Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Striking Issue 2: Blinkers

Osbourne says: "While I accept that a 1% avarage rise is tough, it is also fair to those who work to pay the taxes that will fund it."

I'd like to remind the chancellor and many people posting anti-public service worker stuff that people who work in the public sector ARE people who pay the taxes that fund them. You pay my salary. But I also pay my salary. You benefit from the services I provide and so do I.

I've heard reports of people telling leafleting strikers to "get a job". Well they have one. That's why they can strike.

I respect many positions on the current events. But I'd like an end to these silly ones please.

Striking Issues: We're all just trying to get through life...

ATN: Public and private sector:

Please stop buying into the narratives created by the political classes. We aren't against each other. We are all being attacked by cuts to our public sector, by increased food prices, redundancies, etc... It doesn't matter what sector you are in.

It's disgusting that it's illegal to hold a general strike that would gave the power to unify us and allow us to insist on an ate alternative. Our unelected government do not have a mandate to dismantle/privatise the welfare state. They are holding us to account rather than the banks and corporations. Nothing is being done to address the terrible inequality of the super rich having so much.

In terms of strikes. Yes, it is a hard choice. There are no perfect options. Yes, we ALL deserve to be treated better. Yes, much of what we have is unsustainable in terms if resources and environmental impact. Yes, the poorest are really badly affected by public service strikes. Just as they are by private service strikes. Most people don't strike lightly. They lose their pay. It is a right to withdraw your labour. A right I believe should be extended to everyone, union member or not.

Everyone is just trying to get through life! Let's stop squabbling and respect peoples decisions. If you are on strike I understand that decision. If you choose to break the strike I understand your decision. Neither option is ideal.

Let's stop all this nonsense and remember who the people with the REAL power are. Let's start saying: "after you've addressed all the other places money can be found, like tax avoidance, Robin Hood/Tobin tax, making the banks pay us back, cutting slower, cutting differently, fair income tax etc... THEN we can talk about cutting public services.Then we can consider the problem of pensions for an ageing population!"

And of course the 1% and the top tiers of the 99% are just people too. The thing is it is wrong for so few people to have so much. Money is just a tool for organising society. It isn't meaningful in itself. It is a fiction we write. And we can rewrite it. Or we would be able to if we could get hold of the pens.

And how about we approach industrial relations with respect?

Teachers could perhaps be offered more time and less paperwork in exchange for cuts. Public service workers could be offered free transport to and from work to offset the changes to their previously agreed terms. It is hard to have agreed to something, worked with that understanding for years and have it changed by someone with better conditions to you.

We need to move forward with empathy, understanding and the aim to make things more fair and equal. Our political classes and others with power are failing to do this. Let's lead by example and show then how they should behave by taking this approach to each other.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

"That brief period between 1917 and 1979, when British wealth, trembling in fear of revolution, ceded some power, opportunity and money to the working classes is over. There is now no politics to express or admit the enormity of what has happened since the 1980s – how wealth and human respect drained from the bottom to enrich and glorify the top."

Polly Toynbee. Gdn 14.7.11
(Via my dad.)

I don't always like Toynbee but that quote is spot on.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Future

Yesterday I saw The Future by my favourite short story writer Miranda July She is also an artist, filmmaker and performer.

I loved the film. It resonated with me on lots of levels. It was, I guess, a magical realist film, although for all its surreal elements, it felt straight forwardly realistic to me. It seemed to represent exactly how I experience the world: a bittersweet existential dream.

The only thing I felt was wrong with the film was the voice of the cat who narrates the film. It was voiced by Miranda July who played the female lead. But the cat is a male cat. I think she voices the cat as his monologues may just be in her characters imagination. That's fine. So make the cat a female cat. Or else lose that idea and have a male voice for the cat.

This film was the kind of film people either love or find really annoying. I loved it. Why not see how you feel about it?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

God is in the detail: RIP Jackie Leven

A great but sadly unknown singer and song writer has died. A man who lived terrible things and made them into warm and wonderful songs. Warm like the sunshine falling on the polar ice. Warm like your hand feels when it holds something dead. Warm like almost cooled metal that has been smelted and beaten.

The first song I heard by Jackie Leven was The Sexual Loneliness of Jesus Christ It's one of those perfect songs that punches you in the gut and then reaches up to wrap itself round your heart, squeezing gently. It smashed into me from a compilation cd made for me by my friend Alex. I was 20 years old. I played it on repeat for a long time. I didn't want to stop hearing it.

It seemed to be absolutely about me and at the same time it was about everything that has ever existed. It seemed to describe both my soul and all of history. It didn't change me exactly. It was more that it uncovered something in me that had always been there but id not known before. From then till now that part of me has always been there, close to my surface. Poking out from time to time.

I borrowed the album Fairy Tales for Hard Men and listened to it. It was full of songs and a voice that spoke in simple poetry about domestic violence, alcoholism and drug addiction. Intensely personal and yet amazingly universal it mixed the specific and the transcendental. I could relate absolutely despite never experiencing those things.

I listened to the album every morning and evening as I walked between my house and campus, Leven's voice engraving itself into the slate of my mind. My feet kept time with him as I walked along the thin, winding, Lancashire roads. Twice I found myself crying.

A year later in a small church in the city of Edinburgh my girlfriend and I saw him play. A man in his 50's, overweight with long, greying, scraggly hair he didn't look impressive. He called to the venue staff for a pint glass half full of red wine and half full of white. He drank 3 of them that night. He explained that his voice had only just recovered from when he was stabbed in the throat. He'd had to learn to sing again.

He started to play.

Despite being only one man and a guitar he provided rhythm worthy of a full drum kit, his tapping foot miked up booming the bass, his fingers beating out snares and toms on the body of his instrument. His healed voice reached high up into the churches rafters and whispered in your ears.

In between songs he told hilarious anecdotes about heroin addiction, death and suicide. They were funny, sad and absolutely enthralling. They were warm, wry and above all else painfully human.

We were sat on the front row. It felt like he'd invited us into his front room. He asked people for requests and I called out for The Sexual Loneliness of Jesus Christ. He looked me in the eyes and said in his soft Scottish accent;

"It's a great song. But I can't sing it anymore since the stabbing."

He looked me in the eyes.

And he played Exit Wound instead. And I'd never heard it before. And it was beautiful.

Afterwards in the bar we bought his CDs. Unlike when I've bought CDs from singers before and after I felt like something had passed from him to me. Not an exchange. He had given me something. He looked right into me, from the stage and in person, but there was no judgement there just understanding.

We were the only young people there and in that respect I think we did touch him a little. He was surprised we knew him.

And even though I know it's not true I do feel like I knew him.

Which is why I feel sad that he's gone.

Friday, 11 November 2011


This is what I think we should be remembering: WW1 was a war about money and power that massacred a generation. We still wage wars and massacre people for country and capital. Lest we forget.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Bonfire Thoughts

May I suggest taking time this bonfire night to read V for Vendetta by Alan Moore. That book is where the Guy Fawkes masks you see at various demonstrations and occupations comes from. I'm not too keen on the appropriation of those masks in that way. But the book is really worth reading. It is very relevant to the current political climate. A very cautionary tale that influenced my thinking greatly. I fully support the occupations and protests too despite the masks. There is gross inequality in this world and we need to address it. The way we are structuring things isn't working. But we can always choose to rearrange it. Or even change it all together.

Friday, 4 November 2011

First reaction

I half hate this new song from @AmandaPalmer Reasons for the hate:

1.I'm not a John Lennon fan, specifically Imagine might be the song I hate most... ever. In a choice between Angels by R Williams and Imagine I would choose to keep Angels. Obviously songs that inspire hate are catchy, you even love them on one level, but they are horrible big lies, and they are full of smug self aggrandisement from their singers.

2. Sid Vicious annoys me. His myth has been mentioned enough. This is a twist on it sure, but I'm sick of him. He ruined one of my favourite bands and is a sad train wreck not an icon.

3. It encourages more people to play the ukulele which helps to make me both less special and more of a "cool" poser for playing one. Everyday I worry I will wake up and find I've become a hipster over night.

4. It's pretty simplistic.

I love it for all the obvious reasons ;-)

DISCLAIMER: only heard it once so far.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Fun and Games

Recently I've been bombarded by games and my attitude to games.

My writing group played games during a recent trip we took to a house by the sea. We didn't play many games, most of the time went down like this and like this, but we played enough to bring back all my complicated feelings about these things.

Then a few days after this my niece and nephew (and their parents) dropped in for a flying visit. This visit was too short and late in the day for a game. But they tried to fit one in anyway. They love playing games.

And then today I listened to this episode of The Dork Forest.

Also some months ago I was at a stag do where we were expected to play Monopoly and Risk. I think that I managed not to play either game. And the alcohol, in that instance, took the edge off the whole thing. As did my current strategy towards playing games which is: "I will not recognise the validity of the game. I will treat winning and losing as equally invalid states. I will try and play the game morally and ethically correctly."

Yes. This technique gets me through it. But it essentially makes me the most annoying person to play against. Well actually the 2nd worst. The worst is me when I don't do this. The me that storms off in a flood of shouting and tears.

Indeed, I am not a fun person to play with. Sorry about that.

I heard recently that monopoly was invented to demonstrate that by becoming a monopoly you cripple everything, no one can carry on, and so no one wins. But we've relegated that message to the subliminal level if we pick up on it at all. People think that becoming the monopoly means you win. I've found over the years that this game will cause me to hate my closest friends. I cannot separate "game" morals from real ones. Which is strange as I have no problem with this in fiction, and I count computer games as fiction. But I cant get lost in an imaginary world when it's represented by pieces on a table top, or a bunch of cards, or a pencil and pen.

So part of my problem is I cant suspend my disbelief. Or maybe that's not quite right, I am somewhere in between belief and disbelief. I know I'm playing a game but I take it seriously. Monopoly means reminding myself how horrible capitalism is. Risk reminds me how horrible imperialism is. And when playing with friends this implicates them in these actions. I hope they wouldn't fuck people over that way. But they are happy to in a game.

The other problem is that I'm really really competitive. But I find competitiveness to be repellent. So playing a game means wrestling with myself and hating myself. This is especially problematic when it comes to things like 'unfairness'. I don't think I'm particularly clever and I definitely have bad coordination. I also don't think these things are valid ways of saying people are better than other people. I don't like meritocracy. I don't like systems that judge and rate people. And that is what games are. I hate both myself for being crap and the structure for making me feel crap. And on the few occasions I win I hate the nasty feeling of being "better" than other people. It's worse because my instincts are to be a right wanker about it.

I tend to be an all or nothing person. I'm not happy unless I either get top marks or I fail spectacularly. By opting out I'm trying to create a narrative where I'm the hero, partly because I'm scared I'll lose, and partly because I'm scared of what I might become to try and win. But it is still, on many levels, trying to prove myself "better".

Games and guilt are synonymous in my mind. I like computer games better because they are immerse and everyone has their own clearly delineated individual narratives.

One real world game I like is Chess. I like it for its elegance and the intense, almost meditative process where you are sketching out an idea of how your opponents mind works. Really it's about understanding the other person. It's intimate and one on one.

I also like Scruples. But then for me it's a game where winning or losing are actually immaterial. You get into the minds, the emotions, the morals, the life experiences of the group, you get into the big ideas. That's what I like to do. Similarly the game Pancakes verses Waffles that my friend Liz taught me is great. We played a short version of this last week and got it down to Hope verses Love. On that night Hope won incidentally. The majority would get rid of Love if it came to the choice.

I also like what I call judgemental Guess Who. Where the only questions you can ask are judgements: "Do they look depressed? Are they gay? Would they steal something?" In this game mostly no one wins as both people (or teams) judge differently. But it's fun. Well it is my idea of fun.

We played Apples for Apples last week. This is a similar kind of game to the above. I thought it was okay but I felt the group should be able to vote on whether the persons definition of a thing was right. I missed the democratic element of a game like scruples.

Surprisingly I won that game. Making my stance the opposite of subversive. "I'm winning but I don't accept the validity of winning." No one wants to hear that!

The last problem I generally have with games (apart from the few mentioned above) is that I find them really boring. But I also feel bad about knocking someone else's idea of fun. I also worry that I must not be fun to be around. And so another cycle starts. Everyone seems to have a higher capacity for these things than me.

But then I have a higher capacity for talking endlessly about big ideas and emotions than some, for many people that quickly becomes boring.

I'd play Scruples all the time if I could.

Sadly I forgot to take it last week.