For Sama, by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts, 2019, Channel 4, 9pm

https://www.channel4.com/programmes/for-sama/on-demand/66428-001

When you get personal, you get real. Waad al-Kateab, using phone and camcorder gives voice and sound and fury to what was once her home, Aleppo, before it was levelled and she, her husband and daughter, Sama, were forced into exile.

There’s echoes of other diarists such as James Baldwin’s, A Letter to My Nephew, which argues ‘it’s the innocence which constitutes the crime’.

Waad al-Kateab dedicates the film to her daughter, Sama. A precious child that sleeps soundly through air raids, missile, and barrel bomb attacks and knew nothing but war.

One of the most poignant scenes is a pregnant woman brought to the makeshift hospital where Hamaza, Waad al-Kateab’s husband and father of Sama, works as a volunteer doctor. Bashar al-Assad’s government forces routinely targeted hospitals. The woman has been wounded in the stomach and it’s pierced her womb, she’s nine months pregnant. Hamaza performs an emergency caesarean and the neonate is dead. An assistant tries to bring the baby back to life. He rubs its back. Massages its heart. Shakes it like a piece of meat. Then a miracle, the baby cries. The pregnant mother survives, reunited with her boy.

The Arab Spring offers a prelude to the winter of Aleppo in 2016. ‘Bashar has killed our people. That son of a killer,’ one banner read.

Aided by Russia, the war in Syria goes on. For Sama documents how its people can expect bombings, shooting, torture and death.  For the lucky few, exile – and hatred, classed as non-persons, refugees.

As Baldwin reminds us, ‘I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it and I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it.’

Amen.

Gdansk

In November, 1988, a crowd of around 20 000 cheered as the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, met Lech Walesa. He was a shipyard worker from the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk and leader of Solidarity, the independent Polish trade union movement.  

Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski had Thatcher’s car stopped before she reached the airport to board a Royal Airforce jet to London and presented her with a bouquet of flowers.

‘I came to see and to have a long talk with Mr. Walesa . . . . I knew that I had to come and feel the spirit of Poland for myself,’ said Thatcher.

Almost thirty years ago, 17th September 1980, Walesa led a strike against a programme of economic austerity in which the Gdansk shipyard would close.

Walensa’s key demands were reinstatement of sacked workers and a wage rise for those in work. Strikes spread to other industries and throughout Poland.

‘We shall not be found wanting when Poland makes the progress toward freedom and democracy its people clearly seek,’ Thatcher said, garnering praise for her support of a free trade union movement.

Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Mine Workers, in the miner’s strike, 1984-85, key demands were no different from Walesa, with his claim that the National Coal Board in the name of economic austerity had a ‘hit list’ of 75 pit closures and the government was stockpiling coal and converting power stations to burn other fossil fuels.

The spirit of Poland, support for a free trade union movement, and freedom of movement were reported sorely missing from the spirit of Thatcherism. 84 000 miners and then there were none. Lest we forget, that’s democracy for you.

Celtic 2—1 Lazio.

Celtic got lucky last night and I got unlucky, with my three quid bet on Christopher Julien to score the first goal, odds 40/1. Julien popped up with the winner on the last minute of the ninety. But there was still time for the Italians to fling players forward. Celtic held out. Prior to the nail-biting finale, with some stout defending, but for two wonder saves by Fraser Forster victory could and perhaps should have went to the Italian visitors.

Fraser Forster does what goalkeepers are meant to do. Win you games. Scott Bain stopped doing it, prior to his injury. Craig Gordon is so out of the picture he’s grew a beard and is auditioning for seasonal shifts as Santa in his local supermarket. Forster has his limitations. He’s not a goalkeeper that’s going to keep the ball and play dinky little passes to his midfield or defenders. He’s a humper of balls and that’s the way I like it. Forster also had a howler this season, if you look back at the second goal against Livingstone. The ball was kicked from one end of the park to the other and into his box. Stay or go. Forster stayed and went too late. It was his goal to lose and his fault. Simple.

But remember when Barcelona tagged him the big yellow banana, or something stupid. It might have been barrier. He was that good that world-class players, who would never remember the name Scott Brown, kinda remembered who he was. Forster took the iconic number 67 and put it on his back. He knows what that means.

Ryan Christie took the place of Tom Rogic, scored in 67 minutes to equalise a tie that looked to be slipping away from the Celts.

Celtic with a capacity crowd behind them—and me screaming from the pub couch, with a pint of Guinness in my hand—started brightly. Forest set up Odsonne Edouard, but the Celtic striker took too long to hit it and was blocked by the Italian defender Denis Vavro. Hatem Abd Elhamed was in for Jeremy Frimpong, the Dutch wonder kid, who played so well in the six-nil defeat of Ross County.  I’m tempted to quote Bruce Lee when he spotted somebody karate-ing their way through lumps of wood, ‘boards don’t hit back’. Lazio weathered these early setbacks. Our wingers, James Forest and Mohamed Elyounoussi, largely disappeared as attacking threats. The latter, was replaced late in the game by Tom Rogic, but it could have just as easily been Forest. And everybody that knows if you’re a winger and you get replaced by Rogic, you’re having a stinker.

Ryan Christie had shaved the outside of the post. Callum McGregor then came close with a dipping drive. There were shouts for a penalty. I was shouting anyway. We didn’t get a penalty, but we did lose a goal. That shut me up.

Boli Bolingoli was too high up the park. I’m not blaming him, although I’m tempted. He’s redeemed himself somewhat, after his performance at Ibrox, but he’s still the weakest link. A pass in behind Boli split the Celtic defence. Kristoffer Ajer went too late to block Lazarri. The Italian zipped the ball into the net at Forster’s near post. All three Celtic players were culpable, but despite his late heroics, perhaps the goalkeeper should have done better.

Celtic were a goal down at half-time and Lazio were the more dangerous and better team. Celtic didn’t offer the same energy at the start of the second half. Lazio looked the team more likely to score the second goal and win the tie. We got lucky again.

We’d almost scored. Edouard chased the ball down and worked his way into the box. Closed down by defenders he back-heeled the ball to Elyounoussi who had a clear shot on goal, but fluffed it. The ball broke to Christie who hit it at an on-rushing defender.

At the other end of the park, time seemed to stop as Joaquin Correa went through a one-on-one with Forster. The human banana blocked him and he flicked a shot off the base of the post. Celtic were still in the game.

And in 67 minutes Christie again scored in Europe, hitting the ball first time and curling it by the keeper.

Lazio looked the more likely team to get a winner. Forster made two world-class wonder saves. Lazarri had, once again, left Bolingoli needing a drone delivery to get back in, and Parlo met his nemesis in Forster. Parlo was in again later, to shank wide.

Julien popped up with that winner. Raising the roof. I’d like to say the best team won. Aye, we did. Kinda.  

Derren Brown (2016) Happy: Why more or less everything is fine.


I like Derren Brown which makes everything easier. As Billy Connolly said when people approach him they are usually smiling. Derren Brown doesn’t make me happy. You can only do that yourself and he’s not really sure that happiness exists, except as a transitory experience, a bi-product of something else. Derren Brown’s book reminds me f those chap-books heroines in nineteenth-century novels, written by Jane Austen, who were, for example, always scribbling in it remembrances such as   ‘Where our treasure is there will our hearts be also’.

I’m not knocking it. That’s what this blog is. Derren is a great debunker. I like that too. He’s got an inside track on how magic works and debunks mystics, especially charlatans that prey on the needy searching for answers that involve the afterlife. For Derren there’s no after life. The theme of his book is it’s this life we should concentrate on.

First up on the firing line are those selling the notion of positive thinking as a panacea for…well, just about everything positive. The negative stuff is your fault, for not being positive enough. If you’ve got cancer, it’s your fault for not being positive. As it progresses it’s your fault for not being positive enough. Derren isn’t saying positive thinking isn’t a good idea, but it’s not a cure, but a marketing strategy to hook the gullible and snake-oil for the most vulnerable and needy.  We don’t for example give a dog a tablet and tell it to think positively about it, or give a horse an injection and then complain that it no longer gallops as fast.

The problem as Derren (and economists) see it is our needs are limited our wants unlimited. The solution is asking why we want something, what story is being told to sell it? When we change ourselves we change the narratives of our lives.

Derren looks at the considered life. Stoicism and hedonism as propounded by the ancient Greek Epicureans. He flings in a bit of everything: Aristotle, Christianity, Renaissance and Marxism and stirs with a big spoon. (I’m going to look at that bit again, I’m always interested in Marxist dialectic because it sounds quite intellectual.)

The next major means of achieving happiness and redemption from the encumbrance of society was offered by the Marxists: work will set you free.  

(No it willnae, I hear myself saying).

To Marx, a bourgeois society alienates its working class from rewarding or creative labour.

(That’s more in line with my viewpoint. We all tell ourselves stories that resonate within us and seem true.)

Next up are the Stoic building blocks for a proper life. I can’t remember what they are, but they sounded to me like one of the steps in the AA handbook about powerlessness. To paraphrase, accepting the things you cannot change and having the wisdom to know the difference. You can get somebody (like Alexander the Great) to step out of the way so you can get the sunlight, but you can’t move the sun.

Derren rattles through more of life’s lessons, regarding being famous, being rich and being loved. As Meatloaf says 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. But Darren gives us the secret magic formula for success (which I’ve forgotten and will need to look up, again, but I’m happy too).

TALENT + ENERGY = SUCCESS

STYLE + ATTITUDE = BEING A STAR

Twinkle, twinkle I say, but Derren does allow for the Greek idea of FATE. This is shorthand for saying I don’t know. I often use it to bemoan my own fate. I’m often happy to do so.

The ending of the book is about death and happy endings. Funnily enough they’re not mutually exclusive. I recently came face to face with death. I like Derren’s take on all that positive thinking crap. He’s reiterating what I’ve often thought and written about. ‘How to Die Well’ is not often on the agenda. We ignore death until we cannot. His idea of ‘a good-enough death’ is lovely. He quotes Donald Winnicott:

I have extended the ‘good enough’ theory to most of my life and now my death. We are at times so obsessed or feel pressurised into ‘being the best at…the fastest at…the cleverest at…’ I genuinely worry about all this positive thinking/ life coaching!

…It is undoubtedly excellent to try to achieve one’s maximum potential, but that should be to please ourselves, not be judged by others, and for living a ‘good-enough’ life with its shares of wonders and disasters…

We’ve came to the end, as does Derren Brown, with a chapter And in the End. And Now. He’s perhaps gone too far, but hey, it’s entertaining and informative and I do like the guy.   

Darren McGarvey’s Scotland. West Dunbartonshire – Worst Place to Be a Woman, written and present by Darren McGarvey, directed by Stephen Bennet.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0008ncz/darren-mcgarveys-scotland-series-1-3-west-dunbartonshire-worst-place-to-be-a-woman

I live in Clydebank. That’s in West Dunbartonshire. The place where women in Scotland are most likely to be beaten up.  Poverty is not gender blind. Women, for example, are 60% more likely to be carers than men. Women (and men) living in poverty are far more likely than their more affluent neighbours, such as those living in areas such as Bearsden, in East Dunbartonshire, to die younger, to suffer from ill-health and mental-health issues, to be unemployed, homeless, to become an addict and be imprisoned. Poverty is a place marker. Pupils at Drumchapel High, as a rule, do not go to university. Children who attend Bearsden Academy, a mile away, a world away, in East Dunbartonshire, do.

The shill game of trickle-down economics and taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich is most keenly felt in West Dunbartonshire and experienced directly by women. Women have always carried the baby, and the burden of poverty. Darren McGarvey illustrates this with a figure in which public cuts to services have deprived the poorest of the poor women of £80 billion of public services they depended on, while cuts to men’s services total £10 billion.

We think in pictures and deal in emotions. Such figures are in a sense, meaningless without context. Brenda, a charity worker, is shown, for example, disturbing sanitary products, what us guys used to call fanny pads. We’ve had fuel poverty, in which women can’t afford to heat their home and, or, buy food. We’ve got food banks. We associate women using an old sock as a fanny pad as a Third World problem. But at the end of the month, women in poverty have to make hard choices about their bodies. £3 spent on fanny pads? Or £3 spent on their children’s food? That’s where the old sock comes in. Hard choices.

Darren McGarvey is filmed at a Reclaim the Night Rally in West Dunbartonshire. It seemed sparsely attended, only a handful of women. And Darren and the camera crew.  I’m not sure where it was. I’m not sure when it was. I hadn’t heard anything about it and I live here. As the target audience, a man, living in West Dunbartonshire, in microcosm, it wasn’t a success.

The experience of Astyn, whose boyfriend was a stalker, who strangled her, isolated her from her friends and beat her up, ended in a high-note, in that she’d left him.

Kirsty, a family counsellor, gave the viewer some insight into how the rich and the poor experience domestic abuse. Men in West Dunbartonshire tend to beat their partners. In comparison, women in East Dunbartonshire are far more likely to experience non-physical abuse, no bruising, but to the women’s psyche and soul.

Those of us that live in Clydebank need no introduction to who Paige Doherty was. She was a wee girl, barely out of school, murdered by a shopkeeper in Whitecrook and her body dumped in a field off Great Western Road. Her mum, Pamela, started a charity to channel her grief and offering children free self-defence classes.

It’s difficult to be critical of such a move, but although a good photo opportunity for Paige’s Promise also ended the programme on a high note. But listen to what Pamela said happened to her daughter. How many stab wounds and slashes Paige suffered. Watch the drama on BBC 4, Those That Kill. Kids play-fighting just doesn’t cut it in real-life scenarios. I should know, having been in plenty of brawls. It’s difficult to defend against the rogue psychopath. The larger narrative of unfashionable class warfare and public cuts are morally indefensible, but we lost the propaganda war. The rich feel justified in bleeding the poor. Boris Johnston’s promise to spend, spend, spend, shows how quickly the lie there is no money in the public purse becomes defunct and part of the great lie. I like Darren McGarvey, but this programme offers us what exactly? Paper cuts and empty promises of betterment.

 

Rennes 1—1 Celtic

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This is a tale of three penalties. Two of which were give. One for Rennes, in the first-half, and two for Celtic in the second-half. Celtic started well. That’s always a bit worrying, usually, after a bright start, they usually concede, especially when playing away from home. Rennes had beaten PSG in the French Cup final last year and in the league this year. They sit second to PSG in the French league. In other words, they are no mugs.

The under-twenty-one French striker Edouard, the media darling of the French and Parkhead die-hards, had the first good chance of the game. Early in the game, James Forest picked him out at the back post, but his shot was skewed and didn’t trouble the keeper or hit the target.

Next up, Mohamed Elyounoussi was a toe-poke from getting on the end of Bolingoli’s cross and scoring the first goal.

Edouard thought he had a penalty, forcing his way into the box, nutmegging the defender and tumbling before he was tackled. He got a yellow card for diving.

Rennes had a few efforts on goal too, but Fraser Foster only had to make one save, which didn’t trouble him too much.

Then with five minutes to go before half-time, with Celtic easily ahead on possession and chances on goal, Ayer conceded a needless penalty. Replays showed it was clear cut. Ayer had been hauling at Niang’s jersey and his tackle whipped the legs from the attacker. The referee looked at the linesman then pointed to the spot. Niang scored.

1—0 down at half time and playing quite well, the game was bound to open up. Rennes, as a counter-attacking team were bound to come into it. That was the script.

It didn’t work out that way. Celtic dominated, in the way they would against lesser teams in the Scottish Premier league. But it was all huff and puff and no end product. Decent display and no end-result is Celtic’s calling card in Europe.

Scott Brown, for example, had a decent chance with a header at the back post. But he missed the target.

Then midway through the half, a big call for the referee. Ryan Christie was taken out by Renness’s defender Joris Gnagnon. Replays show the Celtic attacker was clearly in the box. It was an obvious penalty, that wasn’t given.

About five-minutes later James Forest wrong-footed Damien da Silva and fell over after the defender connected with a foot. Christie’s penalty was far clearer cut. The two of them were penalties, but this was of the softer variety. Christie took the penalty and scored, adding to his goal-a-game tally.

Rennes and Celtic made substitutions. The home team had another penalty claim turned down. Vakoun Bayo came on for Edouard and managed to get a red car. The second-string Celtic striker can think himself unlucky. But Celtic managed to see the game out and claim a point. They almost claimed three points in the last few minutes of added time. An away point in Europe doesn’t happen very often, so is reason to celebrate. Celtic are on a domestic and European high.

Rise of the Nazis, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, directed and produced by Julian Jones

rise of the nazis.jpg

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m00084tb/rise-of-the-nazis-series-1-1-politics

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0008c79/rise-of-the-nazis-series-1-2-the-first-six-months-in-power

I wasn’t sure about the three-part series Rise of the Nazis. Documentary-dramas rarely rise above mediocrity. I was brought up on the gold standard, World at War series, shown on BBC.  Then, of course, we’ve got Bruno Ganz’s portrayal of Hitler, cut and pasted and ad-libbed on the internet to sell everything from books to 1000 years of the Third Reich. That got me thinking what happened to the other two Reichs? Where they like those buses that come one after the other? Well, it seems, one was the Holy Roman Reich, which at least gets marks for originality. The Second Reich was really the Bismark era, before the First World War (we no longer use capitals for world wars now, downgraded, first world war). You probably remember it from history lessons as the time when the Germans invaded and occupied France, 1872, post- Les Miserables Paris, if my memory serves. Bismark helped unite Germany. He advocated a Kulterkamf against Catholics. Germany had a bit of previous here.

I’m also reading Friedrich Kellner’s Diary, A German against the Third Reich. He pretty much nails it. Hitler’s support was until 1930, largely rural, peasant farmer with a long history of hating Jews. In Laubach, were Kellner was working as justice inspector, for example, Jews often acted as the middle-man in cattle trading, and advanced farmers credit in lieu of goods.   Here we have the beginnings of ideology, the death of German democracy and rise of the Nazi dictatorship. Kellner shows how quickly this happened. ‘Heil Hitler’ became the enforced greeting of 80 million Germans. Discovery of his diary would have meant his death and that of his wife.

In the Rise of the Nazi’s  we look at one of the few who did resist Hitler. I guess that’s to add a bit of lop-sided balance. Josef Hartinger was one of the righteous. A public prosecutor who challenged official versions of death in custody and the legitimacy of the Nazi Party apparatus.

But most Germans were supporters of the ideology of Aryan Supermen and inferior races having little more than use value. That’s what Kellner lived through. He suggests less than one-percent of Germans offered any kind of resistance.  As early as 1941, Kellner also reports it was also common knowledge that Jews and Russians, men, women and children, were being exterminated in the East. The I-didn’t-know, post-war, lie of amnesiac German citizens was fake news, before fake news existed.

Rise of the Nazis isn’t fake news, or revisionist history. Boris Johnston’s attempt to prorogue British Parliament is not Herman Goring giving orders to burn the Reichstag and blame the Brexiter Communists. But it is an attempt to thwart Parliamentary democracy by an unelected British Prime Minister claiming he’s acting on the will of the people.

Paul Von Hindenburg was dismissive of the little Austrian colonel in the same way we can be dismissive of Johnston. President von Hindenberg had been a decorated general during the first world war, Hitler as Chancellor, was a pawn in the great game of state politics, ensuring the right-wing aristocracy and rich businessmen kept the Communists in check. Hitler’s allies put von Hindenberg in checkmate.

Rather than cut through bureaucracy, in Goring and Himmler, we see layer and layer added  and the spoils of German office going to Nazi sympathisers. German Jews were less than one-percent of the population, but in the East, genocide, mass murder and the Final Solution were played out. Dachau, here, is shown as the first of Himmler’s concentration camps. Capacity 5000. Cancerous growths spread quickly.

Watch these programmes and learn how easily it all slips away. A belligerent and successful foreign policy and double-downing on enemies at home sounds familiar.  George Santayana’s quote: Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it is beginning to sound more and more relevant. Heil Trump. Heil little-fart Trumpter, Johnston. History is on a loop. Make Germany great again. Remember that old line?