Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

Trailer for Remake of TV Series ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’

January 15, 2022

I found this trailer for a remake of the 90s comedy series, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ on Will Smith’s channel on YouTube. Smith’s a great actor, who’s been in some great movies – Independence Day; I, Robot; and I Am Legend to name just three. But I think it was The Fresh Prince of Bel Air that launched his career. I never really watched it, but I caught the odd bits and pieces of various episodes while waiting for Star Trek to come on. Star Trek: The Next Generation and then Star Trek: Deep Space 9 used to be broadcast on BBC 2 on Wednesday, with the Fresh Prince just before it. From what I remember, the basis plot of Fresh Prince was that Will Smith was a bit of a tearaway from the ghetto, who kept getting into trouble. This wasn’t anything serious, just cheeky pranks. His family therefore sent him to live with his rich relatives in their mansion in Bel Air to straighten him out. The tone was generally light, and Smith had a naturally cheeky charm.

This, however, seems to be rather darker. It’s got cinematic production values, but the basic plot seems to be that the central character was in a fracas on the basketball court with a violent criminal, who has vowed to kill him. Hence he’s sent to live with his rich relatives to get him out of danger. There’s obviously a culture clash between his rough upbringing and the highly rarefied world of the superrich he now moves in. I think there’s also a comment on racial politics, as the characters amazed when I rich White lad gives him a Black ghetto greeting. The remake’s clearly had a very large budget and wants to explore some deep issues, and the lad cast for the Will Smith role certainly looks the part. I just don’t know if it should be darker and whether the concern with contemporary political issues will overshadow the comedy.

A few years ago there was an attempt to the 1980s werewolf comedy, Teen Wolf, into a TV series. This was originally a film starring Michael J. Fox as a teenager, who was afflicted with lycanthropy, It ran in his family. There’s a scene in which his father informs him while shaving that there an inherited problem condition in the family while Fox is shaving in the bathroom. When he opens the door, his father is there in full werewolf form. But the werewolf metamorphosis proved to be a benefit, as it helps him to lead his school basketball team to victory. It was a light, funny film. But when they planned to revive it, they decided they were going to make it darker. I don’t think it ever got made. I think there is a real problem when TV companies take old movies and TV series and try to make them darker for a modern audience. With all the economic pressure and the Covid lockdown make life tough for people, I think there’s a demand instead for more positive, cheerful stuff as well as grim dramas about serial killers.

And I hope that this remake preserves all the real comedy that made the original such a long-lasting hit.

Petition to Strip Blair of His Knighthood Gets Over Half A Million Signatures

January 5, 2022

You can say one thing for Tony Blair and his inclusion on this New Year’s Honours list, it’s united the British people in a way that’s rarely been done. Right across the political spectrum, from Corbynist left to Tory right, people despise him as a warmonger. The petition on Change.org to have him stripped of his knighthood has reached 650,000 signatures. Which I think means that it has to be debated in parliament. Unfortunately, as the mad right-wing internet broadcaster Alex Belfield has said in one his videos, there’s little chance of the politicos taking notice of it or doing what nearly three-quarters of a million people want.

Mike has pointed out that the people want him denied the honour because he took the country into an illegal war with the Iraq. The charitable interpretation of this is that Blair believed the fake information that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But rather than wait for a UN resolution authorising military action, Blair put pressure on his advisers to state that he could launch an invasion,, and then went ahead and acted according to the advice he’d decided he should be given. Nearly a million people have died as a result of the war that followed.

Less charitable individuals might follow instead the information in Greg Palast’s book, Armed Madhouse, which showed that the real reason behind the invasion was economic. The Neo-Cons wanted Hussein out the way because he occasionally sent aid and support to the Palestinians. The American and Saudi oil industry wanted to loot Iraq’s state oil industry and oil reserves, which are the largest outside Saudi Arabia. Western multinationals also wanted to get their mitts on the country’s state enterprises. And the Neo-Cons also had a plan to turn Iraq into the kind of free trade state with precious few tariff barriers against imports they wanted for America. The result was that Iraq’s oil is now in the hands of foreign countries, a situation authorised by the new constitution written for the country. Many Iraqi businesses went bust as a result of the lowering of tariff barriers, as the world dumped their surplus goods on the country at cheap prices. The country’s own businesses couldn’t compete and went out of business. The unemployment rate skyrocketed to 60 per cent.

The country had been relatively secular with a welfare state and, I believe, free healthcare for its citizens. This has vanished. Women were also safe on the streets and could follow a career outside the home. That vanished too. One of his Hillary Clinton’s female officials tried telling a crowd that things were actually better for Iraqi women during a diplomatic tour of Turkey. She was very definitely told the contrary by a group of annoyed Iraqi ladies. And domestically the country collapsed into bloody chaos. In Baghdad, peace walls had to be erected between Sunni and Shia Muslim areas. Sectarian death squads roamed the country looking for the wrong kind of Muslims to kill, with the cooperation of the American military authorities. The mercenary companies also employed as peacekeepers were also out of control. They ran drugs and prostitution rings, and their soldiers shot ordinary Iraqis for sport. One American diplomat to Iraq was so shocked that he came back to the Land of the Free to the tell the media all about it, including the Nazi regalia sported by some US squaddies.

Over 2 million severely normal Brits marched against the Iraq invasion. One of the priests at my local church was one of them. They were ignored. Just as Blair’s successor, Keef Stalin, is also keen that the government or Her Maj not rescind Blair’s knighthood. Apparently he gave some kind of speech listing all the good things that Blair had done, like winning three elections. Blair’s administration was responsible for some good policies. He would have liked to have privatised the health service, but under him it was still properly funded and he had some success in tackling poverty. But he was also responsible for the Work Capability Tests that have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of disabled people wrongly judged fit to to work, and thrown off the state support they desperately need. All too many have died of starvation and neglect as a result.

And that still doesn’t remove the fact that Blair launched an illegal war and on that account is viewed as a war criminal by many. I bought a book a while ago, written by a lawyer, which made that very case. It went through the relevant international legislation and showed through repeated examples how Blair and Bush had violated it. There were even attempts by Canadian and Greek human rights activists to have the two arrested and tried for their crimes against humanity. This failed as it was successfully blocked by politicians and other officials.

The war also further destabilised the Middle East, setting up the conditions for the expansion of Iranian power into the Iraq, while at the same time radicalising parts of the country so they were taken over by Daesh. Who then went on to smash the monuments and sacred buildings of Christians, Shia and other religions they didn’t tolerate, and destroy priceless antiquities going back to ancient Babylon. This, along with the civil war in Syria, has also fuelled the refugee crisis. I’ve no doubt many of the channel migrants, or ‘dinghy divers’ as they’ve been dubbed by anti-immigrant right-wingers like Belfield, are people fleeing the chaos in Iraq. I am definitely no fan of Barbara Barnaby, the head of the British branch of Black Lives Matter. But she made a good point at a Corbynite Labour meeting last year when she said that Britain should admit these refugees because of our responsibility for the wars that forced them to leave their homes.

I’ve also heard the other side of the argument, that Blair should have got the knighthood after leaving office, as was customary for all prime ministers. He wasn’t. This has also caused a further problem, in that apparently they have to be granted to prime ministers in order. This has meant that Cameron hasn’t got one either and Tweezer hasn’t been made a dame or given some equivalent honour. The insult, on this view, is that it already has taken so long to grant Blair his honour.

Well, I still don’t think he deserves one. Just as I don’t think Cameron and Tweezer deserve honours either. Cameron held the vote on Brexit thinking it would fail and he’d defeat the Eurosceptics in the Tories. It didn’t. It narrowly won. However, it divided Britain. England largely supported it, while the Welsh, Scots and northern Irish rejected it. It’s breaking up the union and has particularly betrayed the people of Ulster. Both Loyalists and Nationalists wanted the border with Eire to remain open. The loyalists, as you might expect, also didn’t want a tariff barrier separating the Six Counties and the rest of the UK. An open border with Eire was one of the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement that ended the war in Northern Ireland. With Britain leaving the EU and the imposition of a hard border, instability and sectarian violence have returned. Speaking on the BBC comedy show, Room 101, Jeremy Paxman nominated Cameron to be sent into the room containing all the most horrible stuff in the world. Cameron was, declared the former bane of politicians on Newsnight, the worst prime minister we’d had since Lord North. He was the PM who lost us the American colonies.

My guess is that Blair will still get his knighthood. But millions of severely normal Brits will still hate him as a warmonger, the man who lied to us to get the illegal war he wanted, and sent Britain’s courageous young servicemen and -women to fight and die in decades of pointless war. I think Blair will still get the honour, but millions will still remember him as war criminal, and further resent the honours system that has rewarded him.

Bush and Blair were subjects of satire and ridicule when they started the war. Someone on the Net cut footage of various speeches and press gatherings by the duo to show them singing Electric Six’s ‘Gay Bar’. Which has the fitting lines ‘Let’s start a war. I want to start a nuclear war’. Let’s hope Blair and the world’s other politicians never do.

Another Festive Musical Attack on the Tories from PoliticsJoe

December 27, 2021

I’ve been putting up some of the vids from Kunt and the Gang for their obscene song about our incompetent, greedy, and murderous prime minister. However, they haven’t only made one or two. They’ve made thirteen, which is far too many to put up. And I think we’ve got the message by now. But here’s another musical spoof of them I found on YouTube from JOE: Now That’s What I Call A Tory Christmas. It’s a parody of the long-running series of music albums, Now That’s What I Call Music. The spoof songs include a version of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’, about them telling people to keep apart while they themselves partied, Michael Gove singing a version of ‘White Christmas’ with a suspicious sniff; the horsey woman sings about how cronyism got her the contract for PPE and Rishi Sunak and friends singing about how they’ve spaffed everyone’s money up the wall. Other songs satirise Dominic Cummings for his drive to Barnard Castle and the Tory party cutting aid to Africa. And there’s a final song from a football commentator, manager or somebody advising us all not to vote for these bellends. Which is excellent advice. All with a carefully cut and edited voiceover from the minister for the 18th century, which makes him seem even more of a ridiculous anachronism than he already is. So enjoy!

K*nt and his Band Call Boris What He Is (Contains Obscenity)

December 23, 2021

A few days ago, Cassetteboy and K*nt and the Gang released their song, in which Boris Johnson was carefully edited so that he openly declared his complete indifference to the suffering he’d caused, as long as he and the rest of the obscenely rich got even richer. This had a refrain by K*nt telling the world in what Star Trek IV described as ‘colourful metaphors’ and everyone else calls profanity exactly what Johnson is. Well, I found this little snippet on YouTube of K*nt and his Gang performing last August, 2021, in Basildon. The song has only one line, and that is the same obscene description of Johnson. Presumably it’s because of this earlier song that the one they released a few days ago is called ‘Boris Is Still a F**king C**t’. So, as Max Headroom, the world’s greatest computer generated video jockey used to say, ‘and now, more of the same.’ Here’s the video in all it’s rancid glory.

Okay, swearing isn’t big and isn’t clever, as your parents and teachers told you. But it is apt at expressing the real hatred people in this country have for Johnson and his gross misgovernment and flagrant contempt for their lives and wellbeing. And listening to it is also somewhat nostalgic, because it reminds me of some of the Punk bands that appeared in the wake of the Sex Pistols. Some of them had precious little except energy, attitude and about three chords if they were lucky. But they expressed their anger at the status quo.

Ah, it’s like 1977 all over again.

History Debunked Defends Man Jailed for Hamas T-Shirt

December 21, 2021

This is a very provocative video from Simon Webb’s History Debunked. In it he defends the man, who was jailed last week or so under the anti-terrorism legislation for wearing a T-shirt supporting one of the Hamas paramilitary brigades. Webb has put up several pieces attacking what he regards as the infringement of the right to free speech under the hate crime and anti-terrorism laws. A little while ago he put up another video objecting to the jailing of another man for terrorism. The man was a Nazi, and the crime for which he was jailed was simply that of looking at Neo-Nazi material. Webb states that his views are vile and was clearly not happy at defending him. But his point was that terrorism should actually mean trying to kill people for political purposes, not merely simply holding extremist views. I think his argument in that video was this man, and a number of other White males, were being jailed for terrorism to even up the statistics when it came to the racial composition of terrorism offenders so that the majority weren’t Muslims. And the only way to do that is to start jailing people for holding extremist views and reading extremist material and not just for shooting people, planting bombs and so on.

In this video he talks about how, since 2002, it has been illegal to possess a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook, a nasty little publication that shows the reader how to make various weapons. He points out that it’s been around since the 1970s, and at one time you could buy it perfectly legally in high street bookshops. He himself used to have a copy. I remember people talking about it in the 1990s without anyone actually wanting to try it out to harm anyone. There’s a similar book in America, written by someone rejoicing in the name Ragnar Redbeard. That book similarly tells the reader how to make various weapons, which is very definitely illegal even under American law and the constitutional right to bear arms. According to the online human magazine, Cracked, however, it’s publication is perfectly legal under the constitutional right to free speech, and defended on the grounds that if the wretched book were banned, it would show that this fundamental right was under threat.

He goes on to talk about the case of the man jailed for his Hamas T-shirt, and compares it to the one he wears in the video. This has a motto in Hebrew. It’s taken from the Hebrew Bible, and is the motto of the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad. It was given to him by his wife as a bit of a joke as he spent several years living in Israel. Yes, the Hamas paramilitary brigade on the bloke’s T-shirt is a terrorist organisation. But then, so is Mossad. This is strong stuff, as I don’t doubt there are plenty of people who would claim the opposite, not least because Mossad is an official department of the Israeli state. I can imagine that the same people, who screamed ‘anti-Semitism!’ whenever Jeremy Corbyn, Jewish Voice for Labour or the Electronic Intifada criticised Israel for its atrocities against the Palestinians being equally outraged at this description of Mossad. But Mossad has behaved like a terrorist organisation. It has carried out kidnappings and assassinations, and so the description, while controversial, has a certain validity.

Actually, the real object of Webb’s polemic is at the end of the video, where he talks about the arrest of Piers Corbyn for supposed terrorism. Piers Corbyn is a notorious critic of the Coronavirus lockdown, which he feels is a terrible infringement on the British public’s personal liberty. He’d been asked what ordinary people should do. He replied by telling them they should go round an MP’s house or constituency office, and, well, he didn’t know what, but suggested burning it down. Which is what got him arrested.

In my opinion, Piers Corbyn is a dangerous crank. His entire scepticism towards the Coronavirus and the lockdown reminds me very strongly of the other sceptics, who all refused to take the vaccine because they didn’t believe it really existed or wasn’t that bad. And then showed how lethal the disease could be by catching it and dying. As for his comments about burning down MPs’ homes or offices, well, it may be that Simon Webb is right and that he didn’t mean it literally. I think the judge may also have agreed with this view, and released him. But it’s still monumentally stupid. Unfortunately, MPs have been assassinated – David Amess by an Islamist, Jo Cox years ago by a White Fascist. And there’s the Liverpool suicide bomber. I dare say that none of these were caused by an unguarded inflammatory comment, but there is a danger that some nutter will hear casual remarks like P.C.’s and act upon them.

As for the Hamas T-shirt, I don’t like paramilitary organisations and terrorists no matter who they are. But there is a problem of selective enforcement. For example, Tony Greenstein has remarked several times on his blog about a couple of fervent Zionists, who turn up at every Zionist rally or anti-Palestinian organisation wearing T-shirts with the Kach symbol on them. Kach is another terrorist organisation, designated so by the Israelis themselves. It was founded on the teachings of the extreme right-wing Israeli rabbi, Meir Kahane, who really did believe that the Palestinians should be expelled at gunpoint from Eretz Israel. If you’re going to jail someone for wearing the symbols of a Palestinian paramilitary organisation, then rightly those supporting Kach should also face time in the slammer. You can also go further, and ask why the members of Sasha Johnson’s wretched Black militia haven’t been arrested. Before she was shot in the head by a gang apparently aiming for her partner, Johnson had been trying to found this organisation. There was footage of her standing in front of ranks of black-attired people in stab vests, all of whom were themselves Black. This was supposedly to protect Black people from being killed by the cops, whom she decried as the KKK, which is a grotesque comparison. According to legislation passed in the 1930s with the express intention of banning paramilitary groups like the BUF or the Nazis, it is illegal for an organisation to have a paramilitary uniform. But this is, arguably, what Johnson’s Black militia had and were. Despite calls by the mad right-wing YouTuber Alex Belfield for the police to come and arrest them, as far as I know they were allowed to go free. I suspect the authorities believed that some of its members would be only too glad to get into a fracas with the police and were afraid of playing into their hands. As for the Kach supporters, I suspect that if someone did try to have them arrested, it would either be ignored or be denounced as another instance of anti-Semitism by Israel’s militant supporters.

I have to say that I have no problem with jailing Nazis and real political extremists. But there are issues of free speech involved and the correct, uniform enforcement of the legislation. Because what should be illegal for one set of extremists and supporters of terrorism, should be illegal for all.

Two people wearing Kach T-shirts at a pro-Israel rally.

Cassetteboy and Kunt Call Johnson What He Is (Contains Offensive Language)

December 18, 2021

As you were probably told by your parents and teachers, swearing and obscenity aren’t big and they aren’t clever. But unfortunately, it can also be funny and sometimes vulgarity is the only right way to express disgust at vile people and the situations they create. Cassetteboy are a bunch of YouTubers who specialise in songs satirising the powerful, rich and famous by carefully editing their words so that they appear to say things that are absolutely ridiculous. Kunt and the Gang are a pop band on the internet, who make humorous songs which are also offensive and obscenely vulgar. As you can tell from his name, which is obviously based on a very offensive four letter word. Kunt himself looks to me like a grey-haired version of 70s actor Richard O’Sullivan from Man About the House and The Adventures of Dick Turpin. As for the type of humour in their songs, well, after Katy Perry released ‘I Kissed a Girl’, about a young woman’s first lesbian clinch, Kunt and the Gang produced ‘I Sucked Off A Bloke’, about how he lost a bet on a building site and had to perform a particularly obscene forfeit, which he didn’t enjoy.

Cassetteboy’s editing has Johnson singing about how it’s his party, and they don’t care if you die. If there’s any opposition, they just change the rules. The only thing they really care about is the money in their bank accounts. They give public cash to the rich, and the only things levelling up are Covid and inflation. The Tories will make Britain bleed, but distract us with hatred of the refugee channel migrants. At which point Kunt appears to yell ‘He’s still a c**t’. Boris says he wasn’t at the front of the cue when God gave out brains and personality, so it’s always worth betting on him fouling up. And he hope he doesn’t offend people with his language, but he’s still the same ‘a f***ing c**t’. At which point Kunt appears again, centre stage, to repeat the message.

I apology for the offensive language, but this is an accurate description of the way severely normal Brits are losing patience with him, and the complete contempt and diversionary tactics the Tories are using by whipping up hatred against refugees.

History Debunked on the Comparative Lack of Interest in British Asian History

December 17, 2021

This is a related video to the one I put up from Simon Webb’s History Debunked this afternoon, which discussed how the Beeb had race-swapped the characters in their adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days. Phileas Fogg’s servant, Passepartout, is now Black, but the leading lady, who is Indian in the book, is now White. ‘Cause you can’t have two non-White leads apparently. Or Blacks must be given preference over Asians when it comes to casting non-White roles. In this video Webb discusses the case of Hsien Fan Sun, a Chinese gent who worked as a librarian at the court of James II. If Sun had been Black, then knowledge of him would have been promoted as it has been about Mary Seacole and John Blank, the Black trumpeter at the Tudor court. But he isn’t, because he’s Chinese. It’s another example of how, to Webb, diversity means primarily Black people. Which left me wondering why this should be so.

Racism to and Enslavement of Asian Indentured Workers

Asians have suffered their share of western racism and enslavement. During the infamous ‘coolie trade’, Asian workers from India and China were recruited as indentured labourers to work on plantations in the Caribbean, Fiji and elsewhere to replace the Black slaves, who had been emancipated. They worked in horrendous conditions, which in many cases were worse than those endured by the Black slaves. The system was widely denounced by Indian nationalists and humanitarians, including the Anglican Church and leading politicos, as ‘A New System of Slavery’. Which is the title of an excellent book on it by Hugh Tinker, published by one of the Indian presses. There were riots against the coolie trade in India and China, and the British authorities were also keen to stamp out the enslavement of Asians. The Indian police raided warehouses where Indians were being forcibly confined after they had been kidnapped, or tricked into signing indenture papers. It was such a scandal that the government issued a series of regulations demanding that Asian labourers should have access to an interpreter and understand the terms and conditions of the contract, that there should be a minimum level of acceptable living conditions aboard ships, children should be with women rather than left with the men, and a minimum number of women should emigrate with the male workers. There should also be opportunities for correspondence home and the remittance of money. I think the Britiish government first discussed the recruitment of the Chinese in particular in 1816 or so. They wanted replacements for the Black slaves, and the Chinese were decided upon because they were hardworking and less likely to complain or rebel. The prejudice against Chinese workers continued into the 20th century, when the early Labour party at one meeting denounced the government’s ‘Chinese slavery’ and put up a picture of a Chinese man. There were anti-Chinese riots in 1909, although this was caused by British firms sacking their White employees and replacing them with Chinese during an industrial dispute.

The Asian Presence in British and European History

There isn’t a total lack of interest in the Asian presence in British history. The book Under the Imperial Carpet, whose editors were Asian, also discussed Asian British history. Before the present set of ethnic minority MPs were elected in the ’70s and ’80s, Britain had BAME MPs. Webb put up a video about an Indian rajah, who became a Conservative MP in the 19th century. Other Asians became Liberal and even Communist MPs later in the early 20th. I’m not entirely surprised by the presence of Sun at James II’s court. This was the age when Europe was expanding, not just across the Atlantic, but also into Asia. The Jesuits were establishing missions in China, and scientific and technical knowledge flowed back and forth. I think the Chinese were impressed by European clockmaking, while Europeans were impressed by the Chinese skill at making automatons. By the following century upper class Europeans were consuming tea, Chinese porcelain, decorating their homes with wallpaper and furniture with Chinese art and motifs. Chinese literature was also being translated into European languages. The great religious sceptic, David Hume, read at least one Chinese novel. What impressed him was not how different it was, but how it was comprehensible, given the difference between Chinese and European culture.

Asian Stars on British Television

There are and have been Asian actors and presenters on British TV. I’ve mentioned Anita Rani, Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Adil Ray in my previous post. But before them there was David Yip way back in the ’70s, who starred as The Chinese Detective. Dino Shafeek and Andy Ho appeared as the Indian and Burmese staff in the comedy It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum. The classical Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar gained widespread popularity among the Hippy crowd through his friendship with Beatle George Harrison. He’s said since that this wasn’t altogether beneficial, as you should approach classical Indian music with the same attitude you approach western classical music, rather than listen to it like pop. And were any number of western groups taking over oriental instruments, like sitars, and rhythms. This in turn led to the rise of World Music, a genre that encompasses music and its performers from across continents, and which includes both traditional and more modern forms.

And there is an interest in recovering an Asian, as well as Black British past. The Black rights and history organisation with whom I briefly corresponded when I was working at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum was the Black and Asian Studies Association. Researchers on Islam in Britain, when I was studying the religion at College in the 1980s, were particularly interested in the discovery of tombs with inscription in Arabic dating from the 17th century in Yorkshire. A more recent programme on the Barbary Pirates on Radio 4 in the early part of this century suggested instead that they may have been the graves of indigenous White Brits, who had been captured by the north African pirates and forcibly converted to Islam before either escaping or being ransomed. And a year or so ago there was a programme on Radio 3 about the Muslim servant of one of the ministers responsible for carrying through the Reformation over here. There have also been history books written about ‘The Muslim Discovery of Europe’. With the rise of capitalism, the stock exchange and the nascent consumer culture in the 18th century came popular ballads celebrating how people of all races and creeds, Jew, Christian and Turk, were all united in the peaceful work of making money. I don’t think there’s any shortage of material. My great-grandfather was a docker, and I can remember my grandmother telling me about the lascar and Chinese sailors that came into Bristol docks. But in general Webb is right: as a rule diversity means Blacks rather than Asians. Why is this?

Blacks More Determined than Asians to Be A Part of Mainstream British Culture?

I think some of it may be that Blacks have a greater determination to be a conspicuous part of western culture than Asians. Blacks have certainly formed a large part of the British and American entertainment industries since White youth started tuning into Jazz in the 1920s. There were Black screen actors, although quite often the roles they were given were demeaning before Sidney Poitier revolutionised the portrayal of Blacks on screen, paving the way for contemporary Black leading men. But then, so did Bruce Lee and stars of Chinese martial arts cinema like Jackie Chan and Jet Li. And some of us still remember the TV adaptations of the Chinese classics The Water Margin and Monkey, the latter based on Wu Cheng-en’s epic novel.

I wonder if some of it may be that some Asian cultures are more inward looking, and likely to look more toward their homelands and its culture for their roots and identity than Britain. Please note: I am certainly not suggesting that they are somehow less British than the rest of us. But I can remember coming across an academic, ethnographic study British Asians entitled The Myth of Return. This probably took its title from the initial conviction among many Asian immigrants that they were coming here only to make enough money so that they could afford to retire back to their home countries in comfort. This aspiration certainly wasn’t confined to them. Many Black West Indians also shared it, as did the Irish correspondent to the Groan whose letter began, ‘Sir, I am an Irishman, who came to Britain to make enough money to go back to Ireland again.’ In the ’70s there was a difference in integration between Muslim and Christian Pakistanis. Both groups were equally Pakistani in their culture at home, but the Christians were far more integrated into wider British culture. For example, their children mixed at school with the White children. By contrast ethnographers found that the Muslims took their children straight to school and straight back, and really didn’t allow them to share the same afterschool activities as their White classmates. This might explain why there were Islamist segregationists, who wanted there to be self-governing Muslim enclaves in Britain and Belgium, with Arabic as the official language, governed by shariah law. I hasten to add that things are rather different now. There was a Big Iftar around the country, a giant feast marking the end of Ramadan, celebrated by the Muslim community, who also invited their non-Muslim neighbours to partake. And polls have shown that only five percent of British Muslims want shariah law. But I think the Asian community may be more likely to get their entertainment from their ancestral countries through the Internet, satellite TV and video and DVD.

Asians More Culturally Confident?

I also wonder if part of the answer is that Asians, and specifically Indians and Chinese, may be more culturally confident than western Blacks. India and China were highly advanced, literate civilisations with histories going back millennia. A glance through books on the history of inventions and mathematics shows any number of works and innovations by Arab, Persian, Indian and Chinese scholars. The first instance of plastic surgery, for example, comes from 8-9th century India, when one of the leading surgeons repaired the nose of a Indian princes. Muslim mathematicians and scientists studied astronomy, alchemy, medicine. And the Chinese had printing – though not with movable type, that was definitely Gutenberg’s invention – gunpowder, rockets, paper money and toilet paper, to name but a few. Sometimes this cultural confidence has formed the basis for humour. One of the characters on Goodness, Gracious Me – or was it the Kumars at No. 42? was a father, who was excessively proud of his home country’s achievements. He shouted out ‘India!’ every time various inventions were mentioned. I also remember one episode of Lovejoy in which the dodgy antique dealer was in negotiations with a Hong Kong businessman. This man was also conscious of how his country had led the world in science and invention for centuries, to the point where he believed the Chinese had more or less invented everything. At one point this is too much for his interpreter, who says to him, ‘Oh no, Mr -, I don’t think we invented motorcycles’.

Black African Cultures Less Well-Known and Admired

This is in contrast to Africa, whose great civilisations and monuments are less appreciated. Ancient Egypt has been claimed as Black civilisation by the Afro-Centrists, but this is controversial and they could well be wrong. Nubia and Meroe in what is now the Sudan died out centuries ago. Christian Nubia was conquered by the Muslims. It’s predecessors in the Sudan unfortunately spoke languages that are now extinct. The Nubians took over the culture and alphabet of the Ancient Egyptians. Frustratingly, we can read their inscriptions but have no idea what they mean until the appearance of a Rosetta Stone that will give us the key to translating them. Abyssinia was a literate, Christian empire while the Kiswahili were also an advanced Islamic civilisation. As was Mali and other states in northwest Africa. But I think these have been seen as the exceptions rather than the rule. Although many of the civilisations of north and Saharan Africa were capable of building large structures, like house and mosques from mud brick, I suspect the popular image of Africa remains that of mud huts. And until the introduction of Islam and Christianity on the continent, many of these peoples were illiterate. The result has been that the attitude of many western scholars towards African civilisation was wholly negative. The book Colour and Colour Prejudice, by the last British governor of Ghana, has page after page of quotes from various western scholars, almost all of whom declare that African culture is worthless and that the continent’s people have discovered nothing. Obvious this has been and is being challenged by Black activists and scholars.

Blacks and Affirmative Action

Much of the promotion of Blacks as a specific group has come from concern at the poor conditions of the Black community in America and Britain. Other groups have also suffered racism. I can remember one of my uncles telling me with disgust about the horrible ‘jokes’ the other White workers played on an Indian comrade. As a rule, I think Blacks are at the bottom of the racial hierarchy when it comes to academic performance and employment. Above them, but still disadvantaged, are Muslims. Indians are about the same level as Whites, or just below, while Chinese actually outperform us. Black history as a specific subject in schools is being promoted as the solution to the problems of the Black community. If Black people were aware of their achievements and presence in American and British history, then they would develop the self-respect and confidence to perform better at school, and challenge the racism that still sees them as outsiders and foreigners. Unfortunately, this has led to Black activists claiming the credit for Blacks for scientific achievements that came from others. I think the entertainment industry is part of this drive for Black empowerment too. I have a feeling that some of roles created for Black performers are intended to provide positive images of Blacks as just as urbane and middle class as everyone else. Or proper, respectable working class. I’ve no doubt its done to challenge the negative racist stereotypes Whites may hold, while at the same time hold up positive role models to the Black community. To show that Black people also live in families with fathers, where the parents are respectable, upstanding citizens who work to support their children and give them the best life they can. I’m not aware that family breakdown is the same issue in Asian communities as it is amongst Blacks and the White poor, so some of the issues that have led to a specific emphasis on Blacks in diversity may simply not be as pressing. It thus seems to me that, in general, Asians may be so much more confident in their culture that they don’t see the same urgency in establishing and insisting on their historic presence in Europe.

Blacks More Vociferous and Forceful in Attacking Racism

I also think it may also come from Blacks complaining the most forcefully about racism. One of the key events in the introduction of positive discrimination in Britain were the 1980s/81 race riots, where Black communities in Bristol, Brixton in London and Toxteth erupted in rioting. It led to various official reports, which recommended affirmative action programmes to give greater opportunities to Blacks, as was being done at the same time in America. There have been protests in the Asian community, and interethnic violence between Asians and Whites, along with Asian anti-racist activism. But I don’t recall the Asians rioting in the same way Black Brits did. And the protests held by Britain’s Muslims seem to be about specifically Islamic issues, like the publication of the Satanic Verses, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and general Islamophobia, rather than issues like employment or education although those have also been present. As a result, I think it’s probably true that Asians are less represented than Blacks in moves for ethnic diversity, although it should be stressed that they aren’t completely absent.

But these are just my ideas based on my own impressions. I may be wrong, and there may be other factors involved. I’d be interested to know what others think about it.

As an example of a TV series with an Asian leading man, here’s the titles to the Chinese Detective, starring David Yip, which I found on Robert Telfer’s channel on YouTube. Since then we’ve had Luther, starring the awesome Idris Elba as a Black detective. I like Elba – I think he’s a great actor, who could easily play Bond. I haven’t watched Luther, however, as the crimes he investigates all seem too grim and ‘orrible, like the serial killers tracked by Linda La Plante’s heroines. But perhaps it might be time once again for an Asian detective.

Spitting Image’s Song about the Defenestration of Thatcher – ‘Go Now’

December 11, 2021

Now that the Tories are turning on Johnson for his crassly insensitive behaviour for having a Christmas party at No. 10 while everyone else was in lockdown, the country is up in arms and demands for blonde beast’s resignation are piling in, Let’s go back to that moment c. 1990 when Thatcher was similarly dumped by the Tories. Well, she stabbed Ted Heath in the back, as he ousted MacMillan in his turn. Spitting Image marked this awesome event by having the whole of parliament tell her in no uncertain terms where she could go by singing ‘Go Now’ at her. I haven’t been able to find the original sketch on the internet, but I found this version directed at Tweezer on Callum Pearce-Hofman’s channel on YouTube. Enjoy!

Warning: Contains computer generated Tories including Tweezer, Thatcher, Johnson and a naked Cameron plus pig. Also dragon.

Trek Culture on the Discovery of Nano-Scale Warp Bubbles

December 10, 2021

Some fascinating and optimistic news for peeps looking for real warp drives a la Star Trek. Trek Culture is a Star Trek fan site, but in this video host Sean Ferrick talks about a possible scientific breakthrough for the development of a real warp drive. Dr. Harold G. ‘Sonny’ White, a scientist at the Limitless Space Institute, observed the formation of a real warp bubble while researching Casimir cavitation. The warp bubble was on the nanoscale, so very, very small indeed. Nevertheless, his paper has been passed by peer review, and Dr. White hopes to follow this up with an experiment with a microscopically small sphere of a few micromillimeters which produce a similarly small cylindrical warp bubble around it.

Real scientific interest in warp drives began with the 1994 paper by the Mexican physicist Dr Marcel Alcubierre, but this was also widely discounted because it would have needed an extreme amount of energy plus a very exotic form of matter. If I remember correctly, the exotic matter involved may be one in which the force of gravity repulses rather than attracts. Since then scientists have been working to refine his theories. One recent physicist has suggested that it may be possible to create a warp field using a mass ten times the size of Jupiter, which is many times smaller than the masses needed to create such a bubble in Alcubierre’s original calculations. It’s still far beyond any practical application or construction, at least with present technology, but there are hopes that further work will cut the masses needed down still further until warp drives hopefully become possible. I think the Casimir force is a force that squeezes the vacuum energy – the virtual particles zipping into and out of existence at the level of the cosmic foam – out of any empty space at the nano level when two plates are set up sufficiently near each other. Years ago in the 1990s one of the British science programmes reported that it would be possible to use the effect to create a metre-sized wormhole. The drawback was that the plates used would have to be the size of Jupiter. It looks like White was researching similar effects when he discovered the formation of a real warp bubble.

While this is very optimistic, Ferrick stresses that it will be a very long time before we see the creation of a real warp drive. This is so far off that it’s Science Fiction. This is correct. There are problems scaling this such effects up from the nano to the macro scale. Wormholes are believe to form and disappear constantly at the level of the cosmic foam at the smallest level of reality. One method of FTL travel that has been proposed is to create such a wormhole and then enlarge it. However, wormholes are unstable, and so its mouth would have to be kept open with the gravity-repulsing exotic matter. I don’t think anyone know how to make it, nor do I think scientists know how you could realistically enlarge such as wormhole so that it becomes a practical method of interstellar travel. Nevertheless, Ferrick states that a line has been crossed, albeit a microscopically small one, towards making warp drives like those in Star Trek a reality.

This is fascinating news, and even if the creation of a real warp drive is decades off, I hope this will lead to their creation. As Captain Picard used to say in Star Trek: The Next Generation, ‘Number One, make it so!’

And just to remind everyone what has helped to inspire many people’s dreams of space exploration, here’s the titles of the original series:

Mind you, I think if they ever create a real warp drive and test it in space, it’ll be hit by a solar flare, opening up a wormhole that will cast the spaceship and its astronaut into a far distant corner of the universe. He’ll be taken on board a living spaceship, full of escaped prisoners, and pursued by an insane military general, while just trying to find a way home.

Sorry. Wrong series – that’s Farscape.

Star Trek has helped to inspire millions not just with its vision of humanity expanding out among the stars to explore strange new worlds, and find new life forms and new civilisations, but also through its idealistic view of future society. It’s a world where racism and sexism have been banished, there is no starvation or want, and people work to better themselves, not because they need to. The late, great comedian Bill Hicks also looked forward to a similar human future. He used to end his gigs with ‘the Vision’, in which he pointed out that the if the world spent what it does on guns and armaments on peaceful activities, we could solve world hunger. Not one person would starve. And we could colonise space, in peace, forever.

Amen to that. RIP Gene Roddenberry and Bill Hicks – great visionaries and entertainers.

Satirical Song Spoofing Ivanka and Donald Trump: ‘My Heart Belongs To Daddy’

December 5, 2021

This is very sharp. There’s a large number of great creators on the Net posting videos of their versions of classic songs to satirise the powerful. I put up a few yesterday from Mrmenno attacking Boris Johnson and the Tories. Well, Trump handed the critics and comedians a massive amount of ammunition with his really creepy attitude to his daughter, Ivanka, when he said that if she wasn’t his daughter, he’d date her. And so a number of YouTube creators naturally came forward to sing spoof versions of the old Cole Porter hit, ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’ about the two.

This version comes from Sandra and Richard Riccardi, and presents Ivanka Trump as obsessed with fashion, giving business contracts to Chinese children and helping her father by translating the big words for him and hiding his dementia. While also getting him to bomb Muslims and Kurds. But she also needs her father because her husband, millionaire Israeli property developer Jared Kushner, is going to jail. This very acutely skewers not just the creepy relationship between Trump and his daughter, but also the Islamophobia, warmongering and corruption of the Trump presidency.