached a pretty pass when the most incendiary message of violent revolution comes from the very corporate world that a revolution would destroy. Strange days, indeed…

  1. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 24, 2010 1:09 PM

    I don’t think Murdoch gives a flyer about content. He even appeared on the Simpsons, which has pissed on just about every element of American life. Glee is a Fox show and most of its attitudes must surely have the Right foaming at the mouth. All he cares about is cash. If it makes money he’ll sell it, whatever it is.

  2. mishari permalink*
    February 24, 2010 1:26 PM

    Oh, you’re absolutely right. I just find it rather odd that Murdoch is happily flooding the world with a message that basically says ‘Rupert Murdoch and his ilk are evil and must be destroyed’.

    I mean, I don’t recall Viscount Rothermere bigging-up Paine’s Rights of Man and The Communist Manifesto…

    BTW, I’ll pass Avatar along if you fancy a look yourself. It is, I must say, spectacular to look at, even in 2-D.

  3. February 24, 2010 1:34 PM

    Mishari thanks for the precis of this film. I read it wearing 3-D glasses too so the experience was complete and I don’t have to go and see it now.

    Cameron is full of those contradictions. Terminator 2 tried to warn about the nuclear menace whilst giving us the loudest explosions, weaponry filmed with an almost erotic eye and a cynical flip attitude to it all expressed in Arnie’s one-liners. At the same time it took pains to show shots of the innocent people not being harmed in the mega-violence. A sort of ” No innocent fictional people were harmed in the making of this movie” disclaimer

    Didn’t the Clash also sing about “Turning rebellion into money” ? Released on CBS of course.

    I suppose it’s a question of whether the message is stronger than the way in which it’s conveyed.

  4. mishari permalink*
    February 24, 2010 1:44 PM

    All true, Al. I just find myself puzzling over the fact that the most powerful message (in terms of reach and accessibility) of violent insurrection against corporate America is emanating from…corporate America.

    Is this just a corporate ‘fuck you’? Are they saying ‘Hey, yeah, we’re scumbags and we’ve been fucking you sideways and we’re going to keep fucking you sideways and there’s nothing you can do about it. We’ll even make films encouraging you to rise up because we know you won’t you pathetic fuck-buckets…’

    It’s a 3-D enigma, wrapped in a 3-D mystery, wrapped in a 3-D puzzle and served with 3-D popcorn…

    BTW, if you fancy a copy, say the word.

  5. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 24, 2010 1:59 PM

    That’s very good of you. I’ve heard a lot about it in terms of its appearance, but no one’s mentioned the plot up to now. Perhaps Murdoch’s insight is that only a smattering of pointy-heads will make the connections and draw conclusions. Everyone else will just be saying ‘WOW!’.

    I haven’t got much sympathy for Lennon, but I think his comment on the Maoists and The Clash’s lyric are addressing different issues. The former ( if I remember correctly ) were advocating the violent overthrow of the state, followed by a continuing programme of re-education and elimination of anti-social elements. Bad news for wealthy popsters, certainly, but also not that good for the rest of the population. Posturing ninnies The Clash, however, were merely stating an anti-authoritarian view pretty near regardless of who wielded the power.

  6. February 24, 2010 2:00 PM

    Thanks for the offer but I’ll pass on that.

    I saw Aliens again last week – it too has an anti-corporate theme and more bangs for your buck than the usual blockbuster. But I wonder if, like those films which use corruption in politics or the police as a way of creating baddies it all becomes like a Hitchcockian (!!!) McGuffin – only there to motor the plot along and “justify” the car-chases and action rather than lay down a polemic.

    Of course in 5 years time should the entire viewing public of Avatar rise up and cast down capitalism then I’ll happily eat my hat. With all the trimmings.

  7. mishari permalink*
    February 24, 2010 2:02 PM

    The Clash insisted that their record company lower the price of their records. Lennon and Yoko spent a week in bed for ‘peace’ but his records still cost a packet. Lennon was the better songwriter but the bigger hypocrite…

  8. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 24, 2010 2:18 PM

    Yes, Lennon definitely takes the all-comers prize for hypocrisy, what with the mansions and the prize cattle etc. Plus the award for self-delusion: working-class hero my arse, as the proletarians say.

  9. InvisibleJack permalink
    February 24, 2010 2:26 PM


    I see it like this: rebellion has been reduced to something you see at the cinema. You cheer it on and it cheers your heart as you watch it. But then you leave the cinema and you watch the news on the TV. On the TV you then see something in real life that mirrors some version of what you’ve just seen at the cinema. You rest easy that someone out there is going to fix it, just like in that glowing fantasy you spent three hours watching through 3D goggles. And when they do, well, then you’ll go and see the movie. Modern popular cinema not only desensitizes us to immorality and violence by exposing us to it as entertainment, but also desensitizes our impulse to change the world by depicting change as an easy step for the good guys. It suits Rupert Murdoch to destroy Corporate America in the movies, for then we’ve no need to do it in real life.

    Fantasy on the page however, can have a far more effective reach. I remember as a teen being strongly influenced by the messages in stories, messages that still manage to inform my thinking, as simplistic as those stories might seem to us now. (Two that spring to mind, and which might be useful to consider here, are both satires by William Tenn: “Bernie the Faust” & “The Liberation of Earth”.) But then, to be influenced by the written word one would need to be bothered enough to pick up a book and read. Reading forces us to think, thinking may encourage us to act.

    But then, readers or cinema goers, will either of us make a difference in the finish?

    Anyway, please forgive me, but I must now put on my 3D goggles and stare at the wall. The world is about to change and I must see it.

    Jack Brae Curtingstall

  10. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    February 24, 2010 6:08 PM

    It’s a corporate “fuck you”, that’s for sure. And it’s what’s called “revelation of the method” in masonic circles. In other words, we have reached a time when we have been so thoroughly fucked over and trussed up that the people who are driving this planet show us films about just how they went about doing the trussing. It all relates back to conditioning through films and tv images. You may think a particular scene from Casablanca or some other favourite film is the footage you’ve seen most in your life. Wrong. It’s the twin towers being hit and then falling. That really was rubbing our noses in it. Again and again we’ve seen a couple of planes hit a mammoth structure built to resist just such an eventuality and start limited fires. Then we all watched one tower after the other implode simultaneously on all floors and fall in its footprint. It would take a moron without a physics o-level to imagine that planes caused that. Then an airliner hitting the Pentagon and leaving a, Austin 1100-sized hole. And then, as an encore, WTC building 7, untouched by plane, collapses into its footprint. And we do absolutely nothing about it. We’ve been shown the film – with its official soundtrack – so many times that we’re comfortable in our incredulity. If it does make us feel bad, we can just frown at an Arab and the feeling of helplessness passes.

    Mind you, in terms of “revelation of the method”, putting a certified moron like Bush in the driving seat was also a way of rubbing our noses in it…

  11. mishari permalink*
    February 24, 2010 10:11 PM

    I remember Bernie the Faust, Jack. In the early 70s, Playboy Magazine published a collection called (if memory serves) The Playboy Book of Science Fiction, containing a selection of SF that had appeared in Playboy over the years. There was some fantastic stuff in it by the likes of Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, William Tenn etc etc. Lots of writers were happy to be published in the magazine for one simple reason: they payed very, very well.

    I, too, came to a similar conclusion: that people come away from this sort of thing, having understood the message but taken comfort in the view that someone else, somewhere else was doing the right thing…

    I also agree with you, HLM. There is a powerful element of the corporate ‘fuck the lot yez’ to it. As you say, the narrative that we’ve been asked to swallow re: 9/11 has been so comprehensively debunked by eminent experts in their fields (materials technology, engineering, aeronautics, architecture, etc etc) that the official version is impossible to believe. Of course, anyone who takes this view is dismissed as a ‘conspiracy nut’ blahblahblah.

    This two-hour documentary must make even the most gullible, wet-behind-the-ears trusting citizen question what really happened vs. what we’re expected to believe happened.

    But, no…I must be a conspiracy nut to imagine that governments and corporations would conspire against the citizenry…right? Yeah, right…

  12. February 25, 2010 9:17 AM

    I wonder if Avatar’s PR will use Politely Homicidal’s critical assessment on their next batch of posters?

    ” A corporate fuck you……in 3-D!!!!!!!”

  13. February 25, 2010 1:07 PM

    I found the film to be utter neomechanical CGI trash with the worst clichéd dialogue I have ever heard in a major motion picture (“We gotta get outa Dodge”) delivering a travesty of soft-love knock-off indigene-loving sillinessess and faux sentiments. For merely one example, the Big Hug with the gorgeous animal you have just murdered, as though that’s what the actual Native American hunters did–I mean like, they were actually hungry, they were not bodiless images created by computers. One schoolteacher I know (the original of the “male” lead in my little Rat Essay) has mentioned discussing with his juvenile delinquents whether seeing Avatar had made them want to have a Big Hug with the cow that was slaughtered to make their Big Mac. (Presumably he meant the Hug would come before rather than post the slaughtering. But then again, after the Avatar model, perhaps a little teletubby-oid necrophilia ?) And indeed, those little velcro loin flimsies that the remarkably pneumatic blue animated figures wear, has not anyone else noticed how very UNlifelike that actually is, a loincloth that does not flap out of place even so much as a millimeter even when you leap off the pinnacles of two mile high stalactites, or were they stalagmites??

    But then I hate Cameron’s films anyway, I just found this one to be extra specially pure cant and balderdash all round. None of it seemed to have the slightest thing to do with anything that I would identify as being even vaguely human. Almost unendurable finally, I had to vacate and leave the good wife to laugh it out to the end.

    (They say JC has two phobias. Don’t call him Jim. And never, never touch him.)

    On the other hand, my friends, if any of you, perhaps even Melton, were in yesterday’s Brighton morning commute in the Hove Lanes, East and West, you might find your vehicle lights here, and thus become the most famous polite homicidal since Melton adopted that bum.

  14. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 25, 2010 2:09 PM

    I haven’t been to Brighton for years. I meant to go back to see the music room at the Pavilion, which was being restored when I visited. Ah, George IV, lazy, self – indulgent, drunkard, all – round greedy bastard: my kind of guy.

    I asked Mrs M what the kids at school made of Avatar. None of them understood the plot, but they all liked it.

  15. February 25, 2010 2:13 PM

    I wonder what it is about CGI that doesn’t work …. for me at least? Melies’ films with their cardboard cut-out effects and primitive ( though obviously not at the time ) camera tricks can take me somewhere else when I watch them. Similarly you won’t be surprised to hear that for me puppet shows do the same, especially when you can see the operators/puppeteers at work as well.

    But although I like some CGI stuff it never moves me in the same way and never seems as…errrm magical ( magical meant in the non-Disney way )

  16. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    February 25, 2010 2:47 PM

    It’s the uniformity of the finish, the same teflon coating, the same degree curves. Like the director had the entire back lot on a giant studio to play with but ended up shooting the film in a kitchen showroom.

  17. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 25, 2010 2:51 PM

    Yes, Al, I was making a similar point to Poll in re the 70s version of Day of the Triffids and the latest one. Perhaps it makes the film-maker less demanding when it comes to characterisation etc-the effects diminish the need for a good script, or decent actors.

    Finally got around to crediting you for your insight into plot turnover on the Glee blog. Should have done it last week. Sorry about that.

    • February 26, 2010 3:58 PM

      I have sonar for my name being mentioned…

      You made a good point Melton – about the triffids (by the way my dustbin has gone walkabout and I’m considering whether there might be some kind of “Day of the Dustbins” scenario about to play out) and one which applies generally across all media really – does the glossiness of the presentation package take away from the effect of the contents? If so, are there less contents to be seen or are we just used to being more shallow about what we see?

      Are we just desensitised? (I’m not sure I spelt that right it looks a little odd)

      I was wondering just now whether I was as I was merrily eating a yoghurt at lunchtime whilst reading a summary of the evidence in a torture victim case. I got worried about why I wasn’t horrified. I then realised that if I got horrified by the contents of cases then I wouldn’t be able to function in my role and don’t we generally choose only to let ourselves become emotionally involved in things which we either can’t help because we are involved by fate, or which we choose to get involved in because we can do something about it?

      I consider myself to be a caring person, but if I got emotionally involved in trying to sort out all the bad things I saw I’d get very depressed, suicidal perhaps. That doesn’t help anybody.

      Is there a Glee blog??

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 26, 2010 4:38 PM

      It’s on the TV&Radio blog. Much poorer now Al has departed-mostly people saying how brill the show is. There was one commenter who looked up for a tussle, but heshe hasn’t posted this week.

      Mark me undecided on desensitisation. Most stuff I can watch or read without turning a hair, but I had to stop watching Law’n’Order SVU because it was so depressing. I try not to read anything about Fred West and his ghastly wife, partly because it all happened so close to where I grew up. Standard Sun-reader response to kids’ abuse cases-string ’em up-before liberal principles come to the rescue. I imagine a lawyer has to cultivate a certain detachment, and I should think you need it sometimes.

    • February 26, 2010 4:46 PM

      I’m not a lawyer. Work in legal publishing. I couldn’t cope with defending the guilty, prosecuting the innocent, or just generally dealing with lots of people arguing about stuff, so I hide out in the backroom just keeping the notes.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 26, 2010 6:58 PM

      Sorry, Poll. An unpardonable insult.

    • Polly permalink
      February 28, 2010 11:16 AM

      I’ll overlook it. Just this once…

  18. February 25, 2010 3:11 PM

    I’m not so bothered by the Teflon coating but it seems that when you can do anything there comes a dissappointment with what you end up doing. In Melies there’s no characterisation and not much of a plot ( magician inflates other man’s head which blows up for instance ) but he makes the most of his limitations.

    Very kind of you MM. Have given up on Glee for a few weeks now – has the school been held ransom by terrorists yet?

  19. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 25, 2010 3:37 PM

    That was 2 weeks ago. On to the alien invasion now.

  20. mishari permalink*
    February 25, 2010 5:45 PM

    It’s true that there’s something lifeless about CGI and like Tom, I noticed the concrete-loincloths and the nipple-covering whisps of chiffon that apparently had the rigidity and strength of high-tensile carbon steel. Then again, we all know what happened the last time America was exposed to a nipple (Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’): according to figures that I’m making up as I go along, 37 million Bible-fearing Americans dropped dead of coronary infarctions. Cameron wasn’t taking any chances.

    For some reason, I find CGI animals far less grating, especially invented or imagined animals, probably (I’m guessing) because we have no familiar template to measure them against. Mind you, the film interested me far less than the relentless ‘corporations, government, The Man = Bad; nature, indigenous peoples, violent rebellion = good’ message: that really intrigued me.

  21. freep permalink
    February 25, 2010 6:14 PM

    I couldn’t go to see Avatar, partly because CGI just makes me cringe, but also I am severely racist, and have a strong antipathy to blue people. I mentioned before how much I disliked Hurt Locker because of its thinly concealed US triumphalism and its nasty treatment of Arabs; I suspect any film that has been made for a lot of money in Hollywood deals will be crap.

  22. mishari permalink*
    February 25, 2010 7:16 PM

    Quite right, too, freep. Blue people. orange people (Kilroy-Silk and various slebs) and plaid people (haven’t spotted any yet but I know I’ll hate them): all to be shunned. You’re also correct about big money Hollywood films.

    The recent film of John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners: Or Brief Faithful Relation Exceeding Mercy God Christ his Poor Servant John is a case in point. The terrorist sub-plot was trite, the car chases and explosions were the same old same old and I don’t really feel that Bruce Willis as John Bunyan was entirely plausible. Mind you, Bunyan’s escape from Alcatraz was well done…

  23. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 25, 2010 7:44 PM

    Some of my best friends are blue.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 25, 2010 8:23 PM


      Some of my best friends are blues.

  24. mishari permalink*
    February 25, 2010 8:25 PM

    If you hang around with a lot of hard-core junkies, then the first statement is true…

  25. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 25, 2010 11:15 PM

    Can Blue Men Sing The Whites? Not while freep’s around.

    I have to disagree with you on Grace Abounding. I thought Willis was very convincing, and the wig looked almost real. The production took pains with the period detail: Willis’ torn and bloody singlet was clearly made from linen manufactured by the 17th century method. Initially I wasn’t persuaded by Jennifer Aniston as Mrs Bunyan, but in the end I think she grew into the role. All right, so Bunyan didn’t spend his declining years in a beachfront villa in Mexico ( I believe he died of flu in Neasden ), but I felt the ending ( how beautiful Jen looked against that sunset! ) was artistically right.

  26. mishari permalink*
    February 25, 2010 11:27 PM

    I was going to address some remarks to you, MM, but then I thought: it would be too callous, too cruel to intrude on your grief as you watch your adored Portsmouth FC thrashing in its death agonies. Chin up, old boy. Nothing lasts forever. Certainly not Portsmouth…

  27. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 25, 2010 11:48 PM

    The champers is flowing over here, dear chap. From my window ( if I stand on the bed ) I can see the red glow as Fratton Park descends into the hell it was born from. Die, skates!

  28. hic8ubique permalink
    February 26, 2010 2:20 AM

    I haven’t made a sonnet since I was at school, but there it is. Just a little thing, but I feel I have perhaps earned my keep, and need to announce it *here*, since everyone has moved on…

    I’m with freep, can’t even look at animated computer graphics; makes me as if I’m having a very slooow-motion seizure.
    I certainly agree with Jack re disempowerment resulting from passive viewing of violence.
    Here is something blue~sy for my friend Mowbray: (not ‘cretinous’, thank goodness!)

  29. hic8ubique permalink
    February 26, 2010 2:21 AM

    Wow! You did that, Mishari!

  30. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2010 10:06 AM

    Actually, hic, I discovered a long time ago that for some reason, a youtube link will not embed if you write anything after the link: that is, for it to appear as yours has, the link has to be the absolute last thing in your post. Sometimes (rarely), a link won’t embed for other reasons but that’s the usual reason.

    I meant to say this before but it slipped my mind. Sorry.

  31. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 26, 2010 12:48 PM

    Thanks for the Taj, Hic. I think I prefer the Bonzos, less authentic but funnier. I liked the sonnet, which I thought successfully avoided sentimentality. It’s always lurking.

  32. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2010 1:26 PM

    In case you don’t know what MM’s talking about, hic, (the Bonzos), here they are doing the erm…blues (cough):

  33. February 26, 2010 1:49 PM

    “But the most curious aspect of all this, for me, is where this message of revolt and rebellion is coming from: 20th Century Fox, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, one of the most egregious, inhumane, anti-democratic and exploitative corporations on earth.”

    Because what they want you to do is enjoy *imaginary* revolutions so you won’t be arsed to toss real Molotov cocktails on Mayday. A little like how some wives actually encourage their hubbies to watch their fills of porn…

    Also: Re: Johnny Lenin: the “everything is gonna be alright” bit is sarcastic, mon; let’s not forget that he countered the “count me out” line, in the slow version, with an “in!” I think “Revolution” is as much about agent provocateurs as anything else; he fingered a few (no pun intended) before finally being offed.

  34. hic8ubique permalink
    February 26, 2010 3:10 PM

    No apology called for, Mishari. It’s all a wonder to me, so I just thought you had changed the format.
    Thanks for the helpful Bonzo ref. I made it through once. Less authentic to the extent of nil, I’d have to say, which is I suppose your friendly point, MM.
    Interesting to think about sentimentality lurking in poetry, which hadn’t occurred to me. I probably would be considered a very sentimental person, but what I wince at most is preciousness. urggh.
    Ironically, I left the word ‘feel’ out of my post last night: ‘makes me feel as though’.
    Odd omission for a sentimental sort.

  35. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2010 3:13 PM

    It’s a great song off (what I think) is The Beatles best work (The White Album) and on reflection, I think you’re probably right, Steven: it was meant sardonically (Lennon’s default attitude usually). He was still a hypocrite, though. Mind you, who isn’t? The tribute that vice pays to virtue and all that…

    Re: Avatar’s ‘message’, I pretty much came to the same conclusion. People come away from it thinking ‘yeah, that was righteous; good to see people rising up’ and then they go back to sleepwalking on the corporate treadmill, secure in the ‘knowledge that ‘someone’, ‘somewhere’ can be relied upon to do the needful thing. If I had a working starship, I’d be high-tailing it to some other planet…

  36. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 26, 2010 3:41 PM

    I disagree: I think Lennon was probably sincere, as far as he was capable of being sincere. In the context of 1967-8 non-violence was still the fashionable posture. I think he moved left, and towards a more revolutionary stance, in the 1970s ( not that it stopped him appearing at concerts for very rich people ).

  37. February 26, 2010 3:47 PM

    I’m of the opinion that the Beatles ruined Yoko Ono.

  38. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2010 5:26 PM

    Is it really possible for a man with a $500 million fortune to be ‘sincerely’ revolutionary? Ever? I doubt it. Sincere posturing, now that’s something else…

    I could take the idea seriously if Lennon had done a Tolstoy but he didn’t, did he? He wanted the hipster kudos of spouting ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric without any of the sacrifice that genuine revolution necessarily entails.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of Lennon the songwriter, if we consign ‘Imagine’, (with its mawkish cant about ‘imagine no possessions, it’s easy if you try’; I’ve got news for you, John: most people don’t have to ‘try’)) to the cultural dustbin it belongs in…

    A brave and unfashionable stance, Al. You’re a bit of a revolutionary there yourself…

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 26, 2010 11:19 PM

      I meant that he was sincere, and not being ‘sardonic’, in saying that the Maoists were taking the wrong route, and that it would be unpopular. I don’t think he was a sincere revolutionary (ffs).

      There have been plenty of well-off revolutionaries in the past, however. I don’t think the size of your bank balance is necessarily a guide to your political views.

    • mishari permalink*
      February 26, 2010 11:37 PM

      While it’s indisputable that Mao and his acolytes were a bunch of destructive knuckleheads, Lennon’s assertion that:

      ‘if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao,
      you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow’

      …is demonstrably untrue. Mao-worship and his Little Red Book were very popular and parroting all that nonsense ‘made it’ with far too many people. It’s still making it with well-intentioned chumps like Sendero Luminoso in Peru and others.

      And while you’re certainly correct in saying that the size of a bank balance is no indicator of political views, I just don’t see any wealthy person being committed to a genuinely revolutionary agenda, i.e. the destruction of Capitalism.

      They will happily subscribe to egalitarian principles, to progressive taxation, etc. but the utter overthrow of the very system that’s made them comfortable? Unless you cite some examples, I must beg leave to remain sceptical…I can’t see that tosser Rusbridger manning the barricades: can you?

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 27, 2010 12:36 AM

      Putting me on the spot here, but I can think of Engels, William Morris and GBS, but more modern examples elude me, unless I can cite lunatics like Ulrike Meinhof and the Red Brigades mob.

      On the Mao question, it depends who you think Lennon was addressing. Worldwide it obviously did catch on-800 million followers in China demonstrate that. My assumption is that Lennon was more parochial in his outlook-the UK, Western Europe, possibly the US. Mao and his book were briefly modish, true enough ( sent off for one myself ), but beyond the student unions I don’t think they made any progress at all. Certainly by the early 70s in this country they were limited to barmy groups like the RCP, which most people on the left regarded as a joke. Lennon’s more important point, I think, is that violent revolution would never gain widespread support in democratic societies. So far he seems to have been right, though it’s hardly a world-shattering insight.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 27, 2010 11:09 AM

      is quite useful. That IT letter suddenly occurred to me in the middle of the night.

      I’m not sure if Bin Laden would qualify as a wealthy man ready to bring down the capitalist system which has benefited him.

    • mishari permalink*
      February 27, 2010 12:05 PM

      That’s an interesting question. Is Osama a revolutionary? My instinctive reaction would be ‘no’, because I always associate revolution with a progressive agenda, but after consideration, I think I’m wrong.

      Osama wants to return to the Islam of the 7th century (people keep accusing OBL and his cohorts of wanting to return to medieval times: nonsense. Medieval Islam was Baghdad and Damascus, Toledo and Granada–tolerant, inquiring and diverse. OBL wants something very different). I believe that’s a revolutionary agenda, although one of the entirely wrong sort.

      So, yeah, I’d say he’s a good example. But on the whole, as even Jesus acknowledged with his assertion that a camel would sooner pass through the eye of a needle etc, the rich aren’t interested in any change unless it’s a lessening of their financial obligations to the state and society.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 27, 2010 8:53 PM

      I’ve ‘discovered’ the reply function.
      William Sloane Coffin Jr had every opportunity to pursue personal wealth, but never did. He put his advantages toward revolutionary causes.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 27, 2010 11:16 PM

      I don’t think potential wealth can count, or you’re widening the field too much. Coffin will have to be excluded anyway because I keep trying to think up stupid jokes about his name.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 27, 2010 11:30 PM


  39. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 26, 2010 5:47 PM

    Yoko’s screaming on Sometime In New York City was gear. Went very well with a microdot.

  40. February 26, 2010 5:47 PM

    It’s a stance that holds water I think.

    Pre-Lennon she did some quite lively stuff with the Fluxus group and then as soon as she hooked up with him her stuff became dreary platitudes about peace and what wit there was disappeared. She did an exhibition for Liverpool 08 capital of culture which involved writing “love” on post-it notes and sticking them on ladders. Let’s face it anything’s got to be better than that.

    I wouldn’t go to court about it but if one of you wanted to challenge me my defense team thinks I’ve got quite a strong case as long as we can all agree on definitions of quality and what “better” actually means.

  41. February 26, 2010 5:52 PM

    The White Album version of Revolution was recorded before the single version, which reduces ‘count me out…in’ to ‘count me out’. Revolution in the Head says this:

    ‘The immediate inspiration for the Revolution sequence was the May ’68 student uprising in Paris…in refusing to relinquish love and peace for the grim priorities of the new era, [Lennon] knew he risked alienating the Beatles’ world audience of rapidly radicalising youth…the more politicised students scorned what they saw as Lennon’s bland rich-man’s assurance that everything was somehow going to be ‘alright’…resenting his wish to be counted out…’It was ‘the first serious crack in the Beatles’ corporate facade…’

    So it was something of a risk.

    ‘Up against a hip consensus, Lennon stuck to his guns for a year and a half (‘don’t expect me to be on the barricades unless it’s with flowers’) before finally capitulating in New York by donning a Mao badge and regulation black beret and leather gloves…the fact that most of his persecutors of 68-70 now work in advertising has belatedly served to confirm his original instincts.’

    He was right about the idiots carrying ‘pictures of Chairman Mao’ and his ‘I’d love to see the plan’ is a good dry response that could be used to any number of posturing, loud-mouthed ‘radicals’ today. I’ve met a few; the louder someone is yelling anti-globalisation, anti-corporate slogans, the more likely they are, in my experience, to be filling their leisure hours with recreational drugs procured through vast organisations for whom murder and misery are good business.

  42. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2010 6:11 PM

    In the first place, even as die-hard a Beatles fan as me (remember, they were the soundtrack of my youth) takes some of Ian MacDonald’s judgements with a grain of salt. He’s hardly a disinterested witness. Secondly, Lennon was a very bright guy who easily saw through the cant and self-serving posturing of late 60s ‘revolutionaries’ like Jerry Rubin et al. But, he spouted a fair bit of it himself, didn’t he? He also spent quite a bit of time as a junkie, filling his ‘…leisure hours with recreational drugs procured through vast organisations for whom murder and misery are good business.’ Like I said…a great songwiter but hardly a ‘revolutionary’. Now, Genesis P. Orridge….

  43. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    February 26, 2010 6:28 PM

    I remember Genesis P. Orridge, specifically from filming his gigs. As the ‘music’ grew in intensity and you were hypnotized by the seventies amoeba projection backdrop, two lean men would emerge from the audience and shed their duds, exposing ring-pierced anguilliform appendages which we were supposed to capture in close-up. Crusty jugglers.

  44. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2010 6:44 PM

    ‘…anguilliform appendages…’? Eel-like bits? I’m guessing this means, erm…cocks.

    Throbbing Gristle: If You Loved The Osmonds You’ll Absolutely Fucking Hate This Band…

  45. February 26, 2010 6:46 PM

    I have to second The M’s take on Lennon: he was no “Revolutionary” in the sense of being ready to toss himself, without reservation, into the deluded struggle to turn the system upside down. I think he was a very smart, cynical guy who didn’t like playing dumb or being pushed around. He knew the score and looked right through Rubin et al. But here’s the twist: I think McCartney was even more clued-in (less naive) than Lennon (except when it came to retired one-legged hookers, of course; but who could resist…?): and that’s why Paulie’s alive today.

  46. February 26, 2010 6:59 PM

    A friend of mine was a drummer for Throbbing Gristle in the early years. Apparently Genesis P is bored of his gender these days and is slowly transforming himself into a woman.

  47. February 26, 2010 7:07 PM

    Walter Carlos, that Wachowski brother and now…? It’s an epidemic. Mind you, one can see the advantage of having access to a set of proper-ish breasts, 24/7, no questions asked or objections raised… but, still. It’s like chopping off your tongue to inherit a chocolate factory.

  48. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2010 7:10 PM

    A bit more daring than Lennon’s transformation into a NYC house-husband, I think you’ll agree…(and if anyone’s wondering what Larry Wachowski looks like as Linda, take a peek…)

    I think you’re right about McCartney, Steven. I remember when their respective first solo LPs came out: McCartney’s sappy drivel vs. Lennon’s jagged anguish and I remember thinking ‘what a clueless drip McCartney is’. However, I now think he was a very clued-up fellow indeed. I’m almost tempted to think he was actually the most cynical of the Fabs…

  49. February 26, 2010 7:16 PM

    Last sentence: bingo.

  50. pinkroom permalink
    February 26, 2010 7:17 PM

    I read two books at an impressionable age that very much support Mishari’s stance here.

    From Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee I was given to believe that the Native American peoples who survived longest/most successfully were, paradoxically perhaps, the most belligerent. I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X about the same time and, in opposition to all that Lennon/hippy shite, whole-heartedly agreed with the maxim,

    I don’t even call it violence when it’s in self defense; I call it intelligence.

    That has long been, gentle as I generally am, my default position and, strangely enough, nobody messes… it’s a state of mind really. The danger though is when self-defence is regularly used as a justification to cross the line to outright offence. This is perhaps partly why the UK, among others, are now in such a desperate way morally/geo-politically… any way you look at it.

    As for P.Orridge, I remember him from about 20 years back when he, and his P.orrible little crew used to hang out around near to where Tom’s picture (above) was taken. To get run out of town in Brighton, where almost every arsehole imaginable is happily tolerated, takes some doing but Genesis managed it.

  51. February 26, 2010 7:19 PM

    (Just clicked over to check out “Linda”. Erm… right; tragic case of a middle-aged alcoholic Lesbian house painter being trapped in a successful male film-director’s body all those years…)

  52. mishari permalink*
    February 26, 2010 7:37 PM

    PR, the idea that ‘…the Native American peoples who survived longest/most successfully were, paradoxically perhaps, the most belligerent’, is borne out by the experience of the Seminoles of Florida.

    Actually an amalgam of various tribes* who refused to give in (Creek, etc), they never signed any treaties and made the US Army pay such a high price trying to winkle them out of the Everglades that when they did sign a treaty , it was on (by comparison to other Native American tribes) very favourable terms.

    Steven, ‘…middle-aged alcoholic Lesbian house painter…’. Yes. I was trying to think what s/he reminded me of.

    *According to wiki:

    The Seminole nation was formed in the 18th century in a process of ethnogenesis. It was composed of Native Americans from Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama, most significantly the Creek people, as well as African Americans who escaped to Florida from slavery in South Carolina and Georgia.

    Roughly 3,000 Seminoles were forced west of the Mississippi River during Indian Removal including ancestors of the present-day Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.

    Approximately 300 to 500 Seminoles stayed in Florida, where they lived and defended themselves in and around the Everglades. In an effort to dislodge them, the US government waged the Seminole Wars, in which a total of about 1,500 U.S. soldiers died. The Seminoles never surrendered to the United States. The Seminoles of Florida call themselves the “Unconquered People”.

  53. February 26, 2010 8:17 PM

    Steven I suspect Genesis P was fed up with not getting seats on the bus and in his customarily extreme way chose a method to ensure someone would offer theirs next time he got on.

  54. February 27, 2010 10:04 AM

    With songs like “Give Ireland back to the Irish” and the one about legalising dope it always seemed to me that McCartney stuck his neck out further than Lennon whose revolutionary attitudes were always more generalised. He even managed to get that Irish song banned by the Beeb and I think it was mentioned in parliament at the time. Can’t remember if Lennon had songs banned by Auntie.

    Of course in the world of revolutionary gestures it’s no great shakes but it’s funny how Lennon always gets the credit. Our Beatles correspondent XB made the point earlier upstream about how McCartney is always seen in one way.

  55. February 27, 2010 10:31 AM

    Yeah, Al, and, again: between the two Beatles, which one was doing a retired one-legged hooker, eh?

  56. February 27, 2010 11:23 AM

    ‘he spouted a fair bit of it himself, didn’t he?’

    Of course. I guess, as in many things, Lennon was inseparable from his generation. His zany attempts to define himself (hipster/mystic/revolutionary/family-man/avant-garde artist/peacenik/etc) mirror, I imagine, the process that many others experienced at the time: but it’s interesting that the Mao badges, beret etc, were a climb-down in response to the global fanbase equivalent of peer-pressure. He was right, though, as Zappa retrospectively claimed to have said at the LSE: ‘Revolution is just this year’s flower power.’

    And you’re right, I wasn’t there. Learning all this stuff retrospectively and from different sources is very interesting – you learn the vested interests of individual authors/commentators along the way. I remember my image of Lennon (the peace-love, Imagine, post-murder Yoko-approved version) being turned upside-down when I read Albert Goldman’s book, years ago. A lot of it is probably nonsense of course, but my father remembers the news that Lennon had beaten Bob Wooler with a blunt object at a party being pretty big in the Liverpool press at the time.

    McCartney, I think, is/was far more self-contained and stable than Lennon. Although also ‘addicted to winning’ as Barry Miles has it. Miles (no McCartney fan), sees Give Ireland Back to the Irish as a cack-handed attempt to compete with Lennon on politics. He’s certainly proved his ‘addiction’ since, the desire to reverse the Lennon-McCartney credit on Northern songs being particularly egregious. As I once heard a stand-up yell: ‘Stop, Paul, you were in the Beatles. You won!’ But the man wrote Eleanor Rigby: in my book, that’s a lifetime subscription to doing whatever the fuck you want.

    I think Genesis P. was transforming his gender to become the closer equivalent to his wife. They were aiming to live as one entity, a new, androgynous creature. Sadly, she died a year or so ago.

  57. February 27, 2010 11:24 AM

    If I stand on the bed I can see something even worse than Fratton Park.

  58. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2010 11:34 AM

    Albert Goldman was fine, XB, when he was writing about artists he admired. Did you ever read his biography of Lenny Bruce? His bio of Elvis, however, was a mean-spirited hatchet-job. Personally, I’ll never forgive McCartney for Obla-di-obla-da. Still, he gets a pass for all the great songs he wrote to set against that.

    I found it fascinating to read, many years ago, Lennon’s interview with Rolling Stone in which he went through the catalogue, attributing songs. Bit of an eye-opener. Songs I’d always assumed were Paul’s turned out to be John’s and vice-versa…

  59. February 27, 2010 11:50 AM

    Steven I’m not in either camp. McCartney’s creative “problem” was that he didn’t die young so we got to suffer all his later stuff. Post – Beatles Lennon wasn’t so hot either even if he did spout a better line in sarcasm. That album he did of covers is pub-rock at best.

  60. February 27, 2010 12:00 PM

    Steven, Is the Augustinian Kwality Kontrol assessment just for one-legged hookers? If it’s for those with the full compliment of two as well there are going to be a lot of artists falling by the wayside. They didn’t even wait for them to retire either.

  61. February 27, 2010 12:02 PM

    ‘I found it fascinating to read, many years ago, Lennon’s interview with Rolling Stone in which he went through the catalogue, attributing songs. ‘

    You see, I came to the Beatles with all this information readily available. Within a year or two of ‘discovering’ Revolver etc I was reading Revolution in the Head and others. Rock music comes with context and footnotes, now. Approaching, say, Blonde on Blonde, can – if one chooses – be a similar experience to reading an Arden edition of Henry IV (another double-album). This can be fascinating but also alienating. When I first had a Dylan phase a few years back I held off from reading any biographies for as long as I could bear, to try and let the music do its work in peace. But I caved eventually.

    I like the backing vocals on Obla-di-obla-da, at the end of the chorus. At university, I studied with a West Indian performance-poet/artist, and she was of the opinion that Paul had stolen the song from Jimmy Scott: I felt she implied racial undertones to the theft ( a la Elvis, Eminem, etc). In my opinion, it was a case of a musician taking what he found and using it. Although McCartney did reach a financial settlement with Scott. No different, imo, from the Stones belatedly acknowledging Marianne Faithful’s contribution to Sister Morphine (i.e. all the bloody lyrics): Rock stars are thieves and very stingy with credit. Mick Taylor left the Stones he was so sick of the lack of credit: imagine how badly you’d have to be treated to quit the STONES. Guess the Jagger-Richards combination of self-made badass and cold businessman (both ripped off for their sixties royalties by Allan Klein) made for a tight, closed circle.

    I want to read the Peter Guralnik Elvis biography, when I have a couple of months spare.

    If I stand on my bed, I hit my head.

  62. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2010 12:17 PM

    This is very true, XB. That Lennon interview (from about 1971, I think) was the first real look I and many others had into the inner workings of the Fabs. Now, you’ve got access to a virtual minute-by-minute chronology of their lives complete with scholarly disquisitions, footnotes, addenda etc. etc. All we knew was the music.

    For me, The Stones ceased to be of any interest after Exile. The final straw for me was in the late 70’s, when a friend of mine who was working as a manager of some Gap-like trendy clothes shop in NYC, showed me a video that he’d received from head office. It was a personal message from Jagger, pushing his new line of jeans or whatever it was. It was stomach churning.

    That and the photo of the ‘street fighting men’ Jagger and Richards, walking in the garden of their villa in the South of France with Baron Rothschild, their financial advisor. Rock and Rolllll….

  63. February 27, 2010 12:23 PM

    XB Didn’t Gram Parsons have a huge uncredited input into the Sticky Fingers album? Or was it Let it Bleed? or was it both?

    “Cousin Cocaine” is one of my favourite utter-crap lyrics of all time. If they’d written it later I suppose “Mister Methamphetamine” would have made an appearance too. Along with “Ketamine the kitten”.

    Mind you Picasso said something along the lines of great artists don’t borrow they steal so our rock-star chums obviously took that one to heart.

  64. February 27, 2010 12:30 PM

    ‘For me, The Stones ceased to be of any interest after Exile.’

    Again, whilst you had the opportunity to discover/decide this for yourself, I first encountered the Stones with the ‘knowledge’ that this was true. So even when buying Goats Head Soup I ‘knew’ I was buying an inferior record. Is it inferior? I think so, but I wonder how I would have listened to it had Lester Bangs, Mojo etc told me it was a masterpiece.

    I recall reading of William Rees-Mogg’s shocked response after meeting Jagger at a BBC discussion show. He was, said, Rees-Mogg (and I’m paraphrasing) ‘a traditional libertarian Tory’.

  65. February 27, 2010 12:31 PM

    Since when was Avatar NOT “the corporation”??

    Thank you freep for pointing out the macho jingoistical fraudulence of Hurt Locker.

    I thought An Education one long boring class cliché.

    A terrible year for movies. Almost, one might say, a Pompey year.

    The marketed rhetoric of revolution has always seemed to me almost as revolting as slithery blue people. Once upon a time there was great talk of revolution among idle white folk, that phase of Lennon’s career was unfortunate, an embarrassment really. Where then did it lead, I esk you.

    In any case it seems the best thing to do now would be to let it go.

  66. February 27, 2010 12:39 PM

    (From the above blanket statement, re terrible year, one must except the magisterial Haneke White Ribbon; but then, of course, Haneke has never been part of the industry anyway — to his endless chagrin, yet also his artistic advantage.)

  67. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2010 12:43 PM

    Al, I think it’s safe to attribute a lot of the country influences heard on Exile and Sticky Fingers (Country Honk, Wild Horses, Dead Flowers etc) to Parson’s input.

    Yeah, XB, but I’d amend that to ‘a traditional tax-dodging libertarian Tory’…sort of Bono, avant la lettre

  68. pinkroom permalink
    February 27, 2010 2:14 PM

    Very interesting about the Seminoles… the way to go, although the terrain probably helped, as it is helping the Afghans and the Republicans in West Cork… having said, at the risk of stereotyping, that some people – for whatever reason – just seem a bit… well feistier. A Jamaican acquaintance of mine once half-jokingly that had apartheid ever been established there it would not have lasted the week and knowing the fella I knew exactly what he meant. We all have that point past which we will not be druv, and his was about a hair’s width from being ever so politely asked.

    I remember driving through Norway once and reading about the German occupation… it was laughable really; even the Norwegians don’t occupy it… about one person every 50 miles. Geography, together with the natives tendency towards, sooner or later getting pissed off with being told what to do, is why all Empires are ultimately doomed to fail.

    Apropos the eernal schoolyard Beatles/Stones.. Lennon or McCartney debate I have to say that when the Stones were good they were really, really good but they were embarrassing when they went for a wider range (Reggae! Psychadelia..) I would certainly swap Some Girls for Satanic Majesties. The Beatles did lots of styles well… even Oblabloodydee has a certain catchiness. Oddly enough my favourite Paul McC. songs are the pure pop he did with Wings…things like “My Love” and “Silly Love Songs”. Not at all cool but great examples of a particular craft.

    Bono can rot in hell. Forever.

  69. freep permalink
    February 27, 2010 3:43 PM

    Tom; about An Education; I only got round to seeing it a couple of weeks ago, and class-ridden cliche is right on the button. Whatever feminist message might have been in there somewhere, about every 90 seconds the doctrine was rammed home that all that mattered in the whole of human existence was getting to Heaven – in this case Oxford. It was as if the British class system was merely another version of the Catholic church: we are all born in a state of sin (degreeless) , but with the help of prayer (and ever such a naice English teacher, who alerts us to Donne and Eliot), we can obtain indulgences (grossly superior A level results) and enter into God’s kingdom (Trinity / Jesus / Balliol) and be happy with Him for ever and ever and ever.
    Agree about Haneke; a Prophet was worth seeing.

  70. February 27, 2010 6:18 PM

    Many Beatles’ lyrics are frustratingly contradictory (it’s annoying, since I’ve chosen to live my life based upon their interpretation). For instance, in one song they opine, “Money can’t buy you love,” – in another, they claim, “money don’t get everything it’s true / what it don’t get, i can’t use,” – and in a third, they suggest that “all you need is love.” I think they had problems with the whole “money / love” business which they’d never worked into a coherent philosophy.

    Oddly, Goatshead Soup is about the only Stones album I play regularly these days.

    Here’s the rich Russian symbolist revolutionary, Valery Bryusov, looking forward to his own destruction in the upcoming socialist revolution:

    And what of our own dear creations
    In the winged storm’s ferment,
    In this thunderstorm of destruction,
    Will be spared by amused Accident?

    Perhaps all that is our own will perish
    And leave no trace that men’s eyes can see…
    Still I welcome with a hymn of greeting
    All of you who will destroy me.

  71. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2010 10:01 PM

    Terrific poem, obooki, and an attitude not usually encountered amongst the rich, believe me.

    Amusing Headline Of The Week:

    Why social network analysis hasn’t led us to Osama Bin Laden.– from

    …erm…just guessing here…because Osama doesn’t have a Facebook account or a gmail address or a youtube channel or a blog? Or possibly, hiding out in the mountains of the Afghan/Pakistan border puts a crimp in your social life?

    I went shopping for a diver’s watch today (for reasons that I can’t reveal, except to say that I now possess a reliable chart that pinpoints a sunken German U-boat containing a vast sum in Nazi gold and 1 million ampoules of diamorphine). The clerk showed me a series of watches–Rolex, Tag-Heuer, Girard-Perregaux–before holding up the latest Omega Seamaster Pro. “Guaranteed to 4000 ft” burbled the clerk.

    Seeing that my pulse hadn’t accelerated at this news, he held up the woven-metal bracelet, (titanium, I’m guessing) and added “…and it’s shark-proof…”.

    He mistook my look of bemusement for bafflement and elaborated: “…sharks teeth can’t penetrate this bracelet.”

    What had actually bemused me was A. the idea that the clerk thought I looked like the kind of macho idiot who goes swimming with aggressive sharks and B. the notion that a man confronted by an aggressive shark is going to be worrying about damage to his watch.

    Hmmm…I’m under attack by a Great White Shark: I do hope my watch won’t be harmed. Right.

    Later, I asked my wife if she thought I looked like the kind of macho idiot who goes swimming in shark-infested waters. “Yes”, she replied without hesitation. This is very depressing news.

  72. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 27, 2010 11:20 PM

    Why are the reply comments getting narrower?

    I thought you didn’t wear watches.

  73. mishari permalink*
    February 27, 2010 11:25 PM

    I do when I’m diving for a Nazi sub with a fixed amount of breathable air in a tank on my back…

    The replies are down to a column of single words now. Rather an attractive effect, I think. It’s just the way this template works…

    Oh, and I was born in London, you cheeky fucker, although I can see that would be a bastard to rhyme.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 27, 2010 11:36 PM

      Sorry about that. London would have been tricky.

  74. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 27, 2010 11:33 PM

    Actually Homicidal

    The Blog of Osama Bin Laden.

    27th Feb 2010

    Death to the Great Satan!

    Leave a Reply

    KandaharBoy says:

    Yeah! Great blog Osama! Kill the USA!

    Osama says:

    Thanks, Kandaharboy. I’m doing my best.

    atf says:

    Can you do something about the boom-boom merchants at Derby Uni?

    Osama says:

    No. Boom-boom is my favourite sound.

  75. February 28, 2010 3:30 PM


    You’ve composed the fair and accurate review of An Education nobody in that grand webby sticky thing “the industry” would dare to write. Thanks.

    Haven’t yet seen The Prophet, but have heard good things. We really liked The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Audiard’s brilliant remake of James Toback’s Fingers.

    BTW/ Re. where this interesting discussion began, out of an inexplicable residual loyalty to that forlorn dimly remembered thing the thread I am latterly executing an “If you can’t beat ’em, fuse with them” maneuver and issuing a little unobtainium treasury of verse.

    (And in favour of the cinematic monstrosity I will concede that the crowd closeups of the Spurs XII singing in unison in stoppage time of their famous victory over Everton a few minutes ago reminded one all over again that though the whites may beat up the blues now and again, they will always be more ugly.)

  76. March 1, 2010 1:23 AM

    “about every 90 seconds the doctrine was rammed home that all that mattered in the whole of human existence was getting to Heaven – in this case Oxford. ”
    Erm yes, but we, the audience, weren’t expected to believe that, surely, only to observe that to these people ‘Oxford’ seemed the gateway to success and privilege and they attached huge importance to it in a way which now seems naive and slightly sad? But that’s what the 1944 Education Act and full county grants for students meant: a whole swathe of people who would never have thought about higher education for their kids, however bright the children were, could now actually send them to university. Which would mean, in the society of the time, moving them up a class (and probably losing them, too); cf. too many 1950s/60s novels to mention.
    I liked An Education, though I thought Alfred Molina was terrible and the lover was a bit dull. I liked the way the girl just went along with this weird relationship out of curiosity more than anything else.

    The word on A Prophet is that it’s very good but the razor-blade bit is stomach-churning.

  77. freep permalink
    March 1, 2010 8:46 AM

    Yes indeed, Zeph, Alfred Molina was pure music hall (with his eyebrows it is hard to be non-clownish)… but I don’t agree about the Education Act and so on; this was Lynn Barber’s autobiography, and it was a tolerably privileged background – posh Home Counties independent Girls’ school – the family had more pretensions than deprivations.

    What did interest me was the clash between the naivete of the girl and her family and the flash mob of estate agents with whom she got embroiled and seduced. I knew people in the Rachman circle in the late 60s and early 70s, and there was a certain historical accuracy about some of the ways property developers and slum landlords were depicted. But, for me, alas, the persuasiveness of this vanished when the girl saw the error of her ways and entered into the Heaven of Oxford. Maybe it was faithful to what happened – but as a piece of storytelling it felt complacent.

    Sorry if this clogs your blog, mish.

  78. March 1, 2010 8:53 AM

    Tom I watched the League Cup final and some of Aston Villa players could have done with some CGI enhancing to make them run a bit faster. I wouldn’t have even minded if their shorts defied the laws of material in motion as long as there was a bit of urgency. One team appeared to be playing on land whilst the other was playing underwater. I don’t think it was just my TV.

  79. March 1, 2010 8:57 AM

    sorry Mish. Matters of football now invading your blog. I did write a poem about the pointlessness of mice but to have dropped it on this blog out of left-field would have seemed the work of a lunatic. Plus it wasn’t as good as it sounded. I’ll work on it further

  80. mishari permalink*
    March 1, 2010 9:04 AM

    I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again: there’s no such thing as ‘off-topic’ at PH. Treat it as you would your local boozer.

  81. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 1, 2010 11:40 AM

    I firebombed my local boozer. Stopped those drunken knobs pissing on my hedge and puking on the pavement. Nice block of flats there now.

  82. freep permalink
    March 1, 2010 11:52 AM

    A propos of nothing: I am having to prepare a talk on Walter Scott (God help me), and I came across this first-rate quote from Carlyle, which might be usefully applied to any blockhead who makes a lot of money out of writing:

    ‘Scott writes daily, with the ardour of a steam-engine, that he might make £15,000 a year and buy upholstery with it.’

    Pleased to hear you now have a hygienic hedge, MM.

    Al, I for one would welcome, deeply, a poem on the pointlessness of mice

  83. mishari permalink*
    March 1, 2010 11:58 AM

    I’m barred from my local boozer for offering the landlord a swift punch in the mouth and flicking cigar-ash into his wife’s cleavage. Fuck it. I never much liked that pub, anyway…

    But, freep, don’t all authors aspire to the upholstered state? The basis of all Art, surely?

  84. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 1, 2010 12:13 PM

    I believe Beckett had a mania for high-end soft furnishings. Hence his acclaimed ‘Not Ikea’.

  85. freep permalink
    March 1, 2010 12:42 PM

    It has been overlooked by cultural historians that the main reason for the popularity of the Fitzroy Tavern and the boozers around Charlotte Street was their closeness to Heal’s in Tottenham Court Road. Dylan Thomas, George Orwell, Tom Driberg and all that crowd, after they’d had their daytime skinfuls, would usually slope off to Heal’s and recuperate on the chesterfields and occasionally puke on the Persian rugs. Tom Driberg in particular was impressed by the lift boys and so preferred the bedding dept on the top floor.

  86. March 1, 2010 1:59 PM

    Well, at least there were signs of life from the Dreamers, Al. Little Michael actually finishing something for once, as of yore, and when he was taken off, even better from the boy now Man called Wayne.

    Though nothing as good as the comedy on the previous day when the other Wayne (Bridge) pulled back his hand. One can hardly blame him, considering the possibilities as to what Terry’s hand might have been up, or under, in the runup.

    (Fabio Capello obviously believes all this is good for national unity, or something, though which nation he has in mind, now that would be the question.)

    On the equally (not) pressing issue of An Education, Freep, I simply thought the material depressingly trite, with each plot development, nay each single shot and line of dialogue, absolutely predictable once you had got the hang of where the thing was heading. Not the fault of Molina, Pike, Sarsgaard et al that they had to play out and utter such foolish stuff.

    For a film about a young woman caught in the battle between made plans and instincts, propriety and heart, the false and the true, I would nominate Michael Powell’s 1945 masterpiece I Know Where I’m Going as having it all over this current ridiculous bit of class-conscious fluffery. Symbolism, lyricism, romance, comedy, adventure, suspense and an overarching sense of supernatural elements mysteriously at work within the natural dimension — what was not to like?

  87. freep permalink
    March 1, 2010 2:26 PM

    Tom, I Know Where I’m Going was a brilliant film.
    It was filmed mostly on location in Mull, with dramatic scenery, at a place called Carsaig, magnificent setting. You can still see the red telephone box which was installed for the purposes of the film; it is situated immediately next to a large and very noisy waterfall, which makes it completely useless for any conversation. Probably the most pointless telephone box in existence. And the film has both Finlay Currie and John Laurie in the cast, which makes it comprehensively and authentically Scottish. Powell and Pressburger approached cinematic genius at times, perhaps because, rather than in spite of, their shoestring budgets.

  88. March 1, 2010 3:01 PM


    Perhaps the most pointless yet also perhaps the most storied of all telephone boxes, it has even appeared, I believe, in a doc about the film. At any rate I have seen it somewhere, and that somewhere must have been here, not there. Ah, and what a tremendous film. I love the way it is just one thing after another that keeps her from getting to that island, where she’d thought, in her headstrong determination, so gently removed as the film moves along, she was going. (Best laid plans & c.)

  89. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 1, 2010 4:04 PM

    Powell’s The Edge Of The World must be the ultimate island film. It’s 40 years since I saw it, but I still remember feeling light-headed watching the seagulls flying round the cliffs. The Needles and the cliffs above Scratchell’s Bay aren’t quite in the same league.

  90. March 1, 2010 5:51 PM

    Canterbury Tale is the Powell/Pressburger I most love. Daft X 10 storyline about the glue-man but it’s lyrical,atmospheric and proclaims a nationalism it’s almost possible to embrace ( speaking as a fervent anti-nationalist ).

    The Pointlessness of Mice is best as a title at the moment. It needs more point to it. So although tied up with the infancy of a new show I will try and sharpen that point.

  91. hic8ubique permalink
    March 1, 2010 8:39 PM

    Hi Alarming~
    Have a look in the lost articles bin on Poster Poems; you dropped something.

  92. March 1, 2010 8:51 PM

    Hic thanks for letting me know – I did notice the error and what’s odd is that I posted a red-faced explanation which has not appeared! In between scrolling down a blog about Ashcroft to find the comment box my computer unknown to me leapt onto the PP page – no idea how or why other than I must have hit a back key somewhere. God knows where my other comment is.

    I suspect my lap-top needs some more 3 in 1 oil. Or I do .

  93. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 1, 2010 8:59 PM

    It was indistinguishable from most of the alleged ‘poems’ on there.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      March 1, 2010 9:24 PM

      Must we always rhyme to please you, MM?

    • mishari permalink*
      March 1, 2010 9:45 PM

      I don’t think so but chopped-up prose is even less impressive than my own doggerel.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      March 2, 2010 11:33 AM

      Not at all, hic. That would exclude reams of Shakespeare, Paradise Lost and countless other fine works of literature. I’m very partial to Wallace Stevens, who rarely used rhyme. What I like to see is organisation, an interest in the use of language and some evidence that the writer recognises that a poem is made, not improvised in the course of a five-minute fag-break. What I don’t like seeing is clumsy transcriptions of the unremarkable thoughts of not very interesting minds. Why choose free verse to write in? In the main, because it’s easy: there are no hard decisions about what to leave out, or having to find a way to make a phrase as concise as possible, or going back and reworking entire sections because you’ve run out of rhymes or your metrical plan has gone off the rails. You just bung in the kitchen sink. My thoughts are as boring and obvious as everyone else’s, but fitting them into a pre-determined framework at least makes me have to consider them: then you realise just how dull and unoriginal they really are. Would that certain Poster Poets could do the same.

    • mishari permalink*
      March 2, 2010 12:02 PM

      Amen. That MM…he’s not as stupid as he looks: mind you, that would hardly be possible…

    • hic8ubique permalink
      March 3, 2010 2:57 AM

      MM~ I do appreciate your thoughtful response, though you may not find me now, up here in the gods. I would make you our standard bearer of the masculine principle in poetic expression.
      The ones that irritate me (only slightly) on PP go by leaving no impression whatsoever: ‘That may as well have been written in Russian for all the good it did me’….?

  94. freep permalink
    March 1, 2010 9:01 PM

    I went to Foula (Edge of the World) about 3 years ago. The plane was like a Ford transit with little wings. It carried booze for the 25 demented inhabitants. My dogg bit the postwoman on the way. There is a rocky chasm called Da Sneck o’ da Smallie. Puffins all over the place like parrots with low IQ.

  95. hic8ubique permalink
    March 1, 2010 9:05 PM

    I suppose what’s called for is ‘Marvel’s Mystery Oil’.
    I hope you were not truly red-faced, because I would feel badly about teasing you.
    There really is no need of explanation, since anyone who typically has more than one tab up at once can imagine immediately what happened. I found your post incongruous in only the most delightful way.
    That would be such a lark, to post ‘alarming’ non-sequiturs in the GU?
    Perhaps not, perhaps there’s plenty of that already.

  96. March 1, 2010 9:29 PM

    hic no need to worry about teasing. I was highly amused that it got more recommendations than my actual poem on that thread.

  97. mishari permalink*
    March 1, 2010 9:35 PM

    In case anyone thought freep invented Da Sneck o’ da Smallie (God knows, I did), here’s a photo of the place.

    Marvel Mystery Oil. That’s a blast from the past. Fantastic stuff, sort of like WD-40 for cars. Pour it into the tank, into the carbs, into the crankcase…it never did any harm and often worked…well…miracles.

    I concur, MM. Most of the poster poets appear to have got the memo that reads: “Poetry is about feelings. Sincerity. Bugger form or discipline and as for rhyme? Don’t even think it.”

    • hic8ubique permalink
      March 1, 2010 10:31 PM

      MMO still belongs in every well-supplied glory-hole, Mishari. I’m sure a certain sort of old Yankees rub it on their knees.
      Will derekhughes be offering to show us how it’s done, form over feeling, that is?
      Da Sneck reminds me again of that favourite mossy caverny history poem of yours…

    • mishari permalink*
      March 1, 2010 10:44 PM

      You could probably drink the stuff, hic. For arthritis. I notice you’ve become a subscriber to the PH music channel. Is that your photo? Nordic-looking chick? Ahem…’chick’: another blast from the past. The mention of MMO took me back, y’see…

      Subscribers, I get. Basically, they get notified when I post a new vid. What I don’t get is all these people who invite me to be their ‘friend’. What the hell does that even mean?

      I just delete the invites because, sadly, openings for membership in the Friends of Mishari That He’s Never Met, Never Communicated With and Knows Absolutely Fucking Nothing About Club are very limited and the quota’s filled…

    • hic8ubique permalink
      March 1, 2010 11:17 PM

      Well, glad I didn’t friend you up, then! I can’t explain it not having ever done it, but the subscriber thing looks a good idea. Seems friendly enough in itself.
      I’m looking forward to viewing more of your work/fun during my procrastination interludes. The Hubble pics are amazing! At risk of even more over-exposure, yes, I’m learning to do this ‘photo-booth’ thingy, and remember being thought more mysterious than is strictly necessary.’Tis I.

  98. InvisibleJack permalink
    March 1, 2010 9:55 PM

    Hi everyone

    I’m in a cyber cafe in Glaregalway, just a few miles from Tuam, and thought I’d pop in here to see what’s happening.

    Al, it’s very naughty of you to mention that you’ve been working on a poem about the pointlessness of mice, and then abstain from finishing it. My life will not now be complete until I’ve read it. My mind is in ruins from the excited anticipation.

    Actually, you reminded me of a story by Cyril Kornbluth that was never actually published (as far as I know). Damon Knight mentions having read the first few pages in manuscript, which contained a stream of consciousness account by a mouse while having sex with a lady mouse. And similarly, my life has been a pale slice of stale cheese from the deprivation due to never being able to read that unpublished story. Please do not add to my agonies by failing to finish your poem.

    Tom, I posted another note over on your blog, this time under my username InvisibleJack. Only the very first of those “anonymous” postings was by me, the others were by somebody else. Apologies if I caused any confusion.

    Mish, I don’t think the poets over at PP needed a memo in order to write in as undisciplined a manner as some of them do. I think it’s a knack they developed all on their own.

    Jack Brae Curtingstall

  99. mishari permalink*
    March 1, 2010 10:00 PM

    Good to see Cyril Kornbluth get a mention, Jack. He was a fabulous writer. ‘The Marching Morons’ and ‘The Little Black Bag’ are two of my all-time favourite short stories. A great loss that he died so young.

  100. InvisibleJack permalink
    March 1, 2010 10:25 PM


    My English teacher in secondary school (in North London, as it happens, I was brought up there), not only introduced me to the poetry of Thom Gunn but also read out to class another little Kornbluth gem, The Mindworm. That started me off on my love of Kornbluth. As you say, a sad pity he died so early.

    Jack Brae

    • hic8ubique permalink
      March 1, 2010 10:38 PM

      Hi Jack~
      I wonder, did you ever come across any Wildmans in the environs of Epping Green?
      Dispersed or deceased by your time, I imagine.

  101. freep permalink
    March 1, 2010 11:04 PM

    Dear Mr Al-Adwani. I acknowledge receipt of your memo concerning the inclusion of feelings in poetry. I have to tell you that the memo was wafted up my chimney as if by an invisible hand, and then a booming voice bellowed in at my letter box, saying:

    From now until the end of thyme
    There’s no true poetry without rime.
    As for that vaunted thing called ‘sincerity’
    It is only practised by people who are ferrety.
    The folk who impose upon you their ‘feelings’
    Are guilty of basest double dealing …..

    The voice faded, and I knew it was a True Muse. It seemed to have a Manx accent.

  102. mishari permalink*
    March 2, 2010 1:58 AM

    Dear Mr. Freep,
    Like many struggling poets, you’ve probably wondered why fame and fortune have eluded you. Wonder no longer. There is a man with all the answers: Burt Goldman, the American monk. Let Burt tell you all about Quantum Jumping and how it can make your every dream come true WITH NO EFFORT ON YOUR PART!

    Now, you may be saying to yourself ‘Quantum Jumping? Sounds like horseshit to me’ but you must set aside your cynicism Mr. Freep. In Burt’s own words:

    Quantum Jumping is the process of “jumping” into parallel dimensions, and gaining skills, knowledge, wisdom and inspiration from alternate versions of yourself.

    What could be simpler than that?

  103. freep permalink
    March 2, 2010 6:44 AM

    Mish: It’s true! Mr Burt Goldman’s project works! I have now signed up for the ‘Interdimensional Quest for a Better You’ and already I have composed a Wind Sextet, skated on all fours at record breaking speeds along a frozen river, singing Handel arias with aplomb, and I have begun breeding the most exquisite translucent chinchillas. It may help that Burt Goldman looks very like Ronald Reagan. AND I am having fun exploring the different versions of my self that he has shown me. Especially Vanessa.

  104. March 2, 2010 9:23 AM

    Jack. Have broken one of my artistic rules, number 7 actually – never set up anticipation for something you do as the fall-out will be worse than if you said nothing at all. I’m currently ill and getting a new project off the ground so poetic progress on this will be slow. Given my current ability to post things in the wrong places I’m not sure where it will end up once posted either.

    I liked the Monty Python self-defence course where you attack someone before they’ve even thought of attacking you.

  105. March 2, 2010 10:54 AM

    Christ. I was just returning from the kitchen with a bowl of porridge and a cup of Earl Grey when a stranger stepped out from the wardrobe. I threw the porridge at him. He had mandibles and was dressed in silver animal skins. He explained he was me, from another dimension, and could I teach him how to manage a hedge fund. I told him I was a poet and writer. He cursed, saying he hated all that corporate stuff and just wanted to follow his dream, ‘why do people only think of money’? He had been an executive poet for fifteen years and was sick of the late hours in the office and kissing up to Peter Mandelson (who is identical in all dimensions). I told him things were a little different around here, but would he be willing to broker any of my poems in his dimension and what was the exchange rate. He told me that poems about feelings were currently appreciating so

    I closed my
    And tried
    To imagnine the strength
    And radiance
    Of cold spring sun
    Icy diminishment
    And the last time
    The final time
    I’d felt
    Bit sad

    He’s taken it with him. I’m confident of a windfall. In return, I’ll let him use my Financial Times online password.

  106. freep permalink
    March 2, 2010 11:53 AM

    I second the Vicomte de Mowbray’s call for decorum, order, form.
    It is as rare to see decent blank verse (of which Stevens was a master, see Sunday Morning) as it is reasonably effective rhymed verse.
    I would add to his prescription for readable poetry that it must have something approaching musicality. Chopped-up prose predominates on Poster Poems, as it does in much so-called Creative Writing that affects to reproduce refined feeling. Every tosser has refined feelings, and base ones. There needs to be some skill in reproducing it.
    Years ago I edited a little poetry magazine and I put an advert in a local paper inviting contributions. The free verse tumbled at me like a tide of sewage, against which brown sludge even the most trivial doggerel showed like diamonds. Form enables the writer to put his tedious thoughts in a frame; without it, those words and thoughts are no more than a sketchbook, and it is frankly impolite to to show such a sketchbook in public. One may share it with a familiar, accustomed to seeing the bard naked, but no more than that.

  107. mishari permalink*
    March 2, 2010 12:09 PM

    That’s it, isn’t it. I don’t demand that artists be ‘original’ (whatever that means) but I do want them to give me the impression that they’ve put more effort into their work than I’ve put into a limerick about cheese…not that a limerick about cheese is contemptible.

    Far from it: it is what it is: pithy, pointed, amusing (one hopes or what’s the point?)
    But yer pome qua pome…werl, guvnor…thass a diffrnt ke’ll ov fish, innit?

  108. March 2, 2010 1:32 PM

    Strangely enough a limerick about cheese featured in my pointlessness about mice poem – no really! So that’s that one on the back -burner.

    Not having drenched myself in poetry over the years I’m not an expert but when I look at a drawing ( where I have done and am still doing my time ) I’m not so sure I need to know whether the artist is technically proficient. Do we need to know Picasso is trying to throw all that technique away in his marvellous late drawings about ageing and sex? Does that knowledge make the drawing better? I’m not so sure anymore.

    Similarly our outsider chum Henry Darger copied his figures from the contemporary equivalents of Bunty Comics for Girls so what we like in his work is not the drawing skill but something else. The sheer relentless obsession possibly.

    I’m not making a case for some of the PP stuff of course but I find some things just work and some don’t and if I could figure out a rule to apply to that I’d be a happier man.

  109. mishari permalink*
    March 2, 2010 1:58 PM

    Well, I understand what you’re saying, Al, and on the whole, I agree with you. What irritates me, I guess, is when I see no evidence of either craft or obsession. When it’s Art (always with a capital A, of course) as a ‘hobby’ or a ‘pastime’, like knitting or macrame: a ‘civilised’ time-killer.

    I want one or the other, craft or obsession; preferably both. The thing is, whatever Picasso did, he was Picasso. He could no more forget what he knew than he could unlearn how to breathe, so I think the point is moot.

    Naive, untutored art (and I could show you some naive Visigothic stuff in northern Spain that would make your jaw drop) makes up in love, devotion bordering on fanaticism and sheer striving, for what it lacks in learning and sophistication.

    The problem I have with the footlers (for want of a better word) is that none of these qualities is present. It’s a thing to do because literate and civilised people ought to do it (or so I believe the thinking runs).

    Consequently, it lacks the power, the element of surprise, that real art possesses, whether it’s the product of decades of study and application like Picasso or the work of naive painters in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, whose paint jobs on the trucks and buses that they depend on is something to see: Grandma Moses with an AK-47 and a head full of opium…

  110. March 2, 2010 4:47 PM

    The Edge of the World, “the ultimate island film”(–MM), indeed, how very fine.

    Out-Flahertys Flaherty.

    To stand, in its way, with Humphrey Jennings and the great Bill Douglas.

    I recall Martin Scorsese saying that the night before his final edit of Raging Bull, he locked himself up with I Know Where I’m Going. (And the rest is history & c.)

    We know of course that Scorsese employed, on that film, and steadily, Powell’s editor, the great Thelma Schoonmaker.

    And then too, there is the vast silent influence of that ultimate accusation of cinema by cinema, Peeping Tom: Freud with a sense of humour, if such a thing is imaginable.

    And before forgetting: one Powell/Pressburger for which it is hard not to retain a particular fondness, the thick patriotic stripe notwithstanding, an immensely moving film: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Two years prior to I Know Where I’m Going, still wartime. “Roger Livesey gives us not just a great performance, but a man’s whole life. Like much of Powell and Pressburger’s work it is a salute to all that is paradoxical about the English: no one else has so well captured their romanticism banked down beneath emotional reticence and honour. And it is marked by an enormous generosity of spirit: in the history of British cinema there is nothing to touch it.” (– Chris Peachment)


    Jack Brae, thanks very much for your patience, it did latterly dawn on me (light bulb!) that here were two Anonimice, and you were the only invisible one. (I’m not at liberty to say that the other one is in Miami, I think.)

    BTW Jack, as you and some other good folk have kindly evinced interest, I have now further expanded the little unobtainum treasury (’tis a long rainy season), with the addition of, among other native island treasures, fruits both concentrated and intact.

  111. mishari permalink*
    March 2, 2010 6:26 PM

    I didn’t know that Thelma Schoonmaker worked with Powell. I’ve always associated her solely with Scorcese’s best work. Learn something new everyday…

  112. March 2, 2010 6:51 PM

    Well Mish, I had that order a bit backward. TM worked with Scorcese first, he introduced her to Powell. I suppose you could say she worked with Powell by then marrying him, and tending to his career to this day. Thought this might interest the citizens. (TM interviewed re MP.)

    You’ve also been heavily involved in the centenary celebrations for your late husband, Michael Powell – how have they been going?

    So far they have been more successful than I could have imagined. From New York to Sydney to the Cannes Film Festival, there have been major retrospectives, and I have been told that in London, the National Film Theatre screenings were packed with young people, which would have meant so much to Michael Powell. The Edinburgh Film Festival celebrated Michael, the Bath Film Festival will do so in October, and there have been two major conferences about his work – one in Paris and one in Wales. In October, devotees of the film ‘I Know Where I’m Going!’ will gather on the island of Mull to celebrate the 60th anniversary of that film – anyone who wants to join in should check the website: The ‘A Canterbury Tale’ fans have already had their centenary walk around the sites where the film was made. Here in New York Martin Scorsese will introduce ‘The Red Shoes’ at the Museum of Modern Art, on the actual night of Michael’s birthday, September 30th, and we will screen Scorsese’s own personal print of the film. The church steeple in Avening, Gloucestershire, where Michael is buried, will be illuminated on the same night. I am so pleased that Scorsese, who did so much to resurrect the entire work of Powell and Pressburger, will be hosting an event near the end of all the tributes in this incredible year.

    Do you think his films are still relevant today?

    Oh yes, absolutely, because they are really just about humanity. I think Michael, along with many of the filmmakers of his own age, like Renoir in France or Rossellini in Italy, had this profound belief in human beings, that’s a little hard to have these days. Plus they appreciated all the quirks of humans. Michael Powell never really had a villain in his movies – he always wanted people to understand what made that person tick, which is very similar to Scorsese’s approach to filmmaking. It meant that they were showing people in very unique and interesting ways, so it’s completely relevant.

    Do you think there are similarities between Powell and Scorsese’s work?

    Very much. Marty was deeply influenced by the films when he was quite young. He started watching them when he was about five on television in America. Sometimes they would be black and white version of films like ‘The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp’, which was made in glorious Technicolour, but whenever he saw the Powell and Pressburger logo of the target and the arrow land in the bullseye, he knew, even at the age of eight, that this was going to be a really interesting film. He was deeply, deeply influenced by them. But the influence was an inspiration, it doesn’t mean that he mimics it or necessarily re-produces it. As he’s said to me many times, ‘I lived them, they are part of me.’ He and I never get tired of looking at them – I could watch them a hundred times and never get tired of looking at them. There’s always something new to discover, there are so many different layers and the humour is just so wonderful.

    Being married to Mr Powell I guess you had a better insight into his life then most…

    Well I do, and I think he actually had a bad reputation among actors, because he was quite intolerant if someone was not up to his standards on his set.

    So he didn’t suffer fools gladly?

    He did not, but for me he was endlessly loving and generous. And he loved strange people pestering him – when I would get annoyed by them he would be very kind, so it’s very interesting to read these accounts of some actors who said how difficult he could be. Not with an actor like Roger Livesey or any of the those wonderful actors, but anyone who came onto the set unprepared, or not convinced that making films was like a religion, the way Michael felt, then he could be quite brutal. Dirk Bogarde said to me once ‘You knew his cruelty,’ and I said ‘No, I never did.’ I never ever saw a moment of it, but I think some actors did. He adored his crews though, and he remained loyal to them – whenever we were anywhere in the world and there was a member of one of his crews or his cast nearby, we would always look them up. Because they shared his passion; they were all in it together.

    Is there anything that you’ve learned creatively from him that you’ve been able to use in your work?

    I would say Scorsese had this born into him anyway, but both he and I are constantly stunned by the open-minded approach to how human beings are presented in the films. The willingness to relish eccentricity or surprising behaviour is something that shows up in Scorsese’s movies all the time. I would say that’s embedded in the both of us, but I would say more so with Marty because he actually taught me about the films of Pressburger and introduced me to Michael Powell. For him it was profound. He recognised – having lived in the era he did in a mafia run neighbourhood – he knew that some of the people he liked on the streets, who would be nice to the kids and give them candy and drive them out to the lake, and who the kids liked – he would find out later, when he was older, that they were some mob hitman. He saw from that that life is a lot more complicated than just saying that people are black and white. They’re grey. That, I would say, is a major influence. And the humour. The fantastic style, the bold and daring experiments, and the control; the massive amount of control that Michael Powell was able to put on these films because he was so skilled in all aspects of filmmaking – camerawork, editing – he had been trained really well by an American film crew in the South of France and he immediately understood it all. And Scorsese is the same – when you have a filmmaker who knows that much about how films work, they make better films, with more control and more style and more shape. Michael himself wrote that when you’re watching a Scorsese film, you sit back and relax because you know someone’s steering the ship. And that’s the way we feel about his films!

    Does any one of Powell’s films stand out as a particular favourite?

    Well, ‘The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp’ was the first one I saw, because that was the one Scorsese first introduced me to, and it’s the one I feel the closest to. I love ‘I Know Where I’m Going’, but ‘Blimp’ is the one that still gets to me. I can watch it over and over again and I relish every second of it. Maybe because it was the first one and because Scorsese feels so strongly about it. Of course he also feels that ‘The Red Shoes’ is a masterpiece and he always puts it as one of his top five films – he learnt so much from it. But it’s the emotion in ‘Blimp’ that gets to me, and that wonderful understanding of human beings.

  113. mishari permalink*
    March 2, 2010 7:01 PM

    Thanks for that, Tom. I’ve always recognised the enormous contribution she made to Scorsese’s films (having been involved in the periphery of film-making for a few years long ago, I learned at first-hand the difference a good editor could make. I’ve seen films saved by the edit). I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know anything about Schoonmaker, let alone that she’d been married to Powell.

  114. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 2, 2010 7:27 PM

    Her aunt Myra was married to the Rev. Bill Bailey.

  115. mishari permalink*
    March 2, 2010 11:06 PM

    BTW, MM, I’m passing along the first season of a new L.A.-set cop drama called Southland. 13 episodes were made but NBC dropped the show after only showing 7 of them, claiming that the show was too ‘dark’. The show has been picked up by one of the US cable networks who are planning to show the remaining 6 episodes as Season 2, but haven’t yet. More4 have picked up season 1 but haven’t announced a commencement date.

    Anyway, I watched the first episode and it’s good enough to make me want to see more. Unlike The Shield, people do say ‘fuck’ but it’s beeped out, which I think is preferable to pretending the word doesn’t exist.

  116. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 2, 2010 11:45 PM

    That’s very good of you, thanks. I hadn’t heard of it, but it certainly sounds interesting.

    I know you caught the Wodehouse reference.

  117. mishari permalink*
    March 3, 2010 12:02 AM

    Yes, the daughter of one of Wodehouse’s American tycoons and her curate fiance. Can’t remember which one it’s in, though.

  118. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 3, 2010 12:17 AM

    Heavy Weather.

  119. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 3, 2010 11:08 AM

    I must have read that one at least five times. I had one of the brown Penguins which came out when they did an adaptation for TV ( Ralph Richardson as Lord Emsworth ). I was at school so never saw it, but I probably didn’t miss much. Wodehouse doesn’t seem to work on TV. The Ian Carmichael/Dennis Price one was all right, I suppose. Jeeves and Wooster with Fry and the other git was an abomination. They should have been tried and publicly flogged for blasphemy.

  120. InvisibleJack permalink
    March 3, 2010 11:24 AM


    I feel it my duty to warn you, but that creature who appeared in your wardrobe wasn’t a future you, as he claimed to be, but was in fact the Divil Himself, come to tempt you away from the True Path Of Poematics. Next time he appears you’d be best advised to sprinkle him with a mixture of Holy Water and potassium nitrate.

    Jack Brae

  121. March 3, 2010 6:17 PM

    Jack, you may be right. I’d be glad to know that my Quantum Jumping alternate-self had climbed the career ladder so successfully. Better to reign in Hell than serve in Clapham. This quantum-jumping’s a good idea, though. I’m currently scanning the QJ equivalent of craigslist for several alternate XBs; one that speaks ancient Hittite, one that took the money and ran in 2003 and one that lives in a world where no one’s invented sellotape. Figure I can cash in.

  122. March 3, 2010 6:33 PM

    XB you may remember from another blog that I’ve known a few Kim Gilchrists ( you’re the third ) so this QJ malarkey may not be malarkey.

  123. mishari permalink*
    March 3, 2010 7:15 PM

    I’m with you there, MM. Wodehouse just doesn’t seem to work anywhere but on the page. Fry and whatsisface were an affront to all that’s good and decent. Carmichael/Price weren’t violently barfsome but still…

    Wodehouse only seems to work properly on the page. I think it’s something to do with his prose-style. It’s touch is magic yet so light, so evanescent, that transferring it to another medium is a bit like trying to nail a soap-bubble to the wall: you just destroy it.

    Excuse me…I’m going to Quantum Jump into the me that doesn’t have a hangover…

  124. March 3, 2010 7:29 PM

    And I’m not happy about it. Being a KG is like being Highlander: In the end there can be only one.

  125. March 3, 2010 7:31 PM

    Sorry, expected my post to follow Al’s. I’m not happy about what he said, not your hangover or opinion on Wodehouse, Mishari.

  126. mishari permalink*
    March 3, 2010 7:37 PM

    Good thing you cleared that up. My wrath is a very terrible thing to behold. Your post reminded me, though:

    After it was reported in the press that (Rangers goalie) Andy Goram had a mild form of schizophrenia, fans responded with a chant of “Two Andy Gorams, there’s only two Andy Gorams” – wiki

  127. mishari permalink*
    March 3, 2010 7:52 PM

    BTW, XB, I don’t know if you’re a Hendrix fan (how can you not be: he was the Miles Davis of Rock), but they’ve just released an LP of previously unheard stuff, Valleys Of Neptune. Read up on it HERE and download it HERE.

  128. March 3, 2010 9:17 PM

    Thanks for the link.

    Weirdly, I never quite got with Hendrix. I’ve owned Electric Ladyland since I was sixteen and, despite multiple attempts, I’ve never managed to sit all the way through it. I love certain tracks, and his performance at Woodstock (which I watched recently) is gobsmacking, but he’s never got under my ribs. Although I heard a live version of Stone Free last year that matched the intesity of 70s Miles. I’m sure I’ll crack it one day.

    Regarding a Miles of rock…

    If you’re looking for a diminutive, gnomic, surly gemini who transformed his genre in multiple decades, favoured first takes, played cruel mind games with his bands to keep them on edge, was signed to Columbia, outraged fans and purists by adopting electric instruments, exhausted himself creatively only to return triumphant in his 60s, then I’d have to say the answer is…Dave Clark.

    Or Dylan.

  129. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 3, 2010 10:52 PM

    Getting wasted at lunchtime? Tut tut. Thank God England beat Egypt or I would have been calling for the pure alcohol. Too much shagging is destroying our lads. That was a nice quote from Tom’s mate Peter Crouch:

    Interviewer: What would you have been if you hadn’t become a footballer?
    Crouch: A virgin.

  130. mishari permalink*
    March 3, 2010 11:03 PM

    I’m not in the habit of getting slaughtered at lunch but I had a duty to be convivial and it was more work than pleasure, so there…

    Let’s hope (for their WAG’s sake) the England squad are better at sex than the bastards are at football.

  131. March 3, 2010 11:13 PM

    XB I’ve not kept in touch with your namesakes otherwise I’d give you their contact details so you could do the necessary slaughtering.

  132. March 4, 2010 12:43 AM

    “What I don’t like seeing is clumsy transcriptions of the unremarkable thoughts of not very interesting minds” Hehe, MM, you won’t think much of my latest bit of Other Stuff, then. But it is a kind of docu-pome rather than a composition.

    Peter Crouch is lying. I know several women who think he’s seriously cute despite being a fooballer.

  133. InvisibleJack permalink
    March 4, 2010 1:56 AM


    There’s actually a Quantum Jump version of myself who hails from the 23rd century. Myself and the other members of The Metaphysical Club have had to deal with him on a number of occasions. He’s a bloody nuisance, quite frankly, as paradoxes often follow in his wake. Sadly, being a future me, he’s a far superior poet and that can be extremely irritating as he’s not averse to rubbing it in my face at the merest opportunity.

    Jack Brae Curtingstall

  134. hic8ubique permalink
    March 4, 2010 2:26 AM

    Alarming’s rant is up to 17 endorsements! I’m sure I’ve never seen so much approval of anything on Poster poems. Al~ if you were to attenuate it a bit, chopped up prose would win after all.
    {Hope you are feeling better!}

  135. March 4, 2010 9:07 AM

    hic the temptation to branch into rants from out of the blue is enormous. But the critical nous over at PotW being what it is you lot would sniff out the fact that any sequel I posted would be a confection rather than the true actions of a distracted mind.

    Mind you with the lap-top behaving the way it does at the moment there’s still a possibility for an authentic accident to occur.

  136. hic8ubique permalink
    March 4, 2010 2:58 PM

    That’s the trouble with exhibited ‘Happenings’ then; they always look as though someone happened them on purpose?

  137. March 4, 2010 3:03 PM

    Er, as I seem to have just happened in… Jack, I do believe I have encountered the 23rd century Quantum Jump Orphic version of Invisible Jack, discovered in the process of making himself invisible by fading on his stumps (the poor fellow was legless) into the underground, in order to save his own life. (No Euridices in this picture alas.)

    In any case the tableau was passing mysterious and may one day provide light matter for time sleuths concerned with natural science.

  138. March 4, 2010 3:16 PM

    … Oh, and yes Melton, nice show by the fellow who was once long and red with feet stuck out the bed. Though brilliant by the Gyppos to go ahead early on the verve of “little” Zidan, who is being wasted on Hamburg and must one day soon turn up at Highbury, mark this prophecy.

    And as we note lately there are as yet no apologies from the “big” Zidane either.

    (BTW Lovely interview bit with Crouchie, speaking of bed, the term “morganatic marriage” pops into mind for some reason — ?)

  139. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 4, 2010 7:29 PM

    Naturally an outstanding talent like yours is exempt from my Very Important Views on poetry, Zeph. As for your Crouch-lurving friends, I recommend a visit to Eyeland. Or a psychiatrist.

    Yes, the boy done great, Tom, rather annoyingly. I still don’t think he’s international class.

  140. mishari permalink*
    March 4, 2010 11:15 PM

    Watching Question Time tonight, I discovered three things:

    A. That Andrew Adonis is the single most inappropriately named man in Britain.

    B. That Boris Johnson is an even bigger blustering nincompoop than I’d realised.

    C. That Carol Vorderman is a bona fide cretin.

    Who says TV isn’t educational?

  141. March 5, 2010 12:15 AM

    B & C are incontrovertible, but I’d have thought Alistair Darling might be a contender for A…

  142. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 5, 2010 12:21 AM

    Funny how Vorders always gets held up as the scientific giant of TV. I think she got a third, which under Dave’s new plan for schools means she couldn’t qualify as a teacher.

    I seem to have got drawn into that discussion about Kapuscinski, which is quite a challenge since I’ve never read a word he wrote. It’s like doing university exams again.

  143. mishari permalink*
    March 5, 2010 12:37 AM

    It is a toss-up, Zeph.

    I’m a great admirer of Kapuscinski’s but I always thought of him as less of a ‘journalist’ than a ‘writer’. More in the vein of Greene, Robert Byron and Leigh-Fermor. You should read his books, MM. He really is very good. I never considered it straight reportage and, indeed, that wasn’t what I was after. If (as is alleged, if I’ve understood correctly) he said, in his journalism, ‘this is exactly what happened in every particular’ and it turned out to be untrue, that would be troubling. But his books aren’t like that. They’re more of a ‘this is how it seemed to me and here’s how I interpret it’.

    Vordman’s like one of those horses that’s been trained to do sums, tapping out the answer with hoof-beats. Knowing nothing about her beyond her alleged maths skills, I was actually astonished by just how stupid she is…and shrill with it. Dreadful woman.

  144. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 5, 2010 12:59 AM

    I’d barely heard of the bloke. leroy seems to know what he’s talking about, so I think I’ll retire ignominiously from the field.

    I thought I’d check out Vorders to make sure she got a third ( I wouldn’t want to misrepresent her, would I? ) and when you google your options are: Vorderman arse, Vorderman nipples, Voderman tits, Vorderman bottom. Someone out there likes Vorderman.

  145. March 5, 2010 3:48 AM

    The Kapuscinski we have admired greatly is Imperium. Observation and reportage carried to a higher power.

  146. March 5, 2010 10:06 AM

    I think Kapuscinski is a mate of Herzog who has a similarly alternative view of what reportage is.

    I guess it’s maddening if you were there or if you want irrefutable facts with your documentary but in Herzog’s case ( I’ve only read snippets of Kapuscinski ) you get in their place some extraordinary images and portraits of people who are fucking up a beautiful and wild world.

  147. MeltonMowbray permalink
    March 5, 2010 11:20 AM

    Am I the only person who knows zilch about Kapuscinski? Now deadgod’s got his fangs in me. I’m done for.

  148. March 5, 2010 11:30 AM

    MM Time to post a completely out of the blue rant about fiscal conservatism aand leave them distracted.

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