Thursday, 21 December 2006

Christmas CloseDown

I'm following the lead of several other bloggers here and shutting down over Christmas and New Year. Unless something truly amazing happens, there won't be any more posts from me over this period. Amazing events which could invalidate this decision would include:

Faber & Faber to offer TD a massive contract for a volume of poetry

Blair to Resign

Queen to Resign

End of World Nigh

Invasion by Extra-Terrestrials

England Win Test Match

Otherwise - Happy Christmas and best wishes for a successful and blogful New Year.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Holocaust Denier Not Released

David Irving was not recommended for release today. These sources which claim that he was, ie the BBC, are just the mouthpieces of Zionist propaganda. Until I see some solid evidence - namely the bricks of his cell, and eyewitness testimony from people who can be trusted - which clearly does not include his jailors or people who were there as they obviously have axes to grind - I will remain convinced that David Irving is behind bars, where the miserable old git belongs. As for this ghastly "holocaust denier" industry that has grown up around him, it's all a load of fetid dingo's kidneys. David Irving is in jail, has always been in jail, and will always be in jail. Indeed, I've written a little poem about it:

David Irving is a jailbird
In fact he is a smelly old turd
We'd like to see him in the shit
But he already lives in it.

Drummer Online, Warne Offline?

I think the comment thing has sorted itself out now, which is a shame, in a way, because I don't have anything amusing or learned to say at the moment.

I think - and I stress think - that I am going to be on Radio 5 Live this afternoon; I've been asked to present myself to Radio Gloucester studios at 3.30pm for a recorded piece, so I don't know when it'll be on - Drive maybe?

One genuine bit of news I've read this morning: is Shane Warne about to announce his retirement from international cricket? The thing about cricket is that it really does emphasise the appreciation of genius, wherever it is found. I remember Peter Baxter swatting a question from Charlie Whelan on 5 Live a few years ago when Whelan said that it would be a good thing if Warne was injured and couldn't play, to which Baxter replied: "No, not really." And Warne is nothing if not a bona fide genius, a man who make things happen, bend a game of 22 players and several umpires to his will, and create wickets in the least promising situations. At the Oval last year England were flaying the tired Aussie attack in the first innings until Warne came on and just ran through the top order on the first day of the match. Leg-spinners are not supposed to do that. Shane Warne is, perhaps, the greatest player of cricket, up there with Bradman and Grace: and more, he single-handedly rescued leg spin bowling from an era in which blasting batsman out was regarded as the way to go. Suddenly you didn't have to be brave but clever, to stay in. He is a master of a difficult art and a testament to the fizzing inventiveness and cunning of the game of cricket.

Sir Shane Warne, surely?

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Comment cock-up?

I've been informed that someone has tried to comment here and been unable to. I've no idea why because all putative comments are supposed to be emailed to me on the basis that I'm somewhat against free speech except for myself; but I've received no comment emails for ages.

Any ideas?

UPDATE: I've had a look on blogger and can't see any specific problems. As a geek but a non-technical one, I'm at a bit of a loss.

Monday, 18 December 2006

No More Heroes

here are a couple of the guys I'm talking about. Sorry for crap picture quality.

Ian Curtis

Simon Topping (A Certain Ratio)

Larry Cassidy (section 25)

The Greatest Record Label Ever

Look. I'm a bit parochial about my music: I'm located in the decayed late 70s, between the collapse of pay bargaining, sterling, the social contract, and the sudden realisation that we were going somewhere else; the world stood poised to get rid of itself. My posts have kind of indicated as much lately. In fact for me, that phase goes up to 1984. But I set the miners' strike as the end of this period. It's a violent clash of modes of living and entire ethical systems (imho of course) as well as the fight for work. I have been stuck as this point since discovering the Jam at the age of 13; something about it draws me back, as though the empty factories and waste grounds have something to say that we're still missing amid the shining glass and steel. As though a great struggle was being played out in the places I was born and did not grow up between the fading of meaning and the final (maybe) acceptance of the finity of systems. The long sandstone terraces look like unplayed keys and the fog hangs around for years at a time.

Nothing communicates all this to me more than Factory Records. Even the name. Martin Hannett was the musical genius inside this remarkable sound, this smashing of glass inside tight rusty cages. Tony Wilson may be a situationist twat but he _knows_ music, really knows it. I mean, leaving Joy Division to one side (because you have to); A Certain Ratio are just amazing. Do the Du is a fabulous brutal tune, and as for this one:

I'd pay in each and every way/to know the place/where people feel no anguish/and need no care

It's a corker. They scorch decay into words and they know it. Jazz-funk, whatever: A Certain Ratio are another picture of Britain in the gutter, but with a soul.

And then there's Section 25. A lot of their stuff is just too grim to listen to (the entire of The Key of Dreams for me) but From the Hip is about two years too early and is, besides, utterly gorgeous. Love and Hate...could have been amazing and I love Bad News Week and some other tracks.

There was so much talent at Factory: Happy Mondays fall outside my obsession but I recognise their genius too.

and then there is Joy Division. I have a lot to say about these guys which borders on the spiritualistic but is probably better left unsaid. The greatest band ever. The method by which dying cities call out to the future; the sound of...of...

factories, I guess. With the collective soul they imply and the sense of purpose, drifting towards closure.

I haven't attempted to analyse any of this carefully, because I have done so many times over the years and can't go over it all again: listen, listen and think.

Don't Bother With the Karaoke

I'm a bit slow on the uptake with this story which surfaced yesterday. But it is shocking, if it is true. And the question that comes to mind is why? Well, for a start there is and has been considerable confusion nationwide as to how to teach reading, for quite a while. There has been a largely ideology driven debate between whole word (which became dominant during the 70s and 80s in educational academic circles) and phonic strategies (the more "traditional" style of breaking words down into sounds; and when the phonic system seemed to have won the day in the Literacy Strategy, it was hedged around with many "varieties of methods". (I'm not a Key Stage One specialist so I'm not sure of the techincalities of it). My observations of children still struggling years later tell me that whole word strategies work well in situations where children have a lot of books, a lot of reading with mum/whoever, and are keen story types. Phonics can't magic you a complete reading system, but it can do an awful lot of the groundwork.

But the Literacy Strategy has only been policy for about 7 years.

Children's books are going through a real renaissance: there are gorgeous picture books (Lauren Child etc) around and there are challenging, gripping books for 11+ (I don't like Melvin Burgess' books much, but there's no doubt they're a thoughtful read). The problem for me is that the inbetween stuff isn't as classy. There are some good series, and many good particular books, but the range isn't as good as the two ends of the spectrum. I think a lot of children get put off by leaving the reading scheme and finding - not very much. I'm also inclined to think there's too much that's procedural in our approach to reading, when it should be a constant, magnificent journey; teachers should be readers and be seen to be so, and discuss and swap and recommend, all the time.

I don't think as a culture we rate reading as highly as perhaps we did. Other forms of narrative are pushed just as hard, which is fine, except that the only one that needs real training to grasp and become independent with, is reading. We don't regard the ability to read as the glorious freedom, which once gained - with a bit of hard work - will let you run for as long as you live. I've heard recently from teachers that we should see it as a skill that some children will never be good at while they are good at other things. Fine - but the ability to read is, for me, something else entirely. It is the means to a degree of independence, intellectual, moral and practical, that it is very difficult to attain otherwise.

The story is dressed up as funny - it's not, it's a fucking tragedy and balls should be cut for the way we're allowing so many people (not a tiny minority) to suffer in this way.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Jona Lewie Redirection

It has come to my attention that there is an mp3 of "Stop the Cavalry" available at for you to download, if you are still typing in " the nuclear fallout zone" into Google searches and ending up here; it is, however, among some other somewhat Viz-like stuff.

A Repeat

A surprising amount of my traffic here at the moment is coming in the form of Google searches for a certain song's lyrics. To take from today's google search terms:

...the czar and jim have tea..waiting two years long...throughout the centuries...dub a dub a dum...

They almost make a poem by themselves. Is that Jim Callaghan, by the way, or Jimmy Carter? Not sure.

Accordingly, given that Google is sending people who want to know about Jona Lewie's "Stop the Cavalry" to my blog, I'm repeating my post of last Friday, partly to increase said traffic, but mainly to assist people in their search for meaning:

Well, pop-pickers, it's Christmas, and how better to celebrate it than with a song which neatly illustrates how 1914-1989 (or, in the lyricist's view, 1914 to date) is a continuum.

Jona Lewie, "Stop the Cavalry"

Hey, Mr. Churchill comes over here
To say we're doing splendidly.
But it's very cold out here in the snow
Marching to and from the enemy.
Oh I say it's tough, I have had enough,
Can you stop the cavalry?

I have had to fight almost every night,
Down throughout these centuries.
That is when I say, oh yes yet again,
Can you stop the cavalry?

Mary Bradley waits at home,
In the nuclear fallout zone.
Wish I could be dancing now,
In the arms of the girl I love.

Wish I was at home for Christmas.

Bang goes another bomb on another town
While the Czar and Jim have tea.
If I get home, live to tell the tale,
I'll run for all presidencies.
If I get elected I'll stop
I will stop the cavalry.

Wish I was at home for Christmas.

Wish I could be dancing now,
In the arms of the girl I love.
Mary Bradley waits at home,
She's been waiting two years long.

Wish I was at home for Christmas.

Let's get one thing straight here: I loathe and detest Eric Hobsbawm for his hate filled, apologistic diatribes (or "Age of Extremes" as they're known) and his support for murderous dictatorships (as long as some socialist promised land is vaguely in sight somewhere - the Soviet Union must have been alright because, er, it had fewer prisoners than the US in 1989: that's his logic and it stinks like my farts) - but on this, he's right. 1914-1989 is better than his view of 1914-1991 (I think he said that so he could see the back of Thatcher and Reagan) - but I take his point that the war fever of 1914 is of a piece with Threads, and the population cowering underneath mattresses while they listen to or watch Casualties.

Why does the murder of Franz Ferdinand fill me with fear? Not only because of the unadulterated slaughter it helped to start, but because it so nearly led us to total destruction as well. When I posted earlier this week on "getting to grips with the twentieth century", I didn't mention this: but in my view Jimmy's mum and dad die as part of a series of psychoses, already existing, unleashed by that shot and built, sometimes lovingly, often carelessly, until this point where "we don't want the whole street blowing up while you're away" is a line of humourless irony in the face of total annihilation.

There it is. Hope it helps.

Thanks...I Mean..Really, I'm Just So...

Here's my acceptance speech on being voted Time Magazine's Person of the Year:

This is a great honour, which has come a complete surprise to me. Given that all I do is spend a couple of hours a day sitting on my arse writing a mixture of ignorance and half-digested nuggets of information, or semi-forgotten things I learned at school many years ago, and that I mix it all with a not too healthy dose of my personal prejudices, I think it's all the more impressive. But it's not just me being billy no mates, it's been a team effort at the end of the day, and a lot of people have given 110% to this project. I'd like to thank, firstly, Wikipedia, which has furnished me with more knowledge than I ever thought possible; blogger, who for reasons best known to themselves give me a free space to rant; my employers, for giving me a part time job so that I could spend time wittering into cyberspace instead of earning money; and finally, my family, who have not kicked me out yet. Blogging is a valuable contribution to the global debate, at its best it is a vigorous democratic sphere in which all the issues that get missed off the MSM find a place. For me, however, it's just a chance to mouth off a bit and stare at sitemeter with a slightly resentful frown.

Saturday, 16 December 2006


I'm not drunk, by the way, despite my previous post sounding like it. not had a drink all day. Perhaps that's the problem.

While we're in a cheerful mood, how about a piccy from my favourite film (which I've been thinking about owing to a depressing post by James Higham today)

"He is Going to Lose, and Lose Big"

...was, I believe, a comment by John Major, that well known professor of language, during the first Gulf War in 1991.

Given today's performance by England, it does raise the issue of the best way to lose. Losing narrowly is a false dawn: you lost, but you think you could have won, should have, nearly did: damn it you did win, except for luck/umpiring decisions/unjust rules/the weather/the will of God. To lose narrowly is to assume, at some level of self delusion, that you won.

In Australia's case,this belief has hardened into a granite will actually to win, this time.

In Germany's case, in a slightly different context, the belief that "actually, we didn't lose. If you look at it, we've just agreed to a cessation of hostilities" - caused or helped to cause all sorts of problems.

England have a different view. They are going to lose, and lose in considerable style. This is how it goes.

1) Media talk: we're a good side/good players/but we need to bat down to 8/can't risk Monty/Chris Read is a pain in the arse and Geraint Jones is a good egg.

2) Opening salvo: first ball of series to 2nd slip. Do not pass bat, do not take edge, lose match.

3) Get into excellent positions: 551-6d, or Aus 244 all out.

4) Relinquish control in spectacular fashion - Gilchrist near record 100, incredible collapses, etc.

5) Lose.

6) Mutter about had x,y,z been different, we _might_ have won (but - and this is the crucial difference - not to really believe it. Hence no real changes are made, nothing done, nothing happens, no-one cares).

7) forget.

8) Next time around, start all over again.

To lose big is a state of mind, as well as a state of play. It is real, and psychological. It's a symbiotic thing. Each feeds the other. Technique problems feed the mental problems, the mental issues destroy the technique. Look at G Jones. It gives the enemy or the opposition not only the thrill of victory but the glory of humiliation; it rehabilitates their faded stars and ancient glory, it is talked about for years but not really remembered in any real sense.

Losing big is where you are, at the conclusionary phase of the planetary rotation.
We all lose big in the end, so let's get used to it. Winning is overrated anyway.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Conspiracy Update

On the other hand, the Diana inquiry, the closure of 2,500 post offices, Blair's chat with Inspector Knacker...and Monty in the Ashes...all on the same day??


To the non-surprise of nearly everyone except Mohammad al Fayed, Lord Stevens has announced that Diana's death was an accident.

It was caused, in the first instance, by the driver speeding and [being] over the legal drink-drive limit.

Naturally Al Fayed refuses to accept the judgement. I saw the BBC programme on Sunday in which his claims that the Duke of Edinburgh organised Diana's death because she was pregnant with a Muslim man's child were investigated...and saw it gently but firmly remove these arguments (assertions, really) from their moorings. It was a bizarre argument from the start, but one which makes a perfect sense if you take the view that Prince Phillip is not only an old fool, but actually evil and effective as well. And the villain of the piece is the "British establishment" - not the government - a motley concoction of secret service, royalty and civil servants, a type of British administration we thought died in the 50s. (I take the view, by the way, that Harold Wilson _was_ paranoid, and that the conspiracy to stage a coup was nothing more than the mutterings of disaffected old men - the 60s plot is nowhere to be seen in Dominic Sandbrook's or at least two of Peter Hennessy's (I haven't read all his stuff) authoritative books on 60s politics and culture - and with the standard of UK governance in the mid 70s the other one would have been a total and utter f*** up from start to finish anyway. And the old buffers involved were totally crackers if they thought this: Mountbatten, as both a member of the Royal family and a former Chief of the Defence Staff, would be able to command public support as leader of a non-democratic government(Wikipedia)). Jesus, when had the UK had a military government before then? Where the f*** did they think they were living?

But there's no doubt there are holes in the Diana investigation, errors, missing bits of the jigsaws into which the fundamentally malign forces of "the government" or "the establishment" can slip, if you want them to.

I used to be as conspiracy mad as anyone. I was particularly keen on the idea that since 1945 the US Government has deliberately kept evidence of alien contact from the eyes of the world. But then...I read Jung on UFOs, realised that Roswell was home to the only atomic bomber unit in the world in 1947, saw how the Cold War was crystallised into that single issue, with its fear of the unknown, its desperate anxiety towards things that cannot be controlled, and its sense that there was too much power out of too many people's hands. And how the tall, friendly, pleasant aliens of the 50s, and the contactees, deepened into the terrifying, manipulative, aggressive greys with their hidden agendas and abductees of the 80s and early 90s. It was odd how this exploded into public consciousness as the Cold War itself faded (say, 1994-6 with the mass popularity of the X Files), flowered for a bit, and then fell away, as the Ray Santilli footage was shown to be all made up (which the fraud denied for a decade before making a film with Ant and Dec about it). The Fortean Times, which covered a lot of this in the mid 90s, took an increasingly hostile view of the phenomenon.

For me, September 11 2001 was the definitive sinker: if they couldn't stop that, how could they have kept something as big as alien contact secret? Silly me - of course there are now loads of conspiracy theories around this, at least one of which has been on sale in Waterstone's in Cheltenham for several months.

None of this means that some conspiracies aren't true - what the hell would the CIA be _for_ if they weren't conspiring at something? Governments keep secrets, develop technologies, plot wars, lie, and so on the whole time. It's always been the same.

It just means that I'm sceptical these days of giant or enveloping cover ups, especially where I can't see a rational reason, actual evidence, or where it's just too big for the prats in government to keep quiet.

I'm prepared to accept that governments are malign things - I've posted before on the authoritarian, controlling nature of our own - but to impute to them overweening competence as well as malignity is stretching it a bit. Do we, with these theories want to prove both things? And hence, in a strange way, feel comforted knowing that the government really is all powerful, and really can do anything if it wants to, including, say, save us from a desperate and powerful enemy, one perhaps with..oh I don't know...nuclear weapons?

Just How Brilliant is This Man?

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

The Politics of Alcohol

This is an old but interesting post by Bryan Appleyard on the politics of alcohol. He is responding to an odd sounding claim by Zoe Williams that people get more right wing when drunk. There is definitely something in this for me: but it has to depend on the kind of mood I was in before - if I've been relatively cheerful, I become convinced of the innate goodness of humanity and if not, I start to mumble to myself that it's a shame world war III never did break out. It's actually far more common for a pissed-up Drummer to start weeping sentimentally about the post-war consensus and what a nice place Welfare Britain used to be, and wishing my taxes were higher. Don't read too much into that though: in the same state I can hardly speak, walk or read and tend to think fondly of my adolescence, though it was in fact crap, as I always recall on the following morning. Following that post there are some amusing comments about which drinks produce which changes in political outlook. I have no idea about this, but it'd be fun working it out.

None At All

The best line in the HitchHikers' Guide (it works much better on radio and tv than in the recent film):

"Mr Dent,"
"Have you any idea how much damage this bulldozer would suffer, if I were to let it roll right over you?"
"No, how much?"

"None at all."

By a strange co-incidence, "none at all" is also the response to this discussion.

Tuesday, 12 December 2006


James has done his usual outstanding blogfocus. How he finds the time, I'll never know. I'm hardly working at all and it would take me hours and hours to put that lot together.

Pagan Festival Shopping Update

Not much to say actually. I forgot that I _hadn't actually asked anyone_ what they wanted and so therefore I was bereft of ideas. I managed to get a couple of gifts but felt distinctly uncharitable in the process. The shopkeepers and assistants didn't generally react well to my request for something "very reasonably priced". It seemed to hit them like an insult. Well, I am sorry about that but in fact I don't want to be ripped off and yes I am a bit tight-fisted.

5 Live Hits the Mark, Again

Heard on a trailer promoting Radio 5 Live this afternoon: the guy, a 5 Live commentator, is reminiscing about the World Cup; he says:

"those two great rivals, Germany and Poland..."

er, I guess you could put it like that, yeah.

On a similar note I was drinking in the pub last night (great thing to do, heartily recommend it) and I got chatting to the woman behind the bar who is Czech. she mentioned that she was going home for Christmas, etc, and really looking forward to it. She complained that most of the people who come to the pub think that the Czech Republic is the same as Poland, and that many of them have never even heard of the country. I was immediately ashamed at our collective ignorance. I indulged in a little Blair style apologising, by saying that we screwed up big time in 1938 and 39 and that we manipulated Czechoslovakia out of existence. To her credit, she took it well and didn't ask for reparations, just £3.30 for my pint and packet of crisps.

One More Thing

And before I do go shopping for the pagan festival of light or whatever it is, I'll just briefly mention the David Cameron interview in the Mail yesterday (I'm a bit out of touch and I never read the Mail until the next day). In it he says: "I don't go to bed dreaming of Polly Toynbee". Well, I'm grateful for that, at least.

Shocking Story in Daily Mail Shock

In yesterday's Mail there is the appalling story of a teacher who was sacked for...telling children there was no Father Christmas.

"Last Monday [it is claimed] the teacher told the class: 'All of you are old enough to know there is no Father Christmas or fairies. If you ask your parents to tell you they will say there is no such thing."

And the class - "some as young as nine" - were said to be deeply upset.

A tough issue, but my take is: what a miserable cow. You can never underestimate the extent to which children believe in Father C. I personally don't remember thinking he was real but doubtless I did at some point. But in a class you teach, you just can't take these things for granted. And you may wish to spread truth, righteousness and secular values but on the other hand when parents tell you how their children have reacted to being told "the news", some rather older than 9, you really just have to think: ah well. My take on it is that when a child comes to me and says "Father Christmas is bringing me x" I always engage in conversation around the central issue: "Oh. Are you sure you wouldn't prefer y?" or "Have you been a good boy/girl/other all year?" or something like that. For a teacher, it's not really about belief as such, but about letting parents decide for themselves what they want their children to know. For some, I gather, it comes as a milestone on the road to adulthood. For others it's a rotten betrayal.

Well I'll be off shopping for Winterval then, in a minute. I hate shopping at the best of times but at least not working full time means I have no excuse but to do it before the 24th this year. I quite like giving presents though, as I give so few things during the year it kind of makes me feel good for a bit. And then the dismal northern European winter bites me on the arse with its dull teeth and I spend until April in a state of either morbid depression or just listening to Joy Division.

Poms and the Cricket

Well it's nearly Test Time again, and if the selectors have any sense at all: Freddie will be sacked as captain, Monty will be in for Gilo and Read will be in for Jones.

However, the selectors have no sense, so it will probably be the same line up again.

This is an interesting story, which suggests that Aussies are generally more relaxed over their sports than Poms, for a simple reason: they're more likely to win. But there is another point too. Given that we're a nation which really does not play sport anymore, why do we get bothered at all? I think it is because we're still playing out the long downward march of our country and victories in sport hold it off for a while and say "erm, hello? Hello? This place is still here!" This might be why we tend to get so arrogant when we win. Yes, I am mainly talking about England, rather than Britain. Would the dissolution of the union make a difference? The need to put England back on the map (metaphorically) would perhaps generate a renewed sporting patriotism, such as the Aussies have - but then again, getting ourselves off the sofa would be the problem. So maybe Sky TV could shut itself down, in the interests of the people, and force people to get out and play sport instead. Oh yes - and the internet would have be closed too, for obvious, though not very savoury, reasons.

Sunday, 10 December 2006

BBC Picks Up on Piper

The BBC has picked up on the Bob Piper story: Tory Leader Portrayed as Minstrel

as has, finally, Iain Dale. Prague Tory has obviously been hurt by some of the personal abuse hurled at him for mentioning this story, and he says in the comments: This incident may be a prelude to my cessation from blogging. I am in a period of reflection. I will not be commenting again on this thread.

I haven't read much of the abuse, but some of Bob Piper's defence of his conduct has taken a personal tone in some places: upsetting some pompous prick of an Iain Dale wannabe isn't going to make me lose any sleep. (At Tim Worstall, who wasn't impressed with the furore). Although PT has hit back more than capably on the same thread.

Cllr Piper is clearly in the wrong here and he has not really defended himself well, seeming to rely on smears and further accusations against both his critics and the Tories. All I would say to Prague Tory is not to give up, lots of us enjoy reading you, and you've clearly done a good job here. Well done, sir. Sit back and have a nice glass of wine.

James Higham's Blogpower

Well, despite being an anti-voluntary code sort of guy, I like this idea of James Higham's - to defend and promote the smaller blogs (ie not the norms or Tim Worstalls of this world). I've managed to post the banner promoting it but I can't do it properly so it doesn't link to anything: but he's set up a new site, Defending the Blog, to discuss issues surrounding his idea of a loose collective of non-world shaking bloggers.

His eight key points are as follows:

1] adopt the motto: ‘do unto other blogs as you would have them do unto you’;
2] be broadminded and accept that others in the scheme are going to have views opposed to ours. So what?;
3] include at least ten posts in a week, no matter how small;
4] actively try to get round to each blogger on our own roll at least once in two days and comment at least three times in the week;
5] promote our blogfriends with either banners, buttons or the occasional link;
6] join in their little promo things e.g. normpoll, tomlist, voluntary-code-free-zone, chicken yoghurt’s book and so on;
7] comment on other’s comments on your own blog whenever you can;
8] link – if it’s in your power to blogroll someone who’s blogrolled you, try to do it. If you can link to a member in a post, do it.

I can't think of any of these principles I'd disagree with. I have tried to get the voluntary code-free thingy but have failed to raise a response.

Saturday, 9 December 2006

More web Controversy

Bit of a row brewing over Ministry of Truth and Bob Piper's use of racist language to criticise the Tories today: Dizzy, covers it, as does Praguetory.

No sign of it on the BBC yet, unlike the racist poem circulated among Tory councillors a few weeks ago. But then I suppose that this is lefties pointing out the permanent racism of the Tories, so that's ok. I'm interested in the defence that as it was designed to be offensive, it does its job so that's ok too.

UPDATE, 5.00PM: I'm told in an email that 97% of bloggers who've expressed an opinion on the subject in comments and so on disagree with Bob Piper and his methods of criticising the Conservative Party. There only seem to be four Tory or rightish sites carrying the story at the moment. Anyone else want to take up the reins?

Peter Hitchens Stimulates Debate, Abuse

Pootling around the non-socialist blogosphere this morning, I noticed that Peter Hitchens has posted something which has led to thoughtful debate as well as mindless abuse. It is the subject of Intelligent Design teaching in schools. I have a simple view on this: it might well be worth teaching in philosophy, RE or even PSHE: but as a science topic it is completely out of place. It is interesting to note that some people, despite apparently having masses of evidence to back up their views choose not to cite it.

One of the commentors makes this point:

... the atrocities of the Nazis and Communists were carried out in the name of political beliefs of fascism and communism, not atheism-- I'm sure that all communists or fascists aren't atheists.

I tend to think it goes with the terrority for communists: the position of fascists is more equivocal. Having just finished Richard J Evans's The Third Reich in Power, I find it difficult to believe that the Nazis as a whole possessed a genuine faith in a supernatural being, since they invested so much of that power and authority in themselves. Some Nazis of course were keen on the occult and paganism, but it was mainly to demonstrate the ancient beauty and strength of the German people. Himmler's views on religion, like on everything else, were completely barking: but it's hardly a way of saying that fascism was religious. Hitler himself sometimes talked of God, and I think the Supreme Deity is mentioned in the SS oath; for Hitler it was a sort of mythic sense in which he saw himself joining the Germanic gods in Valhalla at the end of time, or maybe he only meant it in a metaphorical sense. Nevertheless the role of religious belief is more ambiguous in Nazi Germany than in Soviet Russia. Not to mention the ancient role of Christianity in preparing the ground for the holocaust.

The poster is right in his comment that the atrocities of communism and so on were carried out in the name of politics. There were of course, atrocities carried out specifically against religious belief by atheists, because of atheism, especially in the USSR and Maoist China. Following on from Norm on atheism, it is also clearly rubbish that Stalin's atrocities were religiously inspired or came from his time in the seminary rather than his years of street fighting and conspiring, not to mention his wide Marxist reading. What the USSR and China and, I think, Nazi Germany, show, is that atheism, despite the claims of Richard Dawkins, is totally compatible with mass murder and utter disrespect for life. His position is that belief in an afterlife is more likely to make you lose respect for this one, while the history of the Twentieth Century shows that the reverse certainly applies: knowing that life is pointless means it is fine to waste it. Atheism is certainly making it easier for our leading bioethicists and medics to argue for disabled babies to be killed, for wider abortion provision, and for more euthanasia. Since life itself has no inherent property of meaning, there is no reason to make heroic efforts to save it; the pointless existence of suffering is what must be destroyed. I'm not saying this view is wholly uncompassionate, just that it demonstrates how when human life appears unable to create its own meaning, the lack of inherent meaning means that it can be more easily ended. Yet we hold fast to the abolition of the death penalty- probably because, again, it causes suffering; and it's suffering that we are not prepared to endure. For mainly compassionate reasons, I'm sure.

Friday, 8 December 2006

Sorry, Norm, You're Right

Here's Norm on Adelaide.

What can I say? Many critics, including St Geoffrey of Boycott, opined that the Aussies, unlike other cricketing nations, had forgotten how to play a 5 day test. Well, that was well called, eh?

I don't believe Australia are miles ahead of England. I think the strongest England side is a match for the strongest Aussie side. However, as in all sports, our natural idiocy has prevented that from happening; in addition to which although our first XI are great, our second XI are rubbish. One thing we could do is follow the Aussie States and not allow our main competitors to play for our county sides: I remember the outcry when it looked like Graham Thorpe was going to play for NSW this winter.

Norm's post is a great one: at times like this for Poms it is very difficult to recall the reasons we love cricket. Indeed the last test is why I hate cricket. But like my dad, or my oldest friends, I keep coming back to it, and I love it for its worst bits; and I love it because England's deficiencies are an integral part of its beauty - real beauty that is, in which a created thing is pleasing, moral, but flawed in that way that all created things must be. Like living things, England cricket will always die - it's a shifting being, capable of greatness, but, like most of us, struggling in the depths of mediocrity from day to day.

England cricket - you are one of us. Cheers.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

The Twentieth Century, In One Song

Well, pop-pickers, it's Christmas, and how better to celebrate it than with a song which neatly illustrates how 1914-1989 (or, in the lyricist's view, 1914 to date) is a continuum.

Jona Lewie, "Stop the Cavalry"

Hey, Mr. Churchill comes over here
To say we're doing splendidly.
But it's very cold out here in the snow
Marching to and from the enemy.
Oh I say it's tough, I have had enough,
Can you stop the cavalry?

I have had to fight almost every night,
Down throughout these centuries.
That is when I say, oh yes yet again,
Can you stop the cavalry?

Mary Bradley waits at home,
In the nuclear fallout zone.
Wish I could be dancing now,
In the arms of the girl I love.

Wish I was at home for Christmas.

Bang goes another bomb on another town
While the Czar and Jim have tea.
If I get home, live to tell the tale,
I'll run for all presidencies.
If I get elected I'll stop
I will stop the cavalry.

Wish I was at home for Christmas.

Wish I could be dancing now,
In the arms of the girl I love.
Mary Bradley waits at home,
She's been waiting two years long.

Wish I was at home for Christmas.

Let's get one thing straight here: I loathe and detest Eric Hobsbawm for his hate filled, apologistic diatribes (or "Age of Extremes" as they're known) and his support for murderous dictatorships (as long as some socialist promised land is vaguely in sight somewhere - the Soviet Union must have been alright because, er, it had fewer prisoners than the US in 1989: that's his logic and it stinks like my farts) - but on this, he's right. 1914-1989 is better than his view of 1914-1991 (I think he said that so he could see the back of Thatcher and Reagan) - but I take his point that the war fever of 1914 is of a piece with Threads, and the population cowering underneath mattresses while they listen to or watch Casualties.

Why does the murder of Franz Ferdinand fill me with fear? Not only because of the unadulterated slaughter it helped to start, but because it so nearly led us to total destruction as well. When I posted earlier this week on "getting to grips with the twentieth century", I didn't mention this: but in my view Jimmy's mum and dad die as part of a series of psychoses, already existing, unleashed by that shot and built, sometimes lovingly, often carelessly, until this point where "we don't want the whole street blowing up while you're away" is a line of humourless irony in the face of total annihilation.

Public Wish for More Surveillance - Not Me, Mate

This is interesting. Not that the government is using terrorism to regiment and survey its people during their lawful business in the most intrusive way, assuming that all passengers are potential terrorists; no, that is to be expected. What is interesting is this:

Passengers are ready to accept airport-style security screening at certain railway stations, Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander has said.
A trial of X-ray body scanners and other machines will report shortly, Mr Alexander told MPs.

But he said initial findings suggested passengers "understood the need" for extra security.

People, says the government, wish to be watched more closely; people, declare the government, want the state to assume they are deadly radicals when they're on their way up the Northern Line. The article does not make clear who was asked about this.

The Dept of Transport website does not exactly promote it either, and a short search doesn't turn up the survey or its methodology.

Mr Alexander said the threat of a terrorist attack in the UK remained "severe". way of a final little reminder to everyone to accept surveillance if they hadn't already. It is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the thought that this government wants to create and sustain an atmosphere of fear, in which communities are divided against each other, hatred and ignorance increase, and intrusion into daily life is normal.

This benevolent government has made or is to make great use of:

300 000 cctv cameras
6000 speed cameras
cameras at rubbish tips

...and many other methods, including chips in bins, company use of data sold by govenrment or other companies, the new NHS database, posted on below, ID cards, and the new transport plan, which will involve almost continuous surveillance of millions of vehicles.

Apart from occasional grumbling, we seem to have agreed that we must be watched all the time, whether to "save lives", or "protect the environment" or whatever; but the fact is, we're giving the government too much license to assume that we are murderous, world wrecking bastards who would destroy everything given half a chance, and that only the benevolent, extended government can stop us. Why can't we have a government that respects us as citizens (rather than which denigrates us as "polluters") and engages us as adults?

No: that would be too much to ask. MPs pay rise? Why not? Creating a feverish atmosphere of suspicion and intolerance doesn't come cheap you know.

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Timmy on Teaching

Picked up this excellent post by Tim Worstall on the plan to raise the school-leaving age to 18.

Gosh, what an excellent idea:

Teenagers should be forced by law to stay in school or training up to the age of 18, the review of skills ordered by Gordon Brown said yesterday.

More than one in six young people leave school unable to read, write and add up properly and the proportion of 16- year-olds staying on in full time education in the UK is below the average for developed countries, it said.

After 11 years of compulsory State education 17% have learnt nothing. So we'll insist that they have another two years where they'll also learn nothing. Great, good thinking Batman.

Why not be sensible and get the readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmetic stuff done a little earlier? You know, in years one through five of the education process?

Not only will they not learn anything more, but the teenagers forced to stay at school after 16 will also destroy the traditional atmosphere of the A Level (if it still exists). It was a space where the teachers could actually teach, to people who had made a positive choice to learn that subject, and was therefore a place and time where you could really grow up. That will all be wrecked if teenagers who have their GCSEs and want to go and do something else are forced to stay in the classroom. Anyone who wants to stay can - and that is how it should be, given that we treat 16 year olds as adults in other areas. Sex, for example.

The argument is, as it usually is, that people who leave at 16 earn less than people who don't. Fair enough. But they leave school because they are not academic, have been taught badly, or are otherwise demotivated, and have reached an age where society allows them increasing control over their lives. Why remove that right to get work or to start training? To look for something you really want to do? People who leave school at 16 and join the right trade or industry can make moves quickly and build up a stock of experience that graduates of 21 just can't catch up on.

The answer is probably to broaden the provision of training schemes and technical education post 16 (post 14 in fact), and to do away, once and for all, with the garbage that getting any degree is automatically better than not. Employers are already finding that many of the graduates they're getting are not "fit for purpose", but we have such a snobbery in this country towards real vocational or technical training that we see academic study as the be all and end all. I'm not arguing for the creation of another proletariat, to serve the material needs of the bourgeoisie - the opportunities for education in academic areas already exist. The opportunities for other kinds of education are limited. 16 year olds at work could be supervised, assessed, ooh, I don't know, "apprenticed", even; they could be given the opportunity to return to school if they change their minds, or study for A Levels later on: there is a whole raft of ways of making the choices of 16 years olds more relevant to them and to society without making them sit A Levels in subjects they don't want to do, in places they don't want to be.

I like the comment too:

"Why not be sensible and get the readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmetic stuff done a little earlier? You know, in years one through five of the education process?"

If you do that then when the hell are you going to fit the brainwashing in? There's anti-globalisation, anti-racism, global warming and class warfare to be to be peddled first. Best do that at a young age and let the less important stuff like literacy and numeracy wait for later. Come to think of it, do we really want a population that's articulate and that can think for itself? I don't think so!

This might sound like right-wing paranoia, but there is more than a grain of truth in it. Quite apart from the new "Science as Green Propaganda" GCSE, the primary science curriculum is promoted on PGCE courses, as I've pointed out before, precisely to indoctrinate children; the geography curriculum is seen by a significant proportion of academics (ie the ones who designed it) as a way of changing the world; and the history curriculum is currently under assault from special interest groups, who all want a slice of what they regard as a political subject.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Caption Competition

Here's my entry: "Playing cricket is impossible with these nits"

Oh well

There are advantages to being a pessimist. You can still be disappointed, but you're never surprised when things like this happen.

Way to lose the ashes, you bunch of morons.

Monday, 4 December 2006

Negative Numbers

According to Conservative Home, Francis Maude's appreciation rating has fallen below zero

Geez, and I thought I was a nomark. Now I have another way of teaching negative numbers to my pupils: "Yes, Johnny, the approval ratings of the shadow cabinet are another good example of negative numbers in the real world."


Norm has this to say on the speech codes being rolled out across Australia's cricket grounds:

At the same time, even with intimidating on top of threatening, disparaging along with vilifying, much is left out. At one of the days of the Adelaide Test I put together a longer list:

... offends, insults, humiliates, intimidates, threatens, disparages, vilifies, abuses, belittles, scorns, denigrates, traduces, ridicules, dehumanizes, dishonours, defames, victimizes, contemns, disrespects, slanders, frightens, taunts, torments, wounds, derides, terrifies, terrorizes, petrifies, demeans, maligns, badmouths, and [to go with 'offends'] upsets, dismays, demoralizes, depresses, distresses or anguishes...

Presumably this would include such appalling statements as "Australia 200 for 1" and "Australia wins the Test by 277 runs" and even worse, the cricket gods forbid, "Australia regains the Ashes". We must indeed be protected from offence such as this.

Nuclear War

This seems to be on the agenda again, with the news that Tony Blair is going to insist on replacing Trident.

Radio 5 Live played a snippet from the Public Information Film: "Protect and Survive - Action after Warnings" at about 5 this evening, which was intriguing, because presenter Peter Allen talked as if we were all familiar with these things - they were never shown, of course, and only clips of them were first seen in "Threads" in 1984. It just shows the insidiousness of this unique fear, that something very few people have seen can be treated as a cultural memory.

A social historian they interviewed called Protect and Survive completely wrong. He said that it was naive to think anyone could survive with the measures it advocated - fallout shelters, food stocks, etc. Some people would have survived, mainly those in rural areas and on the edges of towns. It was them Protect and Survive was aimed at, not the rest of the population, which makes it cynical, not naive. As I've written before, the PIF "Casualties" is the most appalling cultural document anywhere. It is the abandonment of the people to the supreme horror.

The discussion they had was curious, and it brought up some interesting things -such as the gradual displacement of the fear of nuclear armageddon with that of climate meltdown, but the fact of fear being central anyway. To me, the concept of nuclear war is totally different from any other war; almost literally unimaginable. Even "Threads" doesn't go far enough - for reasons of budget, probably.

How can a civilisation live under this threat - and remember it was at 4 minutes' notice, not the 50 years for climate change - and not be affected, at some deep level of its psyche? Without wanting to sound like a 10th rate Jung, could there be a concept such as "collective trauma", in which the ever presence of imminent and total destruction would leave its marks long after it had gone? Are we really living in the sunlit uplands of the post-Cold War period, or are we acting out the collective mental disturbances sown in our past?

Have we, indeed, actually finished the twentieth century at all? I tend to think some things, such as our anxiety over climate change and the shrill language surrounding it, may instead be ways in which we're trying to grasp its legacy. Maybe we're only just getting started on facing up to what we went through, the vast, mechanised murder, the leaders who slaughtered by the million while smiling and promising great worlds, even the tower blocks which were supposed to be new communities in the sky - and what our civilisation caused and nearly caused.

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Good Deed

I thought I'd do a good deed by giving a paper I actually wanted to keep to a lonely looking guy in the pub earlier; he said: "yeah, okay, I'll take it.." - he thought I was palming him off with something I had finished with. Hey ho. The trials of Being Good, eh (that's something for Nick Hornby to ponder in his next superficial novel)?

10 things which, if they happened, I'd write about pleasantly

Further to my point below about blog whinging, here are 10 things I would report or comment on positively if they happened:

1. England win Ashes
2. England retain Ashes in drawn series
3. McGrath and Warne to retire immediately
4. Blair and Brown to retire immediately
5. US announces $500 billion reconstruction project for Iraq
6. Tin Drummer to win blogging award
7. Member of loud rights/equality/NGO group caught in blatant hypocrisy probe
8. C of E to "affirm faith in God"
9. New report shows that "independent reports" are nothing of the kind
10. Polly Toynbee to join Tories

Whinging (With Reason)

James Higham's new blogfocus has reminded me that I, and, I suspect, some other bloggers too, spend a lot of time whinging. James, incidentally, along with Tim Worstall, and Tom Paine, is among the best of those who don't. But I think, given that the blogosphere has emerged as a critical discussion, it's kind of inevitable that this is the course it's taken. The UK and the US are also in the last throes of governments which have run out of moral authority, political authority, and imagination. In the UK, though the economy remains reasonably bouyant, we have a government actively pursuing its citizens for information, and promoting ever harsher punishments for offences of thought or speech. Much as I abhor the BNP the recent political prosecution of Nick Griffin was a disgrace, as was Gordon Brown's response. The treatment of some imams for things they have said rather than done has also been (to me) a bit worrying.

So, as a politically engaged person who finds the politicians of his day corrupt, self serving, and incompetent, whinging in the blogosphere is an excellent way of promoting my views, joining a conversation of views, and building a genuine bottom up mass of critical opinion and occasionally thought against what I regard as a rubbish government (as opposed to the MSM, many of whom have lobby positions, comfortable jobs, and publicly funded biases to protect).

So: another whinge then. Mr Eugenides reports on the latest attempt by MPs to raise their own salaries. Whenever a politician says they went into politics to do good, this is evidence that they are lying. People who want to do good become charity workers, teachers, nurses, doctors and street cleaners. People who want to reshape your life after their views become politicians. This latest moan about their frankly fantastic remuneration only backs up my view.

There is a reason, perhaps, that their salaries (but not their perks) have not risen inline with other top public sector figures. That is that MPs are specifically, and only, servants of the people, there to do their bidding. They are not CEOs or Headteachers, they are given power by the people and in return they are able to exercise it. Fiscal bounty ought not to be an automatic part of that bargain.

Next. I would very much like a guardianista to come and tell me that this story is just the evil Daily Mail making things up. In Saturday's edition, it reports:

Britain's top doctor [Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer]has told GPs to reveal the names of patients who want to stop their medical records being put into a central NHS computer.

A spokesarse for the Dept of Health is quoted thusly:

The CMOs advice to GPs is to forward the letters to the Secretary of State - and these are letters that have probably already been sent to the Secretary of State for Health from patients.

My emphasis. Now the whole defence of this is predicated on that "probably". On the basis that the Secretary of State "probably" has the letters, they are to be given to him anyway, giving the government direct knowledge of who has refused the movement of their data. Well - what if they aren't already there? The spokesprat goes on to say: "The content is in the public domain already". I wasn't aware that people's written decisions about their information were in the public domain, and I wasn't aware that requesting it to be left off a database constituted putting it there.

I would really like someone to come along and tell me a) that the Daily HateMail has deliberately concoted this story or b) that it is true, but I have utterly misread it. This does happen sometimes.

Saturday, 2 December 2006

Being Paul Collingwood

..must be pretty good right now. That holy grail of England batting, the double hundred, has finally been discovered. The last one was by the pie-eating Rob Key in 2004, the last one before this in Australia by a Pom was Wally Hammond in 1936/7. It sounds to me like a sub-continental pitch, offering nowt for bowlers, but even so, as a Pom, batting in Australia will always be difficult work. So well done to Colly, who's never really been rated in the same way as his contemporaries, always seems to be the guy to make way if someone else comes back from injury, but who's always done his darndest - and who now has the 2 highest scores by anyone in this England team, 206 and 186.

Friday, 1 December 2006

Being Matthew Hoggard

..must be difficult, like being a slightly less effectual Polonius. Now I love Polonius, and I really like Matthew Hoggard. He's the only guy in the England "bowling" line up who's actually turned up in 75%+ of tests in the past few years.

But your humble Drummer is a Hoggard of his very own, trundling into work and into a blogosphere that prefers Lees and Aktars.

Never more have I felt this than tonight, Victorian shopping night in the Drummer's village. Now your Drummer is a capitalist. But this really is capitalism gone mad. Every building in the village is adorned with vile, offensive lights, and there are grasping hands and piss-poor costumes leaping out at you from every doorway and shadowplace; there is the frustrating sound of money not being dropped into buckets, champagne being ignored and crap games being passed by. The cashpoint is the longest queue in town, so - where are they spending the money?

Where else? The pub, of course. At least there, you're guaranteed a top class product, unlike an arse-awful impression of a century dead town cryer and his long deceased monarch; she's dead, goddammit, she's dead and she's not coming back, no matter how many pounds change hands, and none of you gives a toss because as long as those coins change hands no-one cares that no-one cares about the theme of the evening.

Here's the Drummer's suggestions:

1) a public execution
2) stocks
3) we import cholera and dystentry into the village for the night
4) we make all the stallholders sign the 39 Articles
5) all pregnant teenagers are hurried off to backstreets or given huge doses of gin and hot baths
6) the village stages a series of summit meetings with a German village, announcing periodically that the opposing village needs to negotiate on its number of ducks, while the German village relentlessly builds up its amount of ducks, and we just stoke the river, ready for the inevitable conflict.