Saturday, 20 September 2008

An end to it

Everyone can now put to rest forever, I think, the idea that I am a class-snob with the news that I have decided to unashamedly like Vampire Weekend. I think this should provide ample proof of my open-mindedness, regardless of any previous pronouncements, such as my firm belief that any one who has attended Eton should be banned from public office (sit down Mr. Johnson, Mr. Cameron) and that anality is the defining characteristic of the upper classes (based on the formula money=shit).

I mean, I still don't like VW as much as I like the Arctic Monkeys, which should go without saying really and should offer sufficient succour to those that fear I am being seduced by Tommy Hilfilger's new Autumn collection. I would still burn Tommy Hilfiger clothes on sight, naturally -- it's just with Vampire Weekend, mostly thanks to 'A-Punk', I would allow Ezra Koenig to change into something more appropriate to a popular musician before poured the gasoline.

I still retain the option to change my mind, of course. And if there next albumn is shit, or they decide somewhere down the line to go all medieval mandolin, singing songs in Middle English about knights' underpants -- and let's remember they just get away with the harpsicord as it is -- then I will say I always knew it, that such frat-boy, trust-fund rock was inevitably going to suck.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

A few statements of the frickin' obvious

Sorry. Just need to get this off my chest. But I think we can all agree now a few basics:

Capitalism does not work -- market forces cannot sustain themselves. (Points awarded to Bakunin, I think. That means it's been a century and a half and political debate has yet to clue in...)

The market is immoral. The invisible hand wields one very sharp, fucking brutal knife with the expertise of a blind butcher in a bee-swarm.

Bankers, investors and financial organisations do not act in the public interest. They only act in the interests of greed for the few, and will always do so. When prevented from doing so, they will fight to be permitted to do so. Like a toddler who wants chocolate ice cream, then more chocolate ice cream, blames you when he feels sick, vomits in your hair and then insists you serve him more ice cream.

Don't feel bad if you don't understand the mechanisms of global capitalism. The traders in the City and on Wall St. don't either.

The political debate in the UK is on par with school-yard taunts heard at the 'finest', i.e. most exclusive, public schools. It's all very manipulative but essentially chummy and there's actually very little substance behind the words because nobody has a clue what is actually going on beyond the very high walls that shelter the privileged little shits from the scary world outside...

... but it still looks like Plato's Academy when compared with the medieval squabbling that is going on in the US. (Canada is in the middle of a general election... I'll get back to you.)

As bad as things are, if we leave it to the the Conservatives, in the UK, in Canada, and the Republicans in the US to try to right this mess it will only be a fuck of a lot worse.

That is all. And I do apologise. Completely self-indulgent. Nobody with a functioning brain need have read that.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

In praise of...

Most people who read this blog (yes, both of you) will already know this, but for the others that might happen across these humble offerings, maybe from Canada (are you listening?), you might not have heard about Ben Goldacre so I implore you, go to his website, Bad Science, and just revel in the first rate journalism and arguments.

He really has renewed my faith in empiricism and science itself -- well, given me faith in empiricism and science, which I was never too big on, to be honest. He gives rationalism a good name. And in pointing out the bullshit that tries too often to pass itself off as truth, he demonstrates how capitalists, in the shape of Big Pill Companies and the popular media, operate as skilled snake-oil salesmen of the most damaging sort.

Just go. Read the blog. Buy the book. Wear the t-shirt. (No shit! You really can...)

That's my public service for the month. Back to being a cynical, sniping asshole.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

I give up...

Exasperated Thursday morning. What can I say?


She's powerful. She's evil. She's, perhaps, the anti-Christ. Moose-hunting, gun-totin', flag-wavin', elitist, economic fantasist, God-loving', anti-rational misogynist -- yes! she hates women! make no mistake... at least, she hates women as much as, though perhaps in a different way, than this lot:

Really? I mean really? I mean, plastic, ok sure. I get that. But a doll? with a choice of a man's suit, a Lara Croft outfit or a school-girl uniform?

(Think of the middle aged Republican men... in their pressed suits... oh christ.)

I'm off to donate some more money to the SETI project. We're getting pretty desperate now.

Only American capitalists and the tabloid media could make me feel sorry for that ignorant, corrupt, reactionary politician. (I say 'politician' of course because irrespective of gender, she is all of those things, though I accept that you cannot look at her as a 'politician' irrespective of gender. The fact that she is a young woman would have been her one redeeming quality in this election that already has an impressive record of beating the living shit out of young women, IF it wasn't for the fact that the only reason she is there is that because she is a young woman... We're just never going to get it right, are we? We don't need feminism any more? oh, I think there's a way to go yet, don't you?)

The Guardian has the same report here. I don't know what it is -- they use the same pictures and interview, but maybe it's just when wrapped in The Guardian's warm, wooly liberal jumper, the irony becomes more evident than in that ITV, irony-free offering...

Friday, 5 September 2008

Scary things...

...late at night, after hockey practice. I can never sleep after training, I'm too wound up, even at one in the morning. My best bet is to sit on the couch with a cup of peppermint tea and watch BBC News 24 until sleep just grabs me. I don't fight it.

So the other night I'm drifting in and out of consciousness, on the couch with a hot water bottle on my back, and I open my eyes long enough to become aware of my surroundings to see John McCain droning on at me with a 27-inch head. Why, I wonder, do all Republican presidential nominees have something so undeniably of the monkey about them? In the cold light of day -- well, I say 'light', but this being Sheffield, there's actually not much of that around at the moment -- I realise its some sort of sublimation, an unconscious acknowledgement on the part of Bible-wielding Republicans that yes, Darwin was right, and we'll prove it to you by offering the world endless opportunities to examine glaring evidence of man's lineage.

But what was even scarier, the other night, was the whole performance of the convention, where we were presented once again not only with irrefutable proof of natural selection (and that it doesn't work in the US), but that there is an undeniably . If anyone had any doubts of America's Imperialist credentials, last week one Presidential candidate -- the nice, lefty one, at that -- stands before Roman columns and addresses his followers in a toga and crowned with a wreath of olive leaves. (I might have dreamed some of that.) This week, we get a funny little man standing before a crowd hysterical with adoration, all being seduced by inflamatory, hate-filled rhetoric and supporting all sorts of right-wing policies that promise to make a Once Great Nation great again by going to war.

Sound familiar?

Ok ok ok. A cheap shot. And not a very original point. And I'm realising that it's hardly a point I need to make. Because the RNC doesn't look like this, does it? But, in the twin-cities of St. Paul-Nuremberg, we are getting to see the Republican-American version of this sort of nationalism -- a laissez-faire fascism. (You like that? I'm sure I'm not the first to come up with it. Any more authoritative citations would be appreciated.) The policies, the hate, the fear, the penchant for fetishism, while decrying others' 'deprived' sexual practices; the crowd's cheers are all very America uber-alles (USA! USA!). But, this being America, of course there's no one forcing anyone into this compliance.

It all reminds me of that scene in The Life of Brian, you know?

I love that. Anyway, I particularly wish to applaud that man a few rows up, waving the placard that read: 'Peace Through Strength!' Alas, he must of been standing in front of the man with the 'Truth Through Lies' sign. And an honourable mention to the 21-year-old university student I heard interviewed the next morning on Radio 4 who, when asked why she supported McCain, responded 'Because he shares the values I hold most dear: protection for the unborn, freedom...' at which point she ran out of steam. Maybe she forgot the rest, but really, what more did she need to say?

Sorry if I'm not accompanying this rant with some intelligent analyses. I would cast my psychoanalytic-eye over the lot of them but well, I'm too busy at the minute to go out and buy a new throw for my couch.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Thomas King's Medicine River

A review I put up on goodreads on Thomas King's Medicine River.

Medicine River Medicine River by Thomas King

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Really terrific novel. After reading Thomas King's Green Grass, Running Water I had very high expectations. This was a very different book, but no less enjoyable. While Green Grass, Running Water played decadently with meta-texts and inter-texts and was very upfront on its dealings with the Big Ideas, this book is much more subtle and understated, but as effective and, in many ways, does the same sort of thing, only not so loud.

The principle characters in Green Grass were flamboyant, grabbing the narrative and tossing it around wantonly, here we get Will, who so often seems to the one being grabbed and dragged and tossed about.

But at the heart of both texts is the trickster. In Green Grass, we get Coyote and Changing Woman and the Lone Ranger, Hawkeye, Ishmael and Robinson Crusoe (and a particularly mischievous narrator) ripping stories, past and present, to pieces, leaving Noah and John Wayne and others stunned and castrated and confused. In Medicine River this role is subtly staged by Harlen Bigbear. Like the trickster in Green Grass, Harlen trips through the text, trying to make good and set things right and create the world as it should be, and like a trickster it rarely, if ever, goes to plan, but somehow all works in the end as it should, according to some unwritten, easy code of righteousness, justice and balance.

So, Medicine River doesn't come with the bells and whistles of Green Grass, but there is a different joy to be had in its subtlety, the way it does so much without seeming every to try. Terrific.

(Incidentally, if you live in Southern Ontario, Thomas King is running in a by-election for the NDP in Guelph. Visit their site here and support him -- we need people like this in government!)