Szyzygy's Blog

March 5, 2010

It’s not only English patriots wot can’t spell it’s noo-Labur two

Filed under: Politics — syzygy @ 8:58 pm
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From Linda Gilroy MP’s website, in an insultingly sparsely churlish obituary of Michael Foot, former leader of the Labour Party, one of the last of the old guard of politicians with morals, honour and integrity, comes this little piece of typographical inexactitude. She obviously cared enough about her party’s former leader to not even bother to pass a spell-checker over her obituary, which could have been run up in less time than it takes sitting in the 1st class carriage of the First Great Western to get from Plymouth to Ivybridge.

He was a towering intellectual and a great orator – but also a fundementally decent man. even in his nineties he could declaim passionately about the things that mattered to him.

No wonder educational standards are in decline if some of our elected representatives can’t even get it right in the fulsome 3 sentences which they deign to lavish.

March 2, 2010

A petition to support the BBC against enforced cutbacks

Filed under: Uncategorized — syzygy @ 10:25 am
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The BBC, dumbed down as it may have been by the aftermath of the Hutton whitewash, is a British national treasure. It is now under pressure to reduce significantly its output and outreach, principally by ruthless and financially motivated individuals such as Rupert Murdoch who want people to pay through the nose for information and knowledge. I would implore anyone in the UK who reads this to sign the Avaaz petition to oppose these changes to send a very clear signal to the powers that like to think they are that we aren’t going to stand for these corporate vultures attempting to suppress a vital and vibrant British institution. The link is here.

February 24, 2010

Orthographically challenged English Democrat alert

Filed under: Politics — syzygy @ 12:19 pm
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In a recent blog post, Dean Lacey who is proud to say he’s English and is apparently standing as a PPC for the (new?) English Democrat party introduces some interesting new ways of perverting the English language such that many primary school children could have made a better fist of the job. I don’t however honestly think I could vote for someone who fails to grasp the importance and primacy of the English language whilst loudly proclaiming to be proud to be English. If Mr Lacey wants to convince me that it’s time for change, then he could reasonably begin by sorting out his spelling, failure to correctly capitalise proper nouns, and to adequately deploy punctuation. Anything else I might have missed? Oh, yes, Mr Lacey, if you want to voice my opinion, you’d better sort your act out and make sure you can articulate (and correctly spell) words with more than two syllables that don’t just constitute platitudinous slogans…. If this is amongst the best that the English Democrats can do in terms of prospective parliamentary material, they’re doomed from the word go….

Political Correctness Gone Stark Staring Bonkers…

Filed under: Language — syzygy @ 11:56 am
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I think this latest gem recently reported on the BBC website just about sums up the complete idiocy, inappropriateness and crass stupidity of the current climate of spurious political correctness. As a long-suffering England supporter of long-standing (and it’s been a very long time since the zenith of 1966 by way of some notable nadirs, principally the long-ball game beloved of the likes of Mr Don Revie and his sidekick Howard Wilkinson) if I can’t laugh a little at the wee sleekit timorous Scots having a jealous and humourous poke at our national team of overpaid mercenaries, then I may as well give up and start following a somewhat less controversial sport such as tiddlewinks. “Anyone But England” is a catchy little title and hardly racist by any stretch of the imagination. What next? Will the abuse of plastic Mancs or the prawn-sandwich brigade supporters of Chelski become a target for this loathesome regiment of semantic neo-Puritans? I shudder to think what will occur if this ridiculous and pettyfogging obsession isn’t sooner or later nipped sharply in the bud or we’ll end up in a post-Orwellian world of minispeak where only sanitised and state-sanctioned semantics are permissible. I may disagree with what the grudge-bearing kilt-wearing little bastages up north of even the remotest fringes of civilisation (which in my book stops somewhere between Totnes and Exeter) but, to paraphrase Voltaire, I’ll volubly defend their right to say it. The time for the PC lobby to be brought collectively to their knees is long overdue.

February 3, 2010

Survivors as political allegory

Filed under: TV criticism,Uncategorized — syzygy @ 7:32 am
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There’s something distinctly and fascinatingly unpleasant about the BBC not-so-cosy catastrophe series remake, Survivors. It started off a series and a bit ago with a global pandemic which obliterated almost the entirety of the population and has somehow contrived to become progressively darker and more disturbing by the episode. Most of this darkness emanates from one of the central themes which is being articulated by the series, that power is symbiotically and inextricably linked to coercion and violence.

This is not an unusual premise given all the available evidence of history, but there is much more than this going on beneath the surface. There is, inevitably, an awful lot of off-the-wall nonsense going on, notably the unlikely closed-in survivalist community with an as yet unarticulated agenda, but a lot of the mainstream of the story is concerned with political allegory. The obvious conflict between Abby Grant, the voice of reason, and the erstwhile government Minister Samantha Wilson, now transformed into a gun-toting executrix, (and who could easily have been cloned from one of the ideologues of the British mainstream political parties), is deeply interesting to the point of almost justifying the series on its own. Samantha, like many of those whom I diss on a fairly regular basis, is unscrupulous, unprincipled, dishonest, hypocritical and self-serving, which ticks all the boxes of necessary qualifications for a career in politics within the framework of the current status quo.

It’s interesting to note that the ratings for this have slowly dipped as the series has progressed, which is a shame since this is one of very few programs in the current execrable desert of imported nonsense, game shows, and candy-floss to ask hard questions of the viewer.

November 14, 2009

Reflections on kleptocracy as a mode of government

Let us disabuse ourselves of the vaguest notion that we live within an ordered and coherent democracy. The depth and sheer quantity of instances of abuses of political power by the existing status quo of all political persuasions represented within Whitehall and its inbred idiot cousin, the Civil Service, long since disqualified the sensible use of the term to approximate reality. If this were the Monty Python sketch about parrots, the customer, in this case the electorate, would have long since realised that the parrot was not merely resting, but that it was, in point of fact, extinct, an ex-parrot, nailed only to the perch by the yellow press and the other apparatus of state ideological process, the media, the judiciary, and all the other ancillary paraphernalia associated with and pertaining to government. But what, I hear you ask, what has Parliament ever done for us? Well there are the roads (in a frankly shocking state of disrepair, for the dubious pleasure of using which which the motorist is taxed to the quick), the scandalous state of the National Health (a drain on the public purse of an extravagance beyond the wildest dreams of any expenses fiddler and almost as broken as the banking system),  and more particularly a war on drugs based more on political opportunism than science and available evidence.  A war on drugs which effectively entails the electorate paying for the prejudices of a few, in which some of the more dangerous (in terms of both social and health risk)  substances are legal and effective cash-cows for the government, while the criminalisation of others of comparative or lesser evil has led to an extent and depth of both  organised and disorganised crime contributory to a society sadly teetering on the verge of several nervous breakdowns.  The recent sacking of Professor Nutt illuminates the nub of the problem; we, as a society, are not only paying for the exercise of the prejudices of a few, but are also subject to a legislative process which is not based on science or evidence but on political expediency and whim. Then of course the government has also given us the expenses scandals. And the Hutton whitewash.  The list is almost endless, a depressing litany of widespread abuses and scandal. None of the parties with representation in parliament, I feel, realise just how hated and despised they are.

Kleptocracy, a reasonable definition of which may be found here  in Wikipedia, goes a long way to explaining this unsatisfactory state of affairs, a state of affairs in which this country is  perilously close to the brink. Given the goverment’s hand in glove relationship with the alcohol industry, one could go a step further and characterise it to an extent as a narcokleptocracy. The government and the opposition aren’t joined up enough in their thinking to see how suspiciously and cynically the electorate, their customer base, now regard them. It is estimated that fewer than 60% of the enfranchised population are likely to vote at the next election; I would say from conversations with people in real life that this is a figure in the wild flights of fantasy – more than 2/3 of the people I have spoken to say there’s just no point in voting, although some of these inevitably will in deeply misguided optimism that their vote might just make a difference to the outcome.  I can’t really disgree with this line of argument and it is hardly suprising; the two parties with enough of a habituated or politically stupid enough percentile of the electorate to vote for them are fundamentally indistinguishable and are both equally prone to kleptocracy on both the grand and petty scale – let’s not forget the arms to Iraq scandal, the perjuries,  etc, etc of the previous junta, but one must hope that a change might make things better, much as experience has taught us time and again that it won’t.

They have gone on with this long enough in the name of democracy; I am of a mind to report the lot of them to the Advertising Standards Agency the next time one of these simpering mendicants has the gall to spout forth on the importance of democracy blah blah blah. Well I would do, but like all regulatory authorities it is firmly in the back pocket of the kleptocracy. The circle is complete. The government not only controls processes of the government it also controls and owns the checks and controls on government. The ballot box cannot in its present implementation save us from these thieves and liars.  It can however hurt them.  It really doesn’t matter who you’re voting for, the government will always get in. So here’s an idea for doing something different next time round. Let’s make their positions a little more tenuous by not voting for sitting candidates. Let’s also send the alleged opposition, otherwise to be referred to hereinafter  as the “kleptocrats in waiting”,  a similar message by not voting for them either.  If there is a viable third party (other of course than the BNP or similar manifestly unsavoury organisations),  a vote for them, by enough people would send a shiver down the back of the kleptocracy. 

What is needed is wholesale political reform on an unparalleled level; the status quo know that voting for this is like turkeys voting for Christmas, and is not something likely to occur unless we as a society make it occur. If we want the better and more equitably governed society that we deserve, and we manifestly can’t go on like this forever, we need to move towards real enfranchisement, real democratic process, and real accountability of all organs of and pertaining to the state. We need to remove from the political vocabulary the concept of a “safe seat”; there should be no such thing for the fairly obvious reason that an unaccountable representative with no fear of his/her electorate is more prone to disregard the wishes of the constituency and the electorate at large than would otherwise be the case.  Once they are sitting uncomfortably, then we can begin.

I will not vote labour or conservative – I will vote! – more democracy Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=169748050377&ref=nf#/group.php?gid=98463853522

November 10, 2009

Thumbs up for Krautrock

In the wake of the ridiculous debacle which was Synth Britannia of a few weeks ago, by way of an act of contrition BBC 4 screened the almost exponentially more intelligent and engaging documentary, Krautrock: The Rebirth of Europe. Comparisons of this degree of magnitude are almost certainly invidious: if you must do reflective social and musical history, then this is indubitably the way to do it. Setting the socio-political context with a degree of nicety, the reaction against schlager and Anglo and American pop which was to ultimately become the zenith of industrial techno as personified in the form of Kraftwerk, the introduction sets out a far more compelling appraisal than was ever ventured in the totality of Synth Britannia. Wenders and Herzog, Baader and Meinhof. Fitzcarraldo. Checkpoint Charlie, the Vopos. All of these appeared within the first ten minutes or so, and none of them struck a false note.

Was British synth culture so much more vapid than the nascent German industrial techno culture? The answer is probably no and the richness of experience which was the documentary Krautrock, set against the echoing vacuity which was Synth Britannia, can only boil down to the fact that Ben Whalley, the maker of these two documentaries suffers from creative bipolarity of the sort heretofore only evidenced in Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde.  Even Karlheinz Stockhausen, that enfant terrible godfather of the world of experimental sound got a look in. Maybe he’d like to have another stab at Synth Britannia, doing it properly this time.

November 7, 2009

Notes from the future: The origins of Open Source Democracy

If nothing else, the peremptory sacking of David Nutt by Home Secretary Alan Johnson in October 2009 exposed the aching chasm which  existed between rational thought and political thought, such as it was in early 21st century Britain.  In the grips of a deep recession, a failing Labour administration, confronted by a Conservative party even more devoid of political wisdom and insight than themselves, sought to establish clear leeway between themselves and their opponents by a number of headlining manouevres. David Nutt, an eminent scientist, whose contribution to knowledge in the sphere of psychopharmacology was of the very first order, was to be their patsy. Unfortunately, as events subsequently transpired, it was to not only rebound on themselves, but to bring into question the very legitimacy of a mode of political representation which had existed, largely unchanged, since the mid-19th century. 

David Nutt, a quiet-spoken and eloquent advocate of scientific principle could not have appeared more reasonable than his simian aggressor, and a very clear delineation in their intellectual capacities was immediately more than superficially apparent. Moreover he was right: when comparing and categorising risk, objectivity was paramount.  Mr Johnson’s pretext for sacking Professor Nutt was that he had in some way stepped into politics by stating the blindingly obvious during the course of an academic lecture. The populace were unconvinced and an obviously tired and emotional Johnson did not help his case by addressing them as though they were a round of postmen to be whipped up in fury and led out on strike at protest at t’management.

A number of MPs, seeing the writing writ large upon the wall, could not have been more suprised than Belshazzar himself to have been found weighed in the balance and found wanting; questions were asked in the House, an Early Day Motion was hurriedly tabled to the effect that this House believes that Government policy on alcohol and drugs misuse and harm should be based on scientific evidence. But it was too late, the British public, much like the bosun of an 18th century man of war, removed the cat from out of the bag, lashed the prisoner to the gratings and flogged him round the prevalent media.  They were evidently not remotely amused. Decades of parliamentary abuse of privilege, compounded by fiascos such as the cheap sell-offs of public assets under the previous administration, the whitewashing of the state-instituted murder of Dr David Kelly in the Hutton Report, the expenses scandal, had taken their toll.

People began to wonder how it was that an uneducated former Marxist postman from Bow could wield such exorbitant power. The conclusion that they were forced to was that it was a symptom of a much deeper malaise, that the very process of government itself was broken, and that the unpleasant phenomenon of Alan Johnson was yet another case of jobs for the boys. The technological mechanisms for real democratisation and  enfranchisement of the electorate had been in place for many years; the internet was ubiqitous. The existing status ante quo had however made little if any attempt to embrace the technology to extend the reach of democracy. 

Social networking sites were to prove to be a fertile breeding ground for opposition. The wikia picked up the events faster than the mainstream media, and both Johnson and Nutt’s entries in Wikipedia were objectively modfied within hours of events occurring. It would only be a question of time before someone would ask the question “if paid for government is as broken, expensive and fundamentally bloated as Micro$oft software, why isn’t there an open source alternative?” The inexorable rise of Open Source Democracy had begun…..

November 3, 2009

The impact of the Nutt Affair on British politics

In any two party state, in which protagonist and antagonist are bankrolled by slush money from corporates and wealthy individuals, there can only be one plurality of losers, the electorate. Many people in Britain, never the most rationally governed of states,  are increasingly becoming aware of the fact that party-centric politics as a mechanism for government and maintenance of social order in post-technological society is broken beyond repair and are actively scouting for alternatives. Most, if not all, will conclude that the answer does not lie in the ballot box, since, to borrow the hackneyed joke, whoever you vote for the government always gets in. There is little to choose between either of the two main political parties; they are equally mendacious, corrupt and overwhelmingly filled with people you would not wish to entertain in your own home.

The lingering and unpleasant shadow of the David Nutt affair has brought this point to the attention of many; those incapable of reading the writing on the wall of the arbitrary and dirigiste sacking of the chair of the ACMD, the government’s drugs advisory committee, would do well to reflect on the fact that the killing of the messenger bearing unpleasant tidings was largely discontinued in the unfathomable depths of time immemorial and moreover does not reflect well upon the executioner. Professor Nutt had the temerity to point out that a number of socially and legally proscribed drugs, amongst them cannabis, on most objective criteria of risk assessment, were significantly less dangerous than a number of other drugs, notably tobacco and alcohol, from which the government (and it should be noted many of their financial backers and puppet-masters) derive considerable revenue. For this, under a pretext, he was sacked. The people of the Britain deserve respect and openness from their governments; sadly the opposite, a cold and revolting dish of contempt and lies is what is and has always invariably been set before them.  It is unsuprising that cynicism, the inevitable precursor to change, has set in.

The sacking of David Nutt has moved the hands of the clock for major political reform a little closer to midnight;  you can’t, to paraphrase George Washington, fool all of the people all of the time. And the ones you can’t fool will be the ones who will be coming for you.

Facebook support group for David Nutt: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=169748050377&ref=nf

October 29, 2009

Oh noes! A historical novel in the offing…

Filed under: Uncategorized — syzygy @ 7:25 am
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I have to admit that I have been playing with the idea of a historical novel for some time, jotting notes idly all the while to this end. I have just reread with, I must add, the greatest of pleasure, Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin cycle in its entirety, and, earlier this year whilst in Barcelona, and with similar enjoyment,  E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros. Seemingly there is little connection between high seas swashbuckling and a light romantic fantasy. However, one thing does immediately stand out as linkage, and that is the way that both Eddison and O’Brian contrived to consciously use archaic modes of language and manners of speech to reinforce (or, indeed, one might reasonably opine, as the central rationale for) their stories.

The surgeon, intelligence agent and eminent natural philosopher Stephen Maturin of the O’Brian books is a very complex and subtle piece of characterisation performed by an author whose talents have been very seriously under-recognised. Aubrey, his bluff naval sea-captain foil, is a sympathetic, oftimes comical, Watson to Maturin’s Holmes. This is of course a clearly definable trope, for the deficiencies of the foil can easily be exploited to allow the prime mover to articulate for the benefit of the reader the minutiae of explanations. I have my central character, my putative Maturin, well in sight, and now I am casting about for a foil, or possibly a company of foils, or some other mechanism or device, for, having recognised the leeward trope, I am as keen to avoid it as may be imagined. The French Revolution is always something which has interested me, socially, politically, morally and philosophically, and no one has ever done a really good French Revolution historical novel from the inside, certainly none that I have ever read (and let us not even mention Baroness Orczy in jest….) and I certainly intend to touch on that area of history in depth. That said, I am finding the pleasure of writing in faux and archaic 18th/19th century English to be an inordinately illuminating experience and I am frequently finding old words for new as a direct consequence, much to the betterment of my everyday writing. 

The real enemy of this work soon to be in serious progress is time.  I am shortly bound for Greece for the winter to do some programming work (the stuff that pays the inevitable bills) which will necessarily impede progress to a significant extent; moreover I am co-opted onto a WikiMedia task force to deal with improving & strengthening community usage of Commons resources. That said, I am merrily cranking out pages of scene-setting, dialogue and background prose for this novel betwixt and betide almost effortlessly. Normally I struggle and agonise over every single utterance, every comma’s placement, but this feels as though it is being written almost at arm’s length and while I am engaged with it, it feels almost as though I, myself, am not writing it but that it is writing itself…. Which makes for a pleasurable change.

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