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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

The following is a five star review for Old, Fat Punks – posted on Amazin. You should totally buy a copy, review it and recommend it to your friends.

***

This is an outstanding novel. It is also a very dangerous novel. Old, Fat, Punks is nostalgic tribute to a bygone era. A pre-Margaret Thatcher, pre-Ronald Reagan era in which young people still thought they could change the world for the better – an idealistic era, a romantic era. This novel is also about the cold hard truth that that era has passed and it is a blistering critique of the world we live in today.

This novel is also about the cold hard truth that that era has passed and it is a blistering critique of the world we live in today.

Derek, Trol (one “l” because two is too much work) and Tim are ageing, drunk, unsuccessful former punks from the late 1970s. Each one is facing a grinding, humiliating future in which their choices are poverty on the British dole or throwing out what little self-esteem they have left. One drunken night they agree to under take one last great act of defiance. But not to make a difference but rather to show the world that we now live in a system that even the most extreme political act cannot change (told you it was a dangerous novel). Over the course of the novel we see them put together their plan of action while confronting some of their own demons from the past. We also flash back on their days running with their mates in Britain’s punk scene and come to better understand who these characters are and what drives them.

Each one is facing a grinding, humiliating future in which their choices are poverty on the British dole or throwing out what little self-esteem they have left. One drunken night they agree to under take one last great act of defiance.

The book is well written with complex and interesting characters (even the secondary characters are well rounded and believable). Derek, Trol and Tim are as distinct and complex as you can possibly imagine and make a magnificent spring board for the author to comment on everything from being gay and a racial minority to the state of public schools, the nature of unrequited love, political activism, obesity and the music industry. It is a stinging critique of our modern era and some of a particular political bent will not appreciate our hero’s views of the world (if you are in the 1%, I’m guessing you won’t enjoy this). But if you dreamed of making a difference (or bless you if you are young and think you can make a difference) then this novel seers the heart. It is not hopeless. The novel is romantic and so is the author. Both believe that at the core of all of us is the desire to make the world better – if we can just believe that it can be done (and believe in each other) and open our eyes to the truth of the world around us.

The novel is romantic and so is the author. Both believe that at the core of all of us is the desire to make the world better – if we can just believe that it can be done…

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Derek, Tim and ‘Trol’ are three ageing rebels, hitting their fifties. Disillusioned by the way the world has turned out and the frustration of their teenage dreams of a better life or a revolution.

All they have left are stories of past glory and pints of cheap beer at one of the last punk-pubs in London.

Watching a riot unfurl on television, to no point and no effect, their frustration boils over and they decide to do something futile and stupid, a grand, nihilistic gesture of futility.

Comedy, social and political satire, and frustration all meet in this story of a ‘revolutionary caper’

 

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Pearls

On reflection, I probably shouldn’t have done an image search for ‘pearl necklace’

Or, perhaps more properly, The Great Gender Con.

The debate is toxic, whether you’re talking about gaming, genre fiction, technology or anything else where there’s a current gender disparity, yet I still keep coming back to it. I don’t know why really. All it gets me is opprobrium and misrepresentation but I feel that there have to be counter voices.

We are now at the point in this ‘debate’ that merely pointing out that there are any nice guys at all is somehow controversial and problematic.

Off the back of that Sarah got some flak and I, foolishly, felt compelled to stick my oar in.

Why?

Well, we’ve seen the fallout in the atheist and skeptic movements, it rumbles on in gaming. To see it spreading to genre fiction meets and conventions is depressing, for several reasons.

  1. There is no indication that sexual harassment is any sort of particular or special problem at any of these events any more than it is for the general public in any social situation. This isn’t to say sexual harassment isn’t a problem, just that making it seem that these sorts of events are hotbeds of sexual misconduct is not correct.
  2. Creating the impression that they are full of harassment reduces women’s involvement in these causes, activities and meet-ups. Completely the reverse of the supposed goal of the crusaders who spread the idea that it is. EG: The Amazing Meeting’s female attendance ratio dropped massively. Not because of any indication of endemic harassment, but rather because of the fearmongering.
  3. The scaremongering is predicated upon a demonisation of male sexuality and is thoroughly gendered, as the response to Sarah’s post shows.
  4. The proposed solutions, such as harassment policies, are unnecessary, negatively impact socialisation at events and cement the fear and sexism towards men in writing, subject to wilful abuse.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to create an inaccurate atmosphere of fear, particularly of something as serious as sexual harassment.

I don’t think it’s a good idea, or in line with what these people say they want to do, to put women off attending conferences.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to tar the male gender with the same brush.

I don’t think it should be controversial to point out that there are also nice guys – or that they’re the majority.

Why do I regard this pearl-clutching pseudo-feminism as a problem? Because it’s a lie, because it’s irresponsible, because it creates a bad impression that doesn’t reflect reality (as does their response to criticism), because it’s sexist, because it’s preying on people’s fears for no clear end.

The Daily Mail and other media create an impression of the rate of crime which makes many pensioners and others afraid to leave their houses and terrified of youths. It makes them afraid to a level utterly disproportionate to the actual levels of crime or the ‘risk’ they take in popping down to the shops. Sure, it sells papers (or webclicks) but if it’s causing unnecessary fear and genuinely causing harm is it a responsible thing to do?

How is this any different?

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Wayward Child

pike-meme-pictures-photos-pepper-spray-cop-officer-photo-u1

Monday’s child is gassed with mace,
Tuesday’s child shot in the face,
Wednesday’s child blasted by drones,
Thursday’s child, refugee, roams,
Friday’s child arrested for trolling,
Saturday’s child can’t go on living,
But the child who is born on all these days
Has their rights and their future taken away.

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catch22A few conversations and discussions of late have thrown into additional light on the problems and discussions that have characterised 2012 for me. That is to say arguments about inclusion, tolerance, race, gender, depictions, sexuality etc as they relate to creative endeavours. For me this has mostly been in gaming, but more broadly this seems to be a hot topic across games, film, writing, everything.

Part of this is the hysteria and bandwagoning nature of social media acting as an amplifier, but it’s persistent enough across all media lately that I think it needs addressing.

It’s a huge goddamn issue and it straddles all manner of different topics like some bloated, Tolkienesque spider awaiting its prey. Worth a bash though.

TheComputerYou Can’t Create if You’re too Paranoid

It’s hard enough to create, unless you’re arrogant enough to think yourself infallible. Pretty much most people who are good creators – in any field – are riddled with self-doubt, second-guess themselves and fret constantly. Many are just good at hiding it.

It’s hard enough struggling with your own demons without having to take into account everyone else’s and the rapidity of modern interactive media means that every single word you write or image you draw is subject to enormous scrutiny and feedback with a laser-like focus it would not have attracted even ten years ago.

Accounting for any and every Tom, Dick and Harriet and their personal foibles and concerns is impossible and if you ignore it or minimalise it you’re going to get flak. You’re going to get flak anyway though so…

CaucasianAdventuresExclusion/Appropriation

If you happen to be white and/or male and/or straight and/or anything else perceived rightly or wrongly as being a position of privilege and you create, you’re stuffed. If you ‘write what you know’ you’ll be accused of being racist, sexist, homomisiac and any number of other things whether you write about them or not.

If you leave these things out you’re *ist by exclusion. If you include them you’re *ist because of the mistakes you’ll be perceived to make. You’re damned if you don’t and you’re appropriating cultures, minorities etc if you do.

close-but-no-cigarMore Right-on than Thou

Even if you do your absolute best to be a right-on, ‘politically correct’, progressive and enlightened 21st century human being it will never, ever, ever be good enough as someone else will be out to prove their chops by being even more progressive and right-on than you are and by making you out to be an evil cunt. Here’s a really good example of someone super-progressive being monstered in a perverse game of one-upmanship.

muhammad_cartoonYou Are to Blame for your Audience

Your intent and even your execution on a topic doesn’t matter. a jot. What seems to matter is the reaction your audience has to it. Of late this kind of argument seems to have been centred around Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’ wherein some people are worried/concerned and upset about the racism in it.

Racism all but confined to villains who get their comeuppance.

Racism which is in no way presented as being a ‘good thing’.

Racism which is funny because it is absurd and extreme.

Of course a few no-chin, redneck, white-supremacy types are going to get a kick out of the word ‘nigger’ and black characters being terrorise but that’s on them. Not the creator of the material. It’s unreasonable to hold the creator accountable for every single reaction to their work.

stjeromeDeath of the Author

It doesn’t seem to matter what you think you’ve made. Those who choose to analyse your work will presume they know your intentions better than you do and will ascribe motivations and reasons to you themselves, without listening to what you have to say about it. just because you made a thing doesn’t seem to mean you know anything about it.

6obeSatire is Dead

Someone will take what you say seriously and as if you meant it. This happens to The Onion all the time and is a part of ‘Poe’s Law’. Parody will be taken seriously by someone, somewhere and what’s serious can also be taken for parody. The two can be almost indistinguishable (reference the Westboro Baptist Church for an example).

Once someone’s failed to understand that what a piece is, is satire they often still won’t back down when this is pointed out. Again they may claim that this is some sort of reflection of your subconscious prejudice or, simply, that it ‘isn’t funny’ or ‘isn’t well done’. It’s never that the person has no sense of humour or that they’re embarrassed that they didn’t ‘get it’. Oh no.

sign-brownest-thingContext Doesn’t Seem to Matter

Are you writing an historical piece? Drawing an image from a fantasy or science-fictional society with different morals and social mores? Is the material we’re discussing from fifty years ago, a hundred, more?

Doesn’t matter. If something is offensive it always is and it doesn’t matter if its historically accurate or a preservation of old attitudes for cultural and historical reasons (Nigger Jim anyone?) It’s bad and wrong and will be used as a stick to beat you with.

There’s also the problem that a statement you make in the heat of an argument with a douchebag or off the cuff in a moment of humour now lives forever on the internet and will be relentlessly quote-mine forever and ever even if you change your mind over time or you’re being misrepresented. Sometimes these quotes will even be completely made up! IT doesn’t matter!

Solutions?

There’s no easy solutions here as, in the main, the problems lie with other people. I think a starting point to dealing with the problems above are:

  • Surround yourself with people you respect to give you feedback: Not necessarily people who agree with you, but people whose dissent you can acknowledge and take seriously. Not YouTube commentators.
  • Understand your own values: Other people are going to judge you by theirs, but what are yours? Are you a libertine or a moralising conservative? Do you value verisimilitude or comfort? Do you want to be unflinching or accommodating? To thine own self be true and if people want work that meets other criteria, they can damn well do it themselves. What’s your hierarchy of interests and concerns? You can’t cover EVERYTHING.
  • Publish & be Damned: Do it anyway. Fuck ’em.

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molesworth“I would like to present to you…” said the worthy-looking man, all grey hair, patched elbows and the threadbare spirit of the educator “…the St John’s Boy for Schools!”

The Minister blinked, wetly and gave the old professor a smirk. “I think you mean School for Boys Mr Wick.”

“Oh no,” the professor smiled and swept aside the sheet, revealing a small boy in short trousers and a school blazer, skinned knees, snotty nose an entirely unremarkable child.

“Your son?” The Minister sighed and leaned forward, resting his three chin upon his interwoven sausage-fingers.

“No Sir. This is a Mark Two Molesworth. A genetically engineered, near-human replicant, designed to fix a major problem in education.”

This was all far beyond the Minister whose mind was already dwelling on whether to have the pigeon-breast salad or the pork loin for lunch. He was only half listening. “Some sort of robot? What’s it for?”

“Um, not really. If that helps you understand though yes, it’s a sort of robot.” The professor scratched his head and stroked his beard as he thought how to get his point across.

“The problem, you see, is that learning simply isn’t cool. Girls get all sorts of encouragement from each other and from society at large to learn in order to overcome the perceived ‘bimbo’ factor. Boys, however, get no such aid despite being far outstripped by girls in many academic fields.”

“Yes, yes,” said the Minister, picking waxy dirt from under his thumbnail. “Terrible business, white paper, special committee, more funding to subsidise private schools…” it was a mantra he’d learned soon after he took on the job. The same thing he trotted out to reporters.

“Yes, well, none of that does any good. We can’t change the culture that holds them back by such methods. We can’t make learning ‘cool’. We can’t make boys want to learn and any young lad that does take up the opportunities we present to them is in for a drubbing.”

“Quite.”

“The Molesworth can fix that!”

The Minister’s attention was diverted from thoughts of lunch by the passion in the professor’s voice and the implications began to penetrate his thick skull, millimetre by millimetre.

“…how?”

The professor took his seat opposite the Minister and gestured wildly as he excitedly laid out his plan. “We produce large numbers of Molesworths and insert them into classes in large enough numbers to form the beginning of a clique or group. One that values education and good behaviour and applies a positive degree of peer pressure to counteract and overcome that of being an illiterate thug!”

The Minister paled and scowled, his jowly face crinkling like a boiled tomato. “Won’t that, ah, skew the classes to being predominantly male?”

“We also recognise the value of… ah… positive reinforcement for men coming from young ladies. We hope to have the Jessica and Elizabeth versions completed soon. They, of course, will be pretty and charming and will only have eyes for well-behaved and academically adept boys.”

“It all seems a little unethical.” The Minister hemmed and hawed, rocking back in his seat. The professor just looked at him.

“No worse than making up Father Christmas in order to get children to behave all year and we have to do something. Tests have demonstrated a marked improvement in the academic development of boys in such an environment. It wouldn’t be too expensive to implement and the potential rewards of a better educated and better behaved populace are…”

“…not as great as you might think.” The Minister interrupted and his frown deepened even further.

“What?” Cut off mid-flow the professor didn’t quite know what to make of this statement.

“Put, plainly Mister Wick, we need plebs. We need foolish, uneducated and dim-witted men to clean toilets, sweep streets, die in the army and keep the prisons nice and full – and profitable. Your plan would not serve that end and with immigration being so damn unpopular there’s no other choice.”

“But…”

The Minister waved his hand dismissively. “Good day Sir. Your funding is cut.”

“But the future! Technology, science!”

“Good. Day.” The Minister pressed a buzzer and his aide came in, leading the professor and his young – artificial – charge back outside. Pausing at the door.

“Everything alright sir?”

“Fine Jenkins, fine. Honestly, some people. They seem to think the current state of affairs is unintentional.”

“I blame the education system sir.”

“Quite.”

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There’s a lot to like about being British and while there’s a lot of anger inducing nonsense in politics and other issues at the moment I thought I’d break the habit of a lifetime and be positive for once.

  • There’s history everywhere. You can’t go two steps without hitting some spot that has some historical significance or some story attached to it. Any village, no matter how small has some kind of ghost story or other local legend. Within striking distance of me are ales of cockatrices, wurms, dragons and more ghosts than you can shake a bell, book and candle at.
  • We can say ‘Hello gorgeous!’ whether the person is or isn’t actually gorgeous, still mean it AND make them smile their face off.
  • That unique combination of unspoken politeness and acceptance of eccentricity that gives otherwise stressful encounters a bit of structure. It’s like a mutual coping mechanism or a dance.
  • You don’t have to talk to anyone at bus stops, on the tube or – indeed – anywhere. Anyone that does talk to others in these places is considered odd but since we’re so accepting of eccentricity, that’s OK too.
  • Windswept and interesting or dragged through a hedge backwards? Only I truly know.
  • The weather is actually worth passing comment on.
  • The English language is beautiful, bewitching, dazzling, magnificent and wonderful. It has a lot of synonyms is what I’m saying. Apparently English has more adjectives than any other language so, that’s… good.

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