Monthly Archives: March 2010

Julia Smith is away.

Julia Smith is away.

So amuse yourselves in the Archives and also, catch up on the following essential articles:

  • Godfrey Hodgson’s ‘The great American refusal’, discusses the controversy over the passing of the heathcare-reform bill in the context of American history since the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Disillusioned with the UK election?  Give your vote to someone in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Ghana.
  • Not looking forward to another crap day in the office tomorrow?  At least it is unlikely to kill you, and at least you aren’t earning £1.30 a day.

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Heart – Write Now Festival 2010

If modern life is rubbish with its shit discos, credit cards to clear and mates you secretly hate, then City living is sometimes even worse: Londoners dressed like schoolkids in their identical suits, a journey to work straight out of Dante and the endless competition for best home, best job and best girl.

Still, if it is getting you down too much, I can recommend a trip to the Actor’s Studio on Liverpool’s Seel Street this week to alleviate the pain a little by laughing along at the darkly comic tale of a man losing his heart to the machinations of a cheating girlfriend.  ‘Heart‘ is one of eight original one-act plays and two rehearsed readings being staged as part of the first annual Write Now festival, designed to showcase original works by writers from the North West.

‘Heart’ is ostensibly a story about one man’s quest to understand himself and Mike Idris as Johnnie brings a Jack Kerouac-like quality to his attempts to unravel the misfortune that has befallen him.  What shines through is that while it may still be a man’s world, it would be nothing, nothing, nothing without the women.   It is a distant cousin of all of those great Northern women that Julie Walters usually plays, who finds our hero at his lowest ebb and starts him on the road to getting his head back together, dishing out the kind of no-nonsense advice that always seems to get pushed aside in the rush to use more exotic means to find ourselves.

It is testament to the writing and to the skill of Emma Grace Arends, as variously, Joyce, Carrie, Trudy and ‘the Bohemian’ that, although the play shows us the familiar categories that men try to make women fit into, such as wife and mother-figure, as well as the fantasy types of nurse and dominatrix, the women of this story have a depth far beyond simple caricature.  Chris Hitchen also displays an excellent range from over-friendly hairdresser to creepy bell-boy, also having to win back the audience’s affection after his turn as the object of Johnnie’s hatred from the opening moments of the tale.

Redemption so often lies in the arms of another, and the play is canny enough to both tug at the heartstrings while gently chuckling at the idea that ‘all you need is love’, so central to modern living.  Will Johnnie’s quest see him end by living the boho dream on Lark Lane or will he be forever disheartened by the bling-loving friend-shagger he left behind?  See the play before Saturday 3 April to find out…

Heart is directed by John Maguire, with graphic design by Chrissi Froud and Lighting by Jade Wells.

The other plays showing as part of Write Now are: The Dressmaker’s Gift, I’m Ed Caesar, The Guy’s A Monster, The Person Without, Pippin Hal, Seconds Out and Under My Skin.  Everything Must Go and No Smoke are showing as rehearsed readings.  More details are available here.

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Julia fixes Parliament!

You guys, I just thought of something!

There’s MILLIONS of us right? Must be at least a few that are hacked off with all this corruption. So why don’t we all throw a quid in the pot until we’ve got a couple of grand and then we can buy our VERY OWN MP. They’ll have to listen to us then!

And after we’ve paid up, we can force them to bring in lots of really cool stuff, like Lords reform, making sure our banking system can’t bankrupt our country, not degrading refugees (especially kids!) and not making it illegal to take photos in the street. (Those are mine, when you chuck in your quid you can add others…)

Then we’ll REALLY have someone in Parliament who listens – because WE’RE paying them. Great, no? Makes you wonder why no one else thought of it in all the years we’ve had a Parliament.

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Politics drops its drawers

The best party is but a kind of conspiracy against the rest of the nation

– Lord Halifax, 1750

It is difficult to judge how far the effect of this latest scandal extends outside Westminster.  I suspect that many people had their suspicions confirmed, before shrugging their shoulders and getting on with their days, while supporters of the parties allowed themselves to imagine that their point scoring and juvenile tricks were having near-seismic effects on the voters.

In truth, if this weekend marks anything, it must be the final victory of the legions of management consultants, PRs and other snake-oil salespersons over the weakened, bedraggled and under-supplied forces of democracy.  This is the true legacy of Blairism: a world based on nothing more substantial than scratch, kickbacks and the brutal hit of Dopamine felt when getting someone else to pick up the tab, be that shareholder, taxpayer or some other poor fool.

And I, who as a sweet, wide-eyed innocent in 1997 voted idealistically in my first General Election, cannot believe that this is all that remains of those golden May days when it truly seemed as if life would get better for all of us, instead of for a cabal of paunchy middle managers who must remain achingly aware in the darkest moments of their prostrate-troubled nights that they wouldn’t be getting laid any other way.

Which only leaves me wondering: if they’re the prostitutes, why are we getting screwed?

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Hate Highlights – 21 March

Some posts you may have missed on ten minutes hate this week:

  1. Suffer, little children on the treatment being handed out to the most vulnerable asylum-seekers
  2. Roll up, roll up… looked on in dismay at yet another drug panic
  3. Computer love on action you can take to stop the Government messing with our interweb

And here is the best of the rest of that internet, enjoy it while you can:

  1. The BBC shelves an investigation into Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft following pressure from Senior Tories
  2. This year’s Orange Prize long list brings misery to judges
  3. Worried about your local pub’s survival?  New plans announced to help you buy it…

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Computer love

The internet has taken an awful lot of flak lately, accused of all sorts from murder to drug dealing via rampant piracy.  It is little wonder that our brave Government feels the need to rush in and DO SOMETHING before the evil being emitted by our Netbooks and iPads swamps the earth.

As even casual observers will know, passing legislation on the hoof is rarely a good idea and unfortunately ‘doing something’ in this case has meant using end-of-Parliament rules called the ‘wash up’ to pass a draconian Digital Economy Bill without proper debate in the House of Commons.  Instead, party whips will negotiate between themselves to get the law onto the statute books before Parliament dissolves for the election.

The main causes for concern are:

  • A proposal to remove internet access from persistant file-sharers on a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy;
  • Making website owners responsible for all content, even if posted by users;
  • Forcing internet service providers to pass details of persistant offenders to copyright holders such as music or film companies

Each of these clauses has been amended and altered a couple of times, with the result that it is no longer clear exactly what will be outlawed by the law if it is passed.  This is an absurd situation.

So what can you do?

Campaigning organisation 38 degrees have set up a simple website for you to email your MP.  You just need to go here, fill in your postcode and the site will do the rest.  As they get ready for the election, let’s remind them that we are here, that we have a voice to be heard and that we want our internet to remain free.

Take the time to show your computer some love.

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Roll up, roll up…

… we haven’t had a good drug panic for a few years*, so it was obviously slightly overdue. Hearing the calls for a ban on mephedrone instantly recalled the Simpson’s Maude Flanders:

There is also a delicious irony, which you should join me in enjoying immensely, as the report from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs into the banning of legal highs such as mephedrone has been delayed by the resignation of an advisor, Dr Les King, in support of Prof David Nutt, forced out of his job by imbeciles for the crime of saying something sensible about drugs for a change.

Calls for a ban seem to be mounting and it will be a brave government that manages to resist the temptation to be seen to be doing something about such a tabloid front-page-friendly story this close to an election.  Once again, it seems we will miss an opportunity to sensibly consider our drugs policy and its effects, intended and otherwise, on our safety and security.

Banning mephedrone, as with other substances, will do anything but make it safer.  Production will then pass into the hands of unscrupulous people, outside of any regulatory framework and with no control over potency or contamination.  There is a suspicion that the batch of the drug taken by those who died in the Scunthorpe case was contaminated.  Instead, we would be better to focus our attention on education for users and the treatment of addicts.

If we are mature enough to accept that human beings will always seek out ways to escape reality, be it by heroin, khat or a caramel macchiato, then we can try to lessen the harm.  Leah Betts’ name will always be connected to ecstasy, but she arguably might be alive today if she had known about water intoxication.  It is too early to say, but it could be that drinking heavily in combination with the stimulant mephedrone puts the heart under excess strain.  Regardless, deaths this year from miaow miaow, and from E, will be dwarfed by the numbers of us dying because of over-indulging in our favourite tipples.  Yet we won’t be seeing too many calls for the banning of gin and tonics across the front pages.

* Of course, we did drug panics much better when I were a young ‘un.  I think we will be waiting a long time until mephedrone spawns something as amazing as the ‘Inspector Morse ecstasy episode‘:

[the doctor offers first Morse and then Lewis an ecstasy tablet]
Dr. Hallett: Lewis?
Detective Sergeant Lewis: No thanks, Sir. Not in front of the Chief Inspector.

Well quite.

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Suffer, little children

If you should find yourself musing on the immigration question this election-tide and wondering if we are, in fact, in danger of being swamped, seen as a soft touch or provider of free swan burgers to all the world’s poor and huddled masses, reassure yourself with this story:

M was arrested, and locked up in Cardiff Bay Police Cells, in extreme distress, dwarfed in man-sized padded clothing to protect him from self-harm. His seat was booked on a flight bound for Afghanistan…

In the dark early hours of Tuesday 2nd March, M was taken with an adult detainee by caged van on the 109 mile journey from Cardiff to Oxfordshire and Campsfield House, an adult detention facility run by the government’s commercial partner Serco. He shared a dormitory with seven men.

M is 14.  Except the authorities think he is lying and he is actually an adult.  See what you think of the picture accompanying the story.

You could argue that we can’t take in everyone that wishes to come here.  You could mention that harsh treatment is an essential deterrent.  But if you try to argue that terrified children should be taken from their beds in the early hours, caged and told they are being sent back to the war zone they have fled, I would think that you had lost all touch with what it is to be human.  May you be lucky enough never to be in need of compassion from strangers!

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We have a winner!

Mr Eb Ward wins for his comment comparing Mary Wollstonecraft, original feminist, to Kenneth Wolstenholme:

I reckon she would too, the slapper. We only remember her because she commented on the 1966 World Cup Final anyway.

Get in touch to claim your prize, sir!
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Hate Highlights – 13 March

Here’s the best of ten minutes hate from this week:

  1. Using Slang in a Second Language – Eb Ward takes an uncomfortable bus journey
  2. One for the girls – celebrated Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar win
  3. Predictable outrage outrages predictably – despaired at the world
  4. Some animals are more equal – listened to the MPs squeal
  5. A day without immigrants? – looked across the English Channel

And here are some other good things I twittered about this week:

  1. The Daily Mail caught in telling lies SHOCKER!
  2. Simon Singh says farewell to the Guardian as his libel fight takes its toll
  3. The Girl with the One Track Mind finally gets an apology from the Indie
  4. Vanity Fair tries to scratch the surface of Team Cameron in Cameron Obscura
  5. And Mr Cameron forgets Sky News are recording…

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