Chew on this: new research on Qat "The Home Office's drugs and alcohol research unit ...will report in the autumn. If they conclude that qat is dangerous, they may well recommend that it should be classified along with other illegal drugs such as cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines, bringing UK law into line with the majority of western countries."
The balanced view on Moveable Type bloggers "You are all pretentious twats. Every last one of you. You're all latte-sipping, iMac-using, suburban-living tertiary-industry-working WASPs who offer absolutely no new insights on anything whatsoever apart from maybe one specialist field if we're lucky."
Anti-Semitism, real and exaggerated The foreign editor of Die Welt syndicated to Ha'aretz. Well worth a read. He concludes: "The European reality [of anti-semitism]... is less threatening than the Israelis believe but more worrisome than the Europeans want to think."
Blumenthal on Dean and Gore "Gore's endorsement of Dean is the most important since grainy film was shown at the 1992 Democratic convention depicting President Kennedy shaking hands with a teenage Bill Clinton."
Julie Burchill: The hate that shames us The follow up to last week's starter on anti-semitism. Quite an unspectacular romp through some of the usual suspects (Tom Paulin, Tam Dayell and the supression of the EU report).
This is a Magazine. Well - only in the loosest meaning of the word. But well worth your clicks.
Iraq Phase three: civil war Simon Tisdall in today's paper: "An orderly transition and the assertion of legitimate, democratic governance is by no means assured. Continuing, escalating civil strife, scattering the seeds of a possible civil war, could yet turn out to be the Bush-Blair legacy in Iraq. "
Eats, shoots and leaves
Yes, me and the rest of the world. (Whoops, that's not a proper sentence). I'm probably the only person in Britain who actually asked for it over Xmas and only received one copy: which I read. I had a fantastically old fashioned education when it came to grammar - much closer to the 50s than the 70s. I went to a private school in Liverpool where good handwriting, correct punctuation and lots and lots of clause analysis were as much a part of the education as cross country running in the wet and swimming in the unheated swimming pool. There was little time for such faddish concepts as freedom of expression. This was all driven home by an English teacher called Miss (Nora) Deakin who was as scary as her name sounds. Anyway, reading Lynn Truss bought it all back. I must try to cut back on elipses ('...'). She's convinced me they're a sure sign of the end of civilisation as we know it.
The Filth and the Fury
More nostalgia really. Saw this at a friends house a couple of weeks ago: a version of the Sex Pistols tale that manages to be both energising and depressing at the same time; as well as incredibly evocative of that period. The perfect precursor to watching Mr Lydon on I'm a celebrity.
BBC Four on Progressive RockBrilliant. The other end of the Punk story. If you get a chance to see this again, don't miss it. I was never a Yes, Genesis, Floyd or ELP fan. I just remember smelly lads at school having the logos painted on their ruck sacks. This reminded you just how simultaneously silly and serious the whole thing was. I cannot believe there is a Genesis tribute band called MusicBox that recreates Genesis' early 70s stage shows precisely.
Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman
Saw this at the National on Friday. It was one of those fortunate occassions where you go to the theatre/ cinema knowing nothing about the film/ play you're about to see, and it turns out to be great. With no expectations, your enjoyment is almost doubled. So, now I've read the reviews, I know it's a bit flawed (obviously, I have no real opinions of my own). But it's excellent, shocking fun: sort of Kafka's The Trial meets Shockheaded Peter.
I didn't fall asleep, and I understood what was happening all the way through: which is perhaps the greatest compliment I can give a play.
Igby goes down
OK, so it wasn't Catcher in the Rye. And it wasn't anywhere near as smart as it thought it was. But, there's much worse DVD's out there.
Seen on a plane. Spectacularly silly plot, but great fun. Wait till it's on DVD.
Currently the only good thing (regularly) on TV. West Wing's on holiday. Dawson's all over. Smallville seems to be going slightly mad. Saw Six Feet Under last year on E4 . I'm getting slightly tired of Little Britain and Monkey Dust; and Bo' Selecta is now makes me cringe. And, I can only get so excited about the final series of Friends and Sex In the City. Which leaves us back at ER, which I'm slowly starting to love. But, bring back West Wing, please.
'Tomorrow's People is the worst-written book I have ever reviewed. It is not enough to say that Greenfield has a tin ear. She has absolutely no idea how English sentences work, nor any feel for the vernacular. Euphony I can live without, but rhythm and clarity, in some small measure, are essential. Here is a fairly typical Greenfield sentence: "At last, at the turn of the century, IT has finally matured into adjectives such as 'cheap' and 'easy to use', with the tsunami of applications and knock-on implications it has for our lives." Broken-backed, lifeless, badly expressed and difficult to read, this is a more or less standard example. There are also trivial inaccuracies that emerge simply because she thinks they sound right - the Thunderbirds puppets did not wear "tinfoil outfits". This is silly self-indulgence, though it is not as bad as the opening paragraph of the preface, which explains how she wanted to write a novel.'
While away over the weekend, ploughed through a couple of novels well worth taking a look at....for very different reasons.
Mark Haddon's Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time, which is on the Booker longlist was pretty much faultless. It follows Christopher Boone, a 15 year old with Asperger's sydrome, who lives alone with his father, and finds next door's dog stabbed to death with a garden fork. Christopher acts as the narrator, which is a very smart idea, and brilliantly executed.
Anyway, I'm a terrible book reviewer, so you should read this review to get a taste of it. But basically, it's excellent. It's engaging and charming, elegantly written and very, very clever in an unassuming way. Read it now.
Talking of being clever, Adam Thirwell's hugely hyped Politics, however, is worth reading for the sheer horror of it. It involves three not very appealing characters who get involved in a menage a trois.
The format is an enormous amount of graphic detail of realisticallly clumsy sexual acts, interspersed with Thirwell chucking in as many annecdotes and allegories as possible, ranging from Chairman Mao's sex life to Stalin's telephone manner in an attempt to try and give this relatively slight story some universal significance.
It is too clever by half, and the story at the heart of it loses out as a result. It's worth reading, mainly to find out what all the hype is about, but I suggest you try and borrow a copy, just to stop the sales soaring and letting him get too cocky (he's only 25...he can wait).
That said...he is a very good writer, and will probably go on to write truly brilliant novels....and his description of the Kosher Knosherieof Hatton Garden - one of my favoured lunch places - is great.
You can check reviews from the Observer and the Guardian, or a full set of reviews here.