Tuesday, June 29, 2010

King Of America Returns

It was good to see Elvis Costello in such fine form last night at the Philharmonic Hall. Those in the audience hoping to see him deliver the sort of set he usually delivers with his backing band The Imposters were in for a surprise. The pre-concert tape of Steve Earle at his most rustic hinted at what was to come.
Backed by the Nashville-based Sugarcanes, Costello deftly mixed old & new, throwing in a couple of covers also. Mixing New Amsterdam with Hey, You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (Costello told the audience he'd supported "Mr McCartney" the previous day in Hyde Park) wasn't unexpected. However, the style certainly was. Indeed, most of his older material benefitted from the six-piece Sugarcanes' backing, the guitars, fiddle, dobro, mandolin, double bass & accordion drawing out extra layers from familiar material. This was at its most startling on the one song Costello professes to dislike from his back catalogue, Everyday I Write The Book.
It seems invidious to single out any member of the Sugarcanes for specific attention, they were all impressively tight. However, Jerry Douglas on dobro was, at times, mesmeric, particularly on Shipbuilding.
Compared to previous Costello shows in what he calls "the nearest thing I have to a home town", last night's performance was light on banter. However, I did enjoy his quip, "Wayne Rooney? More like Mickey Rooney."
All in all, an excellent evening, & no-one called out for Oliver's Army or Pump It Up. Perfect.

Shanghai Surprise

It would be remiss of me not to hail the return of the good Professor (http://profchucklebuttychronic.blogspot.com/2010/06/liverpool-show-and-on-show-to-world-new.html ).
He's been to Shanghai as part of the local delegation & is in no doubt about the mission of the trip:
"To show once and for all that Liverpool was a great, modern premier European city with far more to offer than the tired old cliches of football and the Beatles.
"So, as the giant video screen showing a film of Paul McCartney making rude gestures with his thumbs welcomed the Chinese people that had got lost and ended up on the wrong side of the river, our Expo began.
"They crowded around the wallpaper paste table and deck chairs that was the Liverpool stand and gazed in awe at how much the city had to offer. This was depicted in the giant murals of John, Paul, George and Ringo, intersperced with photos of Googie the Liverpool Duck, Liverpool and Everton football players. There is even a wall-sized portrait of Liverpool FC with Bill Shankly in the middle! All of this and the Kop singing 'F*** off back to America' to a tune sounding similar to one from West Side Story.
"My word! There's a modern, forward-looking Liverpool. The entire stand almost 30 years out of date. Precious memories to many of us maybe, but a selling point to Chinese investors?
"Where were the Diddymen? Where was Arthur Askey?"
Where indeed, Professor.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hunt's "Gaffe" Goes Viral

Reaction to Jeremy Hunt's "gaffe" has been swift, even by the standards of the blogosphere & Twitterati. Polly Curtis, political correspondent on the Guardian, tweets that Cameron has "full confidence" in Hunt, rightly hinting that the phrase is ominous (http://twitter.com/pollycurtis ).
Hunt's issuing more mea culpas than a penitent at Lourdes. However, his position's looking just a little bit uncomfortable.

Caution: Fragile

They can be such sensitive souls on Oldham Hall Street. Just a short blast of reality & candour can result in pitiable bleatings. That being the case, Wayne's broadside against them earlier today (http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2010/06/liverpools-press-and-culcha-of-capital.html ) may induce a few panic attacks & anguished calls to the Samaritans.

Tory Repeats Hillsborough Libel

With the arrival of the ConDem cutters into government, it was, I suppose, only a matter of time before one of the Tory chinless wonders blurted out something which gives an insight into their mindset. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt was asked to say a few words about England's World Cup exit yesterday. However, Hunt then went a little further, saying how refreshing it was that there are no more major instances of crowd trouble, citing Heysel & Hillsborough (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/jun/28/jeremy-hunt-hillsborough-apology ).
Yes, Hillsborough.
Had Hunt, as a government minister, taken just half an hour or so to peruse The Taylor Report, he would have been aware that Hillsborough had NOTHING to do with the problem of hooliganism.
Naturally, Hunt has realised that the PR fall-out from what is being charitably termed "a gaffe" has to be addressed. Hence his rushed apology. However, it's worth recalling that the cover-up over the tragedy went to the highest levels of the then Tory government (Thatcher & her poodle, sorry, I mean press secretary Bernard Ingham were aware of the decision by South Yorkshire Police to alter the notes of officers on duty that day). Moreover, it was a local Tory MP, Irvine Patnick, who was the source for The Sun's collective libel on the Liverpool supporters.
Perhaps Hunt's "gaffe" (makes it sound like a minor slip-up over arranging a dinner party, doesn't it?) should be seen in the context of his background. He's worth a cool £4.1m (http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2009/10/oxford-universitywealth-school ), &, like the best of the Nice, But Dim Tims the Tories can boast, his grasp of normal life can be, well, just a little tenuous at times; in another "gaffe" Hunt was found to have claimed 1p for a 12-second mobile phone call (http://www.politics.co.uk/interviews/legal-and-constitutional/the-top-ten-funniest-expenses-claims-$1305217.htm ).
Gaffes, eh? Jolly japes, as they like to say. Not so jolly when some chinless wonder who hasn't done a proper day's work in his sheltered life helps to perpetuate the smears that have hung around for 21 years.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Taking His Eye Off The Ball

In all the anguished talk about the working class before & after the election (taken to such an extent by some that it became voyeuristic), there was little said about the recreations & diversions enjoyed by working people. It's a pity that was the case. Otherwise we may have been spared the muddled, middle class drivel served up by "Marxist" academic Terry Eagleton for the Guardian's Comment is Free pages last week (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/15/football-socialism-crack-cocaine-people ).
It hardly requires someone of Eagleton's supposed IQ to appreciate that sport, football in particular, is often used as a distraction by those in authority. However, it is crass in the extreme to extrapolate from that the position that sport is inherently inimical to the interests of working class people.
Eagleton would do well to leave the cloistered environment of academia & actually talk to those fans, most of whom are working class, who've organised campaigns against the venal characters running their local clubs & have quickly acquainted themselves with the economics of football at a rate which would impress any tutor in the subject. Moreover, he would benefit from talking to a few colleagues of mine at work who are Liverpool fans as well as assiduous & politically-savvy union reps. I showed them Eagleton's piece. Their response? Let's just say they begged to differ.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fickle Feelings

Tomorrow's Guardian carries the finding of an ICM poll which appears to show that most respondents favour cuts over tax increases in Osborne's ConDem cuts budget (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jun/21/budget-2010-guardian-icm-poll ). General opinion, however, will start to change when many of those most enthusiastically in favour of cuts find that their job/child's nursery/community centre/parents' home help, etc. is a casualty of the slash & burn approach deployed by the Tory-led coalition.

Laying The Blame At The Right Door

Seven Streets takes a look at the Cruise Terminal fiasco (http://www.sevenstreets.com/features/cruise-terminal-pier-head/ ), remarking on the absurdity of the current situation. Unarguable, of course. However, blame for the farce should be laid squarely at the feet of those most culpable, Warren "War Zones" Bradley & his Fib Dem regime, the Oldham Echo & Peel Holdings (http://condensedthoughts.blogspot.com/2010/03/peels-press-gang-plan.html ).
Seven Streets remarks on the fact that ABP, owner of the Port of Southampton, is based in Jersey for tax evasion purposes. True. However, it should be noted that Peel's chief executive resides on the Isle of Man for...yes, you've guessed it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Emperor's New Clothes Moment

Just imagine the frustration Big Al Machray must feel. There he sits, seeing to it that everyone sings from the same hymn sheet; everything in the garden is rosy & don't let any of those naysayers, you know, the type who write blogs that are "nasty and vindictive" (thank-you, Mark) tell you otherwise. Life in the Oldham Hall Street bubble is a case study in Orwellian groupthink. Grosvenor-pool is recession-proof, the Oldham Echo Arena is a safe place to visit, the city's waterfront has been transformed in such a stylish & tasteful way & the readers are just dying to read more articles about the Beatles, self-congratulatory pieces about "your" Echo & small-time hoodlums elevated to the level of Al Capone.
And then..... THUD.
On to his desk falls the latest Meldrewesque missive from Rex Makin. Big Al sighs, says nothing & approves the copy, knowing that to do otherwise would upset the prominent lawyer, bon viveur &, reportedly, Trinity Mirror shareholder.
Not content with pouring cold water on the parade of cooing & simpering Shanghai Expo articles last month (http://condensedthoughts.blogspot.com/2010/05/home-truth-thats-little-too-close-to.html ), Rex was at it again last week with a corruscating piece about the Chinese junket (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/views/liverpool-columnists/rex-makin/2010/06/04/rex-makin-are-we-being-fed-chinese-whispers-about-chinese-expo-100252-26583656/ ):
"A prominent Chinese businessman from Liverpool has just returned from a trip to China (at his own expense) during which he visited Expo 2010, said to be more important for Liverpool than 2008.
"After visiting the centrepiece, the China Pavillion, he trekked across the Expo site, boarded a ship for a seven-minute journey across the river, faced another trek and eventually arrived at the pavillion containing Liverpool's offer. His verdict? Underwhelmed.
"While he was there a party of regional journos visited Expo in a visit organised by Liverpool Vision. Their collective impression of Liverpool's offer was most different than the independent businessman.
"The team of journalists were accompanied by a duo from a local spin company."
You can just hear the hiss of deflation from inside the Oldham Hall Street bubble, can't you?
As luck would have it, or maybe not, the same day's Daily Ghost carried an unsigned piece all about the dos & don'ts of PR (http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/ldpbusiness/business-local/tm_headline=opinion-when-a-little-bit-of-pr-is-a-little-too-much%26method=full%26objectid=26584433%26siteid=92534-name_page.html ). *
Of course, for those who leave the employ of the Ghost & Echo's owner, Trinity Smoking Mirrors, there is an overwhelming sense of demob-happy release. Marc Reeves used to be editor of Trinity title, the Birmingham Post. He reflected earlier this week on the changes wrought on papers generally by the web. His verdict? Underwhelmed. Warming to his theme, Reeves made an observation that will have Sly Bailey reaching for her drinks cabinet (http://paidcontent.co.uk/article/419-redundant-regional-editor-newspapers-getting-crushed-by-their-own-weigh/ ):
"Saddled by a shareholder base that had grown used to the cash cow returns of a monopoly, the regional newspaper industry in particular was structurally incapable of adopting the entrepreneurial approach that is the only option available when almost every aspect of your business model is rendered obsolete."
Still, I'm sure "a little bit of PR" will do the trick, eh?

* Thanks to Wayne for the link.

He Needs Your Help

Spare a thought for David Bartlett. He can't think of anything to write (http://blogs.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/dalestreetblues/2010/06/bloggers-block.html ).
Just imagine if everyone on Oldham Hall Street had the same problem. It would be terrible. Wouldn't it?

The Joke Backfires

It appears that following the national media's coverage of Sharon Green's Facebook "joke", Lib Dem officials in London are ready to investigate matters (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2010/06/09/lib-dem-head-office-launches-probe-into-liverpool-facebook-disabled-joke-row-100252-26615867/ ).
Green has gone to ground since the story broke, leaving her partner Warren "War Zones" Bradley to defend her idea of humour as well as contradict Facebook itself over the way in which the site operates. Still, seeing as Bradley boasts of having a hotline to Nick Clegg, it can all be resolved by a quick phone call to Westminster, can't it?

Monday, June 07, 2010

Heard The One About The Joke That's Dated?

Jokes about Margaret Thatcher could well be considered old hat. She's history, many will say, move on. In that context they're right; why go on about someone who was kicked out of No. 10 by her colleagues when they saw the damage her beloved poll tax was doing to them?
However, every now & again, activists of a certain generation find it hard to resist a jibe at Thatcher. In the right setting, it goes down well. That may well account for John McDonnell's remarks at the GMB conference in Southport (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jun/07/john-mcdonnell-assassinate-thatcher-joke ).
Predictably, the Tory tabloids & the right-wing blogs are shrieking their outrage (strange how Guido Fawkes routinely refers to ex-Labour ministers as "tw*ts", implies that Gordon Brown has mental health issues & is fond of referring to female politicians as "totty", yet suddenly discovers a misplaced sense of morality with this story).
Let's get this straight: McDonnell's comments are pretty tiresome &, more woundingly, juvenile. Much as I loathe Thatcher for her record & legacy, I always knew that if someone, or some group, assassinated her, there would be no interruption of Tory policies. Another cabinet minister would have become Prime Minister & the policies would have continued apace. For all the jokes told about the 1984 Brighton bombing, most fellow activists readily accepted that; to use a good old-fashioned & clumsy phrase, the tactic of individual terrorism is inimical to socialism.
It's unfortunate that McDonnell has given the media a great big, juicy slab of red meat with his quote because he appears to be the only candidate for the Labour leadership who has a clearly thought-out alternative to the New Labour mantra of markets good, unions bad.
That McDonnell had next to no chance of getting anywhere with his leadership bid is blindingly obvious. The leadership will be fought over by three candidates (the Miliband brothers & Balls) who stand for a continuation of the New Labour "project". Enough to make any Thatcher disciple smile.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Adios, Rafa, Gracias Por Todos

Talking to fellow Liverpool supporters today, the general feeling about Rafa Benitez' departure from Anfield (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/jun/03/rafael-benitez-leaves-liverpool ) was one of sad & weary acceptance.
For all his faults (& they were many), there was no doubt that he enjoyed a rapport with the fans.
Hicks & Gillett have been able to use Benitez' diminishing success as a smokescren to hide their guilt & complicity in the decline of the club. No longer. The two liars are now very much in the firing line.
Their way of conducting business was typified by Benitez' departure. I have it on good authority from a source I consider reliable that Hicks instructed chief executive Christian Purslow to leak to selected hacks the overnight story (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/jun/02/rafael-benitez-liverpoo-quit ) about the board's offer of £3m for Benitez to quit immediately while he & his agent were still deliberating over said offer. In other words, Benitez was bounced into the deal.
The Stanley Park stadium is a distant mirage of Saharan proportions & the club is saddled with a debt which will deter any potential buyers for another year at least. The damage inflicted by the two con-men is potentially irreparable.

Wider Prominence

Sharon Green's idea of humour has attracted national attention in the form of Hugh Muir's Diary column in today's Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jun/03/hugh-muirs-diary-peter-davies-doncaster ).
The "intermediary" referred to in the Diary piece is, of course, Warren "War Zones" Bradley.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Parish Notice

Robin Brown, over at the Liverpool Culture Blog, muses on the city (http://www.liverpoolcultureblog.co.uk/2010/06/seven-streets-liverpool-culture-website-blog/ ) as he draws our attention to another site he's involved with (http://www.sevenstreets.com/ ).
There's a piece on the monstrosities squatting in front of the Three Graces at Mann Island (http://www.sevenstreets.com/features/total-eclipse-of-the-heart-mann-island/ ).

Sharon Green's Disabled "Joke" -- The Fall-Out

David Bartlett acknowledges the gravity of the Sharon Green Facebook affair (well done, David, always up to speed, eh?) with a post on his blog today (http://blogs.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/dalestreetblues/2010/06/a-facebook-campaign-has-been.html ).
To be fair, however, Bartlett also notes that a Facebook campaign has been launched, calling on Green to stand down as a councillor for St Michaels ward (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=1217140578363735&v=wall# ).
It would be welcome if Green realised that her position is untenable & did the decent thing. Then again, decency isn't synonymous with the city's Fib Dems.


An apposite word of advice from the head of BP to the Israeli government: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lee-camp/leaked-bps-note-to-israel_b_595952.html .