Musique de France

I’ve been to Paris a lot in the last year or so. When I get offered DJ gigs in the city, I usually say yes and, if possible, stay for an extra day or three. At the time of the terrorist attacks in the 10th and 11th arrondissements a year ago I was at home in Manchester, but I know the area quite well. In 2010 I saw Trentemøller perform at the Bataclan. A journalist working for Les Inrocks, a French magazine I sometimes write for, was murdered in the theatre. A club promoter I met in 2013 lost seven friends at one of the bars. More »

Leonard Cohen and Me

Leonard Cohen has died. I was sorry to think that the last big world event this guru of chilled-out but vaguely sad-flavoured spiritual love had stuck around to witness was Trump’s victory. (More recent reports say he died on Monday, so at least he got to miss the election.)

There was always an element of kitsch to his profundities, and that probably applies to the music, too, which sometimes sounds like the shy campfire strummings of the guy at school who carries an untranslated Rimbaud in his jeans, the kid at camp in a weird hat who sits around playing guitar not because he has lots of friends but because he doesn’t. More »

The Nightmare Begins

Donald Trump’s quasi-apocalyptic victory marks the end of American exceptionalism: a certain idea of America, as a model of democracy and freedom, is dead. Trump didn’t kill it; he declared it dead with a campaign that was as surreal as it was reactionary. ‘It’s a nightmare,’ a French friend wrote to me in an email. ‘It’s worse than a nightmare,’ I replied. ‘It’s reality.’ More »

11/9

Kids were OK, they said maybe Michelle Obama can be president next time, we decided they would write to her to ask. Five-year-old was dismayed to learn that DT will be president until she is nine, which feels like forever. When we walked out the door the crossing guard on our corner shouted: ‘You remember 9/11? Well this is 11/9. Think about it.’ More »

Insubstantial Champions

There are many similarities between the Brexit vote and Trump’s win. The reliance for victory on white voters without a college education, fear of immigration, globalisation being blamed for mine and factory closures, hostility towards data-based arguments, the breakdown of the distinction between ‘belief’ and ‘conclusion’, the internet’s power to sort the grain of pleasing lies from the chaff of displeasing facts, the sense of there being a systematic programme of rules and interventions devised by a small, remote, powerful elite that polices everyday speech, destroys symbols of tradition, ignores or patronises ‘real’, ‘ordinary’ people, and has contempt for popular narratives of how the nation came to be. More »

What now for the left?

While Donald Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in the US presidential race is the starkest example of the failure of the centre-left to confront the rise of right-wing populism, a similar pattern has already been set across Europe. More »

Fight it!

Ron White is a comedian from Texas who delivers his monologues, to large crowds, in an amply tailored suit with an expensive bottle of scotch on a small table at his side. One of his most famous routines is ‘You Can’t Fix Stupid’. He’s speaking, unkindly, of his ex-wife and cosmetic surgery, not the body politic, but throughout the 2016 presidential campaign the title of his disgruntled riff has looped in my brain. More »

Locke, Schmitt and Carroll

'Which is the master?'

‘Which is to be master?’

John Locke, commonly seen as a founding father of liberalism, also foretokened the political thought of the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt. In chapter 14 of his Second Treatise, Locke turns to the notion of the prerogative: ‘This power to act according to discretion, for the public good, without the prescription of the law, and sometimes even against it, is that which is called prerogative … therefore there is a latitude left to the executive power, to do many things of choice which the laws do not prescribe.’ This is Locke’s version of Schmitt’s Ausnahmezustand, usually translated (no version is perfect) as ‘state of exception’, which obtains when the sovereign deems it necessary to override the law. More »

8a Victoria Street

dh-lawrence-birthplace-museum

D.H. Lawrence’s relationship with the town he grew up in, Eastwood in Nottinghamshire, was always ambivalent. Its rural surroundings were ‘the country of my heart’, but the streets of miners’ cottages where his family lived were ‘sordid and hideous’. He freely used Eastwood characters in his writing, and to many locals he was ‘that mucky man’ who’d left the town then rubbished its reputation. More »

Warning Shots

The British papers are at it again: a ‘loaded foreign elite’ (the Sun) have triumphed in their court challenge to the prime minister’s plan to use the royal prerogative to trigger Article 50; the judges have been declared ‘Enemies of The People’ on the front page of the Mail (the Telegraph, with venerable caution, has merely decided that the judiciary are ‘at war’ with the people). The judges’ personal lives are probed for telling details: one has an interest in European law, another – imagine the Mail journalist’s delight – is an ‘openly gay’ former Olympic fencer, practically a textbook decadent cosmopolitan. The Express, ever aware that it’s poppy season, says we are in the gravest crisis since Churchill exhorted us to fight on the beaches. More »

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