My Summer with Jez

If you cast your minds back to the dim and distant past (those of you who are old enough) some of you may remember the heady June of 1996. It was a hot and bright summer in the southeast and I was freshly free as school had just broken up. The internet was not what it is today. Whilst my Dad had a modem he used it for work, this was in the days of dial up and high cost for usage, as well as the fact you couldn’t pick up the phone while online. All this is to say as an early teen I wasn’t sitting around watching YouTube (it was still a decade away). It was the year of the N64 release but I wouldn’t get my own for a year or two yet (still the best Christmas present I ever got). As such I buried myself in books in my free time or found my one local friend and played outdoors. I also did a lot of writing at the time, telling epic tales that were light rip-offs of other favourite books/films/comics. Whitstable was less gentrified back then, still a bit grotty with the fronts of houses having last seen a lick of paint in the 70s and the front gardens having over grown in a charmingly wild way, pre-Titchmarsh and Co. Mr. Green was yet to takeover the town so the beach was a bit grubby, the notoriously lethal pre-‘health & safety gone mad’ diving platform still stood in the sea, the Neptune was still allowed its outdoor stage for music day and crowds only flocked into the town during July and August for the summer and the Regatta which always reminded me of that scene in Jaws. John Major was still Prime Minister having limped his way out of Black Wednesday 4 years previous to enjoy something of a reinvigoration of the markets that would lead to the now legendary Labour win the next year. The biggest boon at the time was in British culture, Cool Britannia (bleurgh) was on the up, post Grunge music meant giddy hedonism was in the music charts and it has never been so diverse. The world of modern art led by popular mouthpieces Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin was breaking up taboos and causing controversy. Television was enjoying a renaissance thanks to Channel 4 pushing the stuffy old BBC into more esoteric territory with shows like The Word having ended and TFI Friday and the Big Breakfast ruling the airwaves and setting the anarchic tone. In short Thatcher was gone, culture was fun and the sun was shining. Even for a kid as totally disengaged from reality as me the summer of 1996 felt optimistic and happy.

I have no interest in football. Or any sport for that matter. Unfortunately in Britain that doesn’t matter. During our MANY sporting events you are forcibly swept along and in the pre-digital multi channel days of the 90s, programming and discussion of sporting events dominated everything. World Cup 1990 and 94 were unavoidable, Wimbledon is still a source of national pride, the Ashes and the sodding ‘Ball of the Century’, was in every pub, every paper, every radio and television station bumped usual programming to favour overtime and rain stopping play. Into this all permeating culture of sport and summertime came Euro 96. Sick of the previous World Cup I was delighted to have a 4 year break from inescapable football coverage, sadly Euro 96 appeared and, in some ways, proved bigger mainly because it was held in England. What cut through to me most back then was the football superstars of the decade like Lineker, Seamen and Gazza but after 96 I knew all their bloody names and still do (some of them anyway): Pearce, Ince, Southgate, Platt, Shearer, Sheringham, Anderton, Redknapp, Campbell, Neville, Ferdinand and probably a few I’ve forgotten. As usual for England it was a deliriously gleeful charge toward the semi-finals against Germany prompting what I now recognise as rabid xenophobia and jingoism but was dismissed in the Sun(t) as “Bantahh”. We scraped a draw then lost on penalties because Southgate missed, which was soundly mocked to the point of Gareth being sent up in a MacDonald’s advert. As stupid and pointless as it all was, the march to almost glory caught everyone’s imagination created a new vigour in British pride (Scotland did alright too) and combined with our other cultural exports at the time, the mood was jubilant and even got to a spotty 12 year old me. Out of all this came an unlikely hero: Des Lynam who presented the BBC coverage with a dry humour and genuine warmth. He was a long-serving presenter of sport having even been present at the tragic Hillsboro Disaster 7 years previous, but after Euro 96 he was anointed National Treasure status by many. His stoic manner in the face of such hysteria and hyperbole (and bitchin moustache) seemed to capture everyone’s hearts and he still sticks in my mind as the gold standard for this sort of thing.

In a jump forward to the 1998, Britain was off its nut on itself, high on its own supply of British fervour. New Labour were in on a landslide, Conservatism was dead, Lady Diana’s death became a strange outpouring of grief far beyond that of the death of a former royal seeming to personify an overburdening sentimentality that had been growing and every part of culture was on that odd interim moment of being off your face when the jubilant part of the high has worn off but before the comedown when you’re doing everything to fast, too loud, too often and you’re starting to get on everyone’s nerves. Into this rather explosive mix came the metaphorical ‘second pill’ or ‘fifth line of the night’ that was the World Cup, reinvigorating the waning national fervour for Queen and country, Three Lions on a shirt, etc etc. As a sort of metaphor for this decline towards the millennium and the crashing, toilet coating come down that was to follow, England didn’t even make it to the quarter finals. But to coincide with the start of the tournament the BBC aired a one off TV drama written by comedian Arthur Smith and starring the then ultimate footy lout and man behaving badly, Neil Morrissey and a relatively unknown Rachel Weisz, called My Summer with Des. It’s a Rom-a-Com-a-ding-dong very much in the 90s mould of a Curtis-lite Four Weddings-a-like but played out against the backdrop of Euro 96, even featuring cameos by David Seamen and Peter Shilton. Lynam acts as a commentator on the fairly paint by numbers love story and that’s about the extent of it. It wasn’t particularly good or that bad but what it did do was crystalise that strange period in British culture beautifully and only two years later. It acts like a historical document to a bygone era yet made only 36 months after. Britain was different place and everyone seemed to be longing for that carefree time again. It sticks in my mind as a moment that changed my perception of change and of time, I could already be nostalgic for two years ago as the wizened, aged crone of a 14 year old wistfully remembering his youth and the heady days of summer. The summer of 96 still holds an oddly magical, probably mis-remembered charm to it even now. Abiding memories of reading book after book in the sun but every time I walked past any other part of humanity seeing or hearing three lions, or Blur and Oasis still duking it out in the charts, getting that weird green colour wash over your vision when you head inside after being in the sun all day, watching Dad at the sink whistling to the neighbours parrot through the window, cycling to the golf course to watch thunderstorms roll in, using my imagination everyday and filling whole worlds and my hometown with monsters and adventures I can barely summon through the clouds of cynicism these days, performing a newly learned magic trick to anyone I could collar for longer than two seconds and generally getting a lot out of life without realising it.

Everyone has a completely incorrect appraisal of their youth and loves to roll around in the warm, soft down of nostalgia these days. The digital revolution has killed the wonder and many levels of innocence that the pre-9/11 world preyed on and it is unlikely to get it back. With an electorate pummelled by constant innovation, terrorist extremism escalating, foreign wars, rolling news constantly informing you of it, endless REALITY television, meta-post-modernism being the basis of every artistic output, the lack of any centralised culture like the music chart, a shift by the media in response to all this towards clickbait and highly opinionated argument, all of which is another planet compared to the total stupidity and naivety of the 90s.

But this summer…

The snap election this year was met with a groan by the whole nation suffering from a morbid political fatigue post-EU referendum. With all the problems of the above and the cultural, artistic and commentariat class distancing themselves from any sort of collectivist arrangement, engaging instead in the increasingly niche sectors where their ‘fanbase’ can find them and add to the viewer or follower count, these disparate elements of British society looked set to desparingly nod along with the Tory party line and accept the vitriol and ignorance poured into the water supply by the print media.

Except that didn’t happen.

Instead of riding a wave of national pride and cultural fervour like Tony Blair and New Labour, Jeremy Corbyn shot a flare in the air to start the wave machine rolling. And roll the wave did. Anyone on the ground could see not just a meek and faltering optimism growing but a full-throated roar of hope and glee but that was completely either ignored at best or disparaged and insulted at worst by the media, the political parties (including most of the Labour Party) and wealthy business and investors. Unlike in the 90s the national media is not the main source, we are not limited to a small number of radio or television channels, and newspapers, for once the internet had made a community for the electorate to rally to instead of send everyone skittering away to their dens. Contrary to what many say about “not wanting to be dictated to anymore” by the media I find the reverse to be true. The Murdoch papers and TV love to get vox pops, act as your friend, use the chummy, post-modern, self-referential Bantz of the pub, nudge nudge wink wink, we’re all in it together aren’t we readers? mentality. Looking back to 96 when there was a national contest to rally around where we were GIVEN the story of Cool Britannia which became as self fulfilling prophecy and a tweedy Des Lynam warmly and comfortingly guiding us through it all and softening the blow of defeat. Corbyn did the same. He talked at us, gave us a narrative to understand that could be easily passed on and far from being ordered to your civic duty like the Daily Fail, Corbyn gave you his story and said do what you like with it and like Pavlov’s social reflex we gathered round it for warmth in such a bleak and dark time. As things grew bleaker with three terrorist attacks in two months we huddled closer, finding comfort in each other and a collective movement, a community we all fostered. I have never actively read the paper and certainly didn’t as a teen but I know the wave that met Blair’s campaign in 97 was a response to the ground born, cultural dialogue of the mid-nineties. The same is true of Corbyn, we all knew it, we just couldn’t articulate it, had nothing to rally behind. We just needed to be shown what it was that was pissing us all off. And then there it was, plain as day, and everyone who felt it teamed up and we were back to it being part of culture again with Grime superstars behind it, new media behind it, an en masse shift toward community thinking and rejection of the current political model. Everyone in that Establishment HATED it because you couldn’t make money out of it. This was the major difference with the Blair years, that kind of cultural revolution you could market and sell very easily, this kind you can’t. What Corbyn and his Manifesto offered was something not seen since Labour’s last boon in the post war years and it wasn’t just a return to Socialism. It was an interest and investment in contemporary culture. Labour was a Modernist movement in the post WWII era, using modern art and graphics, investing in new technologies and thinking, radical methods of education and restructuring, real boots-in-soil development of ideas and this was what Corbyn and his team understood but the rest of the party didn’t. Blair saw this was already happening and jumped on board instead of the Conservatives who were actively resisting it or just ignoring it. Corbyn wanted in on the ground floor and importantly LISTENED to what was being grumbled, what was wanted, what was needed: Change.

This early summer and Corbyn’s joyous, friendly campaign has created an undeniably buoyant mood (for those that agree with it) in a time of bleak and unremitting horror. His supporters understand the need for change and we voted for it. In droves. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, largely because most voters (older voters) have not felt the pinch or seen the depravity to which the Conservatives will stoop. The past and nostalgia is comforting, many want the Blair years back but they won’t come. It was an audacious but failed experiment to try and promote that kind of community but appealing to it through centrist politics as opposed to actual community thinking i.e. respecting diversity of opinion and appearance and integrating it into policy not working around it. This election, far from crushing any will I had for the future of this country as a progressive, intelligent and contemporary element of the modern global society, has instead lit that same fire of the will I had way back when. That general feeling of good being done. Its not perfect and we still live in challenging times and I certainly don’t want to go back to the bloody 90s but I do want that sense of optimism and friendliness to return, the element that has been hammered from us these last 15 years. And for the first time since I was 12 it really feels like its back. So with a long hot summer ahead I hope we can all recapture that sense of community, helpfulness, enjoyment and positivity but minus the rose tinted nostalgia.

And all the bloody football.

Designing the Future

 

In a sea of hot-takes and off-the-cuff put-downs regarding the current snap election in the UK, I realise adding yet another one to all the noise has all the effect of a fart in a tannery but I want to look specifically at the aesthetics of these campaigns and how it reveals more than you might think. A close look at the Labour and Conservative manifesto’s graphics can tell you just as much as the policies inside. In addition I want to look at some of the language used by both sides and how that also – literally – speaks volumes for their ideologies. I won’t be looking at policies necessarily and while there is some cross over this isn’t necessarily a criticism of either parties pledges or policies. Here is a link to Labour’s manifesto and the Conservative manifesto so we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.

Let’s start with the most glaring difference between the two: Web optimisation. Labour has dedicated an entire subsection of their site to their manifesto, each section of it has its own webpage making it quicker to load. You scroll or swipe down to carry on reading and on the desktop version an image is justified to the left and remains static. There is a menu for each chapter allowing you to jump easily to the section of the chapter you want to read. This all speeds up load times and is very efficient. The Conservative manifesto is pdf in a media player on a single page of their website. In the page it is small and difficult to read but you can full screen it, however it still displays as a pdf in a book format (complete with animated page turning) and does not fill the browser. The player is much slower to load too due to the more complicated requirements of the animated elements. In addition Labour’s is more web native so downscales well for mobile devices which is how a majority of people will get their first access to it whereas the Conservatives’ relies on the ISSUU player and does not alter its appearance depending on what device you view it from, whilst this maintains consistency cross platform it makes it much harder to read if you’re viewing it on a smaller device. Now, importantly, the Conservative web manifesto is less friendly to the differently abled, certainly people without finger dexterity or who have vision problems, whereas Labour’s is much simpler to use and easier to read.

Now let’s look at font and text layout. The Conservatives have gone for a classical serif-based approach with Garamond (the font this article is written in), Labour instead have gone for the sans-serif, clean lines of Helvetica. As well as being visually opposite to one another the history of these fonts is poles apart too. Garamond was designed by engraver Claude Garamond in the 16th century for old printing presses, Helvetica on the other hand is a modernist font from the 50s by designer Max Miedinger. Generally in English we are used to seeing the printed word in a serif type like Baskerville or Times New Roman (named after the paper it was designed for) as it more readily appeals to our eyes that seek more human handwriting patterns, whereas Helvetica is much more a display font due to its clarity (used in the logos for American Airlines, Toyota, North Face, FedEx). Now on the printed page I’d argue Garamond works better in the lengthier prose sections except it has the effect of making the Conservative manifesto look dense an impenetrable, like the long form prose of a novel. Labour’s font may be plain and rather flat but it looks much easier to take in at a glance and therefore more welcoming. Online however it’s a different story. There are more sans-serif fonts on websites than serif, Helvetica is a fit for purpose multi-platform font that is clear and simple whatever device you read it on, Garamond is not (he said, writing in Garamond). Whilst it is definitely not like other web fonts and certainly looks ‘classier’ it is neither inviting nor easy to read. Unfortunately the Conservatives further compound this illegibility by seriously messing up the kerning (the spacing between characters). The Initial (those big letters that start the chapters) is really badly cramped against the paragraph, to the point of nearly overlapping – a design no no. Labour’s kerning is on point however, plenty of spacing between characters, aided by Helvetica’s clean lines, and a pronounced white box around the Initials Also the Conservatives’ page layout is cluttered and dense, Labour’s is sparse and minimal. The Conservative Manifesto reads more like a text whereas Labour’s reads like a power point presentation. The former is undoubtedly ‘powerful’, with more gravitas, but Labour’s is much more like the bulletin board it should be.

Labour’s Manifesto is much more in keeping with the design aesthetic of today (specifically web design) whereas the Conservatives’ is more like what we picture a formal legal or government document to look like. The latter is very much in keeping with the repeated dirge of ‘Strong and Stable’ and portrays the Conservatives as a more classical, traditional party but it is undeniably drab with it’s dour palette of Black, White and Blue. Labour’s on the other hand looks like every pamphlet you get dropped through the door: bright red, with the white shining cleanly through and – importantly – full colour images and colour coded sections. This speaks of Labour’s idea of inclusion, it is open and inviting with pictures of different people of varying gender and ethnicity. The Conservatives’ speaks more of its belief in individualism and the state stepping back to allow you to imprint you personality on to the policies and their presentation. In both cases both designs are not bad at all, they both reflect the message the party wishes to impart in the content of the writing itself and does so admirably, the point I’m making is that these designs are specifically tailored to appeal to their core voter and any undecided voter. Personally I find the Conservatives’ design to be an ugly, cluttered, austere mess with kerning issues and a shocking lack of understanding about web optimisation, whereas Labour’s is a minimalist, modernist’s wet dream i.e. Me.

Then there is the question of cost. Labour provided a financial break down of their manifesto promise in a separate sheet that broke down the costing. This was due to constant criticism by the press and the other parties that the socialist program was a myth and could not be properly funded. The Conservatives, with no such pressure, have provided no information on how their manifesto pledges will be paid for.

Now let’s look at the language of these manifestos and their respective launches. The Conservatives seem to be pushing the party to the background by constantly referring to Theresa May and her team, her foreword is littered with “I” and “My”, promoting the idea of individuality and (rather ironically given her and the party’s criticism of the ‘identity politics’ around Corbyn) that you would be voting for the leader who is much more popular than her party because apparently people still have the Mummy issues left over from the Thatcher era. Ahem. Labour talk about “we” “us” and “our” promoting their ideology of a shared society, community and a government integrated with the populace instead of one that steps back at times of crisis. Then there was the way the leader’s introduced their manifestos. Alright this is where I really get on my soapbox. Jeremy Corbyn used the same language in introducing his policies in an open airy space, unmolested or delayed by protesters. Theresa May’s however was delayed not just on the day but the manifesto’s printing itself was delayed four times (allegedly). Corbyn spoke of we and you and us and our where May talked of I and me and my. For all the talk of not trusting Corbyn you had better really bloody trust May as her words were that this was “My manifesto … a vision of the country I want this to be after Brexit”. That to me is terrifying and the true politics of identity. She spoke of wanting “to build a country” and that is telling. Brexit to her means destruction. It means the collapse of the previous Britain with its worker’s rights and moves toward equality, so the Conservatives would then have the ability after Brexit to build the country anew in their own image, or should I say hers. Corbyn’s introduction spoke of “unleashing Britain’s potential” after Brexit not attempting to reconstruct and introduced the policies saying “I am very proud to present OUR manifesto”. Believe what you like about the cult of Corbyn he is not the one publicising it, Theresa May – despite point blank denying it – most definitely is relying on the cult of her own.

My personal politics and loathing for the Tories and Theresa May aside what the manifesto launches and the manifestos themselves make plain is what is on offer from either party and not just in the policies themselves. On the one hand you have a severe, cold, austere, classical, stately manifesto of gravitas and great circumstance and on the other you have an open, warm, colourful, modern, simple manifesto of inclusion and assistance. I know which one I’ll be buying a hard copy of.

There’s still time to register to vote. Takes two minutes. Click here. Then vote for anyone except the Tories.

Disco 2000

 

Comics, to me, are as important a piece of literature as any other. Like all art some are better than others, some exemplify all that is good about comics others exemplify all that is bad but to dismiss the entire genre as childish or in some way ‘low art’ is itself truly childish. I read both books and comics from roughly the same age. From between the ages six to twelve was my heyday of comic books until they took a back seat and throughout my teenage years read a lot of books I felt I had to read and I now realise wasted a lot of my time in doing so. I returned to comics in my early twenties and read all the comics I should have been reading instead and was rewarded in doing so. I’ve read plenty of great and rubbish comics when I was young but looking back some were absolutely excellent and informed my reading later in life. Throughout my life though some comics persisted, some comics I bought when I could and always returned to characters and strips out of sheer delight and fascination. One of those was Batman in any and all his incarnations, the other was 2000AD.

2000AD celebrated its 40th birthday last week and judging by Twitter it is in rude health, despite certain worrying moments where sales slipped and discontinuing the print edition was mooted. 2000AD is one of the few British comic books still going and more importantly thriving (along with the similarly iconoclastic and anarchic VIZ) which is one of the many reasons I love it so much. It was also an early stomping ground for and launched the talents of some true luminaries of the comic book form. The likes of Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Brian Bolland, Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, Pat Mills, John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, Alan Grant and many more besides were all featured early in their careers by 2000AD and whether you read comics or not believe me the cultural landscape would be MUCH poorer without these people in it. People generally tend to think of Judge Dredd when 2000AD is brought up and he is undeniably the superstar of the comic but the likes of Slaine, Rogue Trooper, Strontium Dog and even its ‘Editor’ the alien Tharg has gone on to achieve wider acclaim. Not least for a largely independent comic to last 40 years is an achievement in and of itself. It continues to foster new comic writing talent and its ‘Future Shocks’ shorts (one of the few comic strips that canvas from open submissions which I myself have submitted to in the past (to no success)) is still going strong too. They even took on characters from discontinued British magazines like Dan Dare from Eagle comics, another character I have an inherited love for. In short 2000AD is nothing shy of a British institution.

I first read 2000AD by mistake. There was a hardware and second hand bookshop in my old hometown (yes such a thing exists) and as a kid I was always on the hunt for books to read. With my chum we’d go to different bookshops in town (of which there are now considerably less) and have a hunt around. In this particular shop there was a bargain bin for old comics in which you could buy a bundle for something stupid like 10p. My friend liked this because he was a fan of old second world war comics of which there seemed to be an unending supply of. Some of these I enjoyed but even at that young age war porn put me on edge. Instead there were several bundles of 2000AD comics from the early 80s and on a whim I bought a couple of rolls. The first thing that surprised me was they were printed on newspaper like my sister’s Beano and my Dandy used to be, by then I was used to the far more glossy (and expensive) covers of American comics. The printing was also a bit more ‘vintage’ as we call it now, serrated page edges, print holes, colour codes on the inside margin, etc which was unusual but what surprised me more was what was inside. First and foremost, blood, guts and boobs were in each ‘Prog’ in some form or other which to a young kid was a fantastic discovery and a thrill that I had somehow got away with buying these comics. More than this was the illicit thrill of actually more dynamics in a comic. I had discovered that in Batman and DC in general things were a little darker and lines of good and bad were blurred a little more but in 2000AD ‘Good guys’ didn’t exist. Everyone was generally horrible or cruel or had their own selfish agendas and wherever there were ‘good’ people, or at least those with morals that extended beyond themselves, they were punished or beaten down or turned. Importantly however this wasn’t portrayed as a good thing, everyone and everything was terrible in 2000AD but it was pointing and laughing and sneering at this. This was basically my first introduction to dark satire, my genre of choice, which I would find later in abundance in the likes of Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker. With 2000AD though everything was fair game and it wasn’t simply satirised but lampooned, made grotesque, then violently eviscerated. I read and re-read those 10 or so comics 100 times. I wasn’t allowed to buy the current editions back then as they had that damn warning on the cover ‘Mature content. For adults only.’ Not long later it turned out my father was working freelance with some of the artists and designers from 2000AD and would bring home new Progs every so often so I circumvented this problem but only occasionally. Since then I have only bought the odd prog (again similar to VIZ) but when I do I’m always delighted to find every comic strip is still as dark, as angry, as cynical, as sardonic, as biting, as graphic and as FUN as it was when I read those out of date 80s editions as a 10 year old.

2000AD holds a unique place in comics alongside the likes of the Beano, the Dandy and VIZ because, for me at least, they are exemplars of a certain British way of thinking and our sense of humour. I am not a patriotic man, certainly not these days, but if I were asked to explain what being British meant I would probably say to read these comics for the answer. British comics, like American comics, exist in a fantasy version of their home nation; a world of park rangers and strange garage inventors, eccentric vicars and fascist bobbies, a world where the protagonist is a Menace, a freak, dirty, grumpy, an upstart and all with a pig-headed, stubborn refusal to accept a lesser lot and cow tow to those who tell them not to which is similar to the American comic style but the difference is who they are fighting. Typically Spider-Man fights the purse snatcher for the nice police/state/corporation whereas the Brit fights that establishment tooth and nail. Every character in 2000AD is cynical, skeptical, original and stubborn, unlike America where the heroes are typically squeaky clean or fight for ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’ or that malleable thing ‘Liberty’, British comics aren’t interested in Heroes, we want actual every people, people from council estates, the working class, the ugly, the unpopular. 2000AD has never attempted to gloss over the disgusting neglect in British society and never afraid of where to lay the blame or point the finger. Where Captain America fights for the maintenance of the status quo, Judge Dredd does the same but in a dystopia where he is undeniably a right-wing, totalitarian monster. It is no coincidence Dredd was born in the UK of 1977 a year of Strikes, a rise in Conservativism in local elections, the release of ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’, the ‘Troubles’ in Ireland, the release of ‘Star Wars’ and most soberingly a year in which the Yorkshire Ripper was claiming more victims. Whilst American comics offer an escapist fantasy and obliquely reinforce the will of the state and the American Dream, British comics show life as it is now from the gutter up, aggressively denouncing those in power, be it through the depiction of an imperialistic ‘Teach’ or a fascist cop, or representations, though sometimes problematic – some pretty dubious sexual politics being the worst offences – , of leaders or the general public as gullible or naive fools. These are a far more honest, if extreme, and dare I say it responsible approach to depicting the world.

Today serial print media is in decline, more people read online and spending is at a low and yet 2000AD perseveres. I myself (under-employed yet again) am unable to afford the special 40th Anniversary edition but I would definitely urge you to. The Dandy ended its print edition some years back which broke my heart but was understandable and the majority of kids weekly literature is generally limited to some commercial tie-in that’s either short lived, some imported American run or just plain rubbish. Luckily we have new kid on the block, The Phoenix, which flies the Brit comic flag proudly and whilst it doesn’t go to the extremes of yesteryear it is certainly a breath of silly, weird and action packed fresh air in the comic book market. For me though 2000AD stands front and centre, most certainly not waving a flag, but forging ahead into the dark and scary political landscape of nationalism and fascism that we are witnessing, to mercilessly take the piss, send up, mock and generally laugh at it all. So thank you Tharg and everyone past and present at 2000AD for maintaining an uncompromising publication and remaining resolutely human. Drokk yeah.

An Alternative Life

 

There’s a scene near the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy is teaching a class and says “Archaeology is the search for Fact, not Truth. If it’s truth you’re interested in Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is just down the hall.” At a time in history that will now forever be viewed as a cataclysmic slide into retrograde beliefs and historically appalling ideologies this phrase, of all phrases, seems to strike a ringing chord for me. Celebrity Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted recently “I dream of a world where the Truth is what shapes people’s politics, rather than politics shaping what people think is true.” When the gatekeepers of important political information are outright lying using what they claim are ‘alternative facts’ the Truth has suddenly become a rare but malleable commodity, akin to gold. But it very much depends on your perspective today who you believe is the alchemist. And what rare metals you believe are facts.

I spent some time sofa surfing in Brighton last year before I travelled to America where I spent Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and – importantly – the Election with my girlfriend. Whilst sofa surfing I was left to chat with my friends’ flatmate who liked a chat of an evening. His favoured topic of discussion was science. He loved it, delightfully rattled off scientific facts he had learned through casual study in his personal time and took even greater delight in pointing out the foolishness of people who had faith or believed in something that was only explainable without empirical evidence. His passion regularly made these discussions animated. At another time I was out for dinner with my work colleagues when a similar discussion came up and I happened to point out my general contempt for a Mr Richard Dawkins (not because I disagreed with his theories but I find him a singularly unpleasant fellow) to which I was taken to task, quite aggressively, by a colleague who I am still good friends with but at the time seemed to see me as akin to a child murderer. She took great objection to my dislike for a scientist and took it to mean I had no belief in the scientific method or empirical evidence. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe profoundly in the scientific method, evidence based research, model projection and you ignore the findings of these at your peril. Anyone who does not recognise the contribution to society made by the scientific community is outright incorrect.

In my current under-employed state I watched through the entirety of Rick & Morty on Netflix the other day and was totally enamoured with it. Not just because it’s uniquely animated and performed, nice and short – each episode clocking in around the 20 minute mark – and genuinely funny and original but because akin to my other favourite cartoon Futurama, it is very very smart. Unlike the open sewer that is The Big Bang Theory which merely parrots scientific findings and geek culture buzzwords the writers probably find on Reddit, Rick & Morty takes huge concepts and ideas and doesn’t attempt to boil them down so they’re digestible but uses these as a premise to explore character development and story arcs, just like in y’know real life. Hanging from the paper thin premise of a knock-off Doc & Marty from Back to the Future they explore graph theory, string theory, the Post Hoc fallacy, the Uncertainty Principle and much, much more. Like Futurama it is beloved by the ever critical (and massively egotistical and arrogant) ‘Nerd’ culture, calling it a “love letter to science”. And whilst I occasionally found it glib or walking well trodden ground from other sci-fi that it was well above, I loved it too ranking it an equal favourite animation with Futurama.

And I think this is where the problem comes from.

My whole life I have never vilified religion or the religious and I still don’t. Why? Because the people against it, relishing in referring to themselves as Atheists, have come across as even more volatile, aggressive, bombastic, argumentative, determined-to-convert, rude and down right unpleasant than any ‘Religious’ zealot I have yet met. It is not a new theory but one that is spat upon today that Atheism is just as much a religion as any other. In the above mentioned conversations and so many more throughout my life, when I point out there are just as many holy books, churches, temples, priests and other religious ephemera attributed to Atheism as any other organised religion, I have been met with a (very literally) violent reaction. There are, obviously, differences between Science and Faith, namely Science has a need to demand criticism, questioning and wants to be proved wrong i.e. like life itself it wants to progress which indicates it’s probably the right path to take. However you’re slightly blinkered if you think faith hasn’t been proven wrong and developed over the course of 3 millennia. What startles me though is how staunchly any questioning of Science is refuted with the immediate appearance of mountains of evidence to support whoever’s claims are being questioned and the line of questioning duly shut down completely as if to say “that’s that put to bed.” This seems to negate the very rule which they live by, a lack of query. If, as I do, you truly believe science is for the benefit of mankind and will provide us a species with a future, this kind of questioning really shouldn’t have any impact on you or your faith (yes, Faith) in it.

What I think is missing from everyday life today – and most definitely on the internet – is Philosophy.

Let us define terms here, I am not speaking of a life philosophy or personal philosophy which everyone develops over time and throughout their life but actual Philosophy. In its simplest form this is the question ‘Why?’ to be asked of everything. And I mean everything. Sadly today it does not seem to be asked of anything. It also requires a difficult and complicated understanding of a lot of different aspects of life, culture and yes Science. This requires reading, a lot of it. In the world of the internet, long form ‘Content’ is discouraged and actively ignored in a culture of tl:dr (as this blog will attest) so the idea of reading an entire text of very difficult theorem and dialectics based on largely intangible evidence is off putting to the point of I-don’t-care. The odd youtuber tries to bring Humanities to the table of ‘Vlogs’ but they are vastly outweighed by the number of loud and proud science channels/profiles.

A few of my friends are Academics, all both doctors and lecturers in the Humanities field and all have expressed dislike of current studies in Neuroscience. They feel with computers creating graphs of emotional responses to literature, or a model for the perfect novel, something is being lost in the analytics of culture – and Humanity – by the human mind. The scientific method aims to create an objective view of the world and our universe so it can be better studied but as Heisenberg himself pointed out: “that which you study you also change”. We change the outcome by measuring it. That is because as humans we are subjective. In short: a fact is rarely an objective one.

If you’re a fan of video games like me you may have heard of GamerGate. This was a recent explosion in a particularly vile sub-section of the internet and gaming culture that found a flimsy excuse to exercise their most misogynistic tendencies and were quickly laying waste to certain websites and certain careers that didn’t align with their views under the banner “Ethics in video games journalism” whilst simultaneously being the most unethical bunch of parasites in the world. You may not have heard of them or may have forgotten them but you know them now because they’re the people who got the UK to leave the EU and got Trump elected. They’re also the idiots who tried to boycott the latest Star Wars films because they were lead by girls and talk about the entirely fictitious ‘White Holocaust’. Milo Yiannopoulos is a good example. These giant children see themselves as Geeks, Nerds, the ‘Alternative’ crowd. They consider themselves informed and erudite and coincidentally are staunch believers in empirical science. In the same way as both the leave campaign and remain campaign AND the Democrat and Republican campaigns were all pretty detestable and had ‘Facts & Figures’ to support their claims, facts – it would seem – ended up being a dangerous thing. This, for me, stems from the religion or rather the Zealotry of Atheism and/or Science. Which is where Rick & Morty comes in.

Rick & Morty is indeed about science, Rick is a scientist but the show’s strength is not it’s adherence to science it’s Rick’s ultimate contempt for it. Rick & Morty is more of a show about Philosophy, reconciling the knowledge of oneself and the universe that science brings, with our existence as a whole. Something French author and Philosopher Albert Camus referred to as The Absurd and what is generally paraphrased today as ‘Existentialism’. Ultimately a pure scientist or Atheist should end their life immediately. We have nothing to live for, nothing matters, we are cosmically insignificant, overwhelming evidence suggests humans are a negative force on planet Earth and over population is hastening us towards a swift extinction anyway. But they don’t. We thrive as a species because of science. This dichotomy, this search for meaning in a meaningless existence, is a profound and troubling question that most people shy from. Some people feign Nihilism (normally the same people who love 90s grunge) as a cool exterior or adoptive identity but true Nihilists are rare, if not totally extinct because we have generally accepted we give ourselves meaning to live. See how philosophy helped us? If we didn’t develop these theories we’d all collapse screaming into an abyss as Nietzsche would have it. Rick & Morty explores many of these challenging themes in some depth but the fact that this seems to be overlooked in favour of the science of the show I find troubling. Even the word Science to me has become troubling, or at least its usage has, in the same way as ‘Content’ has come to mean many things whilst killing the nuance of many others, this dogmatic adherence to the Saviour That Is Science is damaging in the extreme. Claiming our involvement in the world is a binary response of either Faith or Science is what got us where we are today in the west: totally divided. Both could learn from one another yet both have dug their heels in harder and harder and resist the scientific and objective method of query as well as the philosophical, less tangible method of query. Both sides sharing links to biased articles, Tim Mnchin songs, videos of Stephen Fry DESTROYING RELIGION, interviews with Climate Change denying scientists and other equally specious ‘Content’ to serve a given agenda. There’s a reason the study of Consciousness is referred to as ‘The Hard Problem’. There is a great quote from a book called Boneland by Alan Garner where a character says “I’m for uncertainty. As soon as you think you know, you’re done for. You don’t listen and you can’t hear. If you’re certain of anything, you shut the door on the possibility of revelation, of discovery. You can think. You can believe. But you can’t ‘know’.” We know an awful lot today but there is a vast gulf between information, knowledge and wisdom, a gulf most of us are happy to stand on either side of and never try to traverse.

In the first chapter of Hard Times by Charles Dickens, ‘The One Needful Thing’, the first words of the book are spoken by Mr Gradgrind: “Now, what I want is, Facts.” The book goes on to reveal Gradgrind as cold and cruel, concerned only with numbers and facts. The more I hear about facts at the moment the less inclined I am to want to listen. Not because I don’t believe in evidence or proof but because the legacy is so pernicious. Like a great band or artist who inspired a legion of rather dreadful imitators (I’m looking at poor Jeff Buckley here) the sanctity of facts has come under the wrong kind of scrutiny but for me the true damage is there is no search for Truth. After all, they’re not the same thing. Philosophy is just down the hall.

indy-0

P.S. There are some excellent articles and videos on the web about the Philosophy of Rick & Morty, Wisecrack’s in particular.

Batman vs Superman vs Everyone

Alright let’s get this over with. The world doesn’t need another article about superhero movies, they make enough money and don’t need defending by lone gunmen like me. HOWEVER Batman vs Superman has come under so much fire I feel like I need to say something. Because I like it. I like it a lot. Yes, I’m a DC kid, always have been, so I am biased but I never went in for the tribalism. I love Marvel and think the films are great too and they’re certainly “winning” (if this were a battle, which it isn’t). The reason I wanted to write this is because with the DVD release of BvsS the vitriol tap has been reopened and I get a little annoyed at the rhetoric that implies I shouldn’t like this film as a sane person: it’s garbage and if you like it you’re stupid, seems to be the overall line which really annoys me because I, without irony or concerted effort nor turning a blind-eye, really like Batman vs Superman.

Why?

Well let’s deal with the problems first. Most of the dislike is a matter of opinion. People do not care for the sombre, serious, murky world Man of Steel and BvsS inhabit. Marvel by contrast is bright, wry, wisecracking and fun. What warner bros are doing is quite sensible, don’t try and beat Marvel at their own game, they’ll lose. As such, the DC film universe is entirely different. My argument would be if this came out 10 years ago people would have lost their shit over it but whatever, no point ‘what-iffing’. BvsS was roundly lambasted by critics and fans, therefore there must be problems with it and there are, or rather there is. One main problem. The script.

Like every hollywood blockbuster these days, to justify the ticket price and get the most bums on seats you have to have a long film that has a universal appeal to adults and younger audiences, for lighter tone movies this is easy (Marvel strikes this balance exceptionally well) but a ‘darker’ movie will struggle. In short the script is too long, bloated and way too convoluted to be generally entertaining and despite the run time too little time is given over to development. The pacing is strong but leaves a lot behind and there are a lot of plot holes. Not to mention the confusing “Martha” plot hinge. Generally its a bit of a mess. You know, just like pretty much every major hollywood blockbuster of the last 10 years. In fact at least the Villain’s plan didn’t rely on getting captured for once like Dark Knight, Avengers, Skyfall, etc etc. Prometheus is a good example of a film destroyed by its script, it could have been great but I hate that film purely because of its script. So yeah there are script issues, lots, but no less or more than any Marvel movie it just came under greater scrutiny and comparison. When you’re up against the biggest movie series of all time and the most critically acclaimed Batman movies you can’t succeed sadly.

Then there’s Jesse Eisenberg’s repeat of his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg as Lex Luthor. I won’t defend it, it’s a bad misstep and doesn’t fit with the tone. And is pretty annoying. BUT his motivations and his plan make as much sense as ANY other film at the moment. But yeah, Lex was a misfire.

So if we ignore my bias and accept the fact the script is droopy and flawed why do I love this film? It boils down to one reason. One word in fact: Imagery.

I know I boil everything back to Poetry but Imagery is a powerful tool in any medium and as I said waaaaay back in my post reappraising Man of Steel the iconography used is deliberate, the same is true here. Gods and Monsters, heaven and hell, Jesus and the Devil, this kind of symbolism is inherent in comic books and superheroes and was deconstructed in the comics very well. BvsS transfers this imagery to the screen, very successfully in my opinion.

I get the impression everyone hates Zack Snyder which means you should give props to Warner Bros for staking the entire series of films on a single auteur. I don’t mind him and like Watchmen a lot too. But, despite protestations, Batman vs Superman is NOT badly made. Badly written? Yes. (But for me no worse than any other blockbuster) but it is not badly made. Want to see badly made? Watch Party Monster. This will seem like Citizen Kane afterwards. Snyder, to my mind, is actually the only true blue comic book filmmaker working today because he uses the imagery and iconography of the comics for his screen interpretations, way more than Marvel does. Freeze frame any part of BvsS and it will be a (admittedly dark and murky) classic comic book panel and that is what makes my goosebumps come up. Bruce running into the cloud, Superman hovering in the air over the woman reaching out, the statue, the dream sequences, the dilapidated Wayne manor, in fact almost any frame of this film is a picture and nearly all of them reference one or many comics: Dark Knight Returns, Year One, For Tomorrow, Death of Superman and many more get visual references and I squeed a little every time. Snyder and Team have deliberately gone in a (literally) more operatic direction. The imagery of Man of Steel was the same, continual Biblical and Greek references including the hints of Darkseid as what looks like a literal devil in BvsS plant the flag pretty heavy in the ‘Serious’ camp. For a stupid superhero film where they beat seven bells out of each other this is clearly problematic and it, understandably, lost a lot of audiences. I was so happy in Man of Steel to see Zod and Supes beat the crap out of each other. If Gods did fight that’s what would happen.

In short BvsS is much more philosophical, and akin to the comics of Frank Miller, Alan Moore, et al, than any other superhero movie – which I loved – but is why I think everyone else hated it. These films are for entertainment and perhaps discussions of theology, senate hearings, heroism as a political act and personal soul searching is a bit much for people who just want a popcorn movie. Saying Batman vs Superman is ‘cerebral’ is silly, but it does ask more questions than any Marvel film does, its just not any questions an audience wants asked. Except me apparently.

This is to say nothing of Batman and Alfred being my absolute favourite screen incarnations of those characters ever. Batfleck and Irons are just EXCELLENT in those parts and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. Gal Gadot kicks all kinds of arse too, her introduction at the end was a delight for me and I look forward to her own film with relish. Also, and I will happily fight for this one, the score is better than ANY score of any blockbuster I’ve seen of late. Zimmer is a notorious thief and false advertiser of a composer but by golly he makes music that is SO memorable and attuned to the scene Marvel should actually be ashamed. It saddens me to hear Hans won’t be doing anymore such films but if it were up to me I would make it a priority to find someone with as sensitive an ear as him to score the rest.

I won’t deny there are problems with Batman vs Superman but I honestly believe it has come in for a lot of unwarranted stick that boils down to expectations and just general opinion. It can’t fight that sadly and whether we like it or not we’re grandfathered in to a million more of these films that frankly even I am sick of now but whatever. I like Cavill, I like Affleck, I like Gadot and I like Snyder. The series needs work if it wants a more favourable response next time but I really hope that doesn’t mean sacrificing all the things I like about this movie.

In short, I’m just asking for some perspective please and to stop making me feel guilty for liking this dumb film instead of your favourite dumb film about dumb superheroes hitting each other. This is all stupid and we’re all taking it too seriously, including the film I’m defending but can’t I just enjoy my favoured bit of idiocy without being made to feel more of an idiot than we ALL are for sponsoring this kind infantile nonsense? You want better films? Stop watching these. Or better still, make your own…

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P.S. If you want a more rounded response to some of the things I like about BvsS this has a lot of it (but is actually too fanboy for my likes, it defends stuff that shouldn’t really be defended and ignores parts that should be pointed out but generally I agree with it) but equally this is a good reference point for a lot of the major issues (though, again, it leans too heavily on some pretty petty stuff and – like most people – really really hates it so kinda skews the supposed objectivity). This was written in response to my buddy Matt Post making a video about why he didn’t like it so basically FUCK YOU MATT! YOU DON’T KNOW SHIT! IMMA CUTS YOU BITCH! (Seriously though he makes a good point, but it is a point I feel can be made about every superhero movie of the last 6 or 7 years).

An addition to the ‘Canon’…

Given how disgusted and appalled I was with the result of the 2010 general election you can probably guess my utter despair at the result from the weekend. My contempt for the Conservatives and their media “supporters” (read as: sponsors, legislators and best chums) now borders on that of the worst far right parties of history. After the last election I self-published a small pamphlet of poetry that raged against the dying of the light but that just seems too puny to fight what is apparently the national public opinion that right wing politics and selfishness is the way forward. But frankly it’s about all I can do now.

Below is my first of no doubt many anti-Tory/austerity poems and would love it if you could share it, particularly to people you might know who are inclined to the right. Written in the Victorian style Gove loves so much and using the Conservative Party font, I hope the message isn’t too subtle to sink in. Please share the jpg or the text, I’m not fussed about credit, just get it out there. I’ll be tweeting it too if you’re so inclined.

Keep the faith, people with a soul and consideration for others tend win through in the end. It’s going to be a looooong 5 years.

giantsofalbion

The Public Gate

Voters at the polls 1945
Voters at the polls 1945

We are a month away from the next General Election here in the UK and in case you hadn’t noticed it is something I feel very strongly about. Cards on the table I despise the Conservative party for what they did in the 70s and 80s and especially for what they have done in the last 5 years. They have improved nothing but their own pocket lining and, yet again, ruined the lives of millions. I will also admit I am prejudiced against them by an inherited dislike courtesy of my parents, in exactly the same way as Tories have an inherited dislike of everyone that isn’t wealthy because of their parents. I am saying this now so you know I am biased against them and I have my own agenda in asking you to vote I do REALLY want you to Vote. Whoever it is for.

In the 2010 election the voter turnout according to parliament.uk was just 65% and we ended up with a hung parliament that no one wanted and a government that was elected on just a 36% share of the vote by forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. In the years since the Lib Dems have been sidelined so that it has essentially been a Conservative government for the last few years. In summary this was a mess, nobody got what they wanted, except the Conservatives perhaps but even then a lot of back benchers were made unhappy by the coalition. The reason I’m saying all this is everyone seems to have a very short memory and we could really do without a repeat of that. If you don’t want a repeat of that, you should vote.

To those who choose not to vote I fully understand your apathy. The system is broken and we live in a world run by banks and companies, not elected officials but I believe that because voter turnout is so low that is precisely WHY this has happened. People who don’t vote are ignored by policy makers and if you truly believe the anti-voting rhetoric that a “revolution is coming” that is the last thing anyone wants or needs. If anything we need more democracy not less. Abstaining from voting does not help this process at all, things have rarely changed for the better with a violent revolution. What should happen is that everyone turns out to vote and votes for whoever the hell they like. Then, if there still isn’t a majority the powers that be will recognise they need to change and diversify and actually structure themselves around these people who are voting. We are a large and increasingly diverse nation, the current main parties are not treating us as such; prove them wrong.

A former friend of mine published a ‘Zine prior to the 2010 election in which I contributed a piece about why you should vote and she contributed a piece about why you shouldn’t. I’m not going to be so fair minded. You should absolutely vote. My argument then was mostly centred around the fact that the right to vote is a hard won privilege that people within living memory have died to offer you. I do not take that lightly. During WWII there was no election and Churchill remained in office with the Conservative party with a caretaker Government and a wartime coalition. I admit the Conservative ideology is a much more practical and functional system of rule in wartime. We are not at war. But also, by comparison to what was going on in Europe in the 10 years Churchill was in power, the British were paragons of democracy.

1f80eb8d6a8f1abafbe15b483d085463In the Autumn of 1938 there was a by-election in Oxford as the sitting MP had died, Civil war was happening in Spain and the Munich agreement was being arranged, this served as the backdrop for an Epic Poem in 24 Cantos written by Louis MacNiece. It is an incredible piece of work that plunges you into the atmosphere of pre-war Britain but Canto 14 is to me an incredibly relevant poem at the moment. It would be histrionic to claim the Conservatives and UKIP are akin to Hitler but they are certainly doing a lot of damage and MacNiece’s defence of our system of democracy at a time when it was never more under threat is rather pertinent. As such I am going to replicate it in full here and I encourage you to read it but if not do skip to the end.

Autumn Journal – Canto XIV, by Louis MacNiece

The next day I drove by night / Among red and amber and green, spears and candles, / Corkscrews and slivers of reflected light / In the mirror of the rainy asphalt / Along the North Circular and the Great West roads / Running the gauntlet of impoverished fancy / Where housewives bolster up their jerry-built abodes / With amour propre and the habit of Hire Purchase. / The wheels whished in the wet, the flashy strings / Of neon lights unravelled, the windscreen-wiper / Kept at its job like a tiger in a cage or a cricket that sings / All night through for nothing. / Factory, a site for a factory, rubbish dumps, / Bungalows in lath and plaster, in brick, in concrete, / And shining semi-circles of petrol pumps / Like intransigent gangs of idols. / And the road swings round my head like a lasso / Looping wider and wider tracts of darkness / and the country succeeds the town and the country too / Is damp and dark and evil. / And coming over the Chilterns the dead leaves leap / Charging the windscreen like a barrage of angry / Birds as I take the steep / Plunge to Henley or Hades. And at the curves of the road the telephone wires / Shine like strands of silk and the hedge solicits / My irresponsible tyres / To an accident, to a bed in the wet grasses. / And in the quiet crooked streets only the village pub / Spills a golden puddle / Over the pavement and trees bend down and rub / Unopened dormer windows with their knuckles. / Nettlebed, Shillingford, Dorchester – each urolls / The road to Oxford; Qu’allais-je faire tomorrow / Driving voters to the polls / In that home of lost illusions? / And what am I doing it for? / Mainly for fun, partly for a half believed in / Principle, a core / Of fact in a pulp of verbiage, / Remembering that this crude and so-called obsolete / Top-heavy tedious parliamentary system / Is our only ready weapon to defeat / the legions’ eagles and the lictors’ axes; / And remembering that those who by their habit hate / Politics can no longer keep their private / Values unless they open the public Gate / To a better political system. / That Rome was not built in a day is no excuse / For laissez-faire, for bowing to the odds against us; / What is the use / Of asking what is the use of one brick only: / The perfectionist stands for ever in a fog / Waiting for the fog to clear: better to be vulgar / And use your legs and leave a blank for Hogg / And put a cross for Lindsay. / There are only too many who say ‘ What difference does it make / One way or the other? / To turn the stream of history will take / More than a by-election.’ / So Thursday came and Oxford went to the polls / And made its coward vote and the streets resounded / To the triumphant cheers of the lost souls– / The profiteers, the dunderheads, the smarties. / And I drove back to London in the dark of the morning, the trees / Standing out in the headlights cut from cardboard; / Wondering which disease / Is worse– the Status Quo or Mere Utopia. / For from now on / Each occasion must be used, however trivial, / To rally the ranks of those whose chance will soon be gone / For even guerilla warfare. / The nicest people in England have always been the least / Apt to solidarity or alignment / But all of them must now align against the beast / That prowls at every door and barks in every headline. / Dawn and London and daylight and last the sun: / I stop the car and take the yellow placard / Off the bonnet; that little job is done / Though without success or glory. / The plane-tree leaves come sidling down / (Catch my guineas, catch my guineas) / And the sun caresses Camden Town, / The barrows or oranges and apples.

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That says what I want to say better than I can but the main point there is that our vote is a hard won victory that must be used and make no mistake there IS a beast prowling at every door and barking in every headline. I would rather you didn’t vote for the Tories or UKIP but if you truly believe more cuts are a good idea and that class division is beneficial and that the poor are to blame for all that is bad right now and that millionaires should be subsidised and avoid fines or jail time and paying tax, if you REALLY TRULY TOTALLY believe that then for the love of God sign that box so hard the pen snaps. So long as you get up off your arse and go to the polling station. As you read there, MacNiece drove to Oxford just so he could drive people to the polls, he made an active effort in a time when the vote was most needed and valued to help people sign their cross. I don’t need to do that because you can vote however you like now (You can vote in person, by post or by proxy, couldn’t be easier! And most importantly there is still time to register! If you are eligible it takes 5 minutes, max and you’re doing your part. Click here and it’s done.) But this is my effort to drive people to the polls. From now till May 7th I will do all I can to get people into that booth but without telling them who to Vote for. But I may still point out who you shouldn’t vote for…

I am encouraged, however. The recent turnout for the Scottish Independence vote being so high was incredibly positive, Twitter is taking an active roll in reminding UK users when the cut off for registration is and initiatives like vInspired’s Swing the Vote campaign has incorporated the youtube generation to help get 18-25 year olds voting. With UKIP continually putting its foot in its mouth and THEN shooting it, they do bring (inadvertent and stupid) media attention to the debate and all publicity is good publicity. Add to that everyone’s unhappiness with the last election being dredged up and displayed as the wrong way to do it, I have a little hope there will be a pretty good turnout this time. What the result will be is anyone’s guess. It’s a worryingly close race all round so don’t let anyone tell you they know who the winner is, your vote could quite literally be the decider.

It is too easy to be lazy when it comes to voting. The great, and wholly incorrect, saying that “If voting changed anything they wouldn’t let you do it” is an easy shield to hide behind, said by ‘progressive’ people so they can feel free to pass comment on the political landscape without taking an active role in its shaping. It also recalls the Self and Other linguistic nuance I mentioned in the last post. Actively listening to the Other is what democracy should be about now. Voting is not a very loud voice but it IS STILL A VOICE. If you don’t use it you are not being heard.

If you are eligible please please please please please register and then vote in the General Election on 7th May. Keep your private values by opening that public gate.