Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Shakespeare's Birthday Insults Poem (first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 PM April 22)

Dear William

450 years to the good, do we see

In celebration thereof, have I offerings for thee.

Insults have I plucked from thy poems and plays

For use by tweeters, in these digital days.

"Thou cream faced loon"

"There’s no more faith in thee than in a stewed prune"

"Thou art baser than a cutpurse"

"We know each other well. We do, and long to know each other worse. "

"Thou thing of no bowels thou." "Pied ninny!" "Scurvy patch!"

"Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch."

"Thou poisonous slave"

"Filthy worsted-stocking knave"

"Damn’d and luxurious mountain-goat"

'The gold I give thee will I melt and pour down thy ill-uttering throat."

"Thou art nothing better than a disease"

"His breath stinks with toasted cheese"

"Slanderous tongues"

"The food is such as hath been belched on by infected lungs"

"Braggart vile"

"Thy tongue outvenoms all the worms of Nile"

"O you beast, o faithless coward, o dishonest wretch,

Wilt thou be made a man out of my vice?"

"It is certain that when he makes water, his urine is congealed ice."

"Go rot"

"Get thee glass eyes; and, like a scurvy politician, seem to see the things, thou dost not."

William’s works will live on where’er he doth rove

In spite of, methinks, not because of Mr Gove.

I sometimes fear...

I sometimes fear that people might think that fascism arrives in fancy dress worn by grotesques and monsters as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis. Fascism arrives as your friend. It will restore your honour, make you feel proud, protect your house, give you a job, clean up the neighbourhood, remind you of how great you once were, clear out the venal and the corrupt, remove anything you feel is unlike you...It doesn't walk in saying, "Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution."

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Financial Times replies to my blog about Sajid Javid

Here's a response to my post about the appointment of Sajid Javid as Culture Secretary.

It comes from Janan Ganesh of the Financial Times.

My responses are in italics within the article:

During his years in investment banking, Sajid Javid was probably called worse things than a philistine. This must be why Britain’s new culture secretary is not locked in his office weeping hot tears at the sour reception to his appointment from the arts lobby – and especially the children’s writer, Michael Rosen. To have your taste doubted by the author of 'You’re Thinking About Doughnuts' and 'Little Rabbit Foo Foo' is a very rough thing, but Deutsche Bank probably does a nice line in thick-skin training.

I guess this is supposed to be a sneer. I think his point is that someone who writes books with titles like that is someone who isn't entitled to doubt someone's taste. There are a couple of problems with this: 1) I didn't call Sajid Javid a 'philistine'. It was his behaviour as a banker that I was concerned about. 2) I'm sure Deutsche Bank is thick-skinned. They've been fined for rate-fixing - while Javid was one of their head honchos. 

The question is why artists, especially those of a literary bent, are still invited to expound like this. There is little evidence that ordinary people care what even the mega-selling Ian McEwans and Philip Pullmans think about anything outside their work. 

Some 'ordinary people' do, some 'ordinary people' don't. 'Ordinary people' are generally not 'ordinary'. 

And the novelist’s life is almost custom-engineered to preclude intelligent commentary on the real world. They shut themselves away to write and live off their imaginations. 

Really? Is that what we do? Or is that just something that Janesh has picked up from having to 'do' the Romantic Poets?

Politics and business are rather more earthly than that. There is no literary answer to Vladimir Putin’s revanchism or a £100bn budget deficit. Yet writers are still consulted as some kind of extra-parliamentary political class. This can go badly wrong. On the second anniversary of 9/11, the journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft chronicled “Two years of gibberish” from the literary world in response to that atrocity. Reading it again after more than a decade, none of the guff he painstakingly quotes has improved with time. “Touch me,” one author begged. “Kiss me. Remind me what I am . . . the immensity of this event can only be mirrored in the immensity of what we are.” Such wisdom. If only George W Bush had listened.

We get the message: we should shuttup. We should leave politics and banking to politicians and bankers. After all, they haven't screwed anything up over the last 10 years, have they? Well, if you write for the Financial Times, perhaps you can kid yourself that they haven't. 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Gove-Wilshaw - latest wire-tap - Gove's new 'Big Idea'.

Wilshaw is on the phone.

Wilshaw: (tough) "No one tells my troops what to do. Just  kick the door in. Get in there and bloody tell them. They're only teachers, for god's sake...."

(puts phone down)

Gove (sashays in, clicking his fingers, whistling and humming)

Wilshaw: Bloody knock will you?  I'm just sending my boys into one of your pissy little free schools.

Gove: Don't care, Big Boy. I have a plannity plan. While you're mired in bumf and detail,
I'm just floating, man.
(still clicking his fingers, though now he's doing it under Wilshaw's nose.)

Wilshaw: I don't suppose I can avoid you telling me, can I?

Gove: Well, you may have missed my superb statement on the new CREATIVE GCSEs. (as he says 'creative' he clicks his fingers and wiggles his ass.) The Miller opportunity got in the way.

Wilshaw: Opportunity?

Gove: Oh 'FFS' (winks in a coy manner), one person's misfortune is another person's opportunity...y'dig?

Wilshaw: I don't 'dig' anything apart from my garden.

Gove: Anyway, did you miss my superb statement?

Wilshaw:  Yep.

Gove: Well what I said,  out trends the trendies, outgrooves the groovers and gets down with the kids.

Wilshaw: (puts his head in his hands and groans)

Gove: They can't go on calling me Gove the Gradgrind. I'm Mr Mega-creativity Man. Oh yes. Now for the follow-up.

Wilshaw: Can you do that somewhere else?

Gove: No, you're going to listen to this, Big Boy. I am going to initiate a great new initiative. (he gropes in his pocket for a piece of paper. He pulls it out. It's a Pizza Express bill. He has written on the back of it. Gove reads from it. Though he struggles with the writing)

It's called - "Sing - Do it!" and every school in the country will-

Wilshaw - England. Not 'the country'.

Gove: Yadda yadda. Every school, every child will sing. They'll - "do it!" What do you think?

Wilshaw: They do already, don't they?

Gove: Says who?

Wilshaw: Says me?

Gove: And what do you know? Nada. This is going to be the Gove Sing - Do it! And they're going to sing British songs. Great British songs. It's going to be the Great British Sing. Every newspaper, every media outlet is going to be on to this. The whole country is going to Sing sing sing!

Wilshaw: Apart from those that don't want to. And apart from those who you piss off.

Gove: That's where you and your police force come into it. This is going to be...inspected!

Wilshaw: My boys have got enough to enforce without having to listen to a bunch of kids caterwauling in the school hall.

Gove: What is it with you? Why do you stamp all over everything I try to do?

Wilshaw: Because it's crap?

Gove: And everything you say and do, is a watered down version of the Gestapo. Or not so watered.

Wilshaw: What would be the matter if it was?

Gove: (shouting) Don't you worry, Big Boy. You're the day before yesterday's man. I'm going to launch this Sing - Do It! project without you ,then.

(stamps his foot, runs out. )

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Open letter to Sajid Javid, the new Culture Minister

Dear Sajid Javid

We've never met, but that's because I work in 'Culture' and you have spent most of your adult life so far in banking.

It's very difficult to see from your Wikipedia entry or from the kind of information put before us by Huffington Post (see my previous blog) how you're qualified to do this new job at the Ministry of Culture.

My experience within the cultural field, whether as a writer, performer and broadcaster, or as a keen consumer, is that this country is very ambivalent about 'culture'. That's to say, it's very convenient for politicians to make loud noises about the importance of this or that big cultural figure - Shakespeare, Beethoven and the like - but very difficult for them to acknowledge or support the thousands of ways all of us create and consume culture in small groups, locally, and - more recently - in digital forms.

This is not just about money - though that is of course important - it's about an attitude to people. Either we think that everyone has the potential to produce art, or we don't. Either we think that everyone is entitled to have access to all kinds of art, no matter how pricey that art was to produce, or not. As yet, we don't know which side of this divide you sit.

But while we're on about money - this is a peculiar time, isn't it? You're an ex-banker who made millions during the fatal bubble of the early 21st century. You were at a bank that has been fined for rate-fixing. You know all about this kind of money.  The fact that people like you got up to all sorts of greedy lending and fiddling is why we're in the crisis.

And yet the party you belong to keeps telling us that the reason why we're in the crisis is because 'we' spent too much money on health, education, social services, benefits and - yes - culture. Anything that was paid for out of taxation seems to have caused the crisis, according to your party. Lies, all lies, but that's the sort of 'culture' we have to put with from your party.

So, I'm very curious about how you're going to explain why 'Culture' will have to take a hit from the Treasury even as you are someone who benefited from the false boom, the very same boom that caused the crash...and to continue the chain...which is what has given your party the excuse to slash public services and cut waged and unwaged people's standard of living....and further enrich the mega-rich.

Perhaps you're mad keen on culture. Perhaps in between making all that money,  you were hanging around galleries, theatres, cinemas, concert halls, comedy clubs, libraries, dance studios, painting classes. Perhaps you've seen how people manage on a shoe string, perhaps you've seen the awful conditions backstage in many theatres, perhaps you know about the crap wages that most people in the arts work with. Perhaps you know about the terrible crisis we have in libraries, depriving people of access to knowledge and culture.

If you do, you'll know it's a very, very different world from the outrageous, lavish, crazy world you lived in while you were at Chase Manhattan and Deutsche Banks.

No matter you are of working class origin and your cultural background is a million miles from the Etonian toffs, you are now part of the class (yes), that runs the ludicrous world of the mega-rich gamblers who have caused millions of people across the world to lose their jobs and welfare.

So I'm not holding out any hopes.

Michael Rosen

Culture Minister Sajid Javid, banking, 2005-2008, rate-fixing probby

Care of Huffington Post re our new Culture Minister:

"Deutsche Bank was recently fined by the European Commission for colluding with four other banks and a brokerage firm to fix Yen Libor and Euribor benchmark rates. Their investigation focused on the period of Septemnber 2005 and May 2008. Questions have been raised, as Sajid Javid held senior positions at Deutsche Bank during this period."

Latest wire-tap: Gove tells Wilshaw how good he was on the Today Programme.

Wilshaw in his office.

Gove bursts in, opens his arms and takes up a heroic stance.

Wilshaw: I didn't hear you knock.

Gove: Da-daaaaa!

Wilshaw: (ignores)

Gove: What do you think? How did I do?

Wilshaw: Mm?

Gove: On the Today prog. How was I?

Wilshaw: I wasn't listening.

Gove: You weren't listening? What are you talking about? Everyone was listening!

Wilshaw: I wasn't.

Gove: Then it was the nation minus one.

Wilshaw: Uh-huh.

Gove: I was sensational.

Wilshaw: Did you get the Culture job? Here's hoping.

Gove: Of course not. Dave has other ideas. I have other ideas.

Wilshaw: Oh sheesh. Ideas and you. That's where the trouble starts.

Gove: I was so blooming statesmanlike. I was in Berlin...Churchill and Dunkirk...Henry V at...

Wilshaw: I got a text, saying you were like yesterday's porridge.

Gove: I did sad. I did responsible. I did regret. I did sympathy. I did concern. I know how to do the bloody lot. Govey 5 Dave nil. I was George bloody Best in the European Cup final.

Wilshaw: Champions League.

Gove: Shut your face, Big Boy. It was the European Cup then. It's the Champions League now. And now is when it And I am Mr Now.

Wilshaw: I need to get on with some work. I've got one of your little messes to mop up at Ecat.

Gove: My best moment was when I said, 'If I were doing Prime Minister's Question Time'....Geddit? Geddit? 'If'. Too bloody right. I just managed to not say, 'when'. Just left it hanging there... 'If' . Bloody magisterial.

Wilshaw: So you weren't able to blow your own trumpet on the new GCSEs thing?

Gove: I'm beyond that. That's already the past. That's merely a lower rung on the ladder.

Wilshaw: And Miller will be back anyway.

Gove: Of course she will. I did the contrition thing. Dave says sorry at PMQ. Sorted. She'll be back.

Wilshaw: Like him next door.

Gove: Laws, you mean.

Wilshaw: Too bloody right I mean Laws.

Gove: It all works, Big Boy. It's about loyalty and goodness. I said that to old man Humphrys. I wiped the floor with him. I showed the whole country minus you, that there is something more noble than hounding a decent Tory to the dogs.

Wilshaw: er...'hounding' means 'dogs'.

Gove: Don't bloody pretend you do metaphors. You're just a geographer.

Wilshaw: Historian.

Gove: Policeman. But I am a prince.

Wilshaw is up from his desk and pushing Gove out of his room.