Monday, 11 January 2016

FAREWELL David Bowie from a longtime Bowie fan: RIP

David Bowie Blackstar RIP

Great planning, David


So THAT'S what Blackstar was about. David Bowie, who died yesterday aged 69 after a long illness, said farewell in the most eloquent, meaningful and stylish way possible with his last album released only days ago. He left his fans a valuable parting gift that will speak to us for as long as there's music and human beings to listen to it.

We did a collective "Aaah" as we learnt the worst and realised he was talking to us beyond his mortal death; Blackstar is a letter to us written over the 18 months since he was told that the cancer he'd been diagnosed with four years ago would kill him in a year. (The exact timeline of his illness is unclear at the moment of writing.)

Last night, the night he died, journalist Charles Shaar Murray and I were grooving to the CD which had just arrived. It's deeply saddening to know we were dancing along to it even as he took his last breath. However, now that we do, a whole new dimension has opened up where we can still be with him, fathoming the unfathomable, working out his puzzle, reading the hieroglyphs he left us.

David entered my life before I even hit puberty and has never left. I was transported to heaven in 1969 by his single Space Oddity and again when it was re-released in 1972. My cousin bought me a cassette of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and I never looked back.

Ziggy kid and lifelong Bowie fan


If you were a dreamy, creative kid who didn't fit in, David was your guide, big bruv and your own personal Starman. It wasn't just that he was supernaturally gorgeous: he exuded love and that's what we valued. Of course, I know he was a chameleon who you could project yourself into and onto but I won't call him a blank canvas because he was anything but blank. He had the ability to hook out your innermost best and make it fly.

And the music ...

He gave shape to the inchoate and told us 'Oh no, love, you're not alone'. It's hard not to embrace that when you're convinced that you are.

'Life on Mars' made me cry because I was the girl, maybe not with the mousy hair, but with the dysfunctional family in a world of which I was desperately trying to make sense. David was steering me from a sunken dream to the seat with the clearest view, and I was indeed hooked to the silver screen which was my escape.
'Her mummy is yelling no,
and her daddy has told her to go.'
Okay, it was actually the reverse, but parental rejection was so familiar to me that for a long time this was MY song.

A major part of David's appeal was that he was looking up at the stars away from the sailors fighting in the dance hall and wondering if there was life on Mars way above the daily turmoil. The highest note in the song is that soaring MA-A-ARS at the peak of the chorus that lifts you into another realm of consciousness, like he's waking you up and leading the way out. And we eagerly looked up there with him. (In 'Blackstar' he's doing it again, still our leader — well, more pioneer than leader — but with us quivering in fear behind him as he prepares to make his final journey.)

I'd dance myself into a Rite of Spring frenzy to 'Rebel, Rebel', 'The Jean Genie' and 'Width of a Circle'. I felt the torment of the singer in 'John, I'm only Dancing' being drawn to someone he shouldn't, and behind it all, that guitar that could wail and chuck out a stomping rhythm. On TV, 'Starman' introduced us to David's blonde guitar-toting sidekick, Mick 'Ronno' Ronson, who was also the recipient of our powerful young emotions. I can remember most of the lyrics up to and including the Diamond Dogs album even when I can't remember what I had to eat last night.

Bowie-Ronson-Starman-TOTP

I missed the legendary Rainbow gig where his mentor, mime artist Lindsey Kemp, shared the stage and Roxy Music was the support act, but I was determined to make up for it when more London dates were announced. Under age I may have been but I was a girl on a mission. I bussed it from Mare Street in Hackney and queued overnight at the Kilburn State Gaumont and the Hammersmith Odeon in order to secure front-row centre seats.

We early birds at the head of the queue bonded tightly, guarding each other when we went to pee under Hammersmith Bridge, saving each other's places in the queue and sharing provisions. It's lovely to watch the DA Pennebaker film of the final Ziggy gigs and spot everyone forever young and filled with love. (I can be seen briefly during 'Width of a Circle'.)

The build-up was spectacular. David's frocks annoyed the hell out of elderly relatives when his photos were published in the tabloids, confirming to us that he represented something a world apart from their rigidly oppressive minds. At Hammersmith we buzzed with anticipation. Someone read out a piece in the NME about David announcing he was retiring, shock, horror, the first time I ever heard the name of the journalist, Charles Shaar Murray.

Quick, there might not be enough of him to go round. But thankfully there was.

We all dressed up. There were all sorts of variations on David's iconic haircut and Angie Bowie's platinum white do. Angie was Bowie royalty, being married to him and very much part of his creative team, much loved by the fans. I still vividly recall her in a red and white striped top and white pants, walking from limo to the glass doors while we squealed with excitement and craned to get a peek. The Mainman crew (Warhol's Cherry Vanilla and Leee Black-Childers et al) were all there. Lulu turned up. Wow. I mean, she was a mainstream entertainer and even she was entranced by the outsider transitioning to insider and cultural icon.

Of the fans, I made close friends with Dena, on whom I developed a crush, and her mate John Shipcott who would later babysit Zowie (Duncan Jones) and thrill us with tales of hanging up David's wonderful costumes and, glory of glories, show us photos of the house interior on pain of death if we told anyone. And Debbie who had the best Angie haircut thanks to an indulgent mum. I remember a guy called Henry who was a dead-ringer in his carroty spiked hair and Ziggy flash. It was all sparkle and glitter, lurex and spangles.

For the final three gigs at the Hammersmith Odeon I sprayed my green peplumed leather jacket silver (the one I wore to school instead of the requisite green serge blazer) and wore it with white trousers. My mother allowed me to wreck our beautiful Chinese parasol that smelt strongly of mothballs by gluing on big silver letters that spelt 'David is my Nirvana', 'cause I'd just learnt what Nirvana meant and felt this was an appropriate time to use it. When I opened it in the front row, I was rewarded with a kiss blown directly at me. I still recall the sensation of my heart thumping through my chest, tears wellng and my spirit soaring out of the top of my head. David had NOTICED me!

Buying front row tickets was a bit of a waste for as soon as the lights went down and Wendy Carlos's 'Ode to Joy' (from Stanley Kubrick's movie of Clockwork Orange) struck up with its 'bom, bom, bom, bom', everyone rushed the stage anyway. This was quite dangerous because the orchestra pit between us and beloved David was guarded by an iron rail that came up to mid-thigh, way below your centre of gravity. Your legs were seriously in danger of being broken in the crush. The security guards — who were far from modern thug bouncers and looked after the fans — regularly had to drag us over the rail and out of the melee.

Some harboured fantasies of then being led backstage where they could meet our hero but I suspected they'd just be released into the wilds of Hammersmith outside the back door and have to start all over again from the main entrance. I spent long periods of the three shows bracing myself on the shoulders of security, several of us sometimes leaning on each bloke. This meant that I could barely use my 8mm Bolex movie camera but I surreptitiously shot a fair bit and would take it to all my 1970s gigs. Sadly, my mother threw out my film years later, but that's a horror story for another time.

The climax and moment of greatest tension ... well, there were a few of those. 'My Death' when David left the longest pause and we all yelled, "ME!". David going down on Ronno's guitar. Or the end of the show wondering if there would be an encore and they'd all come back on and thunder through 'White Light, White Heat'.

David-Bowie-fellatio-MIck-Ronson's-guitar

On the third and last night when my legs could no longer take it, I wandered into the almost empty Odeon lobby and perched on the Herbie VW car doing promo service for the movie due the following week. A tall bloke wandered over and struck up conversation and eventually asked me if I wanted to go to a party that night. I said yes and that's how I ended up at the Café Royale in Regent Street for David's retirement party. I may have been traumatised along with everyone else by his onstage confirmation that this would be his last gig, but going to the party was a powerful consolation prize.

Here we were in one of Oscar Wilde's hangouts. Brian Conolly, blonde singer of The Sweet, was not terribly nice but Lulu, Angie and Mick Ronson were so kind. I was filming Lulu and Angie with my little Bolex when Angie said something I couldn't hear and Lulu repeated it, saying, 'She said you're too gorgeous.' By now I was feeling like Cinderella with three hours to go before pumpkin time.

When David walked in he filled the room which was already rammed with stars. He was short in stature but huge in spirit.

I was too shy to crash into his conversations but I did chat to Mick Ronson and took a selfie movie, now sadly gone with all my other 8mm footage and belongings  in the Great Mother's Purge.

I took the film and projection kit into school when it came back from the developer's for anyone who was interested – about half a dozen of us — and it dawned on me. Whatever the imagination-free say or do in their efforts to crush you underfoot or drive you under the tread of their tanks, there was indeed room in this world for someone like me.

At my lowest, when all the nightmares came today, his single 'Ashes to Ashes' was riding high in the charts. It formed the second bookend on my hopeful childhood and youth, the first being 'Space Oddity'. I needed an axe to break the ice but that wouldn't be happening any time soon. In the meantime, David provided a musical memory from which to draw strength and I thank him for that.

RIP David. Love ya. xxx
Anna hotpants 71 02 crop



Illuminating analysis of David's final video, 'Lazarus', from Nic Outterside. Going back home. Bowie ad astra.

[Edited 16.01.16 to say more about the music of Life on Mars]

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Understanding the viciousness of the anti-Corbyn tendency: shades of the Paris Commune


Jeremy Corbyn, the BBC and the democratic process


Why has Jeremy Corbyn's election as leader of the Labour Party with a massive 59.5 per cent provoked more fury among the centre-left than the predations of the right which still overwhelm us?

I'm bewildered by the preoccupation among good friends with diversions that have little to do with the big central crises facing us: worsening poverty and wars.

Broadly speaking, my anti-Corbyn friends are focusing on Westminster-bubble concerns such as the cabinet reshuffle; personalities (they don't like Corbyn or his cohort); plus JC's sympathy for the Palestinians and his criticism of Israel. What is going on with this endless stream of pieces on a reshuffle in which he sacked one person (shadow Culture Secretary and former SpAd/corporate lobbyist Michael Dugher) and moved another?

Compare this with Tony Blair's nights, weeks, months and years of the long knives, when Blairites were parachuted into constituencies against the wishes of locals, and his removal of the authority of Labour Party's National Executive Committee (NEC) as a means of centralising his power along presidential lines. Were Seumas Milne even half as thuggish as rottweiler Alastair 'sexed-up dossier' Campbell, the media would be having a conniption. Oh, they already are.

The rest of us see Corbyn as representing the first real hope for people devastated by decades of intensifying Tory and Tory-lite policies: food banks; the breaking of the NHS; ATOS savagery towards the disabled; the transfer of wealth from poor to rich as "austerity" (for us!) while the super-rich TRIPLED their wealth since the 2008 crash; the break-up of education (academies — imagine Toby Young as your mentor); crippling tuition fees; neglected flood defences; banking scandals where no-one is held to account; tax avoidance by massive corporations; a tanking economy disguised by various financial tricks and an artificially inflated housing bubble; another crash on the way but without the safety net of a China powerhouse this time; wars without end; a destroyed manufacturing base since Thatcher and now steel, coal and a burgeoning green energy industry killed off; fire sales of public assets; ownership of the media by a handful of moguls; increased poverty, homelessness, debt and hunger; hefty wage rises for the political class while we're pauperised; and general selfish corruption permeating every walk of life.

However, in the official narrative the realproblem is ... Jeremy Corbyn. We're told that he's so weird-beardy extreme that he couldn't possibly win a general election, but the consequence of their efforts to undermine him could well be the creation of a self-fulfilling prophecy, and an unintended demonstration of a contempt for democracy – remember, Corbyn's leadership has a greater democratic mandate (almost 60 per cent of the selectorate) than any Labour Party leader of recent times, including Blair – which matches that of the Tories. Meanwhile, the notional 'centre' of British (and American) politics has moved so far to the right than it currently enshrines policies and attitudes at which even Thatcher and Reagan (during their first terms, anyway) would have baulked.

When the right and the soi-disant 'moderates' attack Corbyn, we see an attack not on one individual and his cohort, but on everyone trying to mount a challenge to the rich who are taking everything that isn't nailed down, and damn the rest of us to hell. This is class war and it's being waged unopposed by the richest class against us. We're not allowed to defend ourselves. And whilst the membership of the Labour Party swells, the degree of influence which the party establishment wishes to allow that membership to wield proportionately decreases. In other words, STFU and stuff those envelopes!

Even conservatives like Nick Robinson and Peter Hitchens are worried by the concerted media assault on JC, while mainstream journalists Roy Greenslade and Nic Outterside are questioning the ethics of our partisan press. The blogosphere has rushed to ensure that the public is kept informed of the truth ... which should be the BBC's job, but – as that ship has sailed – we're largely reliant on blogs such as evolvepolitics.com to fill in the gaps.

Laura Kuenssberg, BBC hit-woman for Cameron


VERY posh girl Laura Kuenssberg, BBC News Political Editor, was only serving her class when she and Andrew Neil facilitated Cameron's ambush of JC and the rest of us by orchestrating the resignation of Labour MP Stephen Doughty in the studio five minutes before PMQs. Their boast of how they achieved this interference with the democratic process was deleted from the BBC website but you can read a cached version of it here.

So far over 10,000 people have signed the Change.org petition to sack Kuenssberg and Andrew Neil for manipulating the news rather than reporting it. BBC impartiality is now a joke. Instead of speaking truth to power and challenging it, they suck up to it. Although, given Kuenssberg's background, she's not so much twanging the vocal cords of her masters' voice as much as taking a vocal solo with it. I am sure her rewards will be great now she's made her bones with her class peers. Has she reserved a space on her office wall for the wooden shield on which she'd like to display Corbyn's head as a hunting trophy?

One of the comments at Nic Outtenden's incisive piece reminds us: "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." ― George Orwell.

I always wondered what kind of sicko poked out the eyes of women communards with their parasols when the Paris Commune was crushed in 1871. Now I feel I know. And it's not a pretty sight.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Heaven Sent Doctor Who episode satisfies this SF critic at last: five-star review


WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

It is always good to be brought into the light, even though it may take an age: better late than never. And so the theme of Heaven Sent, the penultimate episode in the latest series of Doctor Who, brings me to my knees in grateful awe. Heaven Sent knocked me off my cynical perch where I've been nailed ever since Russell T Davies rebooted the Time Lord franchise to dreary derivative effect. And may I say I have never been happier to have had my opinions reversed so totally even if this turns out to be one glorious, single, solitary, diamond-perfect episode before it all goes back to normal.

Quite staggering in its concept and clever in its execution, this episode never makes a wrong turn. Blessed relief to find histrionics kept to a minimum, only reflecting the Doctor's impossible predicament and thus earning him the right to emote furiously, epically and truthfully. At last, Steven Moffat gives Peter Capaldi a script worthy of his talent and our expectations.

A grieving Doctor is deposited in a vast unrealisable castle, who-knows-where, which turns out to be a gigantic puzzle reminiscent of the classic The House That Jack Built episode (1966) that had Diana Rigg's Emma Peel so thoroughly trapped and beaten in The Avengers series.

Pursued relentlessly by The Veil, a monstrous shade of Death, it is only when the Doctor solves the first bit of the puzzle that we realise how difficult this challenge is. He is forced to struggle across all his levels of existence, from his deepest inner nightmares, to engagement with the ghost of Clara, to his survival on a colossal cosmic scale, and is tried to his utmost ingenuity and courage.

"How many seconds in eternity?", he asks. Not such an empty question as you might think.

A truthful confession dredged out of his deepest recesses stops The Veil in its tracks and resets the castle, whose floors and rooms rotate and move, for the next stage of the chase. Here, even the constellations are all wrong: the stars tell him that his very own torture chamber is 7,000 years in the future. How long has he been playing this game? Will he work out his ultimate escape? Will he run out of confessions?

Piece by piece he solves the puzzle and escapes death time and time again. Who was the owner of the skull he finds at the top of the tower still attached by electrodes? What is the meaning of the word written in the dust? He discovers that the castle is an island surrounded by a sea of human skulls. What cruelty has the castle's creator unleashed on these poor souls?

And yet, as in all the best stories, beneath the byzantine puzzle, there is a simple explanation whose driving force shoots this episode to the front of the SF screen rankings.

Our Doctor finally reaches the Home room, the square at the end of the game, where the Tardis and escape is set tantalisigly the other side of a crystal wall. At 400 times the hardness of diamond and twenty feet thick, it is impossible to penetrate. And yet, this surely has to be the moment he vanquishes? Well, yes, but not in the way you might expect.

What follows is a tour de force sequence that satisfies every demand for great story-telling. The moment you realise how the Doctor is going to win takes your breath away and is beautiful in its simple, profound truth. Here is eternity in a grain of sand, heaven in a flower. You could almost call this Triumph of the Will, but let's not go there.

So, bravo, Steven Moffat. It didn't take you a billion years to get here after all. It only felt like it. Salud.

Where to watch Heaven Sent.
On iPlayer.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Terminator Genisys review: a tragic thing to do to an old friend


SPOILER ALERT!!!

Oh the excitement as the Amazon package containing another 3D blu-ray movie drops through the door. This week it's the fifth in the much-loved Terminator franchise, Terminator Genisys which I've had on order for weeks and which was at long last released on November 2nd.

But yikes ...

After a promising start with Arnie doing a decent job reprising his original role as a craggily Johnny Cashesque aging Terminator, the movie ultimately proves itself a truly godawful stinker.

There's no sense that smug well-fed Jai Courtney as the tragic Kyle Reese is a top trooper who has endured a lifetime of apocalyptic nightmare under the tyranny of Cyberdyne and their Skynet artificial intelligence system. Instead, he looks like a jock goon straight out of a National Lampoons movie, dishonouring the memory of Michael Biehn, who wrung our hearts in the original.

It took me a while to realise that the one-note brat playing Sarah Connor is Emilia Clarke, Danaeris from Game of Thrones. I may have to wait and forget her performance in Genisys before I resume watching GOT season 4 but I fear my viewing may be irreparably harmed by her feisty feistiness. I may even take to referring to her as Her Feistiness. In case you hadn't guessed, I HATE feisty. Too cutesy, and insufficiently endowed with guts to be as truly challenging as demi-goddess Linda Hamilton (all hail).

What happened to Clarke's GOT co-star, Lena Headey, who made such a magnificent Sarah in the TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles? Did she take one look at the script and scarper?

Both Courtney and Clarke lack sensitivity and depth, and fail to recreate the mythical grandeur of the original movie, not helped by witless lumpen dialogue that a smart 11-year old would find embarrassing.

It says a lot when, aside from Arnie, the best acting comes from the T-800 (Brett Azar with Arnie's CGI'd face) and the T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun doing a great Robert Patrick). Not to mention JK Simmons spanning the years as Detective O'Brien.

The writers should be made to sweep streets for turning out this time-travel mess in which five dates figure: 1984, 1997, 2014, 2017 and 2029, plus the year when Sarah Connor was nine years old and got herself a pet "Pops" — an Ah-nuld Terminator. Got it?

The film opens with the messianic leader of the Resistance, John Connor (played by the decidedly UN-messianic Jason Clarke, meh!), sending his best buddy Kyle back in time from their offensive in 2029 to 1984 to protect his mum. So far, so like the original. However, in this timeline, it's all different and in the new 1984, Sarah is already hardass and familiar with the plot (aren't we all, dear) and now has that (rather emasculated) pet T-800 in tow. The other thing that is different is that Sarah and her cyborg minder have knocked up a little time machine. In 1984. Yeah, right. Never mind protecting Sarah, protect the crock of a plot at all costs.

Anyhow, I digress. The subsequent John Connor twist is severely mishandled, throwing away this key character. And the plot holes ... So if John Connor is transformed into a nanocyte prototype Terminator-3000 and goes back to 2014 in order to develop Genisys, Skynet's global operating system, in time for its deployment in 2017, and also to kill his parents, how can he be born and go back to 2014 in order to ... This conundrum is crudely plugged by nicking directly from the charmingly effective method in the original to the effect that someone says, "a person could go mad working this out". It's meant to work under cover of a witty callback to the first movie but just ends up calling attention to its own ineptitude.

There's not enough emotional pacing to transmit the horror of the situation in which JC and the family finds itself and results in just another over-complicated blah sci-fi movie when I wanted epic SF that explores big themes. In the wake of so much brilliant writing emerging from America, from Buffy to Breaking Bad, this is unforgivable.

I was optimistic about this movie, having seen what a glorious job the makers of the new Mad Max, Fury Road, did with the franchise. Terminator Genisys may have done well at the box office but I wonder how many viewers were pleased with the experience.

The brief presence of Matt Smith as the evuhl T-5000 who turns John Connor into a machine indicates intentions to make another sequel. It'll be back.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

All white at the BBC: South Africa would be proud of Newsnight


I've had the good fortune to be one of the few ethnics who have slipped through the cultural net and been able to make a few good programmes at the BBC, having a great face for the radio. But it's shameful that there's still so much unconscious racism as inadvertently exposed in a recent BBC recruitment film which neglects to mention their Black Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) audience and production staff (absence of). That's how unaware they are in this age of diversity. After all, the Beeb is based in a city that's 44 per cent non-white, so what is their excuse?

"I set the general editorial direction of travel," says Newsnight editor Ian Katz at a meeting rammed with white faces.


I found it useless trying to talk to Katz when he was editor of the Guardian's G2 supplement in 2000. They'd run a controversialist piece by Charlotte Raven about the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which was storming the box offices: " ... Because they were oriental, everyone presumed this was understatement, rather than woodenness. ... In Chinese, delivered inscrutably, it seemed to contain multitudes."

My disappointment wasn't so much that one writer had written this casual othering of a racial group but more that the G2 editors — the Guardian institution — hadn't sounded alarm bells. I can only guess at how richly ethnically diverse they weren't. I was met with hostility for raising the issue, so I'm hardly surprised that Katz now works in an all-white environment at the BBC. (Here's how it panned out.)

When working on my my play for Radio 4, Red Guard, Yellow Submarine, drawn from my memoir of the same name about being brought up by Chinese communists in Hackney, I walked through Broadcasting House with my producer, Pam Fraser-Solomon, who is Black, and it was notable that the only other non-white face at the time was the cleaner.

It's assumed that white folk do everything best and that any person of colour is there as a token.

Every time we stick our heads up the dominant white establishment tries to shoot us down. East Asians actors were give four minuscule roles out of 17 in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Chinese classic, The Orphan of Zhao — which the RSC then had the cheek to market to Chinese audiences. Trevor Nunn wants to produce all-white Shakespeare histories in the interest of verismilitude, minus the bad teeth and buboes, of course.

The latest lazy dismissal in the Guardian of a rare project made by a non-white team, Reggie Yates: Race Riots USA, would indicate that the liberal media are in nightmarish free-fall into some inner apartheid hell zone. I mean, accusing the lovely calm Reggie Yates of the crime of swagger? How submissive must a Black man be to assuage the white writer's fear?

I suggest they seek help. And I said, "seek help", not "sieg heil".

The Independent: Behind the scenes Newsnight new show blows the lid on the lack of racial diversity on the BBC.



Thursday, 1 October 2015

Reggie Yates Race Riots USA review: white liberal Guardianista requires smelling salts


Reggie Yates: Race Riots USA review

BBC3 Tuesday 29 Sept 2015

There's a lot of shark-jumping going on down Fleet Street. You may have observed the liberal press laying into the resurgence in progressive politics of late with a hysteria largely missing in action when it comes to the current assault on the poor, about which they are remarkably sanguine. I haven't seen such a screeching mess since the Mogwais were last fed after midnight.

Bankers break the economy and lie about Libor; the top percent double their dosh since the crash while the poor are driven to debt and suicide to better recapitalise the system. However, it's not the brutal transfer of wealth from poor to rich that's driving them to frothing fury, but Jeremy Corbyn's vest. How dare the new Labour leader lack vanity, have principles and, at long last, give hope to the weakest after three and half decades of Thatcherism?

When the oppressed and their champions mount a challenge, the liberal press turn out to be not quite so liberal after all. Just as the French government put their war with Prussia on hold in 1871 to team up with their 'enemy' to massacre the Paris Communards, you can barely squeeze a cigarette paper between the Guardian and their New Statesman stablemates on one side, and the Daily Mail et al on the other when it comes to maintaining the status quo (emphasis on status. And privilege.)

It's crept into every nook and cranny of the culture like the noxious diesel fumes invisibly killing us while someone makes a profit.

And lo, black Londoner Reggie Yates makes a thoughtful piece about the killings of black men by police in America — Race Riots USA — and what is the Guardian's chief concern? "Yates can’t seem to decide if he’s supposed to go with the poker face or let rip with his own opinions." Or as the headline has it, "an impartial observer's indignance leaks through." (Did they mean 'indignation', by any chance?) Uppity Reggie! Heaven forfend that a journalist is able to tell this story from the inside out like a human being, not a robot. What does he think this is? Jezza's vestgate? He's reasonable, puzzled, enquiring and moved rather than the easy-to-dismiss raging black man some of the media might prefer.

In case that didn't convince you to move along, nuthin' to see, the Guardian chips away with the flimsiest justification: ' ... “It could have been me” pronouncement while a driver holding a “Reggie Yates” sign meets him at the airport and takes his bags to the car. It confuses his status: is he the inquisitive everyman, there to guide us through the subject, or a celebrity who doesn’t carry his own bags?'

Perhaps it shows him as an ordinary dude who has booked a cab to meet him at the airport and, as is common practice, the driver's waiting with a hand scrawled sign of his passenger's name. It begins the story with his arrival and makes the point that he is from the outside ... and yet not.

Unarmed men and women are being murdered by white police and will never receive justice because of the colour of their skin, a skin they share with Yates. Some 176 in one year alone. Neither are women and children safe: a pregnant woman thrown to the ground; a bikini-clad adolescent manhandled by a cop at a pool-party; the boy with a toy gun shot dead; the teenager killed in the back of a police van. And still they keep on coming.

It is a scary, distressing and enraging catalogue of horrors. But the author of the Guardian review is most concerned about Yates getting above himself at the airport. Such was her snide hostility that I thought this couldn't possibly be a white writer as any halfway competent editor would have spiked such naked spite by a representative of drearily dominant whiteness, and that this must have been written by one of the house slaves. But no, Julia Raeside is white. And protecting her patch.

It is a bullshit piece. Obtuse, deliberately not understanding the issue. How could a journalist write something so hostile, so blatantly ignoring what Yates has done here? He's taken us into the belly of the beast and introduced us to its ugly complexities so effectively that, despite herself, Raeside almost praises him, but then catches herself and has another snipe in parentheses:
'When the rally is approached by two young black men, one in a Peace & Unity T-shirt, both of them filming with their phones, the unease is palpable. But a quick intervention by Yates (he gets away with a lot here by having a camera crew in tow) begins a dialogue between a blonde woman and the T-shirt pacifist, in which they largely agree on the need for cooperation.'

Yates also performs a fine journalistic function (unlike Raeside) in revealing that filthy lucre, not just blind prejudice, plays a key role in the collective tragedy that is Black America. The police force, which is around 94 per cent white, pays for itself with the fines on the Ferguson community, which is 70per cent black. Some of the people dragged into court owe five thousand dollars in what is an institutional shakedown with menaces. And on the day that Yates visits the court, they are all black. See what happens when you have a service based on profit? Which brings us neatly full circle to Jeremy Corbyn and yet more reason Labour must make the crucial challenge to austerity, exclusion and privatisation.

How often do you see a black person in Yates's position with a VOICE, who isn't a white person's stereotypical creation? The Guardian piece, people of colour, is the slap down you get for doing white folks' job and doing it well. Can't have young black people inspired like this. They might start demanding equal rights and opportunity. By the way, I'm delighted to note that Reggie and I went to the same school: Central Foundation Boys (in Old Street) and Girls (Spitalfields).

One question I would like answered is whether this wave of killings of unarmed black men and women has risen since Obama became President. His ascent to power seems to have driven Republican whites mad and you wonder if, unable to reach the interloper in the Oval office, the grim truth is that any black person will do.

EDIT: even sweeter, this was filmed, directed and produced by Ruhi Hamid and produced by Kandise Abiola, two women of colour aiming to "reflect the mood of Ferguson ten months after the riots and protests that followed the fateful shooting of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson."


Postscript: Julia Raeside thought it was a good idea to advertise her nasty clickbait piece with this tweet. I looked from Guardian to Daily Mail and back again and already it was impossible to tell which would look better in a cat tray.

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