DAY 41 – ‘Tracks’

April 30th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Every so often one makes an amazing discovery, or what we used to call an epistemological break in the old Althusserian days (remember?). Yesterday was one; I learned that the average person in the UK between the ages of 14 and 24 owns 8159 downloaded tracks – which at the usual exchange rate of 3 mins per track, i.e. supposing they aren’t all downloading the Ring cycle,  amounts to about 17 days of listening.

tracksTracks (Allegedly related to the Higgs boson, but as the source is Soundcloud I doubt it.)

Where did I find this? There’s a useful survey done by some guys at the U of Herts, who have time on their hands and nothing better to do than ask teenagers about their downloading habits (Find it for yourself.) As you can imagine, most of these downloads are illegal, so there is effectively a massively huge crime wave in this age group. There’s a generation out there who are behaving in ways which I can’t understand, let alone emulate.

However, whether this behaviour is a crime, or even a sin, is not my concern. It’s the sheer amount of time which it must take to amass so many tracks. How can anyone say that young people are idle? On any standards, they are strivers rather than skivers (see earlier post). It beats me how anyone under 25 can find time to apply for a job, let alone hold one down, when they must be spending virtually all their time downloading, transferring between devices, and listening. If the barista at Costa sometimes seems a bit distrait, think of this; if he/she can hear you (hasn’t got earphones in), he/she may be thinking of what to download next, or worrying whether the latest download had a virus or was picked up by the torrent police. Compared with this anxiety and industry, the life of a Hertfordshire academic who simply has to ask dumb questions and feed the answers into Excel (so as to calculate those averages) seems, and probably is, a holiday.

(Incidentally, assuming the youngsters are themselves from Hertfordshire, notorious for highway robbery, they should be called highwaymen rather than pirates?)

Even I have my anxieties since I learned that the first swoops in Texas had nailed a 71-year-old grandpa called Durwood Pickle (no, really). Pickle blamed his grandkids, but my guess is that he was quietly downloading 50s musicals and/or Mozart concertos just as I or any other grandpa would do, thinking that the Feds would be too concerned with his neighbours’ crystal meth factory to bother him.

cyd-charisse-bandwa_679920cCyd Charisse and Fred Astaire

He was wrong, of course; a cop would rather sit in an office watching online traffic and checking IP numbers than venture out in the mean streets, beat down doors, and face the mob. Who for some reason haven’t, to my knowledge, tried to take over any of the download sites despite their huge success. Is it an age thing? Is it that the mob owns a large piece of most recording studios?

To return to the Theresa/Qatada issue; it seems clear that this should be commemorated by a ballad on the lines of Frank Crumit’s celebrated ‘Abdul Abulbul Amir‘, on a similar clash of civilizations. However, age is creeping up and inspiration is running out. Here’s the story so far:

Extremist Islam it keeps plotting our harm

Overrunning us like an armada

But we’re in the most danger from a long-bearded stranger

Called Othman or Abu Qatada.


We’ve defended our lands from uncouth foreign bands

Since the Brits first fought off Julius Caesar

But our strongest support in opposing their Court

Is our doughty Home Sec called Theresa.


You can see where it’s going; but I doubt if I could manage another twenty verses; I’d probably run out of rhymes long before, although Mick the limerickster could help with Theresa since I’ve found she rhymes with Caesar.. I offer the idea to the younger or more inspired – it really should be the Poet Laureate, but I expect she’s too busy.

170px-Carol_Ann_Duffy_(cropped)Carol Ann Duffy

I raised the Qatada issue with my analyst – OK, she’s an invented figure, but I take it that’s legit, since there are no laws against fiction in blogs, only against copying someone else’s fiction (see above).’Why’ she asked, ‘do you need to imagine this woman who is driven to send her father abroad to be tortured? Don’t you see that the torture -wish is a repressed castration-wish? Does she need to compensate for her own castration? Are we dealing with your own wish?’ ‘Look, I didn’t invent it. Look at the paper, it’s in here. The news is not a product of my unconscious.’ ‘Outside, you may read the papers and deal with the news. In here, the news is your unconscious.’ At which point I called her a wanker, and she asked me why I found that an appropriate term; and my fifty minutes were up.

 Today’s poem is taken from the anthology ‘Poems from Guantánamo’, (a terrific  book, ed. Marc Falkoff, U. of Iowa); the recommendation being from Judith Butler (again). It’s by Osama Abu Kabir, ‘a Jordanian water truck driver’, who joined an Islamic missionary organization, travelled to Afghanistan and was, naturally, arrested and transferred to Guantánamo. (He was wearing a Casio watch, and ‘some models may be used as bomb detonators’).  He was released in 2007.


Is it true that the grass grows again after rain?

Is it true that the flowers will rise up in the Spring?

Is it true that birds will migrate home again?

Is it true that the salmon swim back up their stream?


It is true. This is true. These are all miracles.

But is it true that one day we’ll leave Guantánamo Bay?

Is it true that one day we’ll go back to our homes?

I sail in my dreams, I am dreaming of home.


To be with my children, each one part of me;

To be with my wife and the ones that I love;

To be with my parents, my world’s tenderest hearts.

I dream to be home, to be free from this cage.


But do you hear me, oh Judge, do you hear me at all?

We are innocent here, we’ve committed no crime.

Set me free, set us free, if anywhere still

Justice and compassion remain in this world!


As for music – I should logically offer a pirated track, but I haven’t yet found out how to get one. Here’s an example of how the young (maybe not so young) are manipulating their downloads in the genre called ‘Slash’, or ‘homoerotic backings for songs with videos featuring Kirk and Spock’. A specialist niche, but that’s what the internet is for (32,084 viewings when I last checked).

More seriously – how about Ravi and Anoushka Shankar, strumming together?




DAY 40

April 26th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink



These posts haven’t had enough ‘high art’ lately, readers have been complaining – maybe rightly. This painting by the Master of the Jug and Bottle was prompted by a ride on the 271 bus today, passing – you know it? – the Estorick Gallery in Canonbury, which is just ending a show of some of the great man’s little etchings. Better hurry… You can sit in the Islington calm and meditate on the assorted pots and views of Bologna; and then have a coffee outside in the garden. And do the crossword and forget the six junk good cause appeals, from forcing Amazon to pay tax to saving bees, who have been flooding the inbox demanding that you should click and save.

But I’ve ranted enough on this subject before. In case you haven’t heard, Samer Issawi has ended his hunger strike – see his letter.


Samer Issawi (from the Morning Star)

On the other hand, that tragic driven heroine Theresa May (I think of Captain Ahab) is still trying to find a way of sending Abu Qatada back to be tortured in Jordan. You’ll certainly have been wishing, as I have, to locate the latest on repressive minister v. radical cleric, or ‘Omar Othman AKA Abu Qatada v. SSHD’ – it’s been going on for the best part of ten years. The online judgment by the Master of the Rolls – about 15 pages – is here, for other immigration law addicts (hi guys!).

In an appeal in a different medium, I asked my readers to get out on the streets; and, as good as my word, I’ve found something for you to do which will involve some discomfort unless you live in Lincoln (maybe even so). War on Want is organizing an action for my favourite cause, protesting drones; for what to do and where to go see here

Join us on 27 April at RAF Waddington

War on Want’s report  The Great Game: The reality of Britain’s war in Afghanistan accused the government of engaging in a dirty war in Afghanistan, using drones – equipped with 500lb laser-guided bombs, and Hellfire missiles turning the country into one of the most militarized places on earth.

Drones have become the latest weapon of choice in the so-called war on terror. Operated far away from conflict zones, drones make it much easier for politicians to launch military strikes and order extrajudicial assassinations without democratic oversight or accountability to the public.

Britain initially deployed unarmed drones in Afghanistan, but they were quickly equipped with 500lb laser-guided bombs and Hellfire missiles.  Today, Britain has several different types of armed and surveillance drones in Iraq and Afghanistan and others in the production or development stage. The government is developing drones at BAE Systems and using Reaper drones bought from the US. It is also leasing Israeli drones for use in Afghanistan while awaiting completion of a new British surveillance drone called Watchkeeper. Contract for the Watchkeeper was awarded to Israeli company Elbit and its partner company Thales UK.

Drones are indiscriminate weapons of war that have been responsible for thousands of civilian deaths. Rather than expanding the UK’s arsenal, drones should be banned, just as landmines and cluster munitions were banned. Now is the time to stop the rise of drone warfare – before it is too late.

Returning to the subject of ranting, if I’d ever left it, I was upset when a friend (well, he used to be a friend) accused me of intolerance the other day. I went through an introspective moment and asked myself how many things I really couldn’t stand. Having owned up to Wagner, Rubens, dogs, neoliberalism and Marmite, I found myself getting sidetracked down a long list of foods other than Marmite which we could really do without from tinned tuna to Granny Smiths to most tomatoes particularly the hard English ones. I tried to counterbalance this defect with a fondness for brains, tripe, haggis, rollmops and that delicious Greek way of cooking sheep’s intestines on a spit called kokoretsi;
kokoretsibut it would be illogical to suppose that there’s a calculus of tolerance that works in that sort of Benthamite way. I’ll have to go back to AA’s Step 4 – the searching fearless moral inventory – add the intolerance in, and make amends.

More for the Home Office: it’s good to see Jackie Kay has written a poem for asylum-seekers. I’ve taken it from an article in the Scotsman, in full here.


You were found in the snow in Glasgow

Outside the entrance to Central Station.

Your journey took you from an Ethiopian prison

To the forests in France where luck and chance

Showed you not all white men are like the men

In Roots – a film you watched once.

The people smugglers didn’t treat you like Kizzy

Or Kunta Kinte, brought you food and water by day,

Offered you shelter in a tent, and it was sanctuary.

And you breathed deep the forest air, freely.


But when you were sent here, Glasgow,

In the dead winter: below zero, no place to go,

You rode the buses to keep warm: X4M, Toryglen,

Castlemilk, Croftfoot, Carbrain, Easterhouse

Moodiesburn, Red Road flats, Springburn,

No public fund, no benefit, no home, no sanctum,

No haven, no safe port, no support,

No safety net, no sanctuary, no nothing.

Until a girl found you in the snow, frozen,

And took you under her wing, singing.


Oh… would that the Home Office show

The kindness of that stranger in the winter snow!

Would they grant you asylum, sanctum,

For your twenty-seventh birthday?

On March 8th, two thousand and thirteen,

You could become, not another figure, sum, unseen,

Another woman sent home to danger, dumb, afraid,

At the mercy of strangers, no crib, no bed,

All worry: next meal, getting fed, fetching up dead.

And at last, this winter, you might lay down your

sweet head.

To maintain the highbrow tone: here is that lovely madrigal by Carlo Gesualdo, Italian ‘nobleman, lutenist, composer, and murderer’ (Wiki), ‘Moro, lasso al mio duolo’.

DAY 39 – I’m not a witch at all, I’m Dorothy

April 19th, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

The Hodgkin clan, normally a mild lot due to their Quaker background, is understandably up in arms. The reader may not be aware that the late Margaret T. was a student of Dorothy Hodgkin (famous for doing hard stuff about penicillin involving the penicillin2

beta-lactam ring, and other similar things); but she (Margaret) was, until she threw up chemistry for making history, and war, and so on. On which basis, she came to Dorothy’s memorial. None of our family, however, heard anything from the Thatchers this time around. On which basis I did what any strong-minded liberal would do, and penned a stiff letter to the Guardian, as follows:


Margaret Thatcher came to the memorial service for my mother, Dorothy Hodgkin, in March 1995 (although none of the family remembers inviting her); my sister Elizabeth read a stirring speech by Dorothy which ended “Power to the people”, and Mrs Thatcher sat through it without protesting. Yet we haven’t heard a word from the organisers of the current funeral suggesting that any of us will get an invitation, although well-known warmongers such as Bibi Netanyahu will be going. We feel that someone has their priorities wrong. Not that we want to disturb the occasion – where there is discord, as they say, may we bring harmony.
Luke Hodgkin

The original text had ‘war criminal’ instead of ‘warmonger’. I suppose the Guardian thought that if they called the Israeli Prime Minister a war criminal they might have a lawsuit on their hands. It’s a pity – I spent hours in Ramallah snoozing through talks on how the Israeli Government had committed ‘grave breaches’ of the 4th Geneva Convention, and a ‘grave breach’ was the same as a war crime. I could defend the phrase, especially if I had Daniel Machover to back me up.

So watch out, Thatchers! We Hodgkins may not have battleships – short in that department – but we have a disease (Thomas), an equation relating to transport in neurons (Alan), and several key structures of complex molecules. Beat that! And don’t forget what happens when you don’t invite fairies to christenings. The same may hold good for funerals if, as seems likely with M. T., you may be heading for an after-life as a zombie. (This is meant by the point, frequently made, that Thatcherism lives on in the policies of her successors, notably Blair…)

Boston Bombings

Worried on account of those of our family whose home it is – but who are thankfully all safe. The following sensible comment comes, as usual, from Mazin Qumsiyeh:

At first I thought I should not comment on the Boston bombings as it is obvious that we in Palestine, under siege and regular bombardment would clearly sympathize with the victims. But then I saw the usual pundits on mainstream media trying to spin the tragedy to serve racism.  The Israeli Consul-General in Boston told the Jerusalem Post that “Boston is a very quiet and calm place, especially when we come from Israel…..Still, the Jewish community and the consulate are on alert and security has been increased”.  He speaks as if he represents Jews of Boston (and only them) and insinuates as usual that problems in Palestine (‘Israel’) are because of the native “Arabs” not because of the Zionist colonization.  CNN gave extensive time to the Zionist ex-congresswoman Jane Harman who claimed this terrorist attack is likely linked to AlQaeda Islamists while trying to connect herself to victims when she supports terrorism herself. Besides her appalling record in voting for more weapons and money to Israel to kill Palestinians, she was unashamedly more pro-Israel to the point of challenging US interests on several occasions.  In October 2006, Time magazine stated that Harman had agreed to lobby the US Department of Justice to reduce espionage charges against Steve J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, two officials at the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). In exchange, Time said there was a quid pro quo in which AIPAC would lobby then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman as chair of the House Intelligence Committee! Then came Wolf Blitzer, another Zionist who now poses as the serious looking global “reporter” for CNN.   Here is Norman Finkelstein speaking the truth while Blitzer in defends racism/Zionism and shows where his loyalties stand in a public debate: But if you thought his CNN appointment made him moderate his stance, you would be mistaken.  He continues to use all opportunities (including this tragedy) to use smoke and mirrors to hide facts.  Many Zionist pundits appeared in mainstream media spinning the same web.

There is no mention by those with “Israel first” mentality of the billions of taxpayer dollars given to Israel annually because of the Zionist lobby and how many innocent people are killed or displaced by it.  There is no mention of past false flag operations by the Israeli Mossad (for example in Egypt against US and British interests and in Iraq against Jewish institutions to drive Jews to migrate to colonize Palestine).  There is no mention of billions made by investors with inside knowledge; no mainstream media tried to investigate the short selling and the US stock market collapse that happened hours BEFORE the bombings (who profited?).  And while most western media had hours of continuous coverage of this bombing that killed three individuals, they rarely mention the daily bombings and killings of hundreds and thousands of innocent civilians especially by US drones in places like Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (where there are no first class medical facilities as exists in Boston).  Nor do they care to mention killing by proxy of hundreds of civilians monthly by US puppet dictators from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia or by the US supported racist apartheid regime of Israel or of western funded Islamist groups in Syria.  Alas, Blitzer and Harman and hundreds like them assume their audience is stupid to buy their Zionist spin.  Let us hope that US citizens will finally challenge the staggering cost of Israeli apartheid and Israel-firsters in their midst. Let us hope that someone in the FBI is smart enough to look more carefully at the clues in Boston and find the real culprits behind these bombings instead of buying the Zionist spin.
The Real Presence

I’ve been watching for the first time (you may not believe this) the South Park episode where Sister Ann explains to the children what happens during communion – Jesus becomes crackers;

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 23.48.08and they raise the problem of how to save the disabled and the Jews. Surfing as one does for critical material on this whole episode, which I strongly recommend particularly for the portrayal of Satan, I found it had been well discussed – inevitably – in the enticingly titled ‘Deconstructing South Park: Critical Examinations of Animated Transgression’ by Brian Cogan. My local library doesn’t stock it, and it looks a bit pricey; so I’ll have to wait around for one of my wealthier friends to give me a copy next birthday.

I was looking for an anti-Thatcher poem, rather obviously, and thought hey, there must be one by Adrian Mitchell. There probably is; I couldn’t find it, but happily I came across the one below, which (apart from the daft preference for Liverpool over Arsenal) seems to reflect many aspects of my life by a poet of about my age:


To my friends Tilly Laycock, John La Rose and Ivor Cutler, who all died in the week before I wrote these lines.

between the fields of waking
and the fields of dreaming

so many of those old
limestone wall
have crumbled down

gaps in the wall

waking walking
in the wake of the waves of my dreams
waking walking
in the dawn as it dawns upon me

I am no Tyger
I am no Lamb
At seventy-three
I am a senior sheep

high up on the dales by day
down flat in the swamps at night
daydreaming moondreaming
in a Samuel Palmer countryside

but don’t imagine
I’m not working bloody hard
for the New Jerusalem

I’m growing visionary sweater-wool
to keep the children warm
as I stand here
gaping at the gaps

visionary wool
which will be woven
into tapestries and coverlets
and scarves and mittens
of that great country-city of peace

my wool is often wild
multi-coloured and exciting
but sometimes softer
creamy and comforting

much of my work is done
by mountain waterfalls
head low munching heather
ears brushing the bracken
and a sniff of ice in the highland air

and some of my work is done
on the rich green banks
of casual muddy southern rivers

it’s not all the same to me
but I’m all the same to them

these meadows I survive in
frosty or fiery
celandine or olive tree

I’m happy to meander
from one to the other
tasting so many different weathers
growing so many different dreams of wool

gaping at the gaps

This evening I’m watching that famous field
Anfield on the television
hoping that Liverpool will score
and Arsenal despair

from the Kop I trundle out
with my good dog to our dark garden
where I help her with my chanting
to squat and piddle

out of the garden
up the rocky stairs
towards the stone stars
and into bed
where a few wings of a book
fly me on to

a meadow of dreams
where any animal may enter
now the old limestone walls
have crumbled away

nowadays nowadays I meander
from dreamfield to wakefield
from amazement to grumpiness
from vision to radio
from stupidity to genius

but I keep on keeping on
I keep on keeping on
growing my wool
growing my wool of many colours

thank you

Musically, it seemed obvious to play Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’, with the wonderful closing stanza about how I’ll follow your casket on a pale afternoon; but the general opinion across youtube is that you can’t get a Dylan copy which is not shit for some reason – either the masters of war, or the record companies, or some evil people have sabotaged it. Here is a full version, I think well performed by Tatiana Moroz, who is better preserved than Dylan and does sing the whole song.


DAY 38

April 13th, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

The subject of Thatcher being temporarily exhausted (since it’s filling all the newspapers 24/7), I’m free to change the subject; and I have good news for my supporters. Yes, folks! It looks as if untold wealth is heading my way; a letter from a Mr Jun Wei of a Hong Kong bank informs me that ‘a gentleman by the name of John Hodgkin’, who had a portfolio of » Read the rest of this entry «

DAY 37

April 10th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

What a week! You go away for a short break in the sun (ironical, mostly cold and damp in the Midi around now and the natives are complaining); and suddenly everything changes; stories of corruption engulf the French body politic, and simultaneously Pablo Neruda is claimed to have been poisoned, while his poisoner’s chief ally, Margaret Thatcher, succumbs – to what? » Read the rest of this entry «

DAY 36: Easter 2013

April 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink



        Don’t Touch!                                                   Jerusalem today – Silwan

‘The messianic hope which Jews and Christians received together but have experienced differently was given to them not for their benefit, but for abandoned humanity. Consequently the Messiah will not appear in Jerusalem, nor » Read the rest of this entry «

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