Thursday, 13 September 2012

Carp Guardian shit in a bag

I aint been writing much recently, so I thought I'd break my silence with a triplet. Gems, each and every one. First up....

.... Shit in a bag. What is it with all the dog shit in bags that I see hanging off bushes in my neighbourhood? Can someone please explain what they are doing there?

Could it be that dog owners are picking up their dog's turd, placing the turd in a plastic bag, tying the bag in a neat bow... and then launching it into the bushes? Surely not. For this would, clearly, be the behaviour of a moron. Dog shit has one single positive quality: it biodegrades. BUT NOT IF YOU PUT IT IN A PLASTIC BAG AND HANG IT ON A BUSH.

Please, people, stop it. Those turds are going to be hanging there for ever.

Enough. Next gem...

....Why the Guardian is a shit in a bag. The reason can be found on reading this article about Andy Murray's notable achievement in winning the US Open. I'm guessing the article is supposed to be a bit of a giggle, written in that knowing style so beloved of your average Guardian columnist, but jeez AVERAGE is the word. Or maybe even offensive.

First Murray is COMMENDED because
the first thing he did after defeating Djokovic [was....] scrabble around in a panic for the Rado watch he is paid gazillions to wear precisely at moments like this. He hasn't had a lot of practice at bringing out the bling on the big stage before... At least he had the presence of mind to remember it.
Let's just remind ourselves that Murray had just won $1900000 for winning a tennis tournament. Indeed he'd won $950000 just for winning the final. Some people might call such amounts obscene... I'd be one of those people. That Murray's first thought after achieving a lifetime's goal was to satisfy his sponsor so he could get EVEN MORE MONEY doesn't make me admire Murray any more. It makes me think he might need his priorities realigning. And it makes me think the writer of this article is a bell-end.

There's plenty more where that came from. Later in the article:
 Murray needs new sponsors. Now that he can be officially listed as one of the tennis greats, it's time for him to rethink his branding. In particular, his sponsorship by the Royal Bank of Scotland, which dates back to the bad old days when Fred the Shred was running the show. RBS is a thoroughly discredited organisation and is not worthy of the association with a true champion. Loyalty is all very well, but there comes a time when a player of Murray's quality needs to move on.
Jesus CHRIST. His BRANDING?! Where does one even begin picking this shit apart? (There are some musing about Murray's haircut after that. The writer apparently needs to convince himself that, despite appearances, Murray has style and so his brand remains legitimate.)
Let me remind you that this article can be found in The Guardian, beloved champion of the down trodden.
Last gem...
... Total Carp. It's the name of a fishing magazine. I was taking my little feller to school and I saw it lying on the dashboard of a white van as I went past. A whole magazine devoted to the subject of carp! And people buy it! Brilliant!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Nick Nolte, The Falklands and Today

Two snapshots from the last couple of weeks:

1. I'm watching The Thin Red Line. Tremendous. A bunch of American soldiers are trying to take a grass-covered hill somewhere in the South Pacific. Every time they move forward they're cut to threads by Japanese machine gun fire. Their sergeant tells them to dig in and gets on the phone to the colonel.
``Colonel'', he says, ``We can't move forward. My men are being slaughtered.''
The colonel on the other end of the line is apoplectic. Ranting and raging he repeatedly orders the sergeant to get his men forward or God help him he'll cut his goddam balls off. The sergeant steadfastly refuses.

Eventually the colonel makes his way to the front where he treats the sergeant with contempt - ``Are you prepared to give an order that will result in your men dying?'' - and removes him from command. Those soldiers will go forward now!

In the immediate aftermath the colonel pauses and reflects that this is ``my first war''. That ``I've waited my entire career for this chance and I'm not going to let it slip now.'' The viewer watches horrified. These men will be driven to their death because this is the colonel's chance...

* * *

It's a compelling sequence, although I wondered if it were a little over the top. The ranting colonel is played by Nick Nolte and I couldn't help thinking he over-egged it a little...

2. A couple of days later the Today programme are commemorating the thirty year anniversary of the Falklands war. They interview two navy brass - a commodore and an admiral I think. They witter on for a while in plummy accents, then the interviewer asks one of them ``Was it worth it?'' I guess he's thinking of the 900 dead, the maimed, the wounded, the insane...

One of the two, the commodore I think, replies: ``Oh yes. It was certainly worth it... We had a whole generation of sailors who'd never experienced war. It was my first war'' (the last sentence emphasising incredulity). The admiral chimes in, ``One got to see what the navy was really for.''

* * *

Deja vu all over again. Turns out Nick Nolte got it spot on - war really is the chance that the top brass spend their lives waiting for.

You could hear the relief in those two sailors' voices when they spoke of the war and how it showed off what the navy was all about. That generation without war must have started wondering whether we really needed such a spectacularly well-equipped military. Too long without war and the armed forces were starting to look over their shoulders...

Of course, since the Falklands, this country has regained its appetite for war - we've had half a dozen in the last fifteen years. Everyone knows what the navy, the air force, the army are really for. Now no one need worry...

Friday, 30 March 2012

Droning on

Next week I'm intending to re-engage with the political world, and get active!

I'll be attending the anti-drones protest organised by Bristol Against the Arms Trade.

All the reasons for attending the protest can be found at the link above so I won't repeat them. Suffice to say the arms trade appalls me. Anyone who dares argue that ``If we weren't doing it, someone else would...'' will receive very short shrift from me! I'd rather be on the dole the rest of my life than work for those buggers.

* * *

On the subject of ``getting active'', I've just started reading Camus' The Rebel. I love Camus. The Plague is one of the best books I've ever read. The Rebel is very different - essay, not fiction - but it's got off to a cracking start. Here's a quote to get you in the mood and maybe to get you thinking about what protest YOU should be going to!

An awakening of conscience, no matter how confused it may be, develops from any act of rebellion and is represented by the sudden realization that something exists with which the rebel can identify [her/him]self - even if only for a moment... Immediately the slave refuses to obey the humiliating orders of [her/his] master, [s]he rejects the condition of slavery. The act of rebellion carries [her/him] beyond the point [s]he reached by simply refusing. [S]he exceeds the bounds that [s]he established for [her/his] antagonist and demands that [s]he should now be treated as an equal...Knowledge is born and conscience awakened.

* * *

And, to finish, here's a song I intend to sing at the protest. Dylan speaks truth.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Californian wildlife

I spent a couple of weeks of February in California. It's a rather nice place - just a shame that it's a long-haul flight away. I feel rather guilty for having indulged - I can hardly claim it was an essential trip - but I did it, I enjoyed it, and there we go.

I had an interesting insight as I wandered around Yosemite valley one cold afternoon. God, Yosemite is astounding. You could not make up a more ridiculously beautiful place if you tried. If anything it's got too much beauty - sheer granite faces, gigantic waterfalls, snowy pastures, pine forests, bears, coyotes - it's kind of like God couldn't decide which he liked best so he just stuck the whole lot in.

I thoroughly enjoyed my three days there, but I was lead to ponder my response. I really felt like I was walking around in a postcard. Not just because it was so outlandishly beautiful, but also because it was a setting that was so far from where I belong. I know nothing about how to survive, or how to relate to such a place. This is not just because I live in a city - I've lived in wilderness areas in Australia before - it's more than that.

I can explain best by contrasting my response to Ululla Station, the desert wilderness in Australia where I lived for two years. I haven't lived there for ten years, yet whenever I return I feel a deep and abiding sense of relief. Whenever I'm not at Ululla, a part of me is in a holding pattern until I can return. It's not just that I know the place, how to live, what to do (to be honest I'm usually fairly clueless when I arrive back, having slipped completely into city-slicker-mode while away)... It's more that the place somehow connects to my spirit in a very basic way. I feel entirely free - free of the encumbrances and luggage of our dubious civilisation, and free to be entirely present and awake in a place where I belong.

As much as I enjoyed Yosemite, I didn't have that sense at all - I don't belong there, and I never will. Perhaps my response to Ululla is a little taste of what land means for indigenous peoples. The connection between land and aboriginal people is something that gets a lot of airtime in debates in Australia about our cultural dynamics, but I suspect this connection is a notion that is quite mystifying (possibly quite dubious) to a lot of white people. I'm not suggesting that I know what it's really about (I 've had two years of contact with the land, they've had one thousand generations) but I guess I feel a little bit of the ache that aborigines talk about when they're exiled from their land.

* * *
For my own benefit, I'm going to jot down some of the birds that I saw in California. Feeding my internal twitcher...

Western scrub-jay, turkey buzzard, red-tailed hawk, wild turkey, varied thrush, anna's humming-bird (gorgeous little things; saw one almost every day), Cedar waxwing, red-winged black bird, dark-eyed junco, house finch, firecrest (or the Yosemite equivalent), some kind of red/black/white woodpecker, a load of other unidentifiables!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Genies, liberals and Thunderstruck

I was listening to a Radio 4 play the other day while doing the dishes. It was written by someone from the Horn of Africa, Djibouti I think. The main character, a girl, was diagnosed by her village's witch doctor as being inhabited by a genie. This genie was thought to have special powers and so the villagers regarded this girl with particular reverence. As she grew up she came to occupy ever greater positions of power and the success of her village, and later the surrounding region, came to be regarded by her compatriots as a reflection of the benignattitude of this powerful genie. She, of course, believed as much as anyone else; plus she loved the glory and the power and was happy to take the credit.

It was a good story which I enjoyed listening to. But then I caught myself in one of those alarming subconscious acts of racism that infect all of us: How entertaining, I was thinking, that people should be taken in by such poppycock. Is this what it's like in that part of the world, then? Ugh, what a horrible response: patronising at best; at worst, well, just plain racist I guess.

In any case I gave myself a kick up the arse, continued with the washing up and fell to musing on the story and my reaction. At first I'd thought my sin to be ascribing an error to people in Djibouti that would not be made by folks in England. But then I thought: the Royals! Exactly the same error is made here on a national scale! The amount of utter claptrap that gets written about that family: as if they've got a genie inside them, something that turns an 80 year old woman from being your nan to being a queen. Or turns some awkward 29 year old into a dashing Prince.

The sooner we wake up from our spectacular collective delusions, the sooner we can put the genie back in the bottle.

* * *
I've been reading a bit of William Faulkner the last couple of weeks. The greatest writer in the English language and no mistake: forget Bill Shakespeare, Bill F is king.

I'm currently on The Mansion which is a collection of three novellas, all fitting together to make one masterful whole. Generally I just enjoy Faulkner for his phenomenal literary powers - the capacity to draw a character, create an atmosphere, draw the reader in, in, into his world... But he can be wise as well: I want to quote a little pearl that he threw in with the rest; perhaps the best and pithyest description of a `liberal' you could come across:

...the school- and music-teachers and the other white-collar innocents who learned by heart President Roosevelt's speeches, [and] could believe anew each time that honour and justice and decency would prevail just because they were honourable and just and decent,..
And again, later:
...the same unco-ordinated political illusionees innocent enough to believe still that demagoguery and bigotry and intolerance must not and cannot and will not endure simply because they are bigotry and demagoguery and intolerance,...

Hammer. Nail. HEAD!

* * *

And now, for your delectation, a very cool cover of ACDC's Thunderstruck. The original version happens to be my 3 year old boy's favourite song in the world.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Nob-ends in Bentleys

Dear Blog,

Thank goodness you are here, always ready to absorb my deepest thoughts, profoundest emotions, VILEST RANTS. Indeed it is for the latter that I come to you today.

This evening I was riding my bicycle rather fast down Park Street - a busy and very steep street in the middle of Bristol - when a man in a Bentley overtook me. Already this was somewhat foolish as it was very busy, there is only one lane in each direction, and I was right in the middle of my lane and travelling in excess of the speed limit.

This man's foolishness was compounded by the fact that, after overtaking, he immediately slammed on his brakes for no apparent reason, resulting in me slamming on my brakes, skidding, and nearly kissing his rear bumper with my cherub lips. I'll admit that after my heart had stopped beating at 1000rpm, those same cherub lips did let loose some profanity. To quote the big bad bloke in Nil By Mouth: Cunt! Cunt! I'll stab you in the head!

(In actual fact I didn't quite reach such a level of profane invention, but the sentiments were similar.)

I do not know whether this man was deliberately being a fuckwit or if, rather, he was just oblivious to the needs of cyclists to keep their head a goodly distance from the road surface. On some level the distinction matters not a jot: he nearly killed me and it PISSED ME OFF.

Two hours later I am starting to simmer down. I am hoping that releasing my irritation into this blog will allow me a final cathartic release. Indeed, I feel better already: I am love and light, the man in the Bentley is an integral and vital part of the universe, and I breath goodness and peace in his general direction.

Shanti Shanti Shanti Oooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.