Thursday 20 March 2008

A brief interlude

With Easter weekend looming, and then a short holiday, there won't be much happening around here for a week or two.

Happy bloggerversary

On Easter Sunday it will be exactly a year since I started this blog. Quite appropriate, really, given that my first ever post (and quite a few after it) was about the betrayal of liberal principles by supposedly 'liberal' Christian commentators. Since then, I've found myself blogging regularly about religion and secularism, fundamentalism and terrorism, freedom of expression, human rights, the arts, travel, national identity and (more recently) the US presidential election.

I started blogging because I'd become a keen reader of political blogs and wanted to be part of the conversation. Unlike some bloggers, I didn't come to blogging with fixed beliefs that I was desperate to share with the world. My own thinking on a number of important issues - Iraq and Israel to name but two - had changed as a result of reading bloggers like Norman Geras, and through them coming across resources such as the Euston Manifesto, Democratiya and Engage. But I was at a stage in my life when my opinions on a whole range of things were shifting - and I thought that blogging would help me to work out where I stood.

And so it has proved. After a year of blogging, I'm a little more confident about describing my political/philosophical position: as a liberal, pro-feminist, cosmopolitan, social-democratic secularist (phew!). But still with those nagging spiritual tendencies.

Happy Easter.

On being a Eustonian Obama supporter

Norm has come out as an Obama supporter - 'in a quiet sort of way.' But among the blogs that I read regularly and tend to agree with - those that can be characterised very broadly as liberal, anti-totalitarian and centrist (or 'decently' to the left or right of centre) - opinion is divided about the Democratic Senator from Illinois. 

Andrew Sullivan, of course, has long been a cheerleader for Barack. Roland at 'But, I am a Liberal!' tends to favour McCain, Snarksmith is ambivalent, and The Contentious Centrist is among those who are wary of Obama, particularly with regard to his positions on the Middle East.

Regular visitors to this blog will be aware that I'm rooting for Obama. But I've often asked myself how somebody with my Eustonian beliefs can be so enthusiastic about a candidate who has adopted foreign policy positions that I've opposed when voiced by others: specifically, advocating dialogue with the Iranian regime and immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

It's partly that these positions of Obama's appear to have been arrived at after thoughtful reflection on what's best for America and the world, rather than being the usual sloganising of the anti-war movement. And far from being naive, they seem balanced by a tough-minded awareness of the threat we're up against: hence his repeated criticism of the Iraq war as a distraction from fighting the real enemy - al Qaeda, in Afghanistan.

I do wish, however, that he would begin to move beyond his stump-speech condemnation of a war that should 'never have been approved and never have been waged', important though it has been in contrasting his powers of judgement with those of Clinton and McCain. We are where we are, and anyone hoping to take over the reins of office in November will need to have a more nuanced plan for Iraq than simply getting out as soon as possible. McCain's support for continuing with a troop surge that appears to be having some success may be viewed as the more responsible position come the autumn. If I were Barack's advisors, I'd be planning some set-piece speeches about his detailed foreign policy plans fairly soon - just as I'd be recommending that he demonstrates an understanding of the current economic crisis and what needs to be done to remedy it (an area in which McCain seems less surefooted). 

Perhaps one reason why Eustonians like me warm to Barack, despite disagreement on some of the details, is that we tend to be strongly pro-American and Obama seems to embody much of what's best in America and in its progressive tradition. What's more, he offers the possibility of restoring America's image in the world, after a period in which the inept Bush-Cheney regime has dragged that image through the mud. Electing Barack Obama as president would send a powerful signal to a world that has fallen out of love with the US, and do much to dampen the sneering anti-Americanism that is such a poison in Europe and elsewhere.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Obamaddiction? Primary-itis?

For the last few weeks, I’ve left the blue-sheathed national edition of the New York Times out in the yard, where it’s tossed over the gate at 3 a.m. each morning, and gone straight to the paper’s website, because news printed nine or ten hours ago is too old to keep up with the fast-moving course of the Democratic nomination battle. As an Obama supporter, I tremble for him as one trembles for the changing fortunes of the hero of an intensely gripping picaresque novel. What does the latest poll say? Has his campaign, usually sure-footed, stumbled into some damaging foolishness? Has another skeleton been uncovered in his closet?

That's Jonathan Raban, writing in the London Review of Books. I know the feeling. As a long-distance Obama supporter, my day doesn't really get started until I've checked the overnight news from across the Atlantic via the internet. And it's not just the New York Times website: I can't rest easy until I've caught up with Andrew Sullivan's latest posts, or glanced at what's being said at the Huffington Post. I'm afraid the Today programme and the Guardian don't get much of a look-in these days.

As for the evenings: since January we've abandoned our nightly appointment with Channel 4 News. Instead, we're hunched over the laptop, catching up with the latest video extracts on the MSNBC website. Thanks to the wonders of wireless broadband, Tim Russert and Chuck Todd have become as familiar to us as Jon Snow and Jeremy Paxman.

How will we fill our time when this prolonged Democratic primary campaign is finally over? More immediately: how am I going to manage next week, when we're away on holiday and deprived of regular internet access?

Obama gives major speech on race

'One of the great, magnificent and moving speeches in the American political tradition' - Orlando Patterson.

'a speech whose frankness about race...could be likened only to speeches by Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson. John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln' - New York Times.

'the most honest speech on race in America in my adult lifetime' - Andrew Sullivan.

That's Barack Obama's speech in Philadelphia yesterday. I thought it was a brave, thoughtful and honest speech, of a kind we're not used to hearing from politicians in the middle of a campaign, and one in which Obama seemed already to be assuming the presidential mantle as unifier of the nation.

Judge for yourself:

Tuesday 18 March 2008

Free Tibet?

Bob has a confession to make about his former dismissiveness towards the Free Tibet campaign, attributing it to youthful secularist zeal and a 'Stalinophilia' that saw the Chinese communist regime as a bulwark against the 'real' enemy of western capitalism.

The history of my own attitude towards Tibet has been somewhat different. As a teenager I had a deep interest in eastern spirituality and a romantic attraction to the countries on the old hippy trail - Tibet, Nepal, Ladakh. More recently, I went through a phase in which I was seriously interested in Buddhist philosophy, and it was the Tibetan variety that appealed to me most strongly.

However, despite the benefits that I gained from Buddhist practice, I eventually decided that the philosophy was not for me. Without going into detail, I suppose I concluded that the individualism and otherworldliness of Buddhism were incompatible with my interest in culture, politics and history. I also began to feel that westerners (including me) tended to see Buddhism refracted through their own religious history and were really looking for a version of Christianity with the difficult bits left out. At the same time, the credulity of western Tibetophiles began to worry me: people who had rejected the 'myths' of their own religious traditions swallowed whole stories of reincarnation, levitation and so on.

During my Buddhist phase I warmly supported the Tibetan protest movement and was angry with western leftists like Clare Short who dismissed it as a fashionable Hollywood cause. Now that I've recovered my sceptical secularist bearings, my feelings are more conflicted.

I realise now that Tibet before the Chinese invasion was hardly the idyllic, spiritual and peace-loving paradise portrayed in films such as Martin Scorsese's emotionally powerful but hagiographic Kundun. Revelations about the sexual antics of supposedly saintly lamas have also taken some of the gloss off the Tibetan myth. And practices that to the devotee suggest a sacred spiritual tradition - such as lamas engaging in tantric rituals with young girls, or boys being taken from their families and raised in monasteries - in another light can be seen as clear examples of abuse.

I'm also aware of a double standard in myself, hostile as I am to the residual political power of religion in the Middle East and supportive of forces that seek to advance secular modernity in the Arab and Muslim world - but at the same time critical of Chinese attempts to modernise Tibet. I'm aware of the contradiction, but I'd defend myself by arguing that modernity can't be imposed by force, and that introducing the obvious benefits of modern communications, medicine and so on shouldn't be at the cost of annhilating a centuries-old culture. 

And the form of modernity that China seeks to impose on Tibet is itself regressive: based on mass industrialisation, cultural homogeneity and political conformity. Western critics of China's policy in Tibet somehow need to find a way of opposing its harsh authoritarianism without idealising Tibetan culture or preventing it from evolving - and without seeing the East through the lens of their own post-industrial disillusionment with modernity and longing for an 'authentic' spiritual culture.

So yes, - 'Free Tibet' - but free it so that it can develop and modernise in its own way, not according to the centralised prescriptions of a discredited Maoist totalitarianism.

Do we need shared national values?

A propos of last week's debate about oaths of allegiance and shared British values...I've been reading Kwame Anthony Appiah's book on cosmopolitanism and he has this to say about the American context:

Americans share a willingness to be governed by the system set out in the U.S. Constitution. But that does not require anyone to agree to any particular claims or values. The Bill of Rights tells us, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Yet we don't need to agree on what values underlie our acceptance of the First Amendment's treatment of religion. Is it religious toleration as an end in itself? Or is it a Protestant commitment to the sovereignty of the individual conscience? Is it prudence, which recognizes that trying to force religious conformity on people only leads to civil discord? Or is it skepticism that any religion has it right? Is it to protect the government from religion? Or religion from the government? Or is it some combination of these, or other, aims?


There is no agreed-upon answer - and the point is there doesn't need to be. We can live together without agreeing on what the values are that make it good together; we can agree about what to do in most cases, without agreeing why it is right.

I don't want to overstate the claim. No doubt there are widely shared values that help Americans live together in amity. But they certainly don't live together successfully because they have a shared theory of value or a shared story as to how to bring "their" values to bear in each case. They each have a pattern of life that they are used to; and neighbours who are, by and large, used to them. So long as this settled pattern is not seriously disrupted, they do not worry over-much about whether their fellow citizens agree with them or their theories about how to live. Americans tend to have, in sum, a broadly liberal reaction when they do hear about their fellow citizens' doing something that they would not do themselves: they mostly think it is not their business and not the government's business either. And, as a general rule, their shared American-ness matters to them, although many of their fellow Americans are remarkably unlike themselves. It's just that what they do share can be less substantial than we're inclined to believe.

Not being American, I can't judge whether or not Appiah's 'weak' version of shared American-ness is a fair reflection of how most US citizens see things. But my instinctive response is to prefer this minimal version of national identity to the heavily prescriptive model seemingly preferred by Gordon Brown's government. In my view, a written constitution which provides a loose framework of 'the way we do things here' is more appropriate to a modern liberal democracy than trying to come up with a list of 'British values' that everyone is supposed to share - whether we are progressive or conservative, monarchist or republican, religious or secular.

On the other hand, Appiah's argument can be questioned at key points. What happens, for example, when the 'settled pattern' is 'seriously disturbed', for example by a major terrorist attack perpetrated by citizens of your own country, as in the case of the 7/7 bombings? Or when the 'something that they would not do themselves' is something that threatens the basic freedoms of the majority, as in the case of violent demonstrations calling for the beheading of non-believers? In such cases, are most people still content to think that their fellow-citizens' values and actions are 'not their business and not the government's business either'?

Monday 17 March 2008

Was the red phone ad racist?

There seems to be wide agreement that Hillary Clinton's 'red phone' ad was a disappointing foray into the politics of fear - but was it also subliminally racist? When I first saw the ad, I admit I shared something of Orlando Patterson's reaction: 'I was left with an uneasy feeling that something was not quite right - something that went beyond my disappointment that she had decided to go negative.'

At the time I attributed my own confusion to the ad's poor narrative construction. To me, there seemed to be a mis-match between what we were watching - small children asleep in bed, a mother looking in at the bedroom door - with the commentary which referred to events off camera - a phone ringing in the White House (so how come we can hear it in the bedroom, and it appears to summon the mother into the room...?) and 'something...happening in the world'. Not to mention the unnerving final scene of Hillary (to quote Camille Paglia) 'sitting at her desk in full drag and jewelry at that ungodly hour.'

Patterson, a Harvard sociology professor, has a different explanation for his own unease:

I have spent my life studying the pictures and symbols of racism and slavery, and when I saw the Clinton ad’s central image — innocent sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of mortal danger — it brought to my mind scenes from the past. I couldn’t help but think of D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society. The danger implicit in the phone ad — as I see it — is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.

The ad could easily have removed its racist sub-message by including images of a black child, mother or father — or by stating that the danger was external terrorism. Instead, the child on whom the camera first focuses is blond. Two other sleeping children, presumably in another bed, are not blond, but they are dimly lighted, leaving them ambiguous. Still it is obvious that they are not black — both, in fact, seem vaguely Latino.

Finally, Hillary Clinton appears, wearing a business suit at 3 a.m., answering the phone. The message: our loved ones are in grave danger and only Mrs. Clinton can save them. An Obama presidency would be dangerous — and not just because of his lack of experience. In my reading, the ad, in the insidious language of symbolism, says that Mr. Obama is himself the danger, the outsider within.

Interviewed by Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball the other day, Professor Patterson suggested viewers watched the ad with the sound turned down. He argued that, without its commentary, the scene is more reminiscent of home security commercials than terrorist threats, reinforcing the sense of danger to the home from an unknown outsider. If shown in the Deep South, he added, the Clinton ad could not fail to summon up divisive fears of the alien (i.e. black) intruder.

I don't know if he's right. I certainly don't think the Clinton campaign is deliberately exploiting racial fears, but I worry that they're not unhappy for such fears to come into play, if it takes the shine off Obama's attempts to transcend racial politics. I also think that a kind of obfuscation and avoiding-the-obvious has marked discussion of Clinton's appeal to a bedrock of older, white working-class voters. Commentators tend to assume it's some quality in Hillary that accounts for their stubborn support, rather than voicing the uncomfortable possibility that something more visceral and unpleasant might explain their resistance to the idea of an African-American candidate.

Friday 14 March 2008

Clinton doesn't deserve to win

Following Keith Olbermann's excoriation earlier this week, Alexander Chancellor today delivers an equally powerful condemnation, from this side of the Atlantic, of the way that the Clinton campaign has played the race card:

No president of the United States has ever attracted as much trust and affection from African-Americans as Bill Clinton. They felt comfortable with him, and he with them. More than any of his predecessors, he convinced them that he really understood and cared about them. Above all, he did not condescend to them. So at ease did he seem with America's black minority, so open and sincere in his defence of their rights, that Toni Morrison, winner of the 1993 Nobel prize for literature, chose to describe him as the country's "first black president".

But now the love affair is over, a casualty of the bitter battle for supremacy between Hillary Clinton and a genuinely black aspirant to the presidency. And the reason it has soured is not the predictable appeal of Barack Obama to his fellow African-Americans, but the disillusionment generated by the shabby way the Clinton camp has conducted its campaign.

It was Bill Clinton himself who started the rot by implying in his comments on Obama's victory in South Carolina that any African-American candidate would have won there, as Jesse Jackson once did - in other words, that Obama was just a marginal candidate who, like Jackson, garnered votes from African-Americans because of the colour of his skin. Not only was Clinton wrong about that, as Obama's support among white Americans has proved; he left many African-Americans feeling betrayed, their hero suddenly seeming no more than an old-time white politician exploiting racial prejudices for electoral gain.

Then there was Hillary's television advertisement about whom Americans would trust to answer the red telephone if it rang in the White House at 3am. The ad, showing vulnerable white children asleep in their beds, suggested that Hillary, with her White House experience, would be better equipped than her Democratic rival to protect them from danger. There was nothing overtly racist about this, but in the view of Orlando Patterson, a Harvard professor of sociology who has spent his life studying racism in America, it carried an unmistakable "racist sub-message".

Writing this week in the New York Times, he said that the ad played on the deep-rooted white American fear of the black man as a secret enemy. "The message: our loved ones are in danger, and only Mrs Clinton can save them," he claimed. "An Obama presidency would be dangerous - and not just because of his lack of experience. In my reading, the ad, in the insidious language of symbolism, says that Mr Obama is himself the danger, the outsider within."

Whether this interpretation is correct or not - and personally, I find it convincing - there is the additional fact that during the same weekend that the ad was aired, Hillary Clinton refused to quash unequivocally the rumours that Obama was a Muslim, even though she must have known perfectly well that he is not, or indeed to explain why it would have been so bad if he were.

All of this, however, palls before the grotesque intervention of her supporter Geraldine Ferraro, the former vice-presidential candidate. Ferraro (who was forced to resign from Hillary's campaign team because of her remarks) said in a press interview that Obama's success in the campaign was due to the fact that he was black. "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she said. "And if he was a woman, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is."

Obama retorted that he didn't think either his colour or his name could be listed as assets in his campaign for the presidency, and it would be difficult to disagree with him. Ferraro was obviously talking rubbish.

What she was also doing, as the Clintons had been doing less explicitly, was trying to undermine Obama's impressive efforts to rise above America's history of racial division and present himself as a unifying candidate. In their desperation to halt his rise, they have sought to persuade voters that he is trading on his blackness, whereas in fact he has been doing his utmost to transcend it.

The sad thing is that the Clintons are so terrified of losing their new chance of power that they are prepared to squander one of the finest achievements of Bill Clinton's presidency in order to prevail in the Democratic race. They don't deserve to succeed, and I hope they won't.

I agree.

On second-guessing the motives of terrorists

The kidnapping and murder of the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, is a terrible tragedy and one more sign of the sectarian mess that Iraq has become. But this sentence in the BBC News web coverage struck me as odd:

The BBC's Hugh Sykes in Baghdad says centuries of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and the small Christian community in Iraq were shattered by the US-led invasion of 2003.

Sykes' comment, if accurately reported, attempts to create a direct causal relation between the actions of the United States and her allies on the one hand, and the actions of fundamentalist death squads on the other. The next sentence doesn't help matters:

Fundamentalists linked Christians with an occupation force they regarded as 'crusaders', and numerous Christians and their businesses have been attacked, he says.

I did not support the invasion of Iraq at the time, though my objections were strategic (it might make things worse) rather than moral (I sympathised with the humanitarian arguments for toppling a murderous tyrant). And I've been critical elsewhere of aspects of the post-liberation strategy. Certainly, the way the reconstruction of Iraq has been handled has helped to create the conditions in which sectarian terrorism has flourished. 

But to make this kind of direct causal link, second-guessing the motives of terrorists, without apportioning any responsibility to the perpetrators or to their twisted theo-fascist ideology, is to play the tired game of blaming everything that is wrong in the Middle East on the west, at the same time as denying any agency to non-westerners. We act, they react, etc.

It's reminiscent of the newspapers who described fundamentalist mobs who rioted and murdered in the wake of the publication of the Danish cartoons as being 'provoked', and further back, of those who blamed the terror attacks against Jewish Iraqis in the 1940s on the founding of the new state of Israel, rather than the entrenched antisemitism of the attackers.

It's a lazy habit, and one that reputable news organisations should avoid.

There's something similar going on in Robert Fisk's article on suicide bombers in today's' Independent. Here's the closing sentence:

One of George Bush's insidious legacies in Iraq thus remains its most mysterious; the marriage of nationalism and spiritual ferocity, the birth of an unprecedentedly huge army of Muslims inspired by the idea of death.

Again, I hold no brief for Bush, but trying to pin the growth of suicide terrorism on George W is like blaming the architects of the Versailles treaty for the horrors of Nazism. Fisk's analysis completely overlooks the part played by a vicious fundamentalist ideology. As I wrote elsewhere: it's the theology, stupid. 

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Falling out of love with the Clintons

In an early episode of Brothers and Sisters, Nora says of her conservative daughter Kitty's book collection: 'I never knew there were so many biographies of Ronald Reagan'. If you were to see the bookshelves in our house, a similar thought might occur to you in relation to Bill and Hillary Clinton. I think we must own a copy of just about every book written by or about the former First Couple. And then there's our DVD collection, with its copies of The War Room and The Hunting of the President. When we visited New York last year, we were ridiculously thrilled to find ourselves seated in the 'Clinton corner' at the Carnegie Deli: at the very table where Bill and Hill had sat with their secret service entourage.

In other words, H. and I have been long-term, dedicated Clinton fans, aware of our political idols' faults but cheering them on relentlessly - at a transatlantic distance - and defending them against the barrage of charges levelled at them by the Right.

But that was before this year's presidential campaign. We started out feeling pretty even-handed in our liking for the two Democratic frontrunners, impressed by Barack's Kennedy-like freshness but appreciating Hillary's tenacity and dedication. As the campaign has gone on, though, our liking for Obama has grown, and our attachment to Clinton has rapidly diminished.

The behaviour of the Clinton campaign since January has appalled us. First it was the fake tears in New Hampshire - a calculated attempt to play gender politics. Then there were the underhand schemes to have certain results deemed less legitimate than others, and to rewrite the rules over Florida and Michigan. In February, there was the 'kitchen sink' offensive, with its cynical appeal to the politics of fear and its campaign to diminish a rival through repeated negative attacks. Openly declaring that your rival is less fitted for office than the Republican candidate, as the Clinton campaign has done, puts self-interest and the desire for power ahead of the interests of party and country - and risks gifting the election to McCain, whoever ends up being the Democratic nominee.

Finally, and most distastefully, there has been the attempt to play the politics of race. Bill Clinton's ill-judged comments in South Carolina and suggestions by campaign spokespeople that black-dominated states are somehow less important, have now been capped by Geraldine's Ferraro's ugly intervention, more or less accusing Obama of trading on his blackness. Ferraro's attempt to play the victim in this story, and Hillary's less-than-convincing distancing of herself from her comments, have brought the Clinton campaign to a new low. 

Let Keith Olbermann speak for all of us disillusioned former Clintonites:

Tuesday 11 March 2008

More regressive patriotism from New Labour

To paraphrase Neil Kinnock: You begin with a Labour leader elected in a landslide telling the unelected monarch that he's 'proud as proud can be' to be her prime minister, and you end with the grotesque spectacle of a Labour government - a Labour government, heir to a 200 year tradition of progressive reform - requiring citizens to swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown. And in castles too. Tom Paine must be spinning in his grave.

Is Gordon Brown's New Labour-lite government so lacking in political imagination that it can't conceive of any model of Britishness other than the most regressive and clapped-out kind? See here and here for more on the cart-before-the-horse nature of the government's attempts to inculcate a sense of national identity.

Monday 10 March 2008

The hills are alive (sort of)

What's the point of reviving a classic musical? We were at the London Palladium on Saturday to see The Sound of Music, and though it was generally a warmly enjoyable family experience (there were three generations of us in attendance), this question passed through my mind a number of times during the afternoon.

On the positive side, the set designs looked fantastic and the rapid scene and costume changes caused frequent intakes of breath from the audience. Musically, the production was faultless, and special praise must go to Margaret Preece as the Abbess whose belting 'Climb Every Mountain' reached every corner of the cavernous theatre. The kids playing the Von Trapp children were delightful too, and newcomer Amy Lennox as Liesl almost stole the show. 

Which brings us to the leading roles. Simon Burke's voice has a beautifully warm tone, but he was an extremely wooden Captain Von Trapp. I know he's supposed to be buttoned-up at the outset, but there was little sign of an emotional thaw as things progressed. And I think he's been told to take Prince Charles as his model of masculine awkwardness: hence the stiffly besuited stance and constant fiddling with his hands. His change of heart towards Maria was unconvincing and the love scene between them was clumsily handled.

As for Maria: well, Andrew Lloyd Webber has been up to his reality-TV tricks again. With original competition winner Connie Fisher leaving the show, he's come up with a new wheeze to pack in the crowds, planting his new Maria as a character in teen soap Hollyoaks and turning up in person to audition her. The lucky winner this time is Summer Strallen, who brings more stage experience to the role than Fisher, and certainly has a refreshingly youthful take on the role. But I'm not sure she's quite settled into the part yet: I found some features of her interpretation a little grating. Why the posh vowels, for example - is the legacy of Julie Andrew so inescapable? - and surely Maria would work better as a simple country girl thrown into the aristocratic stiffness of the Von Trapp household. At times Strallen comes over as a slightly annoying CBBC presenter - all exaggerated grins - and at other times she's just too - well, modern - for a 1940s Austrian ex-nun. 

The problem, I think, lies in the direction - which brings me back to my original question. I don't think Lloyd Webber or anyone in his team have thought through what it means to make a musical written in the late 50s/early 60s, and set in the Second World War, come to life in the early twentieth century. There's little sense of the show being given a fresh interpretation for a new century, and a new audience.

And you can't escape the fact that everyone in the audience will know the film almost by heart, and will judge any new stage version against it. I came away with renewed admiration for the film version, realising that much of the magic was in the cinematic direction, rather than in the original show, which (despite the fantastic songs) without the movie stardust can at times seem stagey and unconvincing. 

Sunday 9 March 2008

'In defence of humanity and universal human rights'

Sorry, not much time for blogging recently. In the meantime, enjoy this clip of Maryam Namazie, telling it like it is: