Monthly Archives: April 2010

Hate highlights – 30 April

Some posts you might have missed on ten minutes hate  this week:

  1. As News International breathed fire at those seeking to challenge its anointed representative, I urged you to disobey Rupert Murdoch on Election Day
  2. Giving out free stuff is clearly one way to get a good write-up…
  3. The ‘I love migrants’ campaign aimed at presenting the positive benefits of migration launched
  4. I bid a fond farewell to one of my favourite writers, Alan Sillitoe
  5. …and another to rabble-rouser, Malcolm McLaren

And here are some other gems from elsewhere that have enthralled me this week:

  1. Frank Zappa interview with Rolling Stone from 1988
  2. Open Democracy on the effect the election is having on asylum seekers
  3. Edge Foundation thinkers from ‘behavioural economists to psychologists, physicists to software engineers’ draw their conclusions from the aftermath of the Icelandic ash cloud
  4. The Independent on a scandal enveloping London’s Savile Row
  5. Ben Six ponders the future of ‘the underwhelmed generation’ 

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Alan Sillitoe, 1928-2010

Alan Sillitoe died last week and when I heard the news, my first reaction was sorrow. Not for Mr Sillitoe himself, but for us, left to negotiate without him a system that is still trying to beat us down, as much as it did when Arthur Seaton roamed Nottingham.

Seaton, the anti-hero of ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’, and Albert Finney’s electric portrayal of him in the film of the book, got a lot of coverage in the news reports of his creator’s death.  Some went as far as to mention that this novel and ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ had dwarfed the rest of his output. That may true to a certain extent in terms of publicity and notoriety, and while there is no denying the brilliant white heat that radiates from either book, to ignore the rest of Sillitoe’s work is to do him an injustice as well as to cheat yourself out of reading some gems.

It was Paulie at Never Trust a Hippy who pushed me to seek out ‘Raw Materials’, with this post for Remembrance Day.   The book is far from a straightforward telling of the author’s life, it is the story of where all the lads and lasses in ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ have come from.  It features tales of his parents’ and grandparents’ days that move between guns trained on troops by their own officers on the Somme and the rural backgrounds dimly remembered by the inhabitants of the industrial cities.  ‘Raw Materials’ takes the motives for Sillitoe’s anti-authoritarian stance away from sheer bloody-mindedness and marks them as an essential fight for survival: they don’t give a shit about you and your miserable life, the bosses, so why would you care for them?

Signs proclaiming ‘bill posters will be prosecuted’ regularly used to be grafitti-ed with ‘Bill Posters is Innocent’ in the old days (or so my Dad tells me).  Sillitoe took it a degree further in ‘The Death of William Posters’ as he imagines Bill leaving behind a wife and two kids to follow what could seem to be the pull of some kind of early variant of mid-life crisis.  Instead, William’s wanderings allow for a cynical eye to be cast over scenes as diverse as the London art world and the hippy trail to Morocco, as he tries to fight his way out from the control of forces he can’t see:

If that’s the only way to find yourself, then you’ll sooner or later run into what you’re running away from, even if you don’t know what it is.  You’ll recognise it when you hit it – or it hits you

- Alan Sillitoe, The Death of William Posters

So the death of Alan Sillitoe is another that hits hard.  For the loss of his words and for the loss of the chance, as mentioned here in his final interview, of catching a glimpse of him across the snug of a bar somewhere and maybe, if I got up the courage, of sending a pint over via the barman, as a pitifully token way of saying thank you.

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A free press

After writing yesterday of the Independent’s Murdoch-baiting, you could bet that I wasn’t going to be a slouch when I heard and saw the lovely lady dishing out free copies of the paper in my city centre this lunchtime. Oh no. I was over to her quicker than Tsegaye Kebede, ready to see for myself.

Today’s politician-skewering headline:

Inside, a neat editorial manifesto sets out what the Indy’s hoping to achieve with this election giveaway, which I am delighted to note is planned to continue until 6 May.  It doesn’t appear that James Murdoch’s tirades have dissuaded anyone from sticking the boot in on his Daddy in the slightest:

Rupert Murdoch’s mighty media empire has become a propaganda machine on behalf of the Conservatives

Yet the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the other smaller parties are routinely ignored by the media.  The Independent is hoping to redress this, while remaining true to the name on the masthead and not swinging behind any one political party.  How refreshing!

The paper continues, rueing the manner in which serious issues are being ‘ignored or underplayed’ by the main parties, giving the examples of Afghanistan – even as troops die there, their continued deployment goes undebated and largely unmentioned – as well as climate change, where politicians are dangerously out of step with wider opinions.

As the Liberal Democrats have noted in today’s horse trading over hung parliament outcomes, our electoral system is badly broken.  The Independent is an old hand at this game having launched, with ‘tens of thousands’ of readers backing it, a petition seeking reform after the last election.  Their archive reveals Labour wasn’t always so reluctant to talk to the Lib Dems about the subject.  The paper also extols the benefits an elected House of Lords, fixed-term parliaments, active membership of the EU, robust economic reform and a revival of liberal democracy would bring to the UK.  All the stuff that has small-l liberals swooning.  What is the Murdoch empire going to chuck back at that?  Page 3 and Dear Deirdre?

So far they’re ticking all my boxes but will there be room for insightful football coverage?  I fear that the Indy might disdain football, with its pampered millionaires, gargantuan debt and stonking carbon footprint.  So it is with some trepidation that I flip to the back pages, expecting to find coverage of Woodcraft Folk-esque non-competitive games.  But worry ye not, sports fans, the back section looks good enough to keep even the most avid of us happy.

Pick up one of these free copies and there is an offer to subscribe at a reduced rate.  I confess I have never been loyal enough to any paper to consider doing such a thing – do they guarantee to have it with you before the morning commute begins? – but once the free thing ends, I might be back to drop a few groats in the pocket of Mr Lebedev.

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Disobey on 6 May

Watching the Dailies Mail, Telegraph, Express and the Sun spew rage-fuelled invective across their own front pages this week has been wonderfully exhilarating.  That their attempts to slur Nick Clegg prior to the second leaders’ debate amounted to little more than, in Tabloid Watch’s memorable description, ‘hysterical bawlings from the sidelines’ caused the warm glow that comes from being proved right to reach blistering levels at ten minutes hate HQ.  It was delightful to look on as the rest of the population finally caught up with what Liverpool fans have known for 21 years.

Newspapers lie.

The problem with lying, as your mum probably taught you once, is that eventually it catches up with you.  You start off with the ones about fascists being good chaps, if a bit misunderstood, and eventually it leads you to a place where stories about a live TV debate that contradict the evidence of anyone who actually saw it for themselves seem normal.

The Independent tried to take advantage of the anti-Clegg furore with a cheeky advert stating that ‘Rupert Murdoch won’t decide the election.  You will’.  Apparently this breaks the cosy rule about one newspaper not going after the proprietor of another, the dishonouring of which  caused James Murdoch to pop round to the Indy’s offices to engage in the kind of toy-pram-evacuation manoeuvre which is a gift to anyone within hearing distance with a Twitter account.

As the newspapers in question take a short breather from hysterical ranting, Anton Vowl asks a pertinent question when he wonders if it is them or us who have run out of steam.  While there are promising signs that this election is not going to be the usual handing over of power between two identical political parties, following an ordination of the eventual winner by an Australian media mogul, it must be a remote possibility that they will let go of the levers so easily.

Still, this election is perhaps the best chance we have to fuck up their programme and raise merry hell before they go back to ignoring us for another five years.  So, along with the White Rabbit and Beau Bo D’Or, I urge all ‘people of goodwill’ to engage in some evidence based voting to disobey Rupert Murdoch on 6 May.  After all, he can’t send James round to yell at all of us.

Independent picture thanks to Beehive City

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All that scratchin’ is makin’ me itch

I get a continued kick out of the fact that one of the most popular posts on this here ten minutes hate of mine continues to be the one called ‘stop being a sap!’  which features Joe Strummer’s words about taking control of your life and creating something for yourself.

Malcolm McLaren, whose funeral took place today, was another of that ilk.  As one of the better obituaries, written by McLaren collaborator Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls, tells it:

When I remember Malcolm, I think that he taught me the idea that if you don’t like something, you’re the only one that can change it. That’s the mentality people need to make things happen. It takes a spark to build a fire, and Malcolm was definitely that spark

I worry for us though, because we are losing them.  The towers of controlled rage and puncturers of excess and stupidity who saw the year of my birth as less of an excuse to pat the Queen on the back for a job well done but more of an opportunity to create merry hell and up the blood pressure of the clueless as they railed against England’s lack of promise.

And here we are again, up to our necks in it… except all we have to throw at the problem are Scouting for Girls and a million poor Kate Bush knock-offs.

So if you are tired of sitting in the pub wondering what it all means, it’s time to start making it happen.  Stop chasing the dreams they sell you and make your own, let them come to you, just as McLaren did.  In his own words:

I was taught that to create anything you had to believe in failure, simply because you had to be prepared to go through an idea without any fear. Failure, you learned, as I did in art school, to be a wonderful thing. It allowed you to get up in the morning and take the pillow off your head

He’s right of course.  Make some noise, piss people off, do it your own way.  Don’t follow anyone else’s idea of a well-defined career path.  Your life’s worth much more than eat, shit, work, consume, sleep.  Make it count.

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None of the above

Bless ‘em, it seems as if the ‘traditional media’ are struggling to cope with the vagaries of electioneering in these modern interconnectivity-driven times.  First the formerly ‘great ignored’ Nick Clegg gets a 10-point bunk up due largely to appearing on the gogglebox and not coming across as a complete twat.  Then all hell breaks loose, as the Tory-cheerleader press goes apeshit at the thought of Facebook campaigns causing the ‘natural party of government‘ to miss out on the heralded and therefore inevitable coronation, thus unleashing hell against those they used to deride as sandal-wearers.

Call me insanely optimistic if you will, but there does seem to be something in the air to indicate that this year’s poll will not simply be a rubber-stamping of ‘business as usual’ across the next Parliament.  There are websites where you can research what your MP has been up to for the last five years and what might happen on 6 May where you live, campaigns seeking to engineer a hung parliament, or pressing for electoral reform here and here.

If you are of the belief that they are all the same, that ‘none of the above’ is the only viable option, get to the polling station with a marker pen and deface that ballot.  Make damn sure that your refusal to engage is taken for ‘visible and vocal abstention, not apathy‘.  Because after all, as a fellow lover of fine malt whisky once said,

The question nowadays is not what makes government work. The question is how do we make it stop

–P. J. O’Rourke

It is also heartening to note that, in amongst all the new media shenanigans, the old skool medium of egg chucking still getting a look in.  Seems some things will never change, after all.

The tragic remains of the egg following its encounter with Cameron

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I love Migrants

Remember when I wrote this post about the French campaign, a day without immigrants? Well, along with fish and chips, chicken jalfrezi and our own Royal family, this is yet another bloody good idea to make it to Britain from foreign shores.

The ‘I love migrants’ campaign has been developed by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants to outline the facts around migration and help people show their support for people who have come here from elsewhere.  My particular favourite fact is this one:

The British Isles were completely empty until humans returned around 14,700 BCE. The land would by definition have been discovered by a migrant. St George was most likely born in what is now Turkey.

When your Queen, your Saint and your national dish all come from somewhere else, I feel it is time to start embracing your status as a citizen of the world, while junking outmoded nineteenth-century concepts of nationalism.  Now if someone could just explain that to the Daily Heil…

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Don’t buy the Scum

The first thing that always causes the pit of my stomach to hollow out when I read down the list of names of those that died at Hillsborough, twenty-one years ago today, is the ages.  About two-thirds of the names are kids in their teens, although the youngest – Jon-Paul Gilhooley at just 10 - is of a similar age to mine in 1989.

Then there are the other young people in their twenties and thirties, some attending with friends this time, others who went with family members.  The more middle-aged in their forties and fifties, maybe parents taking their kids to the game, all the way up to the Granddads: John Alfred Anderson at 62 and Gerard Bernard Patrick Baron, aged 67.  An Anfield crowd today will be a similar mix of ages, from the youngsters seeing it for the first time to the oldies who’ve seen it all before and can tell you of the days before Shankly.  A crowd at most other football grounds will be the same.

Now I know it is no more tragic for someone to die at the age of 10 than it is to go at 67.  Both are mourned equally by those they leave behind.  But I would like you to ponder what would have happened if, say, over 30 young music fans had died at a concert because of errors in policing and there had been no inquiry, not much of an apology and a headline in the national tabloid press that blamed the teeny-boppers for the deaths.

A year since I wrote this and, although it is heartening to read news of an independent panel to review the confidential files relevant to the disaster and to see that South Yorkshire police have agreed to co-operate,  the campaign goes on.

Today of all days, but on any day: don’t buy the Sun.

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A good election to lose

There are still whole weeks to go and already my main thought when I consider the election is:

make it stopmake it stopmake it stopmake it stopmake it stopmake it stopmake it stopmake it stop

Slightly more than a week since I urged you to ignore the parties’ bells and whistles and concentrate on what we the people could get out of the election instead, I am very much in danger of not following my own sound advice.  Depressingly, since that day last week when the election began to a backbeat of circling helicopter blades, I have already discovered that I live in such a safe seat I may as well draw a big comedy cartoon of a knob on my ballot paper, in the manner of a bored teenager kept in for an after-school detention.

Now I have to contend with the Prime Minister throwing out such a poor retreading of Britney’s ‘Ooops I did it again’ routine that it almost seems like UK politics is now spoofing itself, being beamed to our TV screens straight from the brains of Messrs Iannucci and Morris.  How else to explain the former Chancellor coming out with this gem?

In the 1990s, the banks, they all came to us and said, ‘Look, we don’t want to be regulated, we want to be free of regulation’.  All the complaints I was getting from people was, ‘You’re regulating them too much’.  And actually the truth is that globally and nationally we should have been regulating them more.  So I’ve learnt from that. So you don’t listen to the industry when they say, ‘This is good for us’. You’ve got to talk about the whole public interest

NO SHIT, SHERLOCK.  Just fancy that, the banks asking the Government to please stop regulating them quite so much, if you don’t mind or else they would be on the first flight to Frankfurt, was actually a vague threat that they should have been called on, rather than an actual promise to leave a gaping hole in the UK’s finances… errrrrr.  Sorry, I am still not following this.  We mortgaged our futures to keep the bankers happy, yet we still ended up with the gaping hole, while the bankers are laughing all the way to the Cayman Islands but the man largely responsible for the mess now wants to say ‘sorry’ and hope that means we can move on and allow him another five years in power to fix it.  I have to keep pinching myself because I am having a hard time believing that we haven’t gone through the looking-glass.  What the fuck is going on?

Then I read this from the London Review of Books*:

whatever the political hue of the new government, it has to walk a fiscal tightrope. It is probably going to be a very good election to lose

and suddenly it all makes sense.  This is a Brewster’s Millions, anti-Musical Chairs election, where the object of the game is NOT to be sitting in the Big Chair when the music stops.  Whoever wins, it’s likely that the bond market-spawned wailing and gnashing of teeth from the electorate is going to be enough to keep that party out of power for a time which will make Labour’s wilderness years seem like a weekend at the beach by comparison.  If, as John Lanchester hopes, the game is up and the bankers have realised that this maybe their last round of grotesque bonuses, maybe the politicians are equally aware that their time at the trough is coming to an end.

If true, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reimagine and recreate our political and economic life, so perhaps we need to start to thinking about what comes next.  Now that really would be change we could believe in.

* Lanchester, J., 2010. The Great British Economy Disaster. London Review of Books [Online] vol. 32 no. 5 pp. 3-7. Available from http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n05/john-lanchester/the-great-british-economy-disaster [Accessed 14 April 2010].

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‘…even crack dens glow…’

This is beautiful, just beautiful:

Last month I installed new bookshelves in a room in my house. They’re black, and my painter offered the unsolicited opinion that they might look depressing when completed. I knew he was wrong because, at the very least, the paperback shelf couldn’t help but have a cheerful orange zing a zing that comes from the Penguin spine, the most wonderfully insidious default interior design statement in our culture. Even crack dens glow with Penguins on the shelf

- Douglas Coupland

Douglas Coupland’s Penguin Anniversary Project, Speaking to the Past, is available on Flickr here.

I have been collecting old Penguins for a while now, mostly because I want to read them, but also because of how god-damn gorgeous they look when you have a shelf full of the beautiful things.  Sadly, they are all boxed up now, but one day they will be taken out to glow again.  And now, thanks to Mr Coupland, I know that I will never be content until I have black shelves to keep them on.

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