“Blonds make the best victims” – A. Hitchcock
First things first: last night’s BBC 2/HBO film The Girl was absolutely superb – by far the best new work to be seen on Brit TV over the Christmas season. If you missed it, make sure you catch up via iplayer or whatever, asap.
Briefly, this was the story of Alfred Hitchcock’s choice of the previously unknown Tippi Hedren to star in The Birds (his follow-up to Psycho) and his obsession with her, culminating in a campaign of bullying and intimidation when she rejected his blundering advances. Finally, Hitchcock sabotaged her career by refusing to either release her from her contract or to use her in any more films, apart from the rather unpleasant Marnie.
His behaviour, these days, would be considered completely unacceptable and probably place him beyond the pale in the eyes of polite society.*
Once again we are confronted with the old conundrum: to what extent is it possible to separate a great artist from the more unpleasant aspects of his (and, it would seem, it is usually “his” rather than “her”) personality? As an admirer of Philip Larkin I have difficulty coming to terms with evidence of his misogyny and racism, just as admirers of Eliot and Pound have (or should have) difficulty with the fascist sympathies of those two, and Picasso enthusiasts ought to be at least concerned by his Stalin-worship (which lasted into the 1950s). As for unacceptable sexual practices, the superb sculptor and designer Eric Gill probably leads the field, though I’ve no doubt there have been plenty of other major artists with similarly hideous sexual proclivities. Benjamin Britten‘s interest in adolsescent boys has long been the subject of speculation, though in fairness it should be stated that there has never been any evidence that he engaged in paedophilia.
Anyway, The Girl, based as it was upon Tippi Hedren’s own accounts (in interviews) of what happened, pulled no punches and made no effort to excuse or explain-away Hitchcock’s behaviour. But, thanks to a masterful performance by Toby Jones, we feel pity as well as disgust. Hitchcock was, by his own description, a fat, ugly walrus of a man who had only ever had sex with his wife (for whom the term “long suffering” scarcely suffices) and, now in his sixties, was impotent anyway. According to Jones’ portrayal, he appears to have felt that Hedren simply owed him a tumble for having made her a star.
The question that The Girl poses but doesn’t answer, is to what extent Hitchcock’s sexual obessions contributed to the dark, ambiguous power of his best work.
As well as Jones’ extraordinary portrayal, Sienna Miller gives a strong (in every sense of the word) performance as Tippi Hedren and Imelda Staunton deserves a mention for her profoundly sad Alma Hitchcock.
As a result of representations made to Rosie, Skidmarx has been unbanned. To be honest, I’d forgotten I’d banned him. He really pissed me off over something, but I forget what, just now. Having no democratic procedures on this blog I came over all ‘Assange’ and just thought “fuck it” and banned him. I have now relented.
But remember, Skidders: one false move and I’ll have that eagle pecking at your liver again. While you shit yourself (see illustration).
For saddos and lovers of sectarian bun-fighting (and let’s face it, who isn’t on a Saturday morning?), there’s a treat over at Splintered Sunrise. He’s dug up an article by Sean Matgamna, who presumably dug it up himself for publishing recently in the AWL’s paper Solidarity. Splinty ruthlessly mocks the AWL for bothering to re-publish the 15-year old critique of WRP dictator Gerry Healy, and then promptly demonstrates his own commitment to contemporary and relevant blogging by going through the thing and fisking it. We are then presented with comments from an impressive left-wing zoo, all of whom of course have strong views to offer on the AWL, presumably due to their having nothing better to do than spend hours on end doing in-depth research into the fortunes and foibles of a UK-based Trot group. Particularly impressive is the way that (with the exception of Lobby Ludd, occasionally of this parish) they all don’t leap to slap down the notion that the AWL is in the pay of some group of people who use “shekels” (hmmm). Of course I have assured them all that I will ask our own Zionist Paymaster to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of this so Rothschild if you’re reading this then please let us know.
In other highlights, Andy Newman (displaying once again his deep understanding of theology and history) goes “tee hee hee Jim Denham said Protestantism is historically more progressive than Catholicism”, and Liam Mac Uaid replies “umm well he’s right about that actually”, which appears to end Andy’s participation in the fun. Dr Paul, who I’m told is a nice bloke, complains that the AWL were nasty to him when he compared them to the RCP. Someone else mentions Jane Ashworth. It’s like a smorgasbord for anoraks so what on earth are you all still reading this for? Grab a yellowing copy of Newsline and get in there!
In my last post about the upcoming US elections, I noted Alexander Cockburn’s complimentary comment about the platform of Libertarian Party candidate for President, Bob Barr. So fascinated was I by this weird political figure that I thought I’d do some more reading about him, and I’ve got to admit that his sheer comedic value had previously passed me by.
There’s a useful run-down on Barr’s record on the Economist website, where the Bobster is deconstructed in their Lexington column from May 29th this year. Amongst his great achievements in defence of liberty, aside from voting to impeach Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal (so much for the idea that personal morality should not be enforced by governments), voting for the ultra-authoritarian Patriot Act, throwing himself into the ludicrous and self-defeating “war on drugs” and supporting the Defense of Marriage Act (freedom’s mighty advocate can’t have gays tying the knot after all), was this:
His moralistic fervour faltered only when it came to his own conduct: twice divorced, he was once photographed licking whipped cream off the breasts of a particularly buxom woman. He says he was raising money for leukaemia research. (Well, he would, wouldn’t he?)
Well, they do say the USA is a nation of givers. I’m not sure whether this puts Barr on, as the Economist puts it, the “Ruby Ridge” or “Reefer Madness” wings of the wonderfully wacky Libertarian Party, but it certainly adds a little colour to the sour paleo-conservative’s record.
Of course, he’s recanted his past now, and appears to believe that “anything goes” is the right approach to social and economic policy alike. And he has his backers, like the writer at the unofficial “bobbarr.com” site, who believes his Bobness is the only man left who can stop Barack Obama from nationalising McDonalds and declaring rule by Soviets in the USA. Truly, in America it is possible for hope to triumph over reason.
Even prominent self-described “Libertarians” – a political label chosen by, at best, 10% of the US population – interviewed by Reason magazine, split between McCain, Barr and, surprisingly, Obama, whom many were inclined to support simply to give the GOP a kicking. All in all, things do not look good for our diminutive Georgian Don Quixote or for Wayne Allyn Root, his VP candidate and Z-list “celebrity” bookie. Yet they’ll keep trucking on, as will their clown-suited fringe political party. And somehow I just can’t help but smile at that fact: after all, US politics just wouldn’t be the same without them.
I wonder why the fella (who thinks m’learned colleague and long-time Alliance for Workers’ Lliberty member Mr Denham is a “superior intellect”, lest we forget) is so angry at the AWL for making a historically self-evident point about the left, in particular the Grantite tendency in the 1980s? And indeed if he thinks the Militant model for Labour Party work was so shit-hot, as evidenced by its subsequent success, then I take it his Socialist Appeal membership card is in the post? Or there again maybe not.
No offence, of course.
“Yet I am here, a chosen sample,
To shew thy grace is geat and ample:
I’m here, a pillar of thy temple
Strong as a rock
A guide, a ruler & example
To a’ thy flock.” – Holy Willie’s Prayer, Robert Burns.
Gordon Brown’s cabinet lurches from one half-baked initiative to another. But one still has to reckon with its loyalty to some principles: it is glued to the task of reforming the country’s marginalised and criminal classes. This neatly serves the goal of Christian redemption held by many (government) ministers. The PM appears to see himself as a modern Holy Willie guiding the British flock. Recently it’s the Home Secretary’s tethering of lost sheep that has grabbed everyone’s attention. Off-the-cuff measures to combat knife-crime flow and flow, there is even an absurdly named ‘Tsar’ on the case. Authoritarian policies, from extending detention without charge, to a vast increase in police power and surveillance, tussle nearby. One such move attempted to force compulsory rehabilitation on prostitutes, starting with making women arrested for soliciting attend three meetings with a supervisor. Early this year this was defaeted in the Lords. But it looks increasingly likely that the government, backed by an alliance of religious fundamentalists and some (by no means whatsoever all) feminists, will try for other plans. This would follow Swedish law criminalising the buying of sex. Added to which would be, again, obligatory re-education.
A crack-down on street sex workers in Ipswich followed Steve Wright’s murder of 5 prostitutes in 2006. A Street Prostitution Strategy Group was formed. This has made claims that the problem in the so-called Red Light District had been solved, that women were being weaned off the drugs that drive them into this activity, and brought back into society. The recalcitrant have been issued with ASBOs against walking in designated areas. This model is being promoted nationally. It is becoming clear that Brown’s colleagues intend to extend it, tied to prohibiting the purchase of sex.
There are strong reasons to have concerns about this approach. A public meeting in Ipswich on Monday 13th July organised the Safety First Coalition and the English Collective of Prostitutes, was supported locally by Ipswich Trades Council, local residents, some sex workers and a few church people. Its call was for the decriminalisation of prostitution. This would follow the (five years old) move to carry this out in New Zealand. “Police” the Collective observes, “have moved on from clogging the courts with prosecutions for soliciting to preventing violence against sex workers.” Teresa Mackay of UNITE noted that Ipswich Trades Council had successfully presented a motion supporting this in principle at its national conference, and many unions had adopted the same position. The Rev Andrew Dotchin made a plea on behalf of those who were being failed by the Teams meant to deal with them. One local sex worker confirmed this. She told of her plight: how she had been unable to get access to decent housing until helped by a concerned journalist. That there were, contarary to the Strategy Group’s claims, still women out on the street (one could add that there are plenty of cards in certain newsagents as well as tolerated – for now – ‘massage parlours’ ) .
Niki Adams of the Collective made one of the most persuasive speeches that I have ever heard. She argued that there should be no question of either ‘supporting’ or ‘condemning’ prostitution. Criminalising consenting sex simply drives it underground and forces women into isolation. The priority was safety and preventing violence against women. As for alternatives, these should be voluntary. Niki stated that the government refused to listen to evidence of the success of the New Zealand approach, and would adopt the Swedish template unless vigorously opposed. She then brought in wider aspects of the state’s moralism and its approach to crime, deviant behaviour and reforming the feckless poor. A two-tier legal system is being built: one to deal with serious crime (and which is straining to cope with, notably, aggression and rape), and the other – massively expanding – od ‘para-justice’. The latter fines and prosecutes people (prediminantly the badly-off) with low standards of evidence.
Increased interference in people’s behaviour is, others continued, not just aimed at prostitution. It is a central part of New Labour’s strategy. Polly Toynbee (Guardian July 15th) talks of a “ladder of interventions”, to cut violent, particularly, knife-related, crime: “For a long time it’s been clear a relatively small number of families - Brown said 110,000 – cause most crime and violence, sometimes for generations.” 20,000 of these should have intensive parenting support (attendance not optional), or, it is mooted, they will face eviction from council housing (a favourite cabinet threat). As ever, the undeserving working class and poor are the objects of social policy.
The prospect is dire. As if one could single out the bad people in society (all 120,000 of them) and abolish such scourges of the ages as prostitution, thieving and violence by rehabilitating them! It’s obvious that decent work is not easily available for most of them. Nor is relying on the JSA allowance for the (over age 25) unemployed of £60.50 going to tempt those presently involved in illegal money-making schemes,violent crime or selling sex, to return to the straight and narrow. Nor will lectures from hectoring social workers do much good. Or other quick-fix remedies. On this, questions may be asked about Ipswich’s principle drug rehabilitation programme (which has accepted state strategy) and its use of acupuncture. Still, with the increasing privatisation of welfare, one expects for-profit and religious bodies to jump at the cash that will come with these plans. No doubt some would like to follow the fictional Robert Elsmere (1888 ) by Mary Ward, and set up a New Brotherhood of Christianity to redeem the sinning poor. Others look to the latest American fad and wish to ‘nudge’ the deviant into good behaviour – though the ‘nudge’ quickly becomes a shove.
The Safety First meeting illustrated the obstacles facing those who stand for people’s rights. The message is that we should turn our backs on the moralisers and campaign for real measures to improve the lot of those engaged in prostitution: we must begin with decriminalisation, and then offer viable choices to those who want to get out. A hard objective, but the only realistic one compatible with democratic values.
See also: this.
And I thought the internet had sunk as low as it could go. I was wrong. That is, right up until yesterday when the following search was made, which (inexplixably) led the intrepid googlenaut in question to this site:
best sex with ian donovan
Gospel truth, I swear on me dead Granny’s grave, someone really did a search on that. It’s so wrong, on so many levels, that I may never sleep soundly again for knowing s/he is still at large.
Sir/Madam, I can only suggest you seek treatment. Immediately. Preferably somewhere a very long way away from the rest of us.
It comes to something when (I believe to slightly misquote a West Wing character) a lifelong left winger turns, not into Satan, but perhaps into the man who runs to Costcutter to buy Satan a pack of cigarettes. However it would seem that Andy Nooman has achieved just such a lofty goal. Observe if you will one of his latest posts:
Waltham Forest Forest Ward By-Election 12 June 2008
Lib Dem, 977, 36.9%
Lab, 927, 35.0%
Con, 507, 19.1%
Green, 184, 6.9%
*** Left List 56, 2.1% ***
Result 6 weeks ago in Constituency Member section of GLA Election:
Forest Ward GLA Constituency Member 1 May 2008
NB does not include any postal votes
The Labour Party, 1143, 42.5%
Conservative Party, 477, 17.7%
Liberal Democrats, 382, 14.2%
Green Party, 288, 10.7%
*** Left List, 144, 5.4% ***
Christian Party, 124, 4.6%
UK Independence Party, 79, 2.9%
English Democrats, 51, 1.9%
How much longer ridiculous charade can this go on?
Well bugger me backwards, the SWP got a crap vote in Waltham Forest. Next thing he’ll be telling us that the leader of of Respect (coff) Renewal is an anti-abortionist clown who pretended to be a cat in a weird creepy semi-erotic way (with Rula Lenska) on Celebrity BB, who leads a “party” which is actually a thin crust of ex-SWP careerists hanging off communalist votes in the forlorn hope of being invited to follow their leader back into a desperate Gordon’s open arms.
Keep trucking Nooman. And for the love of God, please buy some new shades.
I just couldn’t resist but comment on a blog that has drawn my attention, run by one “Sarah, Maid of Albion”. I won’t do a live link from here for reasons that will become clear, but Google is your chariot to the fair maiden should you wish to look for your own purposes.
I mean, it’s obviously always been clear that so-called “British Nationalism” has an interesting if restricted gene pool of adherents, however seeing its products in the raw is quite something else. This apparently is one of the more “intellectual” far right blogs, and obviously the title adds a bit of feminine, quasi-feminist mystique as well (Marion Bradley would be spinning in her grave, mind). The actual blog is topped by a picture of a woman in what looks like a cross between a mac and and a wedding dress, contemplating walking into a lake. She has problems, bless her.
And so to the intellectual substance – after all our Sarah’s no slouch when it comes to philosophising about England’s Green and Pleasant, nor inded commenting on the situation in which she finds herself.
Firstly, you might be surprised to hear this but Sarah reveals a staggering fact about life in the UK today. Apparently it is actually more dangerous to live in the UK than it is to live in “the Balkans”, or specifically Albania, Croatia and the FYR Macedonia. Of course, she quotes nothing but impeccable sources to back herself up, in this case the Daily Mail spinning a UN report that was actually aiming to be positive about the South East European countries concerned. Well, that’ll explain the hordes of Brits smuggling themselves across the Italian border in the back of trawlers in a desperate effort to enter Albania, then.
She witters and wibbles on ad infinitum, but one thing that struck me was her links list. Aside from the usual right-wing nutjobs, she also links to the blog of one Hilary White, apparently a self-styled “Catholic Conservative” and evidently at one time a person about the blogosphere. Now that actually is mildly surprising given that most Christian bloggers (whatever the manifold flaws in their politics) are quite clear that they oppose open fascism or far-right politics in general. One is drawn to wonder whether White is aware that the link exists… well, I suppose she is now, if she wasn’t before.
Ah well, it’s always reassuring for those of us on the left to know that whilst the Sarahs of this world are in charge of the far right’s online presence, we can safely head to the pub for a beer and some multicultural nosh at Zog’s bar, knowing that the war of image has been won without us having to raise a flag in anger. Some battles just win themselves, I guess.
As-Salāmu `Alaykum, y’all!
Can this be true? It was revealed in the comments box on the comically misnamed Socialisty Unity Blog a few days ago by an ex-member of the SWP that she felt she had received bad treatment within the party because she was not on the “fuck circuit”, and I suppose therefore missed out on the fast-track to those in positions of power. Massive faith in SU’s sane and not at all bizarre collection of commenters that I have, I can only presume she’s recalling things with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
Firstly, a message to the SWP’ers with whom I attended university: You had a fuck circuit?! Well why the fuck did none of you people mention this to me at the time? Four fucking years in and around the AWL student section and all that time I could have been living a life of debauchery with the Cliffites? Sell out? Hell yeah, I’d have been stalking you for membership forms! Still, it does explain why you were all so bloody enthusiastic I guess – “Now then comrades, if you sell fifty or more papers today, there’s a special treat in store! Zzzt…”
Also, doesn’t it explain so much other stuff? Sideshow Ger expelled after all his hard work fucking over dissenters in Birmingham? Not on the fuck circuit (if you met him, you’d know why). Nooman joins RR? Not on the fuck circuit. AWL has 150 members? No fuck circuit.
Hell SWP comrades, I’ve grown some new Respect for you all as a result of this revelation. I therefore humbly offer you a suggestion for a theme song and video for Marxism 2008: the Fucker’s Cut.