Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Roger Moore dies at 89: sweet guy on and off the set

Hours after the horrific murder of young people at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester targeted by nihilistic sadists, comes news that another one of our screen icons is dead, aged 89.

I met Roger Moore when I was in one of the Bond movies as a teenager. I was sharing the dressing room opposite his at Pinewood with Bunny twins and he'd have us over for tea — proper silver service with cakes and sarnies. He was a lovely, generous guy even if he wasn't my favourite Bond by a long chalk. A great raconteur and delightful company who everyone found easy to work with.

So many deaths today. Look after the kids, Roger. RIP all you innocents.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Somi de Souza's play Revolution in a Catsuit opens in Los Angeles: video interviews

Somi de Souza's play Revolution in a Catsuit has bite, depth and substance. Ignored in Britain where minority artists are rendered invisible, it finally won support in Los Angeles where it is running at the Bootleg Theater until the end of April.

Can't wait for the video of the show. In the meantime, here are some behind-the-scenes conversations.

Somi de Souza:

Michael Phillip Edwards (multiple award winning actor, writer and director of the play 'Runt') discusses directing 'Revolution in a Catsuit':

Kirk Wilson - Production Designer:

Thursday, 13 April 2017

First ever UK exhibition on the Great War’s Chinese Labour Corps: Durham University 7th April to 24th September.

I'm afraid I've missed the 7th April launch date for the Chinese Labour Corps Memorial Campaign exhibition but it runs until 24th September 2017. Nearly 100,000 Chinese men served on the European battlefields of World War I doing the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs, clearing mines and dead bodies, and transporting explosives for the allied effort and yet they remain unrecognised. Here's the score ...

Chinese Labour Corps Memorial Campaign — Remembering the 96,000 Chinese volunteers of the First World War

Major new exhibition seeks to right an historic wrong and increase public awareness of the contributions made by Chinese volunteers to the campaigns in France and Flanders.

“Smiling for the camera”. WJ Hawkings Collection, courtesy of John de Lucy.

• Durham University’s Oriental Museum stages UK’s first ever exhibition on the Great War’s Chinese Labour Corps.
• Draws on official and private collections - including diaries; rare photographs; trench art; medals; newspapers; ephemera; and original equipment.
• Recently rediscovered WJ Hawkings Photographic Collection on public display for first time.
• Exhibition challenges the traditional narrative of strained relationships between British Officers and their Chinese charges.

The Ensuring We Remember Campaign has had the pleasure of working with Durham University’s Oriental Museum for almost three years, supporting the museum to stage a major new exhibition, A Good Reputation Endures Forever: The Chinese Labour Corps on the Western Front, opening on 7th April. It explores the role of the thousands of Chinese who risked their lives alongside the British armed forces during the First World War.

During the First World War 96,000 Chinese men volunteered to work for Britain as part of the Chinese Labour Corps (CLC). Although officially non-combatant, the CLC served on the Western Front and was commanded by British army officers and NCOs. They undertook essential and often dangerous work behind the lines on the Western Front and many lost their lives, whilst others won awards for courage.

Exhibition Curator, Dr Craig Barclay, said: “The exhibition’s title - A Good Reputation Endures Forever - recalls one of the inscriptions to be found on the gravestones of the men of the CLC who now rest beneath Flanders Fields.”

“Although there has been a considerable rise in interest in the story of the CLC in China, there remains little awareness in the West of the contribution of China during World War I. Since 2010, a small number of academic publications have explored the lives of the men of the CLC. No exhibition devoted to the subject has ever been staged in Britain however and the members of the CLC have rightly been described as the 'forgotten of the forgotten'.”

Drawing on official and private collections - including diaries; rare photographs; trench art; medals; newspapers; ephemera; and original equipment - this exhibition seeks to right an historic wrong and increase public awareness of the contributions made by these Chinese volunteers to the campaigns in France and Flanders.

Steve Lau, Chair of the Ensuring We Remember Campaign, observed: “This is a truly historic exhibition, not only because it is the first such exhibition in the UK, but also because the numerous personal items of British Officers on display, in many ways, challenge the traditional narrative of strained relationships between British Officers and their Chinese charges.”

A large selection of the WJ Hawkings Photographic Collection, rediscovered in 2014 by his grandson, John De Lucy, will be publically displayed for the first time. Unlike the set piece propaganda photographs taken by official photographers, the WJ Hawkings Collection gives a unique insight into the day-to-day lives of the Chinese Labour Corps; many of the photographs are believed to be unique in the subject matter they cover, including the only known extant photographs of the burial of a member f the Chinese Labour Corps.

A Good Reputation Endures Forever opens to the public on Friday 7th April 2017 and runs until 24th September. For more details visit the museum website:

The Oriental Museum is open Monday - Friday, 10am - 5pm and Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays, 12pm - 5pm. Entry to the museum is £1.50 for adults, 75p for children (five-16) and Over 60s, and free for children under five and students.

Friday, 7 April 2017

President Trump turns on a dime and bombs Syria: deep state regains control

Obama era anti-war protesters  

Lemme see ... in the week when Steve Bannon is finally ousted from the National Security Council (NSC) with nary a murmer from Trump who suddenly does a dramatic reverse on Syria in the very moments when Chinese President Xi Jinping is at Mar-a-Lago ... Phew! All the behind-the-scenes action finally manifesting in the public sphere with the first direct U.S. airstrike on a Syrian airbase.

Let's unpack this with what little info we have. Assad is winning the civil war but, just at the moment the rebels and their backers want the US smashing them into regime change, he handily provides the event most likely to bring it on and uses the banned chemical weapon sarin on his citizens leaving some 80 dead and many more horribly injured. And only weeks after 30 Yemeni civilians including "beautiful babies" and an American Navy Seal were killed in allied airstrikes in concert with those noble defenders of democracy, Saudi Arabia, and closely following over a hundred killed in Mosul.

Out of 59 U.S. Tomahawk Cruise missiles aimed at the Syrian airforce in a "precision strike", 24 hit their target resulting in around seven deaths but with many more lined up if events escalate.

No evidence has been presented so far to justify this unholy rush to military conflict. Check out Trump's efforts to keep Syrian refugees out of the US (and ours to keep them out of the UK). What of the depleted uranium and cluster bombs used by the US and Brits which continue to do their damage in Iraq? Will the US allow the Syrian rebels to continue using chemical warfare? Guess who sold Syria the chemical components for sarin only last year? BRITAIN! Commiting, facilitating and using atrocities to further your political agenda is WRONG no matter who is doing it.

We are run by monsters who care nothing about the general population — not you, not me, not "beautiful babies" — only the retention of power.

Still, it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Reuters report that shares of Raytheon, the makers of the Tomahawk Cruise missile, soared 2.1 per cent immediately after the attack while you'll be relieved to know that US stock futures recovered from a drop after the airstrike on Syria.

This is doing the rounds on Twitter:

What was Trump's reverse-ferret REALLY about? Why is Tillerson now pivoting towards dislodging Assad when all Trump's election rhetoric expressly rejected that particular neo-liberal policy? Is this a diversion from his myriad domestic problems? Had Trump just seen the figures showing U.S. job growth screeching to a halt, and the unemployment rate up at 4.5 per cent signalling the end of the Trump reflation rally? Or has Deep State been digging into the murky oubliettes of Trump and his team, applied the thumbscrews and now produced something solid on him? 'Ey, wanna be impeached? Your businesses trashed? Or would you like us to present you as the best. Pres. Evah? Gotta sell your mate Putin down the river. Gotta let Bannon sink. But you are our President now.

What did they tell Xi at Mar-a-Lago? (Apart from, here's a nice bit of fugu fish that President Abe left for you the other week.) Don't interfere in our plans for Syria if you don't want an unpleasant trade war or worse? It must have been like the Godfather at the southern White House with Don Corleone letting everyone know who's boss, but we don't yet know if the actual Don is the Donald or Deep State, the US political and economic establishment. ('Dis is wha' happen when a guy don't do what a guy is told, capeesh?')

There are parallels with Iraq and look how well that turned out. Let's hope they don't turn Syria into radioactive rubble as well. Meanwhile, we continue to suck up to Saudi, Duterte, the Stans ...

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Lucy Chau Lai-Tuen poetry review: Ungrateful — A Paper Daughter

Review of Lucy Chau Lai-Tuen's poetry collection: glimpses of perpetual marginalisation

A moving, fairly disturbing, collection of poetry from Hong-Kong-born writer and actor Lucy Chau Lai-Tuen, Ungrateful — A Paper Daughter, takes you deep inside the experience of perpetual marginalisation. All the small everyday unthinking acts of callousness that grind you down are laid bare on paper. It begs the question: why do we do this to each other?

There's lot of pain in each of these short poems powered by a strong voice and a clarity of vision that blasts away extraneous matter to reveal the hard, white glittering diamond at the centre.

Each poem grants a glimpse of what it was like to be a Chinese adoptee in Britain in the 1960s onwards, taken on as a baby by a well-meaning but hopelessly out-of-their-depth white family. How must it have felt never having your inner workings seen or responded to with warmth, and an almost entire absence of the most basic human connection: love. A weaker character might have been driven debilitatingly mad but instead, Lucy uses it to fuel her art, to make us see and experience what this existence is like for the person at the heart of it. Together they roll up into a massive punch.

It's not an unrelenting wave of misery, more a series of vignettes, a shutter opening and closing, giving us snapshots of a unique life. In "China Is Not a Good Place to Be a Bird" she finds herself a murmuration of starlings when she longs to be free, "screeching across the air Like the Feral Cockatoos of Hong Kong".

Even in mid life Lucy is still finding out about tradition and habits that might have been second nature had she not been uprooted at birth. She asks, "Why Do Old Chinese People Hoard So Badly?" and sees fear of poverty or worse in:
" ... a jar of fermented baby mouse wine
Empty jars, a precious commodity
Washed out with care
Ready to receive Chinese herbs
For soup
Deer tails
Dried seahorse broth
Empty chocolate tins
Empty tubs ..."

all waiting to be filled with good things, a bit like the poet herself. Is she perpetually balanced on a fulcrum of unease, of displacement, in the moment before toppling into victory or chaos?

The writing is restrained, allowing us to feel the emotion. You don't need hyperbole when the events speak for themselves, the cumulative effect of a thousand cuts bleeding into a massive whole.

Do Chinese count? Lucy has counted and placed politics to the fore in "Chinese Numbers", a chilling page that takes us through cataclysmic events from the Dover 58, the Chinese migrant workers found dead in a lorry, to the estimated 400,000 Chinese killed by Japanese fascists in wartime experiments.

All those colonialist turn-of-the-20th-century yellow peril slanders are still with us, mutated, morphed into manifestations that are deemed acceptable, often hiding in plain sight. Lucy's poems provoke a deep engagement with the questions with which she's grappling. This marginalising dynamic is real and whipping away like a snake and too much of our energy is wasted trying to work around it. Every once in a while it snaps hold and injects its poison. If the author can wake us up to stare it in the eye and call it what it is, then she has done us all a favour.

Ungrateful — A Paper Daughter by Lucy Chau Lai Tuen is available on Amazon

Friday, 24 February 2017

Heathcote Williams' American Porn poetry collection: balancing passion and disgust on a razor's edge — review

Five stars for Heathcote Williams' American Porn poetry collection: balancing passion and disgust on a razor's edge

Seems like we are all stuck in a science-fiction writer's coma dream, so deeply weird have been events of the past year. The culmination was the installation by electoral college (as opposed to popular vote) of our Orange Overlord, Toddler Trump. Or is it Eric Cartman and his Asian Cartman counterpart, Kim Wrong-un?

How would Western culture respond?

Fast off the block was Heathcote Williams with his collection of poetry, American Porn. So far, only Williams, South Park's astonishingly good Series 20 with its toxic Memberberries, and gallows-humourist Frankie Boyle have delivered the satirical goods — with the US Saturday Night Live TV series scoring the odd home run with Alec Baldwin's chumping of Trump and Melissa McCarthy's epic savaging of Sean "Squealer" Spicer.

Heathcote is lighter on laughs but more intense on historical background, which anyone familiar with his stunning Royal Babylon will know. There's real substance in his writing, balancing passion and disgust on a razor's edge lest he stare into the abyss for too long. Like all great poets, he connects seemingly disparate events, building a fully three-dimensional picture of how we got here. This requires delving deeply into the alt-fact mire and fishing out shape and sense without puking — a heroic endeavour.

In the opening poem, The United States of Porn, Heathcote takes us from Ancient Rome to Amerigo Vespucci, pornographer to the mafia Medicis; from Chatsworth, California, which he nails as the "HQ of America's Pornocracy" industry, to the Nazis and tyrants who have always used sex to cement their power — modern America is little different.
"Goebbels believed pornography worked as an anaesthetic -
His enemies, ironically, could be softened by being stiffened "
Given the choice between food and orgasms, sex-mad lab rats will starve, and humans are diverted from existential threat.

His poem Happy Thanksgiving (as opposed to a Happy Ending) disdains the usual amnesiac festive platitudes for the horror of those first meetings between indigenous Native Americans and European immigrants. If only the natives had had the means to build a wall. "But this nation was created by Zombie cannibals". Williams then gives us gruesome vignettes of barbarism and treachery, not on the part of the natives, but of the pious, bible-bashing interlopers and their God-bovvering hypocrisy. "The Pilgrim Fathers belong not to history, But to a quasi-religious ideal," which is still running things, especially with the ascension of Trump.

In American Porn, Heathcote Williams maps out the background: all the roads leading to this sorry point. Trump is less cause than symptom: a fully-ripe buboe fully charged to explode all over the world.

American Porn by Heathcote Williams is available from Amazon