Srebrenica by Ted/FDM

The ever insightful Ted Swedenburg does it well here:

“One of the many fine songs on Fun’Da’Mental’s powerful 2006 release, All Is War: The Benefits of G-had, is “Srebrenica Massacre,” featuring vocals in Bosnian (a variety of Serbo-Croation, according to some) by Alma Ferovic. Since April I’ve given several talks about Fun’Da’Mental, which have included analyses of several songs from All Is War, but I’ve not had much to say about “Srebrenica Massacre….”

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Stairway to Heaven

The resurrection of Led Zeppelin at their 02 Arena event evoked long suppressed memories that lurch from the awful to the wonderful. In the awful column: bad versions of ‘stairway’ being hacked out by spotty youths in guitar shops (and now, I am appalled to report, regurgitated by buskers on the London tube where everyone is well sick of Crimbo carols – do these people know any good songs? we need a better soundtrack for the struggle home from bargain shopping/return of dodgy gifts).

And in the wonderful column, Led Zep’s return reminds me of this picture of a spiral staircase that once stood on the corner of Stuart Lane and Sudder Street in Kolkata (pic is from a slide, now covered in dust – click to enlarge). This as not, I hasten to add, a functioning spiral, nor have I gone all otherworldly heaven-oriented god-botherinly religious for the silly season – though the disorderly mental state of some denizens of the lodge in those days (circa 1988) might have meant several attempts to climb this thing were made. There was quite a bit of paranoid anxiety that perhaps suggested to some that escaping the mortal coil was a viable flight path (‘I’m a jumbo jet, I’m a jumbo jet’).

As everyone will no doubt gather from their papers this morning, South Asia in the news a lot today – Bhutto family rivaling the Gandhis for martydoms; cricket (India needs 499 runs to save the series); anti-tourist campaign in Goa – awful, wonderful and comic this time.

Awful: Benazir was memorably described as ‘the virgin iron pants’ by [Shlomo] Rushdie, which is now disturbingly ironic given Rushdie is firmly in the maw of the US ideological project, but in a lesser way than Bhutto, even as she was ever a pawn in the superpower democracy-terror game. Rushdie cowered down and changed sides, from left-ish wag to playboy gimp. She, however, only ducked occasionally, and seemed far more concerned with her power moves. Super-pawn might be a better description, since she saw her way to power paved with compromises born of Washington. Certainly we can be skeptical of her democratic record (awful and awful), elected to rule at Oxford Union and Pakistan (twice). Surely when we think of the democracy drive in Pakistan or elsewhere, supported generously by both the US and UK[!], we should wonder why personages, such as the General or the Iron Pantaloon, are so keen to play this figurehead role. Head of the People’s Party or General-not-in-uniform Musharraf, neither seemed likely to be able to do much more than the bidding of imperial masters.

No surprise that I’d say this is not democracy in any radical sense – as none of us know it. In Pakistan, as elsewhere, there is no disarticulation from the colonial machinations of ‘the great game’, of the border writing routines, of the geo-political intrigue (and yes, we also need a democracy movement in the UK). It is time again to ask why we have these pantomime leaders, whether local despots or their Global avatars – why are they tolerated at all? Why do we put up with these ‘leaders’? I am reminded of Voltaire’s suggestion for those who wonder why monarchs do not give up their hereditary power when most people would ‘prefer’ a republic: he said we should go ask the mice who wanted to put a bell round th neck of the cat…

Cricket: I also recall that there is a Led Zeppelin tune called ‘Kashmir’, and I am fighting temptation to dig it out to listen for any hint at all of people’s movement. In 1987 I also visited Srinagar and thereabouts, stayed on Dal Lake – and got to met some of the Kashmiri separatists. The place is again in the news today as the Indian Army are apparently ‘suppressing’ protests in the wake of the Benazir assassination. (I remember Yusuf Chopra who ran a Houseboat called The Neal Armstrong – there was a gold framed letter in the guest house from NASA pointing out that ‘Professor Armstrong thanked Mr Chopra for the invitation, but had no intention of visiting’). The soldiers patrol the Lake today (it freezes over in December, we played cricket on the ice – hence years of bronchial bleargh…hack hack).

Anyway, tourism to Kashmir was scuppered after 1989 (and today Goa, for different – SEZ – reasons, may soon be off limits), but the problems of Kashmiris have not been settled – go ask Mohammed Afzal. Again a set of troubles that reaches back to superpower geopolitics and the consequences of Imperial border design.

My grandfather once wrote of seeing a Zeppelin in WW1, saying his elder sister called him inside from the road when the Zeppelin drifted by, saying ‘ere Tommy, come orf the road before yer get bombed’ – no doubt in a Geordie accent I cannot reproduce.

The Goa protests, and the comedy antics of white dreadlocked waifs on winter sabbatical from Manali, will I hope be reported by Lia – I’ll put a link on the links page when that comes through.


Elena tells me: “Marc Twain said: “While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats”. And sends this pic from Vienna to add to the buses as trinkets collection no doubt – we will take over the world eventually. Thx.

And while we are on the subject of Cats. Perhaps I will start a reading list to add to my ‘Politics of Cats’ piece in an early Stimulus Here:

For starters:

Soseki Natsume 1905/2002 “I am a Cat” Berkeley: Tuttle Publishing.

Kurt Vonnegut 1963 “Cats Cradle” New York: Dell Publishing.

Then add:

Burroughs 2000 “Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs” which has lots to do with his cats, like Fletch. Grove Press.

more to come…

Reflections on Complicity

Good pre-Goldies rectification stuff here from Leila on CASA [CASA is a Spanish acronym for Colectivos de Apoyo, Solidaridad y Acción. In English, that’s: Collectives of Support, Solidarity and Action]:

“Reflections on Complicity
by Leila
June 18, 2007

It’s a party with too much food, an endless beer supply and a whole cast of music snobs (myself included.) In short, a Friday night filled with all of the standard tropes of our extravagant merry-making.

As the evening warbles past midnight and the conversation starts repeating, I slip away from the garden barbeque. At some point the beer has gotten warm and the decadence of the food left abandoned on the table has become upsetting to me. Troubled, I retreat to the house and lay down on the couch to sort through my cluttered thoughts.

The flat, green lawn shimmers in the moonlight and the white walls and ribbed, bare wood rafters of the quaint house remind me of a ski lodge. In the garden, fresh spring flowers blossom in perfect order around the fence and gate, which is black, tall and resolutely locked. Outside, around the grill, the sound of confused but exuberant chatter and trendy Ipod music drifts back to me.

It’s not until the next morning that my discomfort crystallizes into clarity. As I’m being driven back into San Cristobal in the backseat of a car with power-locks, automatic windows, and a deluxe CD player, I watch the life of the colonia I’ve spent the night in glide past me…”

Read more here

Xmas Teaches Kids to Love Capitalism

The ideal Present has arrived.

I rarely forward “Art” projects to lists, but since its the silly season and all things are excused in the interest of the ‘festival of teaching kids to love capitalism’, I though this would make a fine Xmas present for the person who has everything. It might take a little bit of doing (perhaps by interactive media lab people), but it would be great to have one of these with which to carve Marx’s beard into the Goldies back lawn.

Find out more here

And of course, not wanting to come over all Scrooge of past, present and future, just like last year (here) I send best wishes to you for 2008.

Queen to abdicate at Christmas??

Last night on Radio Five Live Andrew Bacon show, Aki Nawaz was a guest, along with some pro-royalist toff whose name I refuse to remember, talking about the Honours System in the UK – Knights, Barons, Orders of the British Empire (OBE) and MBE etc. Aki tried to argue for a more creative alternative, but hardly got his point in before Bacon was shamelessly begging to be gonged (we would oblige if we had a big enough hammer mate). All this was in anticipation of a report out today on reforming the Honours System.

Reform. Rubbish – get rid of it.

The first reason to abolish these honours is that its a leftover outdated plug for Empire (yaay Benjamin Z) – if we first of all accept that there is something to the idea of Nation (and I am not sure we can) we should be able to recognise that the idea of honours is bound up with an outdated aristocratic system, which cannot be reformed. It must be abolished, not tinkered with to be made to look human.

A first step to fixing the mess, is to recognise that we need a Republic – where a republic is a state in which “the supreme power resides in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly by them”. This choice should be neither by a paid lackey like the PM, nor by the Queen who seems to think handing out baubles [trinkets] is her most important duty. Pah, it is a hold over from the aristocracy and its got to go – replace it with a public vote along the lines of X-Factor!. While we might want to ensure that democracy can really be democratic – as there is no guarantee of that via phone votes as yet (thanks Ant and Dec), at least getting rid of the monarchy would be a start. Keeping them on just for tourism, and because the queen can gift out knighthoods to rich donors to the dominant parties, is no reason to abandon a say in how we live.

The second issue is about why some people are ‘rewarded’ for services and some are not. There are a great great many people that do selfless work no doubt – but we are all worthy. To single out some as more worthwhile than others is to mock the contribution of us all. Those that do good works – I guess there are some/many who do so selflessly without any conscious thought of gain, but I am sceptical as there is no such thing as a gift (pace Derrida) – surely do not do good works for the reward, for the honour. No, the honour system is sort of like a reality TV show, where honours are handed out to entertainers, where the path of fame glory and celebrity status is the marker of true worth. The Honours Show is a circus and should be treated in a fitting manner, and thus televised (on ITV4).

And thirdly, even if the system were not chucked out right now, there is no-one who really doubts that the honours system is through and through corrupt, it does not even do what it used to say it did. You can buy your honour if you donate enough – and no-one ever thinks the investigations into corruption are going to expose the dirty little secrets that lie underneath. And this is not just about money: Bill Burroughs already skewered it as a rich-list parasite thriving on a manufactured slave mentality:

‘I would love to see… in England “they must” get rid of the idea of this bloody Queen. That bitch. Sitting there soaking up the energy of forty million people. People say “The Queen isn’t important. She’s just a figurehead.” A Figurehead of subservience. A figurehead of kissing her ass. Worthless wench. She should be sweeping floors’ (Burroughs in 1968 in Lotringer 2001: 102).

OK, maybe you will think that’s a mite harsh on a grandma trapped in corgi land – but the infection has to be removed – get a flea collar, call the exterminator, douse the whole thing in bug powder and ship em out to a flat in Blackpool.

But finally and seriously, what really disturbs me most is that the State gives out awards to people in the midst of a global war. Most of us are ignoring this war and its impact on those bombed abroad, and those who suffer here (all our lives are distorted by this war – civil liberties restricted, attacks on muslims, insecurity and fear on the tube/airports/high street, detentions etc). The awards game is an obscene morale boosterism that flies in the face of complicity with death. To give out awards is a way of saying everything is fine. But everything is not fine. It is not ok. It is not OK at all.

Aki managed to get one quip in sideways: “do you think they might give a knighthood to John Lydon?”. God Saves.

[Pic: Lydon site and interview].

Travels in the war

One of the things I have been doing on and off for a while is writing about my Grandfather’s adventures in the second imperialist world war, and following him to places he visited – Malta, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon… Somehow the idea is that I’d do a travel diary during the ‘war on terror’ to match the text I made with him years ago about his WW2 war stories, which were themselves written out versions of what he used to tell when I was a homeless 14 year old camped out in his back shed…

Anyway, grabbing stuff to take home from my office for the xmas research break, I just found an old faded photo of grandfather and some of his mates in sailor uniform. Typically, holding bottles of beer. On the back in grandfather’s handwriting it says:

“This snap was taken in the mountains at Beruit in Jan 1943. I managed to save it. The lad behind me belongs to Sunderland and was the only other survivor”

Sunderland being sort of just across the way from Grandfather’s home town of South Shields, and where my Great Aunt Aggie was from – it was she who got me my first aussie rules football, for xmas circa 1973, saying she found it in Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra (a likely story).

In the pic Thomas Mouat Tate is the one on the front left. I did promise, a year ago, that I would come back to this stuff.