Quite a hit factory these days, the Hampstead Theatre. Not an obvious choice.
Her vocabulary, her taste in clothes, her habits of thought and expression appear by magic as if drawn from the evidence of intimate friends. Yet Whitemore never met his subject. Aged eight she realised that death was a servant whom she could summon at will. This proved such a consolation to her childhood that she later insisted suicide should appear on the primary school syllabus. She worked as a secretary for an indulgent City gent who allowed her to write novels on office stationery in company time.
She became a success in her thirties, fell out of favour, worked with Orwell at the BBC during the war, and made a comeback in with her best-known collection, Not Waving but Drowning.
The first half of this subtle and tender-hearted act of homage is a linear documentary. Stevie pootles about her Palmers Green home recalling her earliest literary inspirations and her reasonably busy love life.
She unburdens herself of pert metaphysical observations about domesticity. Housework occupies those who have nothing better to do, she says, contentedly polishing a vase. Cooking, with all its slicing and bashing and pounding, is just sublimated violence. The high point is a beautifully detailed portrait of Stevie in the s as a dreamy suburban starlet fawned over by a stable of male devotees not the marrying type , who tolerated her brusqueness and her disordered lifestyle and who happily chauffeured her to poetry readings around the country in return for doses of maternal affection.
The play may be too languid and unspectacular for some a few kids bailed out early , but the older spectators, especially the women, watched enthralled at this scatty and benign old dear. Or becomes like her. Does the West End beckon? Hard to say. The target audience is a bit narrow, and Stevie is a neglected figure, whose meagre opus is a handful of cobweb-wreathed tomes.
Best to see this now. It also probes the politics and finance of the arms industry. Lustgarten crams several related stories into his minute play and handles them in awkward snatches. The timeline leaps back and forth like a drunken acrobat. Overambition mars and fuddles his stagecraft.
He wants to commemorate all the dead while highlighting the case of a middle-aged victim whose fortysomething wife had become pregnant after years of barren disappointment. The play does neither successfully. What he overlooks is that the PKK were no slouches when it came to killing Turks. And he uses the massacre as a pretext to squirt blame in all directions.
He blames capitalism. He blames America. He blames popular TV demagogues. He blames British weapons designers who are seen lounging in their Home Counties labs discussing optics systems while also chatting about tomato cultivation in chalky soil the heartless psychos!
With more complexity and concision this play could have been a devastating polemic rather than a muddled bleat of protest. It also seems about as good an explanation as any for the way US politics and UK politics, and politics across the Western world have got to the dysfunctional, somewhat crazy place they're in.
BrainDead definitely feels very, very contemporary a year or two from now, it might feel aged : Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton appear in the background, and the political crises and topics will be familiar to anyone who follows the news. I'm an unashamedly political person, so the notion that a Republican could be a fair approximation of a decent person is quite baffling and the single biggest obstacle to suspension of disbelief in the entire show.
Brain-eating, politician-controlling alien bugs? Seems legit.
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A Republican with a heart? However, watching the huge-eyed actress last seen in Scott Pilgrim Mary Elizabeth Winstead is always a delight, and makes up for the show's attempts to tread the political middle ground. Well worth watching - and watching now, before the US election, while it might still be funny. Rating: 4. Labels: Fairy Tales and Myths , Fantasy , movie.
Labels: superheroes , urban fantasy. Labels: Alternate Reality , Fantasy , geekery , superheroes , urban fantasy. So, this time, I decided to try re-reading it in German. Lo and behold, it was perfectly readable. I suspect there must be something wrong with the translation. The Neverending Story is the tale of Bastian Balthasar Bux, a fat little 9-year-old boy who has no friends, gets bullied, and is doing badly in school. His mother has died, his father has fallen into a deep depression and become quite distant, and on top of it all, Bastian is a timid boy with a habit of overthinking things.
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In short, aside from his academic performance and family tragedy, Bastian was basically me at that age. My middle name, meanwhile, happens to be Sebastian the long form of Bastian , so perhaps it is no surprise that the book hit me harder than any other - especially as it was my first experience of metafictional narratives. At one point in the book, the book breaks the fourth wall. It's a book about a boy being sucked into a story, and a character tells him that other people are following his story. I was grown up enough not to expect to disappear into Phantasia when I read it, but it still messed with my head a little bit.
A nagging doubt, I guess But I'm getting ahead of myself. The book starts as Bastian rushes into a little dusty antiques shop, hiding from the bullies who are chasing him. There, a grim and spiteful old man, Karl Konrad Koreander, interrogates him, and quickly forms a harsh opinion of Bastian. Not just fat, but a loser and a coward, and stupid too - and above all else, Koreander believes the boy is up to no good and likely a thief.
Reading the scene is almost painful: Koreander hates children, but you can't help feeling sorry for Bastian when Koreander hits one raw nerve after another with his hostile questions and viciously blunt judgements about Bastian. However, Bastian notices that Koreander is reading a special book of rare and unique appearance. A book which, Koreander assures him, is not for the likes of Bastian: it is not a book for cowards, or for those reading safe stories.
It is an altogether dangerous book. Bastian covets it with all his heart from the moment he sees the title: The Neverending Story. Reading and being a bibliophile are just about the only things that Bastian is good at and which bring him joy. Saturday, 9 July Soft Brexit. I've started to receive a few replies to the letters I've been sending out to elected representatives. Please join my campaign efforts , and write to your representatives. If you are an EU citizen, please also write to your elected representatives - they may well be receiving fewer letters than British representatives do, and they are likely to pay attention.
Labels: politics. Saturday, 2 July Jeremy Corbyn and the broken political system. The media have been delighted at the internal bickering and sniping within the Conservative Party in the lead up to the referendum. The Conservative Party presents a broadly united front except for a single issue Europe , and it's roughly evenly split on that one - and the politicians have taken care to attack each other's rhetoric and points a lot more than each other's characters.
Well, Heseltine talking about Boris is an exception. In Labour, meanwhile, the conflict plays out as people against one. Every single attack is on his character and person. However, the one is the avatar of a few hundred thousand voters, and the underlying conflict is much more broad in its ideological differences. Labour is no longer a united front of any sort, and it's dying. Toxic Labour. Chakrabati's inquiry into racism in Labour concluded that there is no systemic problem, but that there is an 'occasionally toxic atmosphere'. What an understatement - the atmosphere has been toxic since Jeremy Corbyn announced his intention to stand as candidate, and has been getting steadily more toxic by the day.
I'm one of those people who joined Labour in order to vote for Corbyn's leadership bid. It was very clear that:. He's not a bridge builder, not an appeaser, not someone who compromises on the fundamentals. He's an outsider with a strong moral core and values that match those of many grassroots left wing and liberal activists including me. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he had few allies among Labour's MPs, after many years of not towing the party line if he did not agree with it. Even so, the viciousness of the internal conflagrations in Labour took me by surprise.
Right from the start, barely a week went by without some senior Labour politician declaring him unfit to rule. On an almost weekly basis, some people in the shadow cabinet planted stories in the press suggesting that Corbyn was planning to fire them all. Somehow, they played the victim even though no attack had taken place. Looking just at the facts rather than rumours and accusations that never materialised, Corbyn has been admirably principled leader.
A minor cabinet reshuffle took place, MPs were given freedom to vote with their conscience on military intervention in Syria, and, though immediate rumours were planted that Corbyn was planning to get rid of Hilary Benn after all the positive attention the press had paid to his rich in rhetoric, thin on substance speech, Corbyn did not 'punish' anyone for having disagreed with him.
The most mindboggling thing is how the press have been selling the idea that Corbyn is a vengeful, plotting schemer, when all the scheming and plotting appears to have occurred around him. Then, the "anti-semitism" crisis which was carefully manufactured by the media and a handful of politicians, presumably because of Corbyn's history of supporting Palestinians. Corbyn again responded as a decent person might: by launching an independent inquiry and putting a highly regarded outsider in charge of it. Now, the mass resignations and votes of no confidence by MPs, apparently carefully stage-managed and long in the planning , are designed to remove him.
The amount of spin that's been employed against Corbyn is mind-boggling. Labour winning a by-election despite Corbyn being its leader? A failure because UKIP came second. Winning the biggest share in local elections? A failure because Labour didn't make gigantic gains, merely four mayoral posts and a few councils. Having more than two thirds of his party's supporters vote for Remain?
A catastrophic failure because all Labour voters should have obeyed Corbyn? The man could solve climate change and yet still be branded a failure by his party politicians and the press. He's standing fast so far, but I can't imagine the psychological pressure he must be under. The most bullied man in Britain.
This T-shirt strike you as funny?
I completely condemn abuse of MPs of any kind. No abuse is carried out in my name. There is no place for this in society or in our politics. JK Rowling spends a lot of her energies attacking Corbyn at the moment. This is disappointing, because I usually respect her opinions. Corbyn has repeatedly spoken out against their behaviour. But the press and public discourse are acting as if they are his base. They're not. Jeremy Corbyn's base of support is built on people who have been feeling disappointed with Labour for years. It's built on people who vote Labour as "least worst option", not because they believe Labour still stands for anything.
It's built on people who have been voting LibDem and Green in some elections because Labour had moved too far from its principles. It's built on people who felt alienated and yes, betrayed, by Tony Blair's government. It's built on people who look at Nicola Sturgeon and wish she'd not be a Scottish Nationalist, but a Labour Leader, people who think Blair was a despicable war criminal, who want more idealistic, principled leaders, people who think that the difference between New Labour and Compassionate Conservatism is paper thin, and who are sick of being forced into a binary, tribal choice because their own instincts are not "new" labour at all.
Many of my friends are Corbyn supporters, having voted LibDem, Green, and, strategically but reluctantly, Labour. When I joined Labour, I had to promise to adhere to its principles, which include "socialism". I am not actually a devout socialist, so I hesitated slightly. But Blairite MPs? Would any of them openly call themselves socialists? Under Blair, Labour stood for one thing only: wanting to be in power. I do not support political parties like people support football teams.
They are meant to be more than a brand.
They are meant to have some kind of philosophical basis. Corbyn, of all the candidates in the last leadership election, seemed to be the most ideologically Labour candidate, and that was why I voted for him. They've wronged him, they've wronged Labour supporters, and they are making Labour completely unelectable. When the entire world is wrong and you are right, then that doesn't mean you should give up Will I vote Corbyn? Assuming there will be a leadership contest, will I use my Labour membership to vote Corbyn?
I think he's like Jimmy Carter - a great man, but not, perhaps, a great politician. Turns out having a large network of sleazy and corrupt MPs is a pre-requirement, unless you want to be bullied out of office and constantly surrounded by conspiracies. I don't think he's inherently unelectable, but I do think the persistent, public bullying by Labour MPs, and the hostile stance of the press including, in a case of bias that reeks to heaven, the BBC is making him so. A political self-fulfilling prophecy.
That said, there's no way in hell that I'd vote for Angela Eagle after finding out more about what she stands for last year, I'd voted for her as Deputy Leader. I guess a whole lot depends on who stands against him. If Jo Cox were alive, I would vote for her in a hearbeat. I would consider voting for MPs who are new to Parliament since the election, provided they stand for things I can support, and provided they haven't been part of this horrendous bullying. Failing that, I will probably vote Corbyn again. I suspect that, unless things change, I will leave Labour.
The way the parliamentary party has been acting is nothing short of despicable and abhorrent.
I'm vaguely horrified that I am more impressed by the Scottish Nationalist Party even though I hate any and all nationalism than by Labour. It seems to me that the real reason why this country's politics is being torn apart is the First Past The Post electoral system. It is this system which created two political parties which are largely tribal, with limited ideological basis. It is this system which has resulted in voters getting more and more frustrated and angry, as they struggle to find a politician or party that they can support.
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It is a system which forces people to vote for the lesser evil, rather than the things they really believe in. Now I know Owen Jones is an 'acquired taste' he seems like a smug lefty demagogue to me whenever I see him , but have a look at this video. He actually talks sense.
But that's democracy. Let people vote for something for a change, rather than voting against things. The compromises required to form a government are much more palatable if the coalition of ideas is one between different parties, rather than an internalised coalition of specific MPs. It's the only way to fix Britain's political system and make meltdowns like the one we are witnessing at the moment less likely. Monday, 27 June Fuchskind von Annette Wieners. Labels: Crime Fiction , Deutsch , Thriller. Friday, 24 June If the electorate hands you lemons So, Brits actually voted for Brexit.
Britain, to Europe My and most of my friends' reaction I don't believe in asking for a second referendum though if you do, there's a very popular petition for that. But I do believe that, after the initial shock has worn off, there's no reason to lose hope. I outlined why in my very long first Brexit blog post , but here's a refresher of what it would entail:. Continued access to the single market. Continued free movement of people i. This would go to recipient EU countries in need of development but not to recipient UK regions in need of development , so Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal etc. No Common Fisheries Policy i.
At this point, this scenario is the best that Britain can hope for. However, I no longer believe that it is certain to be the outcome, just that it is still likelier than any other alternative. Several politicians in the UK and in the EU have openly declared intentions that the UK should leave the single market. Every other instance of countries having referenda about membership in European markets, where the referenda came out negative, has resulted in arrangements that are as close as possible to EU membership while still honouring the democratic decision.
Iceland, Norway, Switzerland: the two former countries are in the EEA, the latter has replicated almost all of EEA through a batch of "bilateral" agreements that are all linked together. Basically, political leaders faced with a population that is eurosceptic have almost always ended up putting their countries as close to the EU as they could. Politicians want to be re- elected. Leaving the EEA would throw the UK into ten years or more of economic chaos, with a lengthy recession at the start. Any government proactively causing not just a brief stock market crash, but actual long-term recession, would severely scupper its chances of getting re-elected.
Aside from the SNP, politicians want to preserve "the Union". For the fishing industry, there'd be fewer restrictions. Any second Scottish referendum would therefore have to present "EU-accession" which includes eventually adopting the Euro and continuing to abide by Common Fisheries Policy as the "Independence" option, while the "staying together" option would stick with the pound and stay out of fishing quotas.
The referendum wasn't won by the "Leave" extremists.