I have a recurring dream. I suppose you could call it a nightmare, although it is not frightening. It is sad, and I sometimes wake up in floods of tears; sometimes, even, I feel down for the rest of the day because the dream seems so real that I forget that it is just a dream.
In the dream, I have a few months to live. I write letters to my children, for them now and for them when they are of age, for the adults I will never seem them become. This is the heart of my dream, and it is one of my -- any parent's, I suppose -- biggest fears, that I will not live to see what becomes of them, particularly of Zenella, because she is my first and the person I love most in this world.
But the tears are for myself, I am sure, because I know that if I were to die in a few months, I would feel my life had been unfulfilled, that I had made too little of it. And I know the resolution for that feeling, it is no good to tell me, because we all know that we can easily make more of ourselves, stop wasting the hours of our days, throw away the TV, the magazines, the PC, the million ways to piss time away.
In the dream, I write to Zenella that I have nothing to teach her about how to live her life, because I had no idea how to live mine. And besides, I do not want to teach her anything; I want her to learn whatever lessons there are to learn by osmosis, by experience, by trial and error, not by being handed a roadmap and crucifying herself for not being able to follow it.
I visit my parents and my sisters in the UK and I ask them not to come to the funeral. After all, I say, they will just be paying their respects to a dead body, not to me. I will be gone.
I write to Zenella that she will have forgotten me and that I regret so much that I am not there to see the beautiful woman she has become. I am confident she will be a wonderful person. I do not know what I write to Zenita and Naughtyman because my dream has recurred since before they were born and they are not really part of it.
I do not believe love is eternal. I do not know what that even means. But I believe it lasts as long as the person loved lasts, so long as they know they were loved and value it. I know that my dream is not about fear of dying, although I am afraid of it, and it is not about how sad it is to waste your life, although I do feel sad about that, but it is about the fear of not being loved, of the love I have for her not being enough, dwindling in her as I become a distant memory, until it is unvalued, and itself dies. I am more afraid of that than anything in this world, and I want more than anything that when they in their turn are saying goodbye to their children, mine will be valuing my love.
This is the latest cause of merriment in our house. The kids were watching Honk, Toot and Swo-Swoosh on the TV, when someone bellowed out what seemed to be an obscenity. It's now my favourite insult! Check out this trailer: right at the end the guy clearly says something that will make you giggle.
Well, they say there's no honour among thieves. I was tickled by this story, in which the wicked Mail on Sunday is robbing the paupers in the music industry by giving away Prince's new album for free.
Let's take a look at some of the hilarity in the article.
One music store executive described the plan as "madness"
Prince is of course noted for his sane approach to business...
while others said it was a huge insult to an industry battling fierce competition from supermarkets and online stores.
So how has that industry "battled" supermarkets and online stores? By lowering prices and offering better service? Has it fuck! It continues to collude in viciously overpricing CDs. There's no reason on the face of it why a big store such as Big W here, or Tesco in the UK, should be able to outcompete Virgin or HMV on price. They don't sell more CDs, so they are not getting an economy of scale. They're able to run at a lower margin because they are bigger and have fewer staff per item, but it's not as though HMV pays its staff well. And online stores kick shops' arses for two reasons: one, they carry a much broader range, and two, you can browse without having some prick badger you asking whether you want help. You know, you'd think they'd have realised by now that if you wanted help, you'd ask for it. But being "helpful" is their purported competitive edge.
Prince's label has cut its ties with the album in the UK to try to appease music stores
Because music stores, far from being put upon, are hugely powerful businesses, with the ability to make or break records and record labels.
The Entertainment Retailers Association said the giveaway "beggars belief". "It would be an insult to all those record stores who have supported Prince throughout his career," ERA co-chairman Paul Quirk told a music conference.
You what? How precisely did they support him? Oh yes, by selling his music for a profit! You'd think they were charities to read this guy whining.
"It would be yet another example of the damaging covermount culture which is destroying any perception of value around recorded music."
Now, here's the heart of it. This is why they're pissed off. Because if Prince can give his album away, we start wondering why new CDs cost us 30 bucks and more. We can all do the maths. Most of us have bought CD spindles, so we know that the pressers get their CDs very cheaply. And the packaging is not breaking the bank either. And we're mostly aware that artists do not do all that well out of the deal. But the whole thing depends on our belief that music is "worth" 30 bucks a CD.
Music stores do not "support" recording artists. Who was the last recipient of the HMV Award for Promising Newcomers? If there was one, you could guarantee that some beancounter would have worked out how it would make money for HMV. Music stores exploit artists, making profits out of others' creativity. Yes, they have "battled" other conduits for music, as have the record labels. But not because they are concerned about artists, or about anything other than the dollar.
More on Lockerbie and blowing people up in general
More about Lockerbie from the consistently excellent London Review of Books, simply the best periodical on this planet (and I remind myself once more to read it more regularly -- perhaps I should subscribe to encourage myself to). Miles outlines the basics of the case, giving the reasons that no one who has the least clue has ever believed al-Megrahi did it. He asks some interesting questions about the money that the Libyans paid. I always thought it was rather odd that we had allowed them to pay their way back into our good favour, and doubly odd that they would do so when they weren't responsible. But of course they never admitted guilt, simply stating that they were willing to pay to get back into the good books.
I think our willingness to allow them to go so quickly from pariah to good buddies had a lot to do with our knowledge that they weren't at all responsible for it.
The sadness for the families and partners of those killed, when al-Megrahi walks, is that they will not have any justice. It is unlikely that anyone will ever be punished for this terrible crime.
Colbert had some new segment or other that he led into with pictures of H-bomb explosions, and it got me to thinking about whether anyone could be villainous enough to use one on a major city.
But of course they could. There are people killing themselves and others in Iraq for ends that seem quite nebulous. They seem motivated purely by hatred. I suppose they are trying to bring about the supremacy of their particular grouping, and because they think that their grouping is the only one that follows Allah's will, that means they are following his will in blowing up other groupings' members.
These people have a different moral compass from mine. But so do people on our side. The same kind of man who convinced himself that there was a cause worth destroying the mediaeval city of Dresden for and who convinced himself that murdering a hundred thousand Japanese with one bomb can convince himself that it would be okay to wipe away London, Paris, New York or Tel Aviv. Just thinking about it makes you feel like weeping. That there are men with the means and the will to wipe away some of our great achievements, and many many lives with them!
Of course, those men convinced themselves that it was okay to murder civilians because they were fighting a "total war", between societies, involving everyone. This is just one more reason for forcefully saying no. No, I want no part in it, I do not support it, and will not be involved in it. That will not prevent me from being killed, naturally, and it was not sufficient to save the people of Iraq when millions of us said no, but I still think it is worth letting these bastards know that they are not doing it for us or with us.
Well, there's one journo with a shred of integrity left in the States:
What strikes me is the disrespect Mika is shown by the repulsive toads she cohosts with. You'd think that in a country as truly, deeply fucked as the States, someone posing as a journalist would have the heart to realise that she is right.
Justify it however you like. Pretend that allowing it makes us all wealthier, that it's the only route to a better world for all.
I don't buy it. I think the haves fuck the havenots, and the havenots should go get themselves guns and unfuck themselves. If you consider yourself fortunate, consider yourself doubly so that the poor don't take their share out of your arse with an AK.
Meanwhile, Chavez knows that the Yanks still have a hardon for his oil. It's a delicate balancing act for Chavez. His antiAmericanism makes him very popular both in Venezuela and in the wider Latin American world, but he has to take care not to do anything that really upsets the Americans. Yes, he upsets the rightards, but the people who pull the strings are not really swayed by the blatherings of the Town Hallites and other empty vessels. They only care about dollars, and Chavez has to take care not to upset money any more if he wants to avoid a war that, for all his posturing, will be his and his nation's ruin.
Hillary Clinton is repulsive. The big worry is that the desire to win will impel Democrats to select her as presidential candidate. She would be a disaster for America. Okay, whoever is elected is not likely to bring about any revolutions, but there are better and worse. And is Clinton even electable? I have grave doubts. The reason is that she aims for a mythical centre. The Repugs worked out years ago that there is no centre. There are people who hate people and people who like people, and what counts is how many repulsive turds you can get out to vote. And guys, if you think you can be voting for shitheads like George Bush or Rudy Giuliani and not be a repulsive turd, you need a long look in the mirror. The Repugs don't bother with the "centre". They push a message that will strongly appeal to the halfwitted degenerates who would vote for Satan if he promised to ban abortions and do bad things to foreigners. The Dems should do the same: push a progressive message, fuck the right wing and get the vote out. And this time, challenge the Repugs when they try to disenfranchise blacks and others who might vote against them.
Actually, best of all would be a vote for none of the above. Remove these bastards' sense of entitlement by refusing them a mandate.
Africans have a ton of problems. They've decided that they don't need another. The connection between America's wanting a base in Africa and China's drilling up half the continent for oil is easy to draw. And of course it's quite understandable that Muslim nations should be reluctant to house American troops, given that there are a bunch of screaming nutters running around who consider that an incitement to start bombing.
He drew laughter when he described Tory opposition to an EU external action service (a Brussels equivalent of the Foreign Office or Quai d'Orsay) as absurd, since it merely brought together in one location the de facto staff of the commission and the EU council. "We are going to have a referendum on an open plan office?"
Cameron, a buffoon of the first degree, blustered that it was an outrageous transfer of power. These people have no shame. Cameron doesn't care a less about where the European Union puts its staff, or anything else about Europe. But he knows that the people do. Blair doesn't want to consult the people because he, correctly, reckons them to be idiots, led by the nose by a media that for its own reasons wants Europe's power to be restricted. I note that Menzies Campbell, an astute man mostly wasted in politics and entirely wasted in the Lib Dems, correctly analyses Blair as edging into euroscepticism. He's been pushed there by Brown, who I think simply hates Europe and always has. Not the notion of a European Union, as such, but the way it is now, throwing money into the wrong pockets.
So three years ago, we noticed that water was pouring down into the garage. It didn't take a structural engineer to work out that the shower was leaking. I was horrified. We'd only just moved back here and I had no money, no way to afford to have the shower replaced. So I was glad to see an ad in the paper for Megasealed. Pay 400ish dollars and they claimed they would seal up your shower, no leaks for 12 years, guaranteed.
Which was all good. Until a couple of weeks ago. So we rang them and exercised the guarantee. Or tried to. They took two weeks to send a guy round, and when he came, he said, no there's been structural change, we don't have to do the work, pointing to a clause on the back of our guarantee.
Yeah right. But here's the thing, Mr Megasealed. You didn't do a structural survey when you fixed our shower, and your man didn't take notes on the condition of the building. Nothing of the sort. So you can't prove that a structural change has affected the shower.
Like most houses in Brisbane, ours has cracks. The drought has ruined the structures of many houses, and subsidence is a common problem. So yes, there have probably been some minor structural changes to our house in the past three years. But the clause doesn't say "if we suspect that there has been any structural change to your house, we can fuck you over for the guarantee". No, it says that the new leak must be an outcome of the structural change.
And I say, prove it. I'm going to be saying it in court, because I plan to sue the fuckers for breach of contract. A quick online search shows me that they have done this to others. I'm guessing this is their standard getout clause. A lot of cowboys have one: the thing that they rely on to fuck householders over, so that their "too good to be true" guarantees can turn out to be too good to be true.
I know, big deal, it's only a tenner. But it isn't. It's the many times these fuckers do something to people who they don't think can stop them. It's the businesses like them who fuck you over because they are not providing a service but making a dollar. Like governments, who also fuck you from behind a curtain of anonymity and bureaucracy, these people should be serving us, not using us. I am furious that these people do not feel they should do the right thing, and hide behind teh Roolz as a means of not doing it.
The truth is, I think the guy who came round didn't like the look of the job. He saw some rickety tiles and thought it probably looked like an hour's work rather than the ten minutes he'd hoped for. Tough shit. A guarantee is a guarantee, a promise. If you won't keep to it, don't make it. If I say I'll meet a deadline, I meet it. I lost a client this year (at least I think I've lost her) because she fucked me about over a job, and I had to turn it down at the last minute because I could not longer promise to meet the deadline. I won't promise if I can't make it; it's the least you should expect from a tradesperson, the bottom line in integrity. Hey, I know, in today's world, integrity is a quaint, oldfashioned concept. But I'd prefer to be living in a world in which it meant something, wouldn't you?
Well, it's a new platform at least. "Vote for me, I'm rich." (Only kidding. At least half the candidates for president on both sides have nothing to recommend them bar enormous wealth or access to it, and that's not much of a recommendation.)
The notion that Bloomberg is in the "centre" made me chuckle. I mean, yes, if you are taking Tom Tancredo and Hllary Clinton as your right and left, but no sane analysis would have him as anything other than another fairly far rightist neocon (he fits the description particularly well because he was once a Democrat, although whether that qualifies one as a liberal is another matter). One doubts that Bloomberg will serve the interests of the people over those of business. I'd expect him to stand on a small-government, big-leader platform. Given that Americans are fucking idiots and cannot be trusted to make big decisions, I'd expect him to get about 25% of the popular vote -- a bit more than Perot -- and create the conditions that would allow the Republicans to steal the election again. If it wasn't for Bloomberg's colossal ego, I'd suspect that was the point.
For my thousandth post (yes, I know it seems like a million, and at least threequarters about poker), what better subject, given that I freely express myself no matter how boring, whiny or just stupid I'm feeling, than freedom of expression?
Although I do believe it has limits, I believe that limits are dangerous. I understand and appreciate the argument for having no bounds at all on free speech, and I don't at all discount it. I believe that shouting fire in a theatre should be punishable, shouting "kill the nigger" should be punishable, and denying that millions of people were killed as a means of inculcating hatred is a defamation, also punishable, but if there were the least hint that those beliefs opened the door to broader restrictions on speech, I would be in the no restrictions camp before you could say fuck on Channel 4.
What I think sets the things I listed apart from other forms of speech is that there is very broad acceptance that they are injurious. This is not to say that the majority should prevent the minority from speaking its mind, but that very few are going to argue that this is the kind of mind you should be speaking. This makes it very easy to side against the few, and I'm aware that that is a factor in considering these forms of speech unacceptable. I am not doctrinaire about this issue, except that I'm basically intolerant of restrictions on speech. I simply feel that these things are wrong. I explained in the post about Irving that even those who support the freest speech would support defamation laws, and that Holocaust denial can be seen as similar to lying about someone's reputation. We do not not permit that, and I'm not sure that a society that did would be a better place.
Can you defame a religion though? Or its sacred figures? I do think this is a tricky area, because the immediate answer seems to be "of course not", yet how does lying about Muhammad differ from lying about the Holocaust? We take the Holocaust to be factual because it is so well attested. For Muslims, Muhammad is equally well attested. The haditha give the facts about Muhammad in the same way that the survivors of the Holocaust give the facts about the camps. It is important, I think, to recognise that for followers of Islam there is an equally grave offence in gainsaying the haditha as there is in gainsaying the testimony of those who suffered in Auschwitz.
Would I support prosecutions of writers who wrote that Muhammad was a pigfucker and a lunatic? No, I would not. (I do not in fact want Holocaust deniers to be prosecuted either, although I do support those who do.) But I do not think it would be entirely unreasonable that Muslims would want them. I do think that it would be unreasonable for them to suggest that the writer should be killed, or that other people in the society that the writer came from should be subject to suicide bombings on account of permitting him or her the freedom to say that Muhammad fucked pigs. I would deplore both the speaker and those who encouraged the suicide bombing.
So I do not think this is a straightforward subject, and I do not have an easy answer. It would be easy to renounce nuance and jump into the no restrictions camp, but I do not on the face of it have a problem with defamation laws (although I do not support them at all as they stand in the UK or Australia) nor with laws against perjury and to some extent threatening language.
Sir Salman Rushdie did not write that Muhammad fucked pigs. You would think he had, to read the furore The satanic verses aroused. He wrote what might be called a variant history of Muhammad, which Muslims on the whole would find unacceptable. Two things one needs to know in considering the issue are that the Qur'an, although it is taken to be the infallible word of Allah, is a collection of "rememberings" gathered by an early caliph. There were dozens of "Qur'ans" floating around when he collected it, and they were in many ways divergent. Islam was not then the monolith it is taken to be now (and it is not that monolith today, although it is less tolerant of divergence than Christianity). The satanic verses may have existed, but were excised. They weren't really in keeping with the tone of the Qur'an, not because of the acceptance of polytheism (which Muhammad is said to have included to try to broaden Islam's appeal and then reconsidered, claiming that Satan had inspired him to stick the verses in) so much as the idea that the entire text was not divinely inspired but some might have been the work of Satan. This would clearly be problematic for a scripture because of the obvious inference. This was not the big problem with the book, although in itself it would have been upsetting to Muslims, but the Prophet's wives' being prostitutes definitely was.
Now I can see the case for not permitting this expression in a Muslim nation, and I can see the case too for Islamic nations' banning the book. The passages in question were grossly offensive to Muslims, and I think Sir Salman was well aware that they would be. Should novelists avoid offence? No, I don't think so. Would I want a novelist prosecuted who wrote a novel in a fictional world in which the Holocaust was a fabrication, or who had characters who denied it happened? No, I would not. But I do see that there's no bright line between fiction and nonfiction.
Fiction is composed of lies. That's what it is. It is not true and does not pretend to be. That is the convention. If we tell a story we intend to be understood to be true, we call that history. Sir Salman did not write history. He did not intend for anyone to be persuaded that Muhammad was inspired by Satan or that his wives were prostitutes.
But what if he had been writing about someone still living? Would that the book was fictional protect him from laws on defamation? No. If he wrote that Tony Blair fucks pigs in his next novel, he could be sued. I doubt Blair would bother, but he'd have an easy case, so far as I know. Of course, Muhammad cannot sue.
I do not have an easy answer to this. I supported Sir Salman at the time, and I still do, in that I defend his right to write what he wrote. I think he was a silly prick for writing it, but I've never considered being a silly prick to be a hanging offence.
I do not care much about knighthoods either, but I believe that Sir Salman deserves recognition. He is a great novelist, although I'd suggest he has only written one great novel, Midnight's children, which is far superior to The satanic verses, and itself severely defamed Indira Gandhi, although I think Sir Salman would defend himself on the basis that it was true. He might defend himself against claims that he defamed Muhammad on the basis that the facts cannot be known. I do not know that this is a strong defence in a defamation case (one generally has to show one's statements to be true) but it would seem to excuse making up a story about Muhammad if one can claim that all stories about Muhammad are likely equally fabricated.
So I salute Sir Salman, and I think the committee that proposed his knighthood, although their reasons were poorly considered, should not be castigated for rewarding a writer whose ambition might have outstripped his talent, but still encourages other writers to aim high, and write big works on big themes, which is no bad thing, even if those themes are not acceptable to some.
On the same subject, I noted a snippet in the Private Eye that made me stop and think. Amnesty International has concerns about freedom of expression in universities in 14 countries. You could probably name most of them without needing to be told which they are. One would certainly be Egypt, where a blogger who criticised his uni was not only expelled from it but jailed.
But the university union in the UK is sanctioning only one nation, which was not on that list, of course, given that you are perfectly free to say whatever you want in an Israeli university. I am fiercely opposed to Israeli policy in the West Bank and elsewhere, but I am equally fiercely opposed to the horrid dictatorship in Egypt, if not more so. I do not understand why I should support a boycott of one and not the other, and I have not read anything that even resembles a coherent argument for it.
Sometimes you think, how can people order bombings and the like, just to increase their wealth? How can they be so callous?
I understand it by looking at how casually shit people around me can be.
I am driving along Logan Road. I'm in the inside lane of two, behind a bus. I look in my mirror, and there's space to move out if the bus pulls into a stop. There's a car but it's far enough back that I don't need to fret.
So when it pulls into the stop by the driving range, I indicate and get ready to pull out.
But the guy in the outside lane speeds up. As soon as I indicate, he or she accelerates.
This is the kind of small meanness that makes this city so shit to live in.
I miss leaves on the pavement, the smell of wet earth, bonhomie.
I love the sound of kookaburras in the trees behind me, the smell of a warm eucalypt forest, Cylinder Beach.
I don't have anything to look forward to. I think that is why I have been so sad. I am not built to be contented; I am built to desire, require, need change. This life is so static, so still. To love it you would need to love small moments of dynamism. I am not subtle enough for that. And there is too little to savour. I miss pastries, cannot afford good wine, have no joy in conversation. But I smile when I talk to you, and I hate myself when I am not courteous. You would not know that I'm not loving it. I am not a drag to know.
But no one wants to know me.
It hurt me a lot when S ditched me. I haven't got over it as well as I might have. I think that's because she casually dumped me when she stopped being able to use me but she gave no credit for what I had given her.
I cannot surrender my sense of justice, my deep need for fairness. I do not think life has been fair to me, but as time goes by, I doubt that I have given enough to deserve a return.
But beyond that, I was disappointed because I had so misjudged her, and I'm generally a good judge of character. I am struggling to reconcile my high opinion of her with the truth that she is just shit.
I am sorry that I am still thinking about it. I said I wouldn't, but I have found it harder than I thought I would. I felt I was worth more. I am very low on confidence at the moment, unable even to email the English people I met at the Meetup because I fear they will not want to talk to me. I know it's not rational; spare me the comments on how you won't know unless you try, blah blah. I could email myself the same fucking comments. I know but knowing doesn't help at all.
On the other hand, it would not be fixed by her writing to me and saying hello. Just another thing that can't be resolved.
I have no work at the moment but I have another project coming up, and I've already earned enough this month. I am proud of myself that even though I hate it, I can be relied on by my family. I am not all bad. I do think sometimes about how my children will think of me when they are older. I do not have a preferred picture for myself; I'm just trying to get through it without smashing them the way kids get smashed. There are plenty of bad things they could remember -- I'm a long way from the man I could be -- but there is good too. They cannot doubt that I love them, and I think that is worth most.
I worry because I know how easy it is to judge someone by the bad and just forget the good. I try to teach Zenella to judge people in the round, rather than get upset about the negative, but who knows what makes an impact and what doesn't? Sometimes I fight with Mrs Zen and I so want them to see us laughing, not fighting. To sum up what I want for my kids, I would need only one word: warmth. I want them to feel warmed by me, by the world I make for them. How I fear I am not succeeding! But do I fix it? I try. Do you give yourself credit for trying or punish yourself for failing? It depends how happy you are with yourself, I suppose.
I miss kissing. I wish I had someone to kiss. I kiss Naughtyman and he giggles. He giggles and I am thinking, I have to kiss you as much as I can now, because the day will come when you don't want it. I wonder whether that isn't, when it comes to it, the curse of age: you have learned to see the souring of every good thing before it happens. He is a beautiful boy, gentle and sensitive. So am I, really, so am I.
No one in their right mind believes the Libyans did Lockerbie. Now the man unjustly imprisoned for it may be released.
This is a "conspiracy theory" that has more solid grounding than the official story. It's not clear which conspiracy actually resulted in the bombing but the evidence has never been there to convict Megrahi. Plenty of people with axes to grind have not let that stop them from insisting it has been, to the point at which a cynical Libya was willing to indicate that it was responsible to get off the sanctions hook.
Among those pushing the story hard, and trying to suppress alternative explanations for the bombing, are the editors of Wikipedia. One reason, among several, that I don't bother with the wiki is that it has an influence out of proportion to its merit, and that influence can be controlled by relatively few, determined people. If those people care about the truth, well, that's not so bad, but if -- and it's usually the case -- they only care about having their own view of what is true presented, that's a dangerous thing.
The other day, Zenella was looking up "ant" and she stumbled across the Wikipedia page. I don't doubt that the "ant" page is reasonable, but what if one day she googles "Lockerbie"? The wiki page will come high in the results. I know that the page is slanted, and I know how it was achieved (I've worked on the page even, myself, although I didn't contribute much in the way of content).
I know, and doubtless anyone reading this knows, that believing what you read on the interwebnet is foolish, but children do not know that. Part of the wikiculture demanded of contributors is that they should assume that long-term contributors are working on the encyclopaedia in good faith. But what if they aren't? You are not permitted to ask that. I think you should be, given the breadth of Wikipedia's aims, and the success it has had in achieving them.
This is just brilliant, the best summary of the facts on Iraq, as we know them, that I've seen.
Those who claim that the invasion of Iraq was a well-justified attack that went wrong (and astonishingly, those people do exist, despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary, and one can only presume they are blinded by loyalty to their rightist hero or their own stupidity, take your pick) should read it carefully, and recalibrate.
They lied to us. They lied repeatedly and continue to lie. They did not lie for our own good, which we might forgive, at least somewhat. They lied for their own ends.
They will never face the trial they deserve, never receive the punishment due for the many, many murders they are responsible for, never see justice. But we can do it ourselves, in a small way. A tiny way, if we are little-read smalltimers, but an important way. Because a single small voice cannot stand against a tide of lies, but millions can. And maybe that will be enough to spare the people of other countries the hurt that we let Bush and his criminal buddies visit on Iraq.
I am listening to the new(ish) Klute album. It's top notch of course, as usual one disc of slightly dark DnB and one of old-skool techno. Klute's no Aphex Twin, so both discs are fairly straight ahead and solid, but his great feel for melody and motif puts him way ahead of the pack. I was surprised to see this in the racks at HMV at Carindale, because Klute is an ultra independent who has many times expressed disdain for the major record stores. I'm not a fan of them either, but you don't have a great amount of choice in suburban Brisbane.
I listen to music a lot. It's one of the huge benefits of working from home: I get to choose what goes on the stereo and no one complains. I am not one of these people who likes to work in silence, even if I'm doing something that needs concentration, such as proofreading. To tell the truth, I need something to concentrate against, and I find my mind drifts if I don't have distractions. Not that it doesn't drift anyway.
I have to make tapes for the car, because the radio is so awful (mostly AM rock and a yoof "indie" station presented by jocktards so witless that they make Radio One's Zane Lowe seem an exemplar of great radio). The big problem with mix tapes is that you are going to be listening to them over and over, so the songs need to stand up to repeats. If you make a mistake, you're stuck with having to fast forward past that track that seemed like a good idea when you were taping but now sets your teeth on edge every time you hear the first bar.
So I went for What's the matter here? by 10,000 Maniacs. No music wears on me as quickly as Americana, mostly I suppose because the music is conventional and doesn't pack surprises or reward repeated listens. The Maniacs are a bit different, of course, because they feature one of the great indie chick singers in Natalie Merchant. The song is a wonderful meditation on child abuse, which seems very appropriate given that the UK government is reviewing its law on chastising children. They are being urged to drop the section that permits "reasonable" chastisement. I do not think it is "reasonable" to hit children at all. It is surely an anomaly that if I strike Mrs Zen, I can go to jail for it, but if I strike Zenella, no one cares. There is no good purpose to it. Children do not learn any lesson from being hit but to fear their parents and to use violence as a means of resolving conflict. And those parents who claim they strike their children to keep them out of danger are deluding themselves. If you think hitting a child is a superior way of keeping it from burning itself on a stove than simply pulling it away, you are an idiot. Yes, the childbeater will say, but if you hit it, it knows that touching the oven is bad. My kids know touching the oven is bad because I've told them it is, and I've explained why. They've seen the burn on my foot caused by hot oil that splashed out of a wok, and they've seen a blister on my finger when I scalded it.
In my (limited of course) experience, children learn most by example. The example I would like to be setting them, however much I fall short of it, is that people should be treated with respect and dignity, not that they should be coerced by physical force when they're smaller than you.
I also picked 505, which is the standout track on the Arctic Monkeys' slightly disappointing second album. I think the Monkeys are in any case one of those bands that makes the odd great track with a ton of filler, which is at least forgivable, given how many bands make albums full of filler with nothing great at all going on.
Badly Drawn Boy seems to have dropped off the radar somewhat in recent years. I know he's still making albums, but I haven't heard them. I loved Hour of the bewilderbeast though. It was big about the time Mrs Zen was pregnant with Zenella, and we would play it to the bump. When she was a baby, I would whirl her around the room to Say it again, and it became a firm favourite. That and Pissing in the wind stand up to the test of time pretty well. They are anthems of indie positivity as well as great pop songs. I like gloom as much as the next man, but we all need marching tunes too. Young men who only listen to Tool miss the roundedness of more catholic taste.
I included Turn back now from Candie Payne's debut album because even if the world does not need a new Cilla Black, I liked the old one enough to be delighted with Candie. You cannot beat good songwriting and a chick belter is icing on the cake. I don't confuse myself by listening to confected bullshit like Joss Stone. Anyone can fake heartfelt; only the great can actually make you feel it. Candie Payne may not quite be great, but she's putting her heart into her fakery if she isn't, and I like that.
Recently, I have been revisiting my goth phase. This is not a reaction to living in a deadend town, as I did when goth was big the first time around, although I do note that there are tons of emo kids in Brisbane. They gather in Queen Street at the weekend, a legion of black-clad wannabe-geeks. Why you'd wanna be a geek is a mystery to me, but I guess you at least increase your chances of getting laid if you belong to a subculture. Dead Can Dance are coincidentally Australian, although they moved to London before writing all their good stuff. They were one of those bands with two creative forces, and I think, although I'm not sure, that they tended to write separately. In their earlier work, Lisa Gerrard would sing more folk-influenced, difficult, whirling kaleidoscopes of sound; Brendan Perry would sing dark, deep ultragoth stuff. In power we entrust the love advocated is Perry at his best. The gloom is laid on with a trowel, but the intricate guitar is a treat and the words -- utter nonsense -- are great to belt along with in the car.
If you read my review of Feist's new album, you know I rate her highly. 1234 is at the bouncy pop end of her output. If you aren't whoa-hoing along with it by the third chorus, you do not have the capability for joy. Which is not a good thing, in case you were wondering. Even if your life is joyless, you need to be able to be sparked into life. Without the ability to be lit up by something wonderful, you are just an ape. Which is okay, but do we not all have a little part of us that wants more?
Those of us who like retro stuff like Franz Ferdinand (not me) or Bloc Party (first album, yase, second album, nay thankee) or the Rapture (thankee much) are missing out if we don't return to the source. Elsewhere, I've praised Wire, brilliant pioneers of minimalist guitar, who Bloc Party should pay royalties to, and equally as good are Gang of Four. To say that they were influential is like saying that the Pacific is a bit wet. Return the gift is a brilliant mix of spiky guitar and social commentary, which was very much the thing in the early eighties, until people discovered bum sex and drugs.
Almost contemporary with Gang of Four, not very influential, perhaps because they worked solidly within the bounds of pop, and criminally neglected commercially were the Go-Betweens, the single best thing ever to come out of Brisbane. How men this talented could have been produced by Queensland is a mystery to me. People say is from the "lost album", the early demos that were supposed to be the Go-Betweens' debut but never were. They are very raw but you can hear the songwriting talent that made Forster and the sadly missed McLennan two of the best of their (or any other) day. It's simple and direct but just wonderful. I won't tire of this, no matter how many times I play it. One of the tapes that has just about been worn to nothing in our car is a compilation of the Go-Betweens' stuff. If you pass a guy in a station wagon who seems to be tunelessly bellowing Part company or Boundary rider, that's me.
If I had to describe Depeche Mode in a word, I'd probably choose Useless. Okay, I liked the early synthpop stuff and only switched off when they set sail for boring as an "industrial" band. If they invented a genre that was more tedious than industrial, I'm yet to come across it. I'd rather listen to cats' being tortured than Nine Inch Nails. So why is this track on my compilation? Well, at some point in their career, the Mode, or their handlers, had the sense to have Kruder and Dorfmeister remix them. And the result sounds nothing like Depeche Mode, much more like lo-fi, bedsit music of the Low or Eels type. I haven't heard, and probably will never hear, the original, but the K&D magic lifts this above anything else I have heard of theirs.
You may be smelling an eighties theme in this tape. It's nothing purposeful; just that I have tried to make something that I'll like but Mrs Zen will also like. She's not into dance music at all, and she isn't keen on anything too experimental, so if I'm making something that I hope appeals to her, it's going to be at the pop end of town. And the eighties -- early eighties, I mean -- were great for pop. Punk destroyed music and re-created it. It made it possible for people who were creatively talented to feel that they could make music even if they were not technically excellent. Now, of course, you can fake technical excellence easily enough. I doubt anyone will accuse Lloyd Cole of being technically excellent, but he was creative enough in his day, and Forest fire is a tremendous belter. Try putting it on when no one's around and try to resist bellowing it at the top of your voice. It's liberating. And, you know, that's what a great song is for me: something that can make you feel, just for a moment, untied, able to let go, floating free, lost in those few minutes that it lasts.
This is quite shocking and rather chilling. One has to bear in mind reading it that Australia has quite restrictive defamation laws, but it does seem that if you have a shit meal in a restaurant, you will not be able to say so here.
I remember, some years back now, the actress Charlotte Cornwell suing a paper for saying she had a fat arse. At the risk of being sued myself, I think it was fair to say that she did have a meaty butt, but she argued that she was in the business of acting, not of having an arse, and that while comment on her acting was fair enough, comment on her arse was not. She sought to draw a line between fair comment on her work and unfair comment on her personally. I think it's a fine line, and courts should probably be careful only to decide on cases that are clearly one side or the other. However, restaurants' business is to produce food. With all the monstrous posing that goes on, that might be obscured, but still.
But reviewers can be turds. They can quite purposefully put the knife in; they revel in their (presumed) power to make or break a restaurant, film or book (probably a realler power so far as films are concerned than restaurants, and only then with films that are aimed at a more discerning viewer: Shrek 3 will be a hit regardless who says it's rubbish). And food writers do have a culture of viciousness, in which each tries to outdo the next in the waspishness of their review. Even so, I don't think they should be sued for giving their opinion, even if it stretches the envelope of fair comment. I sympathise with the restaurateur, whose business went under, but restaurants do come and go, and I tend to think the bad reviews are outcomes of bad food, not of the wish of reviewers to destroy reputations. Yes, they'll attack with relish when they find something they don't like, but it has to be unlikeable to begin with.
One has to smile when one reads Blair whining that the press has caused a "loss of trust between politicians and media". Yeah, it's all the Sun's fault. Nothing to do with your repeatedly lying to the press about Iraq and other issues.
We don't trust you because you're shit; you lie, you cheat, you serve corporations and fuck us over. If the papers are out to get you, we generally think you deserve it. We delight in your discomfiture.
One laughs at Blair's talk of "accountability". He means control, of course. But having a press that the government cannot control is a good thing. It goes a very small way to keeping the bastards honest.
In most disputes in this world, there is not a right and a wrong. Often, there is righter and wronger, but it's rarely clear cut. World War Two was something of an exception, at least in Europe, where most involved were fighting a war of defence against an aggressor that could not easily be negotiated with. In the Pacific, the war is more readily characterised as a conflict between economic powers. I'm not sure that a Phillip Bobbitt-style reading of the conflicts of the twentieth century as one "long war" between contesting political systems stands up to scrutiny, because in each case the system is simply the means particular interests choose to express themselves. Only if the interests themselves truly differed could Bobbitt's analysis stand. But the US military did not then, and does not now, serve the people; rather, it served the interests of the corporations that feared Japanese encroachment on markets and resources that the US considered to belong to it. I do think it's reasonable to consider the US righter and Japan wronger, but I think a white hat/black hat view is entirely wrong. Viewing the war in the Pacific rather as similar to the First World War, a clash of "great powers", is probably more accurate. Even if Marx was not right when he suggested that economics always lies behind conflict, it makes sense to look first at what economic interests are at stake in any given clash.
I think De Soto's bullet points capture the tragedy of Israel/Palestine exactly. The boycott on Hamas has been a disaster, a real "what the fuck were they thinking?" position on the part of the US and its supporters. Not engaging with the democratically elected government of the Palestinians is a repudiation of democracy, not an expression of it. We cannot claim to support democracy only if it gives us the results we wish for -- although this has very much been the American position in the past hundred years or so: Iraq is just the latest conflict in which America seeks to deny a people's clearly expressed will. It also leaves no avenue to further the peace process. Which I think is what Israel wanted. It was doubtless delighted that Hamas was elected, because that provided it with the latest of a chain of excuses not to negotiate fairly, or at all. De Soto is right about Israeli rejectionism, which has basically been its stance for many years now. It has no intention of allowing a just peace, and gives the impression of aiming at a "Greater Israel" as a fait accompli. It's all very well to pay lip service to a "roadmap" that requires you not to create further settlements in someone else's territory, but you cannot expect to be taken seriously if you allow -- and even encourage -- those settlements to be built. Israel's approach has been to divide and conquer: to maintain instability among the Palestinians, and to keep up a level of conflict that does not permit a decent internal discourse.
Meanwhile, the world's powers stand by and watch. As I've noted, Israel could be pressured into doing the right thing very easily. Everyone needs markets, after all. We do not need to apply sanctions. A simple "do it" from the US would suffice. Even pressure from the EU would likely have an effect. The preconditions set for Hamas and the Palestinians in general are ridiculously severe and onesided. Hamas must renounce violence against a nation that currently occupies its territory and is killing the people it represents? Well, you go first is probably Hamas's best reply! This is not the least of the conditions that were placed upon Hamas, which the Quartet is well aware it cannot and will not accept. There are of course no conditions at all on Israel. It is not even required to live up to the commitments it has already made.
But the Palestinians are not in the right either. Israel is not going away. Whatever the rights and wrongs of its establishment, it is there, and it is unshiftable. It's time, long past time, for the Arabs to ask themselves whether that is so bad that they can never accept it or whether they must find an accommodation. Two things strike me: the first is that Muslims have had to surrender parts of the world of Islam already -- Spain was once Muslim ruled, so too Greece and other parts of Eastern Europe, so it is not impossible to accept that lands once conquered can be surrendered; second, Israel is progressive and successful. Part of its success has been bought with the Yankee dollar, but I think that it's fair to say that that is nothing like the whole story. Israel was built by the Jews, scratched out of the dirt by them, and should be something of a model to the nations around it. It's not perfect, by any means, but it comes out of comparison with places like Syria very favourably.
Worse, of course, than rejectionism is outright murder. Which is what suicide bombers do. I do not believe that murdering civilians is a suitable means to "defend" oneself. I don't think that anyone truly believes that that is what the Palestinians have been doing. Clearly, suicide bombing creates outrage, makes headlines, and importantly provokes one's enemy to perpetrate its own outrages on your civilians. Those directing suicide bombers know that each attack will bring the deaths of not just Jews but Arabs too, killed by Israel in revenge. I do not say that Israel must bear responsibility for suicide attacks, but I do say that its enemies rely on its intemperate and disproportionate responses. Each side has found a way to blame the other for its own disgraceful outrage: Israel claims the right to revenge because of Palestinian attacks; Palestinians claim the right to attack because of Israel's brutality. De Soto says in the report:
"I wonder if the Israeli authorities realise that, season after season, they are reaping what they sow, and are systematically pushing along the violence/repression cycle to the point where it is self-propelling," he writes.
A fair resolution to the crisis is simple enough to visualise (I use "fair" in a rather broad sense because of course many will argue that it would be fair for Israel not to exist in the first place): Israel retreats behind the green line, compensates refugees and allows some to return; the Arabs accept that Israel will continue to exist; the two nations live as partners; eventually, the Middle East builds institutions like those in Europe -- can you imagine a MidEast Union that expands to include Iran and Turkey?
All this seems very distant as Hamas and Fatah slug it out on the streets of Gaza and Ramallah. It is a pity that the Americans discouraged a broad coalition among the Palestinians in its desire to isolate Hamas (and its more basic desire to destabilise the PA in exactly the way we're now seeing), and doubly a pity that our pitiless sanctions on the Palestinians have helped create a state of affairs in which resolving the conflict is impossible, and trebly a pity that another decent man has not been able to turn the tide, sold out by superiors who see pleasing America as more important than achieving justice.
Because most of the small bunch of readers I'm lucky enough to have don't really like poker, I'm shifting my poker content to a separate blog, crazy eights (which is the game I should be playing, not fucking holdem!). I've put all my previous content there, so that I can read it if I ever want to laugh at how clueless I was, and still am.
So I was disappointed to bubble in R’s tourney, but I guess I only had myself to blame. It was all quite instructive, illustrating how the game might have its ups and downs but good play rests on solid principles.
I think you cash small tourneys more often than not by playing solidly, but you have to play solidly all the time, not just most of it. It’s a failing of mine that I can go wrong for a hand or two.
The principles I felt were illustrated yesterday were: Solid play is best. When they raise, they have it. Don’t expect them to play well. If you hope to be a good player, you must be able to distinguish good play from good luck. Do not play scared.
I pick up KsTs on the button and make it 3xBB to go. This is the standard raise and I’ve made it all night without varying for hand strength. L, who thinks he is a good player but has been a calling station all night – I guess he thinks he’s good enough to LAG it up – calls in the BB. The flop comes QJx with one spade. I bet out, hoping to take it down right away. He calls. Another spade comes on the turn, he checks, I check behind (I think). The river is a third spade. He bets, I raise big. He thinks for a very long time and folds. I can’t figure out what you had, he said. I can’t see what fits that action. I don’t tell him but later he tells me he had AA. Well, you fucking butchered that, I’m thinking. Solid play is best. But I’m kicking myself for betting so much on the river, because he could call a smaller bet, I think. Still, the big bet looks a lot like a bluff. Unfortunately, the river card also brought in a straight draw (not the one I had), so he was more willing to lay it down than he would have been had it bricked.
Later, W, who has tightened up a bit preflop but is awful postflop, completes his small blind and I wake up in the BB with Q9. I should just openfold that hand against W because a month or so ago I flopped two pair out of the BB and raised him when he bet. He called the raise and turned an A, which gave him two pair and I boneheadedly pushed into the exact hand I had put him on. Anyway, this time the flop comes A96 and he checks. I make a small bet calculated to get him to lay down whatever shit he completed with. He calls. Uh oh, I’m thinking. He’s probably slowplayed an ace. So the turn is nothing and he checks, I check behind. The river is a Q. I bet out and he raises quite big. I call it. He shows AA for the flopped set. WTF? Well, okay, I made a mistake. I’m quite capable of laying that river down. It’s a mistake I make to rationalise others’ plays into ranges of cards that I beat. In this case, I put him on Ax, but not two pair. But W is a weak player, who will not bluff in this particular spot, and would likely just call with that hand. When they raise, they have it. So after the hand, he starts mouthing off about how he “milked” the hand? I’m like what the fuck? Dude, if I hadn’t rivered a Q or 9, you would have only made the bet I made on the flop. Milked me? Hardly. Quite the opposite. He played the hand very weakly, giving me a chance to outflop him for free, failing to get money in when miles ahead, and then needing to be lucky to make any sort of pot from a huge hand. I don’t have a problem with slowplaying a monster and letting the other guy catch up, but you can’t claim you’ve done anything special. If you hope to be a good player, you must be able to distinguish good play from good luck.
Trying to get tricky preflop is usually a bad idea. Now, I played some of my starting hands a bit too fast, and didn’t get action on them, which was annoying, and I also played made hands too fast, playing scared. When you’ve been burned, sometimes you tilt a bit and start thinking they’ll always catch up if you don’t take pots down. That’s a big failing in my game. I need to remind myself: don’t play scared. I am tons better when I play aggressively and bravely. But slowplaying is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, it didn’t bite my opponents, but it easily could have done. In one hand, D, an older guy who fancied himself a player but didn’t look all that solid to me, limped from the button, W completed and I checked my option with J4. The flop came all diamonds, KJx. All checked. The turn was nothing special. W checked, I checked, D made a weak bet. I knew he had hit the flop so I chucked it. He showed his hand, AdKc. A monster. But here’s the thing. He made nothing with it, and risked everything to get it. Preflop, he gave us a chance to outflop him for nothing, and after the flop he gave me a shot at pairing my kicker on the turn. An offsuit four on the turn and I likely bust the idiot. A jack and he’s in a bad position, unsure when I bet whether I really have it, and hating to throw away his draw (which could be – but wasn’t – dead).
The biggest hand for me was one I’m not sure about. On the bubble, I had the big stack (which makes it all the more painful to win nothing). UTG I have 77, and make it 3xBB, which at this stage is 3000 chips, a big chunk of most of our stacks. I expect most times to fold everyone out. T, a weak player who has been riding his luck, but has learned since I last played him to get aggro with a shortstack rather than get blinded out, pushes. I have him covered by plenty and I’m getting 11.5 to 4 on the call. In this spot, I tend to discount the likelihood of both big and little pairs. He doesn’t have the balls to push 22 in this spot, and there are far more big aces than big pairs. So I figure I’m probably ahead of AK-AJ. Against his range, I am probably dead on even. I think he folds smaller aces. Do I call? The pot odds say yes yes yes, but I can fold, avoid risk and maintain a very decent stack. I can definitely find better spots to get money in than a coinflip. I don’t think I can lay it down though. Maybe the result is influencing my thinking too much. Had I won it, I would have had a stack big enough to slap the other guys around, and I think I would have won the tourney. Anyway, I call quickly, and he shows AK. It doesn’t really matter which overcards he shows, of course, so long as they’re not suited. Except that the flop and turn were all lower than a seven but the river was, of course, a king.
Finally, I forgot that even though I have started treating Friday home games as SNGs, and playing them accordingly, my opponents don’t, and they don’t have a clue what good play even looks like. Shortstacked, but covering W, who is BB, I push UTG with QTs. I think this is a good play, because the table is playing tight and I’m a good chance to get three folds. But W calls with KQ. WTF? This is an autofold in the BB against a player who has you covered. Against any range he can put me on he’s behind for all his chips. But he doesn’t think like that. He sees two face cards and thinks “wahey!” Don’t expect them to play well. I do not improve and double him up and that’s me very short.
Well, it could have been different. I played pretty well, and my mistakes were not horrible. But for a rivered king, I would have had the stack my play had merited. Maybe folding 77 on the bubble might have been better because I really didn't need to get involved. I dunno. It's easy to think you played even worse than you did when you lose.
You know mah niggas, it's a bad thing when we lose sight of what harms and start hanging each other for shibboleths.
It is not a sign of progress; it's a diminishment of the real issue. When someone is kicking someone else's teeth in because they're a "nigger", that's a concern. When some silly posh tart calls a black woman -- who doesn't care -- "nigger" because that's what the girls do back home, that's not.
Of course some will be "offended".
Channel 4's action was welcomed by the Commission for Racial Equality.
No organisation has done less for racial equality in the UK than the CRE. It is so heavily focused on making the news that it loses sight of the real issues. Everything it does is done with an eye to the (very famous) American black activists, who have achieved public recognition through outrage. I'm not saying that using a bit of well-timed hysteria to grab a platform is a bad thing. I'm all for it. But it's what you do when you have it that matters. In the CRE's case, particularly in the days of that horrible Uncle Tom, Trevor Phillips, it uses it to snivel.
"The n-word is offensive," said Nick Johnson, the CRE's director of policy and public sector.
Yeah okay. We all know that it is. The girl probably doesn't realise that whatever her crowd does, it's not acceptable on national TV.
I think it's more complicated than "it's offensive", because it is a word that has been "reclaimed". In groups of mixed friends, the black kids call each other "nigger" and the white kids pick it up too. The whole group calls one another "nigger". You can argue that the black kids have a right to it and the white kids don't, but then you are stuck with having to argue that a word you claimed is offensive period is offensive sort of. Once you start gradating rules for words, you're in linguistic shit.
"This will show everyone that racism must never be tolerated in any way, shape or form...
I have a real difficulty with this guy's position, which I'll explain.
If we insist that using a particular word is "racist" without regard to intent, we open the door to allowing racist attitudes to persist so long as they are not spoken. Racists cannot be engaged if all we ask is that they don't use this word or that.
This chick wasn't insulting anyone or trying to hurt anyone. She used an offensive word for people of a different type from her. But, like many people, I'm wondering whether there should not be more offence that we have started to have "blacks only" words.
I understand the theory and politics of reclamation, but I think that care needs to be taken in drawing the line between "we're reclaiming this insult to make it a word that expresses pride" and "we're reclaiming this insult to make it a tool to bash other people with". Otherwise, a word that we outlaw because of the divisiveness and hatred it expresses becomes a means to create divisiveness and express hatred.
Johnson goes on to pound home his point:
"There is no stereotype."
Erm, what? Has this guy got a script that he just reads out whenever he's "outraged"? Or -- I suspect this is the case -- did he not see the show and is just spouting because someone has told him a white chick said "nigger" on Big Brother. When asked, he didn't say "I didn't see it so I really can't comment". These people never do. They always can comment.
Other talking heads also had plenty to say:
Henry Bonsu, director of Colourful Radio, a digital station aimed at a black audience, described the incident as a "wake-up" call to young people who think the word is a term of respect of endearment. "Lots of middle-class white girls from the home counties are listening to hip-hop music - it is the dominant street culture, and certain things are deemed to be cool. Perhaps she thought it was legitimate.
Perhaps. I don't think you could wish for a better example of a person looking at a thing and not seeing what they're looking at. Yes, lots of MC white girls listen to hiphop. In that genre, the rapper will refer to all his associates as his "niggers". Copying that is not to be "cool". It is simply to use a code that everyone who is into that music uses. The kids who are into hiphop are aware, I don't doubt, that the word is offensive, but in their view, they are helping to "reclaim" it.
"[But] if you think you can gain coolness by using the n-word then you're in for a rude awakening."
Whatever "coolness" there is in it is gained by being part of a group, part of a subculture. The subculture reclaimed the word, not just blacks.
I'm wondering what this guy really doesn't like. I can't help thinking that at base, he has a problem with whites liking "black" music, or appropriating "black" culture. He wouldn't be the first. "Wigger" is not a compliment.
"People think the word has been denuded of its savage meaning - it hasn't."
In the circles the girl mixes in, it has.
Her sin was to use the word in the wrong context. If this guy wants to argue that it is "offensive" that she uses it among her mates, I am finding it difficult to agree. Who exactly is offended?
"And many young people don't realise this."
Those damned kids, eh? They just won't hang on to the prejudices and hatreds of old. They refuse to fight the battles you want them to. They refuse to accept the codes you live by and insist on making their own. Bastids!
Robert Beckford, a lecturer in black theology
You what? How exactly is that different from "white" theology though?
and culture at Oxford Brookes University, said: "It's not the first time there has been a manifestation of racism on the show.
In the previous incident, several housemates bullied another because she is a woman of colour. In this incident, a girl carelessly used a bad word. The two incidents don't even begin to bear comparison.
"It's only since the last celebrity show that the production company has been forced to act on discrimination."
What discrimination? If she called a white chick "nigger" we'd be okay?
"The n-word has a clear negative history...
Yes, it does. No one is denying that. But so what? It used to be impossible to say "fuck" on TV. Now you hear it every day.
"but is used in complex ways today...
Yes, so what we're going to do is boil the complexity out of it by making out that it's a simple issue: the girl's a racist for using the bad word and must be hanged for it.
"Even with its use in hip-hop culture, the dominant interpretation for most black people is still that it is abusive."
Abusive is as abusive does.
Let's imagine that racists start calling blacks "nooks". That's a word with no history as an offensive or derogatory word, and it's hard to come up with an etymology that works for it as a word of that type.
But every time a racist discusses blacks, he calls them "nooks". It becomes code among them.
For Beckford, there could be no offence in "nooks". He would not even be aware what the racists were doing. What grounds could he have for caring?
Speak of the devil!
chair of the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights
Mine is Hayle, my home town when I was a child. It is not the prettiest, not the most charming (there are many charming villages in Cornwall, with streets sloping to the sea and beautiful old houses fronting the sea, but Hayle is rather workaday, once a busy industrial port, now a tourist centre solely because of its beach), in no way outstanding or wonderful, except for one. I love it more than I think I will ever love another place.
Why do I love it? I love it because it had places to explore, because the beach was long and flat, because the people were friendly and kept an eye out for little boys up to no good. It was safe and warm.
I love it because it is the place where I was happiest, running with my sisters and my friends along the dune tops, rolling down the dunes to the beach, cycling the lanes, swimming in icy water, playing in the barge that was beached by Harvey's dock. Man, the games we played. I still have vivid dreams in which I am a secret agent, a soldier, a man of action, content to do and not to think too much.
I love it because I never felt I wanted there. I had everything. How could you want more when you had a loving family, a beach within walking distance, a field to play in over the back fence? I learned to smoke there, to talk tough, to kiss girls and to drink with abandon. I learned to love indie music and I learned how painful it is to lose something you love when we moved away.
I remember sitting with H. in a cafe off Causewayhead in Penzance. She is crying because I have told her I am leaving. I want to kiss her, but I don't. We are not boyfriend and girlfriend, although we're close. I wonder whether she remembers me. I don't suppose she does. She had been an outsider, and I had welcomed her and befriended her. I had lived in Hayle long enough to become a local, long enough for it to become my home. For her, it was a long way from home (she had been brought up in Kenya). I wish I had reached out and touched her face, and I wonder how much of my life has been about wishing I could be sitting there once more, able to find a way to defy my father and stay there (at 15, a big ask, but when you dream, you can dream as big as you like, the bigger the better).
Clocks run only forwards though. A ton of shit has been piled into that innocent heart, but it still beats, still resonates with the sound of the surf, still yearns for a not so charming, rough and ready, safe and warm seaside town -- still the place that "home" means for me.
Are people such as Dick Cheney bad men, or good men doing a dirty job?
Upon Scooter Libby's sentencing, Cheney gave a statement in which he described Libby as a man of great integrity.
Let's face it, if your idea of a man of great integrity is a guy who has just been sent down for perjury and obstruction of justice, you have different standards from most of the rest of us.
I just don't think you can spin these people as great public servants, having reluctantly to get their hands dirty in jobs no one really wants to do.
But haven't they brought us prosperity? It's difficult to tease out the counterfactuals. Could we have been prosperous under other systems? Could we have managed without jostling for resources, by cooperating, sharing, helping each other upwards instead of holding each other down? I'm inclined to think we could, but do I know how? No. I have faith that cooperation works better than competition, and I can think of examples of how it does in practice, but whether I could design a system that worked, I don't know. It's an item of faith for me as much as anything else, that greed is not the only way to motivate people. Personally, I have never felt the lash of ambition. I like being respected, loved, cared for, much more than I like people feeling I'm a success. Could mutual respect work as a spur to productivity?
If you don't think so, why not? Isn't the accumulation of goods to do with pride? Are there no other ways to instil pride than by a simple counting-off of what you have and what others do not?
I think men like Cheney have been allowed to set the rules. Not necessarily bad men -- I don't think people such as Adam Smith and John Locke were bad in themselves, and of course not all of their ideas were harmful -- but no doubt some of the rulesetters have been bad. Often they have chosen "moral" structures that work to endorse their own privilege. Of course men are going to support the idea that increase in opportunity and reward of success are good things if they personally had many opportunities and a fairly easy road to success.
You will worship competition if you are a winner; and it will be easy for you to forget that you had a headstart, that we don't all start from scratch. (It's worthy of remark that rightists at the same time claim that the poor deserve their poverty because they are life's losers and that they should not be hit with inheritance taxes, whose repeal ossifies difference and makes it impossible to create an equitable society.)
But this is the difference between right and left exactly. The right consists of people who benefit from things the way they are, and have the notion -- usually correct -- that were things different, they would not benefit so greatly. They hate change because they know that change can only take away their advantages. The left consists of people who think they will be okay with change, that sharing benefit fairly will not hurt them enough to make it undesirable.
As for integrity, I don't think it's possible to have it and be on the right. Integrity is too close to decency, and being decent demands that you have a care for others. The right simply doesn't. Its philosophy is focused on the individual. Whenever rightists say they are doing something for someone else -- for instance, "bringing them democracy", the antennae twitch. We ask, what's in it for them? Because ultimately that's why they act: for themselves, never for anyone else. Cheney also said that Libby was a great public servant. But I don't think so. I think he was serving something but not the public. Why would he? There would be nothing in it for him if he did.
Some days it's hard to care a less. Some days I wonder if I ever have cared, whether it's just a pose, just what I feel I should feel. I don't know. Some days I even wish I was incapable of caring and always had been, that I could have been able to use what I have to make a ton of money and say fuck you all.
Because I do say fuck you all. Today.
I am on the edge just now and it's not a good place to be. I have work for this month and none for next. When I ask about more, my clients blank me. I have a regular gig. It's about 40 hours a month. I need 100. Mrs Zen makes the equivalent of 30 but that's supposed to be paying off cards and stuff. Does anyone actually ever pay off all their debt? (I paid down a credit card last month, which leaves two. The amounts I have on them probably wouldn't strike you as very much: about six grand altogether, three of it interest-free stuff and a tax rebate will pay down all of that before it's due.)
I think a lot about how else I could get money but I'm not drowning in ideas. I could do massage but I'm not sure about the market and I'm out of practice. Excuses, I know. All I want is to be able to play poker well enough to make the same living from it as I do from editing. But I suck at poker and I'm never not going to.
I also suck at writing. Stuff like this, yeah. Flaming, trolling, the quick retort, I can do that. But I have no imagination. I ran dry years ago. I can fake it, but I don't feel it. There's more to it than being a fluent writer. It's not that I couldn't churn out some shit that would make money. Of course I think I could. But I don't have the ability to apply myself. Much worse writers make tons of money. I was bitter about it when I was younger; now I just know that is how the world is. You can hate it, but changing it is too much for a worn-out guy at the backend of nowhere, Queensland.
I only worry about money because of my dependents though. For my part, I could just drown myself if I didn't have a cent. I have no joy left in me at all. I do not wake up and think what a wonderful morning. I wake up and think nothing at all, just what I have to do to survive and have my family survive. I am hoping I do not damage them too badly, but what use am I to them? At this point, I am gritting my teeth because I am not the family man at the moment. I am having to work at it. That doesn't feel good.
Usually, I feel a lot better about things when my parents visit. But not this time. Mrs Zen was very critical about my dad. I know he can be an idiot, but she is not giving credit for good intentions. It seems she is unable to do that any more. Am I guilty of hardening her? I went off the rails. I know it but I want to get back. She wants to revel in my being off them. She does not want to accept my willingness to make things good. She wants our relationship to be bad so long as she can blame it all on me.
Do not ask me why I married such a fucking idiot. I do not know. I don't care any more. I don't rake over my choices; I just try to bear them.
It's not just that, of course. I just didn't feel uplifted by them. Not their fault. I am just too numb, too unable to feel anything the way I should (or feel I should, if that makes any sense). Tonight, I got angry with Zenella. She wouldn't go to bed and was trying to wind us up, the way little kids do. They sit just out of eyeshot, make noises so you know they're there. But I pulled back, reeled myself in. I stopped and said, what do you need? I realised that she was lacking something, trying to express that, not trying to piss me off. She wanted someone to tuck her into bed. So I did it, and now she's sleeping.
If I wasn't on the edge, I would have done that first, not after having to reel myself in. I hate myself for not being the good man I feel I am.
Or I would if I gave a fuck. Which I don't. Today. I will tomorrow.
He deserved it. Yes, he's the fall guy for Cheney; yes, he's done public service (but whether we can consider that these people really are serving the public is a different matter entirely); yes, he has a family (but so do the people whose lives these arseholes wreck or cause to end).
He deserved it. It's only a pity he's not joined in doing hard time by Cheney, Bush and the Rove. A pity that the Democrats do not have the balls that Fitz showed, and will not impeach the bastards for the many crimes they've committed.
And my American friends deserve it. You deserve to see justice done. You deserve to take joy in Scooter Libby's being unable to buy his way out of jail, in the failure of his expensive legal team to keep him from his deserts.
Could there be a coup in the United States? Is it imaginable?
Some believe the ingredients are there. A ruthless government, which has shown no regard for democratic process, which has increased executive power to the point at which there are few checks on the president, which has stolen two elections by using an array of means, from disenfranchising voters who would likely oppose it to using black-box means of voting that do not leave records, which has shown itself to be aggressive in pursuit of corporate interests. An executive order -- similar to a decree in its unchallengeability -- that permits the president to seize sole power in an "emergency" (one is reminded that Julius Caesar became dictator of Rome in an "emergency" -- he created it himself, one also recalls -- and then remained in power even after any hint of an emergency was over). A mercenary army, operating beyond the law in Iraq, where its soldiers -- the "contractors" you often read about in the news" -- murder civilians for sport, which has already been deployed on the streets of an American city (in New Orleans, where it also indulged in a fair amount of gunplay).
Some believe we can expect a "terrorist incident" in 2008, perhaps involving either a nuclear weapon or a "dirty bomb". They believe that the big training camps being built by Blackwater, or other facilities that are springing up across America, will house "traitors". After all, the "terrorists" in Guantanamo Bay were locked up first, given a trial afterwards, or at least we're told they are going to have trials some sunny day. And with Jose Padilla, we've seen that being an American citizen will not help. Anyone locked up can expect to be "interrogated" to the point that they start to believe they are traitors. They may not retain enough sanity to know what they've betrayed though.
Some believe that the Republicans, or the criminals that currently bear that name at least, will not surrender power, and will use whatever means necessary to retain it.
I believe that all of this is possible, but it will not happen. Bush is very unpopular but America remains fairly evenly split between people who like people and people who hate people. There are only a few swing voters. I know the media makes out that there is a "centre", which can swing either way, but in truth, it is only quite small. I think that 2008 will run fairly close, particularly if the Dems pick Clinton to run against, hmmm, Giuliani, let's say. I think choosing Clinton would be an error, but one that the Dems could easily make. They have entirely mistaken how politics works in the States. They focus on playing to the centre, because they think it worked for Bill Clinton, and they don't realise that that reads not as pleasing to all but as inauthentic. The Republicans do not give a fuck about the centre. They get their base out to vote and cheat. I think they'll do that again. Rudy, if chosen, will throw crumbs to the fundies -- "whatever my personal views, I intend to govern for the people; I will appoint strict constructionists to the bench and not activist judges (IOW, I'll let the boys overturn Roe vs Wade)" -- and someone will get the churches onside -- "brothers and sisters, Rudy is misguided on babykilling, but he's not going to oppose our wishes on that subject, and he's not bringing in any progay measures", and he'll get enough votes that the election will be stealable. And they'll steal it.
But if the polls are showing a landslide for Clinton? Expect Boston to get nuked. I'm kidding. I don't think Clinton will be bad for business. They probably feel they can work round her and get her out after four. They doubtless have something juicy lined up to take her down or embroil her in, just as they did Bill. But if Edwards or Obama gets the nod, or Gore goes for it, expect to see men in black on the streets of American cities the autumn after next.
I'm not a big fan of the academic boycott on Israel for two reasons. First, I do not believe academics should be punished for the behaviour of the governments of their nations. Academic freedom and the collegiate nature of global academia are too important to sacrifice to narrow political ends. Second, I have begun to feel that singling out Israel is close to indefensible. British unis do not, so far as I know, boycott Saudi academics, but Saudi Arabia is as far from a respectable member of the global community as you can get. I know why we do it: we feel Israel is "one of us", and is amenable to pressure in a way that horrid third-world shitholes are not. Furthermore, we feel horrified that a democracy that looks a lot like ours is so wrong. Doubtless there is an element of antiAmericanism involved: Israel is so closely identified as an American proxy that the left strongly feels it is important to push back at it.
However, claims that the criticisms of Israel are driven by antisemitism are ridiculous. Israel is doing shitty things. They're not doing borderline things that we decide are shitty because we hate Jews. They are doing things that we would disapprove in any nation.
Are boycotts of Israel anything like the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany? I don't think so. I think that the Israeli right is playing the Godwin card right there. Saying "you're antisemitic so your criticisms don't count" has not worked: most critics just shrug and say fine, whatever you think, and keep criticising the shitty things Israel does.
Of course, there is a problem that the left does not grasp how their actions can be spun as antisemitic. We need to be clearer in pushing back against the rightist spin that we are not criticising Israel because it is a Jewish state. We are criticising it for the same reasons we criticised America in Iraq, Russia in Chechnya, Serbia in Kosovo, the UK in Northern Ireland, Sudan in Darfur (although not so much, but the situation is nothing like as clearcut as the right makes out there), etc etc etc. I expect the "antisemitism" would vanish if the shittiness stopped.
Now I know that can easily be read as blaming the victim. But Israel is not the victim. Once, yes, it could claim it was, with some justice, although the reasons for Arab antipathy to Israel were not entirely baseless. Now, not at all. Its defenders make out it is a beleaguered state, desperate for peace, but it is far from that. It's an aggressive, expansionist power, which has stalled the peace process with the goal of taking ever more. If Israel wanted peace, it would be accepting the Saudi plan, and telling us, look, we will do this deal and then you show us that you do not hate Jews by backing us. I would. Israel ceases to be a pariah when it gives Palestine a just peace. But until then, it remains a pariah, even if its academics should not be treated that way.
Essential reading. The kind of torture Bush and his criminal gang have endorsed in their war on Muslims has a history.
What might strike you, and it struck me, was that the interrogation techniques described in Sullivan's piece are not as bad as those used in Abu Ghraibh and other places. The description of "stress positions" is very contemporary though.
There will not be a trial for our war crimes though. Trials are what the winners make the losers go through. We did not try Churchill for Dresden, after all. But many of those involved are Christians, with a faith in a vengeful god. They'd better hope they have that wrong.
Don at What is Hip? lauds whacko rightard Norman Podhoretz, who spewed some of his usual dribblings at the Opinion Journal. But why do you say he's mad, says Don?
Well, this is why:
Although many persist in denying it, I continue to believe that what Sept 11, 2001, did was to plunge us headlong into nothing less than another world war.
Of course it did, Norman. The massed armed forces of Nazi Saudi Arabia invaded Poland and... hang on, no, it's not like that at all, is it?
A calmer observer might say that the situation now is rather like the seventies, when leftist groups carried out terrorist attacks across Europe. The difference being that we considered those as criminal acts, needing police action, not excuses for the invasion of other nations.
Like the Cold War, as the military historian Eliot Cohen was the first to recognize, the one we are now in has ideological roots, pitting us against Islamofascism,
You always know you're confronting a nutter when the word "Islamofascism" is dropped like a wet turd into the guy's writing. Osama is not, of course, a fascist, by anyone's standards. His ideal world would look very different from Hitler's, or even Mussolini's. He's not a nationalist as such, definitely not a corporatist and, if Norman had ever read the writings that inspired him, or his own writings, he'd know that Osama is not a fan of a heavily centralised state either, far from it. Indeed, the Islamist militancy grew as a response to authoritarian governments, particularly that in Egypt, and its chief complaint against the States is not, as the right likes to shriek, that it is too free, but that it is too keen on making imperialist interventions to plunder other people's wealth, often at the cost of their wellbeing.
Indeed, the Americans far more closely resemble fascists proper than do the Islamists. Reprehensible though they are, it's a mistake to conflate womenhating and religious intolerance with fascism; it is also a mistake to bundle the authoritarians in Iran and Saudi Arabia with the resistance in Palestine and the Islamist militants that loosely make up Al Qaeda, particularly given that some of these people hate others among them more even than they do the States.
Norman goes on to mutter that "Islamofascism" is
yet another mutation of the totalitarian disease we defeated first in the shape of Nazism and fascism and then in the shape of communism; it is global in scope
but this is utter nonsense. Do these people really think this rubbish or do they just write it to stir up hatred? It's obvious why rightards want to connect Osama with Hitler. WW2 is one of the few wars America has fought in which it had any claim to justice. The world appreciates the sacrifice Americans made to help rid us of Hitler (although it wasn't so grateful for the much larger sacrifice Russia made), and it has enormous kudos for it. So it's in the interest of the war party to try to paint the Islamists as a similar threat to Hitler. Were they to more accurately compare him with Baader and Meinhoff, they'd have a lot less sympathy for the "collateral damage" to uninvolved parties.
What follows from this way of looking at the last five years is that the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be understood if they are regarded as self-contained wars in their own right.
Of course they can be understood in that way, but that's the last thing the right wants. They have made strenuous efforts to paint the attack on Iraq as part of a bigger attack on "Islamofascism" because if it is not painted that way, it's revealed as an enormous act of piracy.
But there is no connection. Saddam and Al Qaeda were not linked in any way but being coreligionists. And only barely at that: Saddam was a secular leader, hated by the Islamists. They would have hanged him themselves given the chance. One reminds Norman that Hitler was nominally a Christian. Would that have justified an attack on other Christian countries under the notion that we were combatting "Christofascism"?
Norman goes on to claim that Iran is the "main sponsor" of terrorism. This simply isn't true. Were we discussing Israel alone, maybe you could claim that. But Iran has nothing to do with Islamist terror. It is involved with the fighting in Iraq but after all, Iraq is its neighbour, invaded it recently and houses a population with strong ties to Iran.
Norman says of Iran that:
Their first priority, as repeatedly and unequivocally announced by their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is to "wipe Israel off the map"
Where do you start with rantings like this? First of all, Ahmadinejad did not say it was a priority or even an aim of Iran to "wipe Israel off the map". He said the regime in Israel would be consigned to the pages of history given time. He said it once, although he has expressed the same sentiment in different ways. And it is not "unequivocal" that he stated that that was Iran's "first priority": it is simply a lie.
But Ahmadinejad's ambitions are not confined to the destruction of Israel. He also wishes to dominate the greater Middle East, and thereby to control the oilfields of the region and the flow of oil out of it through the Persian Gulf.
In Norman's invented world in his head, this is what Ahmadinejad wants. But the truth is that Iran wants recognition of its status as a regional player. It didn't fight Iraq for hegemony over the Middle East. That's ridiculous. Iran promotes Shia interests, but that's to be expected. After all, Saudi Arabia does the opposite, and we don't mind that. What the right fears here is that Iran will contest our attempt to do precisely what he accuses it of.
Nor are Ahmadinejad's ambitions merely regional in scope. He has a larger dream of extending the power and influence of Islam throughout Europe, and this too he hopes to accomplish by playing on the fear that resistance to Iran would lead to a nuclear war.
We all have dreams, Norman.
More of this bullshit will just hurt too much to dissect. This is what rightists do: they do not "think" about how the world is and how America should act in it. They invent a fantasy that fits how America already is acting. The only question is whether arseholes like Podhoretz are crazy or vile: whether they believe this utter shite or whether they say it to justify the bad things they like their nation to do. Look, I can deal with a bit of honest-to-goodness imperialism. We can argue over whether it's a reasonable thing for a nation to exploit others to maintain its own wealth. But don't let's pretend that if we're doing that, we have some other moral purpose. This witter, aimed at normalising imperialism, should not be allowed to pass unchallenged, as it so often is, and it definitely should not be signed up to by decent people, or those who aspire to be considered decent at least.