April 2021

16 April 2021

Funny Voice Videos

Rachel Connolly

A certain style of comedy video has become prominent on social media over the past year. A young actor plays a generic, bumbling or morally compromised (although usually affable-seeming) posh person with a connection to a topical event. The videos are described by the actors and their fans as ‘satirical’, although the target of the satire is often unclear, and the performers appear to punch down (or at least sideways) as often as up. The acting is deliberately hammy, derivative and reliant on stereotypes, and the humour seems to come primarily from the theatrical emphasis placed on the fact that a person is making a joke. I’ve come to think of them as ‘funny voice videos’.

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14 April 2021

Cloddish Insensitivity

Daniel Finn

In trying to make sense of the worst disturbances in Northern Ireland for years, there are two symmetrical pitfalls to be avoided. One is to present the recent violence as a simple reflex of Brexit, drawing a straight line between Boris Johnson’s campaign bus and a burning bus on the Shankill Road, while ignoring the local factors at work. The other is to overlook the many ways in which choices made at the highest levels of the British state have unsettled the region and added to the stock of combustible material.

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14 April 2021

Against Fear

Simone Webb

The disappearance and murder of Sarah Everard last month sparked a conversation centred on women’s experiences of fear in public places, especially at night. Women have spoken of being afraid to walk alone and restricting their behaviour in case they come to harm.

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9 April 2021

Hot Water

Rahmane Idrissa

Last year in Dakar, running an errand near Sandaga market in the centre of town, I came across an armoured personnel carrier belonging to the police, parked on avenue Emile Badiane. Street vendors were lounging against the flanks of the vehicle; their trinkets were spread on the charcoal grey metal. The police sat around, helmets off, eating peanuts and trading pleasantries with passers-by. For someone like me from Niamey in Niger, this resembled a scene from a fairy-tale.

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9 April 2021

Eric Hobsbawm in the ‘London Review’

Richard J. Evans

Eric Hobsbawm, the subject of a new documentary film by Anthony Wilks, wrote 24 pieces for the London Review of Books, the first in April 1981, the last in April 2012, a few months before his death at the age of 95.

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8 April 2021

Gang of Four 77-81

Alex Abramovich

Some songs are like sculptures; almost physical objects taking up space in a room. Gang of Four’s songs are like that: weighty things. They flaunt the materials (wood, wire, vocal chords) used in their making. They are caustic and smart and concerned with the questions a sculptor might ask: how many elements can be stripped away before the object (in this case, a rock song) stops being itself? The early work, by the original line-up of Dave Allen (bass), Hugo Burnham (drums), Andy Gill (guitar) and Jon King (vocals), has been rereleased in a Matador Records box set, Gang of Four 77-81.  

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7 April 2021

In Bristol

Rebecca Ruth Gould

The first demonstration against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill took place in Bristol on 21 March. It has been followed by demos in cities from Brighton to Manchester, and further protests in Bristol. Over the Easter weekend there was a carnival atmosphere, with dancing on College Green, festive drums, and flowers around an impromptu memorial for Sarah Everard.  

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6 April 2021

Pharaohs on Parade

Hussein A.H. Omar

On Holy Saturday, as Christians around the world held vigil for the entombed Christ, twenty-two of Egypt’s mummified former monarchs – four queens and eighteen kings – were disinterred from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and paraded through the city. Sealed in nitrogen-filled capsules and draped, like military martyrs, in Egypt’s post-1984 flag, the mummies were loaded onto security trucks unconvincingly disguised as ancient chariots (the vehicles resembled those used to haul off political prisoners).

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2 April 2021

Welcome to Montero

Niela Orr

‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’, a sermon delivered by Jonathan Edwards in Massachusetts and Connecticut in July 1741, takes as its text Deuteronomy 32:35, ‘their foot shall slide in due time.’ Edwards warned of the ‘fearful danger’ people were in: ‘There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment,’ he said. If the events of the last week are to be believed, Lil Nas X is a singer in the hands of an angry God, and certain ultra religious, homophobic segments of the American public, including Edwards’s televangelical heirs. Made famous in 2018 by his smash single ‘Old Town Road’ and its chart-topping remix with Billy Ray Cyrus, Lil Nas X is now at the centre of a media firestorm.

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1 April 2021

In Disrepair

David Renton

In May 2020, one of my clients asked the local authority – her landlord – when essential maintenance work would start at her home. Damp and mould had made her daughter’s bedroom uninhabitable. ‘It seems to us that you have not given a moment’s attention to present realities,’ the landlord responded. ‘Staff are low in numbers across many of the council’s departments due to personnel self-isolating.’ I told her not to be disheartened, everything was slower in the lockdown. The works would be delayed but they would happen. I was less sanguine when I saw the same excuse being given in letters written in August and September, when even bowling alleys and casinos were open.

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