Monday, April 25, 2011

How to plan and write an essay

Essay Plan
Deadline: six weeks (42 days)

Day 1 and 2 Two days of reading really hard, filled with ideas and enthusiasm. It won't be like last time. I'm going to get this one done in plenty of time.
Day 3 One day in the library, finding that all the books I wanted are on loan and therefore borrowing a load of random ones that have 'India' in the title and so must have some relevance to Dalit literature.
Day 4 to 18 Two weeks of self-satisfied chilling out, safe in the knowledge that there are still 5 weeks left. Well, three and a half.
Day 19 and 20 Two self-consciously busy days, spent putting all the books into piles, opening some of them then closing them again, using a lot of post-it notes and in general thinking about anything other than Dalit literature. Books now fully colour-coded and still completely unread.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thoughts on Poems for a Royal Wedding

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy today gave us a list of poems based on wedding vows. I didn't really want to bother with the pile of tax-funded clap-trap that is this non-event, but since my favourite poem from this category was conspicuous by its absence, here it is.

Liebeslied from the Dreigroschenoper by Kurt Weil and Bertolt Brecht

Und gibt's auch kein Schriftstuck vom Standestamt
Und keine Blume auf die Altar
Und weiss ich auch nicht woher dein Brautkleid stammt

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

All the world's a stage

We had the kind of night out that only tourists really do: an ice-cream in the sunshine in Trafalgar Square, dinner at Planet Hollywood and then a West End Show. It seems I barely leave the house any more except to go to Wilkinson in Stratford; this excursion was the cause of much excitement for me. It's long been one of my favourite films, and Kander and Ebb's music is always wonderful, although much of their shows are pretty much unheard of these days. (I really want to see a revival of Flora, the Red Menace though!) The two that survive, Cabaret and Chicago, both provide Brechtian social commentary through the filter of a meta-dramatical show within a show.

When I mentioned how much I loved Chicago to a friend, she was taken aback that a feminist would enjoy such a sexist musical. It is true that all the characters, male and female, are dressed only in transparent black underwear throughout, except Mama Morton, the prison warden, Billy Flynn the lawyer and Amos, the cuckolded husband. For two of these, their clothes mark the power and status they enjoy over the other characters, mostly criminals from Prohibition-era Chicago's seedy jazz-men-and-booze-ridden underworld. For Amos, his cardigan is a reminder of his utter boringness and near-invisibility.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Save Newham Academy of Music from closure


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When we started in the Teddy-Bears recorder class in the mid-eighties, everything was free. One of England's poorest boroughs offered weekly lessons in every conceivable instrument to every child that wanted them, absolutely free of charge. Needless to say, that did not last long. Fees were gradually introduced. But low-income and large families remained protected, and the ethos of the Academy was not fundamentally altered. They worked with schools and communities, they provided music lessons for disabled and behaviour-challenged children, they performed concerts in old folks homes and sang carols in the High Street.

The State on Trial?

During the second week of the Ian Tomlinson inquest, almost exactly two years since his death on April 1st, 2009, media attention has been focused on the testimony of the officer who struck him with a baton and pushed him to the floor, almost certainly causing his death. After a long-running media campaign beginning with the Guardian’s release of video footage from the attack, it seems the IPCC and Metropolitan Police cover-up campaign will no longer be able to protect PC Simon Harwood. The family’s public grief, the media attention and the huge amount of new evidence volunteered by bystanders and protesters have made mincemeat of the original network of lies released by the police. Harwood’s own testimony on Monday and Tuesday of this week has led to his admitting at least half a dozen untruths in his story. While it may be too late to prosecute him, he is now being set up to take the fall - and the flak.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Murderer Simon Harwood at Ian Tomlinson Inquest

What we've learnt from Simon Harwood's testimony so far: after leaving the van he had been assigned to drive for no reason, he spent the day wandering around looking for a fight with an enthusiasm to rival the most sporting Black Bloc member.