Sunday, 28 April 2013

Local History

A Walk in the Wilderness


Zero Tolerance


A Fact of Economic Life in England


The deputy prime minister, John Prescott, tonight experienced the bitter taste of defeat after the north-east overwhelmingly rejected his dream of an elected regional assembly on his doorstep.
Over three-quarters of voters showed themselves unwilling to test out devolution, voting against the proposal by a majority of 499,209 on a turnout of 47.8% of the region's 1.9m electorate.
696,519 (77.93%) voted against devolution, with only 197,310 (22.07%) voting in favour of an elected regional assembly to give the region a stronger voice.

A disappointed John Tomeney, chairman of the Yes 4 The North East campaign, said that the result reflected "something bigger" than the rejection of a regional assembly.
"It is a growing breakdown in the belief that political institutions can affect people's lives for the better. This should concern us all."
He added: "While many people in the north-east feel more prosperous than ever, the north-south divide remains a fact of economic life in England. Successive governments have failed to resolve it. It needs to be addressed."

Least Resilient

"The reason there's a north-south divide is because we lost our major industries in the 80s, like steel and shipbuilding, and jobs from those sectors went into the public sector.
"We recalibrated the economy along those lines to the benefit of the North East."

Sir Stuart said the government was making a "fundamental" mistake in thinking that the private sector would step in to create jobs.
He added: "You don't go from the public sector to the private sector, you go from the public sector to the dole queue."

She Would Have Sunk By Now, If She Hadn’t Already Hit the Bottom of the River

There are ripped-out doors and shattered glass everywhere. John says the ship is being stripped for scrap: "They're smashing the portholes just to get the little brass knobs off. They've stolen miles of cables. They're spending whole weekends on board. We've found sleeping bags. A few months ago you could have started the generators, stocked the bars and run it as a club. She would have been up and running. Now look …"
It really is a shambles. The decks are strewn with debris. Mangled cables cascade down from the smashed ceiling tiles. The mirror balls are missing their mirrors. The thieves have stolen so much they've gone right through to the water. She would have sunk by now if she hadn't already hit the bottom of the river.
"All this …" John waves his hands across the devastation, "has happened in the last fortnight."

"They had this vision," John says. "This place would be second only to Dubai. All these multibillion-pound futuristic buildings." The plans were incredibly elaborate. There would be a primary school in the shape of a spelling block, a cinema designed to resemble a Rubik's cube, apartment blocks inspired by Prada skirts, a hotel in the shape of the game KerPlunk, a brand new college and an Anish Kapoor sculpture.

The scheme was launched at the Venice Biennale. The Middlesbrough mayor, Ray Mallon, ceremonially handed his excellency a Middlesbrough football shirt. Part of the deal was that the Tuxedo Royale had to go.

‘Politics = criminality’

Mr Mallon said: "I am satisfied that these attacks are linked and that the victims were deliberately targeted because they are councillors.

"There is a tiny minority of political obsessives in this town who believe they can intimidate and bully councillors out of office, but in this instance it seems their obsession has spilled over into criminality.

"This is an outrageous attack on democracy by people who prefer the petrol bomb to the ballot box.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Loose Connections

State of Play (2004) is an isolated, functionalist, view of 21st century Britain. The characters of State of Play are reporters, editors, politicians, police, PR executives, and their families. Only a few characters not of this political-media world are depicted: a family of, in the view of the characters, mostly irrational annoyances; or an ex-soldier and hired assassin. These characters only appear when they are being investigated for crimes or raw journalistic material (and raw focus group material in real world terms). All of these elements, police, politicians, and journalists, are part of one holistic system of government that keeps the mass of the population at arms length.

Consider the character of the MP Stephen Collins and G.B.H.'s Michael Murray. One of the first scenes Murray appears in he is being applauded by his supporters, but Collins' are never seen. We learn about Murray's past and previous occupations, but Collins, like many post-Blair politicians, is impossible to see as having a background, or at least a background comparable to Murray's working class origins (even his name doesn't call back to anything, whereas Murray's is suggestive of a) his father, a prominent socialist, who shared the name, and b) his Irish immigrant background). Collins' world is also a very close one that demonstrates the fluidity of the new corporate order: it is is the death of his researcher that alerts the journalist Cal McAffrey to the story, McAffrey being his former campaign manager, and Collins' wife Anne being somebody he met on his political campaign.

Functionally State of Play is about the smooth operation of the political-media-police infrastructure that administrates Britain: it is sophisticated in that regard that it acknowledges many thing once though extraordinary are now systematic. A teenager is executed on the streets of London; a conspiracy to tailor government policy to the requirements of energy companies (Edge of Darkness symmetry). All of these events are unremarkable. In one of the stranger details the gunman is cornered a shot dead by police without warning: nothing is ever made of this for the rest of the drama.

The glitch occurs when the disconnected, corporate world of modern Britain is exploited by somebody who knows how to play the rules for personal gain. 'Honest' capitalism (or honest governance), or fair play, is what should be paramount. Reactions to the Financial Crisis of 2008 are variously focused on convincing the public that the financial world really is honest. It is interesting to note that if one explores the world of management there is a lot of fear about psychopaths: Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare's Snakes in Suits outlines the variously nightmarish ways a psychopath could be in YOUR company (though there is a tone of admiration throughout the work on psychopaths, after all they do get 'it' done, even if it's at the expense of everyone else in the organization). The character of Stephen Collins finds an assassin to murder an former lover. Whilst the government-energy conspiracy is treated as unremarkable, this personal failing involves a complete breakdown of Collins as a character. He is a threat to the smooth flowing of power.

Charles Stross has an astute analysis of what's gone wrong here. The world of 21st century British politics is a dehumanized, disconnected, alienating institution: in a way this has infected many areas of British society. Underneath the veneer of rational colonist institutions, it becomes clear that the disconnection allows the rot to fester under the shiny surfaces, provided it doesn't become to much of a bother.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Jeff Bezos vs. a Storage Shed Full of Beanie Babies

Hi. Greyhoos, here. Longtime listener, first-time caller.

While I've had things to contribute to the other two decades blogs, I don't think I've ever found reason to pop up here. Maybe because I was so aloof from a lot of things that were going on in the '90s, was too distracted of had so little invested in it and so many of its cultural trends, that it leaves me short of material for this here venue.

Reason being that throughout most of the 1990s, I was just finding my own way -- scrambling at it, basically. Finally digging my way out of a provincial cultural sinkhole and to the big city, eventually into graduate school where I was immersed in my studies, and then eventually defaulting into an industry that seemed like a fairly reliable safety net at the time, only to watch that industry get demolished in the decade that followed.

Which means that in the 1990s, in the course of all that scrounging, there were a number of things I missed out on -- tbig cultural trends and whathaveyou.

Such as stock options. Because at the time I didn't have a highly marketable tech skill that would make me a prime hiree at a startup. Where I would then agree to work 35 hours of overtime per week for free, doing so because I'd agreed to what my visionary entrepreneurial uber-lords had promised me. That promise being that I should forego proper pay for the would-be company's stock options, because one day -- very soon! -- down the road they were going to go public; because it was all going to be MASSIVE, and then I would be stinking rich and set for life, at which point my prior issues about working myself into chronic exhaustion for free would seem like mere pettiness and small-thinking on my part, since money would cease to be a concern for me thereafter. It was all gonna be worthwhile, many times over. Just you wait.

But I wasn't so unattuned that I didn't hear about when the dot-com bubble burst. And can remember it all seemed so unsurprising when I heard why it had done so.

Which means I also managed to get through the decade without ever owning a fucking ferret.

People have found the lo-fi nature of the murders quite shocking

 'They were kind of atrocities but they'd gone unnoticied, unrecognized, they'd been done in the name of leisure almost.'

'The NoW reveals that the video has a further two minutes of footage shot at various intervals. In one sequence, the cameraman is shown an Iraqi corpse and proceeds to kick the dead man in the face twice, whilst a soldier sniggers: “He’s been a bad mother****er.”'

There's a parallel between the charcter of Richard in Dead Man's Shoes (2004) being a soldier, and the film being released a year after Iraq, three after Afghanistan. Like Northern Ireland there is a lot of horror waiting to come out: nobody talks about Northen Ireland today, and barely anyone talks about Afghanistan or Iraq. The topic is taboo. There are no comforting myths to emerge from the War on Terror: in a great act of collective memory it has been entirely forgotten. The BBC have rewritten their history in an attempt to reinforce the commonsense "nobody could have wanted this" storyline that will eventually become the true story, if any story at all. In Dead Man's Shoes (2004) Richard visits supernatural, violent justice on the lowlifes who killed his brother. It is a film about the importance of taking responsibility: slaying the guilty, and once becoming guilty yourself in the process, seeking self-terminarion. Richard's justice is moral: his enemies are the lowest degenerates of the working class, druggies and immoral scum. They even listen to the wrong music, hip hop rather than the tasteful alt-Americana or wistful folk supplied by Warp. Whatever the intention a trawl of youtube comments reveals commenters seem to have incorporated the film directly alongside the likes of Death Wish and Dirty Harry: they deserve it, every one. The post-apocalyptic state of Britain is well described, casual violence, isolation, and no future, propaganda for any leftist reading; the solutions however, a culling of the irressponsible and devolved, is straight out of the right's playbook. The old embers of political struggle were fading out in the early 2000s, a strange period when the organizations and individuals the left assumed were allies began advocated wars they knew could only have the consequences they did if they had any idea of history. Even the BBC couldn't be trusted anymore. The feedback can be observed in popular militarism (which will likely die with the wars) and the stark reactions to send in the army in response to 2011's riots.

The prediction buried within Edge of Darkness (1985) and GBH (1990) was that Britain (England particularly) had become occupied territory: an alien colonizing force was manipulating what seemed like organic commonsense developments for the good of the colonizer's. Dead Man's Shoes is a depiction, along with elements of GBH, about how the colony should be policed and what should make up the policeman. Detatchment, responsibility, and a calm repose are what is required. After a time, as in Kenya, the Congo, or elsewhere, the violence flows naturally. The battles of the 80s and 90s dramas are done with, more history than ever in the wake of the totem of that era's death: with the natives broken and scattered, what becomes of us next?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

How she left us

"Transformed Britain, made us Great again, restored order etc"

Well this was Britain the year the Blessed Margaret left us. Police provocation, baton charges, snatch squads, arson, looting.

She didn't give a shit about this by then: didn't need to give a shit. Riots and a million non-payers would have brought down a Labour Government. This should have been the Tories 'Winter of Discontent'. But by now they could just change the figure heads and keep sailing on.