Celtic 2—0 Rangers.

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This was one of those tricky fixtures. Rangers had nothing to lose. They were the underdogs that achieved a creditable draw at Parkhead in the last Old Firm fixture and around the same time last year they’d come to Hampden and won on penalties against a supposedly superior Celtic team. Fling in Celtic’s Hampden hoodoo. But if you want to talk sense and watched the game then you’ll know. Celtic were a better team that dominated the match from start to finish and made Rangers look like a bunch of schoolboys on a day out and playing on a big pitch for the first time.  A 2—0  skelping flattered Rangers.

After Ross County referees were under the spotlight. Andy Halliday’s tackle on Patrick Roberts was assault and a red card. He copped yellow. The referee, Willie Column, has a sense of humour. He warned him he would have to play the full game, but his manager hooked him at half-time, and brought on another Dodoo.

Celtic had a corner in under a minute. A free header by Dembele and a chance to score. After Dembele’s introduction to the Old Firm game with a hat trick this looked like more of the same. He sets up McGregor’s first nipping in behind a statuesque Ranger’s defence and laying off  the ball. It was quickly passed into the net. But 1—0 is one of those score lines that can bite you in the arse. For a few minutes when Dembele went off injured and Celtic brought on the guy that scored 40 goals last season, Leigh Griffiths, Rangers were allowed to keep the ball. But they kept shuttling it backwards.

Roberts lays it off, Leigh Griffiths nipped in behind the Ranger’s defence. James Tavenier gets a toe, not to the ball, but to Griffith’s foot. Penalty. Rangers best spell of football, approximately two minutes was finished.  Game over. Rangers did get a shot on goal eventually, a Kenny Miller header, but when Celtic have the best keeper in Scottish football it was nothing he couldn’t handle. Nothing Celtic couldn’t handle.

I’d have given Patrick Roberts man on the match. He was gallus from start to finish. Or the much maligned Calum McGregor, who was simply outstanding. It went to Scott Brown, who should have been suspended. Ah, well, good news for Rangers, he won’t be playing on Saturday at Ibrox. Celtic’s bench is so top-heavy with good players that doesn’t really matter. If Celtic had a B team there’s a very good chance Celtic A and Celtic B would be contesting the Scottish cup final. As it is, all Ranger’s supporters will be backing their old Aberdeen buddies on cup final day. The treble looks odd on. But if Aberdeen get lucky, you never know. Rangers weren’t unlucky here, just shite. Plain and simple. They can’t blame the Magic Hat for that.

Born to Kill, Channel 4.

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http://www.channel4.com/programmes/born-to-kill

This is the first episode of a four-part drama. I won’t be watching the other three episodes. I know the formula – a thrill at every advert break. So like Coronation Street or Emmerdale or whatever soap you watch something big is going to leave you wanting more than your cuppa and something small is left hanging during advert breaks to bring you back with a Kit Kat. Labelling theory contends that what people say you are, you end up ingesting that message and  being. If teenager Sam (Jack Rowan), a model school kid who thwarts bullies bullying another kid on the school bus and spends his time in the hospital reading to old codgers in the geriatric wing and telling them jokes, he’s obviously up to no good because he’s born to kill. Nature or nurture? Well, his mum who is also a nurse on a geriatric ward, Jenny, (Romola Garia) thinks he’s a good kid. Most mums do. Some scenes hint at a kind of incestuous relationship, but that may be how Sam is reading it, because he’s a psychopath. He’s born to kill. Empathy is not something psychopaths do, but they can learn to mimic being human, in the same way that the moron’s moron, Donald Trump can mimic being a President by blowing up the world. Born to kill. Jenny has the dim, dark secret beloved of thrillers and it’s not very secret, her ex-partner is also a psychopath, but he’s liable to come calling…advert time. Then there’s Chrissy (Lara Peake), the new girl at the school. She is grungy, not born to kill, but is an arsonist. She sets fire to the science lab, probably because she was bored and making a statement about moving house, going to a new school and teenage angst. . That’s the kind of friends psychopaths hang about with. Like attracts like. Jenny ends up getting detention for trying to burn the school down. As does Sam, who’s mum thinks he’s really a good kid, because he tries to take the rap for Jenny’s misdemeanours. Jenny’s dad, Bill (Daniel Mays) is a cop, a detective sergeant, so he knows if her arson attack had killed a classroom of kids, she was liable to get detention and lines, having to copy on the blackboard a million times ‘I must not kill my classmates or I’m a psychopathic killer like Sam, but it’s not my fault. I’m stroppy and misunderstood. An amateur. He’s the psycho’. Phew. I’m even tired after that. A bit of times tables tells us one psycho multiplied by another psycho, for example, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, Fred and Rosemary West, means a whole lot of trouble and more detention time.

You know how it goes, Born to Kill is a modern psychological drama starred a new and upcoming actor…must see…not for me.

 

Ann Cleeves (2016) Cold Earth.

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Ann Cleeves has written a whole stack of books. This is her 31st. Sunday Times Bestselling author, and an imprint on the cover of the book showing some actor’s face, Douglas Henshall, with the tag now a major BBC drama. She is everything I am not, an established author whom I’ve never heard of until West Dunbartonshire Libraries made her novel Cold Earth novel of the week. Here’s where I segue away and start talking about myself like those insecure bores at the office party. (Hi girls and guys, did I tell you I was novel of the week, the week before Cold Earth in West Dunbartonshire Libraries and my novels a lot better than that?  You should check it out https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lily-Poole-Jack-ODonnell/dp/1783522356).   So in a way I’m checking out the competition and I’m committed to reading other novels nominated by West Dunbartonshire Library. Some times we get locked in our own wee worlds of reading and preferences we forget we’re not wearing high-viz vests and working in exclusive reading zones and there’s a whole world of books out there waiting to be read.

I love books, so that’s not a problem. The difficulty with Cold Earth, and detective novels in general, comes from watching too many episodes of Scooby Doo. At the end of 387 pages of Cold Earth the bad guy is going to come away with the Scooby line before getting led away, ‘And I’d have got away with it if it wasn’t for you damn kids…Scooby… Scooby Doo’.

We’re talking about characters, plot and setting here. On the first page, first paragraph, Ann Cleeves knows enough about writing books to fill a book and get these three in early to answer an unasked question of why the first paragraph in a book, or short-story is so important.

The land slipped while Jimmy Perez was standing beside the grave. The dead man’s family had come from Foula originally they’d carried the coffin on two oars, the way bodies were always brought for burial on that island. The pall-bearers were distant relatives whose forbears had moved south to England, but they must have thought the tradition was worth reviving. They’d time to plan the occasion; Magnus had a stroke and had been in hospital for six weeks before he died. Perez had visited him every Sunday, sat by his bed and talked about the old times. Not the bad old times when Magnus had been accused of murder, but the more recent good times, when Ravenswick had included him in all their community events.

The setting is a Scottish island near Shetland. And if you think all Scottish islands are the same then you probably have never heard of Charles Darwin, but you probably know enough to know that they are drab, claustrophobic, rainy places where if you don’t like the weather you can just fuck off.

Plot is established. For some writers a plot is where you grow turnips. Cleeves is Janus’s face here, looking backwards and forwards. She’s saying it’s not that quiet up here, Magnus has already been accused of murder, if you want to find out more read my old books. With all that rain there is a landslide. Jimmy Perez has come to bury his neighbour, but the land washes away the gravesite and the gravestones of the dead already buried, including Fran, Jimmy Perez’s fiancée buried a few graves along after being knifed to death. Her death haunts him and she talks to him from beyond the grave in italics. Don’t do that kind of thing unless you are an established writer.

Jimmy Perez is a detective it’s not his job to find out if God was responsible for sending all that rain to a wee God-fearing island perched on a rock on the Atlantic for not going to the Kirk enough, or if it’s global warming. But when cold earth ploughs through a small croft and the body of a woman is found, and it’s not an act of God, but she’s been murdered, then it is Detective Inspector Perez’s job to find out whodunit.

What I found interesting was Perez is written as the kind of eye-candy usually associated with women. His superior Willow, for example, comes from a different lifestyle, but another of the small Scottish islands, and she, like many of the locals, fancies him rotten and they do have sex, but it is off the page. Nothing that couldn’t be seen in a Disney Cartoon. That’s murder you might say, but Scooby, Scooby Doo, I quite like you.

 

 

 

Kevin McKenna Guardian Unlimited. Freakshow TV has replaced bread and circuses.

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https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/09/freak-show-television-has-replaced-bread-and-circuses

I know I don’t do enough reading or enough writing. Unless Celtic are playing on a Sunday, which increasingly they are, I do nothing much but read the Observer from cover to magazine. Kevin McKenna is the kind of specialist they consult about all things Scottish. Like me he’s a Celtic man. Here he is mimicking me, I’ve been saying these things for at least the last five years. I can’t bear to be in the same room as people of the Jeremy Kyle ilk. McKenna calls him the poor man’s Jeremy Springer.

Let me recap. Since the Thatcher/Reagan era there has been a movement of money (in all its myriad forms) from the poor to the richest.

This is tied in with the idea of a meritocracy.

The popular analogy and aphorism is a rising (economic) tide lifts all boat.

The propaganda arm of this is reality television. Anything with ‘Benefits’ in the title, or Neighbours from Hell, sums it up. Jeremy Kyle’s role is ringmaster, to stir it all up. To show  us and them – scum. Scum do things like use bad language, steal things from each other and polute the earth not only with their presence, but also with too many poor children and even worse, they tend to smoke and drink.

The simplest solution would be to kill them all. We’ve not got to that stage yet, the Tories aren’t Nazis, although a few of them have more of a ring-wing bent than Mussolini or Nigel Farage.

Simply stop giving the scum state support and any kind of benefit. We’ll be a stronger and better nation by giving money to rich people, who deserve it more.

This is a tautological argument based on eugenics. So don’t let me stop you guffawing at the stupid looking cunts performing on cue for Jeremy Kyle. They’re paying his wages.  Sometimes you’d think they were almost human.

Close readers of the Observer would note a recent trend. Arguments from Nobel Prize winning economists such as Joseph E. Stiglitz or Thomas Piketty’s glorious refutation of all these assumptions and tautological arguments in Capital, doesn’t work. They’ve been Trumped. The propaganda war has been won, the foes routed. Smart people don’t want boring arguments. They want reality. The cost of thinking is too high. We lob invective from our silos of social media and cite Jeremy Kyle as source material. Nobody is listening and everybody, but the poor, have their own megaphones and websites.

In terms of fiction its worth looking at George Orwell, but perhaps the closest to our current situation is not Kevin McKenna, but a fellow Scot, Alastair Gray’s short story Five Letters from the Eastern Empire,    in which the immortal Emperor is a glove puppet, with a side-line in genocide, of his own people, to make the world a more beautiful place.

Elena Ferrante (2012) The Story of a New Name translated from Italian by Ann Goldstein.

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Book two of the quartet of Neapolitan novels The Story of a New Name, ‘Youth’ follows directly on from the childhood of Lila and Elena, My Brilliant Friend and their friends and families. This book, for example, ends when Lila and Elena are aged 23. Elena is indeed brilliant has graduated with top grades and top honours from the University of Pisa and finds herself engaged, to be married in two years in 1969, to another brilliant student and she is an author, with a novel just published.

Reading My Brilliant Friend had me thinking of the alchemy of the Ouroboris, who is who and how young they were, how incredibly young. Lila’s father, Fernando Cerullo, the shoemaker, for example, is not yet forty and his wife Nunzia is younger. They have five children (I think). Rino is the oldest. Lila’s father and mother, are of course, one step from the sarcophagus lid sliding over them.  Lila is sixteen and a half when she marries Stefano and into (relative) wealth and into the Carracci family. Her father owned Lila and now her husband owns her. She has escaped from poverty and a semi-arranged marriage to Marcello and into the Solara family, local hoods, whom she hates. Everybody loves Lila, she exudes beauty, sensuality and is prodigy able to turn her hand and mind to any task she takes on. In such a close knit and incestuous community the only thing more important than family is money, of which the Cerullos and Grecco family have none. The daughters of both are therefore saleable commodities. Lila refuses to be anything other than herself.

Elena has the power of the narrator. Her way out of poverty is to study more than anyone else and her uncertainty about the future drives her on. Lila is the catalyst, everything Elena has done Lila does better and first, without effort. Elena knows everything about Lila because her friend trusts her with her diaries which she tells her not to read, but of course she does.  The first-person narrator angle also comes unstuck when Elena also seems to know what her ex-boyfriend Antonio is thinking and have knowledge of what he does. It’s a fudge between first-person narrator and third-person narrator. Antonio, of course, is the son of the mad widow. In Ferrante’s novel there is always a feral female, unhinged by doomed love. In this case it is Melina Cappucio and her doomed lover is the poet, conductor and journalist Donato Sarratore. In the first novel he molested Elena and courted her as if she, a girl of fifteen had asked for it, with a father of fortyish. But it is Nino Sarratore, Donato’s son, that Elena loves, but later it is Donato she loses her virginity to, in some ways to spite Lila.

Lila tries to convince Elena that Nino is ugly and he is unworthy of her. When Lila arranges for them to get away for some sunshine on the seashore Nino and his friend Bruno are also there. What Elena wants Lila gets, or vice versa. Lila wants school and education. She gets married and a big house. Elena wants Nino and gets education and learning. Nino wants Lila, in the same way that all his friends and most men do. Be careful what you want. So when Lila wants Nino the world is going to change, but remain the same mix of jealousy, money worries, poverty and violence. Nobody gets anything for free or gets off scot free.

When Lila has a baby she tells her husband the truth that it’s not his, but he doesn’t believe her. He too is having an affair, but become more controlling and violent with Lila.

Elena, meanwhile, has escaped to the safety of a desk and room and the University. But she finds her clothes and accent and, of course, her gender are mocked and belittled. Women aren’t as good as men is the message she reads, not in books but on the faces of her professors. Bit by bit Elena trains herself to be liked and to learn to speak properly and fit in, but another lesson is for that a certain amount of cultural capital as well as money is required. When she has a boyfriend who is wealthy with good connections, for example, she is not mocked and is invited to social gatherings. When not, she is not.

The graduate of university and  Lila the graduate of life are reconciled outside Bruno’s stinking factory where Lila now works. Despite the burns and cuts on her hand, and despite how thin she is, Lila has got her zest for live back. This might have something to do with Enzo Scanno, the fruit and vegetable seller’s family, who has always loved her and is taking care of her. You can never be sure with Lila. The drive to find out more is the genius of the book. Now onto Book 3 of the quartet. Long live Lila! Long live Elena!

Yuval Noah Hurari (2011) Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind.

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I bought this book about two years ago, started reading it and put it in a wicker basket at the side of the couch. It got covered by other books, but like yeast it worked its way to the surface and into my consciousness and left its thumb-print on me, which will fade, indeed, has faded, because I’m pretty dumb. By now, of course, Yuval Noah Harari has a follow-up book out, which I also intend to buy (and leave in a wicker basket by the side of the couch).

You might want to look at the growth and timeline of ‘An Animal of No Significance’ in the first chapter and flash forward a couple of million years, jump another 70 000 years and 466 pages later  ‘The End of Homo Sapiens, Afterword: The Animal that Became a God’, or you might want to watch a few episodes of Star Trek, because really its always about us and them. A puny species learned to walk upright, make flint tools, gossip about their neighbours and wipe out all other species. We’re getting pretty good at it now. We started with fire and domesticated animals and the animals domesticated us. Fire, physics, chemistry, biology and back to DNA and fire and blood again.

From hunter gatherers with little impact on the earth

[to] an orgy of reckless consumption…Much of the vaunted material wealth that shields us from disease and famine was accumulated at the expense of laboratory monkeys, dairy cows and conveyor-belt chickens. Over the last two-centuries tens of billions of them have been subjected to a regime of industrial exploitation whose cruelty has no precedent in the annals of planet Earth. If we accept a mere tenth of what animal-rights activists are claiming, then modern industrial agriculture might well be the greatest crime in history. When  evaluating global happiness, it is wrong to count the happiness only of the upper classes, of Europeans, or men. Perhaps it is also wrong to consider only the happiness of humans.

Bioethics asks ‘what is it forbidden to do’?

The answer is we’ve already done it and likely to do so again. Man is not to be trusted. We need more Spocks and Captain Kirks to rescue mankind from evolving into a giant hamburger that eats itself, throws up, doesn’t leave a tip, and laughs at its own jokes, or is that just me?