Tuesday, February 19, 2008

today : 70 miles away, but no cigar

Castro's retirement this week is proof, if any were needed, that nobody is immortal. And that rigid ideologies are most often personality cults.

Cuba is another area of the world that interests me. Castro was the last dictator, or the last one who didn't send his country on the fast lane to violebce, mass executions, hyper inflation and craziness just because he was power mad.

And oddly, there seem to be plenty of people who quite like him. I think partly this is because he has an impressive and rather iconic beard, but also his (only scantly successful) revolution was geographically so close to the USA yet stood up to and ridiculed it. Castro also seems ot have a decent sense of satire, evidenced by his offer to send election monitors to Florida in November 2000. People instinctively like the little guy facing down the big guy.

I also think there is a lyricism and romanticism about images of Cuba. All that crumbling opulence makes for cool photos. The Hemingway-esque combination of rum, coffee and a perfect Partagas Maduro cigar rolled on the thighs of a dusky maiden in a patched up Summer dress. Swarthy gaucho types who can really dance. They make poverty seem nothing short of glamorous.

Anyway, my real point is that I have never understood the American embargo. It would be almost impossible to sustain a Marxist revolution on such a small island with relatively scarce resources if the might of the American free-trade machine was bearing down on it. It's obvious.

America has been stuck in the embargo/sanctions mode for as long as I can remember and it just hasn't worked. Not only has it failed to topple or even moderate the Revolutionary Regime, but has driven it into the arms of every other Marxist/Socialist dictatorship/country from Uganda to Venezuela. This has only emboldened the tin pot regimes that Cuba has allied with, and Cuba itself.

today : Am I the only one who has noticed this?

All the people who rushed out to buy Duffy's excellent number 1 song Regret this week seem to have overlooked the fact that she sounds exactly (and I mean EXACTLY) like 80s indie jazz singer Carmel McCourt. In fact, if someone told me that Duffy was Carmel's daughter then I would surely believe you.

Duffy looks promising, and her album is pretty good. However, she is still a ways off matching, for example, Carmel's version of 'Azure'. Perhaps Duffy could cover 'Nothing Good' - one of my favourite songs.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

today : Watching The World

I have been watching a lot of CNN recently. Mainly The Situation Room, checking on the Primaries and trying to count the number of times they tell you that they are the best political team on television, and the number of that team whose names suggest they would make good WWE wrestlers (Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash to start).

They have Jack Cafferty, whom is obviously not a real person, as he is referred to as a file. Whenever he talks it is presented as The Cafferty file, which I guess is similar to a Philips screwdriver.

Anyway, I didn't set out to talk about the faux Minority Report pointed finger operated video presentations, or the fact that one of them seems to be in the charge of a 19 year old girl from Berkshire who has acquired one of those gap year mid-atlantic accents. Or even the overly aggressive music that I am convinced was made by or copied from a little known album track by Einsturzende Neubaten or The Young Gods.

The thing about CNN, when you watch it in the UK, is that it really puts you in your place. Y'see I don't really get to see the real CNN, but, in amongst the endless advertisments for CNN and the occasional hotel, I get CNN World. What it tells me is that my country is just another part of the world, and not even an especially important one.

The evening news either comes from Atlanta or Hong Kong. Personally I prefer the Hong Kong one because of Kristy Lu Stout being one of the best looking news anchors in the world, but the point is that 'the rest of the world', according to CNN is not really Europe. I wonder if this is to do with the fact that CNN doesn't want to step on the toes of the BBC in providing english language news in markets close to those covered by the Beeb. Anyway, the news often misses Europe altogether. I guess it should be so in a way. There are way more people in China, Indonesia and India than in Europe, so why should what happen on my doorstep really count?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

today : Go The Bish!

Whenever I hear Rowan Williams, I like him more and more. I don't share his religious beliefs at all. He has a splendid beard, of the kind that wise spiritual leaders should be forced to wear. But also, whatever he says he seems to be operating at about three levels deeper than any other public thinker around at the moment. Any comments I've heard him say are clearly well thought out and highly aware of the true complexity of things. He also clearly takes his role very seriously - and has seemed to have restored some standing to it. People take the Archbish as worth listening to, rather than treating him as a fusty and irrelevant figure, like those judges who ask "Just who are these...erm...Radioheads?"

Which is how he gets himself into trouble. But this is surely the point of a spiritual leader - to be a public philosopher and thinker who stands outside the simplistic vagaries of 'electability' and the PR machine that feeds the feral beasts of the media. This week he did us all a favour, by accidentally unleashing a vicious torrent of Islamophobia from pretty much everyone, therefore showing the press, politicians and even some Muslims to be complicit in running a rabidly xenophobic agenda. The fact that the press and polticians rushed to misunderstand his words, falling over themselves to attack him, also shone a light on the pitifully low level of discourse amongst precisly those who constantly pronounce the need for public debate.

What really upsets them (media and politicians) is the fact that Williams constantly shatters the nice illusion that the Church of England is a genteel and dessicated gentleman's club that is all about tea and custard creams. It may have been under Hume and Carey, but peskily, he keeps on acknowledging that the established church is a political organisation and that good religion is a reflective, forward thinking and sometimes controversial. They don't like other people, especially intellectual, thoughtful and decent people entering the discourse by expressing an opinion.