Adam Marks

Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle

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Stewart Lee

There are three comedians that I think embody the stand-up scene today: Frankie Boyle, talented but toxic; Michael McIntyre, pleasantly babbling like Boris Johnson's bozo blood brother; and Stewart Lee who is, apparently, the current comedian's comedian.

Stewart Lee's stand-up divides opinion. Not fluffy or feel-good (unless you enjoy his riffs), he does upset people. Fortunately he upsets the right people.

Howl

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Directors: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, Release date: 25 February

Poets and socialists alike should be delighted with Howl, a dramatisation of poet Allen Ginsberg's obscenity trial in 1957 for the collection Howl and Other Poems. "Howl", the poem, dealt with issues such as sex - both heterosexual and homosexual - and drug use, leading Ginsberg onto a collision course with the morality of the US ruling class.

Retro Swagger

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Review of 'You Could Have It So Much Better' by Franz Ferdinand

It used to be quite fashionable for bands to take an 'eclectic' approach to music - here's our punk song, this is an acoustic number, we wrote this one listening to Pink Floyd, etc. It was part of the post-grunge/post-Britpop slump. Albums were more about artists' record collections than the artists themselves.

The current crop of bands seem to have a much healthier attitude, being outward looking and musically passionate. Franz Ferdinand are one of the most successful of the new crop.

Twisting and Shouting

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Review of 'Rough Music', Tariq Ali, Verso £5.99

As Tariq Ali says, we live in 'scoundrel times'. Heroes are hard to come by-which is why it was lucky someone had a word with Tariq earlier this year after he declared he would be a Lib Dem for a day. He was brought onto a Respect platform at the start of the general election and hasn't looked back since.

Those of you lucky enough to have seen Tariq Ali speak this summer will recognise large chunks of Rough Music. Nonetheless, they bear repeating. This book should be read.

Madness and Paranoia

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Review of 'Looking for Jake', China Miéville, Macmillan £17.99

Short fiction tends to get short shrift in publishing. Stories are treated like stopgaps or by-products to be swept up into collections like this. But what's clear from Looking for Jake and Other Stories is that there is huge scope to develop style, genre and themes in short story collections. Having not read any of Miéville's books before, what's impressive about this collection is how eclectic it is, and yet it remains coherent.

System Failure

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Review of 'The Decline of Capitalism', Harry Shutt, Zed £9.99

Harry Shutt must be the Reggie Perrin of orthodox economy. It seems he's done the sums and they don't add up... and now he's gone awol. The critique and conclusions in The Decline of Capitalism are strikingly Marxist.

The Pranksters Against the Bankers

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Review of 'The Yes Men', directors Dan Ollman, Sarah Price and Chris Smith

Economists are suckers. They'll buy into anything: marginal utility, monetarism, the invisible hand... Those people you see yakking away on the morning news, discussing financial developments, have even less of an idea about what's going on than you do. You might as well consult a shaman or a fortune cookie.

How Money Grows on Trees

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Review of 'Banana Wars', Gordon Myers, Zed £14.95

There has been an ongoing feud between the US and the European Union (EU), revolving round the banana trade. Though it has been overshadowed by the very real wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 'banana wars' have been a significant episode in the struggle to reshape capitalism, the project for a new American century. This makes Banana Wars: the Price of Free Trade, an interesting book.

The opening chapters give a brisk and engaging background to the eight-year legal dispute.

Hidden Agendas

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Review of 'Censored 2005', Peter Phillips and Project Censored, Seven Stories £12.99

Censored 2005 is a fat little gem of a book. It's a collection of stories from 2003/2004 that didn't quite make the splash they should have: Donald Rumsfeld's plan to provoke terrorism, Democrat legislation to bring back the draft, Arnold Schwarzenegger's secret meetings with Enron boss Kenneth Lay, for example.

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