Google+ A Tangled Rope: 04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Advertising Standards

Another day, another CiF article at the Grauniad site. This one an ‘open thread’ about ‘The most distasteful commercials of 2007’

My comment:

All adverts are offensive because of the insidious way they steal time from our lives.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Grub Street

Maybe it is not quite so apparent when you read an individual dead tree newspaper, but if you – as I do – visit the main broadsheet (as they used to be) newspaper websites on a daily basis you do tend to get a picture of the journalists – especially the columnists - as being all alike. This is despite the claimed, or assumed, political leanings of the papers they write for. So this comes as no surprise where:

the social exclusivity of journalism seems certain to become still more common. "Walk through our corridors," a lecturer at one university journalism school told me, "and you will hear that homogeneous public school accent." According to a sample analysis carried out for the Guardian, nearly half the postgraduate students in City University's journalism school, still one of the main gateways to Fleet Street and the BBC, come from just four universities: Oxford, Bristol, Leeds and Cambridge. All four are among the elite which recruit higher than average numbers of students from middle-class homes and fee-charging schools.

Nearly all the columnists for the broadsheets seem to live in the same London metropolitan area, be frightfully middle-class and to share the same outlook on the world that transcends their political posturing – whether of the nominal right or left – in their concerns. It seems to echo the same narrowness that we now get in the political parties with the rise of the professional politicians, people who have had no real experience of life outside the metropolitan middle-class enclaves they were born, brought-up and remain within.

*Grub Street

Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday Poem: Cat's Cradle

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.

Cat's Cradle

Follow the thread of history
back along these corridors,
contrived turnings,
so many corners.
We passed this way before.

We followed the thread back
to where all this once began.

But it only follows all our errors.
Each and every mistake we made
is embroidered between these walls.

A cat's cradle of our failings
tied up, parcelled, packaged.
Waiting here, still,
for history to return.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Living v Rock ‘n’ Roll

We do not go out looking for things to fill our lives. We just get on with living. The key is – I suppose – that it all lies in the routine ordinary days. It lies in all that stuff you try to escape from when you are young. All that stuff that is put down and derided in the song lyrics you learn off by heart in your teenage years. Rock ‘n’ roll is about escaping all that, or so it claims. But, if you are lucky, you realise that all that is the important stuff. All that is what connects people builds up communities.

The trivial unimportant day-to-day stuff, dismissed by all the media mouths is the important stuff. All the other stuff, the stuff that makes them look good as they strut their brief hour on the stage – that is the pointless, worthless stuff.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dance On Fire

As you may have noticed from the sidebar, I have published a novel at, entitled Dance on Fire. As it says in the sidebar:

What do you do when sex and drugs and rock and roll are no longer enough? At one time, Transmission were probably the most famous rock band on the planet. Now, even as they approach their twenty-fifth anniversary they are still up there, one of the top ten bands of all time. However, each of the surviving members of the band feels something, somewhere, has gone wrong, and the rock and roll dream they used to believe in so much has become an empty and hollow routine. Dance On Fire is an exploration of the relationships between the remaining original members of Transmission, and their manager, as the band enters their 25th year together. The novel charts their growing realisation that rock music no longer has any meaning for them, and they are - at best - still going through force of habit - "We've become our own tribute band." Dance On Fire is a novel about the shallowness of everlasting adolescence and the vacuity at the heart of the rock and roll mythology.

Sample it, and – please – buy it here.

If it goes well I may publish more books in this way, including a collection of poems, a short story collection and maybe even another novel.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gordon of the Dead

A Whither the Left? piece by Jonathan Rutherford at the good old Grauniad’s CiF.

My comment:

The Left is dead, I'm afraid, and most of us who were once on the Left now realise that.

The problem now is that when the Left died it turned into a zombie.

A zombie that not only wants to eat our faces, it also wants to eat our hearts, our minds, our souls, our freedoms and our identities.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday Poem: The Snow Falls

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.

The Snow Falls
The snow falls,
closes us all down.
We stop and all things
come to a slow halting.

We stand motionless.

The snow falls,

hiding our tracks.

Turning the world white,

erasing all our pasts.

History is lost.

The Snow falls,

we could forget.

Leave it all behind.

Just wipe all these landscapes

of memory clean.

The snow falls,

as we wait here.

All we can do, is

watch the world disappear

under its blankets.

The snow falls,

slower, then stops.

Time begins again.

A new land emerges,

ready to begin.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Talking Dirty

Mark Lawson in The Grauniad on ‘bad language’ on the TV. ‘So, now that which used to be called bad language is standard in large areas of daily life, there's clearly a case for broadcasting to relax its own bans.’

My Comment:

I’ve often wondered what it is about ‘bad’ language that is actually… well… bad.

I mean, it is all right to say, say, ‘sexual intercourse’ , but not fuck. So it can’t be the real meaning of the word that is ‘bad’. So that can’t be it.

It is all right to say words like duck, luck, buck and so on, so it can’t be the sound of the word that is – somehow – offensive to the ear. So, that can’t be it, either.

It can’t be the context because it is acceptable to say something like ‘Oh, flip!’ or somesuch when you spill your coffee over your keyboard, or hit your thumb with a hammer. So, it can’t be the context.

It can’t be that these are crude Anglo-Saxonisms when polite folk are speaking good old Norman French either, because swearwords seem to exist in all languages.

So, I can’t understand what the fuss is about….

Except that… I know that modern TV and film scripts that seem to be based on the premise that it is ‘realistic’, ‘edgy’ or ‘down with the kids’ or whatever, seem so dull, so monochromatic, in their overuse of these words. Like all attempts to outrage in art and entertainment, once what was once shocking becomes ubiquitous, commonplace, it merely becomes tedious as post-Duchamp ‘modern art’ so clearly demonstrates.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

True Knowledge and Wisdom

Knowing how and why does not diminish the brightness of the stars, whatever their true distances. A leaf is still a leaf with all its beauty still intact, despite chlorophyll and osmosis and cell structure.

There is more wonder in knowledge than in all your inchoate romantic fantasies. Mystery remains a mystery, but knowledge grows like a strong healthy tree, spreading deep routes and budding forth a truer wisdom than any naïve mysticism.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Time Passes

Now, the time has come to move away from this place. We have been here for too long. It is time to move on. This place is worn out. We are tired of it. It is time for something new.

The words we find here are old and stale now. It is time we found a new place with new words.

Things do grow old with time. Everything changes, except time. Time just marches on, regardless. It will not wait for us, or allow us to step back to a few days, months, or years ago to change our mistakes. We have to accept whatever it gives us.

Learning to live with time is the hard part. Learning that there is no going back, that we have to live with what happens and can do nothing to change it - that is the hard part. That is why so many people fall apart in one way or another. Time damages us. We suffer from time sickness. It will - of course - kill us in the end. Time is always fatal. There is no cure for time.

Time is there all the time. Even while you sleep, the seconds it allows you are running down the drain of your personal history. There is no escape. You cannot wake in the night and hold back that streaming away of time.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Spring Morning

[Every Monday (until I run out of them), I’m posting a poem of mine that has fallen out from the submission process for some reason. In most cases, it will be one where I’ve received no response to my submission for at well over a year or more. Maybe the magazine I submitted them to has folded, the submission was lost in the post, or whatever. So, these poems can be seen as lost, orphans, of uncertain status, or something like that.]

These poems are also posted to ABCTales.

Spring Morning

I can see how it will happen
on some new spring morning
when the day is eager to begin
in sharp sunshine and birdsong.

The way you rise up, naked and free
to taste the sun on the bright air
from a flung-open window.

Then to turn, smiling, to welcome
a whole world of tumbling children
deep inside your outstretched arms.

Gathering all this up together
to throw it out over green grass,
where laughter and loud games
will set this world turning once again.

Friday, April 11, 2008

On Starving Billy Bragg To Death

An article at The Register on what recorded music is really worth. Personally, I didn’t bother sitting through the videos, just went straight to reading the comments, where I added this:

My Comment:

The analogies don’t work for either side, for or against. An extra digital copy doesn't cost anything to produce, doesn't deprive anyone of anything and copy 1 000 is just as good as copy number 1. In short, music has lost its scarcity value through being so easy to replicate and it is that - simple supply and demand - that controls the price.

Last I heard, the world wasn't suffering from a global shortage of pop stars - if anything there is a glut. If they were still working in a factory instead of being pop stars and their factory was no longer producing what people wanted to buy then no-one would suggest we keep paying them to produce their widgets. They are not owed a living just because they style themselves as 'artists'. I write poetry - I rarely get paid for it when it gets published (and then only trivial amounts), but then I know that and accept it and know that I'm highly unlikely to do it for a living, but I carry on because... well, that is what I do.

I haven't heard of that many rock stars giving it all up and getting a job cleaning windows or whatever recently either. So, they should consider themselves lucky that anyone at all is ready to spend their hard-earned money on the outpourings of pop stars.

If every tunesmith in the world just gave up tomorrow, how long do you think it would be before we all crawled to their doors dragging bags of gold begging for just one more tune? I think it would be a very long time - perhaps instead we'd all learn how to whistle instead.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Future Belongs to the Proles

In 1984, Orwell has Winston Smith believe that the future belongs to the proles. Smith it seems has a vestigial romantic socialist notion of the proles as a sleeping beast that will awake one day and overthrow the party to create a new society. Perhaps when the middle and upper classes - the inner and outer party - have destroyed themselves through their stagnation and lost what it is to be human through their theorizing, then – Smith believes - the proles will take over.

However, the future belongs to the proles could just as easily be not a promise, but a threat.

The left since its beginning always had a Romantic idealised view of the working class. This is hardly surprising as a major strand of left thinking grew out of Romanticism, the strand of Romanticism that saw the then modern industrial world as some sort of corrupting monster that was gorging itself on a helpless working class.

However, democracy – despite its no doubt good points – does tend towards the Tyranny of the Majority with the seemingly inevitable ‘dumbing down’ that results from that tyranny. Therefore, ‘the future’ could ‘belong to the proles’ just through sheer weight of numbers and the passage of time rather than through any historical inevitability or some sort of social justice. It certainly does sometimes seem like that nowadays, where the manufactured prolefeed that passes for popular culture these days seems ubiquitous and all-consuming. But then the post-60s fashionable adoption of anti-elitism (itself a very pernicious form of snobbery) by the middle classes themselves helped establish this situation. That anti-elitism has also permeated what used to be called the working class too, who now seem to have a pride in their own ignorance that was lacking in the days of the Workers’ Institutes* and so forth of Orwell’s era. Those in power - to keep the masses ignorant as left theory implies - did not necessarily impose this indifference and ignorance of the majority. It does seem that Smith in 1984 does eventually see that the proles are keeping themselves down, either through indifference or ignorance or a combination of both.

These days though that ignorance and indifference has not only become entrenched in what is now the underclass, exacerbated by an educational and benefits system that seems more intent on a form of containment rather than any notion of lifting people out of a squalid dead-end lifestyle. These attitudes have also seemingly permeated up into what was the upper working class/lower middleclass - which Orwell defined in 1984 as the Outer Party - due to the anti-elitist snobbery outlined above, and to the general educational and aspirational malaise that only sees improvement in material terms, so that we are all slowly turning into proles now.

So, perhaps Winston Smith was right, perhaps the future does belong to the proles after all, because in the future we will all be proles.

*This place mentioned in the article was just down the road from where I now live.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Give this a shape and a form. Give this a reason for becoming. I have a shape. I hold it in my hands and I expect it to grow from there. Could this be reason enough?

Take this language and use it to make shapes out of the time and the air. Take the invisible and the intangible to give names to the visible and the tangible. We need words to tell us the names of these things we hold in our hands. We need words too, for everything we cannot hold but need a name for.

Only connect. Only connect. I'm beginning to think that is what art is, what it is for. To expand outwards from our own existential existence. To touch something wider, to go further. To broaden outwards by taking in these experiences put forward by others. These are acts of communication and if they tell us something, then they have been successful.

Monday, April 07, 2008


Who knows? I know I don't. There used to be a time when it was so simple. You knew where you stood, on everything. I remember reading somewhere - a writer - saying that an intelligent person must be on the left. It seemed so obvious, so right, so correct that it didn't need questioning. But that was before Thatcher, Reagan, and the re-emergence of the right and their re-invigoration of some older certainties.

Now, over the years - so-called - certainty has collapsed, so now there seems to be nothing left on the left that can be pointed to and proclaimed as a principle to rally behind.

Each monument built, each icon set forward to venerate, each possibility of a new, better, way of ordering this world has collapsed into the rubble of its own contradictions. Progressive politics has suffered the same fate as progressive rock music. It shares the same fate as so many promises.

I don't know why it all went wrong. I don't know if it is possible to fix it. All I know is that now it seems as though it is over, perhaps even dead.

It seems as though it is all finished. Those few successes the ‘progressive left’ did seem to have, have - in their turn - brought just as many - if not more - problems in their wake than they attempted to solve. What has not already been lost is collapsing and dying.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Autumn Lives

The mornings grow darker now as summer fades into autumn. Already the air is growing colder and the evenings press closer and closer to the late afternoon. The leaves are beginning to take on their autumn colours of reds and golds and browns. Soon the world will narrow into the closer confines of winter where the cold and wind and rain conspire against life trying to carry on.

Until then, though, we have the autumn. Spring and autumn are the better seasons, sharper, one bursting forth into new life. The other wisely ripening into the wisdom of fruitfulness, calm and measured, resigning itself to the inevitability of winter and death.

Here we are though, approaching our own autumn as our children ripen into slow adulthood and fall away from our protecting branches. Somehow, life seems to sip away, evade the grasp and escape off into the deepening undergrowth before you even have the chance to hold it. There and then gone, a flutter glimpsed in the longer grass and then suddenly too far out of reach to ever grasp again. I had it here in my hands for that moment, but I let it slip away.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


All I have to hold onto is doubt. There is no certainty. There is nothing to believe in. All that once was sure and certain is gone, lost forever. I never could believe. It seemed somehow naïve, an unwillingness, a deliberate blindness, a step back from the brink. A refusal to look over the edge.

A believer is someone who will not step up to the edge and look down; see how far there is to fall. Belief is security, safety. A safety rail that prevents them getting too close to the edge, covered with warning sighs that warn of the very great dangers of ignoring them.

It always seemed to be – somehow – a denial of responsibility, a shifting of the blame, to believe in some greater force: religious, political, mystical or whatever.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Harassment Tapes

At first glance, laws such as this seem like a good thing, after all nobody wants to be plagued by boorish idiots when they are trying to go about their daily work.

However, two points….

The first is the most trivial, the Laborg entity put up to defend this on the PM programme yesterday (31/03/2008), sorry I can’t remember what name the entity used, said by way of illustration that it would help if some member of staff in a pub or hotel was called ‘darling’, or something like that.

Sorry, but to me that is not an insult, nowhere near such a thing. I would - either if I was working in a place like a hotel or a pub, or more usually when I interact with people who work in such places - much prefer terms like ‘darling’, ‘love’, ‘pet’, ‘mate’, ‘pal’ or whatever to the more formal terms of address like ‘sir’, ‘Mr Hadley’ and so on.

This brings us to the more important point, which is related to the first point above. Whether such terms as ‘love’, or ‘pet’ or whatever are insulting, demeaning and so forth depends on both the intent of the person uttering them and on the attitude of the person they are directed towards. What to one can be harmless light-hearted banter can be a grievous insult to another. This is why laws to outlaw ‘hate speech’ and other such forms of disparagement are unfair, unjust and in the end unworkable. Unfair because they can penalise an innocent who misreads a social situation, like attempting banter where a more formal approach would be more appropriate. Unjust because laws like this can be used maliciously. For example, it could be used by those with an agenda against a particular person or type of person, almost as a form of entrapment. Unworkable because in the end it increase distrust between people who always have to be on their guard against a slip of the tongue, saying something ‘inappropriate’ and so forth, which will one day just have to collapse or explode.

Another example of a similar phenomenon has been the recent outburst by ‘gay’ activists and their fellow-travellers over the use by teenagers of the word ‘gay’ to mean something is ‘lame’, uncool, poor, broken or just not very good. This demonstrates that no-one has control over what a word means, so that any claim that a word or phrase is being used to demean someone does depend on so much beyond the word itself, context, meaning, situation, the mental state of the utterer and the intended recipient, or for that matter anyone who overhears it.

There is a third (or fourth) point as well, though, now I come to think about it. This is why should it be felt necessary for there to be a law prescribing what should – and shouldn’t – be allowed in an area of what always used to be normal daily politeness? Rude customers can always be barred, banned, thrown out and so on by the management, and the staff have the long tradition of giving bad customers the ‘special’ soup and so forth. But – in general – people used to know how to behave – more or less – towards each other so that we could all rub along as best we could without the relationships all having to be formalised within this legally-proscribed fencing. Of course, if left to our on devices like that then we may not act in the way that the governing class wants us to act, so there have to be laws to make sure we do things their way, and not ours. This, in the end, says something about the left’s attempts at social engineering, for, as any (non-social) engineer knows materials can only bend so far before they snap.