The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
ENO's production of La Boheme is a triumph,
Et tu, Brutal? With feature films taking about a year to make before their release, it's an astounding coincidence that some seem so prescient.
The tragic tale of two brutalised Yorkshire lads brutalising two others and the possibility of the Sarah's law pilot being adopted nationwide both raise similar questions to those asked by two recent film releases.
Jacques Audiard's remarkable prison tale The Prophet and Lee Daniels's multi-nominated Precious both radiate their themes from a hard-core centre of the effects of institutional and domestic human abuse.
Why do babies born as a blank slate grow up to viciously defile themselves and others?
These two excellent films add a fresh perspective presenting unusual characters on contrasting journeys of self-discovery.
When illiterate teenage petty criminal Malik is jailed he's unwillingly drawn into the Arab-versus-Corsican power struggle that fuels life inside.
That he allies himself with the latter has less to do with his lapsed Muslim faith than the brutal persuasion of the Corsican head honcho.
Obese, self-loathing and also illiterate teenage mother Precious has only ever known parental brutality, both physical and emotional.
She's never had a choice until assigned to a remedial class taught by the first person ever to take an interest.
We're not bad at being moved by a damaged child who's been taught to seek affection and approval by succumbing to beatings, rape and neglect.
We understand those lessons become the weapons wielded by victims against an unfair world.
Yet we seem to have big trouble defining the line at which those same children, whom just a moment ago we wanted to cuddle, become culpable if they act out the lethal lessons of their upbringing.
Apart from Compulsion and Hitchcock's Rope, it's hard to think of films based on brutal acts committed by rich kids.
Yet domestic cruelty leaps the class barrier. Is that enough to account for polarising assumptions about who are the criminals?
Responding to media coverage of the Yorkshire boys, their jail terms and parental responsibility, there are deja vu squawks of "evil kids" and "hanging's too good for 'em" or abnegations of responsibility declaring that "lessons must be learned."
It's sad that radio talk shows draw an iron media curtain between the cruel comments egged on by shock jocks as vitriolic as LBC's Nick Ferrari or the less aggressive Steven Nolan on Radio 5, and the more moderated, more middle-class world of Any Questions.
There's a mighty thin line between freedom of speech and incitement to hatred.
Our more polite broadcast media provides no dedicated public debate attracting so-called chav views, while what passes for sensible views get short shrift from tactical radio jocks.
Politicians given airtime in those contexts adjust their approaches to matters of childhood criminality in the vain hope of appealing to every nook and cranny of a disparate electorate.
After all, it's votes that count. And that's the brutal truth.