Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Today's feminist quotation...

... comes from the 16c Venetian courtesan and poet Veronica Franco. I have also placed this on the Quotable page of my web site.

"When we too are armed and trained, we can convince men that we have hands, feet, and a heart like yours; and although we may be delicate and soft, some men who are delicate are also strong; and others, coarse and harsh, are cowards.  Women have not yet realized this, for if they should decide to do so, they would be able to fight you until death; and to prove that I speak the truth, amongst so many women, I will be the first to act, setting an example for them to follow."

This is thought to be a portrait of VF by Tintoretto

Joe Morello

Jazz drummer (do I actually have to say that?) and one of my musical heroes, Joe Morello, died recently. I adored his solo on the long version of Dave Brubek's Take Five. It sounds like someone moving furniture around but it's still enthralling and stunningly musical.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Diary of a glass-half-empty person 25

“I’m giving up my religion,” I said to Consuela (my Tejana maid) yesterday, as I relaxed on my chaise longue. Consuela stopped dusting the ornaments in our teepee, her feather duster poised above a thirteenth-century Chinese bronze. She raised what we in Scotland call an ‘eebroo’ and looked at me. There was silence, except for the flap-flapping of the door-flap in the morning breeze.

Consuela herself is a devotee of the Romish faith, which she takes to some extremes, I can tell you. By her hammock is a small, home-made, Marian shrine; a ten-inch statuette in blue and white china, flanked by holders for votive candles and decked in rosaries and crucifixes-on-chains, has fresh wildflowers placed by it each morning during the flowering season. The shrine is flanked by pictures of the Sagrado Corazon and Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. I have swallowed my own philosophical objections to idolatry because Consuela comes as a package. I have my concerns about the votive candles, however. Fire hazard, y’know. I managed to speak of this concern to Consuela when I first took her into my employ and, grudgingly, she agreed to keep an extinguisher next to her hammock. I allowed her to paint it (except for the oblong plate with the technical instructions) with a representation of San Miguel Arcangel.

Anyhow, there we were yesterday morning, looking at each other.

“Not my faith,” I said. “Nor my belief, nor my prayers. Just my religion. To devote time to the outward form of religion when so much remains to be done in the betterment of humankind seems wrong to me.”

Consuela resumed her dusting. Half under her breath she muttered something about a “damned lady-of-leisure”, but I ignored the remark. As I said, Consuela comes as a package, and part of that package is an almost Jesuitical devotion to work. Laborare est Orare might well be her personal motto.

I have to admit that yesterday morning might well have been my last day of true leisure in a long time. Terrible news came, in the form of a telephone call from my Solicitors (Hunt, Lunt, and Cunningham) to the effect that our ‘lurker’ had walked! Apparently due to the expiration of the writ Usque ad Nauseam formerly lodged at the Office of the Scrabster Fiscal, the lurker’s advocate had appealed ex vallo for a stay of process. To everyone’s surprise, the Judge Depute of the Court Ancient and Risible then ruled in favour of a cessation of missives, stating that the precedent of transport-in-chief had been violated on three counts. The panel of procurators had no option but to concur; their abandonment sine die is tantamount to dropping the whole case. This man – if I can call him that – who blighted our lives for so long has escaped scot free. Unbelievable! “Is there no justice in the fair land of Alba?” I asked the clerk who had telephoned me.

It was to get worse. Consuela later told me that his bevy of ‘friends’ on Facebook had doubled, his blog had gone viral, and the number of twits following his tweets on Twitter had increased exponentially. The world has gone raving mad.

“Jings! Crivvens! Help ma Boab!” I said. Not necessarily in that order.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Quote of the day...

... from an Arab contributor to a discussion thread at The Guardian web site:

"If democracy means coming out to cast votes once every 4-5 years to choose one of few devils as is the case in the west, this is not worth sacrifice."

No further comment necessary from me.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

I don't usually duplicate stuff here from my literary blog, but I shall do so on this occasion:

New international sonnet anthology, 2012
Our official poetry site,
Richard Vallance, publisher, Aux Éditions Describe Adonis Press. Ottawa, Canada, invites all interested parties to submit up to 10 sonnets to:
The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes: Anthology of sonnets of the early third millennium = Le Phénix renaissant de ses cendres : Anthologie de sonnets au début du troisième millénaire. © 2012 ISBN 978-0-9868289-0-4 (projected approx. 225-250 pp.) Perfect bound; colour cover; illustrated.
Please visit the site for guidelines
Deadline: July 1 2012

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Libya and such

This isn't 1936. North Africa isn't Spain.

Libya lies between Egypt and Tunisia, two countries in which radical 'people power' has brought about the removal of oligarchies. In Libya the same motion is on the cusp of plunging the country into civil war. That isn't a pleasant thought, but on the other hand I always fall back on the words of Thomas Jefferson: "We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a feather-bed." No one can expect that, for whenever people rise up, the powerful react.

Our governments, once staunch supporters of the various dictators (in the interest of 'stability' in a particular region) now murmur that they must go, that there must be a 'peaceful transition', and vacillate between sanctions, no-fly-zones, intervention, non-intervention. Meanwhile there must be ordinary people like me who wonder what we actually can do, how we can support these popular uprisings. Are they our business? After all, we are ordinary people, much like the protesters and dissidents. Would we be interfering? After all, the protesters know their own conditions first hand and must seek their own appropriate solutions; we cannot liberate them, they have to want to liberate themselves. Would the oligarchs point to us and say we were proof of the interference of foreign, colonial, imperialist powers? After all, they'd say anything!

But sometimes I do wish that there was some way that the grassroots radical folk of the world could lend their weight swiftly and effectively to these struggles for democracy. There's a young woman inside this old woman who would gladly man a barricade for an anarchist militia and fight against oppression. The young woman inside this old woman feels that it's her fight, no matter where in the world it happens, feels that any struggle to build democracy from the ground is her struggle too.

Ah well. Like I said, this isn't 1936.

But talking of 1936, I was listening to a radio documentary (BBC Radio 4, naturally) the other day. It was about the young men and women who went off to join the (communist-organised) International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. As you know, I have my opinions about the way Stalin manipulated the situation in Catalonia, and how the anarchist and socialist militias were stabbed in the back; nevertheless I applaud those young men and women, now old and very few in number, who volunteered and endured. One thing that I did not know was that the Government of the United Kingdom passed a law making it illegal for a UK citizen to join the International Brigades and go to fight in Spain. Damn 'em. Volunteers had to sneak out of the country with an overnight bag, pretending to be having a short holiday in Paris, or some such.

Here in the UK this week there has just been a bye-election in Barnsley, Yorkshire. There were two notable things about it. Firstly the candidate for the 'Liberal Democrat Party' (traditionally the third party in the UK) polled so few votes that he (she? I have no idea) fell behind candidates for the right wing UKIP and BNP parties and an independent candidate, forfeiting his/her deposit. Most commentators see this as an early verdict on that party's being in coalition with the Tories. Secondly, 65% of the electorate didn't turn out to vote. The young anarchist woman inside this old woman secretly dreams that this means that a majority of people are now heartily sick of the system and want to rebuild democracy from the ground up. This cynical old woman thinks apathy is more likely.

Here's another snippet: Those right wing gristleheads the 'English Defence League' are considering becoming a political party. Another: There was a poll recently which indicated that more people than ever regard immigration as a problem in the UK. Another: Those astroturfing stooges the Tea Partyites are attempting to block and overturn anything in the US that smacks of protecting the environment. Damn 'em.

Okay, if you guys want to declare war on me, bring it on! I'm old, but I'm not that old.