Storyville, Under the Wire, BBCiPlayer

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0002k62/storyville-under-the-wire

Unhappy is the land that needs heroes Bertolt Brecht.

A Private War directed by Matthew Heinemann and staring Rosamund Pike as the heroic shambles that was Marie Colvin is in cinemas now. I see no need to see it. It’s all here in Under the Wire. Based on a book by Paul Conroy and his experience in the massacres at Homs. Here we are at the last stand.

13th  February 2012, war-correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer Paul Conroy entered war-ravaged Syria. Homs.

Taste and see.

No sense of victory.

Through the lens of an eye

We witness a baby die

Her rage is pure

That’s no me

And not you

Common sense advises us not to pry

Humanity hunts and dies here

In a world of fear

Homs an exit strategy and obscenity

Little trace and little trade

Clinics bombed and shot

Barbed wire in every cot

Put stuff on a chair

It’s no longer there

On a bloody easy bed

Whoosh, barrel bombs and gas

World splintered and gone mad

Tourniquet on a leg

Three feet and so many dead

A reporter for The Sunday Times

Reports victims of war crimes

Assad you war criminal and crook

Where no words can cross the void

Vanity, vanity, vanity, of the house of Assad

May god judge you –soon

We pray every day

A black eye patch will appear

To tell hell how it was when you were here

Your legacy will be not judged by history

But the best you put to rest

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

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Alan Parks (2017) Bloody January

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I read the review of Bloody February in The Observer and it’s like deja-fuck-you, somebody had wrote the song that you wrote and sings it better. Set in Glasgow, in the 1970s. My turf and my time and my subject matter.  This book fucking scared me big time. I was scared this book would be everything I was not. Leading writers of Scottish noir praise Bloody January on the cover.

Ian Rankin, Alex Gray, Peter May and Louise Welsh, ‘Bloody and brilliant’.

Here’s where I got to, Chapter Seven, p51.

Funny smell in here,’ said Wattie.

‘Shut it,’ said McCoy.

The waiter took their coats as Wattie looked around suspiciously. A big blown-up photo of an Indian market filled one wall. Windows overlooking the Kelvin making its slow and muddy way through the city the other.

I know Gibson Street. But I’m not sure about the last sentence, which makes me, I guess, a plonker. Windows are walls and the Kelvin is muddy. The real McCoy and his sidekick, Wattie. A whodunit.

I care too much. It’s not Alan Parks’s fault I’ve picked him and his books as a kind of Rorschach-Inkblot test.

I don’t write whodunnits. I write about us, or like to think I do. Whydunnits (that nobody wants to read or publish, perhaps for good reason). Nobody writes in the same way, because its like forensics, like fingerprints, and nobody sees the same things. Especially, if you are a nobody. We both look for the extraordinary in ordinary working- class experiences.

Remembering is not a monopoly experience. Axons and dendrites do not recreate our past, but remake it. We rewrite our own lives in different ways, encrypting each word and sentence as we go with a sense of self. Pieces of life are never whole and always blemished.

A writer’s job is to highlight those blemishes and to give them to his characters. Parks’s characters to me are clichéd and therefore untrue.

Books are holy things and in the black stone of rubble the writer must make flowers grow. Doesn’t happen.

The invisible world is our world. Listen with your eyes. See with your heart. No sound, no sight and no heart.

Parks opens a lens to the past. Sight, sound, colour and the writing of wrongs. Not for me, but we all see the world differently, write the world differently. Bloody hell.  Read on.

 

 

Celtic 0—2 Valencia

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I wasn’t sure what to expect here. Davie Logue said he was more concerned about Kilmarnock on Sunday and the treble-treble. Well, where do I start? Celtic weren’t terrible and they weren’t outclassed. They just did what Celtic do, have some passages of play and gave away amateur goals. It was easy enough to win seven games on the bounce and concede no goals when playing St Johnstone three times and teams from lower divisions. Valencia were unlikely to be overawed by Celtic being able to pass the ball for ten minutes around the park. Valencia drew with Barcelona away and they are the Harlem Globetrotters of retaining the ball for fun.

The problem with passing the ball around at the back is you need to have the players to do it. Toljan has had an easy enough start in Celtic colours. But he does have a tendency to bring the ball backwards. Too much for my liking, especially when playing it back to the keeper.

Scott Bain has ousted Craig Gordon from the number one spot. His passing has been great and his goalkeeping good. He had no chance with any of the two goals. But his passing was rotten and he piled pressure on an already wayward defence.

Emilio Izaguirre has looked great when playing the lower leagues. But when you look back at big games he either makes a mistake or is posted missing. Here he was a bit of both. Izaguirre played onside Ruben Sobrino who didn’t need disco-lights to find his way to the goals. His pass for Cheryshev was as you’d expect at this level, leaving the latter with a tap-in. 1—0 down at half time.

Three minutes into the second half and game over, tie over. Again it comes from the left-hand side, Izaguirre’s side. Johnny Hayes would have been a much better option and should play here until Tierney is fit.

Izzaguirre’s performance was matched by Brown’s. The Celtic captain at this level just isn’t good enough. When not playing passes to the opposition, he lost tackles, and lost control of the ball so many times over ninety minutes that players like Iniesta have not lost over a long and distinguished career. There’s no substitute for class.  For the record Brown was robbed by substitute Francis Coquelin. The ball was played in behind the Celtic defence. It was whipped over by Cheryshev who picked out Sobrino.

Our central defence despairing. Jozo Simunovic doesn’t want to play the ball from the back. He’s not very good at it and not a great defender either. A replacement for Virgil. That’s almost funny.

Dedryck Boyata is the opposite of Jozo, he does want to play football from the back, but makes the kind of errors that would make Scott Brown cringe. He’s good in the air, but Celtic play the ball along the ground. In a high pressing game like Ibrox or last night, he’s more liable to play in the opposition that create a chance.  Izaguirre is always posted missing. Boyata is always found wanting, big time. Big-match jitters begin but don’t end with Boyata. Wanting away, fuck off then.

Callum McGregor was alright without doing anything much, which isn’t really alright.

Sinclair had one great run, which turned out to be a dead-end, which kinda sums him up.

Forest had three penalty claims turned down. I’d have taken the three of them, but none of them seemed clear-cut.

The substitute Timo Weah, probably had the best shout for a penalty, but by then we knew the tie was already done.

Ryan Christie was also taken off. Nobody noticed he was on the park. He’s regressed big-time. A replacement part that is no longer doing the job.

Oliver Burke was found wanting in the basics of controlling the ball. His enthusiasm carried him some way, but at this level, it’s never enough.

Odsonne Edouard, on for Christie after sixty minutes, spent the next thirty minutes trying to nut-meg Valencia players. Good idea, when it works, but it didn’t.

Treble-treble? Not sure. Might stumble over the finishing line in the league. I’d say that’s an eighty-five percent probability. Scottish Cup sixty-forty.

I think last night confirmed what Rodgers already knows. He’ll not be here much longer. End of the season, no matter how it goes, and I think it’ll be nos vemos más tarde.

Safe Harbour, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, written by Belinda Chayko and directed by Glendyn Ivin

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/m0002j52

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This four-part Australian drama is a big budget production. A morality play, a kind of J.B. Priestly An Inspector Calls set in Brisbane and the Timor Sea. There’s lots of angst and gnashing of teeth. In An Inspector Calls class is the card played. Here it’s class and race, and religion in a toxic mix, as wealthy westerners in a yacht meet immigrants in a sinking ship on the Timor sea. Safe Harbour is a metaphor for everything that happens.

They want what we have and we’re not for giving.  There’s another story, of course, that when we die we must pay the ferryman with a coin. Usually, it’s taken to be the coin that cover the dead’s eyes, or a coin of great value, usually gold, but the coin we pay the ferryman before travelling over the River Styx is the coin of our worldly losses. And in some religions, when a soul is reborn and travels in the other direction we shake off all we have known, all we have been. Loss is a tide that sweeps in and out of Safe Harbours.

Charles Bukowski (2009 [1971]) Post Office

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Let’s start at the end:

In the morning and I was still alive.

Maybe, I’ll write a novel, I thought.

And then I did.

The  largely autobiographical novel Charles Bukowski wrote in 1969 was a short book, Post Office, which sold over one million copies and gives all us other fifty-year-old bums that do a bit of writing a bit of hope. Somebody took a chance on Bukowski and it’s the classic rags-to-riches story, which is so fucking depressing, because it’s the very stick used to beat the rest of us would-be writers ( and artists), in general with.  Bukowski would understand that we can’t be all sitting in an Edinburgh café writing about fucking boy wizards.  The magic wand of publication is based on a myth-making lie.

To simplify realism  there’s lived experience and there’s stuff we read about and make up.

Here’s the character Henry Chinaski kicking off the sixties and subbing in a job in the post office.

Every route had its traps and only the regular carriers knew of them. Each day it was another god damned thing, and you were always ready for a rape, murder, dogs or insanity of some sort. The regulars wouldn’t tell you their little secrets. That was the only advantage they had—except knowing the case by heart. It was gung ho for a new man, especially one who drank all night, want to bed at 2 am., rose at 4.30 am. after screwing and singing all night long, and, almost, getting away with it.

Let’s cut to the bone. Here’s one of his crazy customers he carries for and corners him.

‘Now let me out of here!’

With one hand I tried to push her aside. She clawed one side of my face, good. I dropped my bag, my cap fell off, and as I held a handkerchief to the blood she came up and raked the other side…

I reached down and got one of her tits, then switched to the other.

‘Rape! Rape! I’m being raped!’

She was right, I got her pants down, unzipped my fly and got it in, then walked her backwards to the couch. We fell down on top of it.

‘RAPE!’ she screamed.

I finished her off, zipped my fly and picked up my mail pouch and walked out leaving her staring at the ceiling.

I missed lunch, but still couldn’t make the schedule.

‘You’re 15 minutes late,’ said The Stone.

The Stone is Chinaski’s supervisor, a thirty-year veteran of the Post Office. ‘The subs themselves made Johnstone [Stone] possible by obeying his impossible orders.’ The Stones of this world we are all familiar with. Company men and women that make the little people’s life hell.   They are the type of buffoon, and generals, mirrored  in Jaroslav Hašek’s The Good Soldier Švejk. Them and us. The Howl of Ginsberg and the Beat Generation and anti-establishment. But certainly not #MeToo.

They can be contrasted with the ordered Post Office world of Alan Johnstone, Please Mr Postman,  in seventies London, who did much the same job as Bukowski in the sorting office and delivering mail, with overtime keeping him afloat.

Henry Chianski likes to gamble on the track. Play the odds. He hooks up with a young chick and marries her, leaving Betty in the lurch. He can’t save Betty when they hook up again. Her ass is no longer firm and she’s gone to pot.  She drinks herself to death and Chinaski has his own Howl moment as he rages at the nurses not caring for her in a public hospital.

I’ll bet if that were the president or the governor or mayor or some rich son of a bitch, there would be doctors all over the room doing something! Why do you just let them die? What’s the sin in being poor?’

The great sin of being poor is being powerless. Bukowski’s pared down and honest prose captures that circle of hell for the working poor very well. He’s a drunk and a bum and a rapist, but he’s not a liar. That’s all I ask for a book. Don’t tell me middle-class gob-shite and expect me to lap it up as some kind of nectar. Bukowski saint and sinner, but a real novelist. He tells it like it is, genital warts and all.

Wilma Biggins R.I.P.

wilma

There’s an old joke I tell about Brian when we get talking about fitba, and it’s Wilma was a better player than him. What I don’t tell anybody was that she once gave me a dunt and  doing for being cheeky. A few of us were playing near the Gilmore’s that day. We rolled about for a bit, on the slope of grass, near the wall on Shakespeare Avenue.  I let her win, of course, because I didn’t hit girls. She wasn’t a better player than me. But I did let her win at kerbie.

Wilma wasn’t really my pal and she wasn’t family. But she was part of our common tribe of the Henrys and Summervilles and Hillhouses and Murdochs and Kerrs and McIvers and Shirleys and McGinleys and Og (singular, because there’s really only one Og). We spoke the same language. We came from the same place. Separate, but not apart.  You wouldn’t get that awkward bump you’d get meeting new people. Wilma remembered me when I had hair and I remember her with a middle parting, which all girls favoured in those days with flicky wings of hair at the side.

I wasn’t just another baldy guy talking shite when she worked behind the bar at Stewart Street. Well, I was, but she knew who I was. Time unravels quicker when you get older. But there was a time when we thought anybody over thirty was well past it. We remembered it well.

She’d been at the same disco in St Stephen’s, I’d went to. Ten pence in –thirty pence and you were wealthy— and it was like walking into a tar pit and you only recognised each other by your teeth. When 10cc came on, I’m Not in Love, you’d scarper, boys on one side, girls on the other. Wilma might even have seen me there, but I wasn’t for dancing.

In later years, when we assumed we’d live forever, we’d bump into each other occasionally in places like the Oasis.   Your tribe is not your family. We don’t take on their grief. Life isn’t fair.  But when one of your tribe dies, and now Wilma is dead, a little of you dies with her. It’s not just a reminder of mortality, but who we were and are.  When Brian’s son Daniel, who I hear is quite a good wee fitba player, ask him one of life’s awkward questions, ‘Who was the best player in the family?’ He’s got to answer honestly, I was better than Marie, but I wasn’t as good as Wilma. And that’s true in so many different ways.  RIP.

Son of Saul BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, directed by László Nemes and written by Clara Royer.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m00029kr/son-of-saul

This is a straightforward narrative. A Hungarian man finds the body of a young boy, he thinks is his son and he wants to give him a proper Jewish burial. To do so he needs to find a Rabbi willing to perform Mourner’s Kaddish.

Transpose that scene to an unnamed Nazi death camp, (Auschwitz), running at full capacity, murdering Jews and burning their bodies. Fling in the babble of languages – German, Hungarian, Yiddish, Russian, Polish, French, Greek, Slovak and Hebrew – and make your central character, Saul Auslander (Géza Röhrig) a Jewish Sonderkommdo. There’s a red X on the back of his coat and his job, as is the job of all survivors is to live as long as possible. He’s an old hand at it. Burying the young boy endangers not only him, but everyone around him. Scroll back.

Redemption comes when a miracle happens. A shipment of Jews are herded into the shower-room.  We hear the banging and shrieking as those inside try to escape from Zyklon- B gas. Sonderkommandos wait until ‘the pieces’ are dispatched, until they can get to work cleaning up. Pieces, are, of course, bodies. Saul’s job was, literally, picking up the pieces. And one of the pieces he picks up is his son, who is still alive, but dies later.

Nothing was wasted in the death camps, teeth extracted for gold, hair and even skin used for lamps. Eighty-percent of those arriving were processed immediately and send to the gas chambers. For some trainloads it was one-hundred percent and the ovens couldn’t cope.  Clothes recycled and the hunt for jewellery, gold and currency went on. ‘Canada’ was a place in camp where much of this reprocessing happened.

Euphemisms abounded and the film gets much of it right. While they can show the cruelty that was an integral part of the Nazi genocide, what they cannot show is how a body disintegrates without food and how crowded the camps were. They cannot replicate the stench of burning bodies. What they do well is show how many camps were situated in areas of natural beauty. Prisoners are shown shovelling ash (from bodies) into the nearby lake.

Son of Saul depicts, and indeed educates us, around the existential issue of what it means to be a man or a woman, what it means to be human, while giving no set answer. What it cannot do is legislate for stupidity and the cultivation of ignorance. A poll taken before Holocaust Memorial day on Sunday found that said the one in twenty Britons, say the Holocaust never happened. And eight- percent say the scale of the Holocaust has been exaggerated.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/27/one-in-20-britons-does-not-believe-holocaust-happened

The surprising thing about that poll is it doesn’t surprise me. The only exaggeration is how stupid these people are. But with the moron’s moron in the White House and the growth of right-wing neo-Nazi parties across the world, even in Germany, I don’t know whether you should watch this film or weep or look at the poll and weep. I tend towards the latter.