Earth, Wind, Fire and Fathers

Maurice White’s death on Thursday brought back memories of his brilliant music and put ‘September’ on repeat on millions of stereos. It also conjured, for me, some odd family history. In 1975, when I was eight, a film called That’s the Way of the World was released in America. Harvey Keitel starred in the story of a hotshot record producer’s struggles with art and mammon. The screenplay was written by my father, the sports journalist and fiction writer Robert Lipsyte, and the soundtrack was by Earth, Wind and Fire, who also appear in the movie as the Group, a band with a groundbreaking sound but not enough commercial appeal. Keitel is ordered by his music biz bosses, who answer to mob heavies, to concentrate his formidable knob-turning prowess on some Carpenters rip-offs. More »

Goodbye, Circumflex

Hungary stamp

The diacritical mark, that puzzling addition to a recognisable letter, arrived in my life at about the age of six, like an insect lighting on the page of a school textbook. Only it happened out of school, in the world of foreign stamps, where I first encountered ‘accents’. My arbitrary collection included a stamp from Hungary commemorating the ‘technical and transport museum’ – Közlekedési Múzeum – and another from Yugoslavia commemorating what I think is a children’s day: ‘Decja Nedelja’ (1957), with a wingless creature fixed to the lid of the ‘c’. French stamps were easy to obtain: on these you could see your first cedilla, even if you didn’t know it. All these marks were mysterious, but mystery gets irritating before long, and mostly I wanted to swat them away. More »

The Price of Everything

Evelyn Waugh was no enemy of money – he wrote for it, he made a lot of it – but monied society was his subject, and like F. Scott Fitzgerald he wrote about the careless, destructive people for whom spending money is a palliative for everything, the Toms and the Daisys, the Beavers and the Brenda Lasts. ‘Mr Graceful,’ Brenda says to her solicitor in A Handful of Dust, ‘I’ve got to have some more money.’ In a piece about hotels in New York, Waugh explained there was no end to what you could spend your money on if you stay in one: More »

Occupation Inc

Last month Human Rights Watch published Occupation Inc: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s violations of Palestinian Rights. This is the first time a major international NGO has ventured onto ground previously trodden only by smaller, more local and more die-hard groups, such as the Israeli organisation Who Profits, which collates exhaustive data on the economy of the occupation, and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. It is certainly the first time an organisation of HRW’s status has directed the spotlight not only at settlement-based businesses that export to Europe, but at businesses headquartered outside the occupied territories which make money in them. More »

Soros in China

The Chinese media have been gunning for George Soros for predicting a ‘hard landing’ for the country’s currency. A headline in the People’s Daily is mild by comparison with some of the invective: ‘Short China and you short yourself.’ But who believes Soros is getting ready to short the renmibi, as he did sterling in 1992? He said nothing in Davos last month about betting against the renminbi. More »

Ted Cruz’s Megalomania

Chris Lehmann on Ted Cruz (LRB, 18 June 2015):

Most of the Republican frontrunners are perhaps grudging converts to the gospel of failure, having at least made a show of trying and trying again. The Texas senator and Tea Party darling Ted Cruz, though, is an ardent evangelist for the sacred mission of screwing things up for ideology’s sake. More »

Wishful Thinking about Climate Change

On 12 December 2015, the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, hailed the COP21 climate agreement in Paris as ‘a monumental triumph for people and our planet’. The UN press office called it a ‘resounding success for multilateralism’. According to the president of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, the agreement signalled ‘nothing less than a renaissance for humankind’. Away from the media spotlight, policy makers speak more candidly. More »

The Peace Camp’s Despair

Uri Avnery on ‘The Pied Piper of Zion’:

The Israeli peace camp is in a state of despair. More »

Exit Cameron

A slightly belated prediction for 2016: it’s as likely as not that by the year’s end David Cameron will no longer be prime minister. Well, less a prediction that a statement of probability. It rests on a series of further predictions: More »

In Russell Square

There’s a scene in Ewan MacColl’s autobiography in which his father, boozy after a weekend trip to Heaton Park, begins singing on the tram back to Salford: More »

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    • UncleShoutingSmut on Goodbye, Circumflex: Unfortunately this post is likely to leave readers with a very partial idea of what is going on. Firstly, there is no "edict": all that has happened i...
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  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

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