April 15-21, 2023
SATURDAY 15 When workers say no to their own unions, we really are in a new landscape of industrial relations.
📌 References to Chinese political history in the Inspector Chen Cao books I’m enjoying at the moment are sometimes baffling. I’ve forgotten almost everything I knew about China becoming a republic and Mao’s Cultural Revolution. I misremembered much of what came after Mao. Thankfully, the New Statesman just published a recap of Xi Jinping’s rise to power that lays out the backstory and the people (all very determined men) who make modern China what it is. The article also suggests an interesting idea about Xi and Daddy issues.
📌 A low-cost highly-effective malaria vaccine developed at Oxford University is being rolled out in Ghana. The vaccine is seen as a global game-changer in controlling the deadly strains of malaria that have plagued the continent for centuries.
📌 Very weirdly, I have started to pity Boris Johnson. His belief that he can rise again and become Prime Minister a second time is so delusional it makes you wonder about his mental health. Now that the wagons are circling, it is hard even to imagine him settling into a benign domestic comfort zone, writing incendiary newspaper columns and coining reactionary soundbites. He probably needs to crash and burn in some way.
SUNDAY 16 Our friend has been repatriated from hospital in Liverpool back to London. Now begins the long slog of physiotherapy to get her smashed leg working again.
📌 The TV series Rain Dogs, starring Daisy-May Cooper is a bleak but powerful study of dysfunctional and toxic relationships. It is billed as a comedy, but we’re still not sure we can overcome the unremitting darkness and watch the whole series.
📌 On Celebrity Bake Off the contestants were asked to make a cake depicting their first celebrity crush. Both of the male contestants chose men as their subjects. All of the women chose men, too. I struggled to work out how I would complete the task for my own first celebrity crush cake.
MONDAY 17 According to a learned article in the Conversation on modern trends in written communication, I can’t be sure anyone reading this sentence will interpret it in the way I mean it. Some might detect passive aggressive vibes, others will get a whiff of sarcasm. And why are all my picture captions in italic?
📌 Barely a day goes by without the revelation that one or another member of the government is under investigation for alleged wrongdoing. Are greater numbers of politicians grassing each other up, or are the investigators on some kind of hyperactivity booster?
📌 Catching up with last term’s final project for Art Class. The theme was stationery, and I stole a picture from the Deviant Art website and re-imagined it as a portrait made from mangled coloured paper clips.
📌 Tortoise’s Daily Sensemaker and Slow News podcast has a close look at the decline of the Conservative Party’s lunatic ERG Group. Several Tories proclaim it to be dead for good and one of its former leading lights is quoted calling Boris a “pound-shop Nigel Farage”.
TUESDAY 18 A German photographer, Boris Eldagsen, won a top photography prize with an AI generated image. Two issues stand out. The process of making AI images is as creative as any other method. It depends on the imagination, vision and skill of the image-maker. It is as artistically valid as a smocked painter with palette and brush in hand. Moreover, good AI art requires intelligence, which goes against the idea of the artist as being blessed with some kind of special genius. That’s a myth that has served the art business for centuries. The second point about the Eldagsen AI picture is it’s a cracking portrait. Look closely at the eyes and the hands.
📌 Rishi’s big plan to force schoolchildren to learn maths has been whacked by a maths expert chosen by No10 to pimp the project.
WEDNESDAY 19 An article in The Conversation says Jeremy Corbyn is unlikely to succeed in regaining his Islington North seat if he stands as an independent at the next general election.
📌 Today’s Art Class project was to create a blackout poetry image from Seamus Heaney’s The Underground. I resisted the temptation to create a new poem and simply picked out my favourite words from Heaney’s, blacked out everything else then looked at what shape the words made. At first I had settled on them forming a circle, which fed into the idea of a tunnel. Then Marge said the word pattern resembled a human head, so I went for that.
📌 The requirement to show photo ID at the ballot box is so obviously a crude push to suppress votes that it will probably end in vast numbers of people simply deciding not to bother.
📌 To the Barbican for Loving Highsmith full of great expectations, only to be bored stiff by what must be one of the dreariest documentary biographies ever made.
📌 Qiu Xiaolong’s Inspector Chen stories are full of Shanghai foodie references. In the chapter I’m reading at the moment Chen has just scoffed a meal of sparrow gizzards and duck heads “with the skulls removed, so people could easily reach the tongues, or suck out the brains.”
THURSDAY 20 The Netherlands is looking to expand its euthanasia laws to include children under 12 who have excruciatingly painful and disturbing illnesses that cannot be treated or relieved medically. Belgium already has such a law.
📌 A history group on Facebook posted a picture of a posh suffragette, Lady Florence Norman, on a motor-scooter in 1916.
📌 It wouldn’t be Thursday unless a rampaging bull was spotted and shot dead “near” a school in Cheshire.
📌 As surprising as the day Martin McGinness and Gerry Adams announced they were giving up the armed struggle in favour of plain old politics, Extinction Rebellion has agreed to help with security at this weekend’s London Marathon, a predicted target of environmental protestors.
📌 To Barbican Cinema with Marge for a screen-steam of the National Theatre’s Good, featuring David Tennant and Sharon Small in a play that points to one of the overlooked horrors of the Holocaust, namely the complicity of a vain and easily flattered intelligentsia. Wikipedia’s Plot Overview of the CP Taylor play summarises the story perfectly, with the chilling dispassion that is Wiki’s trademark. I lost count during the performance of the number of different characters Sharon Small switched in and out of with ease. One of them was a mansplaying Nazi officer. Echoes of recent British social and political upheavals bled through the whole play.
FRIDAY 21 One of the big questions to come from the resignation of bullyboy Dominic Raab is why Rishi gave him a job in the first place. Ditto Suella Braverman. Only Rishi knows the answer, but maybe he just wanted to keep his party’s lunatics in the room so he can knock them off one by one. A competent killer is the look he’s going for. It could backfire. Dominic Raab has a black belt in karate.
📌 The chatterati are working overtime on Dominic Raab. On BBC News a reporter called Chloe stood in front of a massive touchscreen and scrolled up and down the incriminating report by Adam Tolley KC, pointing out on which page Dom called a civil servant “utterly useless”. I’m looking forward to some of the funnier sketches that will inevitably appear on this subject over the weekend.
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PLEASE MESSAGE WITH ANY CORRECTIONS, BIG OR SMALL.