Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015, love...

Damon Albarn and Imelda Staunton may be among the big names on the New Year's honours list, but they'll be doubtless feel even more delighted to feature in this personal rundown of five favourite LPs on 2015 - right...? Oh. Ah, anyway, some lukewarm takes here for scant reason whatsoever...
(Why, see what a similar judgment 12 months ago did for Music Go Music's career: Hm.)

5) Wilco, Star Wars. What, there was another big release this year called Star Wars? Ah, Jeff Tweedy's same-named, under-rated LP puts in a deft stormtrooper stomp...

4) London's Savoy Theatre cast, Gypsy. Imelda Staunton a tour de force monster but rosy laurels too to Lara Pulver and, almost as impressive, an unannoying kid chorus...
(This song was also performed, rather more forlornly, by a Labour leader just after losing a general election he expected to win. That is, on Spitting Image in 1992.)

3) Little Mix, Get Weird. Toppermost of the poppermost, eg. their Ronettes rip-off second single plus a, er, skittish take on a stubbornly long-standing Fifa sponsor - oh... 

2) Blur, The Magic Whip. Party like it's 99 - or, er, "Cry my eyes out, hold close to me". Fun enough upbeat stuff - but far finer sad, woozy, unsettling and/or unsettled ballads...
Hyde Park-life also reviewed here:

1) Father John Misty, I Love You Honeybear. "Oh, and no one ever really knows you and life is brief - so I've heard, but what's that got to do with this black hole in me?" An ex-Fleet Fox, from ethereal whimsy to unholy wit...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

"Please save little Malak" - mother's plea as four-year-old Syrian refugee faces dying from blood disorder

(Also earlier wrote about her here:

A Syrian refugee girl faces dying of a rare blood disorder in a Lebanese shack after being denied European medical aid - just one among thousands feared at severe risk this winter.
Four-year-old Malak, left desperately weakened by her condition, is just about surviving in a makeshift tent after crossing the border from civil war-torn Homs.
The medication she needs - exjade deferasirox - would cost the NHS upwards of £69 per week but her mother Yasmine has been ordered to hand over $1,200 (£800) by her only local suppliers.
Malak’s cause has now been backed by Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron, who is also pressurising the government to improve their direct help for Syrian refugees in dire need.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Welcome is turning cold: Syrian refugees faces a new crackdown from military ... as temperatures plunge

If life in Lebanon were not tough enough for the 1million-plus Syrian refugees escaping carnage back home, beleaguered officials and suspicious military are now threatening a sterner crackdown.
The influx of refugees into 4million-population Lebanon would be the equivalent of Britain taking in at least 25million newcomers.
Yet while aid workers have sympathy for the burden imposed on Syria’s neighbours, they are also increasingly concerned lives are being put in extra danger by new moves to deter any more arrivals.

The children of war need more help

Some still somehow dream of returning home to Syria, others are resigned to staying as safe as possible for good across the border, while a few do eye making it to Europe - for much-needed medical help at least.
But Syrian refugees continuing to flood into neighbouring Lebanon appear united on one thing: a desperation for the world not to look away, and instead continue putting pressure on both Bashar al-Assad and Daesh - and also keep providing aid.
Britain may have been convulsed lately in disputes over whether to extend military air-strikes against Daesh from Iraq into Syria as well.
But the UK is also among the most generous donors to the international aid effort, both in funding from the government and donations to charities such as Save The Children.
International development secretary Justine Greening told Metro that much more needs to be done better by others - with the plight of people in Syria and surrounding nations showing both the value and necessity of foreign aid.

I found out husband was dead from TV

Mother-of-three Nermine learnt from a TV bulletin her husband had been executed after being caught trying to escape Syria. 
She spent three months being tortured in prison on trumped-up charges. 
And she trekked 30km across mountain ranges, along with her three young daughters, to finally escape into Lebanon.
But she says her more sorrowful suffering came when she emerged from the main prison in Syrian capital Damascus for an emotional reunion with her children - only to find they did not recognise her, before scrutinising how she could have 'abandoned' them.

I still bear scars of shell ... I can never go back home

The dramatic dent sheared into ex-soldier Khaled’s forehead will likely be a permanent reminder of the rocket attack on his Homs home that left him in a coma for a month.
So are the three shards of shrapnel left lodged in his body, as well as the screaming fits that still afflict him even as he has taken refuge in neighbouring Lebanon.
The 24-year-old made it across the border being carried over their heads by friends wading through the chest-height waters of the connecting Nahr al-Kebir river.
He has since been joined, crammed into a basic shack, by his sister Amneh, 22, and her five children - Mohomad, eight, seven-year-old Ahmad, Yamama, four, two-year-old Soud and Abdelhodi, three months.
Khaled’s injuries came when his Homs home was shelled by the Syrian regime, leaving him unconscious and then in a coma for the following month.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

You had me at مع السلامة

Malak is aged four. She and her younger brother Rakan and their mother Yasmine live in a tent in Akkar, just across the Lebanese-Syrian border, having escaped after being bombed out of their home in the Homs district of Baba Amar.

Malak has been diagnosed with thalassemia, a rare blood disorder somehow like a super-anaemia. Bloody hell, eh. Frequent blood transplants needed. Any blood transplants, unavailable. Regular treatment, now running into thousands of unavailable dollars. UNHCR guidance? Others need help better. Oh, okay. Oh.

Every tale's a tragedy, of course. Every journalist ought to remain impassive, bigger picture and everything. This was the second time back in very similar circumstances, back in Lebanon towards Syria, albeit with Assad now exacerbated. And yet, and yet... Everything's dispiriting. Individual things even somehow even more so.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

"Gonna lay down my sword and shield..."

British air strikes on Syria could leave innocent civilians’ lives endangered.
A lack of British air strikes on Syria could leave innocent civilians’ lives endangered.
Either way, whatever our MPs vote on Wednesday evening - and it now looks even more of a foregone conclusion, hence the fact the debate is even happening - there is no idealistic, winner-takes-all option.
As was put, not simply by the headline on this visit to Syrian refugee camps two long years ago, but people much more engaged there at the time and right now even more emphatically: there seem no answers, simply questions.
And more and more questions, all the time, as it has since turned out - with the bombardment of his own people by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad not replaced but critically complemented by the terror-fying rise of Islamic State.