Monday, January 31, 2011




The current people’s uprising in Egypt has been simmering for a long time. This picture is from the day of a national strike (April 6th 2008). There were further incidents on the same date in 2009. Details of both to be found on Global Voices. The text of the photo reads: Be With The Revolution


Is Mubarak Really a Force of Stability?

Osama Diab
September 13, 2009

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (L) speaks with U.S. President Barack Obama during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on Aug. 18. (Photo: Jim Watson/ AFP-Getty Images)

…. during Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's visit to Washington, Obama described Mubarak as a force of stability.

Mubarak is a force of instability and unrest.

‘In the 20th century, Egypt saw many attempts to challenge authority outside the system and the law. The country witnessed the assassination of many political figures. In 1990, Rifaat El Mahgoub, speaker of the Egyptian parliament, who was also a member of the ruling National Democratic Party, was assassinated in his car in Cairo by an Islamic group. Anwar Sadat, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Egyptian president, was also killed by Islamic militant groups for signing a peace treaty with Israel. A few hours after his death, Asyut, one of Egypt's major southern cities, fell under the control of Islamic groups for a few days and tens of police officers were killed. For more than a decade after Sadat's death, Egypt suffered from a very strong wave of terrorism that claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians and police officers.

‘Besides assassinations and terrorism, Egypt saw at least one military coup in 1952, a revolution in 1919, and a nationwide student uprising in 1936 where hundreds of protestors were killed by the police. Recently, civil disobedience has been common-place, labor strikes are turning into some sort of a national sport, clashes between riot police and students are becoming standard to see on news programs, and deaths are reported daily during election time.’


Spotlight Again Falls on Web Tools and Change

An Egyptian man recorded the turmoil on his cellphone video camera. Scott Nelson for The New York Times

‘….governments have begun to climb the steep learning curve and turn the new Internet tools to their own, antidemocratic purposes.

‘The countertrend has sparked a debate over whether the conventional wisdom that the Internet and social networking inherently tip the balance of power in favor of democracy is mistaken. A new book, “The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom,” by a young Belarus-born American scholar, Evgeny Morozov, has made the case most provocatively, describing instance after instance of strongmen finding ways to use new media to their advantage.

‘After all, the very factors that have brought Facebook and similar sites such commercial success have huge appeal for a secret police force.’

Full text of article by Scott Shane here:

Sunday, January 30, 2011



(Left): Film poster for ‘Žižek’, a film by Canadian documentary filmmaker Sophie Fiennes, who says of him: "He is very much a thinker for our turbulent, high speed, information-led lives," says Sophie Fiennes, "precisely because he insists on the freedom to stop and think hard about who you are as an individual in this fragmented society. We need a radical hip priest and Slavoj is that in many ways."

These current times are reminding The  Generalist of the late 1960s/early 1970s, not least because of the surge in novel philosophic/ political/economic theories that are being bandied around.  New thinking is on the march.

One of the most vibrant and stimulating of these new thinkers is Slavoj Žižek, a Slovenian firecracker whose mash-up of Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis makes interesting reading, listening and reading. Prolific (some 50 books), perverse, playful and populist, Žižek riffs on a bewildering mix of topics that provide a stream of original thoughts and quotable soundbites.

Here is his take on Wikileaks, from a recent article in the London Review of Books  entitled ‘Good Manners in the Age of Wikileaks’

‘…we face the shameless cynicism of a global order whose agents only imagine that they believe in their ideas of democracy, human rights and so on. Through actions like the WikiLeaks disclosures, the shame – our shame for tolerating such power over us – is made more shameful by being publicised. When the US intervenes in Iraq to bring secular democracy, and the result is the strengthening of religious fundamentalism and a much stronger Iran, this is not the tragic mistake of a sincere agent, but the case of a cynical trickster being beaten at his own game.’

His recent book Living in End Times espouses the view that the global capitalist system is approaching an apocalyptic zero-point.

“Its four riders,” he writes, “are comprised of the ecological crisis, the consequences of the biogenetic revolution, imbalances within the system itself (problems with intellectual property; forth-coming struggles over raw materials, food and water), and the explosive growth of social divisions and exclusions.”

Those wishing to explore further have a wealth of material on the Internet to choose from.


Two interesting interviews here:

‘Slavoj Zizek: the world’s hippest philosopher’ by Helen Brown [The Telegraph]Interview by Sean O’Hagan [The Observer]image

See also: A whole raft of videos on You Tube

‘My unconditional insight is that we will be pushed into a situation where we will have to make a choice: either we do something or we are slowly approaching a society I'm not  sure I’d like to live in.”                           

Interview by Jonathan Derbyshire/New Statesman

[Thanks to Kean for turning me on to this]

Tuesday, January 25, 2011



i have always been worried about the idea of their being a  ‘literary canon’. The same is true in art and music, in fact, in all creative forms. That certain artists/writers are acknowledged as being the greatest, the foundations on which our culture is based. Their material  is taught in schools and rewarded with prizes and accolades. Yet, it seems to The Generalist, that there are an equal number of remarkable people who, for establishment reasons, have been excluded, are not recognised and rewarded. John Cowper Powys is certainly one of these.

I am working my way slowly through JCP’s works of which ‘A Glastonbury Romance’ is the mightiest. Epic in length, this has an important contemporary resonance as all the makings of the modern Glastonbury legends, mirrored and enacted anew at the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre, are prefigured in this remarkable epic tale.

To get up to speed on JCP:

This is a wonderful portrait by writer Margaret Drabble which gives incisive insight into his works, which I could not better:

The English degenerateHe was a writer of tragic grandeur and everyday comedy, of sexual perversion and cups of tea. He wrote poems, essays, epic fictions, letters and autobiography. Words poured out of him - and he never reread any of them. Margaret Drabble reflects on the paradoxical and perplexing work of John Cowper Powys


Have just read ‘Weymouth Sands’ in this excellent edition by New York’s Overlook Press’ (but with a terrible cover).

Set in Weymouth and the isle of Portland – a place where I spent a memorable night – its a work that is on a continuum between Thomas Hardy and the psychedelic 60s.

It certainly will not be to everyone’s taste. There are rants on vivisection, extraordinary visions of nature, odd characters and scenes, lengthy disquisitions. It is impossible to read quickly. One has to slow down and adjust to the pace of the text. It is a book you can live with for a month or more and immerse yourself. Haunting and powerful, strange, absurd and mysterious.


His remarkable biography, in an edition with a wonderful cover, for which there is no artist’s credit.



A picture of me with R2D2 on the set of the Bog Planet at Elstree Studios in London. I’m wearing my light green linen jacket with the pewter whale tail badge on my lapel, a white shirt, black trousers and a conspicuous new pair of Wellington boots.  My left hand is tentatively touching R2D2. The set photographer told me at the time that I would remember this moment. So it has proved.

The Generalist has been contacted by a reader who is working on a Star Wars book and has asked me to contribute my memories of the time I went to Hollywood and met George Lucas when I was working on a series of magazines on the original Star Wars movies in 1979.

As a result have revamped my original post

 Star Wars: Memories of A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


PHOTOGRAPHER815 It has long been The Generalist’s   belief that the evolution of ‘comics’ and ‘graphic novels’ represents an extremely important development in modern publishing, if nothing else and simply because telling a story in a graphic form is often a much more effective medium than straight text - and will become increasingly so.

As if to prove that point, witness this really remarkable book. It is the account of a French photographer who travelled overland from Pakistan to Afghanistan with a party from Medicins sans Frontieres back in 1986 when the Afghanistan war was between the Russians and the rebel tribes.

The story is told in photos and in comics – a seamless narrative of contact strips and comic frames – the like of which I have never seen before.

Its a truly wonderful and impressive and remarkable book. It will take you several hours of your life to experience this extraordinary journey. It is a true rite de passage.


Equally remarkable in its own way is the wonderful Logicomix, the history of modern logic and philosophy as seen through the life of Bertrand Russell. Sounds heavy going but the comic artwork is superb and the whole extraordinary concept of the work impel you to pay attention and try to understand the concepts the work seeks to explain. A truly marvellous example of how a graphic/comic presentation can address complex issues and communicate them to a broader audience. A triumphant realisation of a beautiful thought.


Finally and remarkably, a new generation iteration of the extraordinary poetic outpouring known simply as Howl – a work that gains stature as the decades elapse.

This is the book of an animated sequence within a feature film ‘Howl’ that investigates, with documentary footage and dramatic reconstruction, the genesis of this legendary poem and the subsequent obscenity trial that the book’s publication triggered.

Get with the graphic publication revolution. Its the way forward.

Friday, January 14, 2011




The United Nations General Assembly has declared by resolution that 2011 is the International Year of the Forests to raise awareness about sustainable forest management and conservation. On a global scale, our forests are in trouble.  The United Nations estimates that more than 50,000 square miles of the world's forests are lost each year from deforestation due to agriculture, unsustainable timber harvesting, unsound land management practices, and the expansion of human settlements into forested areas.   

Forests play an integral part in the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people worldwide, supply the habitat for millions of species, and play a critical role in mitigating the effects of climate change.

Among the planned events for 2011 International Year of Forests are tree plantings and the distribution of seedlings. Ethiopia, Georgia, Jamaica, Lebanon and Poland, and some non-governmental organizations all have plans to organize mass tree plantings as part of their International Year activities. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has specifically indicated plans to plant over 1 billion trees throughout the country during 2011.

Read more at Suite101:

The Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign is a worldwide tree planting initiative facilitated by the United Nations Environment Programme.


Source: Kaieteur Tree Planting fund



Source: 38 Degrees


Source: Sunday Telegraph


Conservation group’s bid to stop New Forest management being privatised

Fears over Norfolk forest sell-off plansForest of Dean protesters fight big woodland selloff

Government's woodlands sale to include Cannock Chase?Plan to sell Cumbrian forests disastrous for county – Green candidateWoodland Trust statement on Forestry Commission disposalsPrivatising English forests could 'cost millions in lost tax revenues'

Wednesday, January 12, 2011



There are no shortage of books on Bowie – and no wonder. This mercurial figure has entranced, delighted, intrigued and amazed us for more than 40 years – constantly innovating and exploring new sonic landscapes and creative collaborations.

‘In his intro to ‘Any Day Now’, Kenneth Pitt (his former PR and the man who persuaded David to change his name from Jones to Bowie) has this to say on the subject:

The day would come when it seemed that every publishing house had its own Bowie book. In 1986 music journalist Dave Thompson wrote in Record Collector’ magazine: ‘There will soon be no room left  on the bookshelf for any more Bowie books and, with three more due out over the next six months, and twice that many having appeared over the last six, the potential purchaser needs to look carefully before making his decision.’

Today, a quarter of a century later, there are still Bowie books in the pipeline, but their authors would be well advised to study this remarkable encyclopedia, compiled by Kevin Cann, who is now recognised as the world’s most reliably informed student on the life of David Bowie.’

This 336-page detailed chronology of Bowie’s life, copiously illustrated with ephemera and rarely-seen photography contains a whole world and an extraordinary journey. Indexed, footnoted, researched to the bone, this remarkable document will stand as a key work of Bowieology. Hats off.

[Published by Adelita Press (great job), publishers of the wonderful Barney Bubbles book]

See Previous Posts:



Tuesday, January 11, 2011


TN-585679_GoFBand Gang of Four raised the funding to record a new album using PledgeMusic.

So the conventional music business is falling apart. Get out a new road. Bumped into Rupert from PledgeMusic. Check this out.

Here’s the mission statement from the founder:

“So Indie It Hurts”

The idea for PledgeMusic was born at my mother’s flat, on an air mattress sometime in the middle of 2008. I had been on the road with my band Marwood on and off for around 9 years and was getting tired of playing great shows, selling a good amount of CDs and still having no money. In fact I was about to head off to Amsterdam to play some shows and had no idea of where I was going to stay and how I was going to eat once I got there.

In my head, I saw what you are looking at today (with a few changes) as a way to determine my own musical career and also a way to help my fellow struggling musicians. I looked for it online and it wasn’t there and so decided to build it.

I saw incredible talent that would sign to a label only to get dropped and then I also saw people who sell out shows and yet still be broke. There had to be another way. In the midst of all this I noticed sales of the larger acts dropping off sharply, alongside fans losing interest and everybody blaming everybody else for why the music business was doing so badly.

I approached my best mate Rupert with the idea as he knew how to build websites and he basically said “I want in.” I then called another old mate Jayce, who was also the only other person I knew who had been to business school; he loved the idea and said that he wanted in too. Then on my trip to Amsterdam and after a few cocktails I met Jann, who kindly bought the rest of the drinks as a business expense and announced that he wanted “in on the plan” and that he was a lawyer.

So that’s basically how it all came together. I wanted there to be a way that people like myself who just want to make music could do so without accumulating huge amounts of debt.

We have devised PledgeMusic to be transparent and open. We have designed PledgeMusic to be beneficial to all involved. Musicians will get the funding and promotional support that they need, the fan will get the music that they want at the price that they want to pay. In effect we have sought to create a system in which nobody loses.

OK that’s it from me!
Loving your work.
Benj Rogers

Check out how the system works here:

How It Works

  • Involve Your Fans
  • Keep Your Rights
  • Fund Your Music
  • Raise Money For Charity

PledgeMusic provides fans and artists the opportunity to work together to make new records and raise money for charity. By combining new social networking technology, old school music biz know how and an irresistible menu of exclusive incentives, fans can visit the site to hear great new music, enjoy and share unique experiences with the artists they love and actively participate in the release process.

See: Behind the music: The future of fan funding

Other fan-funding models:


See also Kickstarter: A New Way to Fund and Follow Creativity

Particularly watch the wonderful video about the Garden of Eden created by Adam Purple in New York City. Inspiring.

Monday, January 10, 2011



This is a  copy of a collector’s  item - an early illustrated  biography  of Big Country, which I produced for Omnibus Press in 1985. Currently rarer than hen’s teeth. Only available copy I could find on the net was going for £42.00.

I remember the experience well – and it wasn’t always a comfortable one. There was a lot of pressure and crazy things happened.

BIG COUNTRY3813 Those were the really early days of the band which I think the book captures well. I was trying to  understand where the band was coming from, trying to discern the underlying vibe and also trying to get away from the fixed and anodyne official photos that were being used to present them.

There’s a reason that the book’s subtitle is ‘A Certain Chemistry’. I just couldn’t figure it out. Stuart and Bruce had grown up together but then there was Mark and Tony – very different characters, It was difficult to grasp how the energy worked but work it did. The live shows were cracking.

I was privileged to cross the Forth Bridge on a train and interview Stuart Adamson and meet his son. He is still sadly missed by many but the songs live on.

I really enjoyed meeting them all and last year was happy to hook up again with Mark (now also playing with Thunderclap Newman), and Bruce and his son, who came to Lewes to do a gig. 

Now the really good news.

Just met Del in the Lewes Arms who has been on the road with the new Big Country featuring Mike Peters of The Alarm in place of Stuart. He said the gigs were unbelievable. Get this. The first night was in Glasgow on New Year’s Eve. So no pressure there!!

Word of mouth is that it’s a triumph. Expect to see them at Festivals throughout Europe this summer.

Which is wonderful for my dear long-time friend Ian Grant  who has put his heart and soul into the band for so many years and whose faith in them is  now being rewarded.

levs-Levellin2011 qt page R3:levellers q qt page new dates Strangely, I was in the bar the night before with Mark Chadwick of The Levellers. They are doing a 20th Anniversary Tour for the rest of the year starting in March.

They are the last one’s standing, their name is to do with the radical heritage of Britain and the time is right. Respect.

PS The Alarm are doing 30th anniversary gigs this year. The Celtic Fringe is buzzing and rebel music is on the march. Keep you posted.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


Delighted to report that The Generalist had


unique visits in 2010

an increase of 11,689 on the previous year’s total.

This included the biggest single-day spike so far in The Generalist’s history, on Dec 29th (1,343 visitors).

This was as a result of one of our stories  ANIMAL ARCHITECT (originally posted March 27th 2008) being picked up by

Happy New Year and thanks to all my readers worldwide for your continued encouragement and support.

The Generalist will be 6 years old this coming June.