Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nick's skull

From today's Independent:

It's one in the eye for 'Observer' columnist Nick Cohen, who has been refused permission by Damien Hirst to use an image of the diamond- encrusted skull on the cover of his book, 'Waiting for the Etonians: Reports from the Sickbed of Liberal England'. Hirst was doubtless wise to Cohen's motives – in the book he uses the skull as "a symbol of the money worship and vacuity of the bubble years".


Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Mind you, Nick's not wrong there. Though Hirst wasn't an Etonian. ("His father was a motor mechanic, who left the family when Hirst was 12." Wikipedia.)

DA looks rather good today, but not read him yet.

1/13/2009 06:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The actual cover , sans-Hirst, is quite good, I think:-


It looks like Nick is going back to all his old left wing writings about Labour being in bed with bug business, but I guess he will still have to grafton his wierd twists about why his love affair witht the George Bush right and support for the Iraq disaster was actually "left wing":- Blurb says
"For 10 years New Labour stood cross−eyed in admiration as London was turned into the centre of the financial universe. From the sand bags Nick Cohen has watched as they turned their back on the working class‚ once the object of Utopian hopes on the Left and unreasonable fears on the Right‚ and lovingly embraced the upper class‚ once the object of surly contempt on the Left. In Waiting for the Etonians are gathered his selected writings that cover the span of Labour′s love affair with the Right and the moral hazard that it has culminated in"

1/13/2009 08:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The overall theme is hardly original, is it? The only interest will be to see how Nick tries to fit his usual obsessions into this theme.

Moussaka Man

1/13/2009 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's just some columns, isn't it? No new material.

1/13/2009 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though it will be interesting to find out if it's just a random sample of columns (including Decency) or whether they are selected specifically around this theme. If the former, it might just have got this blurb because it seems more in tune with the times than his stuff about foreign policy.

1/13/2009 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

I've no idea where Nick's head is anymore. It's kinda like he's playing table-tennis with himself. But reading the reviews on Amazon it looks like more confusion with "liberal", "left" and "new labour". Like Melchett says in Blackadder II "you twist and turn like a twisty-turny thing".

1/13/2009 11:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the blurb about the Hirst skull is a direct restatement of a Standard column he wrote after the big auction of Hirst's work. I really wish Nick would leave art alone because he is truly incapable of understanding even the most simple art criticism - his coments about Hirst's 'message' look boneheaded considering the stuff that was actually being written by art critics at the time.

As for a 'love affair with the right'? In the last few years, which columnist has written for pajamas media, embraced policy exchange stuff whose authors have disowned it as right-wing extremism, taken the neocon line on all foreign policy, etc etc etc? Nick claims to have been predicting a recession but it was really idle guesswork on his part which mainly consisted of asking if people would still buy organic if there was a recession, as opposed to actually noting the coming financial whirlwind.

labour is still in bed with right-wing big business. Nick is in bed with right-wing think tanks and now writes more for the right-wing media than the left - most of his talking points nowadays on matters other than foreign policy seem to come directly from right-qwing sources and are usually specific attacks on left-wing figures outside of government. It's quite difficult to work out what he's hoping to achieve with this book. It is, by all accounts, due an absolute savaging.

1/13/2009 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It's quite difficult to work out what he's hoping to achieve with this book"

aside from making money?

1/13/2009 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

You forgot 'criticised David Horowitz for being too soft on American liberals'

1/13/2009 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

In related news ...

"At this point I must add that until recently I worked with Murray at his Centre for Social Cohesion, which I joined because, in mid-2007, few other thinktanks were willing to seriously address the problem of Islamism at all. My time there was a constant struggle to "de-radicalise" Murray and to ensure that the centre's output targeted only Islamists – and not Muslims as a whole. This October, however, I had finally had enough of this constant battle and resigned"

1/13/2009 01:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the link between Decency and an interest in "libel tourism" (as per MacShane, Cohen and Murray)?

Moussaka Man

1/13/2009 01:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised no-one has mentioned Oliver Kamm's review of Nick's book based on just the front and back cover!


1/13/2009 01:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's all about this, isn't it?


Nick was on about it again in the eye recently, citing Gove who claimed that libel laws are 'stopping investigations into terrorism' or some such.

i find it frustrating how hard it is for decents to accept that some of the people they've repeatedly sided with - mad mel and steyn, for instance - are, well, not exactly good bedfellows. HP finally seemed to shake off Mel over Obama but they're clearly back in with her after Gaza.

all the same, i think that CIF article is interesting, and evidence, hopefully, of a splintering of the more reasonable decents away from people like Melanie Phillips. Put simply, Gaza has forced people to nail their colours to the mast even more so than Iraq or Lebanon did.

1/13/2009 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

The Kamm snippet is one fucked-up review. There should be a ban on comparing Nick's prose to Rabelais, Cervantes and Dickens - unless Cohen and Kamm have fallen out, and Kamm is taking the piss or something.

1/13/2009 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

There had better be no minor typographical errors in Nick's book, or Kamm will roast him ....

1/13/2009 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

It's a joke, Oliver made the same one with the last book

1/13/2009 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Yes; Kamm is taking the piss (in this case out of the somewhat excitable way in which NC demands that friends plug his books).

1/13/2009 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I *almost* feel sorry for Oliver Kamm: when he's joking, no one notices. Like the way NC leaps into the comments to explain to Graham (the Harry's Place one?) that there is some new stuff in there.

Nice cover though. Sorta ironic that the puff is from a Labour peer.

1/13/2009 02:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brandon is an 'interesting' character. From his wiki entry,

'James Brandon (born 20 September 1980) is a British journalist, most recently working in Iraq freelance on assignment from the Sunday Telegraph and The Scotsman, covering the occupation and insurgency. During this assignment, he was kidnapped and held hostage, but eventually released.
Brandon was educated at Westminster School and then the University of York, where he read history and graduated in 2001 with first class honours. He subsequently spent four months working for the Yemen Times as a sub-editor and reporter, when he learned Arabic. He then enrolled in the School of Oriental and African Studies, reading "modern trends in political Islam", before joining the Baghdad Bulletin in July 2003, a start-up, non-aligned Iraqi paper staffed mainly by Oxbridge graduates, especially those from his school, and offering a variety of widely differing viewpoints on recent events.
Born to an Egyptian Coptic Christian father, Ramsay Nassim, Brandon changed his surname by deed poll in 2001.'

Now from the Guardian, 'James Brandon is a senior research fellow at the Quilliam Foundation. He was previously the deputy-director of the Centre for Social Cohesion.'

Ed 'decent' Husain's Quilliam Foundation!

I think Brandon is one to watch for the future.

Oh, and Nick's piece in the 'Standard' today - yes it's bring back Grammar Schools again! Are his kids coming up to transfer?

Still it must take his mind off Gaza.

1/13/2009 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

I dunno; I think Brandon's career trajectory fits as much with someone genuinely worried by Islamism (which is, after all, genuinely worrying) than Decency per se. In particular, he has walked the walk and he doesn't make apologia for racists, so I give him the benefit of the doubt. Even Husain, I find by far the least irritating of the professional ex-jihadis (in particular, I love the way that all the people who lionised him when he was pontificating about "Asian youth" react with spluttering horror when he shows such base ingratitude for their generous patronage by failing to give unconditional support to Israel!)

1/13/2009 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

I see that Oliver describes "Greenmantle" by John Buchan as "an astonishingly prescient political thriller".

1/13/2009 03:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is part of what I meant by splintering - Quilliam has recently shown itself to be genuinely independent, as all its Decent cheerleaders are in total opposition to the kind of (very sensible) thing Ed Husain has been saying about Gaza.

Ed Husain is an interesting bloke anyway, and The Islamist is a much more complex book than its Decent fans claim - specifically, in that book Husain shows that radicalisation is directly linked to British foreign policy. He's downplayed that but it is there all the same.

Even if Brandon has worked for and with dodgy people in the past, it's refreshing to see people who were on the inside until recently speaking out against the clear islamophobia of a lot of the people grouped together in the harry's place links.

Though his degree appears to have only taken him two years...

back to nick, briefly - struck me just now that he essentially sees himself as on his own on the 'true left', doesn't he? I mean he actively opposed a left-wing candidate for the london mayoral election...

1/13/2009 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Thanks Chardonnay

"I *almost* feel sorry for Oliver Kamm: when he's joking, no one notices."

That gets me off the hook for failing to spot Kamm's "humour".

1/13/2009 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

he essentially sees himself as on his own on the 'true left'

It's 1940 and I am George Orwell!

1/13/2009 03:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've mentioned it several years back on D^2's blog, but Jon Sweeney's Purple Homicide is an excellent source for portraits of the young Kamm in full flight.

1/13/2009 03:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way:

the skull as "a symbol of the money worship and vacuity of the bubble years".

I guess it is, but only in the sense that The Night Watch is also a symbol of the money worship and vacuity of the golden age of the Netherlands. A lot of hirst's work is undoubtedly lazy and overpriced, but the skull was a phenomenal work of art (I say that as someone who went to look at it expecting to hate it).

Interesingly, there are reproductions of Hirsts on the covers of two editions of High Art Lite, which I think is the book Nick has (mis)read as prep for his attacks on Hirst. Funny how Hirst would sanction them and not Nick...

1/13/2009 05:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess it is, but only in the sense that The Night Watch is also a symbol of the money worship and vacuity of the golden age of the Netherlands.

Silly me, when I read that, I thought, "what has the one where Vimes goes back in time got to do with Holland"? Seriously, why is the Hirst skull a 'phenomenal work of art'? You can formaldehyde your shark and jump it? I don't agree with Nick's thesis: I don't think money worship is vacuous.

1/13/2009 06:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brandon's biog surely points in another direction.

History graduate. Oxbridge chums. Iraq media start-up. Jobs in right wing press and thinktanks. Arabic speaker.

Surely all this must ring a few bells or am I just paranoid?z

1/13/2009 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

History graduate. Oxbridge chums. Iraq media start-up. Jobs in right wing press and thinktanks. Arabic speaker.

If you were a neo-con you'd think he was a treacherous Arabist...

1/13/2009 07:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember Brandon both from University (his time at York coincided with mine) and from when he was kidnapped in Iraq, and credited the Mahdi Army for his release.

He's a pretty good guy who is genuinely interested in the politics of the Middle East and not just, as the Euston Manifesto would put it, as a stick with which to beat one's political opponents at home.

1/13/2009 09:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why is the Hirst skull a 'phenomenal work of art'?

It's in the eye of the beholder of course but not only was it intensely beautiful (in the classic sense, of diamonds being beautiful) but it was also really moving because it was so small. As I said, i expected to hate it, but it really surprised me.

even the predictable, lazy things he's doing at the moment, like making reproductions of the shark, are pretty interesting in terms of art history and art theory. And the ultimate aim is to buy back all his major, original pieces and to put them into his own museum.

1/14/2009 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Oh dear, apologies to everyone, I popped in on Harry's Place (kerching!) for the first time in a few months. It's gone conspiracy theory bonkers, hasn't it?

I felt obliged to actually ensure I had understood one of "Brett's" posts, and apparently I had. He's really the unthinking man's Scott Burgess, isn't he?:

“Brett just to make clear - are you suggesting that it is because of antisemitism that the world’s media and the UN gives this conflict more attention than others? “

Got it in one.

Of course, some of the attention - like our own - is reactive in the sense that we’re reacting to it being a big deal, not making it a big deal.

What’s your theory?

1/15/2009 09:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I said Israel/Palestine/Lebanon wars have the effect of drawing the inner wingnut out of most Harry's Place posters / admins and most Decents in general.

Of course, the fact that the pro-IDF march on sunday is seemingly the only march that the HP crew have been on in the last few years is 'reactive' too...

Aside from that weirdo who occasionally posts racist drivel about learning Arabic, Brett is definitely the most unhinged person on there. I remmeber his frankly lunatic rantings about medical students being given special dispensation in exams because they are dyslexic...

1/15/2009 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger ejh said...

"In today's headlines, there was consternation during the chimpanzees' tea party at London Zoo when cups and saucers were thrown. Now here's Norman with the sports news."

1/15/2009 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an image of David T putting a saucepan on his head and declaring "It is 1967 and I am Moshe Dayan!"

1/16/2009 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

I have to say that I have no trouble at all with people constantly poking fun at HP - that's what they're there for. I still have nightmares about that poster Ben they had a few months back who announced that he'd been against the Iraq war at first, but had been swung round by HP's cogent and incisive articles exposing the Left... For a moment, I had visions of the country going all 28 Days Later, except with dickheads instead of raging zombies.

In fact, if you stripped every post out of both my blogs that was basically saying By God, check out these lunatics! you'd wind up with a picture of a man in a gas mask and a link list. Mocking the internet's loonier outposts - note, that's "mocking" and not "engaging with" - is an entirely reputable enterprise in my book.

1/16/2009 04:49:00 PM  

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