On a whim I restarted watching the series ST:DS9.  I have previously written about how amazing this series is for a science fiction series to deal with areas like collective guilt and war memory.

I might have gotten a bit ahead of myself by jumping right into season five when I should have addressed the really great aspects of the pilot and first season (ie before Worf).

What’s most interesting about the pilot, to me, is that it is very aware of its time. Sarajevo was burning,while  LA was still smoldering.

Add into to this dimension the underlying plot line of the Borg vs. the Federation and things get really messy. For those not keeping points at home, I will sum it up as thus: a techno-alien race that forcibly assimilates societies into its collective (Borg), captured Jean Luc Picard of the Enterprise (of ST:TNG fame)  and used his extensive knowledge to find weaknesses in the Federation battle plans. This resulted in Borg and Federation forces meeting at a small constellation called Wolf 359. It was at this violent end that  Commander Benjamin Sisko was the first officer on  the USS Saratoga, where his wife died as a civilian casualty in the Federation’s attempt to stop the the Borg at what would be called simply Wolf 359, and you have one of the finest plot set ups of any series.

Roughly speaking then, Commander Ben Sisko is a man apart from every connection he could wed himself to. His temporary commanding officer is the man who (inadvertently) killed his wife; the provisional government he works with distrust him, and the facility he has been assigned has been all but burned to the ground.

Added all together, there is no reason why this should work as a ‘Star Trek’ serie in the conventional sense.

But that’s the brilliance here. Only on the fringes, of the Federation, of the series, of Sci Fi generally, could a show like this succeed in developing a plot line that shows that the ugly and messy business of governing in the aftermath of war, genocide and destruction are as unpleasant today as they are in the future.

If there is anything the pilot of the series adds that hasn’t been mentioned before, it is the frankness that the series begins with. Unlike its sister show, TNG, there is no naivete, no unbridled optimism. It is a rough beginning for a rough time. It is this factor that makes this series age better than its elder, and sadly, too indicative that we have not escaped Sarajevo.

Oh, poor negelcted blog! How I have left thee to suffer. New Year’s resolution: blog more. I feel like I have made this resolution before, but what are New Year’s resolutions if not repetitive?

Anyways,, here is what I have been excited about/ consumed a lot of lately:

This track by Daughter, “The Woods”.

I am a big fan of this band, Daughter. The setting for this live track is all the better too, as St. Stephen’s is a gorgeous Anglican Church built in the  late 1840’s. The silent beauty of the acoustic guitar along side the sparse low-church background is just perfect.

The King’s Peace & The King’s War by CV Wedgewood

Two of the most important books on the English Civil War.

Julia Ioffe’s profile of exiled dissident Mikhail Khordokovsky.

So a while ago I started to write a review about David Andress’ beautiful work: “Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France” and for reasons beyond my control I kept forgetting to finish it. The review is more of a fragmant and a sketch than a full review, but I thought it was worth posting in its rough shape because: a) its a great book and every person should pick a copy up ASAP, b) I’m bored  and c) it’s my blog.


History tends to remember the blade that fell on Louis XI neck, while forgetting the tens of thousands of necks it also separated. Of course, few of those whose death was to take place under the “Terror”, the period of time when the Committee of Public Safety, were to be remembered in such vivid terms as Louis Bourbon.

Andress is skillful in humanizing the twelve men who for a brief period of time were the ultimate power over the whole of France and outwardly were a monolithic institution, but behind the doors of the Tuilleries, the power struggle that was being waged daily was sometimes comical, sometimes horrifying in its turbulence.

It is important to reiterate what others, notably Adam Thorpe in The Guardian has said: none of these men who ran the Terror were “great men” to couch the term in historiographic terms. While Danton is often written about as a giant of the Revolution, not just because of his physical but also his political stature, even he suffers moments where his leadership skills are left wanting.

Danton takes the mystique out of the men who have been at various times villains and heroes of the political order. To some on the Left, Robespierre is virtue embodied. Willing to sacrifice the whole of the body politic in service of greater Rousseau virtue. To conservatives, the Terror is an extreme example of revolutions run amok. It is after all, from Edmund Burke we get the model for modern parliamentary conservatism.

I’ve linked to it before, but its worth taking another look at Zizek’s comments on Jacobinism pace Andress and the skeptics:

Andress’ work is wonderous is scope and character. Engaging and well-written, it is a brave and forthright account that eschews ideology in sake of truth.




91+Lue-yzDLVolume II of Peter Ackroyd’s ambitious historical project charting the history of England from its earliest days to the present focuses on the reign of Henry VIII, his son and two daughters.

While Henry VIII was  not the first Tudor,(Henry VII was technically the first king from this welsh household), no other ruler besides perhaps his daughter Elizabeth exemplified the manic energy of their clan.

Ackroyd is not the first historian to chart English history through the rise of either the English church or the relatively brief dynastic reign of the Tudor clan. What makes Ackroyd so successful is the delight he seems to take in telling this story.

While this is not a critical examination of the Tudors (there are already enough of those), it is not a whitewash of a dynasty either. Ackroyd is perfectly keen to note Elizabeth’s indecisiveness, Edwards gullibility, Mary’s messianic drive, and Henry’s general disregard for decency. but while he shows us the flaws that make these rulers, “all too human”, he is also emphatic that the sometimes murky orders Henry, Edward, and Elizabeth especially gave helped to slowly etch away at what had been the Catholic church in England and ended up becoming a distinctly English invention: the Anglican Church (Church of England). Put another way, ecclesiastical matters went from being dealt as the Church IN England to the Church OF  England.

Describing the development of the Anglican Church, starting as it does in fits and spurts, has been a difficult endeavor for historians and faithful alike. surprisingly, Ackroyd is able to describe the whole evolution of the English Reformation from the dissolution of the monasteries to the settlement  under Elizabeth with surprising ease. His transitions from reign to reign are assisted by the presence of a colourful supporting cast from Sir Thomas More to Archbishop Cranmer to Elizabeth’s cousin Mary Queen of Scots. The rise and fall of  these eclectic persons add wonderful context to the events that surround the monarch and provide anecdotal support to Ackroyd’s interpretation of events.

Most refreshing in Ackroyd’s volume is the distinct absence of sentiment or interest regarding the love affairs of the Tudor dynasty. Henry VIII was a notorious philanderer with an obsession concerning male progeny that borders on compulsion. Additionally, Elizabeth’s oft written on-off affair with Robert Dudley does not feature as prominently a narrative device. Instead, Ackroyd spends a great deal of time on the administrative costs of war, poverty, and reformation/counter-reform.

None of which is to say that Ackroyd’s story is devoid of rhetorical flourishes. Instead, he brings the reader’s focus back to the ground amid the dirty streets of London or the bloody marshes battlefields in Calais. In both respects Ackroyd’s talent as a storyteller is on display. abjuring sensationalist stories, Ackroyd spends time to weave complex narrative into a digestible, if long, tapestry.

Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I by Peter Ackroyd. St. Martin’s Griffin 2014. 528 pages. Purchased Copy

To describe author and activist Owen Jones as a “Bennite” would be something of an understatement. While never having lived through the tumultous  Wilson or Callaghan Labour governments of the 1960’s and 1970’s, (neither did I, though), Jones is very clear at who is at fault for the ills that have befallen the working class in Great Britain.


The vitriol Jones reserves for Thatcher and her cabinet ministers, and even journalists in Tory papers is unevenly matched against the lamenting school-teacher tone regarding his left-wing friends in the Labour Party.

To understand the premise of Jones’ work, one must first understand what the focal point Jones is entering the discussion. Namely, the disenfranchisement of historically working class men and women in Great Britain who, starting in the end of the Thather era, began to be derisively titled “Chavs” by middle and upper class society. “Chavs”, as both the author and a cursory glance at wikipedia both reveal is a person obsessed with the illusion of station;  as Wikipedia states: “…a young lower-class person who displays brash and loutish behaviour and wears real or imitation designer clothes.”

To be a “chav” then, is to be a the fringes of acceptable society, even within the working class.

Jones leans heavily on his background within British left-wing society to argue that the corruption of the virtuous working class was due in large part to consumerism, Thatcherism, and an unwillingness of Labour leadership to stand up to the rising tide of austerity:

There was a time when working-class people had been patronized, rather than openly despised. Disraeli had called working-class people ‘angels in marble’. ‘Salt of the earth’ was another phrase once associated with them. Today, they are more likely than not to be called chavs. From salt of the earth to scum of the earth. This is the legacy of Thatcherism—the demonization of everything associated with the working class

Jones likely spent hundreds of hours collecting quotes and contrasting perspectives, from  Geoffrey Howe, Lady Thatcher’s first chancellor of the exchequer, to Neil Kinnock, the man who led Labour through some of its most bruising times in recent history.

From the information provided, Kinnock appears resigned that the Left forfeited the fights of the 1980’s rather than create any kind of meaningful change. when asked if the Tories were the ‘real’ class-warriors in British politics, Kinnock shakes his head and bemoans, “ ‘No, because they’ve never had to engage in a class war,’ he said. ‘Largely because we signed the peace treaty without realizing that they hadn’t.'”

Jones concludes that largely as a result of the sustained electoral beatings that Labour suffered from 1979-1992, the survivors of this shipwrecked party latched onto any idea that would keep them from becoming consigned to history, (a very real worry given the declining state of the Liberal party through this time period, which managed to stave off its own place on the ash heap only by creating an odd marriage of convenience with disaffected social democrats to create the modern “Lib-Dem” party), a fact Jones notes with characteristic bluntness:

Because of this desperation and demoralization, Blair and his followers were able to impose the Thatcherite settlement on the Labour Party. Part an parcel of this settlement was the idea that everyone should aspire to be middle class. Little wonder that. when asked what her greatest achievement was, Margaret Thather answered without hesitation: ‘Tony Blair and New Labour. We forced our opponents to change their minds.”

Jones writes lovingly and longingly for a working class establishment that no longer exists in modern Britain, but does not advocate burning down Apple stores to return to this Eden. Instead, his goal is surprisingly reasonable given the disparaging remarks and high standard he holds the Left to in his book.  the result is not a game-changing, epoch-defining solution. Instead, Jones advocates that the Left do what it has always done: advocate and implement good-paying, skilled jobs that provide a decent and dignified income to the working-class.

Admittedly after reading about 260 pages of commentary on how the Left had failed the working class, and the Tories were hell-bent on their destruction, I was a little dejected that the solution Jones advocates is so unsurprising and reasoned. Instead of a Zizek retort, we’re left with a policy proposal.

Chav’s does many things well; chief among them is the crystallization of working-class discontent for the last 30 years. Jones writes with exacting skill and twists the knife into the the Conservative Party with a certain amount of vigour. However, it becomes tiring to read line after line about the moral indecency with which the Tories have governed. After 100 pages or so, I found myself wishing Jones would just wrap it up and get to the point.

Chavs: the Demonization of the Working Class by Owen Jones. Verso 2011 298 pages. Purchased copy



this video from the kills is my new favourite thing right now






“42 minutes on an emotional treadmill” is how Chris Martin described the upcoming album Ghost Stories.

A really worth watching inteview that aired on BBC One recently.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 94 other followers