Plums. "during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act"

Iraq Body Count Project Leeds United Against Racism


A girl. A busstop.
Tyrone Shoelaces. Geddit? Oh dear...
Fabulous Janina, darling
Missy Roolz
The seaside boys
Julie: thinks she's Butch. Ha!
Lady of the Flowers Gives Gracious Audience
Karaoke Activist
Rollo Kim Reporting
Cherry's da Bomb
Mr.Disco's bitchin'
Daniel Byron, scion of a proud family
Past the Flyboy's arm
Notopia dreaming
Nelson Evergreen's readers Vikings
The Gorgeous Blonde
Mordant's beautiful when ze's angry
Mark likes big rubber sticks
The thinking blogger's Pin-up
E.Randy Dupre speaks. you listen
Antipopper:For The Unconditional Military Defence of Britney Against Sexist Witch-hunts

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Thin Line - An SS/SB Archive
Bisexual Underground
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The Statesman
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Kick It Out
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You wanna piece of me?
bitch the bitch

Thursday, June 17, 2004
fluttering around my blogslist, I catch up with kick's world:

but i am busy, i have a lot to do (little implicitly connected with actually scoring an actual job)

Thankyou dearly Kick, I think I've found a subtitle for my blog.

Chilling on the beach yesterday, friend pointed out that I always seem to have alot more going than most people we know.... Even the non-mong ones.

Jobs, though? Naaaa.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
I Feel Love

Lo-o-o-o-o-o-ve, Lo-o-o-o-o-o-ve, Lo-o-o-o-o-o-ve

With crystal wine glasses, Wedgwood fine bone china on a backdrop of Gordon Tartan and crisp white linen this really is the elite in picnic baskets. All superbly presented in a trunk style basket.

Established in 1759 Wedgwood have been at the forefront of high quality bone china crockery. Lovers of this design classic will therefore be delighted with this picnic basket as it combines the highest quality willow and the delightful crockery.

Manufactured from Willow of the highest quality which comes from sustainable, farmed sources. The willow has been treated, varnished and hand woven. The leather straps have 'lifetime' hinges.

The Wedgewood Picnic Basket and I would like to invite you to a commitment ceremony. Bring champagne, we'll provide glasses.
Been talking sport over at Barbelith:

And for something a little less anecdotal/self-indulgent, I want to toss in the issue of sport as locus of political/cultural power.

Topical, as today Nelson Mandela announced that he's stepping down from public life.

Which makes me think that as an avowed football nut, he stuck around long enough to secure the World Cup for South Africa. For personal and statehood reasons, this is a major triumph, validation of post-Apartheid South Africa.

Sport has been used as an demonstration of nationhood and power throughout history. Haus, presumably you can give us some classical antecedents/egs? And this allows for subversive uses, and for the use of sport as a method of political influence when others may fail...

As a 20th Century kid, I'll put up a few examples of my own:

Jesse Owens' four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. (Pretty much literally ) In the face of Nazi white supremacy, a black athlete demonstrates the ridiculousness of the creed. Not so incidentally:

With one jump remaining, Luz Long, a tall, blue-eyed, blond German long jumper who was his stiffest competition, introduced himself. He suggested that Owens make a mark several inches before the takeoff board and jump from there to play it safe. Owens took the advice, and qualified.

Owens later commented:

It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler," Owens said. "You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace. The sad part of the story is I never saw Long again. He was killed in World War II."

Owens did, however maintain a correspondance with Long's family.

Sport doesn't only feed nationalism, it can cross/dissolve it also.

Sax: as you probably expect, I'd argue that there is no such thing as 'harmless nationalism' especially if you're talking references to Nazi Germany. Surely you're only arguing for broadsheet-toned xenophobia.

Also, the sporting ban against Apartheid South Africa, which by many accounts was a major factor in putting pressure on the South African regime. In a sports-mad country, national pride/identity was seriously damaged by inability to compete and demonstrate South Africa's status on the world stage.

Also, in a country where the powerful white minority were often pretty much apolitcal, hitting sport was an extremely effective way of making South Africa's ostracism touch the greater populace.

See also the mess in Zimbabwe.

It has also provided ways for subversive voices to be heard/reach mass audiences, eg John Carlos and Tommie Smith making the Black Power salute at the Mexico '68, an image that was viewed around the world.

Smith said at the time, "I couldn't salute the flag in the accepted manner because it didn't represent me fully; only asking me to be great on the track and then obliging me to come home and be just another n-----."

This wasn't an isolated/spur-of-the-moment gesture, but part of a planned resistance:

OPHR, and its lead organizer Dr. Harry Edwards, was very influenced by the Black Freedom struggle. It's goal was to expose how the US used black athletes to project a lie both at home and internationally.
In their founding statement they wrote,

Carlos and Smith were stripped of their medals by Avery Brundage, the head of the USOC, who had, oddly enough, brokered the deal for the 1936 Berlin Olympics.


The Olympic Crew Team, all white and entirely from Harvard, issued a statement:
"We -as individuals- have been concerned about the place of the black man in American society in their struggle for equal rights. As members of the US Olympic team, each of us has come to feel a moral commitment to support our black teammates in their efforts to dramatize the injustices and inequities which permeate out society."

Sport often reaches mass audiences/places that 'straight' political action/process doesn't. It has the potential to cross vast divides.
Don't call me, I'll call you

Nelson Mandela, today announcing his retirement from public life, forty years to the day he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Some words of wisdom:

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

This, from a speech made in the 60's:

I shall fight the government side by side with you, inch by inch, and mile by mile, until victory is won. What are you going to do? Will you come along with us, or are you going to co-operate with the government in its efforts to suppress the claims and aspirations of your own people? Or are you going to remain silent and neutral in a matter of life and death to my people, to our people? For my own part I have made my choice. I will not leave South Africa, nor will I surrender. Only through hardship, sacrifice and militant action can freedom be won. The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.

Monday, June 07, 2004
Searching for something else brings me this excellent article by Sukhdev Sandhu on Hanif Kureishi's work.

Captures much of why his resonates so much for me, as for the author, whose upbringing sounds pretty different to mine(middle-class and affluent, for a start. And my dad would NEVER have beaten us. Ever.), while covering some of the same ground:

My father's fall from grace was one that many immigrants suffer when they arrive in a new country. His shrunken status compared unfavourably with the respect enjoyed back home by his father, who had served as a police officer for the British in Hong Kong during World War Two. In 1945 my grandfather returned to the small feeder village in the north-west district of Punjab where, tall and stentorian, he owned much land and was deferred to by the local community. Even village hoolies bantering and mischiefing on dusty track roads used to stand to attention as he marched past them on his way to catch the bus to the nearest town, at whose savings bank he deposited the profits he made from his tenants' wheat and cotton crops. Nobody ever genuflected to my father. Kids in the park used to flick rubber bands at him as he stood guarding me from falling off the swinging tyre. Bored punks made monkey noises as he lugged home sacks of chapatti flour from the local continental foodstore.

I've never really asked my dad about his experiences of racism in London in the 60s but I suspect this would be very familar to him, coming from a well-to-do, middle class Bengali family with roots and connections all over Kolkata.

These connections really struck me when returning there earlier this year, a family friend organised tickets to a 'sold out' football match, another arranged emergency medical care for my uncle. It astonished me, and reminded me that my parents had had very few friends that I can remember. A few Bengali families, our next-door-neighbours, but no community/place.

I wonder if he regrets leaving all those roots, or whether he found them suffocating?

I myself was a typical stroppy teenager who liked to retreat to my own room to write florid homosexual poetry and listen to jangling indie miserabilisms on a tiny transistor - 'bah bah' music, he called it. Even so I longed to have something in common with him other than our big noses.

Can symapthise acutely with this. Can remember feeling that we were different creatures, but along with the typical teenage rebellion, was a desperate desire to get on with my parents. Perhaps this matters more when you grow up aware that not many people around you share huge parts of you. Even though they may be annoying, your parents might be the only other brown people you know, the only people who eat rice and dahl for dinner......

On My Beautiful Laundrette:

The film celebrated precisely those things - irony, youth, family instability, sexual desire - that he most feared. It taught him, though it would take years for the lesson to sink in fully, that he could not control the future. And control - over their wives, their children, their finances - was what Asian immigrants like him coveted.

Yes. I've watched my dad struggle to come to terms with the unpredictability of life. With the fact that having traded a perhaps frustrating/closed life in India for a freer one her, one also traded in a huge amount of stability: control, status, connections, identity all fly out the window....

Homes were important to Asian parents not just as cost-cutting warehouses but as places for indoctrination [...] at least they knew that on returning home they were entering a controlled, less complicated zone where they could impress on their children their religious, matrimonial and educational values. They assured them that English women were floozies who liked to lie across car bonnets and get pregnant, that English men were smooth-tongued predators eager to fleece them of their savings. [...] It wasn't just yashmaked Muslim girls who were being veiled from society. All Asian kids had to be on their guard. They were in England - and needed to do well there - but, at the same time, they should never think of themselves as British.

My parents were a good deal more assimilationist than this, I called my English neighbours Auntie Sue and Uncle Dave and alot of my friends were white and welcomed. My parents wanted me to think of myself as British and Bengali.

But there was a much subtler version of this process going on. One whereby I was simultaneously well-informed about sex - through friends who were 'doing it' from a young age - and incredbily naive - none of what they were talking about applied to me, as I was Different.

The 'be on guard' message was definitely there, and remains with me, to an extent.

The way that Asian mothers dressed. They would go out draped in beautiful, riotously coloured fabrics, sequinned and beaded, hairbuns scrupulously in place, kohl applied to their eyes, lovely chuplia on their feet, their cracked nails layered with vivid polish. Yet these colours were muffled by the dull grey overcoats they always wore and which made them look dowdy, rather absurd. At first I thought the reason Asian women wore them was because they weren't used to needing warm coats. But it was more than that. They didn't bother to co-ordinate colours because they didn't care about their cheap coats, which they felt belonged to the white world. Indians could wear them without really wearing them. What they were to be judged on was their Indian clothes.

This is such a vivid description, I can't better this. It makes my mum live again for a second, taking me to the shops in all her finery.

Kureishi's work - particularly the Frears films My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1988) and his first novel The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), but also plays such as Outskirts and Borderline (both 1981) - not only captured these anxieties, but offered for the first time a recognisable portrait of British Asian life. Previously we had made do with sitcoms such as It Ain't Half Hot Mum and Mind Your Language, in which Asians wore comical headwear and were the butts rather than the tellers of jokes. The BBC broadcast the odd native-language series which, well-intentioned but sombre, featured wailing classical musicians from the Subcontinent or vinegary crones knitting baby clothes in front of the camera. Mainstream news and current affairs coverage was in those days negligible apart from the occasional exposé of the barbarism of arranged marriages or footage of disputes involving Leicester textile workers.

Again, nothing to add.

Kureishi's Asians were more varied. They included pushers, tyrannical ex-foreign ministers, bogus mystics, brutalising landlords, togged-up likely lads, sex-hungry cripples. They duped and slagged off one another. They argued constantly. They also exploited or augmented their ethnicity at will.

I can distincly remember my first reading of The Buddha of Suburbia. I'd've been about 13, my life completely inexplicable and utterly painful, and suddenly there was this book about *people like me*. And with that came the revelation that I'd never encountered 'people like me' in this way before.....

revelatory is the moment in The Buddha of Suburbia when Karim, the novel's Bromley-born hero, attends the funeral of a family friend: 'I did feel, looking at these strange creatures now - the Indians - that in some way these were my people, and that I'd spent my life denying or avoiding that fact. I felt ashamed and incomplete at the same time, as if half of me were missing, and as if I'd been colluding with my enemies.' Karim decides that 'if I wanted the additional personality bonus of an Indian past, I would have to create it.' The key word here is 'create'. A sense of culture is no longer a curse, no longer a birthmark that you carry with you all your life. Rather, it may be fashioned from nothing: it's a 'personality bonus' - words straight out of an Argos catalogue. And if Indianness is addable, it's also subtractable. Karim, an aspiring actor, is keen to exploit this insight. Since childhood he's been a fan of another chameleon and shape-shifter, David Bowie, who was raised, like the author, in Bromley.

This is amazing to me, this is so much of what I loved and still love about early Kureishi, the way he could reflect the pros and cons of having a cultural mix: the agonies and struggles, but also the freedoms and joys. (I support India at cricket and England at football. Sorry Norman. One of my football teams has just won the league for the second season running, the other has been relegated and is buggered. Go figure....)

nobody aspired to be like us. Our demeanour was too courteous, our hairstyles rank, our dialects too foreign for anyone to want or be able to filch our slangy in-terms.[/b]

Hell yeah. Though I can remember wanting to be white, with blonde hair, when I was at primary school. Basically, I wanted to be 'pretty' and never could be. Now of course, 'pretty' is the last thing I want. *g*

[b]In these respects we were very different from young blacks, whose cultural capital we envied with a passion that contrasted with the caste-driven snobbishness of our parents, who condemned them as ganja-smoking layabouts. What we wouldn't have given to have sporting heroes such as the Three Degrees: West Bromwich Albion's Cyrille Regis, Brendan Batson and Laurie Cunningham. Vicariously we clutched our hairbrushes and mimed along in our bedrooms to joyful reggae anthems such as 'Uptown Top Ranking' and 'Young, Gifted and Black'. But we failed to forge musical alliances along the lines of the alliance between rudeboy ska and skinhead stomp at the end of the 1960s, or 1976's reggae-punk axis. These marriages encompassing fashion, music, sex and shared attitude helped shape today's multiracial, urban culture which, thanks to such media-hyped epiphenomena as 'bhangramuffin' and 'the future sound of India', Asians are only belatedly entering.

He's obviously a little older than me, but change those to Ian Wright and co, or NWA/Public Enemy, and I'm right there....

Kureishi cherishes London's ability to disrupt and upheave. Its chief glory is that it isn't home.

Amen to that. Though being a slightly different fish to Kureishi, the middle-class second gen hippy child, I'd pick Brighton.... But in many ways, I love it because it's a long way from home....

Blood ties mattered less than collective goodwill and mutual commitment. To some extent these degentrifications were lifestyle choices, the traditional messiness that is the luxury of well-connected dropouts and would-be bohos. Still, by depicting - with sympathy and approval - crumbling households, unorthodox communities and designs for living that were contingent and slung together, Kureishi offered a vision of domesticity hateful to both Thatcherite and traditional Asian notions of propriety.

His second-generation protagonists regarded home as an 'octopus', something that squeezed their brains into 'a tight ball', and which they feared would swallow them up 'like a little kebab'. Home had to be fled, quickly. It was their love of speed, the sense that their lives didn't have to be provincial and piecemeal that aerated Kureishi's Asian readers.

God yes. I've done most of my escaping these days, but imagine the effect of these characters on an unstable, throttled, grieving teenager, hiding upstairs in the bedroom of her dad's suburban semi, listening to the Manics and Bikini Kill, and being periodically told off for playing my music too loud.

A huge essay, but this provided so many jumping-off points, I wanted to get them down. The article goes on to effectively critique the sourness that enters Kureishi's later work, and to recommend instead the vision of writers such as Ayub Khan Dun and Meera Syal...

Perhaps one of these days I'll get round to showing this to my dad and asking his opinion....

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