Thursday, 17 December 2009

Death by Zombie, or Death by Vampire?

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Well... no, Mr. Frost. Bullshit. Because when the world does end -- and it will end. Horribly. -- it will not be anything so benign as fire or ice. This is I have realised. The fate of our world will, quite simply, be a matter of either death by zombie or death by vampire.

Everything that happens in our world, it seems clear to me now, is inching us closer and closer to one of these inevitable conclusions. It's only a question of who will get there first, who will inflict the final blow. Will it be death by zombie? gruesome, rotting flesh of the undead inevitable masses clawing through our skulls to feast upon what little nutrition might yet be housed in our increasingly spongy brains? Or will it be death by vampire? the slow, seductive sucking of our lifeforce by evil overlords who, having taken from us whatever they need to survive and thrive, will toss our empty bodies away like yesterday's copy of The Daily Telegraph.

Both are kinda sexy, I suppose. In their own way.

Why have I come to this conclusion -- or rather, you might ask, why I have only just come to this conclusion? Look around you! It is hopeless. Whenever the will of blank-eyed, thoughtless masses wins, whenever the mind-eating banality of the crowds takes another bite of our cultural body, it is a victory for the zombies. In this way, the triumph of the Twilight saga is a triumph for not the vampire, no, but for the zombies that would throw themselves at Robert Pattinson's feet. And if, for example, Lord Monckton and the rest of the climate change deniers, fuelled by the ancient evil of corporate money, manage to derail the Copenhagen talks, what is that if not a victory for the vampires, who will leave not only our species but the whole planet in ruin just to stave-off their insatiable thirst?

So I'm now, finally, going to see everything in this world of ours in its proper context, as either a step closer towards death by vampire or death by zombie. Which does raise one small conundrum, however:

If the X Factor single gets to Christmas #1, is that a case of death by zombie or vampire? have the zombies won the day, with their text-voting and brainless iTunes addictions? or are they merely the Renfield-like servants of the true Master, the Prince of Saturday Night Darkness himself, Count Cowell?

What's it going to be? Not that it matters, I suppose. But I'd like to know what's killing me softly this week.

Of course, there is an increasingly likelihood that X Factor won't win at all, which will be some small comfort to all us chainsaw-weilding, garlic-wearing amateur Van Helsings out there. (So, if you haven't already, get out there and buy 'Killing in the Name'.) It's only delaying the inevitable, but hooray for small victories.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Hitler: More than just a maniacal mass-murderer.

WAY too busy to be writing blogs, oh, for weeks now. And who'd want to bother with creative self-expression when there are student essays to mark? Anyway, I have managed to pull myself away for just a mo to pass along this little gem. Forthwith, I present to you, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley!

The Guardian account is here.

And who could pass up yet another chance to comment on a use of Hitler by right-wing fear-mongerers? Oh, not I! Because it was not so long ago that I was pointing out how the insidious little pigeon-shit AN Wilson -- in the Mail, where else? The Official 'You're Like Hitler, You Are!' Newspaper -- was likening Hitler to scientists whose research had the temerity to disagree with his fairy-tale Weltanschauung. Or was that the other way around? I don't remember. Anyway, here we go again. Thank you Lord Monckton, you giant bug-eyed hereditary shitface, and Congratulations!; you are this week's recipient of the Completely Inappropriate Evocation of Hitler Award.

The Completely Inappropriate Evocation of Hitler Awards -- or FUCKWITs, for short -- is bestowed whenever I feel like it to those public figures who, through a Completely Inappropriate Evocation of Hitler, demonstrate an obsessed-paranoid of the world, a foot-stamping, superstitious obstinacy and a Cyclopean view of history. Sorry. I shouldn't say that. It's rude to Cyclops (who, By God! really ARE Hitler!). But the recipients of FUCKWITs also demonstrate a relationship with morality that, optimistically, kindly, one might describe as merely perverse.

Because why is it that the winning FUCKWITs invariably and inevitably seem to be those people who, in all likelihood, would have spent the better part of the 1930s stood before the mirror in the boudoir, dressed in standard issue brown suits learning to say Willkommen! like they really meant it? No, I don't think it is an accident. It may be because their view of the world is so completely back-assward that they actually do see themselves as the victims, the last defenders of truth and justice. (Though I rather like the explanation I heard earlier today, that they are just sublimating their own guilt.)

So, just for the record, Lord Monckton, AN Wilson, Melanie Phillips and whoever else aspires to a FUCKWIT, not to dampen your ambitions (because, hey, you've got to make your name some way), but it's like this:

Hate-spreading, mass-murdering fascists with unfashionable facial hair: Bad.

Seed-eating, hemp-knitting, pro-environmental activists and glass-eyed, Bunsen-burning, University Challenge obsessives: I'm sorry, just not in the same league. In fact, in terms you can understand: UnBad.

On the other hand, paranoid, self-serving, profit-seeking mouthpieces of capitalism who thought the Crusades were a bloody good show?... Well. Keep up the good work. You'll be surrounded by more FUCKWITs before you know it.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Wall of the Times

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. What a spectacular cock-up.

New Berlin wall built for U2 gig to mark fall of old one.
Twenty years ago, thousands of Germans converged at the Berlin Wall to watch as the hated barrier between east and west was torn down. But tonight, many fans hoping to catch a glimpse of U2 as they played a free concert to celebrate the anniversary of the historic event would have found a small obstacle in their way: a hastily erected wall.

The organisers of the event, the music network MTV, erected a two-metre high "sight barrier" to exclude those without one of 10,000 free tickets from catching a glimpse of the band. The irony was not lost on fans, some of whom said they would boycott the event in protest.


Listeners to Star FM, a 24-hour Berlin rock music radio station, voted tonight to boycott the concert in protest. The station's leading DJ, Wolfi, said: "Is this is a sick joke? A band whose leader, Bono, campaigns for world peace and freedom, puts on a concert to commemorate the fall of one of the most monstrous barriers in history, and they erect a wall to stop fans from taking part?"

Really, though. There's nothing more to say, right? I mean, we all get it right? DJ Wolfi gets it, anyway. There's just nothing more to say. We can all just sit in stunned silence in front of our keyboards, wondering just how stupid the whole world has become. Death of satire and all that. Death of the invective blogger commentary, too, if this level of odious obviousness continues unabated.

I hate it, too, because it again makes me sound nostalgic for the Cold War, a time when walls were built to separate bodies and people and governments with competing ideologies, complete Weltanschauung, and not just protect the intellectual property of smug capitalists. Alas, I suppose this is 'progress'. Less ¡Mas vale morir de pie que vivir de rodillas! and more 'Well, I'll see a pirated copy on YouTube later.'

Anyway, a Big Numpty of the Week award to the twenty-year old MTV Executive who made the call, having never read a history book in his life. Bono's got no excuse, though.

Ps. Any suggestions for hash-tags on this? #wallgate? Inevitable, really, that someone will call it that. I like the more direct approach: #mtvdumbasses? #boobybono?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Ps. Professor Nutt and Freud's Ghost

Just to follow up my little rant this morning, Professor Nutt has written an editorial in The New Scientist that is well-worth examining. Some of his sensible words are at least worthy of repeating here as Wilson's immoral invective.

No one doubts that heavy users of marijuana are risking trouble with their mental health. What I have simply pointed out is that we need a consistent policy, recognising that heavy users of alcohol and tobacco are more numerous and are causing themselves – and others – even more trouble through their indulgence.

Policies that ignore the realities of the world we live in are doomed to fail. This is true for just about all the biggest issues that we confront, from energy and climate to criminal justice, health and immigration. I'm not arguing that science dictate policy; considerations such as cost, practicality and morality also have a role. But scientific evidence should never be brushed aside from the political debate.

Yes. Exactly. No Dictatorship of Empiricism here. Nutt recognises that science alone cannot dictate policy, that governments need to consider other factors. But they should NEVER simply ignore scientific evidence when it proves inconvenient.

The current British government has said repeatedly that it wants its policies to be evidence-based, but actions speak louder than words. On ecstasy, for example, it made policy first, sought advice second – and cynically rejected the advice it was given. The result is shambolic policy-making which gives great cause for concern if that is how governments operate more generally.

The results of a government inventing its own reality and acting on it can be seen in the appalling consequences the George W. Bush presidency had for world peace, the environment and human rights. The message for the British government is a simple one: don't exclude rational argument in order to exploit a visceral public response. Politicians have to win the hearts and minds of their electorate. If your policy is informed by an underlying moral imperative, be open about what that is, and don't try to disguise it with a veneer of pseudo-science. We ignore scientific evidence at our peril.

Raising the Spectre of George W. Bush is much more appropriate and reasonable than the Daily Mail and Wilson's use of Hitler. For starters, I suspect that The New Scientist and Professor Nutt are at least consistent, and that neither officially endorsed George W. Bush, only to later -- when History has proved them spectacularly wrong -- use him as a Boogey-man to incite fear in an already nervous readership. It is exactly this sort of right-wing-knee-jerkism, that Bush so neatly embodies, that we must battle here.

And in support of Professor Nutt, the second comment on this story, by a certain 'Freud's Ghost', seems to share excretera's take on the issue:

Not insane just sad, inward looking & immature. Trapped at the anal stage politicians are more interested in toilet paper than they are research papers. If they had a interest in the real world they wouldn't be in politics. Voter appeal is the only reality for politician.

That's what I like to see! I salute you both!

No. A country run by THESE arrogant gods of certainty would truly be a hell on earth.

Sometimes -- no, most times -- I cannot believe the fucking Daily Mail. This 'debate' was put forward by A N Wilson yesterday, and was promptly tweeted around. (I heard about it from Berto54, Ben Goldacre and Dara O'Briain, so thanks all, because there's no way I'd go within a million gazillion thrillion miles of that rag's website otherwise):
Yes, scientists do much good. But a country run by these arrogant gods of certainty would truly be hell on earth

Oh fuck. This coming from the Daily Mail, right? The newspaper for head-in-the-sand camels, racists, homophobes, bigots and superstitious nuts (one t) of all stripes. It's a Big Tent. Full of assholes.

Wilson is talking about the Professor Nutt scandal, or as it's becoming known on Twitter, #Nuttsack. Listen to this, which is, if anything ever was, truly worthy of the epithet Shit.
Now he has been sacked, the scientific establishment is in an uproar of self-pity and self-importance. How dare mere politicians question their judgments? They are scientists, aren't they? And what scientists say must be taken as true.

The trouble with a 'scientific' argument, of course, is that it is not made in the real world, but in a laboratory by an unimaginative academic relying solely on empirical facts.

Would that 'real world' be the world of the Daily Mail and it's narrow-minded, ill-informed ideology masquerading as 'opinion'? Of course. And why would we ever want to regard something as flimsy as 'empirical facts' over such heaven-sent Truth. I'm sorry. I mean horseshit.

Friday, 30 October 2009

'My mind's made up,

don't confuse me with the facts!'

An old t-shirt I remember, you know, one of those ones your Mom puts you in when you're a kid because they think it's cute and there's nothing you can do about it because you don't yet have disposable income. The picture was of a cartoon turtle, arms folded across his chest defiantly, vigorously shaking his head. OR, it seems, they could have just put up a picture of this Labour government, fingers in ears, heads all shaking. Maybe that turtle should be Labour's new symbol.

Again the government has rejected the carefully researched findings of an apparently objective, non-political body. Well, that's not really the news -- they've already done that. Now they've gone and shot the messenger. Not only does this undermine public confidence in the government's social policy, it represents yet another missed opportunity to engage with progressive politics and policy, it's a boon to the Opposition, who won't be able to believe their luck: can you see the headlines? Come on! The guy's name is Professor Nutt!

I don't object in principle to governments rejecting scientific findings. On the contrary -- it is their duty to evaluate any such evidence and construct social policy based on decisions that necessarily need to take into account factors beyond the scientific evidence. It's just the particular way this government seems to reject findings it doesn't like, that doesn't fit it's increasingly narrow -- and unfortunately right-wing -- ideological bias. Their knees are jerking up so fast that my chin is really starting to hurt.

Like when all the evidence demonstrates that certain services are more effectively delivered by the state, using a publicly-owned, centrally-organised system, and they persist with privately-funded initiatives... Who says ideology is dead? Forgive me. I'm coming over all old-school Marxist again.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Excretera now on...

That's right! I finally get it, well, get it enough that I've started tweeting. So now you can enjoy not only long, drawn-out movements of excretera, but also micro-tweets, those tiny little grunties to get you through the day.

A few reasons for this monumental decision, actually. First, like I said, I actually geddit now. For weeks I stared blankly at my friends' tweets, the language of the thing completely going over my head. But once I figured out @s and #s and RT, i.e. once it started making sense, I was hooked. Especially, seguing neatly into reason #2, as I had a rather nasty case of the flu last week, and anything beyond 140 characters was beyond my powers of concentration.

('Was it H1N1?' everyone asks. How the fuck should I know? I was sick. It was flu. I would have asked the doctor had he let me within 100 metres of his surgery. Maybe. Does it matter? I felt shitty. And now I'm better.)

Finally, and (you'll be relieved to hear) more substantially, it was watching two terrific examples of what Twitter can do that made me realise that this is more than narcissistic self-promotion going on here. Oh, don't get me wrong, there's that, too, and that's fine. We've all been hanging ourselves out on the Book of Faces too long for anyone to complain about that anymore. No. It was, for me, first the completely deserved attacks on Jan Moir's despicable Daily Hate article on Steven Gately, and then exposing of Trafigura's and Cater-Ruck's super-injunction against The Guardian that made me really fall in love with Twitter. Anything that can make such loathsome assholes feel so uncomfortable is worthy of my love.

I may never have a 5-digit list of followers (for which I will be forever grateful to the masses), but I will, now, revel in my connectedness. So come on over, follow me. Let me know if you're already on there; I'm looking for interesting people to read (other than Stephen Fry, obviously).

Friday, 23 October 2009

That wasn't as satisfying as I might have hoped.

But then my hopes were never that high. True, Nick Griffin got a right proper pounding on Question Time tonight, and there was some comfort in that. But, as many of us expected, the very format of Question Time made it all seem like a hollow (and I hope not Pyrrhic) victory. The cheerleaders were out in force, and the BBC should be congratulated for both the producers' careful, or brilliant, selection of the audience, and for Dimbleby's performance, which was effective (though lacking a real knock-out blow; and was that really the best tie in which to confront the Spectre of Fascism?)

What I found most disappointing was entirely predictable. For instance, in the whole debate on whether the BNP have hijacked the glorious image of National Hero Winston Churchill, no one, not one person, questioned whether Churchill is at all deserving of this sacred reputation. He's not, by the way, in case you're wondering -- I wouldn't go so far to say that the BNP's claims for Churchill as on honorary member is 'correct', but it's not far off.

And that, really, was the problem. Everyone was so busy trying to stab at that disgusting pig on the panel that they still couldn't bring themselves to take on some of the sacred cows that lead to the recent electoral success of the BNP in the first place. Like whether Churchill really was the unbesmirchable hero everyone holds him to be. Like why nobody is calling UKIP -- a 'mainstream' party in the eyes of the media, but more like the bourgeois face of British xenophobia -- to task for their use of Churchill in election pamphlets. (See reminder on the right.) There was no real debate on immigration -- the parties, platitudes aside, fell back to their usual squabbling as to which of them was more against foreigners pouring onto these shores. And might there have been a sophisticated discussion of Britain relationship with Europe, given the BNP's hatred of them, too? Not likely. This fell into the usual childish noise of party-political squabbling.

There is an opinion that the far-right hasn't risen in Britain, not even in the 1930s, because that taste in the political spectrum in Britain is already well-catered for by the existing right (i.e. the Conservatives), which is plenty far-enough-right already, thanks. And though everyone had a nice pop at Nick Griffin and his despicable vitriol -- I won't call them 'ideas' or 'policies', which would give his hatred too much credence -- the continued failure of the politicians and media in this country to really challenge those leanings was in evidence on Question Time tonight. The strategy employed by so many panellists, to cast the Griffin and the BNP and Nazis completely misses the point. There is plenty of racist, authoritarian traditions indigenous to these shores for the British far-right to draw upon without them having to resort to importing the habits of Germans.

Some comment highlighted on the BBC website claimed that no one landed a knock-out punch tonight. Had Bonnie Greer have actually stood up and clocked him over the head, I would have been much happier. I'm petty that way.

Friday, 16 October 2009

A study in what, exactly?

I want to offer my initial, tentative support for the new Cambridge University-led study that graces The Guardian's front page today.

Too much too young: start school at six says key report

The report, to sum up, suggests that students in England begin formal lessons too early, and such structured schooling shouldn't begin until the age of six. It also offers a 'damning indictment of Labour's education record since 1997,' accusing the government of interventionism with 'Stalinist overtones' and narrowing the curriculum to a point that would shame Victorian institutions (not generally known for their plural, open approach to education).

Now, I talk to other parents, from a variety of schools, and I watch my son -- only turning six tomorrow, happy birthday Will! -- and his friends at school, all of varying levels of academic ability but generally bright, intelligent boys and girls, and I do see them being put-off school, the idea of education (learning to read, write, do sums, etc.), by what they feel is too much work. They complain of being tired, at the end of the day of suffering from headaches. Though, being five and six year olds, they have a tendency to whinge whether presented with anything other than exactly what they want to be doing at that very minute.  But yeah, I think the ideas in the report that I've read so far sound good: delaying the start of formal lessons until children are six, scrapping Sats and league tables that put undue stress on children, a general review of the ciriculumm and an attempt to introduce a greater variety of subjects (history, music, languages, for example).

But don't believe me. I'm just speaking anecdotally. And, frankly, that should mean jack-shit. In England, you/we seem to privilege the anecdote out of all proportion, with it's phobia of public intellectuals and 'don't confuse me with the facts' mind-set. Hence TheSun's campaign against Labour supported by anyone who have suffered in the last 12 years . I'm sorry, sirs, but having been in the military or having had a relative die in hospital of infection or being stabbed in the face does not give you any particular insight into the political system or how to best plan economic and social policy in this country, and should not entitle you to be regarded as 'an expert', except perhaps as, say, an expert in getting stabbed in the face, and not even then, really, because while you may have a particular insight as to what it's like to be stabbed in the face your experience is still not definitive; other people may have a very different idea as to what it means to be stabbed in the face, and I want to hear from them, too, before making up my mind. And from the looks of it, having endured these tragedies makes your political opinions even less reliable, even more skewed, as bitterness and the desperate search for someone to blame seems to have clouded your judgement.

(My wife keeps promising to photocopy a Joan Scott essay that addresses this -- I'll ask again and offer a review when I've had a look at it.)

So, again, don't take my words as some sort of definitive proof, or refutation, for this report. Read The Guardian's report. Or the BBC's.  Or anyone's. Read them all. Read the report itself, which I haven't yet done which is why I'm reserving judgement.

The government, alas, can't be bothered, and has dismissed it out of hand. Which is really, really sad. It seems another triumph of narrow, complacent and misguided ideology over genuine debate.

But perhaps this was inevitable. If anyone thinks the Conservatives would act any differently, despite how they are trying to play it, to exact maximum damage to Labour, is very, very silly. (Like, one might suggest, someone's who's judgement is so clouded by being stabbed repeatedly in the face that he thinks crime will be reduced in an increasingly inegalitarian Britain led by the Tories. Poor numpty.) The point is, if I might indulge in a little Foucaultian flourish, the increasingly rigorous discipline and training of our youth, and the increasingly incessant surveillance, management and normalisation of people in all sectors of society, particularly education, are not going to be abated by any report that suggests we move in a contrary direction, no matter how objective, conclusive or well-supported that proposed policy might be. Consider, as The Guardian explains:
The review is the biggest independent inquiry into primary education in four decades, based on 28 research surveys, 1,052 written submissions and 250 focus groups. It was undertaken by 14 authors, 66 research consultants and a 20-strong advisory committee at Cambridge University, led by Professor Robin Alexander, one of the more experienced educational academics in the country.
      Last night the review's conclusions were backed by every education union in England.
But no matter. Power, it seems, will have its way.

So, again, sorry for donning the Foucaultian cilice. It would be nice to see this as an ideological battle, one that we might be able to win by fighting the right fight and voting for the right people, but I don't see it happening. 

Friday, 9 October 2009

Beware Canadian-eating Americas

I love this kind of thing. And nice to see Ellen Page doing something really worthy for a change, not like that movie, whatever, she did.

What's not to like? Ignorant, uninformed Americans as Canadian-eating cannibals. On the surface, they're like us and they like us, but really they can't wait to get their genetically-perfect teeth into our tender, universal-health-cared for flesh. That's our National Grand Narrative, that. Don't give me any 'Oh! Being Canadian just means being not-American,' like that's some kind of bad thing. Yes. That's the point. That's why we got together in the first place. Google 'Canadian confederation' or something. That'll explain it. The whole idea of Canada came about to stop British colonists in North America being devouredby Americans. That's what their Manifest Destiny was really all about. Gobbling up everything on the continent. We banded together then, and we venture south now at our own peril. Look at poor Ellen. The same thing happened to Jim Carey. Sad.

I got the link from the CBC website, by the way.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Swine Flu? Forget it!

A much more serious, much more debilitating virus seems to be threatening countries on both sides of the Atlantic. This from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.:

Conservatives Extend Poll Leads Over Liberals

Honestly. There is little one can say other than What the Fuck?!? What is going on? I mean, you could almost understand the Tory lead in Britain; the Tories always do well here, and it's just the swing back around to the assholes you know. But in Canada? Where the Liberals are the natural party of government? (It's on the Constitution, isn't it? Someone get back to me on that.)

What I find amusing in this poll is that we've apparently stopped measuring leaders' approval, or do so only as an afterthought. Realising, I suppose, that no politicians are popular, not really, they've taking the more sensible route and to measuring just how deeply unpopular they are. But honestly. 39% of Canadians think Harper is doing a good job? I would have thought that this is the same 39% who think that it's ok to eat babies. You know. Properly cooked. They're not animals.

Well, I guess there's nothing for it. If you are one of those 39%, please do email me personally, so I can come to your house and find the leak.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Knock their undead heads off, Daddy!

Time to share a long-kept, dark secret: I have a penchant for those cute little Internet games that provide bursts of edification during the working day. (If, by 'penchant' you really take it that I mean 'life-threatening addiction' and by 'bursts of edification' I really mean 'ways of wasting entire days to square-eyed, brain-dead uselessness', you'll have a better of what I'm actually talking about.)

But too long have a lived with this truth closeted up in the very private list of shameful cookies. I feel now I need to share this love with the world. (Yes, well, that, and I might as well stop wasting so much time in futile endeavour and instead transform these useless hours into something productive. We'll call it 'research'. I did train as an academic after all, so I do know how to turn personal obsessions into objects of nominal public interest.) So, allow me dear reader to introduce a new feature on excretera: an enumeration of the shitty, but highly entertaining ways I waste my time.

The first I would like to share with you is, as you might have guessed from the above image, is Ashes to Ashes Zombie Cricket. The premise: the Australian cricketers are undead brain-eaters that you need to batter into re-death with an imaginative range of cricket balls. Extra points for a direct decapitation; even more for a decapitation with a special exploding ball. Note the special roles for Ricky Ponting, Crocodile Dundee, Dame Edna and, I think,what are supposed to be anonymous Shelias.

Terrible, terrible stereotyping. Of Australians. Brilliant.

For the record, I have won back the Ashes twice. Top score: 177. Good, but not insurmountable. I'm sure that any seven year old can double that with only ten minutes practice. (Suffice it to say, it took me much more practice to get there. I'm just about 3 1/2 years too old to 'get' video games. My brother, who is 3 years, 9 months and a bit younger than me, is of a completely different generation: you know, those younger people that can pick up any video game and immediately get it in a way that makes you think that maybe they really did start inserting gaming components into embryos in 1974. And have gotten much better since, obviously.)

Which brings me to the real shame: my sons (Will, 5 and Jonah, 4) caught me playing on Sunday, and insisted on watching. 'Good one, Daddy!' Jonah congratulated me as I knocked a zombie-cricketer's head clean off. 'Get him! Get him with a fireball!' Will screamed as a massive outback zombie got closer and closer. Did they want to try? 'No way!' Will laughed at the ridiculous suggestion, thinking that he had no desire to have his brains eaten by green-capped zombies. Oh dear.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Easy Rider

Looks like I got back just in time, too, to once again save Britain from itself. (Having spent the summer solving the problems of Europe... more on that later.)

It's long been pissing me off what an easy ride the right have been getting in this country's media, and by the left-centre parties for that matter (hence the title, geddit? I see Cameron as Peter Fonda and George Osborne as Denis Hopper). And it's not just the far-right who have benefited from the impotence of this country's media; the Conservatives have been lapping up the adoration of the uncritical press (lead by the badly-disguised Boy Tory double-agent, Nick Robinson, who gets all gushy whenever he sees blue and who is lulled into a teary longing when he hears trickle-down economics explained in an Etonian accent).

Two articles I've read recently make this case much better than I could. First, in the latest edition of The New Statesman, Alastair Campbell complains of how Cameron is being treated as PM-elect, rather than a shallow, inconsistent rich-kid who's, erm, 'policies' should truly frighten anyone interested in a tolerant social democracy. And this is from a man who should know something about dirty tricks and media incompetence, especially given that the BBC crises-of-confidence were sparked by Campbell's shameless, and entirely unfair, persecution of Robinson-clone-turned-unlikely-hero Andrew Gilligan -- if this is Campbell's attempt to make amends I welcome it, but he's got some way to go yet.

Another article from an altogether less-ambivalent, less-smelly source is from Sarah Ditum at the almost-painfully excellent Paperhouse, who shows how the more popular media are trying to paint Cameron as the King of New Cool Britiania, with 'Conservatives' as the new 'Revolutionaries' responsible for all the latest, hippest trends in fashion, pop-music and xenophobic, homophobic European social policy. The crazy kids! Take down your posters of half-naked Kenneth Clarke and Cliff Richard, girls! make room for David Cameron, staring wistfully out of the back of a chauffeur-driven limo. Nice touch.

Wakey wakey, people!

And incidentally,

in case you didn't see this (and I suspect you have, because it's probably been blogged to death), there was this remarkable item in The Guardian on the weekend.

Daniel Jones says he was humiliated and victimised for his beliefs following incident at store in Wales

I feel obliged to pass on this story to you for a number of reasons: Yes, I was one of those that entered 'Jedi' in the last census form, in protest, though normally, as you know, I think of myself more as a Pastafarian, and you will also likely know that we are always interested here in all things Star Wars, and that there are at least two actual Jedis in my house. (NOT Padawans, I've been told, definitely, on more than one occasion).

But what I really like about this piece, rather unsuspectedly, is Tesco's response.

Tesco said: "He hasn't been banned. Jedis are very welcome to shop in our stores although we would ask them to remove their hoods.
"Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker all appeared hoodless without ever going over to the Dark Side and we are only aware of the Emperor as one who never removed his hood.

"If Jedi walk around our stores with their hoods on, they'll miss lots of special offers."

Normally I would defend my Jedi bretheren to the hilt of my double-ended lightsabre, but commendations here to Tesco who, in addition to being technically right, also prove to have something more of a sense of humour than Mr. Hehol.

(Oh christ. I've just sided with the Empire. I truly am becoming the Dark Father. Get me fitted for my Evil scuba suit and cape. I've always wanted a cape.)

Monday, 21 September 2009

I'm back.

A so excretera returns from holiday like all that foreign food that looked good on the plate the night before.

In the months since my last post I've got a new house, a very handy new computer and, er, oh yes, a new baby. So, if sleepless nights and the etcetera a parenthood have left me a little less erudite and wordsmithery than usual, do forgive me. I will happily update you on my holiday musings and predictions for the future soon, but for now just let me say

Fuck the CBI.

Needs saying, yet again, I'm afraid, based on this:

This would be the very same group, our true leaders, this country's economic spine who, only months ago, rather jelly-like, collapsed into pre-adolescent pleas to the taxpayer to save them from their high-flying incompetence. (Holy shit, I am out of practice. I'm mixing my metaphors like a blender at a sperm bank. [?!?] Blame the new computer.) The point IS, the CBI have been telling us how to run the country for a very long time now and it simply doesn't seem to be a good time to be doing that, not after their colossal failures in the past months. Maybe not everything should be run like a business, do you think?

And it strikes me as very tediously predictable that I'm not at all surprised with the frequency with which I greet any CBI statement with a spluttering 'Fuck You!' over my morning tea. My children probably think 'CBI' stands for 'You're Fucking Kidding?!?', so I can blame them, too, when my son flunks spelling.

Oh well. Nice to be back.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Welcome to the Middle Ages?

Now this is news. Apparently, the 'Vatican gives Harry Potter film two thumbs up'. Which is terrific for me in that the long slumbering Catholic in me -- you know, the one who still thinks that God hates me because I'm an atheist -- can go see the film and not experience any lingering unconscious guilt for transgressing an Edict of the Infallible Father. And it's nice to know that he can change his mind, of course.

But then that means I'll have to work harder than £10 for a ticket and popcorn to keep myself on the radical fringe this month. So obviously I'm a bit torn.

Really? The Vatican still cares about such things? Or, perhaps more to the point, they still think that any of us give a shit about what they say about such things? Please, people, help me out. If you are a Catholic, or not, and you've decided now, thanks to this most sacred blessing, that yes, actually you will go see the new Harry Potter film, now that's it's ok in the eyes of the Lord, please let me know. Write me a short note in blood on a goat-skin parchment or something.

What worries me, though, is what's different? Doubting -- as is my wont -- that the Roman Catholic Church ha suddenly had a Damascus Moment, or in this case a Hogsmead Revelation (geddit?), perhaps, what's different with this film that it suddenly gets the Holy Seal of Approval?

In other words, what's wrong with it?

In the newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican gave the film two thumbs up for its treatment of adolescent love and stated it was the best adaptation yet. The newspaper also said that the Potter film achieved the "correct balance" and helped deliver the message that good prevails over all evil.
I would have thought that the whole Good defeats Evil thing would have become clear a while ago. I will welcome, therefore, the forthcoming commendation from the Vatican for my parenting, creating in my children two Star Wars obsessives. But I think we can see what's really going on here. 'Two thumbs up for its treatment of adolescent love'. The Pope, it seems, is happy that HP6 shows boys and girls kissing, being in love, and most certainly not staying up all night playing with their wands, riding on each other's broomsticks,... oh I just can't. Not that's it's beneath me; just that I don't have the time. Any other suggestions?

Someone, please, send me the link for the fan fiction that addresses this oversight. I'll print off copies and mail them to His Holiness myself.

I wonder if Benedict has figured out that Dumbledore is gay? I wonder how that's going to go down.

(By the way, I found the picture up top by entering 'Harry Potter is satan' in a Google search. On a whim, you know. Not only did it return 793,000 results, I didn't even have to finish typing it as this was a suggested search phrase. Brilliant. I found the picture in the Harry Potter entry in Uncylcopedia, and should probably give someone credit for that. But also you can find this nutter

and from this blog, by someone who is on our side, i.e. actually opposed to banning books, comes this image that is just too wonderful not to share:

I know! Brilliant! There are more out there, too. Try, predictably, 'Harry Potter is gay' as your Google Image search. We could make a photo album and mail it His Holiness. J K Rowling can thank us later for increasing the next films' box office takings when the Pope condemns this Satanic outrage.

Friday, 10 July 2009

The responses

so far are just as predicted. The Met leapt to deny that there was anything further to investigate, and just in time for the six o'clock news, too. But the Met's attempts to muddy the waters are neatly clarified by The Guardian who, it seems, aren't going to let them get away that easily.

The PCC, on the other hand, seem a little more open to the idea of wrong-doing. You can check their statement here, which sounds as though someone tipped a little piss and vinegar into it, but ultimately, there's no point; they can bark all they like, but this is a dog lacking even a pair of second-hand dentures.

In perhaps the weirdest development in all of this, BBC Political Muppet and Professional Numpty Andrew Neil is somehow looking... intelligent. Just listen to him:

Like a person who has done some things and understands some things. Like he has uses. The segment on this scandal on This Week, normally a sub-juvenile giggle-fest from beginning to end, was actually a sober, serious and insightful evaluation of what has happened and what might come of it all. (Before of course descending back into cosy playground sniggering... we mustn't expect miracles, after all.)

I should perhaps add what I find so compelling about this story. Because, perhaps just as with the MPs'-expenses scandal -- when we already knew that MPs are generally posh-troughing swine -- or the bankers'-bonus scandal -- when we already knew that bankers are greedy little amoral bastards -- surely we already knew that tabloid reporters in the UK are despicable wood lice who would gladly crawl under a rock or worse to dig up the dirt on public figures, both relevant and irrelevant, just to sell some piles of flattened trees that, because of certain quirks of history and the English language, we still call 'newspapers'. But I suppose that there is a potential here that I find so promising, that this might, just might, be the moment that they stop getting away with it, something gives and we get a better, more responsible media, and so a better, more intelligent debate.

Writing that, of course, I realise now that I am deluded. When the banking and credit crises broke, and empty-headed prophets ran around declaring that 'capitalism will never be the same again!', we all knew that was horseshit, that it was just a matter of a very short time, a heads-down play of humility until the angry mob looked away, distracted by pretty flowers, butterflies or some other, less-consequential scandal, before bankers were up to business and usual and capitalism breathed free and happily once again.

Oh well. At the very least, it will nice to Murdoch and his cabal of snakes (what do you call a group of snakes? a herd?) get a kick up their collective bollocks.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Initial response

to the burgeoning News of the World phone-tap scandal is that this, finally, is really a story worth dominating the front pages for a few days. Whether or not it does so, I suspect, depends almost entirely on the tenacity of The Guardian, because I think that -- unlike the bankers'-bonuses scandal or the MPs'-expenses scandals -- the press will have to be ruthless in interrogating their own practises, which they repeatedly demonstrate themselves incapable of doing. (As so brilliantly highlighted over at my friend Sarah Ditum's Paperhouse -- see this, for example.)

The sad point being that with News of the World, the Sun, the Times, The Sunday Times, thelondonpaper, SKY News, the Conservative Party, the Metropolitan police, the Press Complaints Commission, and the entire British legal system all now directly implicated in illegal activities and/or a cover-up of said illegal activities, I wouldn't expect of deluge of media interest in this story. I can just see everyone grabbing some very big brooms in one hand and the edge of some very large carpets in the other. Add to that the current toothless impotence of the BBC, and the Daily Telegraph's wish to not stir up old questions about where and how news outlets get their information, and that leaves us, by my count, with the Daily Mail to join the Guardian in this crusade. But somehow I just don't think the Mail will carpe that diem, despite this having all the hallmarks of a classic Mail headline: the ubiquitous foreigner who has infiltrated noble British institutions and used them to conduct illegal operations against poor, helpless celebrity darlings such as Boris Johnson and Gwyneth Paltrow.

(Brilliant headlines on BBC News 24 this morning, saying that victims included 'John Prescott and Gwyneth Paltrow' and then 'Max Clifford and Elle MacPherson' -- you just know that the news writers are trying to imagine the dream-series of Celebrity Love Island...)

I'll wait to see how this develops and how bloggers more considerate and less reactionary than I respond to this, but you just sense that this will all go away as the mass media try to distract us and divert our attention to hate figures they deem more acceptable vessels into which we can drip our scorn and and disdain. (For precedent, refer again to the MPs scandal being thrown up to let the bankers get on with the real business of robbing the British people.)

But it may not rest there: the British public love a hate-figure, a straw man that they can let fire to and dance around. Fred Goodwin, Peter Viggers... could Rupert Murdoch be next? Just maybe? in an Ashes summer?

Also, I'll be most curious to see where David Cameron's defence of Andy Coulson leads him, particularly his claim that 'I believe in giving people a second chance' -- surely that means Brown deserves another term as PM?

(The basic point is that Coulson is guilty guilty guilty as fuck, unless he's going to try to hold on to the claim that he knew nothing about it, in which case he's guilty guilty guilty as fuck of complete and utter gross incompetence, which I'm not sure makes him look any better.

And could the PCC pull its head out of its ass, realise that self-regulation is a farce and suddenly, emboldened by the public and enabled by proper legislation, 'grow a pair'?

In an election year? Not likely.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Other voices on BNP

Support for my earlier post, where I say that the media must assume a large share of responsibility for the rise of the BNP, seems to come from this week's New Statesman diary column, written in this instance by Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT.

Here's Crow's bit on BNP from the diary, in full:
In the recent Euro elections, I stood as lead London candidate for NO2EU (No To EU – Yes To Democracy) [I added the link]. We were still waiting for the London declaration in the early hours of Monday morning when we found out the British National Party had won two seats in traditionally Labour-voting northern heartlands.

Labour’s historically low vote share came as no surprise to me: the anger and disillusionment with the political Establishment has hit Labour hardest of all. The government’s humiliation collided with an unprecedented surge in media attention for the BNP. The party was presented as a sort of celebrity attraction, allowing its leader, Nick Griffin, to seize a level of publicity for the far right not seen since the days of Mosley and his blackshirts.

Meanwhile, NO2EU, which like the BNP had no MEPs before the election, experienced a total blackout across the mainstream media. Nobody, it seemed, was interested in Euro-critical voices from the left, although every nutter and fascist from the spectrum of the right was plastered across the news pages.

But we still got 153,000 votes, and ran a great campaign based solely on the energy and enthusiasm of our local activists. In many working-class areas we were the only direct challenge on the streets to the BNP. I am proud of what we achieved in a very short space of time and I pay tribute to the work of our colleagues at Searchlight/Hope Not Hate, who undoubtedly stopped the BNP from securing an even bigger breakthrough.
It's always nice to see that part of me still corresponds to the Old Skule Left. Like part of me isn't dead. But I don't support NO2EU; in addition to being morally offended by their cooler-than-thou moniker, I see myself as a pro-Europe lefty. I'm willing to listen to their concerns on Europe, I have a lot of sympathy with many of their specific arguments, and could still be won around to their position. I know that there are problems with the EU, for those interested in progressive politics, and I would have really liked to hear more from them. But we've never had a grown up debate about Europe in this country, which is, lest I repeat myself, a key reason for the victory of the BNP in the last election.

So what's really interesting here is how Crow raises the issue of the media's culpability in the BNP's success. The media greeted the BNP threat hysterically, doubtless for reasons as banal as they allow for the sort of scaremongering headlines that the British press specialise in and because it gives The Daily Mail and The Telegraph et al. an easy-target, a chance to draw a rather artificial line between their sort of racism and the undesirable (i.e. lower class) sort of racism. And so without the language and without any intelligent strategy to properly discredit them, their hysteria merely provided oxygen to feed the BNP fire. Whereas, though I consider myself a well-informed voter, I heard of NO2EU only twice before I placed my X, and the second time was when I scanned the ballot paper in the voting booth.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Little funny

in a conflicted sort of way, yesterday in my most-usually overlooked daily email from The Guardian's The Fiver, a football newsletter, who said... wait for it...

between Nick Griffin's BNP winning two seats in the European elections and Him [Cristiano Ronaldo] agreeing to join General Franco's Them, it's been a good week for fascism in the north-west of England.

A little clarity

on this issue, again, of file-sharing. A timely intervention by The Man Who Single-Handedly Resorted My Faith in Science, Ben Goldacre at Bad Science clarifies some of the lies being put about by the increasingly desperate recording industry, who seem to be an object lesson in how to do yourself no favours. (As Dr. Goldacre says, 'as far as I’m concerned, everything from this industry is false, until proven otherwise.')

Bad Science pops, in its usual indomitable way, some of the recent myths about money lost in the UK due to file-sharing, and its consequences for the creative industries. And a supportive piece appeared in yesterday's Technology section of The Guardian.

Is it any wonder that the Pirate Party did so well in European election last week?

Monday, 8 June 2009

Who's fault is the BNP victory?

Like every other person living in the UK that has any human decency and functioning brain-cells, I am distraught to learn about the election of two BNP MEPs last week in our European elections. HOWEVER, I'm also more than a little frustrated at the media coverage and finger-pointing that has been taking place in the last couple of days. And even now, as I write this with my laptop burning a hole through my knees, I have to endure Nick Robinson, Tory Puppy and BBC political editor, explain to the nation at the 10 o'clock news that the fault of Labour alone that these BNP MEPs have been elected.

Well, it all smells a bit like bullshit, doesn't it?

By way of further example, Monday morning on the Today programme John Humphrys took on Nick Griffin -- the slug-face who aspires to lead the British fascists to power -- and I'm sure Humphry's fans up and down the country waited in anticipation of their hero mauling the wannabe fascist. So did The Mighty Humph put the fucker in his place? Finally given a chance on national radio to turn his powers against the anti-Christ of British decency, did he provide the blood-bath we all wanted? Alas, one could only have concluded that the Humphrys, the Scourge of Westminster, wielded a very blunt, rusty blade and came off looking flaccid. Impotent. THEN, as if to re-assert his Manhood, he turns immediately to his next interviewee, Harriet Harmann, and does not suggest, but insists, repeating a familiar mantra, that it is all Labour's fault. Now against a mainstream politician (and woman), he looked very manly, where against Griffin he seemed to... lack something.

So how can the media better tackle the BNP, how can they confront their lies and misinformation? well, for a start, they could confront the lies and misinformation of the other parties, and their hypocrisy. Taking the stage in their post-election victory celebration last night, the Tory candidate (who's name I can't be bothered to look up), says something like 'It is incumbent upon me..' blah blah blah to condemn this election of the BNP in our riding'. He was followed by the recently-elected UKIP MEP -- who's name interests me even less -- who denounced his new fellow-parliamentarian as 'scum'. And too right! You're thinking. So they should! Except that when you look at successful UK parties dominated by white males, praying upon fears of immigration and racism and stroking the pathetic sentiments of British Nationalism, you don't need to turn too far right down the Road of Lunatic Fringe. In fact, glaring examples sit right along Main St. Politics UK in the Conservatives and UKIP. For when you look at the BNP campaign literature, it is really not at all that much different from that of the Tories and UKIP: save for the BNP promise to bring in 'voluntary repatriation' -- the hideousness of which should not be under-rated -- all three parties talk of bringing Britain out of the EU so that our common-sense is not trampled upon by the Brussels illuminati, all three parties talk about limiting immigration, more general threats to British values, British currency, British national identity.

(In fact, when I got my pre-election campaign literature through the door, I thought the BNP's looked rather more sophisticated than UKIP's, with it's shock sloganeering and the picture of Winston Churchill captioned, 'He would get our money back!'. Of course the BNP were being silent on their more insidious policies, but so were UKIP and the Tories.)

So it's their fault? the rise of the BNP can be blamed on the mainstream right-wing parties? Well, yes, and we need to call these mainstream parties on their hypocrisy. I am sure that the disdain those Conservative and UKIP MEPs felt for the BNP colleague was governed in no small part by class, i.e. they aren't as sophisticated in their racism. And Labour, too, is guilty, when they so inexpertly flirt with such populism, for that is their real crime in this, not (as Robinson and Humphys would have it) just being a tired old party drunk on power, as are all parties who have been drinking from the well of legislative privilege for so long. HOWEVER, it is incumbent upon the media to challenge all parties on such lies and vote-grabbing ploys. For if they do not, when confronted with the real thing -- and do not mistake me, the BNP is a much nastier, but more ugly and more dangerous beast than the Tories and UKIP -- the media lack the language, the rhetoric and, most importantly, the moral authority to attack them effectively.

If more evidence were needed, tonight -- again, while I write this -- BBC Yorkshire news, after a lead-item describing their shock and horror at the election of a BNP MEP in our region, has just run a happy little piece on the new Mayor of Doncaster, another who's name interests me very little. The problem is, of course, that he is an English Democrat, and is like-wise anti-immigration, anti-PC -- for which read misogynist, racist, homophobic -- and anti-democratic. These issues were raised in the report, but briefly, and the overall tone, as I said, was playful and cutsie, a harsh contrast to the more appropriately disgusted tone of the report on the BNP victory that immediately preceded it.

Wake up, assholes. Racism in this country isn't confined to the lunatic right. (Which is why, incidentally, historians think that fascism never really took off here in the 1930s -- racism was already main-stream, and the Conservative party of Britain typically panders to that extreme-right racist sentiment in this country.) Stop fucking around with your Westminster intrigue, stop hanging out in front of No. 10, pretending that you understand what's going on, stop thinking that the gossip of MPs represent the real issues of the country, and maybe we can avoid more of these bastards getting in next time.

On a happier and altogether more hopeful note, I was greeted at my door on election day by a small group of students from the University who were out canvassing, trying to get people out to vote for anyone except the BNP. One of them, to my further joy, was an ex-students of mine. Unfortunately, I can't pretend that I had a special hand in shaping his politics -- I seem to remember Sam's politics being spot-on long before he arrived in my dark, basement seminar room. (I can celebrate, at least, that I didn't fuck him up and 'turn him right' or anything. We must learn to celebrate even our limited successes.) But such activism goes some way in filling the massive gap left by our limp media, where we might one day hope to see a real, interrogating journalism. In the meantime, taking to the streets seems the best way to defeat the fascist bullshit.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Been a bit busy lately...

moving house and all, so not so much time for the blog, especially since I have no Internet connection at my new (and deeply temporary) digs. (As essential as water? Too right!)

But it's Election Day here in the UK today, and so I feel it incumbent upon me to make sure that you know that I am not the only person that has been very busy of late. It seems that the Tori leader, Davey Cameron, has been very busy as well, making all sorts of new friends in Europe. Here is the gist to consider before you retreat into that dark space of the polling both, thinking that maybe it's time for a change or some other such stupid idea for voting Conservative at this election (or any other):

Anti-gay, climate change deniers: meet David Cameron's new friends

Global warming is a lie, homosexuality is a "pathology" and Europe is becoming a "neo-totalitarian" regime, according to one of David Cameron's new European allies.
and so on.

Obviously, it should go without saying that I do not then endore UKIP, the bourgeois face of British racism, or the BNP itself. (If, by chance, anyone stumbles upon this blog who is thinking of voting for the BNP, just a word: Do so and it is proof of nothing other than your own utter and total abdication of humanity. No, no. Don't argue. Vote BNP and you are, make no mistake, below ant shit in the Great Chain of Being.)

But, I suspect that I am preaching to the converted, i.e. if you are here, reading this, you are doing so because you are already too smart to vote conservative. Still, best to put it out there, just in case.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Do NOT listen to Radio 5 Live

when the public is all in a tizzy about something as easily accessible to thoughtless venting as these MPs' expenses 'crisis'. (Yes, bad, but there are Bigger, SCARIER Problems out there people. Focus. Focus.) I heard a phone-in on for 10 minutes this morning. A selection of thoughts expressed:

'I can't trust any of them. I'm going to spoil my ballot.'

'I was going to vote but now I just don't fancy it.'

'I'm not a BNP supporter, but at least if they got some votes it would make the other parties take notice.'

'I want to vote for "None of the Above"! [Followed by some long complaint about the injustice of not being able to register "None of the Above" on a ballot paper. Oh, the inhumanity.]'
'I was going to vote Tory, you know, because I thought I would give it a go. But now, I'm not voting for any of them.'

What all this really reveals is:

a) radio phone-ins are inundated with ill-informed, knee-jerk reactions by no-nothing, never-thinks who are convinced that they are omniscient. (But we knew that already, of course. Once again: They might not know anything, but I bet they reckon something.)

a) sub-section 2) I'm an idiot for listening to it for any longer than it takes to extend a finger to the 'Off' switch. OR I like to wallow in the stupidity of others. But we knew that already, of course.

b) this all shows again a serious, fundamental problem with the very notion of 'democracy' -- people do not think before they vote. 'I don't fancy it.' 'I thought I'd give it a go.' Seriously? A couple of the more articulate callers actually suggested that this election -- implying, therefore, a paradigm shift in their practices at previous elections -- that they might have to give a long, hard think of who to vote for. Really?!? You think it's worth it? Normally you what? Go on who's name sounds the 'happiest'? Consult a spirit-medium, to see who your dead ancestors reckon will best steer the economy to higher GDP?

This is still not the post I thought I should have written earlier this week, when I realised I should have been ranting less and instead saying something more profound about the relationship between our corrupt, duplicitous elected officials our corrupt, impotent media, but it's a push in the right direction. So, Ok, sparing you all the 'your vote is a privilege' shit, and assuming someone other than my three regular readers find themselves on this page, it's like this:

Democracy only works if there is an informed electorate, making choices in the interests of themselves and the wider community. IF Labour or the Conservatives demonstrate that they are too indifferent to corruption and the voices of you, the electorate, there are other parties, other independents, who, you might learn with a little reading, do not intend to take advantge of their office for personal again. AND, if you are not receiving the information you need on your country, county or city to make an informed choice on who might best represent your interest , there are other media outlets, other sources of information out there. Get off your ass and have a look.

AND, if you are really unhappy with your electoral power, or lack thereof, there are alternative systems out there, some of which are even explicitly endorsed in the manifestos of main stream political parties (Lib Dems, Green). Again, get off your ignorant ass and learn something about how your government works, and why it doesn't.

Useless sermon to the converted, I know. But I feel better having got that out there. As ever.

[I spared the LIb Dems a little there, and may have come dangerously close to endorsing them, so let me just be clear that no, I'm not, really, though they would be a lot better than the Tories if you're looking for an anti-Labour vote. But mostly it's because I'm used to supporting a third party -- the NDP back home -- and though I would like to see the electorate swing more dramatically left, I have to repeat now what I usually say at every Canadian election when people whine 'they're all the same', 'it doesn't matter who gets in': People, there is a third party who, with only a relatively small shift in the popular vote, could conceiveable take a first shot at government. Maybe give them a chance first. Then complain 'they're just like the rest.' It's really not that hard.]

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Self-serving assholes, right?

Oh dear lordy is the British press all a quiver with the -- alleged -- furore over MPs expenses. Is it just me, or is this another case of the press being a little bored, and over-compensating by being a little too unnecessarily outraged on our behalf? According to numpties like our dear friend, the award winning Nick Robinson, this has forever tarnished the reputations of politicians and disillusioned the Good People of Britain.

Excuse me? How many of you, honestly, last month, before all of this was made public, thought that politicians to be right honourable men and women who weren't on the take? So far, I've actually been rather impressed that most of the expenses for which they are claiming aren't of the £800-for-a-crate-of-champaign variety. £5 for dog food?!? That's it? Take it. It's yours.

That's your scoop, Telegraph? That's the best you can do? Wow. Your ace reporters are a bit shit, aren't they?

(Incidentally, on the Today programme this morning I heard some complete nut -- a Tory candidate in the up-coming elections -- splutter incredulously when it was put to her that the Telegraph was a right-wing paper. 'What?!? The Labourograph?!?' she said. Oh fuck. Think about THAT before you put your X beside a Conservative name in an election 'because we need a change'. [Side note: it is my long-standing belief that anyone who chooses who to vote for based on 'because we need a change' should have their vote taken from them. Forcefully, preferably. Let me know how you get on.])

To my happy surprise, this morning's Metro -- you know, that free paper you sometimes move before you sit down on the bus -- had the best comment today, in their front-page cartoon:
A picture of two well-groomed Tory MPs looking at a paper with the headline 'Now Tories Apologise for Exes', with the caption, 'Wait a minute -- second homes and tax avoidance are what we stand for.' More to think about before voting.

Friday, 8 May 2009

[Terrible pun removed]

This is the more detailed response to Word Geek's response to my post yesterday, which all got a bit too much for the comments section of our respective hovels in cyber space. (And if you haven't already, you really should bookmark The Geekster's terrific blog, The Cunning Linguaphile.) ['the Sloz'? really?]

Thanks, first, for setting me straight (ah ha! that's good. I'm using that as the title. See?) on the 'going/turning' debate. Though of course, really, I would never use either, for the exact reasons you cite, which are completely true. Raised Catholic in a typically homophobic setting -- i.e. no more or less than any other setting in the 70s/80s, even though it was in Canada which, I'm very proud to say, has a good record in at least trying now to remedy the situation -- I remember very clearly a not exclusively unconscious assumption that you 'went' gay because of something traumatic that happened to you.

Of course the BIG assumption can be made (and though I don't always write about Freud he helps us here, too) that what this really expresses is an unconscious fear that once given a 'taste' of The Gay one might actually like it, thus undoing years of careful repression and denial in the service of a heterosexual identity in a homophobic culture. (Like why people don't like to imagine their parents having sex, I suppose. Oh. Sorry about that. Too late to take it back now.)

It's the Freudian assumption all over again, pathologising 'perverse' sexuality. Though of course Freud wasn't alone in this, and despite some of the rightly often-cited shocking phrases, Freud was actually quite good for his age, working from within that (or this) episteme. (As ever, it was more often the case that his followers mis-used Freud's ideas to condemn people for what they considered to be unacceptable sexual choices. The same can be said of the use of Freudian and Darwinian ideas by racists. Don't blame the cow if the milk goes bad because some frickin' bigot left it out in the run to curdle with the spite of hatred.) For Freud, and to his credit he acknowledges this himself, anything fun in sex, that is anything other than the single heterosexual act of penetration for the purposes of procreation, is 'perverse', so he didn't really mean to damn people with the tag, you know, that includes all foreplay, and because being Freud he was into all that. Oh yes.

Thanks, too, for catching that I nicked the toaster joke from Ellen. When I saw that I thought it was brilliant, and I've been using it liberally ever since. I've never really claimed it as my own, but sometimes it's too hard to explain, you know? (I think I calculated, roughly, once, that 3/4 of everything I say is either a direct quotation from or an allusion to film, tv or stand-up routine. You think that's funny? You think that's funny? What, like I'm a clown? I'm here to amuse you? etc. etc. ad naseum.)

And thanks also for explaining that I'm 'totally down with the gays and all that'. (By 'down' do you mean condemned to be forever licked by the flames of eternal damnation? No? Oh.) In case anyone was in doubt. Though I could hardly save said, 'No, really, I don't mind... some of my best friends... [insert your own personal homophobic rationalisation here]'. Now I forget if I'm worried about being accused of being homophobic or anti-Semetic. Probably both.

But, at the risk of some of this Gay Goodwill, I need to ask: you say that you think the 'coming out' issue is more complex than merely learning to accept a pre-existing sexuality. What did you have in mind? Without denying that as the case with many/most people who come out, does the notion that one accepts a pre-existing sexuality not in some small way cast a homo-sexuality in an (unnecessarily?) restricted box? I know this discussion might well lie well beyond the remit of your blog (intelligent commentary how lanaguage is used in our society and what that reveals about us) and mine, too (throwing shit at people), and I'm pretty sure that someone will have written on this, so I guess I'm really asking for you or any reader to suggest some readings for me. (For the record, I ask not only out of interest but to help with future questions in my Foucault seminars, so any help will not just help lift me out of ignorance but potentially an entire generation of young minds.)

Finally, I've already got a salad spinner. A really nice one. Can I keep collecting Veggie Convert Points until I have enough for something else? (A home cheese-making kit! That's what I really want. If there was a Santa Claus, that's what would be waiting for me under the tree this December. If there was a Vegetarian Reward Scheme -- and there should be, if karma worked -- I'd pick that.) What will you give me if I hoard my points?

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Another argument for vegetarianism

if it were needed. Or, at the very least, for eating less meat. Or against intensive animal rearing, which amount to the same thing.

The pigs' revenge

Just as an unsustainable financial system caused the current banking crisis, the intensive farming of animals is at the heart of the swine flu pandemic

No. Eating animals won't give you swine flu. But the way that we eat animals has lead to this, and all sorts of other problems.

And to file in your incessantly burgeoning folder labelled Opportunity Wasted, instead of using this world-wide problem to re-evaluate past practices and remedy the situation in the long term, vested interests are seeing to it that while they make the right noises to some people, debate on the Larger Picture is muffled by small, inconsequential token gestures that do nothing to change the reality that got us into this mess in the first place. (Sound familiar?)

Lawrence says it very effectively, for me:
But instead of addressing these wider issues, the response to the flu pandemic in terms of food production is "carry on as normal". Urged to spend our way out of ecological recession, we are exhorted to keep eating pork products. Keen to protect the economic interests of its meat industry, the US government took to calling this swine flu "H1N1 flu" a couple of days ago, in order not to put people off their chops. The World Health Organisation, which depends on the US for a large part of its budget and has been bullied by it before, has now followed suit, rebranding the flu influenza A (H1N1). But simply saying "as you were" is no more an adequate response to the cause of this current crisis than it is to the banking collapse. If we carry on as before, the pigs may yet have their revenge. And if not the pigs, the chickens.
And THAT, ladies and gentlemen (and dignified folk of unspecified or alternate gender) is a postmodern, post-industrial solution to a very industrial problem, so remind me to cite that as an example when you ask me later because I'll have forgotten.

Remember, if you go veggie tell them that it was me who convinced you: 2 more converts and I get a free toaster oven!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

A serious debate

could be had, I know, about this:

US 'hate list' DJ to sue Britain

about the universal liberal imperative for freedom of speech versus the equally imperative duty of states to protect their citizenry from the abuse and provocations of hate. I could talk about the legislation introduced in the UK, the publication and very existence of such a list of people deemed undesirable and what this says about the British nation and the Labour government. About similar Canadian laws against hate and how such laws, though distasteful in a modern democracy and perhaps incompatible with an age of borderless information access, may be necessary to guarantee for all those competing, paradoxical obligations.

BUT, instead, I'd rather just revel, in my usual, juvenile way, in the widely known truth that 'shock'-DJ, testosterone-throated, rabid conservative political ideologue Michael Savage -- Grrr! Hear me ROAR! -- has changed his name from the rather less intimidating, rather less virile Michael Alan Weiner.

Te-he-he. Geddid? Weiner.

Paging Dr. Freud. Dr. Freud. We have a terminal case of castration anxiety on American radio. Dr. Freud.

I say we let him into the UK; let him say whatever he wants. IF, and only if, he has to use his real name. To preface every sentence, every opinion. (Something like 'I may only be a Weiner who wants to be Savage, but...') That would work for me.


(I am such a petty, superficial shit. BUT, I'm not a right-wing, hate-filled asshole. So that's something.)

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Happy Birthday!

I don't normally celebrate Lenin's birthday (April 22), in fact, until I got a message from my Marxist Cultural Network emailing list (where I've lurked for years, in a corner, by myself, afraid), I didn't know it WAS Lenin's birthday. But given a 50% top-rate tax in yesterday's UK budget and, you know, the collapse of the late-capitalist mode of production, I thought this year I might raise a glass.

So, cheers!

(And, now that I look at it, who thinks that his hat and facial hair are viable solutions to my impending baldness? Am I looking at my future? Have a found The Answer?)

((Hey, if we can't adopt his economics and politics, perhaps we can at least take his sense of style into the twenty-first century. Not a bad consolation prize.))

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

No really, I'm sorry but fuck me...

I was visiting Sarah Ditum's blog again and reading another excellent post on the hypocrisy of the press, when I followed a link that somehow took me to The Daily Mail's homepage.

Now, I know none of this should have come to me as a surprise. I've certainly been warned. And though The Daily Hate is no longer posting as regularly as I'd like it to -- alas -- I have to admit that I really had no idea just how utterly and completely insane that paper is. (Note: that isn't just silly speculation but a professional opinion. I am a 'Lecturer in Mental Health', after all.) It's not the reader's comments I'm talking about-- those can be rationalised away with all sort of explanations (when even the BBC's Have Your Say can be inundated with so much gloriously scented bullshit). And not just one or two prominent, fashionable darling nutters. Every paper has those. I'm talking about what is apparently their entire raison d'ĂȘtre.

I have been a naive, ridiculous fool. I have seen the paper, lying in the newstand, even on the kitchen tables of some relatives (egad!). But I had no idea just how completely, unashamedly, absolutely fucked these people are. Collectively. I mean, I knew Peter Hitchens, Richard Littlejohn and Melanie Phillips, on the political spectrum, are only a shade pinker than Hitler and that such voices have been supported by a very long-standing, very public editorial policy against, well, all humanity. But I had no idea that they were this blazen, so audacious and positively vocal in their let-them-eat-shittyness. ('Small "c"' my ass.)

You're saying 'Duh! What did you think?!? How stupid, how naive are you?!?' I know I know. But so amazed am I, so in awe of the horrors into which I have just tonight for the first time had the courage to stare, that I took the trouble to clip this right-hand navigation bar from a page that dares, dares with a contempt for reason that would leave Stalin blushing, call itself 'Debate' and re-print it here.

I mean ferchristsake just look at it! I imagined, I suppose, that I would print that picture here and tell you what it wrong with each little bit, an extended analyses... but you know? I really don't think I have to. Or maybe I do, but I'd rather eat shit, which is apt, actually.

I'm sorry but I need to say it again. Fuck. Me. These people must be stopped.

Any ideas?

(What a useless rant that was. True, but useless. I should delete the entire post. Just ignore me today. I'm in a foul mood.)