Google+ A Tangled Rope: 11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Notes and Comments No. 9

The press we deserve?

I was – briefly - a mature student (oxymoron?) at university in the mid-80s. To be honest I didn’t like it that much. I thing it was probably the biggest disappointment of my life. However, before I gave up on the academic world I noticed this growing intolerance. I do have an almost completed novel I wrote featuring some aspects of this – which I thought marked a deep insecurity and uncertainty in the minds of these young zealots.

This is the modern world? ‘When I express my horror, Nilab Mobarez looks at me rather pityingly and says: "This is only one case among so many. So many Afghan women suffer like this."’

Who is going to express their sorrow and regret for this?

Taking of the Dear Leader’s sorrow over slavery, here is an excellent (and long) article, taking apart the whole notion.

Comment For Free

I know I said I wouldn’t comment on sited like The Grauniad’s Cif anymore, But… I’m not well. So, for this, I wrote:

[Warning for those that feel they need it: this post contains a quotation which uses the ‘n***er’ word.]

The thing is – as Lenny Bruce pointed out so long ago – that insults only hurt if the insultee wants them to. As Bruce pointed out if we kept using these words until they became worn out clichés ‘'til nigger didn't mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.’ This has always struck me as a much more positive, pro-active approach to take, rather than the sharp intake of breath and cultural cringe we see so amply demonstrated in this current spat.

Instead, though, it seems we, as a society, have taken the completely opposite course to Bruce’s suggestion, with the result that the number of ‘insulting’ words seems to have grown exponentially. The result is that each utterance is greeted with more and more – seemingly mostly faux – outrage, especially those who see themselves as spokespeople for those ‘oppressed by hate language’, or those who have a vested interest in keeping such causes simmering.

But, of course, merely ignoring doesn’t give quite the glow of satisfaction, or burnish the liberal credentials quite so brightly, as rushing to the barricades, does it?


Oh, and here.

Right. Here we go.

  1. No political parties and therefore no party whips.
  2. Individual candidates in each constituency nominated, and seconded in ratio to the number of constituents, with a reasonable deposit paid to discourage fringe, loonies, nutters etc as much as possible, but still leave it as open as possible.
  3. Each candidate is allowed to produce – at their own expense – a single leaflet outlining their stance, policy ideas and so forth, which can be delivered – once only – to each address in the constituency.
  4. No TV, radio advertising, no helicopters, no ‘battle busses’.
  5. Ballot paper features a ‘None of the Above’ option. Any candidate whose vote count is below the number of ‘None of the Above’ votes cast cannot stand again. If no candidate gets more votes than the ‘None of the Above’ amount, then the election is re-run in that constituency with a new list of candidates.
  6. Once elected to the House of Commons there is a free secret ballot of all MPs to select a Prime Minister who stays PM until unseated by a Commons vote of no confidence or a general election – whichever is the sooner. He/she/it gets to choose a cabinet – all of which have to be approved by a majority in the house. They can only be removed by a vote of no confidence, general election or their own resignation.
  7. Every vote in the house is – of course – a free vote.
  8. Any MP can propose legislation, although the PM and cabinet members have priority. Legislation however, will only be carried forward if a majority of MPs vote in favour of that proposal.
  9. Loose associations etc are allowed, but any MP discovered attempting to influence the vote of another MP using undue pressure should immediately be removed, barred from the house forever, and a by-election called.
  10. Once a person has served in the Commons for a period - say survived five general elections – they are automatically moved to the upper House. The PM is only allowed two terms, as in the US system, before being promoted to the Upper House. The main function of the Upper House is to check each piece of legislation, say every 5 – 10 years to see if it is working as intended. If not, it is either repealed, or sent back for revision.

The only thing I haven’t worked out is how to put a stop to the current main problem in government, where a complete amateur who often knows little or nothing – the politician – is put – at least nominally – in charge of a massive department of government. Maybe we ought to have someone who knows what they are talking about and doing actually in charge of the department and the politician as a sort of representative of the interests of that department in the same way as they are supposed to represent the interests of their constituents.


Oh, and this too:

The vociferousness of those who claim to see a line of continuity between a mere smack inevitably leading to out and out assaults on the - assumed - innocence of childhood does seem more akin to an act of solipsism more concerned with beating the rush to claim the moral high ground, rather than a piece of well-considered analysis of the nature of childhood and the parental relationship towards it.

Likewise, the claim that ‘I’ve never had the occasion to smack my child - ever’ prompts the nagging thought that - perhaps, after all – these are those very parents whose offspring made the lives of all who encountered them such a memorable misery as they ran riot ‘only expressing themselves’ through airports and restaurants, or encountered them ‘working off their excess energy’ through the supermarket, the ‘high-spirited’ little angels who with a tenacious insistence involve everyone in their immediate locality, somewhat unwillingly, into their interfamilial dynamics, as - all the while - their dotingly self-satisfied middle-class parents beam in the smug satisfaction of a job well done.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Notes and Comments: No. 8

I haven’t been feeling too well of late – a cold that refuses to develop – hence the lack of new material here.

Don Berry at First Post reckons Tony Blair will have a legacy after all, in the dictionary:

Blair/verb intrans.

Make an intentionally false statement, tell a lie or lies.

For, as he says, ‘absolutely nobody believes what is being said. And this includes the person making the statement. The English language needs a new word to describe this trope succinctly.’

‘Faith’ schools are a bad idea, aren’t they? Of course, they are. Well, sign this then.

I got bored with watching international football during the World Cup 2006. Of course, England’s woeful performance didn’t help, but this could be the real reason. The thing is though, not being a fan or a supporter of any team means that these days I don’t really care about club football that much either. This is especially true at international club level, like the Champion’s League where – it seems – the same pool of players flit from club to club, and the stakes are so high that every team plays to avoid losing rather than playing to win.

Far from according respect, the multiculturalist censor treats people not as autonomous beings but as incapable victims needing special protection. The result is an auction of victimhood as every group attempts to outbid all others as the one feeling most offended.

From an excellent article by Kenan Malik at Eurozine.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Won’t Get Fooled Again

[This appeared as a comment on the Guardian CIF page. The link below is to the original article]

The very ubiquity of pop/rock has made it mediocre and its mediocrity has made it ubiquitous, eh? But, I think it goes a bit deeper than that. I know it is hard to explain to my teenage daughters what made the Sex Pistols seem so dangerous at the time, but more importantly, why that feeling of danger, rebelliousness, daring, was such an empty illusion. And why I hope I won’t get fooled again by the empty and hollow rock mythology that holds out dreams of freedom, promise and whatever adventure comes my way, but instead gives a slavish, mindless conformity just as deadening as those thumping disco beats I once so despised. For I used to think that pop was just prole feed for the mindless disco dancing lemming hordes, while rock dared to speak a truth to those of us that dared take a glimpse of what lay beyond those doors of perception. I was wrong; there is no real difference between them, except the thinking that makes it so. Rock was sold to us as something more than just prole feed - ‘three chords and the truth’, but what we got was just a watered-down faux Romanticism, a blend of narcissistic preening and banal truisms masquerading as a streetwise wisdom.

For just as the Left is seen as somehow more real, more authentic, more ‘of the people’ than the Right, rock music is seen as authentic, ‘from the street’, anti-elitist and real. This is, of course why, despite being a natural Tory Tony Blair - The ‘rock ‘n’ roll Prime Minister [snigger] - chose to associate himself with the ‘more romantic’ left.

Moreover, as rock has become ubiquitous it has, through its original fans growing into positions of power and influence (like Blair above), become a kind of conventional wisdom and a kind of prism through which the complex world is twisted into an easily-digestible, but distorted, simplicity. Rock stars musings upon the state of the world, for example, are given an attention far beyond their worth. These inane platitudes are treated with deep respect and reverence, and poured over for a wisdom usually only previously found in the great philosophers and sages.

While at the other end of the rock spectrum, we have the ridiculous bland pantomime antics of heavy metal, rap and Goth et al. Is there anything more sad and puerile than the cartoonish antics of Marilyn Manson and the outrage manufactured around him? This demonstrates that the ‘music’ that is given as the raison d’etre of most artists and bands is, in a strange way, merely often incidental to the pose, the persona, that style matters far, far, more than substance. The T-shirt more important than the song.

I suppose the inevitable question about all this would be 'Maybe so, but why does it matter? After all, it is only rock 'n' roll'. I suppose my answer would be is that by its very nature rock music is partial, insular and, ultimately, very conservative and it transmits that through itself. It can - vary rarely - offer the chance to transcend, which is what true art does, but it so often fails to even recognise the possibility of transcendence, let alone dare to reach for those heights.

I don't suppose it matters all that much if all you want to do is sing along to something while driving down the road, or while doing the washing up. But, surely, as you grow older and - hopefully - wiser, you really ought to be looking to go deeper, further, leave mere entertainment to the adolescents and dive into the deeper, wonder-filled depths of true art.

And, finally, think on this. Maybe the reason why Tony Blair has been such a failure, and big disappointment to many, is that despite growing older and greyer in the job, he seems to have become no wiser. I do believe there is a connection here between his oft-quoted love of rock music and his inability to mature and acquire wisdom and thoughtfulness.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Notes and Comments: No. 7

Back in the days when newsgroups were the centre of the internet world, there used to be – probably still is – a person called a ‘troll’. These people indulged in what we Britons call ‘a wind-up’. Deliberately trying to provoke a hostile reaction by posting something they know will be contentious, for example, posting disparaging things about religion in a religious group. Some groups, I seem to remember uk.misc was one, used to have actual ‘trolling contests’ where they would look for other groups to wind-up in this way.
As I’ve said previously, the various comment facilities introduced on some MSM sites are beginning to resemble these trolling contests with things seemingly designed to provoke reaction and counter-reaction. I suppose it is good business strategy. I don’t like playing games like that, so I decided to stop.
However, as those of us who have done things like give up smoking know, it is often quite difficult to give up completely first time. So, here I confess, and demonstrate, that I have had a slight relapse. Sorry.
Well, so what? A stupid person says something stupid. Why the big deal? If it wasn’t for all the ‘me-toos’ rushing to condemn him, I wouldn’t have even heard of this bit of nonsense. The same goes for the BNP bloke recorded by the BBC, if they hadn’t recorded it only the other handful of idiots in his audience would have heard him making an idiot of himself.
If stupid people think that something stupid said by another stupid person makes some kind of stupid sense then it is their stupid fault for being stupid enough to take it seriously. The rest of us should just shrug our shoulders, tut, and be thankful there is now one less person whose opinions we need to pay any attention to.
An exit strategy? Well, it so happens I have an early draft of Bush and Blair’s final message to the leaders of Iraq's various factions:
‘Well, we came in and did what many – if not most – of you claimed to want. We got rid of Saddam, and we offered you democracy. Instead, you opted for anarchy, chaos, self-slaughter and endless massacres. YOU created this mess, rather than joining with us to build a better country. You chose to piss all over our chips instead of working with us to build a better future for you. Furthermore, like, seemingly, everyone else in this region you look to blame us for the mess YOU have made of it. Well, quite simply, we’ve had enough. So, fuck you… we’re off. Bye.’
TV sex does not appeal [The comments on this one seem to be broken, I can’t publish it. Oh, well]
Well, I think we can take the absence of comments as some sort of justification of your thesis. C4’s problem is that people can – if they want such stuff – get real porn elsewhere so easily these days, rather than having to sit through the ‘educational’ or ‘human interest’ stuff (A bit like teenagers flicking through National Geographic in earlier decades looking for photos of naked tribespeople).
However, the bit in your article that brought me up short was another iteration of the seemingly common current meme that ‘American TV is good’. In earlier days, it was taken for granted that American TV was, at best just cheap filler used by the TV channels to fill gaps in the schedules. A common complaint of the time was that there was ‘Too much American pap’ alongside the perennial ‘too many repeats’. Apart from early Simpsons, very early South Park, and the - far better than both – Futurama, it seems to me that little has changed in the quality of American TV. It is all still superficial mind-numbingly dull dross intended to create a passive audience for the advertisers. Take, for example, the much-vaunted ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ where a tenth-rate Woody Allen clone (possibly on stilts) wanders around failing to be witty in various toe-curling embarrassing set-ups.
Judging by the dire offerings from the British channels of late: Spooks, Torchwood, Mrs Pritchard lumber to mind, the only possible reason why American TV can be regarded as having any worth is in comparison to British TV’s dire attempt to emulate the bland slickness of the American offerings in order to win some international sales. The Americans do it better, but it would be better not done at all.
I hoped that will be the end of this debilitating addiction to shooting my mouth off in public forums. However, there is a strange parallel universe where the MSM folks seem to live, especially the columnists. ‘Mad’ Bunting is an obvious example of one who seems to live in a world of her own creation, oblivious to the reality around her. For example, they seem to have either created, or bought into, this current notion promulgated by the government that bringing up children is somehow an arcane and difficult practice that can only be undertaken by a special, highly-gifted illuminati:
From personal experience what every family with a first young child needs is a grandmother with plenty of common sense. The lessons learnt there should be enough to enable them to cope with any subsequent child.
Anyway, there is good news. It seems that the mobile ringtone market is collapsing. Unfortunately, it is technological progress in the ability to create one’s own tones that is causing the collapse, rather than any outbreak of good taste causing people to give up the annoying warbles for good. The only good ringtone I have ever heard, on some TV programme or other, is one emulating the ring of one of those every early big black bakelite phones from around the mid 20th century. If I could ever be arsed to bother changing my mobile’s ringtone, I’d go for that one.
It is often said that Western society has lost faith in its post-Enlightenment ideals; things such as this ought to reignite that faith, and the belief that it is something the rest of the world ought to be entitled to too.
Ever since House of Cards I have quite enjoyed Michael Dobbs’ novels. Although he is sometimes as clumsy a writer as most other thriller writers can occasionally be, I always seem to enjoy his books. Now he has a new one where: “Ginny takes her revenge on her two-timing husband by vowing to make him Prime Minister." I look forward to it.
I am white, I come from the working class… and yet. While there are some things here I can recognise there are other implications that I’m not so sure about. While I have no time for snobbery (while at the same time being an unapologetic elitist), I find inverted snobbery just as bad. I think we should, if not sneer at, then strongly criticise the ‘idleness, vulgarity, xenophobia and ignorance of so-called "chavs" or "white trash".

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Notes and Comments: No. 6

That politicians – along with many other things – do not understand science has been obvious for quite a time now. What is more disturbing though is this report in the Telegraph that they often manipulate it for their own ends. Yet more evidence that our politicians, and civil servants too, are not up to the job they so often fail to do.

After a lifetime of gentle tolerance, I am starting to feel that it is a citizen’s duty to be rude, just to signal to governments that they have no right to enforce sweetness. Authority must police law and order and equal rights, but has no sway whatsoever over our thoughts, opinions and freedom to say disobliging things about each other. In return we — Christians, Muslims, humanists, whatever — have no right to take offence, put out fatwas or whimper behind the law’s skirts.

Libby Purves in The Times (again). I would just like to add a ‘me too’ to the above.

What we are witnessing is not the resurgence of religion, but its death throes.’ It is something I have said many times before about the apparent recent upsurge in religious inanities, now AC Grayling says it too.

The unresolved problems of division and tension in our society are not going to be addressed by burying them underground and forcing everybody to abide by an empty etiquette of tolerance. That is simply storing up more explosive trouble for the future. We need genuine tolerance that allows the expression of views with which you vehemently disagree, more clear opinions and sharp debate not less, a no-holds barred argument about the sort of society in which we want to live. That must involve the liberty to criticise Islam, Christianity or any other religion as wrong or even ‘wicked’ – the freedom for Griffin and the BNP to attack Islam, for Muslim radicals to denounce the Pope, or for Sir Elton John to call for a ban on all religion as homophobic. It also, of course, includes the freedom of religious types to tell the likes of me that we are going to hell.

Mick Hume at Sp!ked. There is more, and it is a good read too.

Notes and Comments: No. 5


Nothing notable to note.


I think I’m going to give up commenting on these comment sites like CiF. After reading this, I think I agree with him. Therefore, these below will be the last comments I make on the sites, but I will – instead - make them into ‘proper’ blog articles, or brief mentions in Notes & Comments, only here (linking back to the original articles, of course) on this site.

The root of terror is clear

My comment:

You can’t help smiling though when you see the all the Right-on Guardianistas rushing like lemmings to disassociate themselves from the American-Western-Hegemonic-Imperialist-Consumerist-Zionist* conspiracy and falling headlong into the ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ mindset so common to the useful idiot. For it should be - at least – becoming obvious to even the most head-in-the-clouds utopianist groovy leftie that the ‘Palestinian Issue’ will never be ‘solved’ as long as it stays so useful to the vested interests in the area (and no, I don’t mean the ‘evil Americans’ or the (just as) ‘evil Israelis’) on both a domestic and international strategic level.

The Palestinians are just the pawns (yet more useful idiots) in a much bigger game, a diversion. While it is, undoubtedly, tragic for the Palestinians - and the Israelis too, of course – to be caught up in all the pointless and useless violence, we should not allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking it is a root cause of anything other than its own pointless self-perpetuation.

*sorry if I missed anything out – for example, I’m taking it as read that we ALL realise this is all down to the problems inherent in the male-dominated patriarchy that is the military-industrial hegemony behind the deliberately provocative creation of Israel.

Why voting is a waste of time

My comment:

Although, the danger is – as New Laborg have amply demonstrated – that when the basics are more or less sorted, as you rightly say, the politicians start casting around for something else to do in order to justify their continued existence. This results in all the unnecessary, pointless and often counter-productive legislation they have produced over the last few years.

Also the politics of management leads to us being saddled with the sub-middle-management mediocrities we are currently encumbered with in all the parties, who – it seems – quite simply don’t seem to understand that we don’t vote for them because we don’t want, or like, them.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Notes and Comments: No. 4


Another excellent article on Atheism by AC Grayling. However, I do think he misses out on making explicit the way that believers conflate the two different meanings of ‘belief’ when they make the spurious claim that atheism is just another form of belief akin to religious belief, but in the comments does do an excellent good job of explaining this.

It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilisation," wrote Kenneth Clark, who devoted much of his life to a famous study of the subject. "We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs." Or, he might have said, by wilful neglect of what our civilisation has given us, which is a form of cynicism; the most deadly form of all.

Michael Henderson in the Telegraph.


Labour needs a woman at the top

My comment:

Well, no. If women are so superficial as to only want to vote for someone who happens to go through the same public toilet door as them, then perhaps they shouldn’t be trusted with a vote at all?

Of course, I jest. However, it is this contemporary obsession with image over substance and pandering to spurious identity politics that is part of the problem, not the solution.

Just appointing someone because of their gender will be seen for what it is – mere tokenism and image manipulation. Whoever is made leader of any party will be – whatever their sex – still only a mere modern politician. The main error in this article lies in the bland assumption that people who have a certain identity – however defined: sexual, religious, cultural, skin colour or whatever – have, somehow, an inherent insight into that identity denied to those who do not share it. This leads to this notion that you need someone of a specific sex to represent those of the same sex, which just – ultimately - leads to absurdities. For, if women need one of their own sex to represent them, then is the converse also true that men also need someone of their sex to represent them? Because if a constituency has a male MP that (somehow) leaves the women of his constituency unrepresented in somewhat, the surely the same must apply with a women MP and the men in her constituency. So each constituency – to be fair – must have a man AND a woman candidate.

Then what about lesbians, gays – they will need a representative for their interests too. Then Christians, Muslims, Wiccans, Spaghetti-Monsterists and so on and on, right down to us over-opinionated middle-aged fat white blokes with computers and too much time on our hands.

What we could do with is some decent, intelligent, wise and thoughtful folks of any sex, sexual persuasion, hair colour or any other distinguishing feature in parliament, rather than the current woeful crop of dullards, ego-maniacs, time-servers, party sheep, intellectual pygmies, mediocrities and lightweights that populate the benches on both sides of the house and, especially, the leadership of all the parties.

I won't suck up to the Boss

My comment:

There was a time when I would get all in a huff if anyone criticised my favourite rock music. However, I realised a long time ago that such music was not really worth taking seriously, and – consequently – opinions about it were not worth bothering with all that much.

Springsteen, though, is one of the bare handful of rock musicians that has, over the years, seemed to have something to say still worth listening to. To dismiss that body of work using these tired old clichés such as those describing ‘Born in the USA’ in this piece displays a lack of knowledge of the subject and the typical shallow and shoddy ‘journalism’ that has – unfortunately -become the hallmark of the Guardian these days.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thinking About Thought Crime

[This post originally appeared on my old WordPress blog. I am deleting that old blog so I have reprinted it here, today.]

I've been underwhelmed by stuff of his I've read in the past, but here I think Timothy Garton Ash has a point. I think that these laws that try to legislate against what we can call 'thought crime' are counter-productive and - quite simply - wrong. For, as he says:

Far from creating new legally enforced taboos about history, national identity and religion, we should be dismantling those that still remain on our statute books. Those European countries that have them should repeal not only their blasphemy laws but also their laws on Holocaust denial. Otherwise the charge of double standards is impossible to refute. What's sauce for the goose must be sauce for the gander.

I think I would go as far as to say that anything that outlaws thought, speech, comment and so forth is wrong, and - more often than not - counterproductive. It should be acts and actions that are illegal, not the thoughts or words that lead to those actions.

At this point people usually bring out the shouting 'Fire!' in a crowded theatre argument of incitement. Yes, there is a problem here, but I feel that it should be those who respond to the incitement, and act in an illegal or irrational manner, than are the problem rather than just the one doing all the inciting. I think this stems from a fear, especially amongst those that believe they know best, that people are like sheep, if one of them 'baas' loud enough then the others will follow no matter what.

Maybe, though, there can be a case made for the inciter to be punished, but I do have doubts, in that as soon as the law clamps down on these people they instantly become martyrs and get far more attention than they would otherwise get. Maybe.

Labouring Under Gordon


This post originally appeared on my old WordPress blog. I am deleting that old blog so I have reprinted it here, today.]

I've always voted Labour, probably because I was born, brought up and still live in the Black Country, once the industrial heartland of Great Britain. My granddad was a coal miner, and my father a factory worker. So, you could say I was born into Labour. Conservatives, especially the conservative middle-class, always seemed like the 'other', a strange alien race with their own places, language and customs.

Later I took John Fowles' claim (I think it is in The Aristos, but I can't be sure) that 'the intelligent person must be of the left' almost on faith. Especially when faced with the dread Thatcher - her despicable small-mindedness that made even the almost obscene Daily Mail seem intellectual and cosmopolitan. As far as I am concerned, to paraphrase Johnson 'A man who is tired of life, tired of thinking, will take the Daily Mail'.

So, I continued to vote Labour, despite rather than because of the loathsome Blair. Ideally then, Brown and his studiousness, his dour anti-celebrity, disinterested in fashion and the fashionable style over substance should then always more my kind of person.

Well… yes.

That is, except for my big problem with the whole New Laborg project. Its control freakery, its spin over substance, its clumsy attempts at social engineering, its enthralled beguilement with managerialism and so on, that makes me feel I could never contemplate voting Labour again… ever.

And, as for Gordon Brown, as Simon Jenkins says here ' the chancellor who has spent nine years, as Charles Clarke attested, as patron saint of control freaks?'

Sorry, Gordon, but Labour have gone too far down the authoritarian, social engineering path too far for me ever to trust them with my vote, risk my vote for them, ever again, even with you in charge.

So, as I said, I voted Labour despite Blair, not because of him. Consequently the question now is: can I force myself - against everything I used to hold dear - to vote Conservative this time, and - again - despite the Blair clone Cameron, not because of him? And, if I did, would I be making the same mistake again?

Job Lot

[This post originally appeared on my old WordPress blog. I am deleting that old blog so I have reprinted it here, today.]

David Blunket '…when under pressure, he could be almost impossible to work with. But it was not until he was tested with his only prison riot that I concluded that he was not up to the job.' Whether or not it is true is not my concern here, rather it touches son something that I have been pondering a while now. I suppose my thoughts can be best summed up as 'are our politicians really up to the job?'

You don't expect me to answer 'Yes', do you?

I suppose it was a thought that first struck me during Margaret Thatcher's stint in the top job. I can remember how I used to cringe whenever she, or those I regarded as similar to her: Lamont, Parkinson, Baker et al, came on the telly in speeches, interviews or whathaveyou. The sheer dull, poor, intellectual limitedness and narrow, unimaginative blandness of them all was almost painful to me, especially in those situations where they were supposedly 'representing Britain' abroad. But, then, at the time America had Regan, so I suppose we were lucky in that respect. If anything, I regard Tony and his pals as just as bad, if not worse.

The problem is that for anyone with more intelligence, or sense, than ego politics is not the sort of thing they want to involve themselves with. Certainly not, at least, the Westminster soap opera. The number of blogs - including this one - that concern themselves either wholly, or in part, with politics does suggest, however, that there is a great deal of interest out there in politics. But when - apparently - the top political website is one concerned with the gossip from that very Westminster soap opera we have to wonder about the depth of that interest.

Personally, I find politics fascinating (yes, I am a sad bastard), but party politics doesn't hold my interest because I am now non-partisan, and now all the parties are heaping on top of each other in the centre ground, each trying to out-bland each. I don't like the politics of personality because I find what personality the politicians allow themselves to display odious, and not a little creepy. Of course, the biggest problem with politics at the moment is the way that the politicians have taken the politics out of politics leaving us with just the party political gamesmanship and the 'what Groovy Davey said about Gordon to Tony while Cherie was at the hairdressers' soap opera.

So, the real action moves further and further away from the cosy little club at the Houses of Parliament. Maybe there is a shift going on, maybe the drop in voting figures that suggest disenchantment with traditional politics is part of a trend. Maybe something new could emerge from the new technologies like blogs, growing up from the grass roots up.

Whatever it is the folks in parliament had better hope that it is something that still has some sort of respect for people and democracy like the fantasy Mrs Pritchard TV series, rather than the growing scourge of religious fundamentalism that could send us all back to some very Dark Ages indeed.

Camera Trickery

[This post originally appeared on my old WordPress blog. I am deleting that old blog so I have reprinted it here, today.]

One of the most recent crazes, or phenomena, I have been most underwhelmed by is the whole YouTube business. Because of all the fuss made about them, I did have various YouTube and Google video feeds in my feed reader, but I found after watching a handful of the same badly shot, poor quality films of people falling over in overly predictable ways I ended up just marking the items as read before even bothering to wade through them. This morning I removed those feeds altogether, deciding life is too short.

Then, I read this by The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, who is - apparently - their film critic. I suppose I should start by saying that I am no great film fan, or even TV addict. Furthermore the kind of stuff Bradshaw witters on about: ' the lo-fi video aesthetic', ' camera work with a deadpan surveillance feel', 'The Blair Witch Project' and so on, are all things I dislike intensely. I find wobbly cameras, extreme close-ups of people's faces (known as nostril cam in our house), poor (or natural) lighting and all the faux amateurism currently fashionable in film, and TV, gets in the way of the narrative rather than enhancing it. Often making the whole thing unwatchable. For example, in recent TV I found both The Thick of It, and Green Wing, two programmes I would probably otherwise have enjoyed, totally unwatchable because of the camera trickery.

I suppose all this has been learnt from the amateurist ethos of punk. What starts out as a (refreshing?) change from what seems like the sterile professionalism of 'the industry' of the time ends up with us awash is a sea of poor quality mediocrity. It is all very similar to what happened to modern art in its self-defeating obsession with conceptual art where bland mediocrity that merely tries to provoke the knee-jerk 'shock' from the tabloids has become all-pervasive.

Nor did I ever find those TV programmes made up of home videos of people falling over, all that interesting. (So much in fact, I can't think of the title of a single one I could link to as an illustration.) It seems to be this sort of thing, like the one of the poor woman falling down a cellar Bradshaw thinks is amusing, but then it must be funny (at least to a Guardianista because she is fat and therefore deserves it). As he says, ' It's something in the way the woman disappears so utterly from view.'

Unless the article itself is some kind of elaborate (for the Guardian) pisstake on the whole internet video fad, and this is - indeed - the sort of thing that gets film buffs wetting their knickers then I am glad that I prefer not to bother with film, TV and, especially, YouTube all that much.

However, it does look like I will be - as usual - in a minority as it looks as though YouTube, and its imitators, are the future as the web moves away from a primarily written medium and merges with television in a world where increasingly the screen is becoming the only reality.

Notes and Comments: No. 3


A C Grayling at CiF demolishes Tony Blair’s ID card argument and raises the point of whether he is in thrall to the security industry. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that his naivety, ignorance and gullibility have been exploited by others. I do sometimes wonder if anything can be done to counter the sheer stupidity and mediocrity of those that seem to end up in elected office. Maybe rule by philosophers would be better, after all.

The BBC tells the British story better than anyone’. Well… I’d have to say, ‘yes, they do.’ The BBC is still the best broadcaster – probably – in the world. But, I’m afraid that is because the rest of TV is worse than it once was, and the BBC has shared in that decline too. The BBC has followed the others down, rather than turning its back on them as it should have done. Is ‘saving light entertainment’ really something to be proud of?


Of cows and men:

My comment:

Oh, I don’t know. I’m all for scientific progress. Why, in a generation or two, we may even be able to – somehow – graft some knowledge onto newspaper columnists so that, in the (far distant) future, we may be able to actually have one that doesn’t display their woeful lack of knowledge and understanding when they decide to pontificate on scientific subjects.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Notes and Comments: No. 2


Here Henry Porter takes apart Tony Blair’s arguments for ID cards.

A Common Good idea? Well, yes, if only.

Sometimes it seems that ‘marketing’ is a concept designed to prevent people from getting hold of what they want. I have often wondered why, for example, it is so hard to buy winter clothes in the winter when all the clothes shops seem to be stocking summer stuff. As Kathryn Hughes says in this article, the same seems to apply to the book trade.


Ever decreasing circular formats

My comment:

I had loads of 'free' CD-Rom discs from computer mags. Now we have a seemingly endless supply of mug mats, drinks coasters or whatever you want to call them.
I suppose if you really wanted to ponce it up you could give your chums their cup of designer coffee resting on a 'classic album' CD.
BTW my current cup of plain black coffee is resting on a 'Computer Shopper Top 100 Programs' CD from June 1996.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Notes and Comments: No. 1

[This is an occasional series where I mark items of interest with a short note too brief for a posting of their own. I also use it to reprint comments I make on other websites (mainly for my own ease of reference.)]


It would seem that I’m an Enlightenist then.

Mark Lawson on the DVD box set. He does have some interesting comments. However, I don’t think he really explores what this will mean for TV, as we know it, in the future.

"My parents' generation had women's rights... What do we have? Paris Hilton."

Such is progress?

Another area where I feel let down by New Laborg getting it arse about tit, is what might be called family policy. Polly Toynbee gets it typically wrong, when she sees more meddling by the government as the answer to the current moral panic about ‘out-of-control teenagers’. As ParAvion says in the comments on the piece:

The issue is more to do with neglect. This is not just the active neglect of parents who have concluded that 'my child is out of control, there's nothing I can do'. It's also about the passive neglect of frantic parents who hold down two jobs to cover the bills, passing their children to relatives, childminders or daycare, watching them grow up without participating enough in the process because they have to keep the mortgage paid.

We are already at the gates of the surveillance society. An excellent article by Henry Porter in The Grauniad on just who is watching you and me. Again, there are disturbing echoes of Orwell’s 1984 in this our modern world.

No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones / In 1977:

"They could say, no U2, Jay-Z or Beyoncé in 2007," he [Mick Jones] chuckles, then suddenly looks a bit folorn. "But it's never going to happen, is it? I don't think things mean as much now. It's been so reduced now to the sliver of the end of a boiled sweet.

For me it has got too hard to listen to rock music anymore, for more than a couple of songs, I get too nostalgic for what has been lost there too.


Too fat to fight

My comment:

Ah, I do like a Madeline Bunting article. It means I don’t have to bother reading it and can go straight on to the comments.

Anyway, the solution to this is simple. There is a way of solving this obesity ‘crisis’ and global warming all rolled into one. I’ll give it to you here and now and for nothing.

First, disconnect every domestic household from the national grid, replacing it with a set of storage batteries.

Secondly, install a human-sized hamster wheel attached to those batteries.

Therefore, if Mr and Miss ordinary folk want to stuff their faces with pies whilst watching TV it will take them an hour or two on the wheel to acquire the necessary juice to run the microwave and the TV.

As a bonus it will also solve youth unemployment as the upper and middle classes can employ the feckless youth – thereby getting rid of the ‘problem teenagers’ problem too – to run their wheels for them.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Some of my poetry has been recently published on this website.


[NB this is a repost of a recent post on the old version of this blog.]

The more I think about it, the more I believe that Orwell’s 1984 ought to be regarded as one of the most important novels, if not the most important novel, of the 20th Century. For not only have several concepts, ideas and themes of the novel, such as Big Brother (Not the tacky TV programme, of course), Room 101 (ditto), Thought crime and doublethink (of course), become common currency there is also a deeper sense, an atmosphere, that pervades the novel that seems not only to contain within it so much of the 20th century (from both before and after it was written), but still seems remarkably prescient for now and the foreseeable future.

However, earlier today I was musing upon the concept of doublethink. It is, of course, central to contemporary political life. For just one example, Blair and Bush and their cronies, allies and fellow travellers must continue to spout their belief that every day, in every way, the situation in Iraq is getting better and better, whilst at the same time knowing (for how can they not know?) that it is going down the tubes faster than last night’s dodgy king prawn vindaloo.

The same thing applies in many other modern walks of life where people must profess one thing whilst knowing that the opposite is the case: advertisers, salespeople and so on and so forth. In fact, it seems to be almost a standard human trait to be able to believe in something despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

This brings me to the point I was considering earlier. When I made the connection with doublethink, I was thinking about religion, as it happens. For example, how can believers reconcile their belief in a benevolent God, gods or whatever, when all around them is suffering, chaos and death and destruction?

This ability to believe something in face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary affects not only the politicians and those at the head of religions; it also affects their followers too. In fact, it often seems as those a willingness to believe what the rest of the group believes despite all the contrary evidence is seen within all such groups as a very desirable trait, a badge of loyalty.

So, I think Orwell was right to see doublethink as a very dangerous thing. After all, not only in the traditional religions and politics, but in the twentieth century we saw those two attempts to create new political religions: Nazism and Communism, recreate on a massive scale the dangers of allowing belief to override the real. The danger still exists, and always will exist if we continue to allow either political or religious beliefs to dictate what they believe is true, rather than basing our notions of truth on what the evidence shows. We may not be able to rid the world of doublethink, but we should always be on our guard against it.

Moved Again

I've decided I can't get on with the WordPress system. So - yet again - I've decided to move my blog. This time back to good old Blogger.

Sorry for all the inconvenience.