Saturday, 30 April 2011

Alternative voting.

I voted libdem in the general election.

I didn't do so because I thought they'd be anything other than a bunch of centre-right tossers, although the enthusiasm with which they embraced the chance to fuck over the nation surprised me.

I voted for them because they were alone out of the mainstream parties in calling for electoral reform. (Mainly anyway. I just couldn't bring myself to vote for New Labour this time round.)

I haven't got a clue which way the referendum is likely to fall, as I've seen no opinion polls or anything. Presumably now that the Royals have done their bit to spread a bit of cheer, the YES/NO campaigns will take a bigger share of the media's attention.

So it's pretty obvious that I'll be voting Yes on the 5th of May.

WIll it make a huge change? Probably not, but keeping the exisiting system certainly means nothing will change.

One of life's little ironies is that the LibDems unpopularity is likely to have an effect on what was one of their flagship policies.

Fuck Clegg, vote no.

Bloody stupid argument when you come to think of it. Fuck Cameron, Vote yes. Fuck both of them, vote yes no yes no yes no yes no yes no... Like a cat with a buttered piece of toast strapped to it's back.

Throw away the only chance you'll get in a generation to make a point? Talk about cutting of your nose to spite your face...

Anyway, the Tories don't want it. Most of the right wing media, including News International, don't want it. The BNP don't want it either, for whatever that's worth.

Just to be clear, AV does not mean you have to vote for the tories. You can vote for whoever you want to. Even just one party if that's all you agree with.

Here are some cats, that may be able to explain it a bit better.

I mentioned earlier that part of the reason I voted LibDem was because I didn't want to vote Labour. That's a pretty negative position to take, and I'd like to put a more positive slant on things.

The Labour party is comprised of many well meaning and left leaning folks, yet it occupies almost exactly the same part of the political spectrum as the other two big parties. Except for certain - mainly social justice - issues anyway.

And this is down to FPTP. Core Labour seats will remain Labour, even if Labour decides it's policy wil be to make the lives of traditional Labour voters worse. Same with the other parties. Elections are decided by a relatively small percentage of "swing" voters, and they occupy the centre right of the demographic. So either you pander to them or you don't get elected. So FPTP corrupts those well meaning left leaning politicians and activists. I think adobting AV would allow New Labour to adopt a far more left wing position. Hell, I might even vote for them again. Perhaps just behind the greens.

Finally, according to some that have spoken out against AV, "AV will lead to extremist parties getting a share of the vote"

Well first of all, it tends to be the Greens that do well in western democracies with some form of proportional representation. Secondly, the current coalition seems to be a pretty extremist entity right now. So was the 1945 Lavour Government by any sensible modern yardstick. The idea that we should be scared of extreme right parties gaining power when the current way of doing thins has skewed the entire political gamut in this country to the right seems nonsensical.

Anyway, there you go. I will be voting "YES" on May the 5th, and I recommend that you do too.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

It's not just about the money...

The regular reader of this blog will be aware that I'm not happy with the way things are going at work.

In the past, I've dwelt upon the financial side of things, and nothing much has changed there really. I'm not in a sustainable position. I don't have a coke habit. We don't go on holidays to the Seychelles every year. Yet we're gradually falling deeper and deeper into debt. Rising costs are just steepening the slope for us a bit, but even if my costs were roughly what they were last year, I'd still be struggling.

But really, the money side of things is only a part of the story.

You see, I spent pretty much all of my working life being told what to do and how to do it. Not all the bosses and supervisors I worked under were bastards by any means, but a big part of becoming a driving instructor was because I didn't want to punch a clock any more. Yet here I am, paying somebody who gives me a bollocking if I lose a pupil, and who expects me to dress in a certain way, and follow a particular way of doing things.

If I was making a decent living out of it, I'd probably be more prepared to put up with it, but I don't have that much to lose really.

Of course, If I leave the auspices of my current booking agent/employer, I then have to compete with him. I've struggled to do this once before. At least if I do choose to leave, I'm better informed about what I'm up against.

If it were easier to find a different job completely, I'd probably jack this in. I suppose I should look now, but I'd like to try again on my own, or I'm toying with attempting to establish some kind of non-heirarchical instructors co-operative, or even relocating to an area where the competition is less intense.

Watch this space. The next few days could be eventful.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The right place at the right time.

I could be making a post about how lucky I/we am/are to be alive in this instant of miracle and wonder, but I want to concentrate on one specific thing.

You see, I got told by someone who knows about this sort of thing that there is a sort of window of receptiveness for music. You generally get into music somewhere in your mid-teens, and this continues until your mid or late 20's, after which you get a bit set in your ways, or you have a wife and 2 screaming mortgages and you just don't have time. And so it was with me. And in my early 20's I was seriously into my tunes.

Just imagine if they decided to put a programme on the telly, right at peak time, on a mainstream channel, that was devoted to playing videos and stuff by some cool-as-fuck bands. It wouldn't happen now, but back in the early 1990's, shadowing the rise of the indie/rave/Madchester thing that's exactly what happened. Janet Street-Porter brought SnubTV from the US to Britain, and the eyes and ears of an unsuspecting teatime BBC2 audience were treated to Sonic Youth, Ride, Spacemen3, Fatima Mansions, and The Cramps, to name but a few.

Nowadays of course, there are 9,582,490,850 channels available, even if you don't have a cable subscription, and you can probably find a channel playing slow motion reversed footage of vomiting swans somewhere if you look hard enough, but at the time, most of us had just the 4, and to use fully 25% of them playing alternative music was pretty damn remarkable.

It couldn't last of course. 3 seasons and it was gone. I don't remember what replaced it.

Ultra Vivid Scene - Mercy Seat on MUZU.

sonic youth snub tv bbc 1989

Micheal Jane | Myspace Video

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A good walk spoiled again...

Well, I did it. I played a round of golf with my dad, and it was fun.

I actually did a bit better than I expected, although I was pretty crap if you measure me against an experienced player. I've been using it as an analogy for learning to drive. What I visualised as I stood there with the club in my hands was a sweetly struck ball sailing straight up the middle of the fairway for hundreds if not thousands of yards. What generally happened in practice was that the ball would bobble along the ground for a few yards, or slice off at a tangent and into the nearest undergrowth. Still, I did manage to hit a few decent balls along the way.

Here's how it looks in statistics:

  • Number of airshots:  - 1. Right at the beginning, my first shot. After that I never missed a single ball, although I frequently didn't connect the way I hoped.
  • Number of lost balls: - about 5. Golf is more than just hitting the ball. You also have to try to keep an eye on it after it has gone or you won't be able to find it again.
  • Number of shots to get around according to the scoresheet:: - 120. I'd hoped for 100 or less, but hey nevermind.
  • Number of shots to get around really: - Probably a few more than 120. We weren't treating it as an ultra-serious competition.
  • Number of holes in one: - None. Although I did get two pars.
  • Number of cars damaged: - 1. Mine. I reversed into a wooden post in the car park and cracked the reflector in my rear bumper.
  • Time taken to get around the course: - About 5 hours. We were following a couple of 4 balls, some of who were almost as bad as me, so we had to wait at every tee.
  • Number of times my Dad swore at the four ball in front of us: - 439,027,803,928,409. He's a bit like that with traffic lights too.
Golf courses stand out easily in google earth. Here's Brackenwood municipal course, where we played.

Overall, I enjoyed it. Got suntanned, spent some quality time with my Dad, and got a bit better at something I'd not done much of before. Must do it again soon.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

A good walk spoiled,,,

On Wednesday, I'm going for a game of golf with my dad.

We both know he won't be around for too much longer. He's now 71 years old, and although the old bugger is still as strong as an ox, things are bound to go downhill over the next decade.

Having been at loggerheads with each other for years on end,  we've both made a real effort to sort things out in recent years, and I'm happy to be able to spend a few hours smacking little white balls around with him.

I sort of know how to do it, but I've never really played an actual round, so I'm not expecting to be any good, but that's not really the point.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Use and abuse

It's 3.31 in the morning. For the last few nights, I've had very little sleep. 3 or 4 hours a night. I'm pretty shattered, but it's just the way things are right now. I'm wide awake at the moment. This afternoon I could hardly keep my eyes open. Should have had a nap I suppose, but wild eyed rawker that I am, I rode it out.
Anyway, the reason I'm hardly sleeping is because I'm not drinking. Over the last couple of months, I've been drinking increasingly often, and increasingly heavily. And it was getting to the point where it was probably doing me physical harm.

Weirdly, I think a lot of it was because I'd given up smoking. I've now started smoking again, and stopped drinking altogether, at least for now. I know it's [tobacco] just cack that doesn't even give you a hit, but I seem to need it on some very deep level, and without it, I go slowly but steadily off the rails. It's not even about the nicotine. I think I'd be climbing the walls even if I had some kind of NRT. I just seem to need to have some shit in my lungs, and the lack causes unremitting cognitive dissonance. Right now smoking the lesser of two evils in many different and important ways.

Almost made 4 months off the fags this time. Not bad. I'll no doubt give up again in a few months.

Anyway,  a thought struck me.

I abuse alcohol. No bones about it, I found it very hard to tell myself, "No", and if I managed to, it was generally by promising myself the reward of some the next day. I've also abused cannabis. And in the past I couldn't walk past a fruit machine without spending evey penny I had.

Yet I've never heard of anyone abusing nicotine.

So what is abuse? Nicotine is an addictive drug. Why does nobody ever talk about nicotine abuse?

What makes my use of alcohol abusive? Here's what I think.

  1. I'm not totally in conscious control of the decision whether to use it or not. 
  2. I use it to achieve an aim - oblivion basically - that lies outside it's normal social function. 
  3. I use it to an extent where it is causing or could potentially cause serious health problems
  4. I spend money on it, despite our needing that money for many other essential things
  5. When it is not used, some natural biological functions are affected. Specifically my sleep pattern..
Three and four are closely related to one. If I'm making the decision to use it, despite the fact that it's harming me, and those around me, then there's something wrong somewhere.

There have been times where all five of the above have also applied to cannabis. And three of the five also apply to gambling. The health problems from gambling would be indirect, such as getting beaten up by someone I owed money to, or dietary deficiencies from not having enough money to buy food; and I wouldn't ge the shakes or lie awake at night without my fix of flashing lights and spinning reels; but certainly the other three apply.

So how does nicotine fit into this?
  1. Smokers cannot easily stop smoking. So this certainly applies.
  2. The social funcion of smoking? What's that then? This is a hard one to define, and without defining it's boundaries, it's difficult to say what kind of use would lie beyond those boundaries. Sticking them up your arse perhaps.  Smoking them to deliberately harm yourself would perhaps be a better analogy.
  3. Smoking is bad for you. There are no good things about it healthwise as far as I'm aware. In a sense any use at all is abuse by this measure.
  4. It isn't free. It's far cheaper to smoke 10 hand rolled cigarettes a day than it is to get drunk 3 or 4 times a week, but that money would still be better spent elsewhere. It's less abusive than alcohol but still abuse.
  5. I don't need nicotine to function and I don't really find any of my physical systems altered by it's lack, so it can't really be abused by this standard.
Right. It's now 4.45. I've smoked my last cigarette of the day and I'm going to bed. Sleep well, kiddywinks.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

The worst musical genre

Right. I know that in most cases this is a meaningless assertion. That one man's meat is another man's poison.

But I reckon there is a case to be made that the worst musical genre in the whole damn world is....

Football songs.

Now by that I don't mean the terrace chants. They're intentionally simple because they have to be sung in unison by thosands of people, many of whom are drunk. And although I suppose most of them are pretty generic, there are some damn fine songs out there too. Songs that embody a century of working class culture and identity and tradition.

No, what I mean is the songs put out by the teams themselves as a major competition approaches. To a marshal beat, and oozing a sort of jingoistic bonhomie, these songs are usually sung by the team themselves, in a major key, and sometimes featuring someone famous. But you could put the worlds most awesome supergroup behind the team and the result would still be utter shit.

Now feel free to contradict me on this. I do welcome any suggestions for worse genres of music, or even that this genre has artistic merit at some level that I'm unable to comprehend, but before you do so, click on some of the videos I've pasted below.

I rest my case.

Educate, agitate and organise

Since the dawn of the internet, or my involvement with it anyway, I've played backgammon at a site called dailygammon. No money involved or anything, just the game and associated discussion boards.

Plural. There used to be just one, but then 9/11 happened, and things got somewhat heated on the discussion board, so one became two. A new "politics" board was set up for inflammatory subjects and was left more or less unmoderated, while the original board was for discussions about backgammon and any old fluff.

The politics board, meanwhile, festered. It was and is like almost any other political discussion board on the internet - full of partisan bickering from the party fanboys, and personal disputes. Site admin set it up as a shit trap, to keep the main board cleaner, and I sense an unvoiced contempt for those that choose to lock horns on the politics board.

Of course, since things were this way, anyone interested in genuine debate tended not to bother contributing, so the signal to noice ratio reduced still further until the board was dominated by a handful of posters, obsessively chasing their own tails around an increasingly stale set of positions.

Back in the early days, when I was still finding my feet online, (and pretty immature, truth be told) I used to be a part of the squabbles.

How dare someone think X, when I think Y!

As time has passed, I've come to realise that it's ideas that matter, not individuals. I've also worked out that people have a right to their opinion. They have a right to be wrong, if you like. And more pragmatically, I've realised that if you wish to change someone's opinion, calling them rude names is never going to work.

In a sense, individuals do matter of course. The usual crew of flame warriors do not have the respect of anyone that reads the board. What they have to say goes generally unread, except by those that wish to read it merely in order to spit fire and brimstone back. But I'm just dots on your computer screen. "I" am an abstract. "I" am whatever image I choose to project, assuming I am capable of, projecting it.

So I've been trying something for the last few weeks. I've been posting selected posts from Dorian Cope's "On This Deity" on the politics board. It's astonishingly good writing anyway, but accustomed as we all are, to mud and murk, it shines out like an arc light.

I always follow the same format. The post title contains day and month (but not generally year) and then usually a name. For example, today's post title was "April 2nd - Jeannette Rankin" (oops, I didn't expect it to paste the link formatting, but it can stay. Unless you have an account at dailygammon, you'll just get taken to a login screen, not the post itself)

The body of the post contains a clickable hyperlink to the original article as a header, and then I've pasted the text beneath. The board does not display images, and urls have to be done longhand, so they have to be manually added when they are part of the original article.

The link to the original article is done as a header in order to make it clear that I'm not the author. When people have praised me for what was written, I explain that it's either Dorian Cope, or a guest writer that they are in fact thanking or praising.

Having posted the article, I make no effort to join any resultant debate and there are a couple of reasons for that.

Firstly, so far they have generated very little actual argument. Being historical, and a mile from the usual topics, people's buttons are not being pressed, and the usual party political shenanigans tends not to happen.

Secondly, if such partisan debate does occur, I have no interest in being the mouthpiece for either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party.

Thirdly, I want this stuff to be listened to. I want it to stand out. If it's just another circular repetititve slanging match, like every other thread on that board, it becomes anonymous, and I become just another warrior.

I don't post every single day. Partly because I don't want to hog the board, and sometimes because the readers of the board are mainly US citizens, so occasionally, if an entry is particularly critical of the US, I will not post it. I'm not posting this stuff to start a shitstorm. I'm posting it, as this blogpost title says, to educate and agitate. To inspire.

And it's working. There are people commenting who would never bother to contribute to a thread by any of the usual suspects. The balance of the board has been shifted at least a little bit, from mindless dualism, to serious political commentary. And the comments are overwhelmingly favourable. The Walt Whitman entry, in particular, was beautifully written, and generated some wonderful comments.