Alan Rusbridger as anti-politics

The New Statesman profiles Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger. Among other things, it paints him as embodiment of the shift away from economic politics, towards London-centric cultural and arts:

“what happened in the late 1980s was a changing of the guard from people interested in politics to people interested in culture. Rusbridger’s not politically engaged, but nobody else is, since it doesn’t make any difference who’s running the country. He has been very successful at retaining a Guardian persona that keeps in touch with the zeitgeist”

It’s true, and it’s possibly what has kept the Guardian doing so well. I just wish it didn’t have to be that way.

‘Volunteers’ for the Jubilee

Shiv Malik in the Guardian:

A group of long-term unemployed jobseekers were bussed into London to work as unpaid stewards during the diamond jubilee celebrations and told to sleep under London Bridge before working on the river pageant.

A particularly horrendous case, this, but not an aberration. It’s mindblowing how much of the grunt-work of running big occasions is now turfed over to the exploited unemployed. The government and private sector have figured out how to get work at only the cost of unemployment benefits. And however much they are described as ‘volunteers’, there’s a strong element of coercion:

Both stewards said they were originally told they would be paid. But when they got to the coach on Saturday night, they said, they were told that the work would be unpaid and that if they did not accept it they would not be considered for well-paid work at the Olympics.

That promised paid work is hardly utopian, by the way:

Close Protection UK confirmed that it was using up to 30 unpaid staff and 50 apprentices, who were paid £2.80 an hour, for the three-day event in London. A spokesman said the unpaid work was a trial for paid roles at the Olympics, which it had also won a contract to staff. Unpaid staff were expected to work two days out of the three-day holiday.

Gay Pride Moscow

The Moscow gay pride parade happened a week ago, as usual. Or rather, didn’t happen as usual. LGBT demonstrations, Described as ‘satanic’ by one former mayor, have never been allowed in Moscow.

Drugoi (Rustem Adagamov), one of Russia’s most popular bloggers, was there this time, and reports that everything followed the pattern established over the past 7 years of abortive parades. The organizers apply for a permit. They are denied, on dubious grounds (“a provocation, causing moral harm”). A few of the brave and foolhardy turn up anyway, ready to be either arrested or attacked by counter-demonstrators.

A few dozen journalists waited at the city council building and opposite the mayor’s office on Tverskaya Square, waiting for the appearance of LGBT activists…What happened today couldn’t be called a parade nor even an action — a dozen people with assorted rainbow logos, or without them, turned up to the city council. One one ground or another they were all arrested and taken away by the police.

And if you think wearing the rainbow flag is shaky grounds for arrest, you should look at St. Petersburg. There, “homosexual propaganda” has been banned since March, by a law which forbids “

propagandising sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism among minors

“. There are moves in progress introduce a similar law on a national level. So all in all, gay rights in Russia are growing weaker, rather than stronger.


: after writing it I discovered that, wonder of wonders, an LGBT demonstration has been allowed in Moscow. Maybe my pessimism was unjustified — or perhaps this is a one-off, because assorted EU politicians are in town


What’s strange about guitarist Erik Mongrain isn’t his skill or the beauty of his music. It’s the novelty of his style — something I thought would be impossible by now. The guitar is the most ubiquitous of instruments — how could there exist a technique which hasn’t been explored a thousand times before?

Mongrain calls it ‘lap tapping’, reasonably enough. A few other people play percussive guitar — Dominic Frasca, Andy McKee — but with a far more traditional guitar sound. And there doesn’t seem to be any tradition of this, though presumably history has some lone virtuosos. So Mongrain is all alone in innovation.

Lin Zhao

Chinese poet Lin Zhao is gradually making a posthumous name for herself, mainly among the cliques of dissidents and intellectuals.

She was executed in 1968, after spending the last 8 years of her life in jail for publishing critical articles. Over that period she managed a stunning output, even by the standards of people committed enough to choose jail and death on the basis of principle. 200,000 words. Written in blood. On the paper provided so she could free herself by writing a confession.

I’ve not managed to track down much of her poetry — there are a couple of pieces here and here. Neither is particularly memorable in English, but then I doubt they are easy to translate.

It does, of course, fit uncomfortably well into tropes of martyrdom, religious or political. You could doubtless find a direct counterpart of Lin in the lives of the Catholic saints. And it doesn’t make complete sense: why would the jailors would provide paper but no ink?

For all that, it’s a story that brings you up short. And, apparently, it’s becoming easier to talk about Lin in China:

In 2004, the Beijing Youth Daily published a feature about Lin while Southern Weekly has also run several articles about her.

Lin’s poems are also becoming more widely circulated. People are starting to see the value in her writings as a complement to Cultural Revolution literature, which is virtually non-existent.

“So many people kept silent during those years, but she was still speaking up,” said Hu. “She represented the most beautiful quality of mankind, its conscience.”