Category: writing


Binky

Binky got up from the chair in the sitting room and swaggered into the kitchen.  There can have been few more inappropriate pet names than the one that adorned the large marmalade coloured blob that then squawked demandingly at Martin.  The latter attempting, unsuccessfully, to eat his cornflakes quietly so as not to enrage the church bell that seemed to be going off in his head.  Binky had been so named by Bonnie, Martin’s daughter before she had been taken away by her mother to live with Steve the plumber.

Bonnie loved the cat and the cat reciprocated.  She had constantly wandered around the house with Binky in her arms affixed like a ridiculously oversized brooch.  The animal had always been a little standoffish with other people but when Bonnie had left it had acquired a genuinely malevolent temper.  This had manifested itself in amongst other things lacerating Martin’s toes should they stick out of the bed, or lurking near the top of the stairs and feigning affection in an attempt to send Martin headlong down.  People had told Martin not to be so stupid when he had said that the cat was looking for revenge, but he knew, and Binky knew he knew.

It wasn’t that Binky expressly disliked Martin but his little friend had gone and someone had to bear the brunt of his anger.  Martin was now the only one in the house and was thus subjected to whichever of the random acts of violence the ginger fiend felt like mooting out.  Martin who had previously felt he was hanging on to at least some semblance of control over things when Bonnie and her mother were around had entirely lost it when it became clear that he was now below even the cat in the pecking order.  Both man and cat had been forced to adapt to a new way of life that had been in neither of their interests nor very much cared for.  The cat’s answer had been to acquire considerable rancour and the consequential menacing behaviour.  Martin’s had been to acquire large quantities of drink and the consequential hangovers, as evidenced today.

Last night had been especially savage, Martin had stayed in the pub until gone 2am and was now going to have to pay the penalty of too little sleep and too much beer.  To make matters worse he had awoken to find Binky sat on his windpipe at stupid o’clock in the morning and the matter had traumatised him sufficiently to not find sleep as restful as before.  This was of course not the first time Binky had attempted to kill him, there had been the aforementioned stairs incident, which had taken some explaining at the hospital.  He had only fallen down 3 steps to the point on the stairs where they turned ninety degrees but he had clattered his head into the wall and when he came to had gone to A&E to ensure he wasn’t suffering from concussion.  After that failed attempt the cat had appeared to curtail operations or at least became more covert and long-term in their planning and subsequent implementation.  Martin couldn’t be sure he hadn’t merely been lucky to have woken up on this particular occasion, Binky indeed seemed livid to be flung about in the flailing of arms of Martin’s panic and clung to the duvet like an angry mongoose, tail fluffed and spiked like a bottlebrush, ears pinned back and eyes as wide as saucers.

Binky for his part had been hungry and food had not been forthcoming in the kitchen from the slovenly idiot in the darkened stench-ridden bedroom.  His attempts at awakening the thing nicely had not worked, he had tried but impending starvation necessitated desperate measures and it was throat or danglies, he figured the former would be the kinder first port of call.  The cat did not understand why the man seemed to look considerably worse after sleeping than he had done prior to doing so.  He let out another yowl, an impeaching sound with the faintest hint of malice, that there would be trouble were it not heeded.  Martin got up and went to the kitchen, focusing on trying to figure out how he might survive the day.

The beleaguered figure at the table turned abruptly and shouted at the animal, banging his fists on the table as he did so before wincing.  Binky shot out of the room into the hallway where he sat with his back to Martin who had resumed his slouch over his cereal.  Both parties knew that Martin would pay for this, the cat took offence at being the scapegoat for the man’s hangover and Martin who was not at heart a cruel man recognised that Binky was not at fault for his predicament, not on this occasion.

Martin decided that as a piece offering he would put down a nice piece of fish.  He also needed to tackle the litter tray to clean things up, a job he had been trying to avoid for some days.  Binky had earlier decided that a dirty protest was in order and as well as the stench that pervaded the kitchen there had been some offerings near the entry to the hatch of the covered loo.  Martin had been in a state of disrepair when he had returned that night and staggered around with his face buried in his jacket to mitigate the appalling odour whilst he fumbled for some air freshener.  He had no intention of changing the mog bog again whilst battered.  It had taken over an hour to purge up the mess of the last well-meaning attempt and Binky had not taken kindly to the lack of facilities whilst Martin crawled around on his hands and knees bleaching the floor.

Martin took another handful of painkillers which had been prescribed for his chronic toothache some time ago and slugged them down with his coffee.  The doorbell rang.  He went to answer it and saw his daughter standing the other side of the frosted glass.  Martin had not realised the time and immediately stood up straighter and combed his hair back with his fingers.  He opened the door and there was Bonnie, a crooked smile on her face that suggested she knew exactly the dichotomy of her parental state and wished to please both camps.  Sarah shouted from the car parked right outside the gate.  “Don’t be long Bon-Bon remember we’re off for Laser Bowl and Pizza.”  That was low Martin thought, the bitch, Bonnie loved laser bowl, Martin had taken her there when she was seven and they’d had a wonderful father daughter afternoon returning flushed from laughing and bonded.  Sarah had sulked when they had got back all smiles and had insisted joining them the next time.  As far as Martin was concerned the woman was able to suck the very life out of a room, she could turn vibrant colour into monochrome and rosy cheeks to pasty-faced.  The  next laser bowl had been considerably flatter and they had been seldom since despite Bonnie’s pleading.

Bonnie came into the house, she was as pleased to see her father as she was the cat who ran down the stairs on recognition of her voice.  Binky’s countenance had changed immediately, Martin had largely forgotten that the cat could purr, he had not heard it for some time save for the rare moments of tenderness when the cat’s depression seemed to reluctantly require some comfort.  Now here he was winding himself in and out of Bonnie’s legs and raising himself to his hind legs so as to rub against her outstretched hand.  He froze briefly when he saw the cat basket.  That had meant trouble before, that had meant visiting that wanker who was obsessed with his arse and sticking needles into him, not to mention the subsequent poisoning of his food for weeks with those disgusting white tablets which he had to spit out when no-one was looking.  Binky had learnt the hard way not to do so when anyone was on hand as the first time they had wrapped him in a towel and rammed the thing down his gullet, it had been an experience the whole family wished to forget.  Bonnie had cried, Sarah barked at Martin to stop pissing about and get on with it and Binky had spat and hissed as if he were being violently abused, which from his perspective he had.  He had then shot up the stairs and under Bonnie’s bed where she had spent the next half an hour trying to coax him out.

The cat basket had been drugged accordingly and the scent of catnip wafting enticingly drew Binky trance-like toward it.  Bonnie put the front grill on whilst the cat rolled around on the floor of it covering himself in little green seeds.  She watched him for a few moments before turning back to her father.  “Are you ok Daddy?” she asked “do you miss me?” she had added quickly.  Martin nearly welled up, he couldn’t really tell her that without his daughter his life lacked any meaning or direction, that the pain of losing her had robbed him of the very reason for being, that he would rather not be at all if the alternative was not being with her.  It wouldn’t be fair he thought, she couldn’t understand.  Bonnie had a comfortable home now, he hated Sarah but on the whole he did not doubt her maternal instincts, and Steve the plumber had seemed a pleasant bloke in the week he had known him before he became the adulterous git that had been the final nail in the coffin for him and his wife.  Bonnie was best off out of it, this area was full of half feral kids anyway, thieving little swines, and the local school was just a haven for their criminal activities.  He had always wanted to protect Bonnie from that and the irony of the fact that the removing her from him had done just that was not lost on him.  “I’m fine sweetie, don’t you worry., and of course I miss you, you know that.”  He hoped she’d accept the platitude.  “How’s your new school?” he asked “Have you made friends?”  Bonnie nodded brightly.  The car outside honked. “I have to go Daddy, Mummy will get cross if I don’t, will I see you soon?” “I’m always with you my love, you know that, even when you can’t see me I’m watching over you and I always will be don’t you worry about that” Martin embraced the girl tightly.  He knew there was no chance in Sarah agreeing to let him see Bonnie with any regularity without a court battle which he could not afford.  The cow had told him that if he handed over the house she might consent to some visitation but agreeing would leave him homeless and her with the house which she’d never even liked and she already had Steve’s nice 3 bedroom semi in the far more salubrious Malton 50 miles away.  Sarah held all the cards and Martin’s only bargaining chip to coax Sarah into letting Bonnie return now and again had been the creature now in the box ready to depart.

Bonnie had recently implored him to let Binky come and live with her because she missed him so much and he could not refuse.  He had never been able to, she had wound him round her little finger when she was a day old and not unwound him since.  Sarah didn’t even like bloody cats but she knew what Binky meant as well as he did.  Bonnie picked up the basket and asked her father if he wanted to say goodbye.  Martin knelt down and looked in as Binky’s paw came through the grate and waggled around looking for something to claw.  Martin felt it was an appropriate parting, his claws had not even been properly out, more of a friendly attempt to wound for old times sake, Martin smiled, the little bastard, be strange not to have him around.

A sudden wave of melancholy hit him which he desperately stifled as Bonnie kissed him and walked out of the front door.  Waving goodbye he kept the smile from the gravitational pull of the sadness and nausea inside.  He wanted Bonnie to remember him as he was not what he had been becoming.  Shutting the door and going to the sitting room he slumped into the sofa.  It was beginning, he could feel the narcosis, not long now.  He picked up the small bottle of barbiturates on the coffee table next to him, looked at the label briefly and took the thirteen that remained.

Song Of The Day ~ Phoenix 23 – It’s a Blast

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Five Years And Counting

I appreciate that since I have hardly been productive over the last number of months that I should make little fanfare of the event but I did want to mark the occasion that sees my writing enter its sixth year now.  It is a long way since the timid start, I shall leave it to the reader whether that has been ground covered or ground lost!

Song Of The Day ~ Altered Images – Happy Birthday

A Break From The Norm

Whilst I was in the process of constructing a post about the Holocaust and associated events and trying not to fall prey to a bout of man ‘flu that appears to be taking hold a furtive figure under the impression that he was immune on account of his flight to climes Antipodean crept up on me and issued me with a tag, the bounder.  Since I have not done one for a while I thought this would make for a mild interlude and allow me to tag some others who would comprehensively fail to respond!

The rules, I am told, are as follows: Each player answers the given questions about themselves. At the end of which, a further 5-6 people are tagged and informed accordingly on their own blogs.  The unfortunate ‘beneficiary’ is requested to let the person who tagged them know when they’ve posted their answer so they can be subjected to pointing and ridicule.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?  1998 eh, bloody hell, that was 2 BC that was, I had graduated and spent 1997 flirting with different jobs and concentrating more on my writing which I was genuinely enjoying but not making any money by it, hence I then got a position working for loosely for Apple doing German liaison work and using Macs all day.  I lived in a very shit end of London but I still had a modicum of innocence over what was to come.

2. What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order): 

i) Tidy up

ii) Put the washing on

iii) Get an early(er) night

iv) Sleep

v) Sleep more

3) Snacks I enjoy: Salt & pepper cashew nuts, wasabi nuts, smiths bacon fries, toasted cinnamon and raisin bagel with honey, oreos

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire: Travel, constantly, on next to no money, Interrail, Indrail etc., Put money aside for those I love to do the same or whatever their life’s dream may be.  Buy a Linn separates stereo system.  Tell the bank manager he’s a C U Next Tuesday and can stick his branch up his 4rse.

5) Places you have lived: Chelsea/Ealing/Baker St./Latimer Rd./Oxford/Cleveland, Ohio/E. Sussex/Munich/Peckham/Deptford/Greenwich/Lewisham/Rostock/New Cross/Catford/Sidcup/Northampton/Here

6) Victims: Big John, Sarah, Sin, Rayts, Haddock, Lynne, Sister Spikey Mace

Song Of The Day ~ Death Cab For Cutie – I Will Possess Your Heart

Advances In Automotive Technology

I like this, this is very good.  Not quite flying penguins but made up for a vicious crossword in The Guardian today!

bmwcaninerepellentsystem.jpg 

Song Of The Day ~ SixNationState – Caught The Sun  

Aesthetics And Social Cohesion

I have always rather presumptuously regarded myself as something of an aesthete.  I like to look or hear or experience things that seem to have depth and soul, I suppose in a way we all do however we choose to express it.

It is not important to me what source the aesthetic comes from and therefore I may not draw a distinction between the beauty that is inherent in nature around us from that which is created by those of us here.  I do not see one as being the product of an omnipotent creator whilst the other is the mere triflings of ‘its’ creations.  We are a product of the earth and just as anything that is beautiful here so anything we fashion is by extension a form of natural aesthetic.

Some people see that which is aesthetic and appreciate it, others seek to possess it and here the left-wing must stand against such action.  To own an item that has aesthetic value is to deprive it of much of that aesthetic for you confine the circumstances by which its beauty may manifest.  Something that is not only aesthetic but accessible by many is far greater in its power to influence and bring happiness than that which is locked away only for the dubious pleasure of the selfish individual.  To feel one must possess in order to enjoy is a product of the avaricious society in which many of us have been brought up and the hegemony of greed is camouflaged by the notion that such action is inherent in human nature.  It isn’t.

The removal of an item of aesthetic beauty from its environment may not seem per se make the item itself less beautiful but it may remove it from a part of the aesthetic makeup that may come from, or be in contrast to its surroundings.

Poppies are a pretty flower in themselves but the poppies that grew in the fields of Flanders were especially poignant precisely because of their contrast to all the killing that had gone on in the area before, their beauty showed that in spite of what had gone before an area could be reclaimed by nature and that the beauty nature had to offer transcended the deeds in that location that had gone before it.  If people were to wear poppies on their lapels all year round it would rob them of their symbolism as the antithesis of war and death.  If one were to pick the ones in Flanders and put them in a vase they would be no different from ones picked at the roadside anywhere.

We all have the ability to experience the aesthetic and the subjectivity of what we consider of beauty is something that marks out our individuality as people but in turn can bring much cohesion in common ground with those whom we might otherwise think we share nothing.  The appreciation of beauty transcends class, geography, race, religion and gender it is a unifying force like scarcely any other.

The artist that creates and does so as a form of expression may not initially be seen first hand to be providing anything to society as say a skilled labourer or professional but one must take this in the context that society is all of us, each one a constituent and equal part of it.  Much of creative expression comes from the exorcism of negative emotions and without this form of venting these feelings may fester inside and deprive the artist of their ability to be active and engaged.  The loss of one person is of detriment to us all, but by extension the victory of one person over the negativity of their lives can provide us not only with the joy of seeing another reborn but something of a beacon of hope as to the fact that this can happen and to some who are like-minded a template of how this might be done.  The re-emergence of that person into society renders them more likely to be a proactive and productive member of it and this in turn benefits both individual and society in which they may participate.

 

Song Of The Day ~ Supertramp – Take The Long Way Home 

 

riptag 

For some time now I have been eulogising about the current British music scene in response to people who have only been looking at the very mainstream or pop market.  There is a vibrancy about it and a great deal of good bands playing their instruments well, writing good lyrics and tunes, influenced by real music be it from the 60’s 70’s or even the 80’s and 90’s.  However it interests me now that parallels have been drawn with the Britpop era in the mid 1990’s and others who have been looking at things from only the point of view of what is out there in the mainstream who have lost faith entirely in the music scene that may be going on.

There is now in the mainstream an even more factory-based approach than we have seen before.  Stock, Aitken and Waterman are usually trotted out and derided but the standardisation of music was first talked identified by Theodor Adorno in The Culture Industry in the 1930s.  Adorno identified the standard blocks that were used and shifted around in a formulaic way to create the semblance of new music whilst only ever using components that had been tried and tested.  Stock, Aitken and Waterman merely adapted the same technique that had been going on for many decades, the only difference being that they were so successful at it that it became itself the over-arching mainstream.

It is said that mainstream music is a constant battle ground of art and commerce.  I cannot see the forces of art as anything more than the heroic but often naive rearguard action.  Their survival is based on the occasional modicum of success and yet that is always its very downfall for that is what brings it to the attention of the commercial and therein lies the inherent paradox.  Art does not need to be successful to be art, in fact if it is merely trying to be successful there is a question mark over its validity as an artistic medium.  However to reach a wider audience and influence and inform the next generation it is necessary to spread its net at least beyond its own comfort zone so as not to stagnate.  

The Arctic Monkeys were the first to really come through, in a commercial way, an avenue that had not been exploited, namely the internet, but their emergence already signified the beginning of the demise of the internet as an independent medium for music, myspace itself having been but one online medium for the promulgation of music that did not specifically crave commercial success as its raison d’etre.  Such a process is never immediate and at present it is easy for those fans of regional bands forming organically in the schools and colleges of the country and playing their music from their influences and in their own words and accents.

In recent times The Arctic Monkeys were the first to really come through an avenue that had not been exploited, namely the internet, but their very emergence already signified the beginning of the demise of the internet as an independent medium for music.  Such a process is never immediate and at present it is easy for those fans of regional bands forming organically in the schools and colleges of the country and playing their music from their influences and in their own words and accents.  It is an almost golden age for lovers of Indie, Punk and Rock music as there is a huge selection of such music being played in the smaller venues around the country.
 
However for every Kate Nash who slips through the net with a little more grit in her voice and realism in her song-writing there is a Lily Allen who embodies the establishment with her faux emotion, bogus Working Class background and accent and a penchant for designer dresses with a smattering of just enough bad behaviour to make her seem a “rebel” the new enfant terrible  The establishment has always sought to capitalise on the underground, the anti-establishment and as soon as there is any consistency in the it, a degree of order amongst the chaos, it gives the chance to be consumed and exploited. As soon as the underground scene exhibits a popularity that can be milked for profit so the A&R men move in.  It starts off with groups being championed a little more and then the production and advertising becomes almost propaganda-like.  One can see at the moment with the marketing for groups like The Hoosiers and Dragonette whose relatively cult following would not normally precipitate much media interest at this stage but now are part of widescale advertising campaigns and pseudo ‘rockumentaries’ which are little more than infomercials.
 
This has been necessary for the record industry who have been losing revenue hand over fist due to downloads and an increasing dissatisfaction with their formula stage school pop.  The constant influx of reality popstars which served generally only to act as another method for the Italia Conti and the like graduates to obtain exposure.  On the rare occasions that the “right” candidate did not win, such as Michelle McManus or Will Young beating Gareth Gates the difference in subsequent marketing strategy was clear, with the one being marginalised to obscurity whilst the other was foisted on viewers and listeners at seemingly every opportunity.  This continued domination of mainstream music by the banal led to a backlash which took the form of the myspace and online music.  Myspace was of course very quickly bought up by News International thus to a point negating its ability to be an independent source of music distribution.
 
Music does of course go around in loops, to an extent this is organically-driven probably due to those influenced by the music of their parents, inadvertantly or not, creating music of similar genre.  In the early part of the 2000s there was a thriving neo-post-punk scene and a great deal of Clash and Ska-influenced music reminiscent of the anti-prog rock Punk scene of the late 1970s.  Now there is a great deal more early electro influenced music very emblematic of the Joy Division and beyond 1980-3.  If this means that we must endure the somewhat creatively bankrupt late 1980s then heaven help us all!  It will however be interesting to see just how much the music shapes the time and vice versa since it looks likely that the hedonistic commercial excesses of the mid-1980s are very much not on the cards over the next 5 years.
 
Song Of The Day ~ Vampire Weekend – M79 

 

Mediawatch – Getting The Shakes!

Quake

Well bugger me if last night we didn’t have an Earthquake!
 
I know for the readers across the world outside Europe the fact that something of 5.3 on the Richter scale happened here is something of a non-event, however it was the largest one I remember and although only 0.2 higher than the one in 1990 it appeared more severe this time and yet I was about the same distance away from the epicentre as then. In 1990 I remember the toy parrot I had hanging from the ceiling swinging backwards and forwards. In 2002 I came out into the garden and nonchalantly lit up.
 
This one seemed bigger. It started quite benignly, a little shaking and a rumble and I thought, shit, earthquake and carried on watching the telly. Then the rumbling got a lot deeper and more violent and seemed a little more menacing when the crockery and stuff started to shake. There is something quite eerie about that noise, perhaps because it reminds me of the exhibit in the Natural History Museum that had a replica supermarket of the Kobe earthquake with CCTV footage from the event and you could stand in it and be shaken about.
 
It appeared to go on for longer than the others I have known as well, there is something primevally discomforting about the Earth moving, it sickens the stomach a little when it goes beyond that sense of something one can shrug off. The body seems to feel little after ripples as well, and it isn’t just me who’s felt that. Whether or not that was a seismic or a psychological thing I cannot say.
 
There was apparently an aftershock at 4am, I didn’t notice, I’d had enough excitement for one night!
 
Song Of The Day ~ Led Zeppelin – You Shook Me

 

Red Baron’s Alphabet

*

It’s a simple idea that I got from a band I’m going to see play shortly, you can see The Duke Spirit‘s alphabet, if the server is up. Sometimes it’s nice to have something that focuses your thinking on important things it’s an interesting method of reflection. You are of course welcome to try it for yourself. Oh and yes the photo is one of mine, so yes it was in a way just to show it off ‘cos I was chuffed with it!

  • A – Theodore Adorno, Apple, Art Deco, Anarchy,
  • B – Berlin, Georg Büchner, Bertold Brecht, Baby Blue, Blogging, Black & White, Borsalino, Bacon sandwich, Beach, Beer, Das Boot, Beach, Battersea Power Station, Bi-Polar Disorder
  • C – Chelsea, Children, Noam Chomsky, Canon, Michael Caine, John Coltrane, Cyrillic, Cassandre, Communist Manifesto
  • D – Ian Dury, Bob Dylan, Dad, Demo, Charles Dickens, Depression, DDR
  • E – Elm Park Mansions, Every one a winner,
  • F – Fionnula, Fulham, Fedora hat, Father Ted, Fisheye lens, Forest, Football Manager,
  • G – Germany, Goodbye Lenin, Grass,
  • H – ETA Hoffman, Bill Hicks, L’Homme du Train, John Humphrys, Hammer & Sickle
  • I – Ireland, Interrail, Ipcress File, Indie, Isambard Kingdom Brunel,
  • J – Jasper, Matt Johnson,
  • K – King’s Road, Wassily Kandinsky, Kernow, Kilkenny City,
  • L – Led Zeppelin, John Le Carré, Lemon Sole, Language, Harold Lloyd, Luvly Jubly, Love
  • M – Mother, Marx, Minolta, Charles Rennie MacIntosh, ‘My Old School’ (this refers to the song not literally my school), Mr Benn, Miner’s Strike, Myspace, Maeve (Queen of the Faeries)
  • N – Nostalgia, Night Owl,
  • O – Oxford, Oliver Postgate,
  • P – Pink Floyd, John Pilger, Photo, Prague, Politics, Praktica, Pale Rider ale, 
  • Q – Quintessential, Questions
  • R – Red Baron, Rimbault, Ragtime, Rock
  • S – Sepia, Sunset, Snow, Summer Rain, Socialism, Steam, Sausages, Sea, Sarcasm, Shiraz, Scala, Shoegaze
  • T – The The, Thai Green Curry, Trench coat, Trees, Trips down memory lane, Tipperary
  • U – U2, Vladimir Illyich Ulyanov,
  • V – What the Victorians did for us,
  • W – Wim Wenders, Wax, Writing,
  • X – eXtremely difficult to think of anything for X other than Xylophone or X-Ray neither of which I have had much to do with of late.
  • Y – You, The Yacht Inn Penzance,
  • Z – Bahnhoff Zoo, Zoom Lens,

Anyone mentions Freud they’ll get a punch up the bracket! (*And yes the photo is a shameless piece of self-publicity!)

Song Of The Day ~ Kingmaker – Armchair Anarchist

ROAR!

roar 

Look – I got a ROAR courtesy of Genosse Haddock .  I was touched and pleased, I mean no-one expects a puse lion do they?!.  No matter how one might talk of the integrity of not writing for others and staying true to what I’m here for it is always very moving to know that there are others who read what I have written whether or not they agree with what I say. I believe the convention is to give 3 tips on writing from one’s own perspective and then to nominate 3 other writers of note that deserve such an award.  The latter is a relatively simple affair in all but narrowing down to just 3, I have been blessed to find many writers out there with unique styles and perspectives.  The former is a little more presumptuous I cannot tell others how to write only that they should do so.  In my view the internet has become the potential to realise Walther Benjamin’s vision of the democratisation of the media that he originally perceived for film.  There will always be dross but that pervades any media and is of course a very subjective concept.  The fact is that now more than ever this medium is, as has been pointed out by Sister Spikey Mace, the Fourth Estate whether one chooses to see oneself more as the Fifth Column or not. The hegemony of the modern media and politics is so all-pervasive that it is attempting to be entirely prescriptive of public opinion rather than in any way representative of it. This is something that we few here have the chance to show, if our voices reache another one then the job has been worthwhile. “Write it damn you, what else are you good for?”– James Joyce.

  • 1. Write what you want to write and not what you feel will appeal to others.  If you are true to yourself you will not worry about the approval of others and this would be an added bonus should it come.  In the words of WH Auden who knew a bit about writing. “Some writers confuse authenticity which they should always strive for with originality which they shouldn’t bother about.
  • 2. Write about something you are interested in, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know a great deal about it provided you are willing to learn.  You may find your opinions tested and this is the only way for any of us to ascertain whether what we believe is correct.
  • 3. Keep writing, if you are writing for yourself and what you believe in then at the very least what you leave behind is a monologue of personal progression.  However it may end up being something of great note such of still much missed friend and comrade the great Cass Brown.

As regards those I have come across and read and even to an extent admire there are many but a core of whom I would regularly be interested in reading. Of those 3 I believe the following would be worthy of note in addition to my urging readers to look at the many others on the list who turn out pieces of merit day after day andAs for my fellow scribes I have cogitated long and hard, because one is always going to offend someone! I have decided to go for my 3 on the grounds of their content alone and not simply because they are mates. Ok they are mates but that’s not the point I have other mates who write too!

  • 1. Rayts of The Phillipines – Rayts offers a really quite aesthetically touching blog from the Eastern regions. The quality of her photography is easy to see and she has that eye that can make an interesting subject out of the mundane. It is a gift and as someone who doesn’t have that gift I have learnt to appreciate those who have it. (Not without a good deal of jealousy on the way!). Rayts’ blog has archives of pictures that you can browse back through and look at all day, lovely composition and suffused with colour. I offer it as something for people to do in order to appreciate beauty again, it’s so easy to become lost in the ephemera of the mundane.
  • 2. Big John – Now the Big Man has been honoured before in his appearance in The Guardian so I know the fame of another award won’t go to his head! I like John’s blog because it is well-written and regularly updated, I only have to go away for a few days and there’s a plethora of stuff to catch up on. To my mind John’s blog is the very epitome of what diary blogging is about. There is no pretension or presumption it is the view of someone who has observed much and shares his opinion which is often insightful, usually humorous and quite frequently irreverent.
  • 3. Craig Murray – Ok Craig Murray isn’t a mate, but I have met him at a pre- G8 protest meeting in Edinburgh in 2005 and a very nice chap he is too. For those not in the know Craig was the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and stood up for the dispossessed and disenfranchised in the country and the region rather than cow-towing to the politics of the US and UK government who had earmarked Uzbekistan as a useful ally and place to build airbases for forays into the Middle East. Craig is a courageous man of great integrity and principle and I admire him. I do not agree with all of his politics Craig is more what I would call a liberal in the not insulting sense(!) but I respect his views enormously and having the conviction of standing up for them no matter what the personal cost. I recommend people consider buying his book Murder In Samarkand which is excellent and sort of like an embedded John Pilger.

So that’s that then. I hope this may spur me on to at least attempt to write more often, I do have a number of things in draft, I have not gone soft in my old age but through a combination of lethargy and codeine-induced hazes brought about by abject back pain my writing has not been of the frequency I would desire.  I will do my best to rectify this parlous state of affairs.

Song Of The Day ~ Ghosts – The World Is Outside

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I heard Rev Jesse Jackson talk about the battle for the Democrat Presidential Candidate nomination yesterday, he has publically endorsed Barack Obama but he referred to the fact that having a black male and a woman stand must be good for democracy. On the face of it, this is an easy claim to make and it lends itself well to a soundbite to declare that US democracy must be healthy to have put up 2 high profile candidates from groups formerly ill-represented at the higher levels of political representation.

I have respect for Jackson, he has consistently stuck his head above the parapet when on many occasions it was imprudent even to the point of danger to do so. In spite of this something about this point of ‘good for democracy’ didn’t quite sit right. I got to thinking about why.

Firstly taking the specific example of US democracy my thoughts at present are that Barack Obama is not a great move away from the status quo anyway, he may possibly be slightly less establishment than John Kerry this hardly constitutes any great achievement. However Obama has stated this month that he would carry out attacks on Pakistan if intelligence suggested there were terrorists meeting there, this was in response to accusations levelled by Hilary Clinton that his foreign policy was naive which in turn was in response to his claim that if successful in the presidential race he would pull troops out of Iraq. It is one thing to say that you will withdraw from a deeply unpopular and drawn-out conflict where there is little hope of a measure of success, it is quite another to say that you are anti the reasons for the war and the US’ interventionalist and imperialist foreign policy in the first place. Neither Barack Obama nor Hilary Clinton’s stance give any indication that they anything but another shade of establishment colour, albeit a slightly diluted one.

It is one thing to think that the US might vote for a woman president, and this is by no means a sure thing – but let us not forget that woman is now as embroiled a political establishment figure as the Kennedys, Obama may be a part of the status quo rather than that of the people he seeks to represent but he remains a black man in a country that is fiercely divided and at times out and out rascist and this will, in my opinion, prevent him from being elected. If the Christian right can swing an election for a dangerous war criminal then I am quite certain they can ensure that no black man will become President and I remain as yet unconvinced that they will not prevent Hilary Clinton as well.

This gave rise to thought about a wider debate, hence the title of the piece and it is the dangers that we face as the opposition because we are so sectarian in our outlooks. This is not entirely our faults, it is not generally intentional but it is ruthlessly exploited by the other side. By not working together our impact is restricted and often negligible and any gains achieved will only happen in small areas and this is problematic because those things can be picked off later with minimal fuss in times of “crisis”. One only has to look at the repeal of a great many human rights that were conceeded as part of the war on terror as well as worker’s rights previously ceded in the Reagan/Thatcher era in homage to rampant materialist capitalism under the guise of being part of the 1980’s boom.

The struggle for rights sticks so often to specific pressure groups and stays within the confines of those single issues. This could be seen as being strong and having particular focus. However those that fight actively for women’s rights frequently remain seperate from those fighting for say ethnic minorities or rights for the disabled or children or environmental issues. That is not to say that they disagree with the issues one another fight for, in fact the more reactionary the incumbant regime the more these groups are likely to be in agreement with one another, but in turn they may also be more wary if under any level of repression. Many may simply not get so involved with multiple causes because one cannot spread oneself too thin. Others may feel that involvement at a grass roots level can bring greater changes. The flip side is that if each cause can only look to its ardent followers and activists it may therefore seem to be a much more specialised group than if one were to be able to count those who actually agreed with the issues themselves.

For example let us look at the perception of the political opposition – by which I mean those opposed to the Washington Consensus not those merely arguing over the minutiae of exploitation within it. We were traditionally seen as a bunch of extremists, marginalised and ridiculed like the environmental protesters beforehand. That was until Seattle in 1999 and the huge anti-war demonstrations in 2003 – then it became clear that there was a vast section of disgruntled people prepared to go out and say ‘enough’ and the establishment seemed a little unclear how to handle this coherent force that appeared to be gathering in strength and support and uniting groups who traditionally had kept a distance from one another. Since then as the impetus has faded somewhat and so the drive to continue working together as a movement to force political change has waned. Groups have started to go back to talking about the areas in which they disagree rather than the areas of common ground. A number of things have led to this including certain influential groups going back to the areas they see as of the most paramount importance. Additionally there is the annexation of ideals by the establishment in an effort to suggest that, on what appear to be the most fervent issues, they have taken note.

Thus I am unsurprised at there being an establishment white woman and an establishment black man standing for the democratic nomination – this is perfect political positioning and will split the dissention vote. If there were to be a black woman standing, that might well herald some change for it would unify much of those who traditionally are marginalised and disenfranchised by mainstream politics, especially in the biparteid US. Equally a black female would be too much for much of the current electorate to bear and possibly also galvanise the ultra reactionary Christian right.

I believe this is why Marx called on the need for a party to be representative of these concerns and herein lies our problem, most of us on the political opposition have become utterly dissolutioned with party politics because it is not representative of us, it merely morphes into different guises to garner votes before continuing to represent those in power, those with money and land and influence. I have not as yet been able to think of a solution to this problem, it seems unlikely that another party would be able to form and take on this task, there was a chance in the UK with Respect, and the media furore against it appeared to suggest a genuine fear of it’s potential following the anti-war movement but this has since petered out and Respect has become very much weaker in the political conviction of its position on issues such as religion and secular republicanism in an effort to retain the votes of large sections of its supporters such as the Muslim block vote. I am not opposed to the inclusion of other disaffected groups working for a common cause, after all I am talking about unity etc here but to me secularism is at the heart of any left-wing popular movement, this does not preclude people’s own rights to worship in whatever way they see fit, it merely draws a distinction between that being part of any state apparatus. To my mind the US Christian right illustrates all too well the dangers that this can pose.

Song Of The Day ~ Ben Folds Five – Battle Of Who Could Care Less