Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A new dawn

I was sat in t'pub t'other night, minding my own business, reading Robert Service's biography of Trotsky - to review it for the standard.

This emo-ish lad came over to me, and asked what I was reading. I showed him the cover, and awaited his opinion on Trotsky:

"Who's that?" asked he. I was taken aback, the lad had never heard of the leader of the Russian revolution.

The kid went on to tell me (he was slaughtered) that he was part of some sort of Youth Council for London, and knew how to solve all of Britain's problems (credit, you see, take all the money away, divide it up, and then issue credit - pull out of world trade for a while to do this, and stop immigration - by the latter point I stopped humouring him and started laying in on how daft he was, and he beat a slight retreat. I am every bit as much of an arguing machine as Trotsky was).

Anyway, his ignorance aside, I think it's a good thing this kid knew not of Trotsky. Perhaps there is hope.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Back to politics

OK, so, a round up-cum-linkage of three web stories.

Firstly, Dave Osler, passim making the case that there's nowt to the left of Labour. All well and good, and true. In fact, as Luke Akehurst has been banging on about for weeks, and now Jonathon Feedland has joined in with - the race isn't run, yet. There are still months to the election, and the incumbants have all the power and publicity position brings them.

Which brings us to the Queen's speech (Gawd bless 'er - incidentally, a Labour candidate is being disciplined for being rude about the Queen: telling the truthYes, it is a 'values' programme, more about the tone than detail; but what tone.

A national care service for the elderly, restrictions on bankers bonuses - Labour forced into little errosions of the market.

Yes, millions still support Labour, and the electoral advantage, thanks to the distribution of votes, gives them a strong hand. That means millions support capitalism; but the give aways Labour will try to use to stay in power offer some prospect of a space for socialists to criticise and say "not enough".

Socialism doesn't grow out of despair, but of hope. The midst of a recession doesn't build for revolution, but the start of growth, when there is a prospect for renewal and "never again" maybe, we'll have a chance.

With the SWP going into meltdown, maybe a clear run for socialism will be had - although I suspect it's the Millies who'll end up last man standing, creating an SSP redux.

oh, well.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Mute inglorious...

Or, Why I Love Heavy Metal.

I went to see a mate's gig last night, I was feeling a bit ropey, but went anyway.

I was the usual fare, most of the audience were either band members, or mates/partners of band members - so fewer people than I normally speak to at Hyde Park, tiny audience.

But all the bands played their hearts out, a sort of rocky mi, the night went from 90's Nu Metal through a Placebo inspired band, to a genuine Metal five piece with a drummer with no shirt and poodle hair (and they did rock), to ending the night with a Metallica style thrash outfit.

My ears stopped hurting after a while, and I loved every stroke of the bass, every wail, every thump of the drum and trill of the lead guitar. Classic stuff, and every bit as good as some big name top of the line bands, all for a fiver.

And this is going on in pubs across London, playing slogging their guts out for no money, because they want to play - sure, they want to be famous, and have a chance at the riches, but most know that will never happen, and this is as far as they'll get.

he music industry is a lottery, and success is overrated. Look for quality where you will, and maybe, just maybe, avoid the mass marketing machines.


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Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Just finished reading Rolling Hot by David Drake, from his Hammers Slammers universe.

I was actually expecting a rather turgid future war story, but what I got was a relatively humane story of combat, gore, bravery and sacrifice. It was the point at which the peacenik joins the hawk in their contempt for the hypocrisies of the liberal who wants a clean, nice war - Drake, a veteran, presented war in all it's random insanity, the dissociation, the noise, the despair, the cock-ups and the bravery. He is noted as saying that behind the glittering tech he is interested in the basic balls of the men and women who make a war machine go.

My point is that the same story can be read in two ways, it isn't a screed in favour of war, but a toned down description of events - he even masterfully manages to put the metabackground of the war to one side, his mercenaries fight because they fight, and the framework of causation is irrelevant to them - much like the films Saving Private Ryan or Zulu, the point of which is the glory of the pointless battle, the fight which soldiers put up without a deep personal motive, because then can and they must.

It is not, as such science fiction, it is the reality of war masked by some shiny technology and transposed out of our immediate cultural context - more fantasy than SF I'd say, but then, I'm developing a hardline on such things.

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