The dog is large, long-haired, and with deep-set black eyes. He sits on a huge heap of rubble near bombed-out apartments in Grozny, Chechnya. An elderly woman, struggling to carry a large hessian sack, is passing. She sees the dog, sets down the sack, picks up a piece of jagged concrete and hurls it at the beast, shouting, Get away! You brought us this! The dog snarls. The woman looses her footing, falls and hits her head; blood flows from a deep gash in her head. The dog watches her die. She’s still. He climbs down from his vantage point, sniffs the dead woman, lifts his back leg and pisses on her. He walks away into a city razed to the ground by endless Russian bombing.Continue reading
Don McCullin’s exhibition at Tate Britain is profoundly moving, perplexing, and, ultimately joyous.
The galleries were crowded. I had to go round one room in the opposite direction to avoid two people who, standing in front of the horrors of war, were laughing while happily talking about their recent holidays – were they blind?
I am familiar with many of McCullin’s photographs but in the majority of cases in reproduced form in magazines – it was inspiring to see his own prints made exactly the way he wanted.
By the time I reached the final room – that containing his landscapes and still lives – I was overwhelmed by the dedication and passion McCullin has used over so many years to represent the human condition in the worst of circumstances of war, famine and deprivation. His photographs capture the feeling of pain and suffering and it’s not just because the prints are dark – it’s because he feels, cares, and it comes across in his photographs so that I was nearly in tears. But then there was a moment of epiphany – I’ll come back to that.
What is both perplexing and saddening is that the lessons we learnt when we first saw the images from e.g. Biafra and Vietnam have faded. The men living on the streets of Shoreditch years ago are no different from the rough sleepers that now abound thanks to austerity and the destruction of the Welfare State. We are still responsible for war and the misery it causes – the Yemen and Syria to name but two. I found myself asking what was the point? Maybe the point is that the work exists, it was made, it was, is, true, evidence, and that we choose to ignore it at our peril.
His landscapes. The moment of epiphany. The realisation that in the ‘natural’ world, as rendered through his lens, there is beauty beyond measure.
McCullin has said
“So, there is guilt in every direction: guilt because I don’t practice religion, guilt because I was able to walk away while this man was dying of starvation or being murdered by another man with a gun. And that I am tired of guilt, tired of saying to myself: ‘I didn’t kill that man on that photograph, I didn’t starve that child.’ That’s why I want to photograph landscapes and flowers. I am sentencing myself to peace.”
Maybe the joy in these landscapes, this celebration of life and peace, would not have been so profound without the horror, without the guilt, and there would not be this beauty?
It was one hell of a price this man, this photographer, had to pay.
I am so very sorry that Jeremy has died. He was such a funny, spellbinding and compassionate political man – I loved his work. He did several gigs for us at Lincoln Drill Hall and I was privileged to meet him – great gentle self-effacing man.
My sincere sympathy and love to Katie. Go well sister.
You know what? I miss Lou Reed. God, I miss him. I miss the songs he would have written about Trump. Just listen to his album ‘New York’ (1989): it’s all there, just change the names, and the malevolent spectre of Trump lurks behind every wonderful lyric.
Olga Tokarczuk’s novel is magnificent.
The title comes from William Blake.
The blurb on the back cover is good but doesn’t do it full justice.
I couldn’t put it down.
There is so much to take from this work e.g. what Fieldfares can do to an attacking hawk; “Newspapers rely on keeping us in a constant state of anxiety, on diverting our emotions away from the things that really matter to us.” And insight and argument into the human condition in the this century and the dilemmas we all face and not just in Poland.
Please read this book
Photograph published on the front page of The Guardian 01.12.2018 with my question. Take it any way you like but no disrespect to Cuba. Who needs what? Who has what?
Oscar Wile said, “the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible.”
May is the unspeakable is in pursuit of the unacceptable.
Corbyn is the ‘acceptable’ in pursuit of what ????
Come on Labour get your act together or are you going to create an alliance with the extreme right believing that catastrophe will bring about a socialist revolution. If you are – shame on you.
I am a member of the Labour Party
Those in the UK who vehemently oppose a further vote on whether the UK should leave the European Union have forgotten, perhaps wilfully, that democracy is a process not a tourniquet. One vote does not preclude another.
A tale of two mountains
The two mountains, Mt Trump and Mt Putin, met in Helsinki because they wanted to be friends but they were afraid that their ‘bigness’, ‘strongness’, their ‘mountainess’, would impede this. Even so, two such eminences in the same place was scary like two dormant volcanoes suddenly blowing off at once and molten lava spilling out all over the place incinerating bad people amidst the most dreadful stink of burning flesh.
Mt Trump has big hair. Mt Putin has a bare chest when he rides horses and likes hand-to-hand fighting with men wearing white uniforms. Mt Trump has friends who also wear white uniforms and big white pointed hats even when it’s not Halloween. Mt Putin used to run the KGB but now he owns the FSB (which is not a sports car). Mt Trump is a serial liar, narcissist, misogynist, and racist and adores being a mountain. Mt Trump and Mt Putin have a lot in common. They are rich and elevated above us and we are grateful to live in their shadow.
Both the mountains are patriots. This is important. You can’t be a proper massif unless you are big enough to like war, hate the weak (aka bad), and find convenient victims on which to celebrate your mountainess. These victims can be found in places like Syria, México, the Ukraine and America as well as in mosques.
There has been a lot of trouble in the media about the relationship between the two mountains – this is a result of a misunderstanding, or fake news, as Mt Trump calls it. Mountains are mountains and therefore live on the high ground of their mountainess above the need for the oxygen that mere mortals crave. Sometimes Mt Trump miss-speaks but that’s only because his brain lacks oxygen.
When Mt Trump mentioned the idea that Mt Putin had been tampering with the American electoral process Mt Putin looked as sad as only a big mountain can look when it’s pissing down with sleety rain. I’m sorry, Mt Putin said, how could you think I would have done such a thing? What would have been the purpose? I’m a democrat, just like you. I am a mountain not a dried up wadi like Teresa May. I’m so sad, Donald, that you could think this of me. Mt Trump now knew for certain that he’d been right all along and his own government, and his bad spooks, had been trying to reduce him to a molehill with their bad lies about how Mt Putin is an avalanche in waiting. Being a mountain Mt Trump is above this, above the calumny dumped on his friend’s mountaintop.
There is trust between the mountains. All is good: no more recriminations. Love is in the air. The two mountains will live side by side doing great things while looking down on the bad people and putting bad democracy where it belongs – in the can.
© Phil Cosker 2018
The Prime Midden May’s Tory rats scurry, saliva dripping, smelling blood, flesh ripping, lips licking, chewing, panting with excitement, gnawing, gorging on the destruction of the bleak and abused and deserted and deprived while chanting their failed neo-liberal crap, pissing on the underlings while laughing, feeding in their gilded halls, celebrating, turning humanity to commodity, untouched by conscience, racism peddling, indulging in the fantasy of a great and glorious England past, present and future, as the Midden May, at the wheel, out of control, flops the flaccid juggernaut of Brexit over the edge of the cliff to the tune of baying rats, secure in their sickening self-righteous security, clothed in the glistening armour of ersatz caring while fondling the ermine finery of privilege, daring the burgeoning poor to bite back or eat cake, as food banks offer no loaves and fishes miracles, fostering foreign toxic hate, as the Midden May and her squabbling Tory rats try to demolish the welfare state and privatise our NHS while weeping crocodile tears of austerity as the rich get richer and the poor even poorer.
Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! There is a vacuum. The Labour Party must develop policies, and not just rhetoric, to create a society for the many and not the few.