Friday, October 31, 2008

The Audacity Of Hope...And Activism

Given the choice of John McCain or Barack Obama, I wouldn't waste any time in plumping for the senator from Illinois. Of course, I'm not alone; witness the 200,000 Berliners who turned out to see Obama earlier this year during his European tour. There's also no shortage of columnists & commentators, particularly on the Guardian's Comment is Free site ( ) posting firmly pro-Obama articles.
However, there has been a dearth of articles which offer critical support to the Democratic candidate. That's why it was refreshing to read Seumas Milne's piece on the CiF site yesterday ( ).
Milne readily accepts that the significance of an Obama win would be seismic, not just totemic; the achievement of electing an African-American into the White House, just four decades after the Civil Rights movement challenged open segregation in states like Mississippi & Alabama, is truly historic. Milne also sketches the likely scenario if the polls disguise the race element & the Republicans win:
"If...John McCain were to confound weeks of opinion polls and win the day, the backlash would surely be harsh. Against a background of intense Republican unpopularity, economic crisis and apparently impregnable polling leads, such a victory would be widely seen as the product of shameless racism -- and the election as rigged and stolen. In the US, anger could be expected to turn to rioting. Across the rest of the world, America's popularity and moral standing --already at an historic low-- would sink to unprecedented depths. No wonder such a large part of the American establishment is rooting for an Obama win."
However, Milne cautions:
"No politician, least of all one tied up by the constraints of the corporate-funded US presidential system, can hope to meet the kind of expectations that have been aroused among the Illinois senator's armies of enthusiasts, even if bolstered by a clean Democratic sweep in Congress."
Milne refers to the $700bn bailout for the banks (socialism for the ruling class, in other words) while social programmes suffer through cuts as the recession continues apace. His refreshingly candid take on an anticipated Obama presidency (in contrast to the orgasmic cries of many a Guardian & Independent scribbler) ends with an insightful analysis & conclusion:
"What seems certain is that an Obama election will be a catalyst that creates political opportunities both at home and abroad. The Obama campaign grew out of popular opposition to the Iraq war and its success has been based on the mobilisation of supporters who will certainly want to go further and faster than their candidate. Economic conditions are also likely to demand a more decisive response. And even if conditions are very different from those which led to the New Deal of the 1930s --not least the lack of a powerful labour movement-- Obama could yet, like Roosevelt, be propelled by events to adopt more radical positions. In any case, if Obama is to begin to fulfill the confidence invested in him, hope will not be enough -- those who want real change will have to fight for it."
Milne's lucid observations are more thoughtful & measured than the primal scram of rage that characterised George Monbiot's CiF piece two days earlier, even though I was sympathetic to his main contention that religions have a key role in the US education system, leading to "stupid" attitudes & prejudices taking hold in the minds of millions of Americans (creationism, etc.). That said, Monbiot's splenetic critique is still required reading ( ).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

McCartney's Money Mix Up

Elvis Costello alluded to the chaos surrounding the McCartney concert at Anfield during his own gig at the Philharmonic Hall in June, citing it as a reason for his no-show. The financial aspect of the farce surrounding the event is now clear ( ).
MPL, McCartney's production company, was paid £323,046 by the city council (&, by extension, the city's council tax payers) "because the council ended up providing staffing 'commitments' for which MPL was paid.
"The ECHO understands MPL flagged up the debt to the council."
In other words, it was left to Macca's people to inform the council of this farce. It speaks volumes about the ramshackle & frankly negligent auditing procedures employed by the city council. And it doesn't end there, oh, no; the council has lost money on last June's Liverpool Sound concert at Anfield:
"The balance shows around £1,917,000 was spent staging the event which generated £1,874,318."
That's a loss of £42,682 to Liverpool's council tax payers. Warren, Jase, take a bow!
Oh, by the way, there's an extra £300,000 which the council spent on a feasibility study to assess the pros & cons of a concert at the Salthouse Dock, something Tony Parrish expertly documented on the Liverpool SubCulture blog last year ( ).
The Echo quotes the council's claim that "the June concert did wonders for the city's image, equivalent to millions of pounds worth of advertising exposure at home and abroad."
Believe that & you'll believe anything; the original plan to have the concert televised live both in the UK & abroad was shelved by the BBC & other broadcasters when it became clear that, apart from Sir Thumbs-Up himself, the line-up for the evening was alarmingly threadbare. This was due in no small measure to the rank mismanagement of the Culture Company.
Instead, an edited highlights package on the BBC later that evening served as a limp apologia for an event which could & should have been a fitting showcase of Liverpool music, both past & present.


I forgot to add the second part of Huffington's quote which does full justice to her point:
"The Internet may make it easier to disseminate character smears, but it also makes it much less likely that these smears will stick."

The Future's Online

With the surfeit of comment & articles on the blogosphere about the US election, it's all too easy to let some nuggets of insight pass under the radar. That almost happened in the case of a piece by Arianna Huffington on her HuffPost site ( ).
Her comments are specifically about the role of the web in the race for the White House, but also have a resonance on this side of the Atlantic:
"Thanks to YouTube -- and blogging and instant fact checking and viral emails --it is getting harder and harder to get away with repeating brazen lies without paying a price, or to run under-the-radar smear campaigns without being exposed."
The old tactic of using the TV & the tabloids has had its day. Time's up.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Help At Hand

Happy to get out of the torrential rain that has fallen in the last 24 hours, I fumble in the dark for the light switch near the front door. Nothing. Nada. I curse, thinking another light bulb has gone. I move into the living room & find the switch. Ditto. A sudden dispiriting realisation hits. Power cut. Electricity gone. I head back out & ask a near neighbour, whose lights are on, what the situation is. He & his wife quickly explain that a local sub station has been affected, presumably by the deluge. Estimated time of a return to normality: two & a half hours. Would I like tea or coffee? In their living room are three other neighbours, two elderly, one with a young child, whose power has also gone awol. After nearly an hour of welcome & warming hospitality, we get the word that the electricity has been restored. We thank our hosts sincerely for their help & food before making our way back. I return home. A switch is flicked & suddenly the mundane act of lighting a house assumes reassuring meaning. Thomas Edison briefly occupies my thoughts.
Then I think of something else: the real meaning of that overused phrase, community spirit.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reward For A Renegade

It's a parable of how the broad church of Old Labour has become the even broader church of New Labour. Former Tory leader of Sefton Council Les Byrom defected to Labour last June. It wasn't disputed by anyone associated with Byrom that he left the Tories in a fit of pique, his fairly lucrative tenure, at least by local government standards, as chairman of the local fire authority brought to an abrupt end.
Now, however, Byrom has been rewarded with a cushy quango job. He has been appointed chairman of the Business Community Safety Forum (BCSF) by the government ( ).
During the 80s the Tories controlled Sefton Council with a zeal which was characteristic of the time; indeed, their avarice & deep-seated venality raised eyebrows at Conservative Central Office. No opportunity was wasted in lavishing expenditure on the Tory-voting north of the borough, particularly Southport, at the expense of solidly Labour Bootle. Byrom eagerly championed such squalid chicanery.
The post is worth £3,000 per annum plus expenses. Byrom beams, "I look forward to the challenge."
I bet he does.

J.Jonah Jamison Speaks Out

These are tough times for the newspaper industry. The situation was grim enough, what with TV, freesheets ("Metro") & the Web forming a formidable Triple Alliance against papers around the globe. Now the credit crunch has joined the fray. However, all is not lost, the fightback has begun with the good old Oldham Echo; it is on the verge of a relaunch after consulting its readers (no, really): ( ).
Apparently, there will be increased coverage of environmental issues (but don't expect any Grauniad or Independent-style pieces, too many long words for a start). The coverage of Liverpool & Everton will, however, reach overkill proportions (expect more inane comments from footballers).
The Guardian's report quotes Echo editor Alastair Machray. Hoping for a few gems? Well, he doesn't disappoint (no mention of that PCC complaint, though):
"The relaunch came out of an extensive brand research programme we did. We went to the readers and asked them what they thought the Liverpool Echo stood for."
Well, I could provide a whole list of things, Alastair, but do go on:
"We asked what the essence of the Echo was and we were told it was seen as the voice of Liverpool. As you can imagine, as editor it is gold dust to be told that in an era of fragmented and multifarious media."
Stop, stop, my sides are hurting! The "voice of Liverpool"? Oh, please!
There's more, much more, in fact of Alastair's self-congratulatory sermonising. It seems readers want the Echo to be "more modern", not so difficult a task when you consider that the paper still sees the internet as a suspicious phenomenon familiar only to teenagers & carries missives on its letters page which belong to the 60s...the 1860s, that is.
Think that's bad enough? How about this:
"A 'positivity programme' would be introduced, [Machray] said, so that editorial better reflected the good aspects of the city rather than focusing rigidly on bad news.
" 'We have [also] introduced something called the "truth project", it will be run by a senior assistant editor and the purpose is to ensure that every word that we write, every promotion we are launching does not betray the faith our readers have placed in us,' Machray added."
It's hard to know where to begin with that lot. A "positivity programme"? A "truth project"? Ever read Orwell, Alastair?
How about admitting in your own pages that Capital of Culture year hasn't been the unalloyed triumph you've claimed it to be? No? Thought not. Oh, & by the way, the faith your readers have placed in you is dwindling even further; between August 2007 & August 2008, the Echo's circulation dropped by 7,000. You'll need a lot more than a "positivity programme" to counter that.
Good luck,'ll need it.

Baby, You Can't Drive My Car

After Ringo's charming video message about all fan mail now being "tossed", it seems that Sir Thumbs-Up also has his own statement to make:

Keeping The Secular Sacrosanct

The Westminster wing of the God Squad mustered their forces earlier this week when the Commons debated the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (HFE).
That gave the Daily Post's political editor Rob Merrick the excuse to file a misleading piece ( :
"Mersey Catholic MPs will tonight lead a Commons revolt against controversial new laws to create human-animal embryos and so-called 'saviour siblings'. "
Given that the Bill was passed, albeit with the pusillanimous actions of Harriet Harman on Northern Ireland's abortion laws, it seems perverse to describe the not so holy trinity of local MPs, Bootle's Joe Benton, Crosby's Claire Curtis-Thomas & Southport's John Pugh, as leading a revolt. It suggests that their desire to foist their own version of morality on the rest of us were successful.
It's either slapdash journalism by Merrick, or an all-too transparent sop to local anti-abortion activists while downplaying the reality that their agenda commands little public support.
The Westminster chicanery over Northern Ireland's abortion legislation (a bribe to get the support of the DUP over the 42 day detention law) serves as a case study in political & social denial by the "pro-life" lobby (amply represented on both sides of the sectarian divide -- so much for Sinn Fein's "progressive" credentials). As Merrick reports:
"The status of abortion in [Northern Ireland] has implications for Liverpool, because hundreds of women pay around £2,000 to travel to the city for a private termination every year."

Heading In The Wrong Direction

After cancelling my subscription to the New Statesman earlier this year I continued to read the articles filed by the magazine's US editor Andrew Stephen online. Always well-researched, clearly presented & cogently argued, Stephen's pieces were a joy to read. Sadly, he has now resigned from the magazine ( ).
Former editor John Kampfner has been replaced by Jason Cowley, latterly of Granta. Cowley has stated his wish for the New Statesman to have "intelligent writing", a quality which certainly has its place in a literary periodical like Granta, yet is not necessarily what the NS should be about.

The World According To Sarah Palin

If sufficient numbers of white American voters reveal their racism in the voting booth on November 4th & confound the pollsters, electing John McCain into the White House, be afraid, be very afraid: .
"Our next door neighbours are foreign countries."
Not even Dubya could top that.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

With God On Their Side

"The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other."
Alexis De Tocqueville, 1835 ( ).

"Sincerely wishing that, that as men and christians, ye may always fully and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious right; and be, in your turn, the means of securing it to others; but that the example which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of AMERICA." (Author's italics).
Thomas Paine to American Quakers, 1776, "Common Sense", Thomas Paine, Pelican Books, 1776, 1976.

I thought of De Tocqueville & Paine when reading an eye-opening piece by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in Tuesday's Guardian ( ) on the stranglehold that religion (primarily the Christian religions) exert over political life in the US. He illustrates its control over Presidential debates by referring to an event at an "evangelical megachurch" in California earlier this year, at which Obama & McCain were asked to bare their souls & "confess" to past mistakes in their private lives (something that would, thankfully, be unthinkable anywhere in western Europe). Rather than dismiss such a gathering as a fundamentalist, Talibanesque rump, both candidates seemingly felt obliged to attend the event & tell all.
However, any notion that this farce has always been a feature of US political, civic & social life was roundly disabused by Wheatcroft. He notes, "For Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt to have taken part in any such event during the 1932 presidential campaign would have seemed quite absurd, or Harry Truman and Thomas Dewey in 1948. Four years later, Dwight Eisenhower had so little religious upbringing that he needed to be discreetly baptised before he reached the White House."
Wheatcroft goes on to highlight an aspect of the religious Right's fervent belief which the US media normally ignore. It is every bit as crazed, irrational & unscientific as any edict from Bin Laden:
"[Sarah] Palin's convention speech was held for a time to be the height of feisty wit, but much more revealing is what she and her pastor have said about 'the end of days', an idea in which millions of American evangelical Christians sincerely believe. According to [Palin's pastor Ed] Kalnins, the Jewish people must be gathered into the Land of Israel as a preliminary to Armageddon. When the vast conflict comes the Jews will be converted, or possibly annihilated, and it will be followed by the Rapture."
Given that the Jewish vote (a distasteful piece of US political shorthand) has moved increasingly to the Republicans since the Reagan years, almost exclusively because of the Israel issue, it's no surprise that this perverse neo-con conviction is either denied or downplayed by the Republican leadership. It could also be political dynamite if, as has already been suggested, McCain's likely defeat leads to a Palin candidacy in 2012 ( & ).
As one whose value system derives from an altogether different source ( ), I find the US fixation with Faith both unfathomable & depressing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Local Impressions (Take Two)

Liverpool fan Darren Farley has certainly made his mark in cyberspace since a video of his impressions was posted on YouTube last week. The video has now amassed a mind-boggling 270,000 hits. Little wonder, given his flawless impersonations of Rafa Benitez & Steven Gerrard. Darren's Jamie Carragher, Michael Owen & Peter Crouch don't quite hit the mark for me, though his ability to inject satire into his voices is impressive. Enjoy: .

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Many Happy Returns?

According to John Naughton in today's Observer ( ), Google isn't the only online presence to celebrate its tenth anniversary this year. Blogging, it seems, is also a decade old. Naughton quotes US magazine editor Andrew Sullivan on his definition of the term: "Blogging is to writing, he says, 'what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive.' "
Steady on, Andrew.

Uncle Sam's Reality Check

My fellow Liverpool FC fan Tony Karon, a senior editor at in New York City, & who also writes the consistently excellent Rootless Cosmopolitan blog ( ), emails an article he's written for the UAE-based newspaper, The National ( ) with a question: "What's the connection between Iraq and Anfield?"
He supplies the answer for me: "Both were acquired by Americans using borrowed money...".
Tony examines how the global financial crisis will affect US foreign policy, noting that the American penchant for leveraged buy-outs, ie., saddling a business with debt & hefty interest charges in order to purchase it, even extended to the Iraqi conflict:
"Iraq wasn't supposed to be a drain on resources. The Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Congress a month before the invasion that 'to assume we're going to pay for it all is just wrong'. The occupation, he said, would be financed by Iraq's own oil revenues.
"The Iraqis, of course, had other ideas, which is why Iraq has long been viewed, even within the US national security establishment, as a catastrophic strategic blunder: it demonstrated the limits on Washington's ability to impose its political will through the deployment of its awesome military power."
Tony mentions the statements of Gordon Brown, Nicholas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, et al , in response to the crisis, stressing the necessity of "global governance" of the world's financial & banking system, as well as the desire for greater transparency & accountability. What it means for the US role in the world is stark:
"The subtext is clear: the US can no longer shape the global financial system on its own terms, and it will be forced to adopt international standards anathema to the conventional wisdom of post-Reagan Washington if it wants to keep playing the global financial game on which its economy depends."
Reality certainly seems to have kicked in with many Americans just a couple of weeks before the election. However, as the frenzied, frothing, NRA afficionados at the McCain/Palin rallies illustrate, there's still no shortage of Americans in denial about the drastically changed circumstances in which the world will have to operate.

Home Truths Amid The Humbug

I wasn't able to attend the debate at the city's Anglican cathedral on Thursday. However, it seems, from talking to those who were there, that more heat than light was generated on Tim Leunig's comments about Liverpool following that Policy Exchange report.
However, Leunig made two points in defending his position which warrant both urgent attention & action ( ):
"According to the Institute for Public Policy Research, a rival think-tank to Policy Exchange, Liverpool has the lowest rate of employment for any major town or city in the country. And that is a tragedy for those people.
"It also has the highest rate of in-work benefits. So Liverpool is not generating the number of jobs or the quality of jobs for the people."
Leunig's perverse & unworkable conclusions notwithstanding, those two points are irrefutable & serve as a damning indictment of New Labour's ideological reluctance to even address them. Now that the recession is upon us the local economy will face job losses on a scale not seen since the late 70s/early 80s.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Not In His Name!

It was so nice of Liverpool Confidential to mention this humble little blog last week when discussing Pete Price's ire at the blog ( ) which he considers libellous ( ).
For what it's worth, I suspect the imposter to be Ringo Starr. Well, he has got more time for himself now that his autograph signing has been "tossed".

Beleaguered, Becalmed (& Boycotted?)

Things are looking grim at the Oldham Echo. While the Press Complaints Commission deliberates (take your time, chaps) over editor Alistair Machray's blog posting about getting to know Catherine Zeta Jones a little too well, & the move to Oldham has been met with the threat of a reader boycott ( ), senior ears on Old Hall Street will have pricked up in alarm at comments made by Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, earlier this week ( ).
Lyons defended the BBC from criticism by regional newspapers that the corporation has an unfair advantage over local papers & commercial broadcasters such as ITV:
" 'There's nobody who can be satisfied with the quality of local news in most parts of the United Kingdom,' Lyons told a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch in London this afternoon.
" 'The local press has nothing like the strength that it once had. It's not the same proposition that it was 15 years ago. Will the BBC make it better or worse? That's exactly the issue to be explored.' "
Of course, it needs to be said that a good deal of the BBC's local radio & TV output would make most observers fear for the future of the Beeb's standard of journalism. However, Lyons' words would have been sufficient to produce one of those tumbleweed moments on Old Hall Street.

Local Impressions

The old saying about Liverpool being a city of comedians & impressionists is just another cliche about the place. However, every cliche has its origins in reality & it's nice to know that the city can still produce natural, unsung mimics, as this YouTube clip brilliantly demonstrates: .


I mistakenly ascribed the golly doll story to the Daily Post. It was, in fact the Post's sister paper, the Echo which carried the report ( ).

Beyond Belief

There are some acts of crass stupidity which simply can't be ignored. A case in point was the stocking of golly dolls at the Wizzard shop, which is just a short walk from the International Slavery Museum at Liverpool's Albert Dock. Given that the port of Liverpool was enriched beyond all recognition by the slave trade, it beggars belief that a retailer in the city, & particularly the port area, could be so callous & obtuse. In the last couple of days, however, the penny has finally dropped with the shop's owners & the dolls have been taken from its shelves. Both the city council & the Merseyside Black Police Association had raised their objections, along with countless others ( ).
The Daily Post report notes:
"A spokesman for the shop said: 'We've had messages of support and these dolls have been bought for years by customers both black and white.
"Even though completely legal, we felt on balance that being across the road from the Slavery Museum we had to withdraw them from sale.' "
You'll notice the absence of an apology in that statement. In fact, the shop evidently feels that it's been the victim of coercion. The first sentence in the statement is also the sort of bullshit employed by those whose position has become indefensible. The Wizzard shop has had "messages of support", eh? From whom, the BNP? In addition, the shop really can't be allowed to claim that Afro-Carribean people have bought the dolls. It merely compounds the insult.
Sad to relate, there are cretinous mewlings about the story on the Echo letters page ( ).
The only thing missing from the pathetic missives to Old Hall Street is the well-worn phrase "political correctness gone mad".

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It Is Whatever It Is, Know Worra Mean Like?

On the day that Dr (Nice, But Dim) Tim Leunig visits Liverpool for a debate, fuelled by the Policy Exchange report he co-authored, at the city's Anglican cathedral ( ) it's worth noting an interview with Phil Redmond by David Ward in yesterday's Guardian ( ).
There is, however, a misleading prelude to Ward's piece, probably the work of a lazy sub-editor at the Guardian who's misread one line in the article, asking if Redmond has mayoral ambitions in the city. The limp & muted denouement to culture year is also ignored in Ward's interview.
Instead, Redmond performs his "we're so special in Liverpool" routine which he always reserves for the national media. Ward allows Redmond to dreamily muse about 2008's legacy stretching out into a seemingly infinite "we can do anything we want to do" future. It's a risible combination of hazy hippy ambiguities & Culture Company bollockese:
"People are now beginning to get hold of the project and are starting to wonder what they can do with it and where we go next...[ ]. The big question on everybody's lips is legacy, and there are four separate groups flowing out of the city council looking at this, in terms of structure and bureaucracy. They are not actually looking in terms of what has been achieved, which is the renewed confidence of the people. It's not about bureaucracies and structures; it's about taking the confidence of the people and letting them keep it. It's about reminding them that they can do things of their own accord, that they can work collectively, can do what they have always done."
I've re-read this quote several times but still can't make sense of Redmond's Scouse stream-of-consciousness bullshit. If anyone can translate it into plain English, I'd be extremely grateful.

Drumming Up A Little Attention For Himself

Bemused would sum up my reaction to Ringo Starr's Garboesque wish to be left alone & not sign any more autographs ( ). I suppose the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine, & recipient of a £90,000 stay in his hometown, courtesy of Phil Redmond, would feel a bit miffed at the number of times his scribblings have cropped up on Ebay. However, the question I asked myself was, "What sort of saddo would still insist on getting Ringo's autograph in the first place?"
Ringo's relevance to music was, to use his own delightful term, "tossed" back in the early 70s.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Credit Crunch On The Rates

As the world's financial markets go down quicker than a wannabe WAG in a bar full of footballers, the Icelandic banking collapse has claimed at least one high-profile local victim. Wirral Council had the relatively small sum of £2m invested with Heritable, a subsidiary of Landsbanki ( ). Wirral's council taxpayers will doubtless be alarmed by the news. However, other local authorities have lost at least twice as much from their Icelandic investments.
There's no word yet on whether Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley & St Helens have also been affected. It would certainly round off 2008 nicely if an ashen-faced Warren Bradley stepped forth to reveal that, in addition to the £20m debt accrued from culture year, another couple of million quid had disappeared down an Icelandic geyser.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Life Imitating Art Imitating Life Imitating Art....

Some things render the word ironic redundant. A case in point is a concert in Liverpool this evening by Neil Innes, who played the Lennon role (Ron Nasty) in the brilliant FabFour spoof, The Rutles. Irony is further rendered useless when you consider that the gig is at the Cavern. Not the real one, of course, but surreal nonetheless. Hope he plays this gem tonight: .

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Year Ends As It Began...Shambolically

The waiting is over. After intense, draining days of phone calls & emails flying back & forth between the council & the Oldham Echo, the spin (not to mention the smoke & mirrors) over the non-finale for Lord Redmond has finally been worked out & splashed on the Echo's front page ( ) by Echo journalist Michelle Fiddler:
"LIVERPOOL'S waterfront will be the setting for a spectacular people's party to mark the end of Capital of Culture year."
[BTW, what is it with BLOCK CAPITALS as far as the Echo is concerned? Is it meant to look impressive?]
Great! So what's organised for the event? Erm, highlights of 2008 on video screens at the Pier Head (what, you mean someone actually YouTubed the lopping off of Ringo's head at the Beatle topiary by the airport?). Oh, right. But surely there will be a great party planned in the city centre on the final day of 2008. Won't there?
"The party is on January 10, 2009, after the New Year festivities are finished."
Erm, OK, right. Ah, but hang on, there's more:
"There will be celebrations during the day in districts including Wavertree, Toxteth, Alt Valley, Kensington, Tuebrook, Old Swan & Knotty Ash."
So those areas of the city which have looked on while the city centre has operated in a parallel universe will get the chance to finally celebrate 2008...ten days into 2009. Still, I'm sure Professor Chucklebutty ( ) will have something appropriate planned in Knotty Ash.
As for the dwindling funds in the coffers which forced Lord Redmond to scrap his finale, as Tony Parrish exclusively revealed, the nearest the Echo article comes to admitting it can be found in the throwaway sentence:
"It is understood plans to stage a Capital of Culture event at the Echo arena were shelved in favour of the waterfront party."
It gets worse (oh, yes it does!) with the possibility that Roger McGough, whose, ahem, magnum opus graced last Friday's Newsnight Review, will scribble a few lines for the occasion. There's also the hope that a few "Liverpool anthems" will be trilled by the river. Cue Gerry Marsden strumming his guitar on the Royal Iris as the assembled freeloaders sing "Ferry 'Cross The Mersey" from lyric sheets handed out by Warren Bradley & Mike Storey while a hooded scally lets off a rocket & a couple of Catherine Wheels from the top of the funnel (health & safety permitting).
We know how to do these things in style, don't we?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Just Make Sure The Grave Is Deep

Commenting on my reference to Pete Wylie's song, "The Day That Margaret Thatcher Dies", gerald wylie (any relation, sir?) directs me to a debate on both the song & Thatcher herself on Liverpool Confidential ( ).
I've just contributed a few thoughts of my own, as well as replying to a handful of poor, deluded souls who think that if Liverpool had followed so many other areas in the 80s & gone Tory, the city wouldn't have suffered so much. Yes, really, that is the gist of their "argument". Maybe Jimmy Tarbuck & Cilla Black have been getting the hang of this interweb thingy down in Surrey & posting under pseudonyms.


Warren Bradley & the Culture Company must be beside themselves with glee. A ten minute discussion between the Newsnight Review panel ( & Roger McGough), entitled, "Review Uncut -- After Hours Debate" has been posted on the Newsnight site ( ).
Aside from a couple of telling points from Holly Johnson ("the people are the natural resource of this town"), Terence Davies (who feels it'll take five years to judge whether the year has been a success for the city) & Roger McGough (who stresses the importance of having a proper cultural legacy via the city's schools), it comes across as the sort of cosy PR presentation on which the council would normally spend thousands.
Miranda Sawyer refers to the negative stereotypes from the past & says she feels all that's changed. You're a journalist, Miranda. You know the media; just wait a while for the next tabloid job on the city when culture year is a fading memory. As for your relief that the city didn't rely too much on the Beatles, you obviously weren't here for the Matthew Street festival & the execrable Beatle Day. You were spared, Miranda, you were spared!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Matter Of Interpretation

It hasn't taken Maureen Dowd long to deliver the right kind of response to her persona non grata status with the McCain camp. In her New York Times column today she casts a baffled eye over Sarah Palin's tortured syntax ( ).
Quoting just a few of Palin's pronouncements, Dowd demonstrates that the Republicans' War on Terror has now been joined by the War on Grammar:
"Hillary Clinton and John McCain ran against Barack Obama by sneering that their prose was meatier than The One's poetry. Sarah's running against the Democrat's highfalutin eloquence by speakin' in homespun haikus."
Palin has achieved what was thought to be impossible: she makes John Prescott seem lucid.

Musings By The Mersey

A cursory reference to the £20m debt to the city aside, Kirsty Wark, or Kirsty Paxman, as Professor Chucklebutty referred to her in his excellent take on the discussion ( ), focused on purely cultural matters for Friday's Newsnight Review from Liverpool ( ).
The panellists, former Frankie Holly Johnson, film director Terence Davies, actor Ian Hart (who spoke throughout the discussion with a Dublin brogue for some unfathomable reason) & the token outsider, journalist Miranda Sawyer weren't short of opinions but it all felt a little stilted, as though the element of Scouse spontanaeity, the supposed reason for the location, had to be suppressed.
The debate on the Le Corbusier exhibition centred on his overall work & legacy. Fine for his buildings in Mediterranean climes. However, none of the panellists drew attention to what Modernism meant when applied to the construction of tower blocks in areas like Merseyside.
Unanimous acclaim was given to Simon Rattle's triumphant homecoming concert with the RLPO at the Philharmonic Hall (he couldn't really go wrong with a reading of Sibelius' masterful Fifth Symphony).
The musical at the Everyman Theatre about Eric's drew from Wark the observation that it was "a Mama-Mia for the punk generation". If Jayne Casey supplied her with that line, she should be shot; as Johnson, no stranger to the Eric's scene in the late 70s from my recollection, protested, "Eric's was the antithesis of the show tune".
The film report on Liverpool's year of culture was refreshingly free of cliches. However, I was alarmed by Liverpool Confidential's Angie Sammons remark that she had overheard someone say it would go down as "the year we got a Debenhams". Is that all? Even this blog wouldn't draw such a brutally dismissive conclusion about the year. Frank Cotterell Boyce did bring some much-needed reality & perspective to the film with his regret that so much of the year had been "city centre oriented".
The programme closed with "Gateway to the Atlantic", a poem by Roger McGough which struck me as self-congratulatory sub-sixth-form doggerel.
Of far more interest & enlightenment on the webpage is an interview with old Everyman favourite Pete Postlethwaite ahead of King Lear at the Everyman later this month.

Pete Wylie's new song, "The Day Margaret Thatcher Dies", certainly wouldn't have been considered for discussion on Newsnight Review. It's been highlighted by the Echo's Paddy Shennan (see, Paddy, you CAN write something useful!) & is available on Pete's myspace page ( ).
Admittedly, it doesn't have the subtlety, lyricism or pathos of Elvis Costello's "Tramp The Dirt Down", but its heart is definitely in the right place & is pleasingly cathartic.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Censorship used to be used by the BBC when banning records with four-letter words, controversial political topics, or at the whim of self-important Smasheys & Niceys on the old Radio 1. Sad to relate that my post on Newsnight Review's thread about tonight's programme from Liverpool was excised by the BBC censor. Something to do with my reference to the £90,000 claimed by Ringo & his entourage from the city's council tax payers? Or was it BBC Radio Merseyside's role as one of Liverpool08's "partners", ie., sponsors?
I pay my licence fee, I want answers, chaps!
Nice to see Professor Chucklebutty's post making it past the Beeb's screeners.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Auntie Asks: How Was It For You?

Tomorrow's edition of Newsnight Review comes live from Liverpool, looking at the year of civic culture (cough) as it approaches its close. The programme is asking people for their impressions of 2008 in the city ( ).
Before you all rush in, bear in mind that you have to register with the Beeb's messageboards, but that shouldn't take more than a few minutes. I've just contributed some thoughts of my own, drawing attention to those aspects of the year which the local media would like to downplay or ignore. We'll see if the Beeb publish them.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fantasy & Reality

The Oldham Echo's willingness to feed on the ignorance of its readership is hardly new. However, tonight's puff piece possibly reaches a new low. More of that anon. However, a much-needed dose of reality regarding Liverpool's year of culture was to be found in today's Guardian ( ).
David Walker's piece looked at the long-term benefits of major cultural & sporting events in host cities. Walker's article began tellingly:
"It all began, it's said, in the departures lounge at Athens airport. Jack Lang and Melina Mercouri, the French and Greek ministers of culture, hit on the idea of an annual European cultural event, based in one or more cities. Whatever the genesis, the European capital of culture has added handily to the roster of big-ticket events for which cities avidly bid -- even though the evidence connecting such events to regeneration and aggregate welfare is incomplete and sometimes negative."
The fly in the ointment, Walker asserts, is that economic imperatives & regeneration projects only fleetingly coalesce. He quotes Luke Binns of the Dublin Institute of Technology as noting that "as companies have an ever growing list of cities to invest in, and only so much to invest, there will have to be winners and losers in interurban place marketing.
" 'Despite the impression given by some economic development agencies, cultural amenity provision doesn't figure at the top of companies' relocation priorities,' says Binns. 'The bubble bursting when the relatively easy quantifiable economic returns of investing in culture are shown not to be paying off raises the fear of disillusionment setting in and the consequent abandonment of cultural policies.' "
Walker looks at Liverpool's year of culture, commenting that the timing of Liverpool One's opening is "less than optimal".
That's quite an understatement, given the impending recession. In recent years Liverpool has seen a boom in the leisure & construction industries. No prizes for guessing which industries are the first to go to the wall when the economy goes pear-shaped.
Back to the comic, sorry, Echo. Tonight's edition contains a typical puff-piece by Neil Hodgson, its inane standard of journalism encapsulated in the gushing claim ( ):
"The £1bn city centre retail scheme, the biggest of its kind in Europe, appears to have bucked the doom and gloom on the high streets and financial markets."
Yes, I'm sure that once Wall Street hears about the retail units at Liverpool One opening, the banks will start lending to each other again; the "confidence" will return to the markets; the toxic sub-prime loan packages will suddenly lessen in danger; & the Dow Jones will quickly rise to the 13,000 mark again. Won't they?

Credit Where It's Due

Blogging from the Tory conference on Monday, John Harris filed a thought-provoking piece for the Guardian's Comment is Free page ( ).
Harris rightly noted that the Tories are making all the political capital that's possible over Labour's not so tacit approval of the cheap credit boom in the 90s which has now collapsed so spectacularly. Harris did, however, point out that the relaxation of credit controls happened on Thatcher's watch (I recall some trade unions, my own included, offering credit card deals to their low-paid members in the late 80s).
Returning to the current situation, though, Harris observed, "The Blair & Brown governments were presumably scared of going near the issue of personal debt for fear of blowing the gaffe on their own boom and appearing to tell the voters off for their lack of financial discipline, something [George] Osborne seems to have just about avoided so far."