Red Bull Leipzig 2—0 Celtic.

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I’m not up to date on German football or the Leipzig team and couldn’t name one of their players. Well, I can now, Matheus Cunha scored on the half hour. Up until that point Celtic had been comfortable in a way we know would lead to disaster. You could say they were a bit unlucky with the opener. Christian Gamboa, our third or fourth choice full back, who will be given a free transfer in the summer took a fresh air swipe and missed the tackle and the ball. The ball went wide and then into the box. Eboue Kouassi, whose last game against Hearts at Tynecastle was so bad, I never thought I’d see him a Celtic shirt again, but here he was with Brown injured, patrolling the centre of midfield. Put it this way, we were sweating the fitness of a free transfer from Kilmarnock, Youssouf Mulumbu, who has played two games, both of which we’ve lost and he is ahead of the pecking order than Kouassi. The ball comes into the box, Kouassi takes a fresh air swipe (yes, I know I’m repeating myself). Boyatta, Celtic’s best central defender is out of position, nothing new there you might say, but he has been impressive since he downed tools, which isn’t really difficult. Beside him in Leipzig is Jozo Simunovic who can’t play on plastic pitches because of his knees, or grass either, as was also shown in his last display also at Tynecastle. On the bench was one of Celtic’s most impressive defenders since the introduction to the team, Filip Benkovic (on loan, and likely to go back to Leicester at Christmas, but we need him now). Those defensive changes alone would make you thing Brendan has his eye on Sunday’s game against Hearts. Throw in the presence of Lewis Morgan, who I quite like, but let’s face it, for big games its James Forrest. And Ryan Christie, up front partnering Edouard. The latter having at least been unlucky with a few shots on the opposition goal. And when we were 2-0 down, Bruma scoring an identikit killer second, three minutes after the first,  and Leipzig playing what from that point on was like an end-of-season friendly. But Edouard was through on goal near the end and, as everybody knows blew the dog’s chance to make a game of it, like Hibs did on Saturday.

 

He missed and we missed a few first team players. Game winds down. Big game on Sunday. This tie reminded me of when Brendan was Liverpool manager and they were playing away in the Santiago Bernabéu and he played Kolo Toure at centre half. Incidentally, Toure had a fantastic game, but he was so far out of the Liverpool team he was helping with the kit. So I think we can see Brendan was being pragmatic and he’s got previous. Shit team. Shit performance. Shit game. We’re out of Europa, OK, I’ll say it unless our coefficient includes the dog’s chance. Celtic have lost their sparkle, but I’m hoping we get it back – quickly. Sunday would be good.

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Laurent Binet (2012) HHhH translated from the French by Sam Taylor

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I had a theory that HHhH stood for Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich, but I wasn’t sure who or what the other H stood for. I wasn’t sure why three of the H were capitalised and one wasn’t. I was wrong in the right way. Hitler, Fuhrer, number one in the Reich, Himmler perhaps with the largest powerbase and his number two, but it was Herr Reinhard Heydrich who was ‘killer bureaucrat’ and gloried in being known as ‘the most dangerous man in the Reich’ who fancied ousting his boss and  being number two, or possibly (whisper it) even number one.

We can talk of power behind the throne or  Himmler Hirn heisst Heydrich HHhH (Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich).

I don’t know if Heydrich did fancy being number two, or even number one and supplanting Hitler. That’s speculation, or as they say in some terrible telly drama, this was based on true events. Binet admits to knowing some of the facts, but not all of the time. He’s good at pointing out when fact becomes factional, or in plainer terms fiction. And it’s a wonderful guide, a kind of how to write a historical novel.

Fiction writers such as Julian Barnes begin writing a biography of Gustave Flaubert and ask difficult questions like why does the colour of Madame Bovary’s eyes change during the narration of Madame Bovary? Is this intentional or a textual error so unlike master craftsman Flaubert as akin to an adolescent putting his shoes on the wrong feet. This is Barnes’s jumping off point to writing something that is neither fact nor fiction, neither true nor false, Flaubert’s Parrot.

Binet does not parrot the facts of what we know, but covers the whys and why nots of those grey areas in which novelists grow like toadstools and show the before and after of Heydrich’s assassination, on the 4th June 1942 in Prague and the mass murder of the citizens of Lidice, the razing of buildings, the salting of the ground.

I still don’t have the book that Heydrich wife wrote after the war, Leben mit einen Kreigversbrecher (‘Living with a War Criminal’ in English, although the book has never been translated). I imagine it would be a mine of information, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on it.

Here he tells the reader about a night he spent watching a documentary about General Patton.

The documentary consists entirely of showing extracts from the film, then interviewing witnesses who explain, ‘In fact it wasn’t really like that…’ He didn’t take on two Messerschmidts that were machine-gunning the base, armed only with his Colt…He didn’t make such-and-such a speech to the whole army, but in private, and besides, he didn’t actually say that…He didn’t disobey orders and take Palermo…He certainly didn’t tell a Russian General to go fuck himself…So, basically, the film is about a fictional character whose life is strongly inspired by Patton’s, but clearly isn’t him. And yet the film is called Patton. And that doesn’t shock anybody.

It might have if it was called Patton’s Parrot. Binet’s intention is to write the truth about the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich and the reprisals which followed and it’s all there early in the text in Chapter 6 when he enters the church crypt in which the assassins died fighting to the last with 700 SS guards outside.

The props are there for the unfolding story told in the bullet holes in the vaulted ceiling, (here, I, the blog writer, am using fictional means to keep you the reader entertained, you don’t really need to know this)

There were photographs of the parachutists’ faces, with a text written in Czech and English. There was a traitor’s name and a raincoat. There was a poster of a bag and a bicycle. There was a Stern submachine guy (which jammed at the worst possible moment) [standing facing Heydrich and his driver when the car has slowed and stopped] All of this was actually in the room. But there was something else here, conjured by the story I read, that existed only in spirit…

Binet sets out to wrestle with that spirit and tell the story of the assassination and in exploring his own inadequacies somehow he makes the story more human, more believable, and more true. This is why HHhH won the prestigious Prix Goncourt and other awards. Not bad for a debut novel that is not a novel. Bravo.

 

 

A Dangerous Dynasty: The House of Assad, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, director Nick Green.

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Panorama, BBC 1, BBCiPlayer, editor Rachel Jupp.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bb6yw0/panorama-syrias-chemical-war

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bnfn0d/a-dangerous-dynasty-house-of-assad-series-1-episode-1

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bp1b9v/a-dangerous-dynasty-house-of-assad-series-1-episode-2

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bpyvvh

Civil War in Syria has lasted seven years, around 13 million of its citizens have been displaced and the refugee crisis in Europe has led to a right-wing orchestrated backlash against those who dare to cross borders and not die quietly at home.

Bashar Al-Assad the President of Syria was never meant to be in the position of leadership, never meant to be a mass murderer of around half a million of his people, never meant to sanction the use of barrel bombs, low-tech chlorine and high-tech Sarin chemical weapons against men, women and children, in the city of Idib, targeting hospitals – and then of course, deny it. He was never cut out to be a war criminal that should be charged under the 1949 Geneva Convention for crimes against humanity.

Bashar Al-Assad was destined to be a run-of-the mill eye-doctor who trained at St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, London. A largely forgotten figure outside his own country, where his father Hafez was a conventional Middle-East dictator with a billion pound sea-front property in which to bring up his five children.  A pragmatic man who seized power in a 1970 army  coup d’etat and intended to keep it by whatever means necessary, which included bombing and killing up to 20 000 of his own citizens in Homs and jailing and torturing many others.

Not surprisingly, when the Arab Spring flooded the Middle East in 2011, Homs home of the Muslim Brotherhood and Sunni Muslims was anti-Assad. Again unarmed civilians were murdered and tortured, prisoners in Syria’s largest prison massacred.

Watch what seems ancient footage of newly trained recruits stabbing puppies as a mark of loyalty to President Hafez, but they had it easy, female soldiers had to bite the heads off live snakes.  But Hafez also saw off Israeli advances in Lebanon, a state he kept firmly in his grip as a satellite and he lived long enough to see off six elected American Presidents.

Bashar’s eldest brother Bassel was in line to take over from Hafez. He showed the right credentials. When a fellow army officer in a horse-riding event, for example, beat Bassel in an equestrian championship he was arrested. It doesn’t tell you what happened to him next, but we can guess. Bassel also liked fast cars and that’s what killed him.

Hafez had to decide who to pass his crown to, his daughter, of course, was ruled out for being the wrong gender. We can take the script from a cross between the Corleone family in The Godfather and King Lear, ‘nothing will come of nothing’. Quietly spoken Bashar comes from nothing to lead the family when his father dies, but he has married wisely and married well, Asma’s Lady Macbeth and would-be first lady of Syria, but supermodels herself on Lady Di.

Fast forward to 2013, millions fleeing Syria, the advance of Islamic State and Bashar’s family only controlling 14% of Syria, and the rebels three miles from his presidential palace.   One word: PUTIN.

Poems for Refugees (2002) edited by Pippa Haywood.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) The Second Coming.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosened and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction; while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity

Child of Mine, Channel 4, 10pm

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxjJZSgY_mA

https://www.channel4.com/programmes/child-of-mine/on-demand/65727-001

One in 200 hundred births end in stillbirth. This documentary follows three couples through the ordeal and deals sensitively with the issues of loss and pain. In one London borough the Registrar dealt with six babies that were born dead that week. Spoiler: It will make you cry.

My mum lost her first-born child, Michael, and she might have lost another baby, but I was never told, being a boy, being a baby boy that the doctors also though would die. I wrote this after watching in remembrance of my mum and all the things I never knew.

Love you too

A pearl of irregular shade

At the heart of grief

There’s a thief

Who stole your breath – away

And yet

To commiserate, to celebrate

Fragments of forgetting

And forever home

What’s missing bittersweet

An antechamber of pain

I cannot hold you again

Yet.

 

Goldstone BBC 4, BBCiPlayer, written and directed by Ivan Sen.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08x19x1/goldstone?suggid=b08x19x1

Mystery Road, BBC 4, BBCiPlayer, written by Michaeley O’Brien and directed by Rachel Perkins.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bl5l7q/mystery-road-series-1-1-gone

If there’s a drama series on BBC 4, usually, I’m watching it. After the medieval Spanish drama, The Plague, I watched Mystery Road. No subtitles needed for the latter. In many ways the six episodes of the Australian drama is condensed into one in Goldstone. Essentially, it’s the same story.

Outsider, Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen), investigating the disappearance of two missing young men, one aboriginal, one white in Mystery Road, and a young Asian female in Goldstone finds himself locked into close-knit outback town controlled by a minority of white folk for white folk and having something to hide.

Jay is the black fellah, the black Swan among whites and as a federal agent he needs to team up with local cops. In Goldstone it’s the fresh-faced and white kid Josh Waters (Alex Russell). In Mystery Road it’s red head and cranky cop Emma James (Judy Davis) whose brother and her owns most of the land on which the town depends for employment.

Land value, of course, in such an arid continent is linked to the proximity to water. Think of the plot of Jack Nicholson’s Chinatown and you won’t be far off the mark in where Mystery Road leads.

In Goldstone, think of the title of the town, and mineral wealth locked up in the land.  In this stripped down version of Mystery Road, the black fellahs, the local aboriginal community have voting rights on what to do with the land. There reverence for the land, the sacred lands, stands in the way of corporate greed. The Mayor (Jacki Weaver) is brilliant as the fixer lining her own pockets and making sure everybody gets a share of the pie (she bakes pies and gives one to Swan and Waters) while the black fellahs get none.

And she and they would have got away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky kids, Swan and Waters, as they used to say in Scooby Doo.

Truth stranger than fiction? I think we need Detective Swan in Scotland, maybe he could explain why knighted billionaire who bought the old BP plant at Grangemouth, and like his fictional alter-ego in Goldstone, promised a Klondike of local jobs, which never happened, and led to mass sackings and industrial actions, but moved to Monaco for tax reasons, or non-tax reasons – he doesn’t want to pay tax – and had purchased what seemed like worthless bits of paper saying his company could drill for shale gas, when everybody knew that practice was outlawed in the United Kingdom – until this week. I’m quite willing to team up with Detective Swan. There’s certainly lots of corporate skulduggery and greed enough to be shared around.

Storyville, Jailed in America, BBC 4, BBCiPlayer, 10pm director and narrator Roger Ross Williams.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bn6tr3/storyville-jailed-in-america

Roger Ross Williams recalled the time he first attended school in his home town of Easton, Pennsylvania and a white kid called him ‘nigger’. The white kid’s mum chastised him and told him not to do that or he would come and burn their house down. Here we are in Trump’s America, before the moron’s moron got to play at being presidential. Here we are in Trump’s America where $265 billion of Federal funds is annually allocated to jail 1 in 3 black men. As profits grown year on year, costs are cut. The quantity and quality of food, for example, for the richest nation on earth, would shame any third-world country – and it’s getting worse. A prison system that jails 2.2 million of its citizens, more incarcerations than every other nation combined. A prison system that is predicated on a simple model of taking money from the poor, incarcerating them and giving the tax dollars to the rich. Jim Crow didn’t go away, he just grew up in a different way.

Here is Ross William’s personal account of what happens to black men that don’t make it, like his old school friend, Tommy Alvin that committed suicide, leaving a daughter behind. We learn he had mental health problems, as do an estimated 67% of prisoners. Alvin was kept in a bubble, a type of transparent cage in a penitentiary for those on suicide watch. He was given a paper suit to wear.

Nothing I saw in this programme surprised me, apart from what seems to me the naïve belief of those like Adam Foss, an activist that attempts to re-educate the 31 000 public prosecutors about the real cost of jailing black people that if they knew the facts their attitude would change. It reminded me of stories of if the king only knew how us peasants suffered he’d be sure to act. If Hitler only knew how us poor Germans suffered he’d be sure to act. If Trump, the moron’s moron only knew…he’d be delighted. Not that he’d ever watch a documentary like this.

Karl Marx’s theory of surplus value shows exactly how important ‘worthless’ prison labour is to the economy. We did have one governor explaining to us ignorant viewers how it works, because in the real world prisoners don’t pay for their food, they don’t pay for their healthcare and they don’t pay rent. Slave owners on plantations used the same argument, it led to civil war. Here we are met with generalised indifference.

Marx, who knew a thing or two about propaganda, has a message from the past, for successful filmmakers like Ross Williams:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it. [italics my own].

Here we are preaching to the converted.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Amen, to the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) who foresaw this mockery of natural justice.