Thursday, April 26, 2007


This came to me in the mail from an old reader, and I think it'll appeal to a new one. I studied music formally as I was growing up, but I was never a crazy screaming ditzy fan of anyone till I discovered Rufus Wainwright. I would rather forget how I discovered him, but the very week Poses was thrust into my hands I found myself staring at a billboard on George Street. I remember calling my friend NO'D and asking 'Hey have you heard of this guy called Rufus? He's going to be singing in Oxford this weekend.' Needless to say, I was ordered to buy tickets. I saw him live three days after I had first heard him on CD, but I already knew all the songs on Poses. I loved the fact that his music was big and showy and overpowering, that it discovered these deep cavernous recesses inside me and filled them with liquid chocolate and tears, that just when I thought I was listening to pop or rock, I'd recognise a riff from some Broadway musical, and I swear the violins in Greek Song are Karnatak. When I first heard him use the phrase 'raggedy andy' in Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk (which is something of a musical homage to 'Raindrops and Roses') I thought he had made language gay. At the Oxford show, we were pissing ourselves through his butterfly encore, we cried through Hallelujah and we congregated with screaming teenage hordes around the rear exit to the New theatre. But alas, we never did catch sight of the man at close quarters. That would have to wait till the Judy Garland show in London. This time I didn't know any of the songs (except 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'), but listened spellbound all the same. I discovered the gorgeously velvety-voiced Martha Wainwright that evening. Amazingly, we had tickets to the afterparty courtesy JQ's boyfriend S who knew Rufus' drummer. We did see him this time, but he looked tired and rather bored of posing for photographs. And I didn't really know what I would have said if we'd had a conversation (I have been known to say the lamest things to celebrities). So we contented ourselves with mingling with assorted pg 3 folk such as Mr. Gandalf, the woman who played the female teacher in History Boys, a cute curly-haired guy who hosts one of those forgetable silly quiz shows on some BBC channel, somebody who acted in I, Claudius. It was like being a rookie journalist for Heat magazine because we recognised everybody but couldn't name anyone. (Btw, the Guardian Weekend feature comes with big glossy pictures of a very sober-looking Rufus in grey suit being carried by a [insert appropriate collective noun] of yummy-looking buff tuxed men. This is a collector's item. Thanks SB!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Politics, at home and in the world

Harish Khare on the state of the UPA - a tripartite tale of competition within the Congress, between the Congress and its regional allies in virtually every state, and between the Congress and the Left. 'The Congress has frittered away its historic opportunity of reinforcing the virtues of pan-Indian values, working style and Nehruvian Weltanschauung needed to energise a sub-continental polity', he says.

GWF Hegel in da house - Julian Baggini on high brow spin in the House of Commons.

The furore over Wolfowitz at the Bank isn't just on account of his role in the secondment and promotion of his partner, or even his support for the war on Iraq while at the Pentagon - says Bank MD Graeme Wheeler. It's about deeper fears that Wolfowitz and his aides are trying to impose Bush administration ideas on family planning and climate change at the Bank.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fascism, US style

Naomi Wolf writes in today's Guardian of the creeping fascism of US political life. I can see many readers shaking their heads in disagreement at some of the parallels she draws, thinking 'this can't happen here', but hark her chilling reminder that

It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere - while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life ... How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster."
In every closing society, at a certain point there are some high-profile arrests - usually of opposition leaders, clergy and journalists. Then everything goes quiet. After those arrests, there are still newspapers, courts, TV and radio, and the facades of a civil society. There just isn't real dissent. There just isn't freedom. If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.
As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are "at war" in a "long war" - a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president - without US citizens realising it yet - the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Back, with a Vaio

I'm pleased to report that I have completed a final draft of the magnum opus, which is now printed and bound and waiting to be submitted. In celebration, I spent a week in Marrakech and another in Bangalore (carbon duly offset...tsk tsk such a David Cameron thing to say no?) before coming back to a bust computer (the 'e' key fell of while I was writing my conclusion - I think I would have been vaguely perturbed if it had been the 'i'). I realised it was time to say goodbye to my Compaq Presario 1200 when an Internet search turned up a Wikipedia entry describing the machine as if it were an item of historical interest. After much agonising, I finally decided to purchase a Sony Vaio. This isn't a techie blog so I won't bore you with the details, but it looks lovely.

Travels were wonderful - watch this space for more on that. In the course of various conversations, I have come to realise that an alarming number of people read this blog. One of the reasons it's been easy to write so far has been the presumption that no one was reading, but I guess I was wrong! For your entertainment, I've decided to respond to a meme with which I've been tagged by verbalprivilege - 'Five things you may not know about me':

1. As I kid, I wanted my family name to be MacDonald.

2. I hate brinjal/kathrikai/vankai/baingan/eggplant/aubergine - unless it's called patlijan and served in restaurants called Zencefil.

3. My fifth standard maths teacher (Miss NRS, at the time, for those from BCBS) used to pray with me after class - her hand on my head, the windows shuttered, the classroom dark and empty - speaking in tongues: 'Accarabarabara Sharabarabara...'

4. I once had a 45 minute conversation with Roger Bannister without knowing it was him, in which I dissed the idea of running round and round the Iffley Road sports track. I have also lied to the Queen of England.

5. I can crack all my joints.

In slightly more significant news, progressive and exciting developments are afoot in the US of A, where George Soros is at war with AIPAC and Governor Spitzer of New York plans to introduce a gay marriage bill.

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