In September, a German military cock-up killed 142 people. mostly civilians. Here is a lengthy article covering not just the details of the incident, but how politicians on all sides downplayed it in the run-up to the election, knowing how opposed the German public were to the war:

“Not a single politician or senior military official told the public the full truth. The subject was to be kept off the radar during Germany’s fall parliamentary election campaign, so as not to ruffle the feathers of an already skeptical electorate. Now the incident has been magnified to a far greater extent than would have been the case if those involved had decided to come clean with the public in the first place.”

Much as I love Germany’s political system of consensus and coalitions, it does tend to result in situations just like this — where the political class stand together against public opinion, and nobody has much incentive to rock the boat.

Sarko the troll

One one level, I know that mentioning French laws on the burqa is just playing into the UMPs tactics, which are basically a skilled case of legislative trolling. Ensure that what should be a non-issue stays constantly in the news, divert liberal energy into making a right-but-unpopular case, provide an way of expressing islamophobia under cover of women’s rights, keep the fear and distrust simmering.

Anyway, Libération has some more details on the form the law is likely to take. “

So as not to appear discriminatory

“, they write with justifiable snarkiness, the law will be against any covering of the entire face within a public space. Presumably they’ll spend the coming weeks assuring exceptions for skiiers, motorcyclists, beekeepers, and anyone else with a

non-religious reason to cover their face. [I guess they won’t do anything about balaclava-wearing anarchists, oddly enough;)]

Meanwhile laïcite is being played in the other direction, in reaction to the Swiss minaret ban. At least, it is providing the language in which to condemn a statement that “when there are more minarets than Cathedrals in France, it will no longer be France”.


Ah, the ever-flexible French obsession with laïcite — now showing its good side, as the language in which to condemn a statement that “when there are more minarets than Cathedrals in France, it will no longer be France”.

Rage, rage against the plying of the shite*

Enjoyably happy-angry things I’ve been reading, and failing to watch.

First, on RATM vs Cowell. K-Punk, my favourite over-the-top theoryhead londoner blogger, gives it the treatment you’d expect. But I prefer cannons_at_dawn, who has this to say:

I would love to see the seething boiling whirlpool of chips on the shoulder of the British public wash Rage Against the Machine to the top spot, there to earnestly quote Franz Fanon at their enemies until they give in, sobbing, and promise to buy Fair Trade

The collective impetus to make one’s voice heard in this particularly pointless arena is sadly unlikely to translate into participation in, say, next year’s general election. Or at least not unless some enterprising soul decides to exhume Screaming Lord Sutch.

What it will do, however, is demonstrate that there still exists a demographic which clings limpet-like to the hull of bloody-mindedness, prepared to momentarily stir themselves in the interests of nudging the seat of mainstream popularity with a heated toasting-fork

Earlier entries are also great fun. Including my new favourite description of the way the world ends: “

a cardigan-wearing Geography teacher farting in a human face forever


Meanwhile, the Independent has a surprisingly good article rant about Copenhagen, by Joss Garman. I’d not previously heard of Garman (he’s young, and I’ve been abroad), but he seems to strike just the right balance of being furious without simply condeming mainstream politicians

en masse


And over in the day-job, we have another film out from VODO, free to download over bittorrent:

Boy meets girl — on OkCupid. Boy introduces girl to (fictitious) social filesharing site, The Lionshare. Girl digs site, but doesn’t dig boy. Boy mopes around the city, never thinking the Lionshare would be the thing that would lead her away from him.

The Lionshare is an important kind of film for all of us, because it’s the kind of film ‘anyone’ could have made — ‘anyone’, that is, who takes it seriously, writing dialogue (and in-jokes) prised straight from their own lives, the backdrop of their own homes for scenery, friends as actors and their own experiences as scenarios. These stories are ours, and this is the start of a new kind of cinema.

I confess I’ve not yet managed to watch it (still not in the right state of mind to settle down with a film :-)). On the whole, though, people seem to like it — and not


because it’s free. If you do watch it, I’d be interested to hear what you think about it.

*not my pun, but how could you not repeat that?

Cities, spirits and Possession

I’ve been reading AS Byatt’s


the last few weeks — lingering over it, because it’s a rich enough book to spend time over, and because I can’t think of anything else that could have the same effect. This passage (p.395) is a little at odds with the rest, but feeds into a big unspoken (and not terribly original) rant of mine on urban mythology — that mesh between Hobsbawm, Grant Morrison, Hogarth, Mike Davis, Erik Davis, and a whole lot more:

A spirit may speak to a peasant like Gode, because that is picturesque, she is surrounded by Romantic crags on the one hand and primitive enough huts and hearths on the other, and her house is lapped by real thick mortal dark. But if there are spirits, I do not see why they are not everywhere, or may not be presumed to be so. You could argue that their voices may well be muffled by solid brick walls and thick plush furnishings and house-proud antimacassars. But the mahogany-polishers and the drapers’ clerks are as much in need of salvation-as much desirous of assurance of an afterlife-as poets or peasants, in the last resort. When they were sure in their unthinking faiths-when the Church was a solid presence in their midst, the Spirit sat docile enough behind the altar rails and the Souls kept-on the whole-to the churchyard and the vicinity of their stones. But now they fear they may not be raised, that their lids may not be lifted, that heaven and hell were no more than faded drawings on a few old church walls, with wax angels and gruesome bogies-they ask, what is there?


Shocked to see some fire in the Independent:

The only part of this deal that anyone sane came close to welcoming was the $100bn global climate fund, but it’s now apparent that even this is largely made up of existing budgets, with no indication of how new money will be raised and distributed so that poorer countries can go green and adapt to climate change.

By Joss Garman, who is apparently involved in Greenpeace and in Plane Stupid. I like him!

Idle Talk

Heidegger talks about how incessant chatter of culture and other public discourse harms and makes understanding difficult, because of its inauthenticity or “groundlessness”, which he explains as talking about something “without previously making the thing one’s own”. [source]

The word you’re looking for, Martin, is grok


Der Spiegel, like everybody else, pulls apart Ban Ki-Moon

Jacob Heilbrunn, a commentator for the respected American journal Foreign Policy, called Ban “the world’s most dangerous Korean.” The moniker is a terrible insult, since by rights it belongs to Kim Jong Il, North Korea’s erratic dictator. But it’s also a gauge of the disappointment currently reigning in the United States. Heilbrunn fears the UN is rapidly becoming irrelevant under Ban’s stewardship. Ban’s sole achievement is having attained his post, Heilbrunn claims, calling the secretary-general a “nowhere man.”