Monday, February 27, 2006

Small, but significant, question

I listen to a lot of pop now, but rarely see the videos. Does Pink's video for Stupid Girl do what I expect and feature lots of sexy girls wiggling and thrusting? Thereby allowing her to have a video that appeals visually to the audience and yet still making her point. I would expect that from the funkiness of her track and the prompts it has for Beyonce-like shimmying.

The more subtle alternative would be to have Pink in a black coat, no make-up and merely fill the video with funky dancing plantpots and perhaps some tiny dogs, if you must.

Please can someone tell me which she chose?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Adolescent anarchist dabblings

The 'peace through superior firepower' link to the right reminds me that through most of my teenage years (and maybe still now) I had a small poster on my wall saying "Bullets, not ballots. Put the bastards in the cemetary". For some reason this sort of thing has always made me giggle. Like many other sub-editors, I always have to resist the urge to write entirely inappropriate headlines or sell-lines, even as a filler (as they always get left there by accident and then Bad Things Happen). My sense of humour doesn't tend to appeal to the serious pacifist, religious types, as I learn every time I forget myself and write something in The Friend.

When I got the poster I was, with a few other readers of this blog, a member of the Potteries Defiance Alliance. We fought the tyranny of the Conservative government and the Criminal Justice Act which (I think still) makes it technically illegal for more than two people to gather without permission, especially if they are broadcasting 'repetitive beats'. We, aged 14 and too old for youth club, too young for nightclubs (just), spent a happy afternoon in the front garden of the local Conservative Club dancing to the subversive beats of Beethoven while the Staffs and Keele students with us drank beer and baited the Tories therein.

I don't think we ever actually achieved anything - except a lie-down protest to demand speed-humps in Chesterton did work, if my poor memory serves me right - but it was good fun. We took to the streets of Stoke each week, sometimes sitting-in at the police station or the MP's surgery, handing out flyers with striking communist symbols to passing shoppers for them to place in the nearest bin. I used to make a fiver a go by venting my rage in the Sent'null's Startwrite page once I realised that they would instantly put anything in that was anything a bit more well-written than "There is lots of litter in my road". Now I come to think of it, it was probably that profitable sideline of the protest movement that halted my development into a fully fledged communist.

Just stop it

The official line in our uninvited war against terror is to hike up the dehumanisation process, including anyone in the right place in the 'other side'.

Two examples: an American general on UK TV last weekend claiming that Al Quaida didn't sign the Geneva Convention so international law doesn't apply to them. Coincidentally, John Reid, the UK defence secretary, quoted in the Observer on the same day, said: "Please be very quick to condemn, and very quick to defend and praise our soldiers, because they work in the most extremely difficult circumstances [poor lambs] against an enemy who is completely unconstrained by any morality, any legal conventions, any human-rights standards and any scrutiny and that makes it difficult for the men and women who serve this country".

This was, need I add, in the context of a barbaric video in which soldiers beat up teenagers, cheered on by the film maker. In lumping together several groups of people: the suicide bombers with the ordinary Iraqis and the conscientious soldiers with the sadistic bastards, our governments dehumanise us all. How can we be surprised if Muslims see the West as one entity, blacks see whites as one entity, if our leaders fail to differentiate and treat any of us to intelligent statements? Extremism is being fuelled at the moment from all sides by blind statements, free speech and offense being bandied around from all sides.

Our governments are using the new war as an excuse to erode human rights standards signed up to after the most terrible world wars. Wars may not between countries any more but they are still between human beings. More to the point, people caught in places of war must always have the basic standards of justice, the right to a trial and the right not to be tortured.

They are committing a grave crime against all of us, overall worse than individual crimes of murder or torture because they are inciting hatred against groups of people. This war has got to stop before friendship across cultures are stubbed out completely. I am so sick of this regime that spends a fortune in our name on sheer wrong-doing, eroding our human rights step by step. I see this world of connections and essential goodness, basic, simple rights that were built up for centuries, against all the odds, now being neglected by a generation that grew up in the peaceful world of the safety net, people who will sacrifice any faraway people for our own expensive, flawed security. This war is going on without any oversight and it doesn't have my consent anymore. Something tells me I'm not the only one.

Revolution, anyone?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Thoughts from the train

What's worse, no reading or Media Guardian, I ask myself as I plough
through it out of some long-ingrained sense of duty, sickened by the tired
tiny circle of Hammersmith blondes puffing up each others egos, uplifted
for a moment by the newspaper sales falls, enjoying at least Office Hours
which always makes secretarial careers very tempting. Is there anything more
horrific, for this ex-wannabe hack*, than seeing a once-honourable industry
in its death throes, comment writers clutching desperately at blog-sticks as
they are engulfed in the waves of voices of people for whom opinions are not
hawked on the streets with glossy headers but simply shared and genuinely
felt. Enough of this reading that makes me irritated, there's enough to
plough through in this short life.

* Note: During these rants, do keep at the back of your mind that the mainstream media never did give me a job

Saturday, February 11, 2006

British beats

Radio 1 are only playing British music over the next few days for the Brit awards. It's a nice excuse to pull out the Smiths and the Cure and all that, and how nice that Little Fluffy Clouds is British, all about Arizona.

If you haven't listened to Radio 1 for a few years, it's well worth giving it another go (from anywhere). They're riding the waves of the fact that pop music is Ace again and they've done a great job of cross promoting their programmes and drawing you into new music. Even the evening shows that used to be too cool to bother with now create a nice balance of involving people without becoming too local radio, so even Wayne from Cheltenham finds himself dancing away in his living room and texting in to Nihal & Bobby Friction.

This is the sort of British-celebrating that is good. You realise how much variety there is here, the country where a blonde teenager from Devon can win awards for Urban music. But I'm missing the American stuff, it has to be said. Less bumpin' n grindin' for a few days, except of course to the Arctic Monkeys.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Can't we all just get along?

I've been thinking a lot about identity and belonging recently, amongst other deep things prompted by the Never Again virtual retreat experiment I've been working on in the last week. And of course by That Cartoon Row.

Probably because I'm an only child, I've never been at all good at belonging to organised groups and can't say I like them much. Watching the Quakers regularly tear each other apart over what they should and shouldn't believe is rather sad. If they weren't always trying to keep it together as a coherent group (there is a popular saying that organising Quakers is like herding cats) they could get on with things they have real talent at, like abolishing slavery and reforming prisons. I've always felt their view of 'that of God' is perfectly compatible with the whole spectrum of spiritual beliefs, it seems to be the 'that' which is the most important element there, denoting a shared experience of something that binds us together as humans and the external mysteries that are forces for good (or bad). But people normally get cross when I make theological statements.

The only group I've really claimed membership to is Londoners and now that my London generally extends only from one side of Euston Road to t'other, I really miss being a Londoner. Londoners have really managed to crack the one problem that many other communities struggle with: including people and genuinely enjoying their diversity. My happiest London memories are of events like Respect at the Millennium Dome, dancing to Indian-inspired pop, or the riverside crowds milling around different ethnic food stalls. In Stoke there is a pervasive sense of natives vs everyone else and, despite its famed friendliness, in times of trouble the natives snap into fear and defensiveness. Whereas in London, ethnic areas tend to be adopted by the trendy young (partly because they are the cheapest for students but also because they like them, despite the dangers in some), in Stoke they are seen as ghettos and you are told you 'wont' be welcome' to areas like Cobridge. London was secure enough that even the bombs couldn't divide us: they probably had a greater effect on community relations and racism in the North than Bloomsbury, where people were actually killed.

So where does it leave me, left out? I hope it isn't too twee to say I feel part of humanity, the global community. Never Again, as an organisation in its very early stages, has given me a real sense of being able to act as an individual as part of a wider picture. I've learnt an emormous amount from people with totally different backgrounds from all over the world. I now see my own views as valid, but part of a greater tapestry of views and enjoy the challenge of engaging with perspectives that are totally different. I want to be part of a community that has one thing in common - its own humanity - and works to accept, even enjoy, different views and beliefs. Actions that infringe on others' human rights are indefensible but beyond that our different global systems are completely compatible if we accept that we don't have to be the same, we don't have to agree with each other and constructive conflict is natural, even healthy. Conflict, if partnered with dialogue, leads us to creative ideas that may never have been thought of in our own unchallenged worlds.

So that's my community, one that the internet makes more possible than ever before.

And finally a post that gets my hair off the top of the blog!