Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Tag: London

AN Wilson on the nauseating Eric Hobsbawm

Tuesday, 29 January, 2019

“It was apt that as the most beguiling of communist intellectuals, he was born in 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution.” So wrote AN Wilson as he warmed up to his task in The Times on Sunday. The job at hand was a review of Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History by Richard J Evans.

Who was Hobsbawm? He was a popular British historian and an academic who taught for many years at Birbeck, University of London. “His best book was Captain Swing, a study of mob violence, which he wrote in collaboration with the French intellectual George Rudé in 1969,” says Wilson before turning the screw. “Evans says that ‘most of the detailed research [was] carried out by Rudé.’ The sentence would probably be truer if the word ‘most’ were changed to ‘all'”.

Getting into his stride now, Wilson charges: “His books sold in enormous quantities in translation, especially in South America. Many of the sloppy half-thoughts of the Left, in this country and abroad, owe more than is sometimes realised to a perusal in student days of Hobsbawmn’s eminently readable left-wing hogwash, in which the Americans always come out as the villains of history and the Soviet and Maoist mass murders are glossed over, or even condoned.”

Hobsbawmn, the admirer of monsters, was admired in his day, not least because of the “legendary” dinner parties his wife, Marlene, hosted for the chattering classes in their bourgeois residence in Hampstead in London. However, “If Hobsbawm had meant what he wrote and said, and if a Stalinist revolution in Britain had occurred, then nearly all the guests eating Marlene’s delicious dinners in Nassington Road, would have been sent to the gulag, and Social Democrats such as Evans would probably have been shot.”

AN Wilson’s parting shot is an appeal to readers to “think of the population of Eastern Europe condemned to 50 years of enslavement after 1945; they will remember the millions who died in the gulag, in Ukraine, in China, countless more than were killed by Hitler. For them, the preparedness of a comfortably placed British don to sit in a warm drawing room in north London justifying such horrors can create only feelings of nausea.”

That same feeling of nausea is created by those who justify the actions of socialist thugs such as Maduro in Venezuela and his enablers in Cuba, another thuggery.

Stalin


Biro drawing of David Bowie

Saturday, 8 December, 2018

This Bic biro drawing of David Bowie is by the amazing Mark Powell, formerly of Yorkshire and now of Brick Lane in East London. Why a biro? “I choose a biro because it is the most simple and readily available tool to hand. I want to show how easy it is to have the chance to create. I want it to inspire people to give it a go without feeling the need to spend money on arts and crafts.”

Biro Bowie


Snogging, partying, snoring — and champagne

Tuesday, 2 October, 2018

The illiberal left has given us a glimpse this past fortnight of the kind of Orwellian Dystopia it wants to create on earth. All youthful indiscretions and errors will be punished in their brave new world and woe betide those who indulge in alcohol, for theirs is the path to perdition.

Raucous parties and drunken antics have been part of the wild world of privileged youth for generations and the British variety is brilliantly depicted in the photographs of Dafydd Jones, who was engaged by Tatler in the early 1980s to snap the society weddings, debutante dances and the Hunt Balls of the season. The printed result is The Last Hurrah, which is being promoted with an exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery Print Room in the Soho district of London. The book is an exuberant cocktail mixed with a good dash of humour and the Dafydd Jones photograph here shows Benita Douglas-Robertson with Matt Gomez at the Blizzard Ball in the London Hilton on 3 January 2001.

Dafydd Jones


AI by Mother

Monday, 28 May, 2018

Mother is the UK’s largest independent creative agency and it has offices in London, New York and Buenos Aires. The company’s Shoreditch HQ was designed by Clive Wilkinson Architects and one of the major features is a 76-metre-long concrete desk which can seat all the Mother staff. “AI Therapy” was made by Mother for @TEDTalks.

Bonus: “The AI makes a lot of mistakes at first. But it learns from its mistakes and updates its model every time it incorrectly predicts an action the human will take. Its predictions start getting better and better until it becomes so good at predicting what a human would do that we don’t need the human to do it anymore. The AI can perform the action itself.” Source: McKinsey Quarterly April 2018, The economics of artificial intelligence by AI guru Ajay Agrawal.


London and Macedonia connected by Cognism

Sunday, 29 April, 2018 0 Comments

The London Co-Investment Fund is managed by Funding London and Capital Enterprise. It has raised £25 million from the Mayor of London’s Growing Places Fund to co-invest in so-called “seed rounds” (an offering in which an investor invests capital in exchange for an equity stake in the company) between £250,000 and £1,000,000. A recent beneficiary is the Macedonian AI startup Cognism, which has its development team in Skopje and its sales force in London, while the CTO, Stjepan Buljat, is based in Croatia.

Cognism develops AI tools for finding sales and recruitment leads, and the new funds will be invested in improving the company’s data research, upgrading its technology and expanding the teams in Skopje and London as well as opening an office in the US. By the way, the company says its sales intelligence is also GDPR compliant.

Note: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) proposed by the European Commission will unify data protection for individuals within the European Union and address the export of personal data outside the EU.


Flow sweet river flow

Saturday, 28 April, 2018 0 Comments

In 1966, Ewan MacColl wrote Sweet Thames Flow Softly for an experimental radio production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in contemporary London. When Planxty recorded it in 1973 on their eponymous first album, Christy Moore was the lead singer with the group. He’s joined here by Neill MacColl, son of the composer, and Sinéad O’Connor, in a version of the song from 2001 that’s made all the more poignant by the mental illness that has plagued her over the past years.

From Shadwell Dock to Nine Elms Reach we cheek to cheek were dancing
A necklace made of London Bridge her beauty was enhancing
Kissed her once again at Wapping, flow sweet river flow
After that there was no stopping, sweet Thames flow softly
Richmond Park it was a ring, flow sweet river flow
I’d have given her anything, sweet Thames flow softly


G&T weather

Saturday, 21 April, 2018 0 Comments

It’s going to be warm today. Up around 28C, they say. Ideal for gin & tonic and the shops are filled with the same; now that gin has become the drink du jour. A local outfit is selling both Roku and Sipsmith, the best of Britain and Japan, as it were. In Japanese, roku means “six” and Suntory’s premium gin contains six quintessentially Japanese botanicals: green tea in the form of sencha and gyokuro; cherry, as blossom and leaf and then yuzu citrus and Japanese pepper.

We invested in Sipsmith, which is distilled in London by Sam Galsworthy and Fairfax Hall. They called their distillery Sipsmith because they see themselves as “sip-smiths”, just like writers are regarded as wordsmiths: “I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race,” wrote James Joyce in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Galsworthy and Hall forge Sipsmith and their smithery is a mix of philosophy and artisanal delight made with 10 botanicals: Macedonian juniper berries, Seville orange peel, Spanish lemon peel, Chinese cassia bark, Madagascan cinnamon bark, Bulgarian coriander seed, Spanish ground almond, Belgian angelica, Spanish liquorice and Italian orris.

The result is floral and mellow and splendid. The bold juniper is matched by an invigorating freshness and there’s sweetness and dryness in that mix of lemon and orange. This is gin at its finest. Try it straight, to savour the balance, before adding the tonic, ideally, to complete the London picture, BTW.

Roku and Sipsmith

Cheers! Today is the 92nd birthday of a woman who likes to take gin with lunch.


Liking Taylor Swift

Sunday, 8 April, 2018 0 Comments

Charlie Laurence, the writer of I Like Taylor Swift, sums up so much of today’s Warholian-Instagram fame thus: “In the song I admit I haven’t really listened to much of her music, but I’m inundated with images and stories about her.” Charlie Laurence’s band, Coach Hop, will celebrate the launch of I Like Taylor Swift with a London show at the Hope and Anchor pub in Islington on Friday, 20 April.

“She’s just a girl with a guitar,
and she’s very far away
she dated a Kennedy
and I see her every day, in magazines and websites.
People say it’s kinda fey to like her, but if you say that I’ll fight ya
I don’t care what people say.”

Note: The Kennedy referred to in this verse is Connor, son of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the late Mary Kennedy. Connor Kennedy’s relationship with Taylor Swift began in June 2012 and ended in October that year.


The Magi for the Epiphany

Saturday, 6 January, 2018 1 Comment

Something unexpected took place in Bethlehem and the otherworldly magi, who “appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky”, are doing their best to comprehend the incomprehensible. It’s a long way from Bethlehem to Bloomsbury, but that was where William Butler Yeats was living in 1914 when he wrote The Magi. In a mere eight lines, he follows the journey of the three wise men with “ancient faces” that resemble “rain-beaten stones”, who are forever watching and waiting, “all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more” the thing that will satisfy their search for meaning.

Is Yeats saying that the world has yet to discover the meaning of Christ’s brief time on earth? Is it so that we cannot be fulfilled until “the uncontrollable mystery” is decrypted? Today, the quest for the secret of “the uncontrollable mystery” is increasingly fervent. Anthony Levandowski, for example, is the “Dean” of a brand new Silicon Valley religion called Way of the Future that worships artificial intelligence.

The Magi

Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depths of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

William Butler Yeats

Yeats uses a series of “s”-sounding words — stones, stiff, still, silver, side by side, unsatisfied — to paint a picture of the mysterious Magi, who wear “stiff, painted clothes” and “helms of silver”. His use of alliteration and repetition underpins the characteristics of the “unsatisfied ones”. On this Feast of the Epiphany, let us hope that they, and all of us, find some satisfaction this year.

The Sacred Heart Lamp


Barcelona for the AIR

Saturday, 7 October, 2017 0 Comments

Vincent Laforet is a French-American director and photographer and one of the most influential people working in contemporary photography and film today. His AIR project is a collection of high-altitude aerial photographs taken over 10 of the world’s most iconic cities: Barcelona, Berlin, Chicago, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco and Sydney. This is Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, with its arrays of perfectly honeycomb-like blocks.

Barcelona


Rhymin’ and rappin’ with Big Ben Jonson

Sunday, 6 August, 2017 0 Comments

Ben Jonson The great English playwright, poet and actor, Ben Jonson, died on this day in 1637. He wrote what is considered his first important work, Every Man in His Humour, in 1598 and in a 1616 production one William Shakespeare appeared in a leading role. Shortly after the play opened, Jonson killed Gabriel Spencer in a duel and was tried for murder. He pleaded “benefit of clergy”, which meant he was allowed to face a more lenient court by proving he could read and write Latin. Jonson spent only a few weeks in prison, but shortly after his release he was again arrested for failing to pay an actor — not Shakespeare. Life was turbulent for Ben and all those who knew him.

Were he alive today, Big Ben would be a successful rapper, no doubt. He’d love the bling, the booze and the booty and his rhymes would be golden, and platinum. See, the rhymin’ came easy to Big Ben J, which is why he had mixed feelings ’bout it. Yo!

A Fit of Rhyme against Rhyme

Rhyme, the rack of finest wits,
That expresseth but by fits
True conceit,
Spoiling senses of their treasure,
Cozening judgment with a measure,
But false weight;
Wresting words from their true calling,
Propping verse for fear of falling
To the ground;
Jointing syllabes, drowning letters,
Fast’ning vowels as with fetters
They were bound!
Soon as lazy thou wert known,
All good poetry hence was flown,
And art banish’d.
For a thousand years together
All Parnassus’ green did wither,
And wit vanish’d.
Pegasus did fly away,
At the wells no Muse did stay,
But bewail’d
So to see the fountain dry,
And Apollo’s music die,
All light failed!
Starveling rhymes did fill the stage;
Not a poet in an age
Worth crowning;
Not a work deserving bays,
Not a line deserving praise,
Pallas frowning;
Greek was free from rhyme’s infection,
Happy Greek by this protection
Was not spoiled.
Whilst the Latin, queen of tongues,
Is not yet free from rhyme’s wrongs,
But rests foiled.
Scarce the hill again doth flourish,
Scarce the world a wit doth nourish
To restore
Phoebus to his crown again,
And the Muses to their brain,
As before.
Vulgar languages that want
Words and sweetness, and be scant
Of true measure,
Tyrant rhyme hath so abused,
That they long since have refused
Other cæsure.
He that first invented thee,
May his joints tormented be,
Cramp’d forever.
Still may syllables jar with time,
Still may reason war with rhyme,
Resting never.
May his sense when it would meet
The cold tumour in his feet,
Grow unsounder;
And his title be long fool,
That in rearing such a school
Was the founder.

Ben Johnson (1572 – 1637)