Japan’s Secret Shame, BBC 2 9pm, BBC iPlayer, director and producer Erica Jenkins.

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In May 2017, twenty-nine year old Shiori Ito, claimed she had been raped by a television journalist, Noriyuki Yamaguchi. They had met in a Tokyo sushi bar. Ito hoped Yamaguchi would help her break into journalism and was willing to work as an intern. He was well connected to Japan’s elite, having written an authorised biography of the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. Yamaguchi drugged her drink (shades of Bill Cosby here) and said she was drunk and couldn’t allow her to travel home by public transport. He took her to a hotel and repeatedly raped her. I’m meant to say, allegedly, here.

One of the online messages she received when she went public with the truth was ‘go back to Korea’. Comfort girls. An innocuous sounding term. You won’t find mention of them in Japanese school text books.  They have been written out of history. The damages paid by Japan to South Korea for that dishonour and reparation payments for a brutal occupation (1910-1945) in a chapter in  Ha-Joong Chang’s book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, was enough to kick-start the South Korean shipbuilding industry.  The Nanking Massacre also involved mass rape and mutilation. The Japanese have previous here.

And the law relating to consent, until Ito’s challenge to the quiet way things are done in Japan, dates from 1907, before Japan’s imperial conquests had taken root. It took a Gaijin, an outsider, to explain it to the viewer. You can buy any sexual service you want in Japan. Popular sex dolls, for example, are designed to look like women and children.

#Me Too and the Harvey Weinstein scandal was met by puzzlement.  As one female student explained from a young age they attend school in little sailor’s uniforms. Their cuteness is iconic as the Japanese flag. They take it for granted that they will be sexually assaulted while travelling on public transport, men and boys rubbing up against them. They will be raped and abused. Nobody much reports it, because the victim is seen as being at fault. And the facilities for reporting sexual assault are feeble.

Rape kits, which could provide forensic evidence, are held by the police. When Ito tried to press criminal charges against Yamaguchi and asked to speak to a female officer, her statement was taken by a traffic warden. Her statement was invalid and she was referred back to male police officers.

When Ito tried to contact a Rape Crisis Centre she found the nearest one was two hours away by public transport. And they weren’t willing to meet Ito anywhere else.

Perhaps the strangest event was a liberal politician in the government appearing in the programme as a critic of Ito. After all, Ito had drunken alcohol. A straw poll by contemporary female students on their smartphones, after Ito had given a workshop about rape, showed that ten-percent of these contemporary students thought drinking alcohol with her assailant was akin to giving consent to having sex.

Before Silicon Valley, Japan was the poster-boy capitalist and technological leader of the late seventies and early eighties. An aging population and the birth rate falling off a cliff, it seems too many males are wanking themselves to death, which makes a change from working themselves to death. Females remain part of a feudal mind-set that seems to offer equality, but when they reach for it, moves further away.

But listen, the Americans have the serial groper and rapist in the White House. It’s a bit of light relief that Russian prostitutes peed on him. And here at good old blighty, we have the rape clause for would-be benefit claimants. Our secret shame is not so secret.

Reporting Trump’s First Year: The Forth Estate, BBC 9pm, BBC iPlayer, director and producer Liz Garbus.

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The twin problems of Donald J Trump are entwined. Firstly, he is Donald J Trump. Secondly, he is in office as President of the United States.  This four-part documentary follows reporters in the New York Times as they cover the newly inaugurated President. Much of news in online before it reaches print, as is shown here.

Too late. Trump moves faster than any documentary crew and we already feel we know everything we need to know about him. What should be must-see viewing is in reality a yawn fest.

The Fourth Estate and New York Times, in particular, also have a bit of catching up to do. Dewey defeats Trauman, for example, was a banner on the Chicago Tribune, 3rd November 1948. But Harry S Trauman was elected President. A victory none of the print media that helped set trends then saw coming and for many of the same reasons they assumed Hillary Clinton would follow Barack Obama as the forty-fifth President. They didn’t look closely enough at what was happening on the ground.

The comparisons end there. Harry Trauman was a humble working-class man of the people, who took his nation through the years of the Korean War. Let’s hope there’s not another war, and that’s not a given with such a narcissistic psychopath in charge of the most powerful nation on earth’s armoury, or God help us, Armageddon is a possibility.

The Observer front page on the same as day Garbus’s documentary is shown on BBC 2 leads with the headline UK rabbi in genocide warning to Trump. A sidebar announces ‘Dehumanisation has ended in atrocities. May urged to attack child separation policy.’ We all know what happened on the United States and Mexican border. As we all know about Cambridge Analytica stealing data, Russian interference in the election, gaming Facebook and allegations of Trump being human.  Children at the border were separated from their parents. Some of them filmed crying in child-proof cages. One version of this and I can’t be sure of this because I originally heard it on the radio, while driving, was these were child actors. I’d guess that came from Kirsten Nielsen, one of Trump’s mouthpieces. It was even by Trump standards an incredibly stupid thing to say. The picture of a naked nine-year-old girl, Phan Thị Kim Phúc OOnt, burning from Napalm during the Vietnam War led to a similar world-wide backlash. Trump’s eventual step back is partial and grudged, awaiting applause for his humanity.

Trump builds walls and hides behind them, but he loves the camera to be on him. Ronald Reagan, that old B-movie actor from before the Cold War era, knew when to stop acting. He stepped back from his anti-Soviet rhetoric and didn’t go ahead with planned Nato manoeuvres in 1983, when the Russian’s believed they would come under attack. It was on par with the Cuban Missile Crisis.   Trump cannot stop being Trump.

I had plans to write a longer piece around William Empson’s seven types of ambiguity. I’d sketched some ideas working on Trump’s seven types of idiocy. But really, that’s an underestimate. Trump always surprises us. Not in a good way. A human magnet for misery and for all that’s wrong in the world. Watch this programme if you want to learn about the New York Times. As for Trump…I’m weary, weary of him, but it’s impossible to look away.  That’s the whole point of Trumpism.

Conviction: Murder in Suburbia, BBC 2, BBCiPlayer, directed by Nick Mattingly

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The viewer follows Louise Shorter, ex-journalist and leader of the Inside Justice team, supported by criminal lawyers, ex-police officers and forensics experts who offer assistance in cases where there could have been a miscarriage of justice.

You know when people say spoiler, aye, give me one of them. Glyn Razzell murdered his wife in 2003. Her body was never found. He’s been in prison for nearly 15 years and is eligible for release after serving 16 years but has maintained his innocence.

In 2016 a double murderer was convicted in Swindon. A serving policeman described him as a serial killer, all of whose victims had not yet been found. The double murderer was said to have helped with building work on the extension to the Razzell’s home and was said to have an affair with Linda and have been obsessed with her.

Red herring. Red because of the colour of herring after being smoked. And as we all know herring was used in the training of tracker dogs.

Aye, give me another one of them spoilers. Glynn Razzell maintained that the DNA evidence that convicted him was planted by his wife. His wife had gone to the boot of the estate car he had borrowed from his friend and waved her blood about to incriminate Glynn. I remember that from some movie.  Blood doesn’t lie. It wasn’t detected until the third forensic examination of the car.

The forensic expert in Louise Shorter’s team said it had been raining that night when the police forensic experts examined the car and they didn’t do their job properly. She didn’t say that exactly, but the viewer knew what she meant. Later she and another expert were drafted in to look at blood splatter. They concluded that Linda had been bleeding when she was placed in the boot of the car.

There was a programme later about Super Squirrels. Maybe they put Linda in the boot of the estate car.

I’m simplifying a complex case with a high red herring quotient. As we all know artificial intelligence is really just pattern recognition software with a body attached. Shorter arranges for a prison visit and for Glynn to take a lie detector test, which he readily agreed to. Only when the team arrives outside the prison Glynn changes his mind.

His wife’s body will be found, eventually. Glynn has moved to an open prison in preparation for his release.  No doubt he’ll keep saying he was fitted up. He wasn’t fitted up enough for my liking.

Sara Trevelyan (2017) freedom found: a memoir.

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The spiel on the back page of the cover a kiss and tell from Jimmy Boyle: ‘She absolutely taught me how to love’.

Em, as my old da would say, fanny wash.

Sara in contrast has a whole book to tell the reader how it is or was.  ‘At the end of the 1970s, I met and fell in love with one of Scotland’s best-known prisoners, Jimmy Boyle. Our two very different worlds collided in an unexpected way…’

I love books, but gave Trevelyan’s away after reading the first few pages. Obviously, it boomeranged back. Trevelyan would find something significant about that. In her world view nothing happens by accident.  I stuck it in the toilet. I’ve read A Sense of Freedom (don’t remember much about it). And I was thinking about writing something with prisons in it.   What irked me most here was the writing. No cliché goes unused.

‘I spent my teenage years on the sunny beaches of Australia. In my wildest dreams I could never have imagined myself living in Scotland and becoming the wife of such a notorious prisoner.’

We know about Jimmy Boyle. Myth and legend, he nailed a guy to the floor over an unpaid debt. Boyle’s crucifixion in the penal system. His rehabilitation in Barlinnie’s Special Unit.

For a bad yin, Jimmy did good. Nice house in the South of France. Property portfolio. Hobnobbing with gentry. Ditched Sarah Travelyan for Kate, a wee blonde Glaswegian. Said he was feeling a bit lonely. Asked Sara’s permission to meet someone else. She tries to be non-judgemental.  If he wasn’t already fucking her then I’m a parrot.  Inevitable, I’d say, but I’m cynical that way.

Sarah Trevelyan (she dropped the h from her name) is one of those open-book types (if you’ll excuse the cliché). The joy of being relatively wealthy is you get a second chance and then a third and so on.  She trained as a physiotherapist. Didn’t make it. Trained as doctor in London. Came north, worked as a junior doctor in the psychiatric wards of a hospital in Edinburgh. Didn’t sit her exams. Left medicine to become a counsellor and psychotherapist.

Every experience needs to be channelled and learned from, if not in this life, in the one after. My reading of this and I’m sure she’d forgive me, because that’s where freedom is, she’s been taken for a ride. I’m OK. You’re OK.

Jimmy Boyle in the Special Unit is a different man from Jimmy on the outside. I’m sure they fell in love. I’m reminded of William Carlos Williams and Jack Gilbert’s different interpretations and  poems about Icarus flying, yeh, he did fly, before he fell, before he drowned. Sometimes we forget that.

Then cynical old me is reminded  of the number of women with access to prisoners, number of women that wears the crown of a real-life specimen of a medical doctor, number of women that say they are in love with the bantam cockerel of the Special Unit. Prison is a place where men don’t grow up until they leave. Jimmy in terms of outside years, remains an adolescent boy. Boy with hard on meets women that loves him. They lived happily ever after and have two kids, a boy and a girl.

After the divorce from Jimmy Boyle, Sara reverted to her birth name is one of the lucky few, let’s call them the upper to middle classes, her mother was a doctor, her father was, in effect, Britain’s film censor.

Prolepsis. Sarah before and after her broken heart went overboard with lots of stuff about bridges and crumbling bridges and pillars moving apart.

Sara flits from one course to another, taking stock and getting ready to face the world. Tibetan treks. Angel therapy. She gets a cottage near the Findhorn Foundation. I like her. It’s difficult not to. And I do wish her well. I send her my love out in waves of stamped- addressed envelopes (refundable). We need more people like her. And, let’s be honest, less people like Jimmy. I know he’s rehabilitated and all that, but he still sounds like a selfish cunt.  He sounds a bit like me.

Let’s finish with something uplifting. It’s not all bad. Black matter may be the most common substance in the universe, that has no substance, but it’s the light of dying stars that show where we are, who we truly are.  Sara in her quest of a new identity and real identity quotes Rama Krishna: ‘The winds of grace blow all the time. All we need to do is set our sails.’


Hidden 9pm BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, directed by Gareth Bryn



As any of my long-term blog readers knows (which numbers about two and a bit) the embourgeoisement thesis that was used to determine whether working class folk can become middle class by becoming Luton car workers or continually watching BBC 4 programmes shows I’ve been infected by BBC values. I’m almost middle class.

Hidden on BBC 4 shines. If we use my old favourite Wallander as a benchmark (not the Kenneth Branagh shite, although it wasn’t that bad) then Hidden hits the mark without being Wallander of being Wallenderish.

We get away from the metropolis and big-time policing and here we are in Wales, a place so far from civilisation that sometimes they use subtitles as if everybody was speaking like a Glaswegian drunk.

Then we have the magnificent DI Cadi John (Sian Reese-Williams) who has to return home to the land of the subtitles because her father Huw (Ian Saynor) is poorly. He’s an ex-cop and she’s in his patch. Her sisters aren’t that impressed and give her stick.

DI Cadi’s got a bit more help on the work front. Her sidekick DS Owen Vaughan (Sion Alun Davies) is there to mope about, but we know he’ll come up (we can no longer use the word trumps) like a dog with a bloody stick.

There’s a body, of course in a rural outpost of streams and natural beauty. There’s been a murder, as they used to say in Taggert (I appeared in the Glasgow series as the back of somebody’s head in a bar as did everybody else in Scotland that voted for Scottish Independence) and it’s a young girl, Mali Pryce (Greta James) that her dad Alun (Owen Arwyn) had reported going missing in 2011. He’d been in jail and Mali had been acting up. Class issue. Alun didn’t think the authorities and the police in particular took her disappearance seriously. He’s been proven tragically correct.

DI John and her colleagues now know she’s been held somewhere local for the last few years. And in the last frame identifies a bracelet that Mali wore that another missing girl is pictured wearing. That gets the clock ticking, because there’s another Hidden girl.

All good dramas line up the suspects to be knocked over like fairground ducks. Here we have the brooding presence of backwoodsman Dylan Harris (Rhodri Meilir) and his volatile and dominating mother, Iona  (Gillian Elisa) who beats him and makes him sleep outside. He doesn’t, of course, but slips into a cell that looks suspiciously like the kind of place you’d keep a young girl.

Then there is the question of the young girl sleeping upstairs in Iona and Dylan’s house. She’s too young to be Iona’s and Dylan doesn’t look the fathering type, too socially awkward. There’s the suspicion here that Mali Pryce had a child, Dylan is the father and I might be totally wrong because there’s always red herrings.

Throw in exhibit A, district nurse, salt of the earth type Lowri Driscoll  (Lois Meleri Jones) she knows something, but the viewer doesn’t know what it is. Her boyfriend is a violent thug and seems to be stalking her. And he seems to have smashed her car window.

Hidden shouldn’t be hidden on BBC 4, it’s the best drama on telly. It should be on BBC 1, prime time. I’ll be watching this and as usual, I’ll get bits wrong and bits right. Write…

John Banville (2016) Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir. Photographs by Paul Joyce.

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Einstein was right, time is distance. John Banville asks ‘when does the past become the past?’ The answer, of course, is it doesn’t, but it does. Recently, the citizens of Ireland voted to modify the law and allow women to have abortions in their country. Banville tells a story of how his mother was reprimanded by the parish priest for reading ‘Women’s Own’ magazine showing the influence of the Catholic Church in controlling people’s lives. Only Eastern European and Communist countries Banville suggests could compare with nineteen- fifties Ireland.  She did as she was told and stopped reading it. For those of you that don’t know about ‘Women’s Own’, it’s about as racy as an Enid Blyton book. The irony noted by Banville is Dublin had historically more prostitutes than most modern capitals.

Curiously, gay marriages, shouldn’t be such a shock. This crops up in the only novel of Banville’s that I’ve read, set largely in Dublin, The Book of Evidence, and has the protagonist trying and failing to remember the taxi driver that stalks him because he owes him money, and he finally, calls him Reck, well, Reck appears here too, alive and not kicking, and gay pubs feature with abandon as they do in literary Dublin. Or indeed, unliterary Dublin. Pubs and cinemas that’s where people found their culture. Glasgow is very similar, but less understanding of the queer fellows or local ‘characters’. Dublin was ahead of London or even New York.  This is shown with a brilliant vignette.

One day I witnessed an epicene young man, as camp as Christmas, step balletically off one of those buses as it was drawing to halt. When it had stopped, the conductor, a diminutive fellow, appeared brandishing a furled umbrella. ‘Hey fairy,’ he called, jeeringly, after the departing dandy. You forgot your wand!’ The young man stopped, turned, strolled back, took the umbrella, and tapped his taunter lightly on the shoulder with the tip of it, saying, ‘Turn to shit, evil dwarf!’

I’m not really one for studying photographs. But for the descriptions alone this book is worth reading. Dublin is full of hidden corners and hidden pens. Banville, included. Read on.

James Kelman (2008) Kieron Smith, Boy.

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Kieron Smith, Boy almost in a stream of consciousness, single-minded, dizzying prose, which for over 400 pages guides you through the before and after of late 1950s Glasgow with its decaying tenements and rats and squalor and then the promise of new greenfield sites and housing schemes, mile after mile of houses with inside toilets but nothing much to do.

I’m guessing the first part is near Govan, where Kieron lives with his mum and dad, who has given up his job with the merchant navy and come home for good and his brother, Matt. Matt’s the brainy one. Or so it seems. The one that passes his eleven plus and goes to grammar school. His mum dotes on Matt. His da respects him.

Kieron, later, gets to go to the same Grammar school, but dogs it to work with his mate Mitch. Mitch is his best mate in the new scheme. He’s a great fighter and has been to Approved School, but he’s a bit slow.  Kieron’s in first year. He’s just gone twelve.  Matt in fifth year, at a time when kids left at fifteen to work.

They moved, of course, by then, leaving somewhere like Govan to somewhere like Drumchapel, perhaps Easterhouse. New slums for old. Kieron loved the old life. He’d a nook where he liked to read and ponder, beside his granny and granda. Just around the corner. Moving away it wasn’t the same. And his granda, who was teaching him about boxing and life, dies.

Kieron’s mum wants the better things in life. She’s a snob and doesn’t like crudity or Catholics much. His dad hates Catholics and black men. He’s not sure who he wants to win when he watches the boxing on telly. This is something Matt winds his da up about, as Kieron looks on. He hates all that. The tension. The peacocking.

He prefers the dullness of necessity, what Kieron refers to as Fate with a capital.

sticky stuff on the road or so ye might trip up or cum setting across a wild beast, ye turn a corner and out jumps a crocodile, so that’s yer Fate, unless you can do something about it, you have a knife in yer belt then you can kill it, plunge it doon…Because that’s yer Fate.

The paperboy said stuff. All people did. They said stuff and it was just boasting…It was yer Fate to go to hell.

Kieron’s got a lot of growing up to do. We leave him mid-stream, still trying to get by, paddling on, and looking to distant shores. Small boys are often a good guide to the future and to the past and not just for Treasure Island. Read on.