I don’t post nudity on my main Tumblr, not because I’m a prude or disapprove of nudes on political grounds but because I keep it SFW. I have another Tumblr which is only for nudes.
It occurred to me earlier, as I was posting a breathtaking nude to that blog that there are people out there, mostly followers of one of the Abrahamic faiths, that would see the picture I was reblogging completely differently from me.
Where I see a beautiful young woman, radiant, pure, alive and vital, they would see sin and sex, vice and filth. They would think this picture is a “dirty picture.” As if anything about the natural human body could be dirty, could be inherently corrupting.
What kind of God would create bodies that are inherently obscene or wrong?
Moreover, I don’t reblog these nudes to build up some kind of wank bank, I reblog them because they’re beautiful to me, they transcend the quotidian. But even if I was masturbating over them, there’s nothing evil there. Most women and men enjoy masturbation and it’s a natural part of our sexualities.
This is another reason I’m very happy to not be religious ~ the way that most modern religions twist their followers’ view of the human body and natural sexual drives is truly horrific.
Where they see corruption, I see beauty. Where they see sin, I see innocence.
If you haven’t bought The Hidden Cameras‘ new album ‘Age’ yet, you’re missing out on some sublime indiepop. Joel remains one of my favourite songwriters, eleven years after I first fell in love with ‘Music Is My Boyfriend.’
This is particularly the curse of Tumblr. I see nationalistic bullshit posted up by fake internationalists, I see misandry posted up by fake feminists and a thousand other elementary errors that are the mark of the middle-class dilettante and the blowhard.
Then these people go out into the world and misrepresent the most liberating, the most powerful ideas in history. Their ignorance is matched only by their intransigence, elitism and petit bourgeois sectarianism.
Read feminist theory, read socialist theory, don’t just play at it. And then patiently explain it, again and again.
As an Indian, I’ve engaged with actual racists in fascist parties, trying to make them see how they were being duped by capital. I’ve done this as they’ve been throwing racist insults in my face. That’s what we do: we engage and debate and present the facts to whoever needs to hear them.
Lenin had this covered years ago:
To reject compromises “on principle,” to reject the permissibility of compromises in general, no matter of what kind, is childishness. A political leader who desires to be useful to the revolutionary proletariat must be able to distinguish concrete cases of compromises that are inexcusable and are an expression of opportunism and treachery. ~ Lenin, Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder (1920)
If you want to help the “masses” and win the sympathy and support of the “masses,” you should not fear difficulties, or pinpricks, chicanery, insults and persecution from the “leaders,” but must absolutely work wherever the masses are to be found. ~ Lenin, Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder (1920)
I drank like a fish from 13 to 16. I skived school to go drinking and smoke the cigars I’d nicked out of my Dad’s desk. I was with my mates, we were kids, it was fun. We’d get pissed and set fire to stuff. I used to love drinks that would turn my piss or vomit interesting colours.
Then I got to 16, left school and stopped drinking. It was time to put away childish things like psychoactive substances. At 17, I joined my first revolutionary Trotskyist party. I was passionate and sober.
My abstinence is based on experience, not ignorance. I do worry slightly about people who say they’ve been edge all their lives. It’s like a virgin claiming celibacy.
But I don’t worry much because it’s their lives, their choices. Do what you want, fuck everyone else.
Tonight, Emma and I went to see Wes Anderson‘s new film ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ at Quad. As you may have noticed, I’ve been in the midst of a big Anderson phase lately, there’s something about his transrealism that connects with my current rather fantastical life state.
I won’t be revealing any major plot points in this review so you can relax.
The film is about a grand hotel and its beating heart, the concierge M. Gustave, played by Ralph Fiennes. As the hotel hangs on Gustave, the film hangs on Fiennes. A wrong foot from him and the whole lot would come crashing down, particularly as the narrative is split through at least two layers of flashback and held with another book. Such narrative conceits can be bewildering without an anchor but Fiennes provides that beautifully. His Gustave is by turns sophisticated, louche, poetic and profane. All these aspects of the character are brought together so naturally, so gracefully that it’s a joy to watch. Fiennes can slip from slapstick broad comedy to moments which literally had me in tears, all in the same scene.
Around Fiennes is a cast of major stars like Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Saorirse Ronan, Jeff Goldlbum, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody and… well, practically everyone ever. If I had to make any criticism of TGBH, it’s that sometimes I occasionally felt my immersion disturbed by playing spot the famous star, a little similarly to watching Cloud Atlas. I also feel sorry for unknown, up-and-coming actors: not really much chance of a look in beyond a bit part in an Anderson film as even a passing one-line taxi driver would probably end up being Liam Neeson or George Clooney.
That being said, the role of Gustave’s lobby boy and personal valet Zero is played by relative newcomer Tony Revolori and his newness does shake things up. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he’s already a wonderful actor at just eighteen. I wish we’d got more screen time for Saorirse Ronan but whatever she had, she owned, as always.
So, it’s a hotel, there are comical, borderline farcical character, there are shenanigans. Is it just a very lavish Fawlty Towers?
Well, yes and no and yes. TGBH isn’t a sitcom, there is no canned laughter, the setup isn’t as glib as television. However, like the best moments of Fawlty Towers, which relied on Cleese transcending comedy to somewhere darker and disturbingly more primal, this film manages to be both funny and terrifying. In the cinema, we were bowling along merrily, chortling at the funny people doing humorous things and then, out of nowhere, would come a moment which de-railed us. Easy laughter was replaced by nervous laughter, I could hear people thinking ‘hold the fuck up ~ I thought this was a comedy? HIS HAND! WHAT?’
TGBH deals with more than the convoluted flouting of daily routine / established taboos / hierarchical relationships. It deals with love, war, humanity and, above all, the passing of things. In this distinction, it leaves farce behind and becomes tragedy, though we may still be laughing and we don’t know why as it isn’t funny. I’m not claiming that it’s attempting to do what the film that made Fiennes’ name, ‘Schindler’s List, did, twenty-one years ago but I am saying that this isn’t zany, madcap fluff, which is how Anderson is often stereotyped. There is one scene near the end where I actually had to close my eyes because I didn’t want to see what came next. Thankfully, Anderson chose not to show it and I feel that fits perfectly with the musings about civilisation that Gustave declaims.
Even though it’s only ninety-nine minutes long, so much happens that it feels like you’ve been away longer. Time stretches but not through boredom, through the absorption of so much detail at such a pace, both emotionally and visually. The mise-en-scene of TGBH is obesely, decadently, drippingly gorgeous. The different eras are delineated by very different colour palettes and this is reinforced by Anderson choosing historically-appropriate frame ratios. The composition of every shot is a painting, the quality of light that Robert Yeoman captures is like kisses on every prop and face. The shots are tiny dances, moving through a scene with the actors, or stopping to emphasise their situational conflict. All of this before we even get to the marvellous words of one of the sharpest scripts we’ll get this year, or probably any year.
The totality of this is that ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ is Anderson’s most complex film to date. It is in parts comedy, anti-violence/war fable, ‘Inception’-like nested narrative, mystery and, finally, sumptuous opera with no songs. It’s ambitions are met and surpassed without the viewer even noticing the ride they’ve been hoodwinked into taking. Like all Anderson’s work, it creates a world which is ours and yet is not, a tangent which cuts our world and spills out funny things, certainly, but also things we ignore and try to kick back into the shadows.
Give it some of your time. I believe you will love it.
The above pic is a snap of Tony Benn I got at a Gaza rights demo four years ago. This is how I remember Tony Benn, a politician who was truly a man of the people, never setting himself above other campaigners, just ambling through the crowds at a demo where other politicians would be driving by in a limo.
When I was in the Militant in the ’80s, I met Tony Benn three times, at political meetings. I chatted briefly with him the first time, I was a teenage Marxist, very new to political campaigning and revolutionary politics. The second time we met, months later, he remembered my name *and* he pronounced it correctly, something that impresses me to this day. That’s what Benn was like: a genuinely friendly and interested socialist and you were important to him no matter how young and truly unimportant you were on the political ladder. I also remember he always wore Doc shoes, just one of those random things you recall about people.
With his passing, there is no doubt the international working class has lost one of its greatest allies and resources. He was a lion amongst socialists and a towering giant against the craven, squalid benchmark of capitalist politicians.
Today, the bourgeois media is full of tributes to Benn and justly so. But they all miss the core of the man: his politics. When I saw him speak thirty years or more recently at antiwar demos, it was his political conviction that burned brightly. Against nuclear weapons, against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, for Palestinian rights, for the miners, the print workers, the NHS and the rights of ordinary, working class people everywhere.
I joined my first Marxist revolutionary party around thirty years ago. It was a baptism of fire for me: I was full of hatred for Thatcher, the Tories and the establishment but I had no real understanding of my enemies. I struck out at the tiniest and least significant affronts whilst ignoring the biggest source of inequality in the world.
Kind of like a lot of lefties I see spouting stuff on Tumblr and elsewhere on the net, stereotyped as SJWs.
Anger is great, it’s the first step in removing the boot of ones oppressor from ones neck. But it’s not enough. Self-righteous indignation will not overthrow capitalism, patriarchy or racist cultures. Only socialist revolution will achieve that, and a worldwide one at that: we can see from the horrors of the deformed workers’ states of the former USSR and China that those regimes value liberty less than bourgeois democratic regimes. Stalinism is one of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century and incontrovertible proof that socialism in once country is impossible.
The Militant took me under their wing and through a program of education, taught me to analyse political and cultural situations from a Marxist viewpoint. Before the age of twenty, I had to read all the books I picture here and often had to present them in discussions with other comrades, comrades who would quiz me on my grasp of the theory therein. Woe betide the ill-prepared comrade.
I see these books as intellectual self-defence for any human being but particularly for anyone under 25. Read them, understand them and then apply them to the world today.
But more than that ~ get out there. Marxism, socialism are all forms of activism and the key is in the word: get active! It’s not enough to tap away at your keyboard, you have to take part in demos, organise protests, educate your friends and workmates.
Otherwise, your left-wing phase will be as meaningful as most people’s straight-edge phases; simply a youthful peccadillo that you will smugly recount at a dinner party when you’re 45 and you’ve become the enemy, you’ve become part of the system you once wanted so desperately to smash.
Read. Learn. Understand your enemy. Change the world.
Beyond abstinence, edge is anything you want it to be.
Fuck a set of rules, it’s not a religion. Because I’m old, the wrong colour and not cool, snotty kids, edge and not, often ask me questions, testing whether I pass their GRAND TESTS OF EDGE. Y’know, like dickhead blokes do to women/girls to test whether they’re “really” into comics/games. I felt excluded from calling myself edge for years because of this general wankery, because I was foolish and didn’t fit in. I know better now.
I find it particularly humorous when newbie edge kids lecture me about it because they’ve got a hoody and a couple of tatts. Invariably, I see them drunk / pilling it at a gig a few months later. And I remain as sober as I was in 1982, 1992, 2002, 2012 and last night.
My Xes wash off the back of my hands but they’re a deeper commitment than their tattoos.
Straight edge is the avoidance of exogenous psychoactives based upon a conscious, positive, self-affirming philosophical mindset. It is seeing the unclouded beauty of every sharp, precious moment. Our sensoria see in natural technicolor. We have higher highs and lower lows, we have no psychoactive safety nets. We stay up till dawn talking shit and we remember every glorious, ridiculous word.
But that’s just what I think. I could, of course, be entirely wrong.