Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Straight, Boy George

A review of his new autobiography

I've always been a huge admirer of Boy George. Brave, stylish, opinionated and skilful enough to reinvent himself a few times. Yet this time you can't help but think that he's hit his own low, Alan Partridge moment.

The first two chapters are none other than tacky self-celebratory huff-and-puff-and-what-a-chore-being-a-celebrity-is. "I'm a celebrity this, i'm a celebrity that". The foreword itself, by his co-author, is actually hilarious. You'd almost expect the book to climax with some orgasmic "of course I'm not Jesus, I'm only Boy George".

Particularly ridiculous is how confused and contradictory Boy George seems this time. "I don't care about money". Two lines later: "I hate DJing for gay clubs, coz they don't like to pay you".

While he's busy lashing out against everything and everyone (and I mean everyone) he's ever come across in his entire life, he even finds time to slag off poor old Peter Tatchell (someone who's probably done more for gay rights in this country than anyone else, chip-on-his-shoulders George should remember) alleging that the guy cares about human rights simply as a cover-up for being a frustrated embittered unhappy human being. Basically, according to Boy George, a happy night out and a shag for Peter Tatchell would do and he'd stop bothering us all with those petty boring things, human rights in Zimbabwe, gay people stoned to death in Jamaica, etc. That's the lowest point of the book, andI guarantee contenders were there aplenty.

Oh and you also find out that Boy George really has it in for George Michael. In a catty, obsessed, bitchy fashion. The issue of how George Michael came out seems to bother him particularly. You'd think Boy George loses sleep over it. Except that after two entire chapters on the subject he concludes, "I don't really care about it". Maybe a return to the charts could do him some good?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Populistic morphine and the tragedy of 7/7

The psychopathic attacks on London on 7 July 2005 are proving even more depressing as they offered the tragic background for yet another veil of political propaganda. I understand a sacrosanct need to boost morale and show that the country is hanging on, yet the people are being already injected with populistic morphine so that they don’t question much why some creepy psychos are planting bombs under their feet. And –I say this loud and clear- questioning your Prime Minister’s lies doesn’t mean ONE bit harbouring any sympathy for those cowardly freaks who plant indiscriminate bombs on London public transport. Nothing, no cause, no religion, no abstract notion of virgins in heaven can even begin to explain or justify such deliberate atrocities.

That cleared, let’s get to the point.
First off, yes, of course Londoners showed great dignity, resolve and resilience (with the rescue services deserving particular praise). That’s the formula that press and politicians alike are now routinely using when they talk about those bombs. They repeatedly mention The-British-Determination and The-Spirit-of-the-Blitz so that they don’t have to dig one inch further beneath the surface to examine the situation. Erm…didn’t the citizens of New York also react with great determination? The Madrid ones? Wouldn’t they all? Doesn’t human nature prove its altruistic and helpful side in such tragic situations whether it’s America, Europe or Indonesia? So I scratch my head and humbly ask....What exactly would entail reacting to those bombs without dignity and resolve?

I’ve come to the sorry conclusion that in spite of the fanfare surrounding The-Spirit-of the-Blitz and Our-English-Bravery and no-one-would-react-as-well-as-we-did and We-Brits-are-Hard-to-Scare, England really has an incredibly supine attitude to those who really pull the strings.

Because if really there was some serious resolve Prime Minister Tony Blair would be sent home with a resounding kick up his arse and he would be so now.
Since 2002 he’s used the set phrase that “we are going to war in Iraq to increase our national security” amidst millions of people warning him that instead he would bring war scenes into our own home soil. The UK very own intelligence services issued a warning that the threat of terrorism would increase significantly. Nevertheless, the brave English people voted Blair in to push them around for a third term even though the virtual reality he’d created to justify the (multi-billion taxpayers-funded) carnage called Iraq war has long since been unmasked as a shameless pack of lies (WMDs, etc).
With a few, notable exceptions (facing public hanging, like George Galloway), only in the UK a charlatan like Home Secretary Charles Clarke could get away with declaring on Newsnight that the Madrid bombing had no connection with the war in Iraq! Unbelievable. Such a patent manipulation of reality was told on live television, as he spluttered that Spain had not really taken part in the war! And Jeremy Paxman there nodding, no journalist there to point out to Clarke that loads of Spaniards had indeed lost their lives fighting in Iraq and that the motives behind the horrendous Madrid bombings were clear. That didn’t matter, let’s talk about the The-Spirit-of-the-Blitz instead, the ideological glue that needs evoking when it’s most convenient.

Tony Blair outdid them all by insisting that again, the London bombs would have happened anyway irrespective of Iraq, a mantra that he will have to repeat from now on to save his backside. His line of thinking could have come straight from a Kafka novel. Instead it was aired on the Today programme where Blair said (you guessed it, unchallenged) that even Russia, a country which opposed the war, suffers at the hand of Islamic terrorism, omitting to say one little detail, Russia gets terrorist attacks in connection with something totally different, namely its internal politics with Chechnya. Blair obviously knows that he is creating his own virtual reality once again. How can he get away with such bullshit? Well, he got away with it for three consecutive elections. The British people seem placid enough not to mind being repeatedly told drivel. Now in every other democracy such ruling classes would have been pilloried for lying yet AGAIN to the populace coming up with that type of deliberate porkies. They’d seriously have to face up to their own inept lies. In Spain, after the Madrid bombing, their Prime Minister was sent packing with very little ceremony. He’d lied in the face of a bloody tragedy, he’d treated the population as a bunch of idiots and off he goes with the sack…

No, in the UK, the patriotic rhetoric and cheap populism comes first, whether it’s the Queen, Diana’s funeral, the 1966 World Cup, the Olympics-we-do-them-better-then-them-frogs or bombs planted in the heart of London. Don’t question. Don’t ask why. Just mention the broken record of The-Spirit-of the-Blitz and it’ll all go away. No-one (very very few) to say “ok, granted, those terrorists really are a bunch of nutters (and I hope they agonise very soon), but…hold on a second…besides that, didn’t Blair promise us safety?”
No-one saying that never mind it’s four years since September the 11th, our Prime Minister hasn’t got the SLIGHTEST CLUE where the threat is coming from. Are they “homegrown”? Are they not? Are they suicide bombers? Not? How many of them? Will they strike again? Nothing. Not the hint of a clue. The police, bless them, talk about keeping all options open, the translation for “we haven’t got a clue”. Four years ago Blair declared “war against terrorism” and he proceeded to waste a zillion pounds on Iraq, we still don’t quite know why… (because Saddam was a dictator? Sure, and how about Saudi Arabia, Burma, Thailand, Pakistan, North Korea, Zimbabwe, and list goes on ad infinitum?). And in any case, it’s not as if Iraq turned out to be a success for Blair. It is still a big mess where random bombs explode on a daily basis like they did in London on Thursday except that our media have grown accustomed to it.
But that is trivial, isn’t it? Don’t you dare mention that in times like these or they’ll tell you in grandiose biblical terms that “you’re dripping your tongue into a pool of blood”. Go on, British-resolve, now it’s time to seriously show up.

Monday, July 04, 2005

A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby

A review of his fantastic new novel

Nick Hornby’s new novel, A Long Way Down, is his absolute finest yet and that’s considering the fantastic standard of work he’s produced so far. Well, it says it all when the characters of a fiction become your best mates for the entire duration of your read. And when you give up any social life to read more, and more, until you finish! Ok, granted that also implies extreme sadness on the part of the reader (alright, point taken), but also a fantastic prose on behalf of the writer. Nick Hornby flows with no frills, and his books feel as if it was your own soul to speak.

A Long Way Down begins dramatically, with four people randomly bumping into one another on top of a tower block, North London's main suicide spot, on New Year’s Eve.

Martin is a failed breakfast TV presenter, a perma-tanned has-been who's had enough of scandal, failure and meaningless shagging about in the quest of...nobody knows exactly. Maureen is a lonely middle-aged woman in the throes of catholic guilt about her disabled son. Jess is basically a spoilt-brat with deep behavioural problem and a punk-ish look and she's just been dumped for the umpteenth time. JJ is a musician from the US. He's just hit 30 and his band packed it in for good and the prospect of being a pizza man when for years he'd been dreaming of being a rockstar is just too much to bear.

Those characters look like they have nothing in common, and it all may seem light-hearted for a second. Wrong. What follows thereafter is a journey into life, depression, failure and the meaning of everything, with enough depth, wit, humour and intensity to leave you in amazement.

Martin, Maureen, Jess and JJ are likely to turn into your best friends for the entire duration of your reading, each of them hitting well-hidden spots. Hornby is at his best when he blends in ordinariness and colloquialism along with the most comprehensive soul-searching that contemporary literature can offer. It’s as if Hornby and his characters manage to articulate what you’ve always wanted but never quite managed to talk about.