Thursday, 1 December 2011

Soundtrack to a Strike

Very much a work in progress this. I was trying to think of stuff that should be on an OST for the day. This is what I ended up with:

The Workers - Let's Work Together
The Specials - Ghost Town (h/t Perrin124)
Rage Against the Machine - Maggie's Farm
Captain Ska - Liar Liar
Billy Bragg - There is Power in a Union
Manic Street Preachers - If You Tolerate This Your Children Will be Next
Manic Street Preachers - Natwestbarclaysmidlandslloyds
The Enemy Within - Strike (cheers again to Perrin)
Luke Haines - Never Work
Radiohead - Electioneering
NxtGen - The Andrew Lansley Rap
Marxism 2008 Closing Rally - The Internationale

Any further suggestions welcome - we'll use it on the next one. Solidarity, comrades.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

All in all, pretty good

Right then. First things first. The government's lines on this have simply got to look ridiculous to most people by now. If it doesn't, I may have to despair of my sunny, optimistic view of human nature. On the upside, the last poll I saw showed a majority of support for our action.

From the inside, it was good. I was on two picket lines today and no one crossed at either of them. The demo in the city centre was pretty good:

The general turnout seems to have been pretty good - 7,000 in Leicester, 20,000 in Bristol and Liverpool, for example and the strike action seems to have been fairly solid nationally.

From my personal experience there was a good level of general support from the public, too. Unfortunately no one particularly amusing was in opposition (unless you count the homeless bloke who shouted 'Get back to work you lazy bastards' at us. Which I don't, on account of its being genuinely baffling.)

The biggest problem was that there were a couple of thousand people and the only space that was available for speeches was in a marquee big enough to hold a couple of hundred. That, and the ice rink that was filling most of the space, leaving us wedged up against the Guild Hall. These are, as I'm sure you'll agree, pretty minor complaints.

Of course the big thing now is: what next. Personally, I think we should be planning for more action in January. What say you, interwebs?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Oh, for Gods' Sake

There are many reasons not to like Michael Gove. But aside from his elitism, parochialism, incompetence, viciousness, fundamental opposition to the concept of public service, his general meanness of spirit and possession of less charm than Arnold J Rimmer, his stupidity is what is currently annoying me.

This isn't actually related to the strikes - that's a whole other seething cauldron of outrage. This is his move to put a copy of the KJV in every school in the land - with a foreword of his own.

OK, it's only 2 lines, so it's not worth getting too worked up about. But he's not a Biblical scholar. He can't have anything to add to the text other than his own opinion on it - and who the fuck cares what he thinks about the Bible? It's only a few months since he tried to remove the statutory requirement to teach RE from the national curriculum, and has completely opposed including RE in the EBacc. And judging from his behaviour, he clearly isn't much of a Christian either, so sending round copies of his no doubt awe-inspiring thoughts on the KJV just smacks of arrogance.

What really annoys me about this is not the redundancy of spending money at a time when he's cutting everything else on a book that all schools have plenty of anyway (as the National Secular Society have pointed out).

There are 2 major annoyances that outrank this:

  1. He doesn't seem to be in a rush to send out copies of other major religious texts. The excuse for this surfeit of self-promotion is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the KJV. Last year was the 100th anniversary of the first simultaneous English-Arabic translation of the Qur'an. I don't remember a free copy turning up at school.

  2. The KJV is not a good translation. Most of the NT is based on a single, late, Greek edition and from an educational point of view the NRSV is much better, being a modern English edition based on decades of study by scholars piecing together a representative text based on the widest possible selection of the most accurate available texts. Personally, I wouldn't use the KJV in teaching.

In short, another day, another reason plethora of reasons to dislike the secretary of state for education.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The inevitable pre-strike post.

Phew, we're nearly there. The Tories have obligingly refused to 'negotiate' any further so not even Barber has an excuse to cave in now. We're nearly there.

*A scuffling is heard from the back of the crowd. A scruffy urchin forces his way through the press of bodies. Removing his woebegone cap in an automatic gesture of genuflection, the wide-eyed, soot-besmirched imp stares in wonderment.*

"What's that, Tide? You wanted the Tories to break off negotiations? Why you left-wing communist with your infantile disorder!"

"Young fool", saith I, loftily, "that is not so. For you see, there were no negotiations to break off!"

"Why sir, you are a veritable verbal prestidigitator and no mistake! But how so? For surely I heard Mr Cameron this very morn insist that they would make no more concessions. Logically there must have been some in the first place for there to be any more even in potentia?"

Ahem. I'm dropping this frankly ludicrous pseudo-literary device now.

No. There were no negotiations. There was a bit of clumsy divide-and-rule, trying to hive off the very lowest paid and those closest to retirement from the rest, but it was so appallingly done that no one fell for it.*

Even more brilliantly, the government point-blank refused to carry out the triannual review. This is the 3-yearly review to check if the pension fund is OK. The fact that they wouldn't do this review is pretty good evidence that they knew there wasn't a problem. For corroboration you could look at these two interesting facts:
  1. The teachers' fund has had £46 billion more paid into it since 1923 than has been taken out.
  2. Teachers' pensions are unfunded. The money just disappears into the Treasury.
They should really just admit that the extra money would in fact go not on our pensions anyway, but on deficit reduction. Because we don't need to put any money into the pension scheme. So while Cameron boasted yesterday about cutting corporation tax and a maximum wage for the wealthy has been ruled out, the poorest paid in society (civil service pensions average at around £5,500 annually) are to be taxed to reduce the deficit. Say it again: "WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER."

I'm not going to be dumb enough to try to predict the future in a situation like this, but I think it's clear that the best chance of breaking this deceitful, manipulative, plutocratic shower of piss that calls itself the coalition has got to be a big day next week. And where possible it has to be whispered: All out and stay out.

Because this isn't about protest. It is about winning.

*Here's how it would work. Those earning under £15k would not face an increase in contributions. Hurrah! You might think. But this would include pro-rata posts. So you could work 2 days a week and still face a doubling of your contributions. And guess what? Lots of low-paid workers are part-time! Clever.

At the other end of the scale, the over-50s were told they wouldn't have to face an increase in retirement age. But they'd still have to double their contributions and they'd still have had the RPI measure switched to CPI. So they'd still lose.

*Attenborough whisper* The mistake I think the ConDems have made is in assuming that we're as stupid as they are.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Post of Surreal Frivolity, or, Why Kevin Ovenden Has the Head of a Giant Fly

This has nothing to do with anything really, but it's been hanging around the periphery of my mind's eye (not sure where that would be - in the corner next to the Locked Trunk of Teenage Embarrassment?) and tonight seems to be the time to expunge it.

Here it is: I think Kevin Ovenden has the head of a giant fly.

Wait, come back! Let me explain.

I've never met Kevin Ovenden. From what I've seen of his comments on Lenin's Tomb he seems like a sane and interesting commentator. This is in no way a comment on Kevin Ovenden.

On Lenin's Tomb he posts like this:

Perhaps some of you already see the problem. For the rest, watch MY MAGNIFICENT BRAIN.

In my head, Kevin's ID becomes:

See where I'm going with this?


See, I'm not mad! NOT MAD, I TELL YOU!


Sorry, Kevin. I'm not entirely sure why I had to share this. Anyway, on a completely unrelated note, I'm off to bed. Like the Dread Pirate Roberts, I'll probably kill this entry in the morning.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Louise Mensch Beverage Scale of Permitted Capitalist Criticism

Following Louise Mensch's remarkable revelation of a new form of critique of political economy on Friday

I have reflected on this remarkable insight. If she's right, then whilst the liberal left are 'swooning at her brio' we're missing valuable research time. As Marxists we are bound by our own credo to rigorous materialist analysis, and beverage consumption is such an obviously materialist habit that it deserves close attention. Let's elaborate this remarkable theory, I thought to myself in my secret underground Marxist lab at Proletarian Towers. And to that end, I have devised the 'Louise Mensch Beverage Scale of Permitted Capitalist Criticism' heretoforeafter referred to as the Mensch Scale.

The Mensch scale is a comparison scale between 0 and 4, where a level 4 subject is permitted full criticism of capitalism up to and including promoting anarcho-syndicalism as an alternative means of the self-reproduction of society, and level 0 represents someone whose consumption of beverages enmeshed in the capitalist system of production should just keep their fucking mouths shut, the ingrate serf scum.

Like the Beaufort Scale, we must have examples so that if we are in conversation with someone we know exactly the point at which any criticisms of the capitalist system or any of its constituent parts goes beyond the permitted maximum. As soon as this point is reached, the correct response is to raise your hand firmly and instruct the vagabond to halt their discourse. 'Cease your mimsy prattle, fool,' instruct the presumptuous ignoramus, 'for the way in which liquids that trickle through your digestive tract AS YOU PRESUME TO PEDDLE YOUR CRITICAL MIND-TURNIPS THIS DAY were produced preclude your being given an attentive ear.'


As an alternative, you may use the classic 'T' symbol beloved of basketball sportspersons to indicate a 'time out'. In our case of course, the 'T' will stand for actual tea.

Enough elucidation - I realise that you must be gagging to classify yourself, family and friends!

Level 4
Permitted criticism of capitalism = Total. Academies, Goldman-Sachs, concentration of capital, etc.
To achieve level 4, you must drink untreated mineral water collected yourself from a babbling mountain brook near your hermitage. Of course, you must not boil the water before drinking it, unless you mine the metal to create a kettle yourself. Purchasing so much as a camping kettle with one of those little whistle cap thingies on it basically takes you right back to the level of the Koch brothers.

Famous Level 4s: none.

Level 3
Permitted level of criticism of capitalism = TNCs, sweatshop labour and the military-industrial complex.
To achieve level 3, you are allowed to drink water from the tap, despite its being produced by privatised water companies. You *must not* add Robinsons' Barley Water to it to make a weak lemon drink, however.
Famous Level 3s: basically, this is John Harvey Kellogg.

Level 2
Permitted level of criticism of capitalism = privatised train networks, quality of the gifts in Kinder Surprise.
To achieve level 2, you may drink tap water and fairtrade tea and coffee. On no account must you purchase this coffee from some kind of franchise or drink Ribena. THIS WILL RENDER YOUR UNHAPPINESS WITH TRAIN JOURNEYS NULL AND VOID.
Famous Level 2s: Lucy Mangan, probably.

Level 1
Permitted level of criticism of capitalism = the speed of service in Nando's. AND NOTHING ELSE.
Level 1s will drink Fentiman's lemonade at National Trust gift shops, then think NOTHING of washing it down with R Whites. Why don't these people just FUCK OFF AND DIE? They probably drink Ty-Phoo, the despicable BASTARDS.
Famous Level 1s: YOU. If you're LUCKY.

Level 0
Permitted level of criticism of capitalism = What on earth makes you think you can criticise capitalism, you insignificant, smelly turd? IT PROVIDES YOUR BEVERAGES.
Level 0s would drink Coca-Cola at a Showcase Cinema, EVEN IF SOMEONE WAS WATCHING.
Famous Level 0s: given the size of the sample, it was hard to narrow it down, but here's two:

Luis 'Chile' Eduardo, Columbian Sinaltrainal union official working with employees of Coca-Cola bottlers, who routinely receives messages like this:

The Paramilitaries of Magdalenena Medio, The Black Eagles, call on the terrorist Coca-Cola trade unionists to stop bad mouthing the Coca-Cola Corporation given that they have caused enough damage already. If there is no response we declare them military targets of the Black Eagles, and they will be dealt with as they prefer: death, torture, cut into pieces, coup de grace. No more protests![1]

Erol Turedi, one of the Coca-Cola Icecek (Coca-Cola Turkish subsidiary) workers sacked for asking for a wage increase and organising union representation in their workplace. At a demonstration where 200 sacked workers walked into the Dudullu plant,

'1,000 police [were] drafted in to cope with the 200 protestors. The Cevik Kuvvet - 'robo cops' in full body armour - mass outside and are deployed into the building in groups. They fill the corridors. They occupy the balcony. They take the floor above the workers. Hundreds of police appear in the atrium, with riot shields and batons at the ready. The police charge nets six arrests and forces the protestors into a corner, the women and children huddled at the back by the walls. The men stand in front of them. They have linked arms together in an effort to protect themselves and their families, but when the assault finally comes their efforts are proved to be instinctive rather than practical. In front of them are 1,000 police and behind them the children have started to cry.

Finally Coca-Cola's managers agree to talk to the union. So while the police corner the families downstairs [union] President K and the union lawyer go upstairs for talks. It is late afternoon when they gather in a meeting room, which is small. Around a table, which is large. Alongside the managers, which is essential. And next to the police ... which is baffling.

... If events were going badly upstairs, events downstairs took an unexpected turn for the worse. On the frontline Erol looked out at the police - 'they just pulled down the gas masks and that was when we knew.' ... Their eyes widen as they tell of stumbling into each other in panic and blindness, gasping for breath. Thye curse the polie as children were separated from their parents and the men beaten with riot sticks. And they hold out their hands when they talk of being bundled into the police wagons outside, of reaching up to the small windows to gasp for fresh air - only to be sprayed in the face by the police.[1]

Shut up! You drank Coke! What do you think you're doing, Level 0s?
[1] Mark Thomas, Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola, 2008

Friday, 2 September 2011

Just so we're clear...

This is a BAD idea:
Ministers are scrapping a requirement for teachers to record instances when they use physical force, as part of a wider move to "restore adult authority" in the wake of the riots in England.
Here are some reasons why neither I nor any teacher I know thinks this is good:
  1. Pupils should not be afraid of their teachers, as this is a barrier to their learning. If you are afraid of your teacher, you are less inclined to view your education as an opportunity, and more likely to view yourself in opposition to it.
  2. There are plenty of alternatives to force in dealing with classroom behaviour issues. If you do need to use force, you have already lost your authority.
  3. The link with the riots is specious. It is not a coincidence that the riots happened in the most deprived areas of London. The underlying cause is inequality, not a lack of caning.
  4. I didn't get into this job to beat children. However annoying it is when a lesson doesn't go to plan, grabbing hold of a kid is not a solution to the problem.
  5. This whole thing feeds into the right-wing myth that the primary cause of bad behaviour is a lack of discipline. This is part of the whole hang 'em, flog 'em, dose of national service bollocks. As Lenin recently noted: Greece has national service. It is not 'discipline' that is the problem. Discipline is an issue for the army and a prison, not a free society. Yes, we need a certain level of co-operation to do our jobs, and yes there needs to be an understanding that there are consequences for poor behaviour, but this has to be based on the understanding that co-operation and good behaviour are beneficial to the individual students and their peers, not 'cos I'll give you a clip round the ear if you don't. Which can be complicated and tedious, but has the benefit of not being neolithic.
As you were.

Thursday, 21 July 2011


Hello everyone. I'll helping to make placards for Saturday's demo to save Bombardier.

Any suggestions for slogans?

So far I'm a bit stuck. Best I've got so far is

'ConDems - off the rails'

and the rather more prosaic

'Save Bombardier workers'

I'm sure you can do better - help me, intertubez!

H/T to Tony Burke for the flyer - my scanner's buggered at the moment...

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Bombardier: La Lutte Commence (ou possiblement, Continue)

I've just come from an open organising meeting called by the RMT to kick off the campaign to save 1500 jobs at Bombardier (and thousands more support jobs) in the wake of the decision not to award the company the Thameslink contract.

There was an amazing display of solidarity tonight. As well as speakers from RMT, GMB, and TSSA, MP Chris Williamson was there, who has been circulating a petition that in less than two weeks has got more than 34,000 signatures.

In addition, there were statements of support from the city's Trades Council, Unison, NUT, climate change activists, LMHR and workers from Birmingham. There was also mention of unusual cross-spectrum support, which even extends as far as the *shudder* Di'ly Sexpress.

The main thrust of this post is the stuff you can do to help. Here's a list:
  • Sign Chris's petition - it's paper, and the deadline is this weekend so turn up to the Carribean carnival on Saturday where there will be a stall for you to put your name to it.
  • Go to the Right to Work meeting on Tuesday - at The Quad in the Market Place, 7 pm. This is a broad front meeting with speakers from Right to Work, Labour, SWP, the Green Party, the Indian Workers Asociation, Climate Change and trade unionists. This meeting is to help build public support for the Bombardier workers, all are welcome.
  • Sign Unite's petition here.
  • Lobby your MP. The Bombardier issue has received unusual levels of cross-party support, even within the Con-Dems, so tell them you want the decision to give Siemens Preferred Bidder Status revoked NOW, before any final decisions are made.
  • Go to the rally on the 23rd. This rally is sponsored by all four unions at Bombardier - Unite, TSSA, GMB and RMT. Meet on Saturday 23rd at Bass Recreation Ground, 10.00.
  • Lobby the Con-Dems during conference season. Info on the Right to Work campaigns on that here.
  • Any other suggestions welcome - just put them in the comments.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

How Not to Get a Good Night's Sleep

I was about to go to bed when I thought I'd check up on Lenin. It turns out he's had an article in today's Graun about the Murdoch implosion, which obviously I'm finding satisfying on a number of levels. Specifically he was commenting on Ed 'Twat' Miliband's decision to stick the boot in now the beast is wounded*.

Point is, much though I enjoy Richard's writing, CiF becomes an even worse bearpit than usual under his articles. A brief survey of the comments suggests at least 3 sub-species of Trollus Cryptofascistus.
  • The 'cynic'. This is a common troll endemic to CiF threads. Cynics usually acknowledge that something is not good but then proceed to offer up whatever banal platitudes they use to ensure they don't actually have to do anything about it and lets them drown out the little squeals of guilt that occasionally erupt from the dustier layers of their reptilian hindbrains. These trolls' comments usually have the effect of siding with the aggressor against the victim - ach, you see it every day in the playground, bless them. Typical examples include iamaliberal:
Labour - the party with the bravery to kick someone when they are already down.

  • The 'clearly a hack'. Typical examples include Ilohan:

Whilst the media, liberal commenators, Ed Miliband etc get in a hysterical tizzy about events that happened years ago and are, in any case, a side effect of having a free press....1000s of people are losing their jobs in Derby cos we have no meaningful industrial policy**...

But some dodgy phone tapping is a national crisis...

I don't know...but have we al lost our minds?

  • The 'Sir Thickington Thickalot'. These are generally just your examples of either pig-ignorance or outright barefaced lying. Possibly a witches' brew of both. Examples include flatpackhamster:
Did you know that Richard Seymour, the author of this article, is an active member of the Socialist Worker's Party? Did you know that his party campaigns for totalitarian rule and glorifies the Soviet era?

The last ones do at least have comedy value. However, it brings out the worst in me.

* For the record, it's great that he is sticking the boot in, long may it continue. However little confidence I have that it will, should Murdoch manage to pull something out of the bag to stop the rot and begin reinflating his rancid bladder of a media empire. Maybe he could do something about his unfortunate tattoo whilst he's at it.

**PS - it's not because 'we have no meaningful industrial policy' - at least, not in the sense I suspect Ilohan means. It is, as ever, because of the way capitalism runs industry. And if you want to stop the job losses, there's a public meeting next Tuesday.

UPDATE: Having grabbed a few hours sleep, I've come to the conclusion that in fact this is a pretty normal CiF crowd. And in some ways, isn't that the biggest disappointment of them all, eh?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

In Praise of Chris Bryant

Chris Bryant is coming dangerously close to restoring my faith in elected representatives. Yesterday there was this, and today there was this!

Come the revolution, I for one will aim to miss. His criticisms are so reasoned and substantive that I feel a bit guilty about the following snark aimed at the periphery of his statements.

Here it is: Astonishing - first he works out that the PCC is a fig leaf, then he spots that Burley's 'a bit dim'.

Hmm, you know, reading that back, I feel that I've irrevocably lost any claim to the moral high ground ever.

There is still going to be a Marxism post. Honest.

UPDATE: Of course, nobody's perfect

Thursday, 30 June 2011


First off, sorry this is late. The strike kept me pretty busy all day, then I was off to Marxism 2011 straight after work on Friday (of which more later). Anyway, this is more of a diary entry than an attempt to analyse, but I hope I capture something of why I think it was a welcome and positive development.

We got some good coverage today -here's Radio Derby (about 46:00 in - listen for the vile Tory MP proud to be scabbing, but the best bit starts at about 2hrs 20 and there's a great piece from Sue, who teaches at a local PRU, closer to 2hrs 30).

Here's how the paper went with it:

Workers were told at a rally in Derby's Market Place that more strikes would follow if the Government did not back down on its plans to raise the pension age for public workers to 68 and increase ontributions.

Keith Venables, Derby National Union of Teachers president, said: "Strikes after the summer holiday could lead to an autumn of discontent."

In yesterday's action, members of the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, and the Universities and Colleges Union joined those in the Public and Commercial Services union for the one-day strike .

With other unions preparing to ballot members, including Unison and the National Association of Head Teachers, leaders are confident the percentage of schools shut or partially closed next time could be nearer 100%.

Which is pretty positive, really. There's some photos here.

All in all, I think this was a good turnout and we have good reason to hope for a wider strike in the autumn. I also think that a healthy proportion of people are not buying the government line on the strikes despite the blanket media coverage and the spinelessness of the Labour leadership. Of course, the key thing is to broaden it out now.

Finally, despite NUT and ATL not being a majority of staff members in our school, it was largely shut down on the day, so from a personal perspective there was the added benefit of having an actual effect.


Off to a strike meeting in a minute, but this tickled me:

'Is US TV too leftwing?'

And as an example of leftwing, the Graun's put up a picture of The West Wing. I shit you not.

Dear America,
Thank you for reminding me how comparitively unfucked our political discourse still is and how vitally important it is that, to paraphrase Lenin, you be removed from your position and replaced with something which differs in all other respects from you.

Yours etc

The Proletarian Tide
(dictated but not read)

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Might find this handy

I know I'll find a use for it...
I think it came from these guys - cheers!

I Don't Think Much of Ed Milliband's New Tattoo

Sometimes I can't help but think these kind of things are a mistake. I mean, once it's done, it's permanent. It's the sort of thing that can make you squirm with embarrassment for years if you don't get it done right.

On a related note:

Oh good. I'd hate to think that the leader of the Labour Party would back us, the people who routinely vote for his party, at a time when our livelihoods are under attack by some of the most reactionary hacks ever to disgrace the title of Minister of State. No, Ed, you tell us that it's our fault. Why oh why don't we use our incredible presence in the national media to make our case to the public before we take action to defend ourselves? Shouldn't take much longer than the rest of this century, after all.

And that's before you get to the bollocks about 'opening the Labour Party up' - no, you arse. The Labour Party was founded to defend the working class against the depredations of the capitalist class. It's not MEANT to be for everyone. It's to help the majority organise to defend against the powerful minority in society. It's not going to be able to do that if every branch has to listen to what the local Alan bloody Sugar thinks about every damned thing.

Still, I think the tattoo is the biggest mistake.

UPDATE: Anyways, I've got yer 'case for strike action' right here...

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Guardian in 'headline that literally cannot be true' oddness

I mean, if you think about it for a second,

'World's oldest person dies aged 114'

can't actually be possible, can it?

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

One out, all out

So the results are in and barring major government climb downs, we will be on strike on the 30th June.

I thought it was just worth reiterating the reasons why we'll be out.

  1. We are being asked to work longer, pay more and get less. I won't be able to retire until I reach 68, I will have to pay at least an extra £100 out of my pension every month, and I'll receive a minimum of £168,000 less when I do retire.

  2. There is no crisis in the pension fund. It is self-sustaining and there is no shortfall.

  3. The proposed move from a final salary to average salary will hurt many teachers but particularly women - if you take time off to have children, your pension will suffer as a result.

  4. Our pension money is being used for the purposes of deficit reduction. Workers are being asked to pay for this crisis. I feel like a stuck record at this point, but this crisis was not of our making. This deficit was not of our making. This was a crisis created entirely by the capitalist class and this is an attempt to make the rest of us pay. To borrow a slogan that tells us more than the ConDems are comfortable with, We Won't Pay for Their Crisis.

  5. As a corollary to that, do not forget: this is class war. The tories are using the deficit as cover to hit our communities and hit them hard. This is a concerted bid to destroy the public sphere in whatever ways they can. The attacks on the NHS, the academies acceleration and the universities show us this. Do not be deceived: they are attacking us and if we do not resist now, our ability to withstand attacks in future will be weakened too. This is capitalism: continual class war, waged by the haves against the have nots and the have lesses. Only a fight back can halt their advances. Only socialism can end the war.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Unanswered Questions of Some Importance

I didn't get to watch AWOBMOLG live this week so I didn't liveblog it. Might well post a review when I've got a bit more time though. However, never mind all that now because Who finished last week and I have Some Questions.

Here we go...

  1. What is the Myth Corporation?

  2. Why aren't there any ducks in the pond?

  3. Is Melody really River?

  4. Is the girl in the suit Melody?

  5. Who shot the Doctor?

  6. Who do the Silent work for?

  7. What's the point of the Headless Monks?

  8. What does 'Silence will fall' actually mean?

  9. Just who is fighting this 'eternal war'?

  10. How are the Cybermen involved?

  11. Didn't the Doctor go back to see young Amy at the end of the Eleventh Hour? What happened there then?

  12. Why doesn't Amy remember the Daleks?

  13. Why did the TARDIS explode in the first place?

  14. Where can I get the exciting dum-dum-dum dum-dum-de-dum incidental music?

Other stuff may come up in time.

Monday, 30 May 2011

AWOBMOLG: Perhaps not doomed, but probably pointless, liveblog 2

Since last week's liveblog worked OK, I'm going to give it another go tonight. I'm quite looking forward to a critique of the idea of an ecosystem, personally.

21:03 Interesting start - mainly for the wonderful archival footage Curtis always finds.

21:03 Will this lead on to a criticism of the ideas of neural networking?

21:05 Ecosystems are definitely not my area of expertise, but it is interesting to compare the idea of equilibrium to Darwin's understanding of a war for survival, constantly being waged and with huge, geometrical, losses for each species.

21:07 It seems that Forrester is attempting to capture the very dynamics that Curtis is concerned with illuminating.

21:07 Ah, except that he seems to be positing a universal law not just of systems but of the existence of systems. This seems on the face of it to be a bit of a stretch.

21:10 This is giving me the urge to re-read some of that Churchland stuff I was bored rigid by 10 years ago... (url added)

21:14 I like the way Curtis always assumes that his audience is capable of understanding science without explaining it in breathless Brian Cox-stuff.

21:16 Yay for Buckminster-Fuller! Will there be a mention of C60, I wonder?

21:18 He's right about 'spaceship Earth' in some fundamental respects of course.

21:19 Oh, is that what Clarke was on about in his godsawful Rama series? Rama linky added.

21:21 Hm, an old hippy friend told me that I was born too late and I should've been a student in the 60s. He may have been right, though since (cheers, hindsight!) it was doomed maybe it's better that I wasn't.

21:25 How awesome is this? Video windows, mice and everything! This reminds me of a TED talk - I'll see if I can find it...

21:30 I'll look for it later - distracted from doc now!

21:31 Just think about the maths required for that model - incredible. Humans are wonderful.

21:37 Initial thought on the ecosystem as natural Toryism - if you've not read Richard Seymour's The Liberal Defence of Murder, I recommend you get hold of it - imperialism is subsumed into ideas far more frequently than it often appears on the surface...

21:43 I remember at school being told that this was how nature worked - natural systems that balnce over time. David Attenborough's Life on Earth is a good antidote to this.

21:48 Looking at the Twitter feed, what a lot of people seem to be forgetting is that Curtis likes to present a thesis. He may not be correct in all his assertions, but he is doing what no other mainstream documentarists are doing at the moment - presenting an intellectual argument as an intellectual argument and forcing you to engage with his ideas. His continual insistence on exposing the narratives elites and other influential groups tell themselves and the world rather than showing his own views or asserting a truth (other than that the universe is stranger than you expect) is what makes him remarkable.

21:52 *cough* NED *cough*

21:53 Also, vets often put holes into ruminants' stomachs - when you've got 4 stomachs there's lots of stuff to go wrong. Not as weird as it looks.

21:55 Curtis talked about this problem with communes in his Graun interview the other week.

21:59 Did I miss the thing about part 3? I thought this was a 3 parter!

UPDATE: Here's that TED talk, Sixth Sense Tech...

Monday, 23 May 2011

AWOBMOLG Doomed Liveblog Attempt

9:07 Adam Curtis is now highlighting for all the Bioshock players who didn't get it exactly what the game was satirising. For other good summaries of Her Bonkersness, see Action Philosophers (sample here - )

9:08 Randians against Burke, eh? Ooh a bit of Clint Mansell - good one Adam!

9:10 This reminds me a bit of some work on folk-psychology I did once. Boiled version: just because everyone agrees that the same thing is happening, doesn't mean that it actually is. If you pay attention only to the agreed-upon phenomena you can ignore the deeper structure that pre-determines the options for action.

9:12 Interestingly this (sickly marrying of neoliberalism with 'freedom') is exactly the kind of bullshit the Graun's tech weekly podcast often slavishly repeats.

9:15 Hoo - Atlas Shrugged! Any Sadlynauts will be familiar with the US right's response to the financial crisis a couple of years ago - threatening to 'go Galt'. Strangely they never did. Wonder why?

9:19 Bit disingenuous to say they were asking for a 'totally free society' since a central tenet of Objectivism was contempt for the majority of people. I know this isn't an original point, but it's probably worth repeating.

9:22 I was never convinced that those who professed belief in the 'new economy' guff weren't being somewhat disingenuous to be honest. I always kind of assumed that those who pushed it were the same ones who push every boom - the ones who are convinced they'll come out ahead.

9:28 Ooh it's the bit off the trailer.

9:31 From Rand to Monica Lewinsky - bit of a stretch?

9:35 The problem I'm having is that this is a very familiar story. I'm sure it's an essential par, but I've known this since I were a teenager...

9:37 She's* right, of course. Luckily, since no one ever reads this blog I'm in the privileged position of creating a commodity no one wants to buy.

9:40 The face on that IMF negotiatior...urgh...

9:42 IMF riots ... that takes me back...

9:45 Interesting that this time round the bankers don't seem to be even pretending that they have a solution. They've learned not to trade in optimism, at least.

9:51 Whod've thought that Objectivism was thinly-disguised, vainglorious hubris, eh?

9:54 Nice tying in to Power of Nightmares and Century of the Self.

9:56 I don't know, Adam. How many people really believed their own hype about permanent boom? It would require an astonishing level of naivety on the part of financial elites...

10:00 Well, I'm fully satisfied. Lovely bit of Curtis, was that. What is the theme over the end credits?**

*Just to be clear, 'she' in this case refers to Carmen Hermosillo, not Ayn Rand.

** It's Stereo Total - Aua

*** Title fixt

**** Intriguingly, Virgin catch up lists AWOBMOLG under 'Drama and Soaps', rather than documentaries. How odd.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Something to make teachers angry

If you're a teacher and you're being balloted about whether to strike, there's a handy thingummy here that will allow you to calculate exactly how much you're being screwed by proposed Government changes to the pension scheme.

For example, I'm going to lose over £166,000 over my working life. In other words, a house.

I don't like Tory scum for many reasons, and few of them have to do with my personal situation as a worker under attack, but this is a nice illustration of the viciousness of what they want to do to me and thousands like me.

If your union hasn't yet balloted, speak to your rep and put pressure on them to do so. Together, we are strong. Divided, we will be screwed by total and utter bastards.

Remember, we're not all in this together - they are attempting to make us pay for their fucking crisis.

Public Service Announcement

Just in case you've been living in a Chinese pipe, I thought I'd alert you to Adam Curtis' new documentary All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (AWOBMOLG, as all the cool kids are calling it).


Wow, I've done drunken blogging before, but that was quite impressive. Still, I would like to call attention to the lovely spelling, if not grammar. Heigh ho.

Friday, 20 May 2011

I dunno, stuff I guess.

I have my own version of SMGW. It's called The Good Wife.* It's truly dire. From the fact that every black face turns out to belong to a twat, to the bizarre moral righteousness from a character that works for someone everyone admits to be a heroin-dealing murderer, to the explicit right-wing politics, it's utterly terrible.

Tonight I saw the episode where it went beyond mental. Well into Ally McBeal dancing baby mental. It had this bizarre schtick where the courageous bastards cunts who I'd quite happily stab for a period not greater than, but approximating to, eternity, decided to 'do' international politics.

Cheers Ridley (but I'm guessing mostly Tony) Scott! It's one thing where your mental idea of reality coincides with Chicago. It just doesn't work if you're trying to involve your vehicle for the ex-ER woman in the real world.

Here's my take on this shitfest. It's quite fun to watch Americans being dicks. Everyone expects Americans to be dicks. The bizarre bit is when you pretend that American politics has anything to do with reality. Hell, it's weird when you see a show that is happy to pretend that the way that the USG presents its foreign policy has much to do with what actually happens in the world. Is this what it's like to read the Sun?

I have to love the whole 'working for a dictator' line. I am not a Chavez fanboy but the idea that he's a dictator is particularly nice. It goes with the bizarre storyline that one of the lead characters is having to do some eye-rolling because his daughter's off to a kibbutz (in the US it's still that period in 1963 when you could ignore the Naqba and go on about equality in the commune whenever Palestinian suffering rudely interrupted). In fact the way the two reality-denying storylines mesh is nothing short of fucking spooky. Both involve an inversion of reality (socialist elected president = dictator; Occupied territories = socialism) that neatly mirror each other. It's so carefully done I have to assume it's on purpose.

I'd reward that with kudos if it weren't so retarded.

*Those with taste may safely look away now.

**Hey, what are you lot still here for? oh......

Thursday, 5 May 2011

AV then

Bloody bread and circuses.

Just a couple of highlights then for those that missed the shenanigans. First there was the No campaign...

Then there was the Yes campaign...

Finally there was grim reality...

Millions of mainly working-class electors have boycotted the electoral system since 2001. The Labour leadership knows that most of those are abstaining ex-Labour supporters. The reasons for this are obvious – their interests are not being effectively represented.

But AV doesn't promise to empower them. And it actually replicates one of the undemocratic aspects of FPTP. Ralph Miliband's criticism of FPTP was that it was used by party leaders to discipline rank and file members and force them to accept centrist policies, in order to win support from "marginal" constituencies. Under AV, the parties would be doing much the same thing in order to gain the "second preference" votes of their larger competitors.

I was going to vote no. But then I saw how pathetically the yes campaign was going to be beaten and I began to pity them. And since it's still effectively rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, I thought about voting yes after all.

Then I saw the Stephen Fry video, and went against it all over again. Politicians are going to start 'working in the national interest'? Stephen sweetie, there's no such animal. And the last thing we need is more collaborationist corporate centrists telling us that because they all agree it must be best for everyone. We're All In It Together could become our national fucking motto at this rate, which would be quite something, since it would be even more dishonest than the current 'My God and my right'.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Inevitable Nuptial Post, pt 94

I don't particularly care whether they get married or not. They don't seem like monsters, merely people who enjoy monstrous privilege. Come the revolution there will be more important jerks to put up against the wall.

In fact, I don't give a stuff about marriage in general really. I can't get excited about it. I'm at the age now when quite a few of my friends are either married or thinking about it, and that's great for them, but it's virtually impossible to see it as anyone's business but theirs.

So I don't WANT to be annoyed about today. I've tried very hard just to ignore the manufactured enthusiasm that many people seem to be going along with out of a determined sentimentalism, like the smile on a parent's face as they agree to read The Wheels on Barney's Bus once more to their demanding young progeny.

But good gods they've made it difficult. Even watching TV on catchup I've been repeatedly and loudly informed that 'we've all got wedding fever' (Yes, if by that you mean I'm developing a rash). Youtube has some kind of banner animation and every shop is filled with the indescribable tat that would make a Franklin Mint salesman sneer. Even my alarm clock woke me up with news of this bullshit this morning.

I think I must have finally flipped because last night I actually dreamed I was at a street party that was also attended by David Cameron and Gideon Osborne, and that I locked myself in the house and watched them all being eaten by zombies. WHAT COULD IT ALL MEAN?

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I didn't WANT to be all ranty about this kitsch and gaudy celebration of inherited wealth and privilege at a time when public services are being gutted and unemployment is at 2.5 million. The media drivelstorm has forced me into it. ARE YOU HAPPY, JOURNO SCUMBAGS? ARE YOU? LOOK UP FROM YOUR SCREEN AND LOOK AROUND AT YOUR CO-WORKERS. ONE OF THEM'S ON YOUTUBE EVALUATING THE VERACITY OF UPSKIRT SHOTS OF KATE AT UNI, AREN'T THEY? PROUD OF YOURSELVES, ARE YOU? STOP DOING EVERYTHING JUST TO PISS ME OFF. STOP IT.

Anyway, I think I'm going to spend the day with Buffy DVDs and occasionally re-watch the awesomeness that was The Impossible Astronaut.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Easter is a time for remembrance. For sacrifice.

It's a time when we remember a man who died for us. A man who wasn't really a man. A man who suffered for us in ways we can't really understand. A man whose sacrifice we remember because he defeated death itself. Even now, he is watching over us.

So in 3 weeks, on Easter Sunday, spare a thought for him. And remember his words:

'Eee ba tha gum.'*

*In other words my fanboy sense is tingling. The trailer is the best thing since this thing.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Dear Internets. Yesterday I was on a great big march...

... and I had a great time. Still blown away by it. I think sheer size was what impressed me most. Size and the sense of anger. Size, the sense of anger and the huge variety of groups. Size, the sense of anger, the huge variety of groups and the great placards. Size, the sense of anger, the huge variety, the great placards and the bands. Size ... I'll stop there. I'd love to upload my pictures but like a fool I forgot my camera and my phone doesn't talk to other electeronicamal devices very easily. I'll work it out soon. Highlights of the day:

  • The girl with the 'only one man can save us now' placard with a TARDIS on it The girl with a huge homemade banner that looked a bugger to carry, emblazoned with 'This banner isn't big enough for all the things I'm angry about!'

  • The anarchist brass band. They weren't attempting to play anything, which is probably for the best. I have no idea how a band would sound, founded on the principle of anarchy, but I'm guessing this would sound better...

  • The brass band who struck up the Internationale when passing the bust-up LloydsTSB that had been vandalised.

  • The vandalised LloydsTSB. Banks have never been funnier than when someone's chucked something through a glass door then stuffed a baguette into the hole. When I can get hold of the photos I'll update this post and then you'll see. Then YOU'LL ALL SEE! You know, if you want.

  • The 'Big Society - compensating for something?' banner.

  • The various 'build a bonfire' chants. Some were quite inventive.

  • The fact that the back end of the march still wasn't visible near Trafalgar at gone 4 o'clock - more than 5 hours after it first started.

  • The number of times that I heard comments along the lines of 'this needs to be the start of something, not the end'.

  • The number of people carrying SWP placards calling for a general strike (mine's leaning against the bookcase as I type).

Ahem. Worst points of the day:

  • The Kindness Revolution or whatever they were offering free hugs near the National Gallery. It wasn't just the unsubstantiated demands, it was that they were actually from the White Stuff clothing company. Fuck off, White Stuff clothing company.*

  • The bloke with the 'Socialism is Theft' banner. Yeah, that's why we're here guys! Let's start a fight during a display of solidarity.**

I would like to end this post with a simple message: GENERAL STRIKE NOW. We run this country, not the Condems or the bankers. We make everything, we do all the work. Let's remind these motherfuckers just whose indulgence they play on when they tell us they're the voice of authority. Build for a general strike.


*Also, at what point did people start charging for hugs anyway? You need to get better friends, White Stuff Clothing Company.

**Also, brief shout-out for all the 'Tory Scum' banners. It's good to see the old classics getting a play.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

There is literally no snark left...

I've not updated for a bit, partly because I've been to busy with ... you know ... stuff ... and partly because I generally want to post on here in order to snark at news stories that make the little veins in my eyes start throbbing with greater urgency than a diarrhoetic in a 10 items or less queue at Boots*, but the absurdity event horizon seems to have passed me by. I mean, look at this:

George Osborne said he would be watching oil companies "like a hawk" to make sure there was "no funny business" following his budget decision to cut 1p from fuel duty.

Honestly, where do you start? It's times like this I am painfully aware that I can never make a great satirist. I can't see it with ironic detachment. It's just a matter of - this is utter, nonsensical madness. What's the right response to this? A clever gag, a series of bullet points explaining the various levels of hypocrisy and untruth at work, or what?**

I know everyone else has pointed this out as well - if even the shadow chancellor's got it then it's a fair bet few are fooled, but Jesus. They really do think we're a Burkean mob, don't they?

We'll see how well this 'stability' that Gideon's created works on Saturday I suppose...

*Yes, at Boots. Look, if they were in Tesco's how would you get the cue that they were buying imodium? Look, just forget it.

**Note how I avoided the obvious 'a series of bullets' line there. Never go for the easy punchline, kids. Unless it's funny to do so, obviously.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Lovely, thanks. Yours?

So in advance of Xmas, I announced my intention to get some seriously shit films to watch during the festive season. Films of the calibre of Beverly Hills Cop II. Did I get my wish? Well, in the end the closest I got was Beauty and the Beast, unfortunately, which is emphatically NOT shit. And not just because Disney decided that a psychosexual fable that involves the use of Stockholm Syndrome and elements of Bluebeard (and hence legendary paedophile child murderer and neckhole fucker Gilles de Rais) was a suitable subject for a children’s film. Also because a talking clock called Cogsworth says ‘If it ain’t baroque, don’t fix it!’

So what was my xmas viewing, I hear you cry? And where’s that cartoon you promised? Well my dears, as to the first: coming right up. As to the second: shut up.
Firstly there was an ace Doctor Who. Combines all my favourite things about Christmas into one neat package. A Christmas Carol had some lovely singing, a message of hope and redemption, and of course an intricate time-travelling plot and a flying shark.

Then there were the little shiny discs I got from my adoring public. I may not have sat through something as dire as Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but I did have some genuinely harrowing festive experiences.

First out of the giftwrap was Deep Water. This is a documentary about Donald Crowhurst, who in 1968 got in a boat, tried to sail around the world by himself without stopping, started lying about how far he’d got, got drunk, claimed he was some kind of supernatural entity and killed himself.

Next out of my big comedy stocking and covered in holly leaves and sellotape, we have The Wave, the film in which a well-meaning schoolteacher accidentally turns his kids into the Hitler Youth within a week. With hilarious consequences, it would say on the box, if it were more than usually dishonest.

Anxiously tearing at an infinitude of ‘Merry Christmas’es in a variety of fonts, I then uncovered Hidden Agenda, Ken Loach’s film about the abuses perpetrated by the security services in Northern Ireland and containing a fictionalised version of the coup that nearly happened, to oust Wilson’s last government. With assassinations, grubby politics and the kind of aristocratic nastiness you associate with Thatcherite Establishment types, Time Out didn’t call it ‘More laughs than a barrel of monkeys with kuru.’

What’s this, hiding beneath my lump of coal? Why it’s harrowing docudrama Threads! I’ve used the bit where Sheffield blows up in lessons on War and Peace, but this is the first time I‘ve seen it all the way through. Who’d have thought the nuclear holocaust could be the least distressing part? Anyone who thinks self-important vacuity-fest The Road is a disturbing piece clearly hasn’t seen Threads. Although after you have, you will probably wish you hadn’t.

So that was my Christmas viewing. Paranoia, peer-conformity, corruption, the end of the world and the hell of survival. If you think about it, it’s what the baby Jebus would’ve wanted.

Happy 2011 everybody!