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Age of Anger — HONG KONG REVIEW OF BOOKS 香港書評

21 Sep

Sean Mahoney discusses radicalism, populism and the contemporary political moment.

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The Brexit Club — HONG KONG REVIEW OF BOOKS 香港書評

17 Jan

Sean Mahoney on the Farage appeal, the Brexit chaos and the cirumlocution offices of the modern age. Owen Bennet, The Brexit Club: The Inside Story of the Leave Campaign’s Shock Victory (Biteback Publishing,2016) 352pp. Future generations will have the benefit of knowing how Brexit pans out. For those living through what may be one of Britain’s major […]

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And The Monkey Learned Nothing — HONG KONG REVIEW OF BOOKS 香港書評

21 Dec

Sean Mahoney on Tom Lutz’s epic travel micronarrative compendium, Jimmy Cliff, and whether monkeys are manipulative arseholes as well as highly intelligent performers. Tom Lutz, And The Monkey Learned Nothing : Dispatches From A Life In Transit (University of Iowa Press, 2016) 240pp. Sometimes it seems the world is getting smaller, closer and more interconnected. I can […]

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Zac Versus Sadiq — HONG KONG REVIEW OF BOOKS

18 Aug

Sean Mahoney reviews Dave Hill’s analysis of the London Mayoral elections and discusses how it looks now through the prism of post-Brexit. Dave Hill, Zac Versus Sadiq: The fight to become London Mayor (Double Q, 2016) 270pp There was a moment in the recent London Mayoral election at which both the main candidates were attending a […]

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Eight Juxtapositions

16 Jul

HONG KONG REVIEW OF BOOKS 香港書評

Sean Mahoney reviews China expert Jeffrey Wasserstrom’s latest collection of essays juxtaposing Chinese history and culture with some Western counterparts. Wasserstrom’s book is revealed to be a potentially crucial one for international relations.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Eight Juxtapositions: China Through Imperfect Analogies from Mark Twain to Manchukuo (Penguin, 2016) 94pp.

In 2008 a China–New Zealand Joint Venture called Sanlu was found to have been distributing contaminated infant formula milk. A large number of children developed kidney stones and, tragically, six children died. Milk powder producers went into damage limitation mode. Three of the directors of the joint venture company were swiftly sentenced to death. The New Zealand Prime Minister refused to interfere to avoid creating any disturbance. Paranoid at the risk to New Zealand’s Milk exports, he saw the executions as an internal matter for the Chinese. However, at the same time he was making threatening statements to the tiny Pacific…

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Do you know Hanif Kureshi ?

31 May

“he asked me if I knew the novelist and screenwriter Hanif Kureshi. I was slightly surprised but replied that I knew who he was but did not think I had ever met him. Neil seemed to accept this and then explained that it had been reported that a Shadow Cabinet member had been heard to opine that Neil was ‘no good on television”.Inquiries had been made,the report had been traced to Hanif Kureshi, and he had in turn apparently said that he heard the comment from me. This was a ridiculous assertion,…”

So does Bryan Gould sum up a conversation between himself and Neil Kinnock which probably summarises everything that was wrong with Labour in the 80s/90s. Kureshi a playwright and author of some distinction becomes the symbol of Labour Lovies , whether he was or not, Pinnock constantly sniping,constantly paranoid and constantly moaning and Gould constantly believing himself to be right.

In some ways that Gould even wrote an autobiography is vainglorious, he was the defeated leadership candidate for the Labour Party. Although his comments on the Labour party campaign machine in the 87 and 92 election are interesting he was clearly getting his retaliation in first. And to some extent his bubble is pricked by Mandelson being very complementary about him in his own book.

Gould it appeared was always right, and always alone in thinking so. He’s not alone in that, but self reflection doesn’t come across at all.

You might wonder why I am noting a book written 20 years ago, well I bought it recently for a $1, a fair exchange I reckon and just read it. Well worth a dollar.

Cult Cricketers – CB Fry

5 Apr

 

What can you possibly not say about Fry. I don’t know if he is related to the chocolate Quakers? Stephen says they are related but that may be a joke.

In an era where sportsmen seem devoid of character, where they create their own media lives, possibly commentate or coach, Fry was something else. Herculean perhaps, Olympian certainly.
He wrote a novel, published a magazine, played in the FA cup final , captained the national cricket side, played football for England, scored a blistering 144 against Australia. He held the world long jump record for 21 years, held a first class classics degree, ran in three UK elections, met Hitler, stood in for India at the league of nations, ran a youth training ship and considered becoming the King of Albania. In short he was busy. Shane Warne he was not.

As a cricketer he scored over 30,000 runs for Oxford Uni,England, Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey. He averaged over 50 with the bat. Not bad for a player who said he only had one stroke…but that it went to 10 different places. Fry developed a more conservative batting style, one that didn’t involve going forward to everything. In 1901 he hit 6 centuries in consecutive innings over a fortnight, a record he shares with Bradman. Fry could also bowl and took a hat-trick at Lords… twice.

His life story seems almost cartoonish, yet is often overlooked. He put down his cigar to take his world record long jump. Unwittingly he ended WG Graces test career. Sadly he suffered from a variety of mental health issues all of which were probably overlooked in the times he lived. In 1923 he came within a whisker of being elected MP for Banbury. There have been few more accomplished sportsmen and few with such well-rounded lives. he got everywhere and should be seen as more than a novelty. Often noted as an amateur it is his love of what he did that has been remembered.

UKIP a racist string of sausages..or the milosevic-isation of debate.

16 Oct

Its hard to imagine what the rise and role of UKIP would have been like in the world before the  internet. Certainly it makes it much easier to make fun at them. There’s currently a picture going around showing the current MP for Clacton next to the former MP for Clacton and remarking on the new politics. Da Da of course its the same man , the man who stood for the same discredited political party he now says is discredited, presumably by people like him, voted for by the same people.. You can see the problem.

Of course the internet is awash with cleverclogs and pedants who point out this wasn’t really a win for UKIP as the previous MP had joined UKIP and is the same person. Again this can go on a bit..suffice to say UKIP have yet to win an ” open ” contest and even the SDP managed to win 2 of them in the glory days. ( yes I am joking ..not about the number but the glory days). The last party to threaten the current party duopoly were the SDP and they had to make do with newspapers and television. Unless you discount the SNP, who seriously threatened the status quo.

1 or 2 wins who cares. They are not the real issue..are they ? UKIP exist in a bubble , the same bubble Beppe Grillos 5sm exist in. A plague on all your houses , we aren’t the establishment vote for us …but not too much and we can carp but not do anything. Not that I am advocating for the status quo..oh no. But there is a way to stand for change and something new that doesn’t have to be based on the Milosevic-isation of political debate. Your wrong ,you talk funny, your different , we are all living in fear , its all someone elses fault , things used to be great. For Milosevic his enemies were sometimes before the EEC but Farage is aiming there as well. Sick people seem to be the latest target , sick people should go back to sick land. In short they are the party of Jimmy from Reggie Perrin. With his constant fear of traitors and play for today. Or the man in Raymond Briggs book of the same name worried about the DSS and busy bodies.

Who Cares ? Well the Internet does. It cares that UKIP might get 128 seats or maybe 8. It may hold the balance of power or be a sideshow. The confusion rests in which theory you follow . Theory A advocates that they take seats and MPs off Conservatives and threaten to take a few in the general election. Theory B advocates they take white working class left behind voters , ripe for disgruntlement from Labour ( without ever explaining that Labour have never had a great hold over these voters anyway …they were Thatcher’s working class praetorian guard in the 80s..) . Again does it matter …well yes. because its not the number of  MPs they get that is at stake but the impact on seats , the bulk of votes they take off a candidate that lets another in could be crucial. For Conservatives its going to be vote UKIP get Milliband and for Labour we are the only alternative.

The sad thing is UKIP are not in any way constructive or able to rise above punch and judy. They are just the racist string of sausages being pulled at each end!

Seeds

6 Oct

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I cant tell you how happy I was to see this..we have had a reasonably poor success rate with seeds so to see a number of them starting to come up is hopefully a positive. Like Montaigne who wanted death to find him planting his cabbages , I would quite like life to find me growing seeds ! I have to confess I am more excited about this minor success than the children..who seem to take it all as a matter of course. Perhaps. But I have seen failure ! The above are Kale and hopefully will give a bumper crop…and if they don’t …they don’t. I can accept the risk!

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Poor picture but these are rocket…yeah !

Ooh Ahh Jackie Straw

17 Jul

There was a sketch on the Saturday Night Armistice about the Jack Straw fan club. I used to find this hilarious. Of all people why would anyone be a fan of Jack Straw. And yet theres a sincere earnestness to him that seemed right to rib, You were embarrassed and horrified at the same time as entertained. Why shouldnt he have a fan club ?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIVtS1CTzjw….it starts at about 16.45 if your interested.

I found myself amongst the memoirs. I have avoided many of the Blair era big ones. One day one will be the one to read, or maybe you need to cut and paste them all together ( a job for Dominic Sandbrooke perhaps ?).
Yet Jack Straws appealled. It appealled because it was always clear he had a love for being a politician that shone through, above any ideology, because his son dealt drugs and because he was Foreign Secretary during the Iraq war. The biggest Foreign policy issue for years. What would he say , well…

Before that , his early life is dealt with in an open and engaging way. He is aware of his breaks, he downplays his role in the Norman Scott file issue, but then he would. As a politician he is remarkably Conservative ( not surprisingly so ) a Labour John Major if a pair was needed.
He waxes large on Education in a way traditional COnservatives would have loved him to be their man. No 60’s nonesense about being pupil centric.In Government he writes about calamity jack in a gracious way , given that none of us remember any of the issues he feels so bad about.

His sense of irony and humour go beyond satire.” I will tell you why I supported the war abd how I could have stopped it but didnt”. At this point you move closer to the page. Then he just goes all Judith Chalmers on us, tells us about all the flights and answers neither of the issues he said he would.
He seems to be the only Cabinet Minister who didnt really have a view or experience of the whole Blair/Brown thing. He thought Brown would be ok , but could have done better, he wore tights and lasted longer than anyone else.

A strange memoire , readable, likeable but I have no idea what he thinks.