Wednesday, 30 November 2011

I Hate Christmas – My Lovely Rudolph

“Just the one,” said the elf, “what harm can it do?”

Santa lay in a crumpled heap on the barn floor. He'd been sobbing.

The elf poured a little bit of something from the bottle he was holding into a glass and held it out. “Need to get started soon. Lots of kids waiting for you. Tonight's the night. The big one. Horrible little sprogs I think. But never mind.”

Outside the barn Santa's sledge was piled high, reindeer harnessed, all that was needed was the solitary designated driver – Santa.

“So this Rudolph turned you down, said 'he's not that kind of reindeer,' said 'lets just be friends,' said 'strictly no snogging, mistletoe or no mistletoe.' There are plenty of other reindeer in the… well, it can't be 'sea'. Agh yes… There are plenty of other reindeer in the wood.”

Santa blew his nose and the sledge and barn rattled. There was no Rudolph on the sledge.

“I know all about the Alcoholics Anonymous stuff; too much sherry. Not supposed to touch this but the state you're in, just something for the journey, to keep you going, what harm can it do? Need to get started soon, sun's going down.”

Santa started to cry.

“You just have to get over him; red nose or no red nose. He's not worth it… don't blubber I didn't mean it like that. Sorry. Just one little swig to get you through.” The elf held out the glass again.

Santa grabbed the bottle.

“Steady on there,” said the elf.

* * *

Blearily Santa woke up Boxing Day morning in a solidifying pool of his own vomit.

I Hate Christmas – Christmas Kisses

Santa spun round, Mrs Claus had entered the bedroom and caught him admiring himself in the mirror; just as he was grooming his beard.

“Been shopping,” she said. “You look gorgeous, new suit.”

Trust her to notice; she would notice. This was the most expensive Santa suit in the shop and made from the plushest deep red velvet, all hand stitched and embroidered inside with gold, and trimmed extravagantly with the most exotic white mink.

“Looks nice.” Mrs Claus sat on the edge of the bed and admired him. “Got everything you want?” She crossed her legs provocatively.

“Not yet,” Santa said, daydreaming of Rudolph and the sprig of mistletoe above the barn door.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

I Hate Christmas – Santa the Criminal

Santa Claus was getting fed up with this Christmas thing; really it was getting to be a bit of a bind. Do one good turn one year and everyone expects you to be shelling out forever. This year it was going to be different; Santa had taken a look at how bankers and those at the top of financial institutions behaved; he was as good as they; so he decided to operate in the same way.

The first house on Santa's itinerary this Christmas eve was that of Thomas and his parents. Santa had a look around; a TV set, that would be nice; a freezer, a bit heavy but he'd have it anyway; jewellery, just rubbish not even worth taking. As he loaded up his sledge Santa spotted a few other items worth taking: a laptop, some ornaments – the latter weren't worth much but they looked pretty. But the games console was old; even the elves wouldn't want that.

Just about to head back up the chimney when Santa realised he'd almost forgotten something. Santa reached into his bag and pulled out a box; he placed the box in the fireplace; unwrapped; a small model car; 50p from the local supermarket; fair's fair thought Santa.

And so it went on throughout Christmas night. TVs, computers, freezers, several bundles of cash, bank books and credit cards. At each house he left a small toy; the most expensive of which must have cost all of 70p. As the night wore on Santa became even more picky; he only took TV sets greater than 42 inches; jewellery had to be gold or have precious stones.

Poor Rudolph was exhausted; weighed down by all this extra weight. At the last house Rudolph kicked out at Santa; only missing his prime real estate by inches; Rudolph would get him next time.

Early Christmas morning Santa headed back to Lapland with his sledge piled high. Most of the stuff he'd nicked he could never used; but he'd enough to nip round the pubs offering cut price deals for hard cash; that would keep him occupied for the rest of the year.

Santa liked this new free market Santa.

I Hate Christmas – Santa the Terrorist

Inspector Haswell was perplexed. This year they had been extra vigilant with security; what with strikes, the occupy protesters, and just the general hatred that was around. The inspector wondered from room to room through the smoking embers. How had they gotten in? Why was there nothing on the CCTV? Why had no one seen anything right here in the centre of London and right in front of the world's press and TV crews?

There was a general commotion in the cabinet room. Inspector Haswell stood by the fireplace and watched. Forensics were swabbing and bagging anything that looked remotely like evidence. MI5 and MI6 were rushing around and acting like the useless idiots they were. Round the cabinet table were the charred bodies of the government still surprised by the explosion that had ripped them apart. How had anyone been able to plant a bomb right in the centre of 10 Downing Street and only a few days before Christmas?

He heard the cheer go out as the still smoking body of Nick Clegg was taken outside. Then the Inspector noticed something odd. He bent down; reindeer droppings; what! reindeer droppings; how can you explain reindeer droppings? They must have fallen down the chimney. No it could not be, surely not; not Santa Claus and a Christmas present to the nation. How could he put that in a press release and not be laughed at?

* * *

Far away in a lonely retreat the archbishop had just finished his prayers. In the kitchens everything was being prepared for his nights entertainment: the slap up dinner, only the six courses, after all he was on a diet; the scantily clad dancing girls; the silver platter piled high with cocaine; the boys for his night time amusement. Just time for a few tumblers of sherry and a doze in front of the telly. When there it was on the early evening news: explosion in Downing Street and all the cabinet killed. He watched the crocodile tears of the politicians and pundits and the tears of joy from everyone else. Then a malicious thought slipped into his mind: he stood up shocked; maybe there really was a god; he'd never acted as if there was one before; maybe his prayers really had been answered.

I Hate Christmas – Vampire Santa

Santa had scrambled down the chimney and was surprise to find a completely empty room; there was a carpet, a few pictures; but no furniture, no curtains. Santa did not do mistakes.

But there it was on his list: 'Girl, Anna 7, Dolls House, Jigsaw' and, no doubt about it, this address, the satnav on his sledge was never wrong.

He looked around the room again; did that picture flicker; the large one above the fireplace; he went over to take a look and noticed the inscription: 'Anna Thompson Aged 7 – 1898'; she was a pretty little girl. Well that was it; some elf had made a huge mistake and would pay for it; well over hundred years late was a bit much.

Santa hated lugging dolls houses up chimneys. Down was not too bad; up hateful. He packed up the dolls house and resisted giving it a kick; some little horror could have it next year. He was just pushing his sack up before him, and trying not to swear, when the girl in the picture metamorphosed into a bat; swooped down; sank its teeth into Santa's neck. Santa flailed about striking the bat with his fist; the blood mingling with his red suit. Exhausted Santa fell to the ground. A few more thumps and the bat was dead. After a few breaths he reached towards his neck and pulled out the dead bat; dropping it on the floor; where it fizzled leaving only a brown stain.

Next year Santa will have an extra little present for all the children he visits. His fangs are already starting to grow.

I Hate Christmas – Goodbye Santa

Santa's dead. His reindeer are dead. And the elves, well they bit the dust long ago.

His sledge had been wheeled out on the snow last Christmases. Designed before flight was officially sanctioned. It looked decrepit, the one modern convenience was the gaffer tape that held much of it together.

Santa had finished the gifts for most of Europe and was just starting out for the States. Having shed much of his load he cracked the reindeer hard. High over a bleak rainy London he whipped the reindeer again. If the sledge was light then Santa was not. With all the mince pies he was feeling bloated. And this feeling was nothing to do with the vast amounts of sherry he'd consumed: no he was not drunk in charge of a sledge.

The Boeing pilot had no chance. In the dark he could not see Santa: no lights. And smack; the plane barely felt a ripple; a surprised Santa plummeted; the reindeer following.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Book Review – 1911: Art and Revolution in Liverpool by David Bingham

David Bingham's book covers much more than Liverpool in 1911. Primarily it is a biography of – as the subtitle suggests – the life and times of Albert Lipczinski.

Born just outside Danzig in 1876 Lipczinski's early years are a matter of speculation though he had begun his artistic studies. The twenty year old Lipczinski then made his way to Liverpool to continue these studies.

Much of the book is taken up with these Liverpool years; mostly because these years were the most eventful but also because they are the ones most documented. Here Lipczinski met the remarkable 16 year old Elizabeth Milne; a girl of Irish descent who became his muse and he eventually married. In many ways Elizabeth contributed as much to the limited success that Lipczinski had throughout his life.

With Elizabeth's help he was on the fringes of a number of social groups. He mixed with the early academicians in what was becoming Liverpool University. He dabbled in gypsy life. He was a student at the Sandon Studios, a rival, freer, more adventurous, artistic body to the official art institutions. And later he became more involved with exhibiting at these Studios.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


“And,” she said.

“And what?” he said.

“And I was just thinking.”

“And about?”

“And nothing.”

“And do tell.”

“And what about starting a sentence with 'and'.”

“And you should never do that.” And a bad tempered scowl crossed his face. “And it's disgraceful. And the best writers never do it; and never and ever.”

And she took one step backwards. “And I though it was not so much frowned upon these days.”

“And the old ways are best.”

“And what about when you have a really, really long sentence, that sprawls about all over the place; and just meanders this way and that; and going nowhere; and seems to go on for ever; and ever and ever; and would just be so confusing for the reader?”

“And you should always rewrite it.” And now the scowl seemed to affect his entire body.

And she muttered, almost under her breath: “And why not just throw in a full stop and an 'and'.”

And he shouted: “And that would be lazy, lazy, lazy.”

And she shouted back: “And what about other words: like 'but', or 'however', or, what's what word, 'also', yes, 'also' that's it? And can you start a sentence with them.”

“And that would also be lazy.” And he shook his head in exasperation.

“And are you sure?”

“And you've gotten it wrong. And so wrong.”

“And I should not do it?”

“And I never do it.”

“And I'll try.”



“And.” And he walked off in a huff.

And she muttered after him: “And, and, and.”

Saturday, 12 November 2011

International Socialism 132

I've not long finished reading the latest issue of the International Socialism Journal.

There highlight in this issue, for me at least, was the reviews of Ian Birchall's new bibliography of Tony Cliff; maybe it's just me reliving my youth. I heard Cliff speak a few times but never had the chance to speak to him. Christian Høgsbjerg's review is complementary but I found that of Nigel Harris most interesting. Curiously, in a footnote, Harris says he's refused permission for his book on China – Mandate of Heaven – to be republished; this is sad as I still think it's one of the best books on China ever written.

The paperback edition of Birchall's biography has just been issued and I already have my copy.

The fightback and rebellion against the cuts and crisis has taken a number of forms; some politicly focused and others chaotic. The exact trajectory has depended on a countries tradition of rebellion and also on the nature those groups who have been first drawn into protest. In this ISJ issue Andy Durgan and Joel Sans describe the events of the 15 May movement in the Spain. Then Jonny Jones describes the recent riots here in Britain. The real problem for socialists is how to provide these protests with the focus to win without stifling the creativity of those newly drawn into struggle. This must be a two way process where the old revolutionaries learn new forms; but also one where revolutionaries are able to point to past struggles and draw on lessons of history. Anti-capitalism, after all, has a long history; almost as long as the history of capitalism itself.

There's a solid chunk within this quarters ISJ discussing the current state world economy. Mike Haynes gives a largely factual account of global mega cities. Along the way he looks a population and class trends within the world poor. There is much interesting detail presented here. This is useful as the facts alone help dispel many of the cruder media myths about many areas of the world.

Guglielmo Carchedi looks at some of the key aspects of the world economy. The most important part of the essay is an examination of the trend of the Rate of Profit for the world economy since the late 1940s. A difficult thing to do as governments tend not to produce statistics that easily map onto Marxist economic categories. This measure is importance; the lower the Rate of Profit the more difficult it is for the capitalist system to extricate itself from or avoid cyclical crisis or other shocks to the system. Carchedi's data shows that trend for the Rate of Profit fell from the late 1940s through to the mid 1980s. It then fluctuated or even rose somewhat – but did not return to, say, 1950s levels. Interestingly Carchedi also shows that most of this later rise was a result of the increasing exploitation of workers. In other words even in this period the underlying Rate of Profit fell. And this is the root cause of the growing financialization the economy. This is an important, if necessarily technical, discussion.

The next piece on the economy is a somewhat petulant book review by Joseph Choonara. Not having read Tom McNally's book I cannot say if he is deserving of such petulance. If you look past Choonara's tone then there appears some valid points. Even if his accusations of exaggeration, while technically correct, do seem a little… well… exaggerated. In the final paragraph of the review Choonara seems to recognise his bad tempered tone and offer a few conciliatory words. But by then, of course, it's too late. In many ways the previous article by Carchedi is a better answer to Tom McNally.

Colin Wilson looks at Queer Theory. This is a current fad among some radical elements in the LGBT movement. Wilson seems to offer a somewhat inconclusive assessment of this theory; or maybe I should read the essay again – it could well be this. For a more general history of the LGBT movement see Wilson's earlier interesting essay. And Wilson provides some background to Foucault see here.

The long history of blacks in Britain is often undervalued. Even more so those, like Robert Wedderburn, who rebelled or had radical ideas. Wedderburn (1762-1835/6) grew up at a time when such radicalism was expressed through non-conformist religious ideas; though he took these seriously enough to be jailed for his actions. Michael Morris introduces us to this fascinating person and his essay is a useful debunking of many stupid myths about 'Britishness'.

You should order your copy of the ISJ now. But if you really want blurry eyes and are a cheapskate then you can read it all nailed to your computer; and all for free, you reckless cheapskate you:

Review – A Week in TV Comedy

If there is one rule in comedy it is a very simple one: be funny. So much can be forgiven if you get this basic guideline right; from non-PC stereotypes to ill-judged satire. Ricky Gervais and Co. Inc. seem to have forgotten this. Rather they think their self proclaimed super start status and large pay packet will automatically guarantee success. If anything proves their egos wrong it is Life's Too Short. The lack of humour exposes Gervais nasty side. In Gervais previous shows you laughed, mostly, at the Gervais character; here you are expected to laugh at disability. But the writing offers nothing funny so the result is, at best, simply embarrassing. From the trailers the program looked as if it would be dire. The only reason for watching was the previous success of The Office and Extras. And presumably Gervais had to do some work to make these so amusing. Now he assumes his mere presence will guarantee an audience; no longer is there the need to think things through. The rubbish presented proves this is not true.

On Thursday night, prior to the sad Gervais, was another new comedy. Rev is about a hapless vicar. It was conventional, contained the occasional laugh and was not wildly exciting. It was the best thing reviewed here largely because everything else was so disappointing.

After Mr Gervais we had Mr Frank Skinner apparently being opinionated. There was the occasional smirk here but the program was largely nondescript. Skinner presents himself edgy and topical; largely achieved by being safe and trivial. I shall not be bothering next week.

Overall comedy seems to by playing it safe theses days; so safe that it does not deserve to call itself comedy. Hopefully if there is a rising tide of anti-capitalism, growing protest against the cuts, Tories, banks and establishment then a few comedians will have the courage to buck the corporate quagmire.