Martin Smith

Requiem for Katrina: A Tale of God's Will by Terence Blanchard

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"Could we film you going into your house?" asks filmmaker Spike Lee of Mrs Blanchard.

The lady had entered that house a thousand times before, but only once would she enter her house under these circumstances. Hurricane Katrina had passed through New Orleans and had done relatively little damage, but then the levees broke, bringing death and destruction. She may have been one of the lucky ones - after all she was alive - but she knew what awaited her when she entered her home: destroyed possessions, lost heirlooms and drowned memories.

Ads and smokes

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"Mad Men was a term used in the late 1950s to describe the advertising executives of Madison Avenue, New York. They coined it."

So the scene is set for the new series created by Matthew Weiner. As you would expect from the producer and writer of The Sopranos, this is brilliant and imaginative television. The opening credits of a falling man are reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, but after the 9/11 attacks they are even more ominous, set against buildings emblazoned with colourful images of products and lifestyles the (m)ad men are trying to sell.

Big mouth...

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Once again the singer Morrissey has plenty to say about immigration and British society. In a November edition of the NME, the magazine claims that he said, "The gates of England are flooded. The country's been thrown away."

Later in the same article Morrissey boldly declares, "With the issue of immigration, it's very difficult because although I don't have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears. If you travel to Germany, it's still absolutely Germany... But travel to England and you have no idea where you are... If you walk through Knightsbridge you'll hear every accent apart from an English accent."

Where next for Respect?

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The last few months have seen vigorous arguments over the future of Respect, culminating in George Galloway leading a split from the coalition. Martin Smith looks at where we are now and the enduring need for a left electoral alternative to Labour.

Over 350 people came to the fourth annual Respect conference last month. It was a broad and inclusive conference attended by PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, victimised health worker Karen Reissmann, six Respect councillors, ex-Labour stalwarts like Valerie Wise and Kumar Murshid, and lots of local activists.

Welcome to the revolution

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I might be a month late, but I think it is time to celebrate the October revolution. No, not the Russian one, but Wednesday 10 October 2007.

That was the day Radiohead released In Rainbows, an album not only available as a download, but - wait for it - the buyers decide how much they pay!

Yep, for as little as one penny you can get yourself an album by one of Britain's biggest bands. Thom Yorke, the band's lead singer, told a journalist, "We're not part of this big empire - it's trying to get away from that because it's the death of anything creative." But I wonder just how noble the band's aims are.

Playing for the Moment

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The Bays are one of the most exciting bands in Britain, with an innovative and unique sound. Yet you won't find their music in record shops. Band member Simon Richmond talks to Hannah Dee and Martin Smith.

You have made a choice not to make records. Is that because of a musical ideology?

There are two ways of looking at it, and we kind of like to have it both ways. On the one level it isn't really an ideology. It's what musicians have always done, which is perform and entertain. The recorded music industry is about 100 years old whereas performed music is as old as humanity. The choice to perform and not record is more in tune with what the spirit and essence of making music is all about.

Reality comes home

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Atlanta International Airport is a major transportation centre for US troops going to serve in Iraq. I happened to be passing through the day after General Petraeus gave his report on the so called "surge" and the day President Bush made a major speech on the conflict.

Television screens sited all around the airport lounges beamed Bush's speech. The place was alive with US soldiers discussing the situation with each other and members of the public. Many soldiers openly voiced their opposition to the occupation.

Picket lines and songs of protest

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Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello talks to Martin Smith about playing at stadiums, demonstrations and coffee shops.

Tom Morello strolls into the hotel lobby wearing an IWW baseball cap - the International Workers of the World or Wobblies as they are more commonly known were advocates of militant industrial trade unionism in the early part of the last century. He also carries an acoustic guitar, with the slogan "Whatever It Takes" painted on the front. By any definition Tom Morello is not your average rock star.

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