“Our carnival is over”

Poignant, beautiful, haunting. “Marcha da Quarta-Feira de Cinzas”, Vinicius de Moraes’s song for Ash Wednesday, posted on Twitter by Gilberto Gil. (There’s a translation of de Moraes’s lyrics here.)

Posted in Brazil, Music | Tagged ,

An Oscar voter speaks

Well, at least she’s honest. Here she is, for example, explaining why Patricia Arquette’s performance in “Boyhood” deserves a Best Supporting Actress gong:

She gets points for working on a film for 12 years and bonus points for having no work done during the 12 years. If she had had work done during the 12 years, she would not be collecting these statues. It’s a bravery reward. It says, “You’re braver than me. You didn’t touch your face for 12 years. Way to freakin’ go!

Posted in Film | Tagged , ,

An audience with Don McLean

don mclean audience

Fans listening to him sing “American Pie” in a BBC studio, 1972. From the nostalgic end credits of tonight’s edition of Newsnight. (The full performance is here.)

Posted in Music, TV, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,


The only qualification necessary  was the nomination of a candidate’s own branch. That might not sound like much of an obstacle but there were two major hurdles in my path. The first was my youth and significant lack of union experience. The second was myself. My personality was steeped in the self-effacement that held back so many working-class people. The ultimate fear was of being thought too big for your boots, the ultimate humiliation the accusatory question: “Who does he think he is?” It was why  brilliant Sunday-morning footballers would play down their performance in the post-match banter. Why Len Rigby had cheerfully endured being date-stamped and dispatched every morning; why my brother-in-law had hidden his light  under a bushel and why I didn’t like to be seen reading The Times.

Alan Johnson, “Please, Mr Postman”.

Posted in Literature, UK politics | Tagged , ,

When Jon Stewart was just a guest host

Jon Stewart departs, a nation mourns. Comedy connoisseurs will be aware that before he took the helm of The Daily Show,  he used to stand in for Larry Sanders. He was brilliant, of course, but Larry had his doubts and Hank loathed him: “When I’m sitting next to Jon Stewart I just feel like a wet burlap bag full of monkey shit.” One of the great lines in sitcom history

Posted in Comedy, TV | Tagged , , ,

Another country

A piece entitled “When ISIS Ran The American South” is not the kind of thing you normally expect to see on the website of a right-wing magazine. Kudos to Rod Dreher. [Warning: graphic content]

Posted in History, Middle East, Race, US politics | Tagged , , , , ,

Carnival, Haiti

haiti mardi grad

Celebrating Mardi Gras early. Photo by Gérard Maxineau.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , ,

In search of an artist

Excuse me while I cringe.  Kanye West takes it upon himself to tell Beck to “respect artistry” and hand his Grammy to Beyoncé. Lots of entertaining responses in the comments thread on the Guardian’s news itemAlternatively, you can listen to Beck paying homage to Caetano Veloso.

PS: They engage in a lengthy, two-part conversation here. Definitely a meeting of minds.

Posted in Film, Music | Tagged , , , , ,

How to be British

In “Notes From A Small Island” Bill Bryson recalls how he finally saw the light.

bryson how to be british

[HT: @CarterCollectab]

Posted in Literature | Tagged

The voice of Blue Labour

A fascinating interview with Maurice Glasman, working-class academic and former guru to Ed Miliband:

His biggest influence was clearly his mother, Rivi. She was brought up in a slum in Stoke Newington and Glasman says she was a very conservative Labour voter with a fundamental commitment to work, faith, family and country, and was very patriotic.

“England, for her, was the country that saved the Jews from the Nazis,” he says “Alone in Europe, we survived. She was a monarchist. She was very religious, very radical and she thought the country was very unfair. She was very tied to Labour and she saw it as the great hope of working people. She was brought up in a really horrible slum in London in Stoke Newington and when she met my dad and was better off and had a house of her own, this was everything to her…

“My only experience of student politics was when I went on one occasion to the Labour club at Cambridge and they were discussing their opposition to right to buy and I said, ‘how many of you were brought up in a council house?’ and of course, none of them but they all had an opinion.”

Posted in Class, UK politics | Tagged , , ,