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This week’s front page editor

Claire Provost

Claire Provost is editor of 50.50 covering gender, sexuality and social justice.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

The Chinese Capitalist Revolution, ODDcircle Tue 20 Oct 09 at The Blue Mugge

Notes based on TV documentary,  summer 09, with the same title,  odn  articles:  China Local/China Global by Kerry Brown,  Beijing’s Credibility Crisis by Datong and What Was Communism by Fred Halliday.


Civil Society: Enabling Dissent - joint oD/Carnegie event

St Martin-in-the-Fields, London

4:30pm-6:30pm, Tuesday 28 July 2009

(Tea and coffee served from 4:15pm)

The Carnegie UK Trust Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society in the UK and Ireland and Open Democracy are delighted to invite you to an event to explore the role of civil society associations in creating and supporting spaces for dissenting voices, both in the UK and globally.

Podcast of the openDemocracy Russia evening, 2 July, London

Listen to a recording of openDemocracy's Russia evening. openDemocracy Russia editor Susan Richards and scholar Anatol Lieven discuss Susan Richards' new book Lost and Found in Russia.

Podcast of the openDemocracy Russia evening, London, July 2009

Listen to a podcast of the openDemocracy Russia evening on 2 July 2009 in London. The editor of openDemocracy's Russia Section, Susan Richards discusses her new book Lost and Found in Russia with the scholar Anatol Lieven.

The evening was also part celebration of the first anniversary of openDemocracy's Russia site and openDemocracy's editor-in-chief Tony Curzon Price introduces the event with a reference to that...

What are Universities for? (ODDc Tue 14th July 09 )

What are Universities for?

ODDc     Tue 14th July 09  (and replacing The Lunar Men  which will feature in the autumn programme)  at  The Blue Mugge pub

BNP success in the European elections is a boost for British Democracy?

BNP success in the European elections is a boost for British Democracy?
ODDc   Tue 30 June  09  at The Blue Mugge pub

These notes using comments and questions from TC, EB and DT.

1.   Where does BNP support come from?

2.   Has the two-party/first past the post system, linked with a move to the centre by
the main parties, left sections of the population feeling marginalised?

3.   Will the BNP gain of two seats in the European elections lead the main parties to
address legitimate concerns of those who feel alienated and disenfranchised from the political process?

4.  The BNP claims to represent/support the ‘indigenous, white working-class’.  What’s wrong with that?

5.  Visit the BNP web-site:   read-up on their policy on immigration and note that the BNP leader this month ‘Denounces Racist and Sectarian Violence in Northern Ireland’  >  debate on the nature of racism and fascism.   

What part does History play?

BNP Mission Statement:     ‘The BNP exists to secure a future for the indigenous peoples of these islands…  We use the term indigenous to describe the people whose ancestors were the earliest settlers here’.

From book to film, Tue 9 June 09 at The Blue Mugge pub

Book > Film:   The Reader
ODD Circle   Tue 9 June 09 at The Blue Mugge pub

A discussion on film and TV adaptations of novels.   

1.    Joseph Conrad’s  novelistic intention:   ‘My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear,  to make you feel – it is, before all, to make you see.’   (1897).

2.   ‘As anyone who has seen any version of Anna Karenina knows, a great book does not necessarily make a great film’    
Mark Brown, in an article this month introducing the recent attempt to select ‘The top 50 adaptations from book to film’.   

3.   Our discussion will begin with several who have read The Reader and seen the film commenting upon those quotes.   Don’t worry if you’ve not read this book or not seen the film.   A brief narrative summary will be given and the aim this evening is to engage with general issues around adaptations.   Everyone, in every bar tonight, will have seen some kind of film adaptation?

4.   For example, some film theorists have argued that a director should be entirely unconcerned with the source, as a novel is a novel while a film is a film…

The Trout and the Zeitgeist

Last weekend I learned that there's been groups meeting in pubs in Liverpool discussing philosophy for several years...   They too have a website >      We are making connections and links...
'The Mugge, the Trout and the Zeitgeist':   a future theme?

Keep smiling,


Heidegger, ODD circle Tue 26th May 09 at The Blue Mugge Pub


3.   “Heideggerians regard as crucial the argument of his work – which in essence, bears on one single topic: what he calls ‘the being of Being’.”…  “For Heidegger… constant fear of death and the anxieties of life, helped man ask this central question:  ‘What is it to be?’…   ‘Why is there being at all instead of nothing?’

Recording of openDemocracy's Latin America evening, 14 May

An unedited recording of the talks and discussion with openDemocracy authors Juanita Leon and Ivan Briscoe, Thursday 14 May, 2009.

Click to listen

If you want to keep in touch with the Juanita's and Ivan's writing on openDemocracy you can subscribe to RSS feeds from their author pages below:

Juanita Leon's Colombian news site can be found here

And to read all openDemocracy's Latin American articles just click here, or sign up to the RSS feed - orange button top left of the page:


Thursday May 14th. London oD pub evening - Media and democratisation in Latin America

Latin America's Democratic Opening. What was the role of media and what should be the role for new media?

When: Thursday May 14th at 7.15pm

Where: The Perseverance, 63 Lamb's Conduit Street. Nearest tube Holborn. Map here.

What: Pub meeting. (Small) oD tab.

The room can hold about 30 people. Email Julian Stern ( if you'd like to come.

Discussion led by Juanita Leon and Ivan Briscoe.1 hour of seminar-style discussion followed by social.

Juanita's intro:

Colombia has changed a great deal in the last 30 years, in no small part because of the great social mobility created by drug trafficking. The entertainment, the business and the political world have evolved and democratized in ways that have surprised even the more skeptical in the Left. The media world, instead, remains one of the last trenches of the old elite.

There is a huge media concentration, which creates a high-level entry barrier for other competitors, so the idea that it is ‘impossible’ to create an alternative successful media has gotten hold of my generation. New Media, and specially the new open-source platforms, create the opportunity to break that monopoly with new information sources that are not linked to the economic or political elite of the country.
The biggest challenge is to develop a sustainable economic model for this new media because at least in Colombia - although I bet it is the same in other countries of Latin America - the weight of government in the market is huge and a lot of advertisers don´t want to have their ads in media critical of government.

Ivan's intro:

Latin America's democratic opening has come at one remove from the media: while certain outlets chipped at dictatorship, they certainly did not fell them (this was largely an elite enterprise). Indeed the "democratic" media have been marked by privileged relationships with power, maintenance of a hysteric agenda of crime and insecurity, selective use of information and blatant political meddling (Mexico, Central America, Argentina stand out). For the new left, the creation of alternative media spaces has been combined with attacks on the major conglomerates (Venezuela, Nicaragua). The end result is hardly the establishment of a real independent sphere of debate.

Obviously the new media has immense potential here, though yet to be realized. Segmentation of society and opinion is the prevalent norm, patrolled by extraordinary flexible and self-justifying discourses; the established Latin American commentators operated at a stellar distance from ground-level. That ground level expresses itself as threat - political or criminal. Real purposive exchange of experience is vital.


Local Railways, ODD Circle Tue 5 May 09 at The Blue Mugge Pub

Local Railways
ODD Circle   Tue 5 May 09  at The Blue Mugge Pub

Two visitors with special knowledge of the North Staffs.  railways’ situation will be present and given opportunity to present information and make comments as appropriate.    

Preliminary -  getting up steam…   Brief reviews of the wider picture and context, each who wishes only commenting for a minute or so on these points.

1.    The significance of railways in Britain:   history and impact.

2.    ‘The steam locomotive is the most aesthetically pleasing of all engineering    creations’    Examples,  for and against.   (Photos, if possible)..  

3.    Railways in art, literature, film and architecture:   Turner’s  Rain, Steam and Speed;   Dickens  Dombey and Son;   The Railway Children;   Brief Encounter;   Night Mail (film, poetry and music);  St. Pancras.   Any more?   We’ll simply make a list and consider, maybe, a future session on this.

Individual Freedom in the UK, Lazy Trout Meerbrook 7-30pm for 7-45pm Monday May 4th 2009

Individual Freedom in the UK
Lazy Trout Meerbrook 7-30pm for 7-45pm Monday May 4th 2009

Tue 28th Apl 09 at The Blue Mugge Pub - How is Obama doing?

The USA -  how’s Obama doing?
ODD Circle   Tue  28th Apl 09   at The Blue Mugge Pub

Notes using Obama’s book  The Audacity of Hope  and articles from

1.  Hope’ is the word, from his book and from his speeches which carries infectious resonance.   Yet, already  Naomi Klein writing in The Nation this month has sign-posted ‘hopebroken and hopesick’…                          What are our hopes, reservations and fears?

2.  Geoffrey Hodgson,  director of Reuters’ Foundation Programme, Oxford
“No American president has started with more personal ability or more sheer good-will from around the world than Barack Obama…”   
At the recent G20  “Obama spoke of a new, more subtle, more truthful style of leadership”.  

ODD Programme Summer 2009 The Blue Mugge

From USA to Feminism, Marx to Heidigger, confidence to engineering ...

Citizenship and Sustainable Communities (3) - Tuesday 7th April 2009 at The Blue Mugge Pub, Leek

Open Circle or ODD Group
Tuesday 7th April 2009 at The Blue Mugge Pub, Leek
Citizenship (3)

Intro: This topic is becoming a ‘termly regular’ for the group - understandable given the fast-developing issues which it contains. This session was to examine the impact of the Sustainable Communities Act.

ODD Circle - Kierkegaard: Why?

ODD Circle   Tue  31st Mar 09   at The Blue Mugge Pub

Anthony Barnett's "What Next?" - grainy recording

From The BigChill, Kings Cross, London. 26 Mar 2009

I tried out my first iPhone audio blog on Anthony's "What next?" proposal earlier this evening to the Convention on Modern Liberty post-event party. Turn up the volume and get close to the speakers -- next time I'll try and be closer to the speaker:


The Lazy Trout. Do we get the politicians we deserve?

Lazy trout ,Meerbrook 30th March 2009 at 19-30 for 19-45 start.

Pets as kin. Lazy Trout Discussion Group

Pets as Kin
ODD Circle   Tue  24th Mar 09   at The Blue Mugge Pub

Three Kings, Clerkenwell, London. Thursday Mar 19 2009

openDemocracy's quarterly London meeting. Bill Thompson led a discussion on journalism, the web and civil liberties

Leek ODD Group

a forum for weekly debate on pertinent social and political issues

There's nothing quite like the real. Open Circle is where we report on, encourage and share information about the non-virtual meetings and events that happening around openDemocracy.

If you are doing something that you'd like to share on open Circle, please contact

Example of the sorts of events that openDemocracy is proud to include and report on are:

- The Leek ODD group

- The quarterly openDemocracy London meeting

- The Convention on Modern Liberty

ODD - Abstract Painting - ‘Anyone could do that’?

Open Circle or the ODD group
Tue 18 Nov 08 at The Blue Mugge pub

ODD Discussion Group Autumn 08 Program

Open Circle or The ODD Group
(Open Democracy Discussion Group)
Provisional Programme -  Autumn 2008
Tuesdays  at The Blue Mugge pub, Osborne St., Leek  19.30 for 19.45 >  21.15

Culture is Ordinary -

(Open Circle or the ODD Group)

Tue 17 June 08 at The Blue Mugge Pub

Poetry and Sylvia Plath

Enclose notes for the Blue Mugge pub discussion next Tue 4 Nov.   Roger Elkin has prepared these notes and will lead/chair the discussion.

A reminder of programme change: on Tue 25th Nov we will be debating and discussing  The Crash, 2008.

Also:      Friday 7th November   10.30 - 3.30pm
The WEA has organised:
Celebrating Tawney in 2008.
The 100th anniversary of Tawney's first University/WEA Tutorial Class in Longton.
The speakers are acknowledge experts on the subject.
Venue:  Potteries Museum and Art Gallery,  Hanley


Open Circle or Odd Group

Tuesday   4th November 08 at The Blue Mugge Pub, Leek

Some Poetry Definitions

1     S.T.Coleridge:         Poetry; the best words in the best order.
2    W.B. Yeats:        Poetry is truth seen with passion.
3.    William Wordsworth:     Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity.
4.    T.S. Eliot:        It is neither emotion, nor recollection, nor, without distortion of meaning, tranquillity. It is a concentration, and a new thing resulting from the concentration, of a very great number of experiences… a concentration which does not happen consciously… Poetry is not a turning loose from emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality.

4Which of the above do you agree with?
5Is there anything that you would add to help to define what you think poetry is… and should do?
6What makes a “good” poem?           
7What features make the following poem “good”?


Mushrooms                         Sylvia Plath

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.                                       13th November 1959


Consciousness 2 - ODD Study group

Open Circle, ODD Group

A brief reminder that the theme tomorrow evening, Tue 28 Oct, will be 'Consciousness 2'.
I've had a brief chat with Bob on the phone, who will again chair the session, and I enclose a few additional notes which may be used during the evening.



Additional notes for Tue 28th Oct.

From The Conscious Brain  by Steven Rose - former Professor of Biology, the OU.
(Penguin Books,  Revised Edn,  1976).  

“Consciousness means many things, sometimes simultaneously, often contradictorily.
Thus, it may simply mean a state different from being asleep or in a coma;  the reverse of being ‘unconscious’.  It may be used to relate to the private world of the mind in contrast with a presumed ‘public’ world of observed behaviour.  People speak of ‘altered states of consciousness’ which may be induced by drugs, often implying by this altered awareness or altered perception of the world around.  
Consciousness may have a Freudian meaning in which some human acts, or the motivations for them, occur at a level out of reach of the thinking ‘conscious’ mind with its overt rationalisations,  buried in some relatively inaccessible ‘subconscious’.   Finally, there is the Marxist sense of consciousness.  
The difference between these uses of the term is that whilst most of the earlier ones are essentially static definitions, of consciousness as a ’state’ of being, in the Marxist sense consciousness is a dynamic force which emerges in interaction between the individual and his or her environment….

Consciousness in my sense of the term, is a continuously unrolling, continuously developing activity of minds/brains in interaction with their environment, modified, either temporarily or permanently, by changing circumstances.”


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