Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

I usually hate New Year's Eve. When I've been in a room and people were leaving to go somewhere or other and I knew "Happy New Year" greetings and hugs and kisses were coming, I've always tensed up, hoping the people offering them wouldn't come for me, praying at the same time that they would. I've always found an excuse, at that moment, to get up and leave so I didn't have to deal with the unwanted physical contact, the absence of the much-needed physical contact, my horror at the meaninglessness of the conventions etc etc. Have you never thought that the words would turn to concrete in your mouth if you spouted some socially mandatory cliche like "Happy New Year"?

I have spent every new year I can remember on my own, imagining the fun that other people were having, hearing the fun in pubs along the street from the Lookout, watching the fun on television, reflecting self-laceratingly on all the horrible mistakes I've made in life right from the beginning that have left me so isolated, so frozen inside my own stiff and ageing shell. And boy have I made mistakes. I think if I lived another one hundred years I wouldn't have time to put them right, or exorcise the bad spirits from my mind and from my heart that cause me to repeat them. But I will try.

Oddly, this year, New Year's Eve has no really negative overtones for me at all, however. Perhaps it's because I had my first great Christmas for twenty years or so. I will be on my own tonight; but on Christmas Day I was at Serena's house eating a beautifully cooked dinner and drinking too much wine in intelligent, interesting, amusing company. Who would have thought it. So I must be travelling in the right direction in life in some ways, roughly, even if it has been a bad year in many ways, with blackouts, trouble at work, and still no romance on the horizon, a year and a half after I finally gave up on her.

I want to have another go, while I am still alive and kicking. Muster the courage to get my health in order, if I can. Start living like a grown-up at 44, eat vegetables, be worthy of someone's love instead of an arrogant solipsistic phoney manipulating my environment for the satisfaction of my ego. And then if I can do that--or while I'm doing that--really satisfy my soul (though I don't have one) by getting into performance with my poetry. That's the plan for '09, though my karma might have other things in the store.

In the meantime I'd like to say thanks to all the people who've made this year better, more entertaining, more instructive, more full of love or wine or great food, more inspiring for poetry, than its recent predecessors, even if it has been hard, and weird; and--hopefully without the words turning to concrete in my mouth--wish everybody a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

South Bank: A Cheap Fishing Expedition For A Publisher

Yesterday was my first day at home in several, after various Christmas adventures at work and elsewhere. I was exhausted after the Festive season, and so cold I might have snapped if somebody had nudged me.

For hours I did nothing except sleep, doze and listen to football on the radio. Then, in the evening, I put a Lee "Scratch" Perry album on, and instead of writing the thought I had down in my journal, I wrote it in a poem. I did a Kerouac and let the size of my notebook (A-6), dictate the length of the lines and ultimately, when I stopped.

It came out beautifully, and very easily. I wrote another, and then another, and before I knew it I had lots of them, all around one theme: my memories of South Bank, the care home where I worked, that mad season when, after a lifetime of being ignored by the fairer sex, I had two lovely women express an interest in me in the same month.

How and why that happened I still don't know. Ultimately, I lost both of them and since then I've had a dearth of interest like nobody would believe. But it did happen! and when I start to feel sorry for myself or jealous of other men's sexual attraction, I do occasionally think about it. It lifts my chin up from my chest.

The poems I wrote in that surge of inspiration--I finished the cycle in the dark this morning--tell the story of how I loved and lost. I'm calling the collection they constitute, brilliantly I think, "South Bank". If anybody knows a publisher out there who might be interested in giving it a look, please tell.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Scrooged, The 80s, Now

"Scrooged" was one of the tv delights yesterday. You know it, the Bill Murray version of a Christmas Carol from the 80s. I was thinking as I watched it how ridiculous the clothes were then, how unattractive the hair was, how soulless and empty the aspirations of the mainstream were, how stupid the movies were that people flocked to then, and loved.

The passage of time often has that effect on things that seemed, at the time, perfectly sensible. But I thought that about what was going on in the 80s when I was actually in the 80s. It seemed to me as if half the world had lost its mind -- which is why, despite being a child of that generation, more or less (I was 20 in 1984), I dropped out and resurrected the 60s, just for me.

I'm still sort of living it too, though with a rather angry anarchistic twist that is pure punk, and despite the fact that I meet plenty of people on the alternative side of things these days who have their heads screwed on aesthetically, intellectually and spiritually much tighter than I do. And even though I understand now that the only thing that really marks a person out as bright and alive is if they understand the value of the relationships they have. What a gift their own life is, stepping out of their front door in the morning, cold air on their face; looking into a pair of beautiful eyes, telling a joke that makes her laugh.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Movie Clip

A Christmas Prayer

Huntingdon Life Sciences have won a case against animal rights activists whom they claim were trying to intimidate and blackmail them using such tactics as sending used needles through the mail and smearing them as paedophiles. Leave aside that the scientists deal in what we, as members of the community of Earth, ought to consider the deliberate murder of our own, we will never win for our cause by becoming moral lepers ourselves. Think what sort of a karmic mess we would be creating for ourselves and the animals we wish to liberate.

May all the turkeys slaughtered,
all the chickens stunned, hung
upside down, their throats cut,
then their heads cut off,
the geese likewise disposed of

to fill our plates this Christmas
please forgive us.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Adrian Mitchell: To Whom It May Concern

I note with sadness the passing of Adrian Mitchell a day or two ago.

Not familiar? He's probably going to be known by posterity as the author of "To Whom It May Concern" (I think that's what it's called)--the "tell me lies about Vietnam" poem--which he famously, and beautifully, read at Wholly Communion in 1965. (Was it '65? I don't have a firm grasp on my facts this morning.)

He did a lot of other work, of course, but most of it was rather average in my humble reckoning, spoiled by his tendency towards a sentimental populism characteristic of all of the lesser poets of his generation. It was a brilliant generation, to be sure--Raworth, Torrance, Harry Fainlight, Hollo, Horowitz, among the many--but the great ones were largely overlooked and those of limited talent or achievement struck it BIG. McGough biggest of all in the Liverpudlian afterglow of some group called the Beatles, but Mitchell too, especially with the liberal-minded arts media, who followed his every middling move as if he were Bob Dylan, almost.

"Poetry is ignored by most people because most people ignore poetry," he said (or something like that. And proceeded to write lyrics rather than poems, mostly, with obvious rhythms and simple language because, I presume, that is what he thought "people" would respond to, "people" all being pretty much the same and liking the same things in the same way.

That's a patronising view of the world, I think, and when I have time and concentration I might argue it further. I don't think, personally, that any artist should go to his audience; he (or she, yeah yeah) should just write their poem or sing their song and do it with as much force and intelligence and originality as they can. Let the audience decide whether they want to engage with it or not.

And as a leftie I say don't make everybody stupid so all of us are equal. There was always considerable value in the life of the advanced mind with sophisticated tastes. The only problem with it was that too many people were excluded from sharing in it.

Adios, Adrian. I liked you in spite of what this post may seem to suggest; but I wish the Guardian had noted the recent passing of Dave Church, a poet of towering ability, with the same enthuisiasm. Or at all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Eyes On Mars

Blue Fred Press is not given to excessive self-promotion, but our favourite staffer has a poem at a site you should be giving the once-over anyway, so how about taking a peek at J.D. Nelson's "Eyes On Mars" page in the next few hours and enriching your day considerably?

J.D., by the way, has some poetry today at our sister page THE BEATNIK ( ).Coincidence? A case of what Charles Bukowski delightfully called "asshole clasping"? No to the former and possibly to the latter.

BEATNIK has been inactive for a couple of months now because of the personal problems your esteemed editor has had (those self-inflicted, and the ones coming from without). And we've been rudely sitting on a submission from JD for all that time. With his own patient but disciplined approach to dealing with our work, he has finally shamed us into action.

Thanks again for the space you've given our beloved staffer, J.D. It's a boost to us all in these difficult times.

And if that's mutual masturbation, well, who cares. The world's a dirty place and if we can help each other a little bit along the way, so much the better, I say.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Yes Man

Have you seen the advertisements for the new Jim Carrey film, "The Yes Man"? It's about a guy who decides to say yes to every proposition he is offered for one year, no matter how absurd, to see what effect it has on his life. And judging by the picture on the poster of Jim Carrey flying through the air with a big goofy smile on his face, the overall impact is a good one.

"One word that can change your whole life," the movie tag line says. And undoubtedly it would, if you mixed in the right circles and met with the right propositions. But as much as I have a reputation among those who know me in the flesh for being a bit of a hippie (it's actually a fairly inaccurate characterisation), these joymongers who believe in the essential goodness of the universe, such as becoming a Yes man is presumably supposed to open you up to, bring me out in a bit of a rash.

Passing the hoarding with that rather-too-California/ New Age sentiment blazing out from it this morning I thought of a few other words that could also change your whole life.


Stick that between your perfect California teeth and chew it, Jimbo. And Happy Christmas.

(By the way, I know the original progenitor of the story hails from these shores.)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Broken Britain & The Conformity Cops

In some ways there may have been a decline in society in our lifetime. The SUN newspaper's "Broken Britain" analysis may even have some legitimacy, though I don't like to be in agreement with them even when they're right, and they have completely failed to understand why Britain might be broken, or how to fix it.

Britain started breaking after World War 2 when people started to feel guilty about social stratification and tried to dismantle all of the systems that had supported stratification beforehand. You gasp that I should make such a statement? Hang on.

The efforts to dismantle the social strata that had previously existed were motivated by people in my camp and embarked upon for the very best reasons. Nobody should be born with nothing more ahead of them than a life of poverty and servitude. Nobody should be born into a life of wealth and ease either. If you want something you should earn it, right?

So getting rid of the bottom stratum was a noble endeavour. And getting rid of those who automatically entered the top stratum was only justice. But the social engineering of subsequent decades didn't really do either. All it did, actually, was vastly expand the section of the population between those two poles.

Which in itself wouldn't have been a bad thing. But somehow in our furious guilt-ridden effort to democratise everything, we removed everything associated with the mechanics of elitism, such as education, intellectual activity, cultural activity, intelligent spiritual activity. People stopped reading books because reading was what snobs did. People stopped watching any sort of movie other than the mainstream drivel that came out of Hollywood because that was the hallmark of privilege, and privilege was not only bad, it was also somehow effete.

To prove we were One Of The Fellows and didn't aspire to be any more than we should be, all we could do was read tabloid papers, watch football and work. And if you made money through work and got to buy a big house, that was acceptable, because anybody could get rich in the new even-handed meritocracy of the post-war age, right? But in that big new house you better have a widescreen television and NOT a big library full of the classics of literature or philosophy.

Getting a greater understanding of yourself, or your world, or your God, just isn't important in this money-driven world where everybody is expected to look the same, dress the same, think the same, feel the same to prove to the Conformity Cops watching their every move that they don't think too highly of themselves.

An independent point of view is a positive disdavantage. What makes you think you have the right to an opinion on anything, you uppity little snot? Get back in your box. Shut up and eat your chips.

And shitalmighty don't let on that you can spell. That's tantamount to trying to crown yourself king.

If it's broken, Britain is broken because nobody in it is allowed to be anything other than an echo of the mouth-breathing halfwit standing next to him, and any intellectual or spiritual framework for dealing with his experience, or the problems he and everybody else face in this incredibly complex, frightening world, is treated like cancer.

THAT's why Britain is broken, as far as this author is concerned. Can I apologise in advance for having considered it in any depth and reassure those who disagree with me that I will try not to let it happen again? I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm getting above myself or anything.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Death of Fun

I was delighted this morning to learn that Russell Brand won the British Comedy Award for Best Live Act last night, and dedicated the award to Jonathan Ross. Ross was supposed to have been presenting the show but because of the absurd brouhaha in the British media about the silly calls Brand and Ross made to Andrew Sachs on Russell's now-defunct radio show, he's still not allowed in front of a camera (and when he comes back they'll be expecting him to show appropriate contrition, you can bet, like a drunk driver who accidently mowed down a family of cute blonde-haired infant picnickers).

This story broke before my own little spot of trouble with my employer in re: a careless joke on Facebook, but even before I was suspended I couldn't understand what the fuss was about. We seem so keen in this country to find someone we can all bunch together and vilify (life hasn't been the same in Old Blighty since witches all married I.T. consultants and opened expensive trinket shops). And we are very easily led into these moral panics by the hypocritical self-serving scum of the tabloid press, too. Do you really think the editor of the SUN newspaper gives a shit about "Baby P"? Of course not. But he knows you'll buy his papers if he pretends to, and gives you names and photographs of left-wing (and preferably, be honest, black) social workers you can fulminate against.

I'm not a big fan of Jonathan Ross, but I think Russell Brand is a genius. The calls to Andrew Sachs may have been a bit peurile--I don't know, I've only heard one of them--but in order to create great work an artist has to take risks. Sometimes it's not going to work. Or it won't work quite as well. No artist who's done anything worth a damn has ever been consistently brilliant.

Oh, and you have to wonder, do all the people phoning in to radio stations this morning to complain about Brand's award not have anything better to worry about? How about all the people dying in Zimbabwe? How about all the political prisoners in China and Tibet? The arts are central to my life but next to those other issues the eccentric perorations of a louche English comedian don't really seem that important.

2009 will be the year Hunter Thompson's prediction of the Death of Fun came true, if we're not really bloody careful.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dave Church

The death of poet Dave Church last week was sobering news. Somehow it never seemed that any of us who were doing this would die. But die he did, in his taxi cab, apparently from a heart attack, and so the rest of us must die as well. There isn't always going to be next month, and then the month after that, to get your inspiration back--or your confidence back--and finally push on to write the poem or the book you always seemed to have in you.

Which is obvious, but it's amazing how easy it is to forget the obvious as we careen through our lives hung up on the importance of every little thing we do.

Hearing about Dave makes me realise I've got to stop messing around and get down to some good, hard work before it's too late. How foolish would it be if I dropped dead (not that I'm planning to), with eighty hours of overtime behind me that week and not even the ghost of a poem scratched down in one of my numerous notebooks?

Monday, December 01, 2008

When The Going Gets Weird

Ah, yes, and it has certainly done that just lately. I get suspended from work for putting a joke on my Facebook page, and then I fall over again in town--outside Waterstone's, ironically--am taken to hospital, have a load of tests run including blood and ECG, and they conclude I've probably had a seizure. NOW I have to go to something with the rather ignominious name of a "First Fit Clinic" to have the diagnosis confirmed or denied.

But I'm pretty sure that's what it is. I have worked with epileptics for most of my adult life; I know the signs. And last night I had another one, while I was lying in bed. Woke up on the floor again with a headache, and blisters and flayed skin on my arms. As I have joked to friends a couple of times, I'm just glad I haven't wet myself. So far. The way things have been going I wouldn't take anything for granted (my humour is dark, I know, but in some circumstances it has to be).

People (not experts) have blamed the stress I've been under this past week for what's happened. They may have a point, though I've been having weird experiences akin to absences for years, on and off, and I've just never done anything about them. I wish I had now, but I was scared. I prefer to pretend things aren't happening until they go away--which of course they never do.

Well, I can't pretend this isn't happening; and that may be a good thing. I hope I get to the clinic soon and they give me some tablets to bring these episodes under control. I am reminded, as I look at the blisters on my arms, of Ballasteros the golfer, who fainted unaccountably and then was found to have a brain tumour. It could, of course, be that. And if it is, I think, with dark humour again, that my problems'll be over. But epilepsy is more likely.

And if that turns out to be the problem, I just have to get used to a life of people treating me like I'm sick.What joy. The consideration people have given me over the last few days has made me really uncomfortable, in a funny sort of way.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Hearing

You may be interested to know--or you may not care--that Fred has avoided being sacked at his hearing this morning and comes through the experience much more aware of the possible pitfalls of speaking his mind too plainly on the internet. I say "aware", obviously, and not "disinclined to continue". But there are ways, boys, there are ways. He's also going to be much more careful about who he trusts in future. Fred is quite naive, in some ways (why is Fred writing about himself in the third person?). Fred had no idea that somebody he thought was his friend had been talking to those who wished to do him harm. But such is life. There have been so many people this week who've been supportive he couldn't possibly lose faith; in fact, he may have a bit more, if that doesn't contradict the statement about mistrust. And even if it does.

Damien Green and Democracy

Much as I hate even to be suspected of defending Tories, the arrest yesterday of MP Damien Green, it seems only for the charge of assisting moles in government to leak information to the Press that Brown et al would rather we didn't have, is profoundly worrying and a terrible indictment of the state of our democracy. We need to know, if we haven't been told already, why he was arrested, what they were looking for when they rooted through his personal possessions, why he was held for nine hours, and who was the motivating force behind the police action.

According to the radio this morning Brown knew nothing about it. But since the authorities informed Cameron and Green's arrest had profound constitutional implications, it's frankly pretty hard to believe that nobody told the Prime Minister. (Which is what the Tories have been trying to imply by calling the tactics "Stalineseque"--remember the LibDem leader's put-down on Gordon Brown as having gone from Stalin to Mr. Bean?)

As Damien Green himself has said--and again, may all the gods forgive me for seeming to show sympathy to a Conservative--it is the job of the Opposition to hold the Government of the day to account. (Labour may well be reminded of that very soon.) And one of the tools it has for holding the Government to account is the judicious use of leaking. They all do it. And they've all been doing it for as long as politics has been the handmaiden of the news media. As long as they're not giving nuclear codes to the enemy or informing Islamist rebels about troop movements in Afghanistan, who cares?

The terrorist attacks in India prove that democracy is necessary now more than ever as a counter-balance to the armies of fundamentalism, the armies of violence and unreason. Without thriving democracies to lead people away from their madness, those evil bastards would suck the world back into the Dark Ages. Let's not give them too much comfort and encouragement by starting to dismantle the best achievement of humanity since the Enlightenment they would have liked to snuff out.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I'm not sure who reads this page other than the kind people who leave a comment, but I'd just like to use the space here to say that production on our poetry blogzine whatsit THE BEATNIK has temporarily ceased, for obvious reasons. Everybody who has submitted is asked to sit tight and wait a while for the editors to respond. Things will get back to normal, one way or another, after the hearing over the Facebook thing is finished. And that hasn't even happened yet. Presumably it takes a while to ship in a strong enough rope, especially as the post slows down in the run-up to Christmas.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Grave New World

I have had a rare and rising sense of optimism these past few weeks. It began to seem as if things were working themselves out at last. I'd seen off the depression; I'd made new friends. Even the desire to write had come back, although not much actual writing had emerged yet (what appears here obviously being decorative spaghetti). But events of the last couple of days have thrown me off course again.

I can't say too much about it at the moment because I am involved in an investigation. Suspended from my job for something I wrote on Facebook. Just a comment left on the page of one of my friends, something funny I thought, but somebody saw it and reported it to my employer and now I'm being investigated for gross misconduct. Can you believe that? I didn't name anybody; I didn't name the company. But somehow I am supposed to have brought the company's good name into disrepute.

We'll see. Thankfully I am a union member so I won't have to go into the disciplinary hearing alone. But I still expect to be sacked at the end of it. It's ludicrous, and it would be a gross injustice, yes. But that is the way of the world. Obama's election produced such a feeling of euphoria on both sides of the Atlantic because the good guys very rarely win. Your mind is not your own anymore, dear reader. In your free time you are still a representative of the company who pays your wages; and if you behave in the manner of anything other than the characterless drone capitalism expects you to be you will be punished for it.

You have been warned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Choosing Life

I've been conscious of my lack of productivity on the writing front lately. Haven't written a poem for so long I can't remember. And the last short story or novel attempt was a dog's age ago.

I want to get that back. I want to write. (What am I doing now?) It's been the mainstay of my life and the sinking post of my sanity since I was a wee nipper.

But it's complicated. I can't seem to write in Earls B, which is where I moved the Lookout when I finally accepted my relationship with you-know-who was over. The whole village became like the tomb I buried my old life in after that. I would lie in my flat in the dark remembering everything that had gone before and feeling like a dead man who had forgotten to fall down. "Walking through the leaves/ falling from the trees/ feeling like a stranger/ nobody sees," as Dylan says.

The continuity of my life in the world was interrupted. I went out to work--which any walking corpse can do--in fact, dead man status is a positive advantage in the workplace--but because everything good was over, everything precious lost, I never went anywhere when I was invited. Never did anything.I couldn't see the point; I had done it all before. And after a few months the people I knew, mystified by my unfriendly behaviour, stopped asking me out.

So I had no stimulus anymore. No inspiration. Nothing left to write about except the past. And without connection to the stimulus of the present, my memories became duller.Less a clear recall of past events and more a characterless, flavourless representation of something half-remembered, then reinvented by my turgid mind. I worked my memories over and over in the still air of my room until there was nothing left even of them.

So what do you write about when even your own memories seem worthless and uninteresting?

Things seem to be changing now. I made the decision a while ago that I would, as the old t-shirt slogan said, "choose life". I would move, as soon as my lease was up on the Earls B flat; I would come to town where the living were, and reconnect with the people and the opportunities I had turned my back on in my haste to get to the grave I thought I belonged in. And until I could move I would say yes when I was asked to go out, instead of no.

Invitations were slow in coming at first because I had said no so many times before. Nobody likes to be rejected. But once I had said yes a couple of times, the rate of invitations increased. Now I am going out again as frequently as I can afford to, like a living, feeling, breathing human being; and I am a lot happier, though I'm still--probably always will be--a tight bundle of anxiety and flat-out fear.

So the inspiration for writing should follow soon. I hope something good will come of it. I mean, other than the fact of having yet another shot at life and finding there is still some love and friendship out there for me, when I've done very little in this past year to deserve it.

Which will be a more than adequate return for me, actually, even if I never write another publishable poem.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Winter Prayer

It's a Sunday in the world and everything is strange, eerily so, but interesting. Coming out this morning there were black crows and falling leaves everywhere. Well, yes, you might say, it's autumn. Winter, even, to all intents and purposes. But lately I've had a feeling that everything was ending, and--dare I hope?--beginning. That I went to Earls B to bury my old life, which has been so full of false turns, ghastly mistakes, friendships lost and loves destroyed. Arrogance. Snobbery. Stupidity. "In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make," as the Beatles said. And all I've ever done is breathe out anger. Disguised as love, disguised as compassion, disguised as empathy sometimes, but anger. Have I ever seen other people as anything other than projections of my own ego? Images on my own giant movie screen? How vastly idiotic, to look at the universe as your own creation! It's a Sunday in the world, cold, wet, and no wonder I'm alone with no love, a headache and nothing to do except go to work again and make everybody suffer because they're at home enjoying themselves. More anger! What a gutless bastard. What a self-obsessed idiot I am. Forgive me. And may the bodhisattvas allow me enough time to rebuild my body and my mind so I can put some love into this world before I leave it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


You all know I love America, especially now that Barack Obama is heading for the White House. Its music and movies and its poetry have had a huge influence on my life. But it does make me laugh when I'm in Sosta Coffee on Abington Street in Northampton and I hear a procession of people in clothing combinations obviously copied from Sunday newspaper fashion supplements saying, to the congenial Greek chappie behind the counter, "Can I get a Latte?" or "Can I get a mochachocachino and two blueberry muffins, buddy?" or "Can I get an hour on the internet?" Since when was "get" an adequate or even necessary substitute for the word "have"? Since when was it even accurate? Obviously he can get a Latte, he's in a coffee shop, not an aquarium.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A State Funeral For Thatcher? You MUST Be Joking

One of the newspapers confirmed yesterday that the Government intends to confer the rare honour of a state funeral on former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when she (finally(excuse me--who said that?)) dies.

I have one question.


The last British PM to get a state funeral was Winston Churchill. Which is fair enough. You could find a number of unflattering things to say about old Winston--any number of criticisms to hurl against his sacrosanct flanks--but even an old malcontent like me has to admit that Churchill saw Britain through World War II wonderfully. He embodied somehow all of the values our grandparents (those of my generation at least) were fighting to preserve against the savagery, the criminality, the immorality, the flat-out dumbness, of the Nazis. Some of Churchill's speeches are as famous now as Shakespeare's.

What did Margaret Thatcher see us through? The instigation of the untrammeled version of capitalism which has brought us to the brink, now, of the worst economic situation since the Great Depression. The devastation of the trade unions, which has created a climate of exploitation and managerial bullying in the workplace not seen for decades. A year-long miners strike which poisoned communities. More than three million unemployed at the height of her "economic miracle". A foreign war which historians generally agree she caused, and which she won by sanctioning war crimes such as the sinking of the General Belgrano.

Infamy. Stupidity. Hopelessness. Idiot children in white baseball caps getting high on coke and stabbing people to death in the streets. That's Margaret Thatcher's legacy.

She shouldn't get a state funeral for the destruction she wrought in this country; let the businessmen who got rich in the orgy of rape and plunder she created pay for her funeral if her own family can't afford it (which they can)--to put the expense onto the shoulders of the taxpayer would be a massive insult to anybody old enough to remember how royally she fucked them, and everything that was once decent in their country.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama And The Common Good

Obama's transition team have announced that Barack plans to veto a law passed under Bush making it acceptable to drill for oil in wilderness areas. I think that's the nub of it, anyway: I came in to a newsagents to shelter from the freezing rain and saw the story on the front of the Guardian newspaper. He's also heading for conflict with Gordon Brown over tax havens for the rich.

Wonderful! Can I apply for four-year citizenship in the United States with an option to renew for another four years dependent on the result of the next election?

Brown will trot out the tired old (Tory) argument that the rich and powerful cannot be hamstrung by legislation; that the only incentive they have to fatten the bank accounts and fill the dining tables of us all is complete freedom. Action cleansed of all moral, ethical and cultural considerations.

But it isn't the heads of the multinationals who have made Britain and America wealthy nations anyway. It's the ordinary men and women labouring their asses off every day in the companies run by the rich. Or at the very least it's the rich and powerful and the ordinary man and women working together. And what is the incentive of the ordinary man supposed to be?

I'm an ordinary man, albeit one with interests and opinions some consider eccentric (even dangerous, as a true belief in individual liberty is always considered to be); and I've never felt more inclined to work for the common good than I do at present knowing there's about to be an intelligent and moral man in the White House, someone who'll be working alongside me for things that matter. Ravage the sacred and the beautiful and fuck the poor as Bush has been doing for the last eight years to feed the insatiable bellies of the rich and all I want to do is sit in my flat cursing the stupidity of human kind.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Next War

One of the fabulous things about Obama's election is that when confronted with racism these past few days, I've been able to point out to the ignorant curs who perpetrate it that history has left them behind. You can stick to an increasingly deluded view of your superiority over a whole race of people if you like, feller,though quite how skin pigmentation is supposed to affect intelligence or morality I've never understood; but there's a black family heading for the White House now and the country everybody else presumes to be terminally racist has voted them in.

Rosa Parks didn't quite know what she was starting all those years ago when she refused to get up off her bus seat to let a white man sit down.

And the struggle for civil rights for black people (and Asians in this country) isn't finished yet. Obama is only the end of the beginning and if we allow ourselves to become complacent about black equality because of his triumph, the racists will sneak up on our flanks and reverse the successes we've had.

It interested me, however, to read in the paper yesterday that one of the most powerful weapons Republicans and religious nuts have in their campaign against equality for gays and lesbians is the support of the black community in America. Unless one man is free, no man is free, as far as I'm concerned. A community only now beginning to free itself from the tyranny of exclusion, disadvantage and violence ought not to be lending its arm to the oppression of another.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Well Done America, All Is Forgiven

Ted Pope just wrote to me, "We've got a president who's read more books than I have." He's right, and it's marvellous. Think about it. Barack Obama is so erudite, no rhetorical flight I could produce here to express my satisfaction at the American presidential election outcome, and why I think it will be important not only for America but for the world, would have a prayer of surpassing in style or content what Barack has already said himself. I feel--I hope temporarily--quite silenced by his prodigious gifts as a communicator. And I like that. I want to know that the most powerful man in the world is a man of extraordinary talents.

Well done, America. You played a blinder when you went to the polls the other day.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Cheney Endorses McCain

John McCain must have been privately squirming when he was publically endorsed by Dick Cheney the other day. Is that what the flagging Republican campaign really needs? The vocal support or a central figure in the Bush administration? Even Republicans don't like Bush anymore, not now that his plummeting support among moderate Americans threatens the interests the Republican Party is designed to protect.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Same Old Same Old

The world--well, the part of the world that is conscious and not preoccupied with survival--holds its breath. America is only a few days away from deciding its future, and by extension, everybody else's future too. Do they elect Barack Obama as president and send a signal to the world that they are renewed--that the torch, as Jack Kennedy might have said, has been passed to a new generation who want America to rediscover its sense of mission, its presumed destiny as the leader of a New Way that enshrines fairness "and justice for all"? Or do they elect John McCain, who stands for a slightly more liberal version of the same corrupt, greedy, lying, illiterate bullshit America has soured the world with for the last eight years (with my own country, which has never known any better, cheering it on).

The people I have spoken to--Africans and Pakistanis among them--men who have witnessed enough corruption and violence in their own countries to turn Michael Landon to drink and Devil worship--say McCain is so old he will be in a nursing home before the end of his first term. They say, correctly, "same old same old." They say, "America will never elect a black man."

Nobody anywhere else in the world appears to believe that America would dare to take such a bold and visionary step. The consensus is that voters must be lying to the pollsters and that come election day they will vote McCain with guilt in their hearts and never admit what they have done. I hope America proves them wrong and that hope triumphs over cynicism when the votes are cast. If it doesn't and McCain is elected it will be difficult for us ever to have faith in the value of political engagement again.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I found out yesterday that a woman I really like, in whatever way you want to take that, thinks I use long words when I talk to her because I know she doesn't know what they mean.

I was rather appalled anybody would even think me capable of such pretentious behaviour. If I use long words it's because they're the words that are passing through my head when I'm talking to somebody, or writing something down. It's not because I'm trying to intimidate anybody, or impress anybody.

Actually, I think my vocabulary is pretty basic for a man who likes to believe he's intelligent.

The most pretentious thing a person could do in conversation would be to simplify his (her) words or ideas because they presumed the person in front of them was too dumb to understand them in their original form. (Stand up everybody publically campaigning for the Republicans in the American election.)

It didn't even cross my mind that the woman I like wouldn't get what I was telling her.

She said she didn't mind that tendency in me because I taught her things. But I don't want to teach anybody anything either. What do I know that I should be electing myself anybody's teacher?

All I want to do is have a conversation with anybody who's interested so all of us can learn a little more.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Barack Does Rhyme With Iraq, After All

The Republican campaign in the American presidential election may go down in history as the sleaziest one ever fought.

They have to take some, though not all, of the responsibility for the ridiculous idea that seems to be abroad aqbout Obama's true religion, since they made such an effort to conjoin their opponent's name with terrorism in the public imagination.

I saw one woman at a McCain rally the other day say that Obama was really a Muslim. That he was just pretending to be a Christian until he got into the White House. At which point, presumably, he plans for there to be a great Ta-Da! moment when he rips off his suit to reveal a chest strapped heavily with explosives (maybe when he does his first speech from the Oval Office, eh?)

Of course, to a sensible person being Muslim signifies no more of a connection with terrorism than being Christian, or Buddhist. But to the uneducated, prejudiced, angry white swine who vote Republican in America or Conservative in the UK it does.

By tying the name of an opponent with a Muslim heritage to the boogeyman of terrorism (albeit homeland terrorism), they--or whichever multinational business executive directs their policies--were trying to spook voters with the spectre of September the 11th. And with some of their supporters,who are dumber than ten mules in a pea soup fog anyway, it has worked.

It is a dangerous tactic, one guaranteed to unleash even more anti-Muslim feeling in America than there may already be, and poison impressionable minds on both sides for a generation.

Thankfully McCain and Palin have changed their tactic somewhat in recent days, realising that most people were onto them and looked on what they were doing with distaste. Now they are trying to conjoin Obama's name with Socialism, which is equally absurd given how conservative Obama is, but much less damaging. Socialists are used to being maligned and beaten over the head with sticks.

But at least these days most people wouldn't kill them.

Basting Mummy

I was cooking two chickens at work the other day, the fellow who usually does the cooking not being around, and I can't even begin to explain how horrible I found it looking at those poor plucked and beheaded creatures sitting on the baking tray in front of me with their legs tied together. Some readers may think my views are extreme (as I would theirs, in reverse), but to me they'd been murdered, those chickens, and they had just as much of a right to life as you or I. The method used to slaughter chickens for human consumption is ghastly too, adding sadism and torture into the mixture, until murder actually seems too tame a word to describe what happens to them. I can't refuse to do the cooking, though. That is part of my job. And I'm preparing food for people who are meat eaters, and are unable for various reasons to prepare meals for themselves.

I told the Muslim man I was on duty with how revolting I found the experience of preparing the chickens for dinner.

"I wonder what it does for my karma to be a part of this," I said (this bloke knows I'm a Buddhist, and we have had many stimulating conversations about the differences between our respective faiths).

"All Buddhists are vegetarian, aren't they?" he asked.

"No, but in countries wealthy enough not to have to rely on meat consumption for survival vegetarianism is advised," says I. "I'm afraid I might reincarnate as a chicken and be cooked by a fat hippie."

"Do you believe animals reincarnate because of karma?" he asked, seeming mildly surprised.

Well, yes. The Dalai Lama even says that all sentient beings were once your mother. So when you baste a chicken, you're effectively basting Mummy.

I find it really difficult to understand any philosophy that allows us, as human beings, the right to use and abuse other creatures just because (I presume) they aren't as intelligent as we are. By the same token, couldn't I murder half the people who'll be walking up and down Abington Street when I leave this cafe? take their carcasses home and cook them for dinner? After all, they won't have read Dante or Shakespeare or Baudelaire or Lao Tzu like I have.

Most of the people whose friendship I cherish are meat-eaters so I don't want to pursue that argument too far. But on a relatively objective level, seeing animals as ours to exploit and dispose of freely is a kind of fascism. Though a desperate man will do anything he has to, just like a hungry badger.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On The Cushion

I had the feeling that I came out of my body while I was meditating this morning. Never had the feeling before, not in meditation anyway (knowing ho ho ho). I didn't go up, or down, or sideways; I just suddenly wasn't inside the seated figure in the half-lotus on the floor in front of the old wooden buddha. I knew I used to be, but now I wasn't.

It wasn't frightening at all. This is the way it will be, I thought, warmly, remembering the prophesies of the ancient masters. And then I was back inside my body again, like slipping into a familiar old coat.

Off out to face whatever dreams the day had in store.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How To Cope With Death

Someone I know is watching a family member go through his last hours of life, and she's understandably devastated. She sent me a text message a couple of days ago saying she didn't know how she would get through it.

Yes, I remember the experience all too clearly. And one day I will have to go through it again, if death doesn't take me first (who knows what little surprises are in store for us, eh?)

I was tempted, for a moment, after I received her text to write back that something of him would live on, that he would be reborn, that her grief would disturb him after death and cause him to drift towards an unfavourable rebirth. I wanted to echo Chogyam Trungpa's words to Allen Ginsberg when his father died, "Please let him go, and continue your celebration."

But my friend isn't a Buddhist. And she doesn't need to hear me proselytising for Buddhism, regurgitating stuff I learned from "The Tibetan Book Of The Dead", any more than I would have appreciated a Christian telling me my mother would have a wonderful time in Heaven when she died in 1996.

When someone dies or is dying all the person really needs to know is that they are not as alone as their grief and bewilderment makes them feel. Then they need space to rebuild a life which has been devastated by the loss.

You can get points for what you learned in Seminary School the next time you sit down with your teacher.

It's Time To Move The Lookout

By the time I left work this morning I'd been there for more than 48 hours, give or take the odd walk into town for fresh air. It's because we have people, including me, sleeping at the home to be on hand in the event of a crisis. You get paid for it, which isn't a bad gig, and since it's cheaper and easier for me than trekking the 8 or 9 miles out of town to the Lookout, at night, with no transport of my own, I'll do the sleep-in when it's available.

I've fallen out of love with the Lookout anyway. Every home I live in is called the Lookout, of course (I say "of course" as if it were obvious!), so what I actually mean is that I've fallen out of love with its present location, in a cold, two-bedroom flat over a shop on the Square in the middle of Earls Barton. I quite liked living over the shop for a while, since it sells flutes and Buddhas and Indian clothes etc. etc.--I was living some early fantasy of the bohemian poet's life--but now I just want a garden and my own front door again, for as long as I can afford them.

I'm pissed off with the journey back and forth on buses and in taxis too. It adds an extra two hours to my working day, when everything is reckoned up, and costs me £80 to £100 a month.

When you look at it that way, choosing to live where I did when I work in Northampton was a kind of weird masochism--which would be perfectly in keeping, actually, with my perverse need to believe that life is shit and everything is stacked against me ever finding happiness or comfort. They're not gonna come if you don't give them the chance, dumbass.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nearly There

America is frighteningly close. The presidential election is only a few weeks away and Obama is still ahead in the polls. McCain looks old and irrelevant, and he's desperate enough to attempt to make any charge stick against his rival, however ludicrous, however scurrilous. And to the credit of the American public, his barrel-scraping tactics these past few weeks seem to have caused enough distaste to turn swing voters towards Obama.

He encouraged the racist groundswell against Obama by peppering his references to his rival with the word "terrorist". And his featherweight running mate followed suit. They were referring to an old association Obama himself had denounced long ago, not directly to Obama. It was obvious. however, that they hoped the man and the word would become conjoined in the public consciousness; and among less discerning Republicans it worked. Ironically, how stumbling and weak McCain looked having to redirect supporters at his own rallies when they stood up and verbalised the ideas he and Palin had implanted in their minds. Don't say it, stupid,just keep it in mind on polling day.

The whole world wants Obama to become president because the whole world wants to believe in the American vision, as articulated by the Founding Fathers and poeticised by Walt Whitman. We want to believe that America leads the way in liberty, morality, decency, community. For God's sake, somebody has got to. But it has become impossible to think America even strives to lead the world in anything other than military muscle since the inarticulate, duplicitous and plain nasty Bush administration seized control in 2001 (via, remember, means of electoral fraud). Obama may not be able to deliver on even half of his promises, but for me it's enough that he actually wants to. That he cares what the rest of the world thinks. That he wants to restore America's covenant with the world, and give his country meaning again.

If something unexpected happens between now and November and McCain snatches the election, I'm digging myself a hole in the ground and living out the rest of my days in an air raid shelter.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Other Bruce Endorses Obama

Shitting In Your Own Nest

I met the last woman I was seriously involved with when I was at work. "Shitting in your own nest," they call that, because it makes an unholy mess in a place where you really need to have some kind of comfort and security. Though I would do it again, if the right woman came along (at the right price ha ha).

I was working for social services when I met her, in a residential home in Kettering that's since been closed, and they had a policy against relationships between colleagues. So when we got together my new partner said we ought to keep what was happening between us a secret. I suspected even then that the policy against relationships wasn't the only reason she wanted to pretend we were still just friends, but it was a great cover story, if nothing else. (She was married, for one, and didn't want to become the subject of a lot of workplace gossip, especially given the fact that her new partner was me--regarded with some accuracy as a bit of a weirdo by half of my colleagues.)

So we didn't tell anybody what we were doing. And then of course everybody figured it out because our behaviour had changed towards each other and we'd been seen out together; and our persistance in the lie made us look like snooty fools who had no respect for their colleagues. By the time I left the place, as I had to when the secret finally came out, even the few good relationships I had there had been ruined by the subterfuge; and now I don't know where any of my lost friends are. I think about them sometimes now and wish I could go back and put right the mistakes I made.Find those people and say sorry; pick up where we left off as friends. But you can't do that, of course, ninety nine per cent of the time. Things are lost and you have to chalk it up to experience, try not to make the same mistake next time.

What galls me a little is that I lost them and her eventually, and had to start my life all over again, with nothing except a roof over my head and a job to keep it there. (Which is more than some people have, I know, but it didn't feel like a lot at the time.) I don't blame my ex-partner for any of it: the friends, or the final demise of our relationship--it turned out the way it had to, given the way it started, and who I am, and who she is, and how incompatible we really were from the start. We were just two people who had reached a moment in our lives when we needed something to happen, and it did.

Sometimes when I survey the damage it caused us all, however, I do wonder if it wouldn't have been better to forego that last drink and not have the first amazing kiss that caused the Kettering scene to fall down around my ears.

Know Your Rights (1)

On the radio last night, I heard this reassuring little gem:

"It's not illegal to kill yourself in this country."

The police must have been relieved to hear that. Can you imagine them blue-lighting over to the mortuaries to arrest the day's new batch of dead?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Me And That Old Suburban Marching Powder

A friend of mine said, last night, "I don't know anyone who hasn't done a bit of coke." Well, you do, mate, because I haven't. I've always been a pot and lager man, no more. Oh, and peanut butter, of course. That's beginning to make me look like Biggles would have looked if you'd taken him out of a W.E. Johns novel and plonked him down in the middle of San Franciso in 1967.

I've known a lot of snorters, of course. You can hardly fail to given coke's ubiquity. I've known people who were heroin users too, though amusingly, in the drug user's hierarchy, that's looked down on. "You don't see any dirty old tramps doing coke," my friend said yesterday. "It's definitely the drug of professionals."

There was only one time when I was tempted to try anything stronger than Miss Green. It was when I was going out with my friend's friend Ronnie, who I'd worked with in a care home in Kettering. She was interesting, a pagan, she'd previously had a wild mane of dreadlocks but had been off work for a long time and had returned with her hair all shorn, and dyed. We'd been planning to meet up with her mates at a New Year's Eve party in Northampton and she'd said there'd be a lot of pills about.

I didn't want to take them, but I didn't want to look too straight to Ronnie either, not in the first tentative weeks of our relationship. It would take her a little longer to figure out where my radicalism lay than it had taken me to find hers.

A moment of weakness emotionally and intellectually I kicked myself for briefly. I'd let my personality be swallowed by the women I'd hung around with before instead of just declaring confidently who I was and letting the consequences take care of themselves. It seemed, on reflection, that I'd taken that rather sorry trait as far as I could go if I was contemplating doing speed or something just to make Ronnie like me.

But I didn't take the pills. My relationship with Ronnie didn't last long enough for my resolve to be tested. Though it wouldn't necessarily have been a big defining moment either way, if I had taken them. I probably would have had a really nice time and great sex if I had, let's be honest (the booze I favour, old traditionalist, certainly does nothing for performance in the bedroom).

I felt funny, talking to my friend and this bloke we know, last night, given their immersion in the drug scene and my peripherally peripheral knowledge of it. Funny because I don't like to be bested on anything at all--I only want to go abroad again so I can say I've been--but also because I have this ridiculous, suburban, bourgeois urge to prove I'm more counter-culture than everybody else.

But is coke counter-culture if it's also "the drug of professionals"? The people who talk about doing it certainly like to think of themselves as being separate from the common herd (as I do, unless I'm on a socialist jag that week). But can counter-culture be counter-culture if everybody's doing it?

The best thing a kid can be armed with these days if he or she wants to cut out a life for themselves that hasn't been chosen for them by cynical businessmen and fuckwit politicians is a BOOK. Or preferably a few books. Something on world history. Something on the religions. Something on literature, music, poetry, and painting. A kid armed with knowledge and a clear head is the biggest danger to the forces of oppression here or anywhere else in the world.

(Of course, buoyed by the superhuman confidence of cocaine they might be even more formidable...)(I'm joking, I'm joking.)

Everything Must Go, And Went

I listened to the Manic Street Preachers' cd "Everything Must Go" this morning for the first time in about ten years. What happened to them, I wonder? A truly great band, perhaps the greatest of the late Nineties, and certainly my own favourite back then. How we need their intelligence, their commitment to something other than their own haircuts, now.

It's a ridiculously obvious observation that music opens the door to old feelings. But I will make it anyway. When the cd was playing, it was as as if '96 or '97 had blown in through the open window and set up again in my living room. And that wasn't an especially comfortable sensation.

Richey Edwards disappeared around the time my mother got cancer. "Everything Must Go", their immense, valedictory, first post-Richey album, came out either just before or just after my mother died (the chronology is jumbled, maybe not surprisingly, in my mind). And the songs provided the soundtrack to the stunned, immobilised year or two that followed her death, as well as the beginning of the slide of my housemate (who I've spoken of before), into a madness that nearly destroyed us both. (You might think I'm exaggerating, but I'm really not.)

It wasn't a time I remember with much easy nostalgia. So I may not be playing the Manic's cd all that often, as magnificent as it is. Doing so would be extremely masochistic and self-indulgent, like cutting yourself to see what colour your blood is.

It's red, fool. Vivid red, and let free it runs like an angry river.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Flipping Van

I saw a stolen van turn over in a ditch this lunchtime. It took a corner too quickly as it left the A45 near Billing Aquadrome, veered violently off course, flipped over on its roof then landed with the right side up again in a ditch, as everyone on my bus--which was travelling behind it--let out a collective gasp and stood up in their seats to get a better view of the crash. As soon as the van stopped rolling, two men climbed out of the open window on the passenger side--the door was jammed--and ran away up the road towards Earls Barton. At first we thought they were just getting clear of the van in case it blew up like they always used to in American tv shows. But they kept on running, and soon they'd disappeared altogether. Hence my not-altogether-brilliant surmise that the van was stolen.

The bus driver called 999 on his mobile to inform the police and he couldn't get through. "Is it actually 10-10-10 and I'm calling the wrong number?" he asked sarcastically from his cab. A few of the passengers laughed cynically: I don't know, what is England coming to? But most were still looking towards the van, speculating as to whether a third person was trapped inside the cab. Either that or they were comparing their own accident experiences with each other. There was a woman doing that in the seat behind me: an African woman with the most melifluous, sensual voice I've ever heard. Listening to her was like rolling naked on silk sheets in a really warm bedroom while the woman of your dreams rubs cocoa butter all over you. Or something . I wanted her to go on talking about her flipped car and the multiple injuries she'd sustained all afternoon.

Eventually other people passed, and stopped, and got out of their vehicles to wander around looking at the crashed van, so the bus driver, in the absence of any police cars turning up, decided to leave the scene.

An unusual little interlude for a Saturday afternoon, I think you'll agree.

A General Silence In The Room

The Guardian today reminds us that my nomination for greatest living Briton Michael Foot, now 95 years old, called for "much closer direct control over bank lending" in Labour's 1983 election manifesto. This manifesto is historically referred to as "the longest suicide note in history" and led to a defeat that almost wiped Labour off the political map.

Will all those who voted against Labour in the '83 election stand up, please?

"Capitalism doesn't work successfully forever," Foot said yesterday, probably smiling just a little--although as a man of conscience and a responsible citizen of the world the present situation must be grieving him.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Memories of the Doors and Selina

I spoke to this teenage girl the other day. Very cute and intelligent she was (in that order in my leery sexist reckoning), but in the course of our conversation it emerged that she didn't know who Jim Morrison or the Doors were.

It may seem obvious that somebody who's 16 won't necessarily have come across a band that split up nearly forty years ago. But I was really surprised by it. I don't listen to them much anymore--and I rarely read Jimbo's poetry--but the Doors were one of the defining cultural experiences of my youth. I couldn't quite compute the idea that a band and a writer who helped me become who I am (for what that's worth) might have passed another person by completely. If they were that insignificant to a really cool person, what did it mean for all my assumptions about the validity and importance of my own cultural journey?

After speaking to the girl I went home and fished out my copies of "Morrison Hotel" and "An American Prayer" and played them through several times, while drinking cold beer through my beard like an ageing Jim.

Suddenly I remembered watching the Oliver Stone movie, massively twisted on booze and marijuana in the darkness of a cinema that's no longer there in Wellingborough. I'd seen the movie once by myself, but this time I was with a girlfriend, Selina, a hippie psychotherapist who believed she was immortal because people only chose to die. And I was so hammered I couldn't follow the movie at all. It was just a phantasmagoria of noise and colour like the light shows they used to project behind the Grateful Dead in the first great days of the psychedelic explosion in San Francisco.

I got stoned quite a lot when I was with Selina. So stoned, actually, that the sex between us was terrible. "Jesus, what does it take with you?" I remember her saying in exasperation under the covers in her house in Irthlingborough one night as she furiously jerked off my flaccid member.

The best sex I ever had with Selina, in fact, was the time I masturbated on her toilet using a polaroid of her topless for inspiration. She wasn't even there that day. I'd only come around to water her plants and put out food for her two cats Morgan and Fay.

Jesus, those were the days, eh? Booze, weed, an immortal girlfriend and the Doors. If it gets much better than that, tell me where.

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Hurricane In The Head

People who know me will be aware that I get bad depression from time to time. When it hits it hits hard, like a hurricane in the head, and for days everything goes haywire. I can't stay awake, I can't think straight, I get paranoid, I hurt the people around me either by neglecting their feelings or behaving irrationally (as they see it) towards them.

It's been going on for many years now, and I don't think I'll ever beat it. I've tried counselling. I've tried drugs. But when it's hurricane season, it doesn't matter what I think I've put up to defend the homestead. Soon it's all flying around in the air again.

It's been flying around just lately, actually. I hope now that the hurricane has started to blow itself out, but you can never be sure.

Somebody asked me today--knowing I've had, or given myself, a rough time in the past few weeks--what it was I was depressed about. I can't even begin to explain that without dragging SUFFOLK PUNCH into an area I don't want it to inhabit. I'm not even sure which comes first, the depression, or the subjects the depressed mind ruminates on.

All I know is that when it goes again I'm bruised, tired and very, very relieved.

Obama The Bomber? Come On!

I heard some American blogger on the radio this morning trying to convince listeners that Barack Obama, by taint of association with people he denounced a long time ago, was a supporter of terrorism and murder. Well,of course he is, right? Not only is he black, he's also half Muslim. Or something. Which fits the Republican prototype of the mad bomber perfectly.

I hope everybody realises how desperate this means the Republican Party must be and dismisses the putrid insinuations out of hand. It's a new low even for them, and no party in the civilised world (wherever that is) has shown itself able to go quite as low as the Republicans.

As if we didn't know they were struggling when they chose first John McCain, and then his running mate Sarah Palin, to chase Obama and Biden for the White House.

You betcha. Gosh darn! Well, gee, folks. Oh, and did I throw in a golly?

The university educated operatives of the Republican Party will piss themselves laughing if "joe six-pack" and his "hockey mom" wife believe even half of the simple-minded bullshit they're foisting on them in an effort to protect their money and power for another four years.

The Credit Crunch: Who Exactly Is To Blame?

It seems a touch hypocritical to me, all these people (those who know it's happening) blaming the supposed forthcoming economic catastrophe on the greed and rapaciousness of Wall Street and the City alone.

Anybody who voted for Thatcher or Reagan (or Blair or George Bush) was voting for an unrestrained free market. Anyone who fails to vote votes by default for the established order, and the unrestrained free market has been our established order for a whole generation.

It was the politicians who created the conditions in which the practices we're told led to the credit crunch were allowed to flourish. Wall Street and the City couldn't have done it without being set free to do it.

I voted for Tony Blair in '97 and 2000, or 2001 (whenever it was). That was to replace a rotten government with a slightly less rotten one. But I voted for the market. (I also voted for an illegal invasion of another country, and I have to live with that too.)

The only consolation I can take is knowing I have been a critic of materialism and capitalism specifically since I really understood the meaning of those words. Not that that will do me any good if the predictions are even half way accurate and the whole temple of Mammon we've all been living in since Thatcher and Reagan were elected comes crashing down around our ears.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

To Whom It May Concern In Real Unreality

i am a beatnik a dharma bum a hippie an old bohemian a poet a punk a dropout a psychotic i like to drink beer i like the occasional joint i like meditation i'm learning to play the flute i think the best place a person can be is deep in the woods on a sunny day i like rain i like a full moon in the sky first thing in the morning i like my long hair i like my beard i think hair wax on men is a sign of evil i will never wear a tie again i do not want to spend twenty pounds on a shirt or a hundred quid on a pair of shoes when there are people on the streets with nowhere to sleep tonight i am not a part of your make money and buy useless shit to prove how impressive you are take a foreign holiday eat dinner in a fancy restaurant once a month world okay? okay? now hopefully i won't have to say it again.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I spent most of last night in sweet isolation drinking beer, washing my clothes in the sink and hanging them to dry over my bath, and listening to the new Seasick Steve album "I STARTED OUT WITH NOTHING AND I STILL GOT MOST OF IT LEFT" (well, the title's something like that). I also reassembled my shower to Seasick Steve, as one of the doors had fallen off and I don't like stripwashing anymore since everybody in the world became obsessed with a person's smell and my 43-year-old balls dropped half way to my knees (you wait, it'll happen).

If your life is half as Beat, half as make-do-and-mend, as mine is--if you couldn't get your act together even with a million pound cheque in your bank--listen to this man's growling electrified twenty-first century blues. I swear he's the brother that my mum and dad were too ashamed to tell me about all those years ago, before my karma grew me sideways and made me seasick too.

An Encounter On The Street

A shining example of the intelligence and articulacy of the nation's youth shouted "YOU F***IN LONG-'AIRED BASTARD" at me as I was walking down to the internet cafe a few minutes ago.

Long-'aired I obviously am.

F***ing, I would like to be.

Bastard, thankfully, I am not.

I hope that clears up any misconceptions you might have had, you delightful young man.

Of course, the likelihood of you reading this is small. The likelihood of you reading anything is small, other than the big words on your cigarette packet. But one doesn't wish to stereotype.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

poem: rush hour

Blowing laughter down his nose discreetly,
the Chinese kid sitting next to me
looks at something funny on his laptop screen.
I have put down a book of poetry
to watch a long-limbed Polish girl
do nothing several seats ahead.

Ronald Baatz

I read a beautiful poetry cycle this morning. "Cemetery Country" by Ronald Baatz. It's part of a split chapbook co-authored by the fabulous Mark Weber just out on Zerx Press. The story of Ronald's relationship with his dad and the latter's final months battling (if that isn't completely the wrong word) Alzheimer's Disease. Poetry is poetry, you might think--pleasant, diverting, chuckle-inducing, but essentially a slight experience in this world of fast and cheap thrills. But "Cemetery Country" is brilliantly written and profoundly beautiful. After I'd read the last poem on the morning bus I had three waves of the shivers (you know, the kind you get when you're really moved) and a knot in my chest the size of a baseball glove. Read more about it, if you're interested, at and investigate Baatz's whole body of work, as a matter of urgency. You'll kick yourself when he's not around anymore and you realise you've had such greatness in your midst.

Blocking the Bail-Out

It's not often I find myself in agreement with George Bush, but lordy lord, the dogmatism of those "fiscal conservatives" in Congress and elsewhere who don't seem to want Bush's Government to do anything to stop the economies of the West collapsing astonishes me. Sometimes, fellers, even when you hold a principle dear, you just have to admit that the game is up (even if it's only temporarily up); that people are more important than abstract ideologies. The American Communist Party did it in the 1940s when they threw their support behind the American Government in the war against Hitler. If the American economy goes down, half the economies of the world go down like a line of electricity pylons being dragged down by the fall of one in a lightning storm. And then there's darkness everywhere.

Of course, fiscal conservatives may be known for plenty of things, but compassion isn't one of them. What do they care about your suffering, as long as they keep their nice houses and big shiney cars?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Paul Newman

There may be quite a lot of this on blogs written by what the media call "men of a certain age", but I'd just like to note my sadness at the death of Paul Newman last week. He stars in one of my favourite films ever, the little-known "Pocket Money", and plenty of other great movies besides. I hardly need mention "The Hustler" or "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" or "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid".There's also "Hud", "Hombre", "Absence of Malice"...The man was prolific and approached his job with a seriousness that was never self-conscious or pretentious, but resulted in a body of work that no other American actor can match in terms of quality.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Gory Tory

Yes, David "Call me Dave" Cameron may think we are stupid enough to be taken in by a cosmetic exercise in rebranding the same old product, but a Tory is a Tory is a Tory, end of (s)tory. This apparently affable, apparently liberal fellow, with his apparent distaste for what went before in recent Conservative (his)tory, is a supporter of blood sports, however much he tries to disguise his prejudice in the rhetoric of non-interference. The anti-hunting bill Labour brought in was a fudge, and a ludicrous one at that, but at least it was a step in the right direction. Now Cameron is committed to undoing it.

Most people left politics around the time Blair was elected. He made it seem a distasteful, cynical, manipulative art that men and women of principle should have no truck with, precisely because he emphasised style over substance, treatment over truth, in the way Cameron (his best disciple) is doing now. But with a Tory landslide now on the cards, and the repeal of the anti-hunting legislation a very real prospect, the time has come for people of principle to get back into politics. There are something like 14 Old Etonians in the higher echelons of Cameron's Tory Party--maybe even more. Do we want their bretheren rampaging through the fields murdering animals willy-nilly once again, as they were before 1997?

If you don't want that, get involved. I'd suggest a good place to start would be at
Stop Cameron, which is the internet home of a campaign against the repeal of the hunting ban and the most prominent public supporter for that. A Cameron victory at the next election would be a disaster for everybody, but for foxes it would be Apocalypse Now.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Wake Up And Smell The Tory

Newspapers today are reporting that the Tories will win with a majority of (I think) 146 seats at the next election, if present poll ratings don't change.
Terrific. We are sleepwalking back into the 80s. And anyone who thinks the Tories have changed would obviously believe he had moved house if you crept in and put up different wallpaper in his living room. Show the Conservative Party you're not as stupid as they think you are, I urge you.
They are still opposed to strong unions. And David Cameron himself is a supporter of blood sports. He has referred to fox hunting as a traditional country pursuit he doesn't think it's appropriate to legislate against. Never mind the cruelty. Never mind the death.
Those are just two examples of how the Tory Party of today is no different from the Tory Party of Margaret Thatcher. If they aren't enough for you I will gather more in the days and weeks to come.

The World Looks Nice Today

Third day off work today and I woke up this morning after a good long sleep feeling quite wonderful. Read a little, listened to Willie Nelson's old "Shotgun Willie" album as I dressed, walked outside into a beautiful cool bright autumn day to catch the bus, easy in myself and happy with other people...I am a human being again rather than a bundle of stress and anguish lashing out in all directions and wondering which disaster is going to befall me next. Tomorrow I go back to work.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Who Winds Up Bleeding

You'd think I was two different people. Here I offend without meaning to, just by speaking by mind. At work I am often condemned for being "too nice". I am "soft", apparently, "afraid of confrontation". Which is total shit, of course. I am just more cautious at work because I know that truth is one commodity that isn't valued in the workplace, unless your truth happens to coincide with the boss' truth. So many managers in the world of work--and it's not a new thing--are like Shakespeare's King Lear: they want to hear what is convenient and makes them feel good about themselves, and will genuinely believe (because they identify, egotistically, their own cause with the common cause), that somebody who opposes them is making trouble and trying to dismantle the whole apparatus. (Perhaps you aren't drawn to the idea of leading people unless you are vain, insecure and capable of huge, fatuous, self-deceiving rationalisations.)

So, I flatter and deceive to gain advancement? I don't think so; I've been doing the same job in different companies for ten years now, so I'm hardly rising like a comet through the ranks by fair or foul means. But I do hold my tongue. Doing so is probably the prime cause of the stress I carry away from work with me, into my otherwise serene life of friends and country hikes and books-and-pinball in the Lookout. And given my union advocacy and strong views about Capitalism I probably have to be more cautious than most. They say it's a free country, kids, but scratch the surface of any democracy and it's you who'll wind up bleeding. I am even a little nervous about setting these views down here; but I've got to be able to free my mind of it somewhere.

Some have said I am an idealogue. I probably am, though my views are more complex than most of my critics seem capable of understanding. Some who know me well have accused me of reducing human beings to black-and-white stereotypes of good and evil, primarily on the basis of their economic position. I don't think that is true, since Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson are great heroes of mine and they are tremendously rich, and I have an instinctive snobbish dislike of uneducated working class people spitting in the street and chomping burgers on buses (I'm not proud of that, but it's there). But I do see the relationship between rich bosses and struggling employees as a contentious one, based on exploitation and oppression, one the boss dominates by conning and bullying the employee into obedience (this is largely the state of the workplace in modern Britain); I do see their relationship as one in which the employee must at all times be alert, looking out for the con, and prepared to defend himself or herself to protect his (her) own interests. If the interests of employer and employee are synonymous, as the rich Capitalist would have us believe, I'm a Dutchman.

So I will usually side with my fellow employees at work, unless they have made a client pregnant or stolen a hundred quid from the cash box. Which sometimes gives me the appearance, to my bosses, of being over-conciliatory, not having as much spine as colleagues who don't mind bawling out a fellow employee within earshot of the manager to show how well they're doing personally. "Look at me, boss, I don't mind endangering someone else's income by exposing them to you. Now, how about that bonus, eh?" I do mind, unfortunately. I don't necessarily want my fellow employees to be my friends, but I do want to be a friend of the man I see in the bathroom mirror in the morning when I get out of bed and decide not to shave again.

I wonder if there'll be more brotherhood in the workplace when the New Depression hits and these workplace prefects and sell-out bullies realise they need a bit of back-up to protect their own previously-secure incomes.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Free, And Cared For

Whenever I oppose the idea of an unrestrained free market I am called a Communist and reminded that Karl Marx's theories foundered in the vicious, repressive, One-Party behemoth of Soviet Russia.

That is the argument of another century now.Soviet Russia is gone. Even China has become a quasi-capitalist state within the boundaries of its totalitarian rule; and in case anybody hadn't noticed, my vituperation is equally fierce when I'm talking about China.

The key to my opposition to an unrestrained free market lies, if it's really necessary to spell it out, in the word "unrestrained".

I am an individual, perhaps even an individualist (though I'm not so sure about that). I would probably live less successfully under a totalitarian regime than most, given that even in an atmosphere of supposedly complete freedom I'm still out of step. (I say "supposedly" because the pervasive influence of mass media in modern capitalist societies makes every third or fourth person look identical. And think identically.)

I would choke on the socialistic rhetoric spewed out by the propaganda machine in China. But probably only because it is as false there as it was in Soviet Russia. Let China open itself up to meaningful union activity before it can claim any genuine connection to socialism.

(Wo)man is designed for more than the accumulation of things. In that respect modern Capitalism and Socialism are both flawed, because they are both materialistic philosophies.

But if the production and exchange of crap is the only way human beings can come up with of organising our society, is it such a difficult balancing act to ensure that everybody in that society should be simultaneously free, and cared for?

After all, if it's important your dreams are fulfilled, how much more important is it that the billions of human beings around you should enjoy the same? In saying that, the Dalai Lama, vilified by China and tolerated politely by Western leaders, makes more sense than anyone I've ever heard.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm Afraid It's The Clap, Mr Greedy

The people who work in the City and on Wall Street, facing the threat of economic collapse, remind me of a man who has slept with a prostitute and now sits anxiously awaiting the results of a test for venereal disease.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

An Acceptable Price To Pay

The prophesies of economic chaos being bandied about at present--by the few who seem to have noticed it's happening--remind me eerily (and wearily) of the early 1980s. Do we really have to go through that, or worse, again?

When the economy goes tits up the media reports fulsomely on bankers and executives losing their jobs. Today the newspapers are full of it. By they will be okay. Most of them will have put enough money away during the good times to see them through the bad times in a comfort comparable to what they've already enjoyed.

It's the lives of ordinary people that are wrecked. Their dreams taken away from them. Their one chance of living the storybook life they wanted stolen by circumstances they have no control over. The privation and degradation they are set to experience in the next couple of years will mark them forever.

Ask anybody who lived through the 80s at the rough end of Thatcher's economic miracle why they hate the Conservatives so passionately and believe the System is inherently poisonous, and you will see how deep the scars of the times we're facing once again can run.

And we hear that the coming recession (if it isn't a full-blown Depression) has been at least partly brought about by the unrestrained greed of the children of the Thatcher/ Reagan revolution speculating on deals that never had a chance of working to take their fat bonuses and run to the Hills.

I wonder if this time Society will learn. I wonder, and I think not, since this is what happens in Capitalism and the people who sit at the top of the pile seem to think the decimation of every second or third generation is an acceptable price to pay for their monstrous profits.

You Don't Sound Like You Think You Sound, Boss Man

Save me--please!--from workplace managers who say "shit" and "fuck" and "face like a smacked arse" because they think they are relating to the troops.

Or worse, because they think they are Keeping It Real. Since when was it inherently truthful to use the language of Shakespeare as if you were in the school playground?

Is this 2008? or 1888?

The elegant people are all on the shop floor now, since Thatcher and unrestrained capitalism put power in the hands of so many vicious little barrow boys.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

White Flags And Snowballs

The radio was full of talk about a challenge to Gordon Brown's leadership this morning. Nomination papers have been requested by a small number of Labour MPs. Not enough to force a challenge by the terms of Labour's Constitution, but enough, the disgruntled MPs are said to hope, to embarrass Brown into a contest.

Unless the anti-Gordon brigade have a Tony Blair or a new Nye Bevan in waiting, of course, a leadership contest right now will hand the election to the Tories tied with a nice white flag. And I suspect there is no young lion waiting to galvanise the party and the British public with a new idea or a bold restatement of Labour's traditional values. The name of David Milliband is often bandied about, but he'll be associated too closely to the present administration in the public's mind (and the public loathe Brown)to take Labour into the next election with a snowball's chance in Hell of winning. To me, anyway, he just looks and sounds like a bank manager. What does he stand for? What does he believe? Why is he in the Labour Party? Like most of his cabinet colleagues, ambition has made him so cautious--not to say, possibly, duplicitous--in his speech and writing no one really knows.

I hope Brown remains as PM and I hope Labour win the next election. I think there is some chance of the former happening, and no chance of the latter. But it may be, as I've said before, that what the party really needs is to be comprehensively defeated by Cameron. A few years in Opposition watching Cameron and the Conservatives show their true colours may help those who have been softened by too many good meals at Westminster remember exactly why they sought the job of MP in the first place.

It might also help the fickle public focus on the cost of accepting everything a politician says just because he knows how to smile when he says it--although even after we have learned to our not-very-great-surprise that the cute new Tory Party remains racist, homophobic, rooted in elitism and culturally ignorant, there will doubtless be a lot of Little Englanders out there who still think they're the best thing since God gave the civilised people of the world Waitrose.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

One Minute Poem

No short hair.
No shaven face.
No designer shirts,
trousers, shoes.
No useless widescreen
or sound system
to play
Jack Elliott on.
No fast car.
No shiney car.
No car with
aerodynamic features.
Yes sir?
No sir!
I won't accept
every last thing
my bosses tell me.
Ambition? No,
not one drop,
I only want
to sit out in the fog
at breakfast.
Sleep all

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Trying To Be Brilliant, Not Pleading To Be Known

I move, intellectually, in a triangle between politics, religion and poetry. In the past one has always been in the ascendant at a particular time of the year. I'm obsessing on the iniquities of the Tories, or thinking about nothing except my zazen cushion, or I'm writing reams and reams of haiku and whatever. Lately I've been trying to find a balance between them all so that I can find time to indulge each without neglecting the others. Abandon this habit of phases for this or that. And I've been doing all right, though poetry still suffers a little bit.

I have seriously fallen out of love with publishing poetry. I have done it--not as often as some, but I've done it. So it's not the rationalisation of a defeated man. I'm just struggling to believe there's any merit in it anymore. Does publishing mean you are any good? You'd think so, but so much of what is published (I include mine) is mediocre, or average, or uninteresting. So much of it does nothing to advance the craft or help us look into our lives and our world with deeper understanding. So little of it is magical. You read Basho or Issa and inwardly you go, "Aww!" feeling wonder at the quality of their minds or the beauty of their language stirring in your breast. You read Tu Fu or Li Po or Richard Brautigan or d.a levy or Ronald Baatz and it makes you laugh and cry and see the world with new eyes. How much of what you find on MySpace makes you do that?

Perhaps it doesn't have to do that, but that's what I'm looking for. A lot of the time it seems that all you have to do to get published is know the right people, or write a competent poem in the tone that suits an editor's prejudice. Or sound just enough like Bukowski or have just enough references to booze and worms.

I can do that if I set my mind to it--I can do all of that--but at the moment I really don't want to.So I write poems for my own pleasure instead, using some of the poets mentioned above as touchstones. Trying to be brilliant rather than pleading to be known. Whether it works or not in the long run only time will tell.

When a poem that rivals Basho is tossed into a bin bag and thrown into a skip to fortify the karma of the crows and blackbirds at the rubbish tip.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Labour And The Unions

The appearances of Alastair Darling and Gordon Brown at the TUC conference have illustrated clearly what we already knew: the Labour Government is not a friend of the Trade Union movement, even if many Labour MPs are. Maybe a Labour Government can't be. Maybe it shouldn't be. Maybe a government of any colour, functioning properly, should be a kind of Solomon-esque father arbitrating between the vested interests of the nation, siding neither with the working man and woman nor business.

The problem we have here, though, is that the Labour Government doesn't stand apart from the fray like a wise and indulgent father. It tends to side with business, just like Tory governments do. And yet Labour are partly funded by massive investment from the unions.

I think the time has come to ask whether this benefits the unions anymore, if it ever did. Perhaps we should now consider removing funding from Labour and putting it into building our own cause independently through promotion, education and public works. If the money we are pouring into Labour provides us with no useful return (we haven't even seen Thatcher's anti-union legislation repealed since Labour came to power eleven years ago), why do we keep pouring?

To provide balance, you might say, to the political scene. Perhaps that would have been true at one time, but now Labour and the Tories are trying to occupy the political centre ground, where is the real difference between them?

On the back benches, you might say. And you'd be right. On the Labour back benches there are a large number of genuinely pro-union, pro-working man, traditional Labour minds. But because of the ineptitude and lack of conviction shown by the Government, most of them look set to lose their seats at the election anyway.

Suppose withdrawal of union funds caused the Labour Party to collapse (if the catastrophe of the next election doesn't). Would that matter? True, there is a proud history in the party. Great men (Bevan, Benn, Michael Foot) have stood under its banner and great things (such as the National Health Service) have been given to the country and the world by Labour.

But it ceased to be that party a long time ago, probably around the time John Smith died and opened the door to New Labour; and the disappearance of Labour as was didn't wipe its achievements from history. They will lay there for rediscovery by new generation for as long as there is history.

And those men who still stand for the traditions--for what is right and just for the ordinary working man and woman--won't cease to exist if the party they currently represent (somewhat bogusly given the nature of its leaders)ceases to exists. Let them run as independents, funded if it's appropriate by unions in their locality, or anybody else whose interests they genuinely defend.

They might even do a lot better at the polls, freed from the taint of hypocrisy and compromise laid on them by association with the fellows who are currently (but not for long it seems) following their advisers and PR men down the corridors of power.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Palin: The Books She Tried To Ban

I know I said I was quitting American politics, but you can't expect me to break the habit overnight. Here, just in case you haven't seen it, is a (believe me) massively edited list of books Sarah Palin attempted to ban when she was a Mayor in Alaska.The truth, perhaps, behind the Mr Smith Goes to Washington act Palin put on so successfully at the Republican Convention. Prepare to be appalled.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
My House by Nikki Giovanni
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Devil’s Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
The Shining by Stephen King
The Witches by Roald Dahl
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Addendum 10th September As Kim points out in the comments field, it seems there's a degree of uncertainty as to whether this list is accurate. I say seems because I wouldn't rule out the possibility of Republican fixers retroactively massaging the facts to make our favourite moose-hunting Creationist hockey mom look a little less appalling. What we know for certain is that when Palin became Mayor of Wasilla she asked the Chief Librarian how she would respond should she be asked to remove books from the shelves. The Chief Librarian said (and good for her) that she wouldn't. But whether or not the list is accurate (and I'd love to know where it came from if it wasn't), the principle is the same. Palin would be prepared to contemplate censorship of books that have been selected by reasonable and moderate people according to nationally-agreed criteria. Perhaps she should be Vice President in China. Of course, they don't have elections there, but given Palin's apparent disdain for democracy that probably wouldn't disturb her. Bruce.

Poor Gordon

Every time he smiles he looks like his lips are being parted from his teeth by invisible wires operated by tiny electrodes planted in his hair. The electrodes activated by brain impulses whenever a faint memory of how Tony Blair used to meet the press or the public arises in his mind.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Sort Of Prayer For Ramadan

Good luck to all the Muslims I know and their brothers and sisters across the world in Ramadan. I hope you come through it purified and with clear vision so that you can liberate yourself from the suffering put upon you by oppressors from within the Muslim faith as well as those who oppress you from without.
Peace, love, tolerance of opposing views and forgiveness of transgressions against you are the key to spiritual advancement, in my humble Zen Buddhist opinion. And maybe I've been lucky, but every Muslim I've ever spoken to has had all of those qualities in abundance.
Let's not curse the many because of the iniquities of the few, eh? Bruce.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Mourning In America: Why Suffolk Punch Is Quitting American Politics

he who knows does not speak. he who speaks does not know ~ zen proverb

I resolved this morning to stay away from the American presidential elections. I heard Sarah Palin's speech to the Republican Party Convention last night and I was quite depressed by how snide and negative it was, how cheap and obvious it was, how one-dimensional and cliched her characterisation of herself and her opponents was--and worse, how much her audience and the media seemed to relish it, all of it. Every carefully-worded sentence of mean-spirited, transparently fake, folksy bullshit that she uttered. This woman is Ronald Reagan dressed up as Loni Anderson in a "Barbie Goes to College" B-Movie from 1983, but if that's what people want, who am I to argue?
I don't understand them or their world. If anybody thinks that speech was anything other than an exercise in skilled manipulation of the electorate by invisible men dedicated to anything other than getting the party that serves their interests into government, again, and then getting rich--well,we speak different languages. I don't think I should be wasting my energy trying to convince them that they're wrong. If McCain and Palin are elected, black people will suffer, homosexuals will suffer, intellectuals will suffer, people of different religions will suffer, other countries will definitely suffer (unless they kiss America's posterior like England does); but that has always been the way when Republicans were elected to the White House. Mourning in America. What good does it do for me to suggest there might be a better way? Those who already know don't need telling, and those who voted Republican either don't care, or will never be convinced.
All it does, my intervening fruitlessly, is give me a headache and let loose anger to stalk through my breast like a panther, disturbing my meditation and my sleep.
Perhaps, by the same token, I should quit interfering in British politics as well. If I can do something constructive, something that will bring about actual change rather than just satisfy my own raving ego, which is really what I'm doing with the political commentaries on this blog, perhaps I should put my energy there; and spend the rest of my time pursuing understanding on the zazen cushion, or writing poetry.