Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Going on about capitalism

Here I wondered why we go on about capitalism so much and then here I managed to do it again whilst writing a review of some short stories.

By the way, that Masterchef Professional is brilliant again isn't it? I praised it last time.

Sunday, 6 November 2011



Monday, 31 October 2011

Simply odd

The Telegraph's obit of Sir Jimmy Savile concludes:
...he was simply an odd chap.

Whilst I'm here, I should mention I've looked at a couple of other odd things over at The D: the culture of French rugby and the notion of capitalism.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Horses not Flies

I recall a post-apocalyptic poem featuring horses over at The Dabbler. Thanks go to Mrs Grubb: vegetarian, CND-supporting, pacifist, socialist English teacher from my comprehensive schooldays. On the other hand, she refused to teach Lord of the Flies owing to its bleak view of human nature.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

It never rests

I've been away but nevertheless a couple of my posts went up on The Dabbler, the hardest working blog in showbiz.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A bit nuts

I offer up what some might consider an eccentric review of Mark Mason's enjoyable Walk the Lines. Poor guy writes about his harmlessly quirky walks around London and ends up being accused of exemplifying the emptiness of our Godless world.

Thursday, 28 July 2011


Verities, schmerities. Over at The D.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Did I mention...?

Over at yon Dabbler, I write about one of my favourite poems, Thomas Hardy's Midnight on the Great Western (and only incidentally about MY NEW NOVEL).

Friday, 15 July 2011

My novel is now available

I've written a novel, as I related here and here. I've been looking for an agent but haven't had any joy so thought I'd publish it as an ebook for the Kindle.

It's called Region of Sin and here's the blurb:
A novel of excitement and intrigue where corruption, international finance, espionage and terrorism intertwine to fatal effect, and where only love can offer redemption.
It's a thriller! But with some arty touches. Buy it here*.

For those of you who know me in real life I shall be conducting a short oral examination of its contents next time we meet. No excuses. For everyone else, I can do no more than plead. Buy it!

* Profits from this edition, such as they are, will go to the Royal British Legion.

Monday, 11 July 2011

This party on that party

I forgot to link to a review I wrote of Rupert Thomson's This Party's Got To Stop. I enjoyed it and thought it was very clever and effective. I don't get that reaction as often as I'd like so take it as a very strong recommendation.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Wednesday, 8 June 2011


Some homosexual aspects of war-fighting over at The D.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Thursday, 26 May 2011

TV review

Depressing, tricksy nonsense reviewed over there.

But this should cheer you up. What a sane man.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Why US healthcare is unique

Why Your Stitches Cost $1,500 - Part Two
Via: Medical Billing And Coding

This has to make one pessimistic about reform: such a well-rewarded and entrenched interest group as the medical establishment isn't going to give up its privileges easily, particularly given the political influence of lobbying.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Irish Revolution?

Read this for a brilliant analysis of the Irish (and Euro) endgame.

A great excuse to roll out Gramsci:
The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.

I fear the morbid symptoms may be just developing.

Hamming it up...

...and down l'Autoroute.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Pie and mash and jelly and eels and dabbling

I'm reluctantly critical of native London grub. Over there.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


I go on a walk. Again. (At The Dabbler).

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Big Fight

Sunday night is fight night: Brian "Boxin'" Cox vs Niall "Fightin'" Ferguson. At The D.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

A Non-Lovey speaks

Great interview with the Greatest Living Expatriate Englishman:
Given how many great films you’ve made, does it disappoint you when people want to talk about the ones that didn’t do so well?
No, what annoys me is when, as happened today, you’re doing a day’s worth of interviews and the very first question you’re asked if, “Why did you make Jaws: The Revenge?” When things like that happen, the interview becomes very short indeed.
Just out of interest, how did you reply?
I just said what I’ve always said – I made it because they paid me a lot of money! It’s like when people ask me why I made The Swarm – I made The Swarm because my mother needed a house to live in. Then I made Jaws 4 because she was lonely and I needed to buy her a bigger house which she could live in with all of her friends. It’s that simple.


Tuesday, 1 March 2011

RS today at The D

The playful ogre is given an outing on St David's Day.

Free beer!

Win a case of Bath Ales beer, courtesy of The Dabbler, the blog that never stops thinking of its readers. Click here and leave your details (you'll get some recipes and a newsletter too).

Saturday, 26 February 2011

'They are not underground'

Whilst away for half-term this post appeared at The Dabbler. It has a rather morbid subject but is, I hope, full of life.

Friday, 18 February 2011

An English boot in New York

As we're on matters lost in translation, I've been meaning to mention that on a recent post-snowstorm trip to New York I saw more Hunter wellies than I've ever seen before in one place. About 1-in-5 people were wearing them - for real. To think that a boot invented by Kate Moss to be worn by urban hipsters whilst picking through the mud of Glastonbury should do so well in Manhattan!

One other thing. Whilst wondering the streets, I noted a strange lack of cheese-cutter tweed caps - surely it's only a matter of time. I offer this advice to Britain's hatters: ramp up production, call Barneys and hold on to your, er, hats.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

How them lot see us

The trailer from Don' You Go Rounnin' Roun to Re Ro:

The illusion of sepia

...and the temptations of nostalgia. At Ye Olde Dabbler.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Russian reality

I've mentioned before how Russia is one of the most deeply cynical and corrupt places I've known. Peter Pomerantsev, a British TV producer, spent the last four years in Moscow making programmes for Russian television. From his latest diary entry:
The fundamental premise for most Western reality shows is what people in the industry call ‘aspirational’: someone works hard and is rewarded with a wonderful new life. The shows celebrate the outstanding individual, the bright extrovert. For the Russian version of The Apprentice, Vladimir Potanin, a metals oligarch worth more than $10 billion, was recruited to be the boss choosing between the candidates competing for the dream job. Potanin goaded, teased and tortured the candidates as they went through increasingly difficult challenges. The show looked great, the stories and dramas all worked, but there was a problem: no one in Russia believed in the rules. The usual way to get a job in Russia is not by impressing at an interview, but by what is known as blat – ‘connections’. Russian society isn’t much interested in the hard-working, brilliant young business mind. Everyone knows where that type ends up: in jail like Mikhail Khodorkovsky, or in exile like the mobile phone billionaire Yevgeny Chichvarkin. Today’s Russia rewards the man who operates from the shadows, the grey apparatchik, the master of the politique de couloir – the man like Putin. Promotion in such a system comes from knowing how to debase yourself, how to suck up and serve your master, how to be what the Russians call a holop, a ‘toady’. Bright and extrovert and aspirational? Not if you want success. The shows that did work were based on a quite different set of principles. By far the biggest success was Posledny Geroi (‘The Last Hero’), a version of Survivor, a show based on humiliation and hardship. This chimed in Russia – a country where being bullied by the authorities is the norm.
What’s Russia’s problem with reality? The basic principle of reality-based programming is that the audience believes the characters are having real experiences, that the action is not predetermined. The producer’s skill lies in nudging and manipulating the heroes into behaving in an interesting way. Russian channel heads refused to countenance the idea that you could make ‘reality’ programmes which weren’t scripted beforehand...

Read the whole thing: there's also some great stuff on the routine extortion of the tax authorities. What a fucked up place.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Faulks on Fiction

Fun with Faulks on Fiction at The so-good-it-could-be-fictional Dabbler.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Invalid and worse

Margaret Atwood's observation - 'stupidity and evil are the same, if you go by the results' - comes in useful again, very unfortunately. I'm not sure there's any more that can be said to definitively discount the link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

However, you can't deny its grandstanding potential for people like this:
Jenny McCarthy’s honesty, humility and humor have enabled her to transcend the boundaries of her roles as comedian, actress, host, best-selling author and influential activist in the world of healing and preventing autism.

That sort of self-description - especially the bit about possessing qualities of 'honesty, humility and humour' - invalidates itself.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A stroll around Stokey

At The Dabbler today I take you on a meandering stroll around Stoke Newington and its remarkable cemetery. Inviting, no?

Saturday, 1 January 2011

China anti-boosterism

Thomas PM Barnett with a sweeping and persuasive piece of analysis: why the 'China Century' will be the shortest on record. It's mostly a synthesis of stuff you might have read elsewhere (some of it on this blog) but its insights are punchy:
...China [will age] more rapidly than any nation in human history — by 2050 China will have more old people (four hundred million-plus) than America will have people (four hundred million) — ...dramatically driv[ing] up the price of its factory labor in coming years... 
Like most catch-up artists before it, including rising America of the nineteenth century, China has cheated its way to the pinnacle of the global economy, racking up hidden debts of unprecedented proportions. But heading a single-party state, Beijing remains insidiously adept at disguising that mortgaged future...
In the end, China's pervasive short-term thinking exacts a terrible moral price as everybody cheats everybody else with nary a pang of conscience, as lies upon lies are statistically amassed to achieve China's annual growth rate of 8 percent or better...
If America is addicted to foreign money and foreign oil, then China is addicted to foreign supplies of just about every commodity known to man — save highly polluting coal...
Globalization increasingly wears a Chinese face, meaning — over time — China will be the first one to get sucker-punched by every violent extremist out there. And not all of them will be satisfied with a red envelope stuffed with renminbi...
In the end, there is no such thing as a "China model" — just China's demand...
[W]hile China's economic and network connectivity skyrockets throughout the developing world's most unstable regions, its political-military ability to defend those burgeoning interests still boils down to all those red envelopes stuffed with cash...
[A] sort of implicit, limited-liability partnership with America — Washington provides the military muscle and China cleans up on the post-conflict resource extraction — already exists in multiple locations: In Iraq, our "shock and awe" has resulted in China being the only state with oil contracts both north (Kurds) and south (Arabs). In Afghanistan, our counterinsurgency efforts continue while China plants a $3 billion investment in the Aynak copper mine. As for People's Liberation Army casualties in both theaters? Zero...
Eventually, the American public will figure out what's going on and start demanding China pay its own way. "American blood for Chinese oil" hasn't appeared on protest placards yet, but it should — and will eventually...
China is closing out its chapter on extensive growth...and heading into an economic future that will increasingly be determined by its ability to foster intensive growth...Sinking the magic eight ball in the corner pocket every year is relatively easy when all it takes is more, more, more...!
....when things switch to deciding which industries — meaning technologies — should rise and which should fall, does anybody really think a collection of party pols sitting in Beijing is going to figure all that out on their own? Soviet technocrats couldn't pull it off, and neither did the Japanese. That kind of crowd wisdom is only found among real entrepreneurs, angel investors, and the like, and those types of capitalists want both a hands-off and yet decidedly responsive government, or the kind where you have to pay politicians only when there's an election...
As the nation's huge middle class continues to emerge over the next couple of decades, China's single-party system will fail — time and time again — to protect it from the future, which cannot be commanded... 
The middle class has achieved its decent standard of living and wants to pass it on to all those only children. Spook it and it will turn on you with a fury not easily contained, for after all, these are people of real education and accomplishment. They will not be ruled over like children for long...
So long as China features a single-party state, its leadership will be too timid to wage wars anywhere — including across the Taiwan Strait. Why? Because the CCP cannot afford a single loss of face... Absent the ability to rotate ruling parties, China remains a paper tiger...

When something sounds too good to be true - as China does when described by its boosters (most egregiously John Gray and Martin Jacques, who should know better) - it usually is.