Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Snapshot

In 2010... well, actually January 2011, I read a report that said of the 52 back page headlines on the Mail on Sunday, 51 of them were completely made up and just the one 'exclusive' was stolen from the Sunday Express from the previous week. The reaction from people was essentially 'who believes newspapers anyway?'

In December 2015, I almost had a row with two of my favourite people in the world because they didn't believe me when I told them the world in 2015 is a safer place than 1985 with less famine and more stability.

Yeah, I know, it sounds like one of the more stupid allegations I've made. How can the world possibly be safer and less hungry than 1985? I dunno how - I can have a guess - but I do know that the UN along with lots of its little umbrella UNs like WHO and UNICEF have actual evidence that supports that outrageous statement.

As much as it might anger people, there is considerably less famine in the world now than there has been since records began and in terms of safety, despite ISIS, the Taliban, Donald Trump et al, you have less chance of being killed by conflict, insurgency or terrorism in the world in 2015 than at any other point during the last 130 years. A easy point of reference for Brits who really don't believe this is to ask them how often the IRA has bombed mainland Britain in the last 15 years.

The irony is the world is a safer place now than it has been for a long time and yet if you were a visitor from another planet or even another time you would think the world is going to hell in a customised hand basket.

I was sitting drinking my first cup of coffee of the day, watching the news and the overriding impression I got was the world hurtling towards war, death and destruction and I realised at that moment that the media runs the world for the corporations and governments are gradually going to become unimportant because they won't be seen as doing anything, they'll just be seen as furthering the interests of the real rulers of the world and the media mouthpiece assigned with telling us how bad it is.

I can't quite work out why. You know, usually you can work out the long game, or the big picture; a government does this so that ultimately that will happen; except nowadays its more about what a government doesn't do so that ultimately something else will happen that will end up costing it more than originally believed. When you examine some of the cuts made in recent years and the simple fact that the private sector hasn't stepped in to fill the vacuum, you can see that either these cuts were made with a long term vision or they were just cruel and heartless and aimed at people who wouldn't vote for the current incumbents.

There seems to be a growing belief that 'man will out' - he will survive because that is what man does best; so you can take everything away from him and he'll find some way to continue. Margaret Thatcher had a lot of respect for the so-called 'black economy' because she saw it as a stepping stone for people to get onto the real economy. Our 'black economy' now appears to be trying to come up with fair ways of redistributing waste food - 2 million people have used a food bank since 2011, but if you read the media or listened to some politicians you'd think of these 2 million people, 1.99 million of them are chancers, scoundrels and probably Muslims. The media is subliminally turning you against people less well off than you; because these people are not strivers, they're obviously just trying to screw the system. The reason many feel this way is because it's what they'd do if they were faced with the same problems.

So, this morning, this week, this year so far has been full of debt, war, immigrants, anti-Muslim rhetoric, threat after threat, cut after cut, doom and gloom and very little optimism, yet the papers are more concerned with anything Jeremy Corbyn related as long as its negative. The media would rather spend all of its energy on besmirching Corbyn than simply analysing the mess the country is in. It would rather focus on Corbyn's 50% women shadow cabinet as pandering and "jobs for the girls to appear 'right on'" while congratulating Cameron for having a cabinet that is only a third women and the reason they do this is because Mr Twat in Seven Oaks will completely believe anything anti-Corbyn - whether it is true or not - but will steadfastly ignore anything about the government, unless it serves him.

Selective belief is not new, but once upon a time you had some balance; nowadays the press will spend 99% of its time on how unelectable Labour are - so as to compound the message even more - yet ignore the plight of the people systematically targeted by Tories, even if it is totally unjust and unfair. The media and their owners want us to abandon our caring nature and start treating the disabled and disenfranchised like it's their fault.

During the election campaign, Cameron said during a QT that if people had to die to sort the system out then so be it and barely anyone even mentioned it. You can find the clip in various places, Dave just sincerely tells the audience that hard choices sometimes have to be made. Or, in other words, some people are worth more than others; we now measure human worth by how much contribution a person makes and if they can't make any then they can die and no one important will care. If Jeremy Corbyn was to suggest something similar...

Turn on the TV today and you get floods, Trump, Muslims, ISIS, Immigration, Corbyn, tensions throughout Europe, the Chinese economy, children dying, calls for police to be armed with tazers and people suggesting that our streets are becoming lawless and yet there are cuts to the police so severe we have G4S running law and order in parts of the country (that alone should make even the most Conservative of voter worry a lot) and we also had a (Muslim) kid targeted by police for having a speech/spelling impediment... Oh and painting asylum seekers' doors an odd shade of red so bigots know where they live.

Martyn Lewis, former newsreader, was pilloried once for suggesting there should be more good news and that was way back in the 1990s. The TV, radio and papers are full of sensationalism, none more so than a harmless yet inflammatory repetition last night on Radio 5Live. It was FA Cup 3rd round replay night and West Brom were playing Bristol City and the Baggies' volatile and controversial striker Saido Berahino had been 'sensationally left out of the West Brom side', thus fuelling rumours he was to be transferred, probably to Spurs. It was hyperbole from the moment Berahino was left out of the side.

Then, John Hartson, a pundit and obviously not in the thralls of the BBC, made a very pertinent comment. "I don't know why there's all this speculation about Berahino, he's cup-tied. The manager said he was unwell, I think we need to accept this as the reason he's not playing." Two minutes later, despite being the man who spoke with Hartson, presenter Mark Pougatch repeated the sensational Berahino 'news' several times throughout the evening, neglecting to mention that by being cup-tied it meant that he couldn't play for anyone else in said cup and in reality there wasn't even a 'news' story there. It was a non-story turned into the most sensational news of the night because it suited the 'impartial' BBC to run the story that way.

It's the same as spending 100 hours picking Corbyn's reshuffle to bits, while lining up people to resign on air and then spending less than 10 seconds on issues that actually, you know, affect us. The press and the media is run by the people who really run the world and it isn't in their interests for us - the people - to have a fair, unbiased and just look at the world. The truth is obviously far harder to swallow than the bullshit.

Let's briefly touch on global warming - whether you believe in it or not, it is clear that most of the 'civilised' countries couldn't give a fig about it. Take our own government, MPs with vested interests in fossil fuels and fracking, who have cut subsidies on renewable energy to put more money into the extraction of carbon-based fuels that could have serious consequences years down the road. Why worry about the future when there's money to be made NOW? But, we don't get the media - or even satire - showing us the errors of repeated governments ways, because it isn't in 'their' interests. People who want renewable energy are somehow painted as eccentrics and buffoons in the press - why is that? It's as stupid as Americans thinking free health care will guarantee they go to hell.

We repeatedly get accusations that the BBC is left wing. I see it on a daily basis and wonder if its because I have a brain that allows me to realise when I'm being hoodwinked and then wonder how supposedly intelligent people can go onto supposedly intelligent newspaper comments sections and help perpetuate the myth. The reality is the BBC is so scared for its survival it won't be seen doing anything the Tories can possibly abolish or frown on - hence why the news department is made up of former young Conservative members and right wing sympathisers. Point this out and invariably the debate switches from the BBC to how left wing you are.

Suggest to people about reading other, less biased, news sources and you finally discover the greater problem - when people believe something specific they don't want that cosy belief system destroyed or mucked about with. People will not read, or if they do won't accept, a belief that doesn't suit them. It's about culture as well; we cannot accept others cultures, so they must be wrong; but are they wrong because of the colour of the skin or the region the skin comes from? Seriously dangerous Christian fundamentalists are pretty much overlooked or labelled differently by the media, but if someone is remotely foreign and does something wrong then if they have been born within 20,000 miles of a Muslim country then it's obviously Jihad driven.

How many people reading this are aware that Israel has been tattooing numbers onto Palestinian prisoners' arms - for ease of identification? The reason you weren't aware was because the news story never made it to the British or US media, or rather it made it they just chose to ignore it. So other sources released the details and there was a mini barrage of subliminal 'can you trust a news source that isn't known' messages sent out to suggest only reputable news sources should be trusted. Check the story on various hoax/fake/bullshit detector websites and you find that not only is it true, but there is a distinct suggestion that the story is being purposefully repressed...

When Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the USA there was outrage, but there wasn't as much as you would have maybe hoped for. Because the sad thing is I think there are more and more middle class people becoming more and more detached from reality by their viewing and reading habits alone, who probably agree with Trump. The neo-Liberal agenda is principally to make the average person so frightened of the world they become insular and look after their own first - that is a Tory ethos Thatcher was able to exploit and the current government is attempting to ratchet up even further while promoting whatever version of The Big Society is floating around.

When people were asked to comment about the 52 back cover exclusives from the Mail on Sunday the majority of people suggested the stories were in a newspaper and its been a long time since newspapers carried the weight they once did. This has been a recurring theme throughout my life - can you believe it if the newspaper said it? I'm not imagining it; people have always taken sensationalist newspaper stories with a pinch of salt and that was pretty much down to the now defunct News of the World; people haven't changed their opinions of the media. Daily newspapers sell to about 6 million people - as compared to a 70million population - the BBC or ITV news is seen by less than 3million people daily, but all the people who read the papers and watch the TV news will formulate their own opinions and then bang on about it as work the next day. How do you think Farage became so popular? It wasn't based on his politics, it was based on his beliefs being echoed by Fred on the shop floor reluctantly (at first) agreeing that his life has not improved and how its much easier to blame those bloody foreigners than it is anyone else.

That's how the people in charge do it. They worked out long ago the most common of denominators - the base things that rile humans so much - and use these as 21st century propaganda. You write your own headlines; you wear your own prejudices for all too see and the more of you who do it the less like National Socialism it looks. I'd guess there are probably more racists in the UK at the moment than at any point since the 1940s; tolerance towards others is at an all time low and you get the impression that common sense is struggling against a growing tidal wave of media-led ignorance and stupidity.

The world is a safer place now than 1985. We had at least three things that were far worse then than now - Africa's famine is now in isolated pockets not widespread. The capitalism of China and the end of the Soviet Union, therefore the Cold War, therefore the fear of imminent threat of mutually assured self destruction has gone. Yes, Russia is now a threat again, or is it? Really? Can you believe the press when it tells you Russia is the enemy? I only ask because last year a Finnish national newspaper asked why the Western Press was blaming Russia for the mistakes the Euro alliance is making in bombing raids on Syria. This wasn't reported over here because, well, it doesn't suit the agenda. The reason I believe it is because the Finns have zero love for the Russians, but have a reputation for being extremely good at impartial news reporting. Why should they, of all people, be seen questioning the West's reporting? Because it's wrong and potentially far more serious than rich idiots seem to suspect? Plus - look at it this way; in 1985 we were scared of the USSR and China; in 2015 we're frightened by a group of terrorists who control about as much land/territory as the size of Scotland, and North Korea. Do I need to explain this to you? No, didn't think so.

The UK and the US have been responsible for so much mess across the globe for the last 100 years and the majority of the mess has been made by their desire to either westernise, modernise or bring democracy and not once did the people responsible for this consider the cultures of other people; the beliefs of others, even the feelings. The West struggle to understand fundamentalist Islam because Christians have always had a snobbish tendency to sneer at other religions, rather than accept the cultural differences, they're always for changing people and even when they don't want to change them, they want to segregate or marginalise them to ensure we know they're different. The irony is Christian Fundamentalists, often as barking mad, are brushed aside, swept under the rug and all mention of religion is expunged by the right wing media. Isn't it obvious that only a Christian God is worthy of any respect now? Look how civilised Christians are compared to those fanatical Muslims! You can also find out how many terrorist attacks were carried out on a yearly basis on a variety of websites; pretty much all of them agree that less than 5% of all terrorist deaths in 2014 were carried out by Muslim fundamentalists. That's less than 5 people per 100 killed by a nutty Muslim. Would you care to guess how many 'terrorist deaths' were committed by Christians - people who believe in a jolly white haired man in robes sitting on a throne like a weird combination of Santa Claus and Abraham Lincoln? If this were a Fox Sports channel, the Muslims are simply out of 'our' league.

Is it any wonder why we're in a situation now where we don't trust anyone any more; we've sat and watched it all publicly erode away and now believe any old shite we're fed. We believe the media because the media has learned to press the right buttons; it's not about lying or obfuscating, it's about positioning. We live in a subtle world of denial and manipulation; the media controls us incredibly well; we're not even aware of it half the time. We find ourselves raging against something because the press has put it to us in a way to ensure maximum outrage, while carefully neglecting to tell you other things that actually warrant your time and effort raging against.

If you don't believe me, ask yourself this: there was almost twice as many people prepared to sign a petition to have Jeremy Clarkson reinstated to his position as there were people opposed to the Draconian cutting of tax credits. This was despite the simple fact that had Clarkson punched a colleague in the face anywhere else he wouldn't have had the luxury of having a trial by TV, he would have been sacked and no one would have given a hoot, because that's what should happen to people who punch work colleagues. Can you see how screwed up that is? Or how selfish it is? There were no newspaper articles about the obvious inherent selfishness of the people wanting their Top Gear to stay the same. If you needed an example of the 'I'm all right Jack' mentality that the Tories propagate, it's right there: more people concerned about an hour long programme that runs for six weeks a year than kids starving.

That's us, that is. That's a snap shot of the UK and the world today. Happy?

Thursday, January 07, 2016

After the Celebration

The bright part of my 2015 was only ever referred to in passing. A mention on Facebook a couple of times and a few of my mates were treated to updates, whether they wanted it or not. No less so than Tony, my one friend with no real interest in reading my latest novel, but the man charged with having to listen to me SPOIL it for him completely, should he change his mind and decide to read it.

When I first decided that I wanted to write, I used to put lots of effort and energy into things and I got to this point where I knew if I talked about my latest project, it would very quickly become an unfinished idea. I have loads of them. I can offer you at least 50 unwritten/finished novels, arguably more.

I talked earlier in the year about this not wanting to tell people what the idea is about; I also talked about reaching the tipping point - that position where I actually know I'm going to finish a project and the mental thing I have that almost without fail kills a project off - if I discuss it with anyone.

My mate Tony knew I was writing this story; I talked at him all the time about it when we get together (it must be great fun for the old boy), but I'd made sure I'd got past the point of no return first. And I didn't actually mention anything to anyone else until the magic 20,000 words was a distant memory  (20k appears to be my specific point of no return - only once have I gone further than 20k words and not finished something) and even then, considering it's me, I was very conservative, nay vague, about any mention of it.

I really like the idea so I didn't want to put the mockers on it.

I finished the first draft; almost immediately went through it and did what I would class as a kind of 2nd draft (all the bits I remembered I'd missed or needed elaborating on), then I left it alone for a few months. The idea however never left me, I just felt burned out, yet equally elated.

When, in September, I decided it was time to try and turn it into something other people could read, I never realised just how difficult that was going to be; you see, all through my time working on magazines I had a good editor, who took the energy, enthusiasm and raw ability I had and polished it up; it wasn't until I lost that safety net that I started to actually really concentrate on things I wrote and even then, without an editor, you could easily critique it (and in some cases attempt to humiliate me). I'm not saying that I never self-edited, I do and have, it's just I've never really had the time to approach it in the correct manner.

The editing of this 'novel' has been a laborious job, not least because I've been extremely serious about it and have not just hacked my way through allowing cliché and stereotype to dictate the pace and the narrative. I attempted to do something that is both a mystery and unsettling and like I said, I had a framework for the plot. When I started to fill in the gaps, I realised that my subconscious appeared to be in control - I presumably had everything already up there in my noggin, it was just a matter of coercing it out - this is when you think a story is writing itself; which of course it isn't, you've just got it sorted in your head already, unless you write endless waffle.

Two years ago, I started writing something called The Dry Rot. It was something that I struggled to get out of the plotting stage. I knew what I wanted and I had a narrative in my head, but it kind of dwindled away and after a few thousand words, I shelved it. During the writing of The Imagination Station I realised that The Dry Rot was the third part of the trilogy I wasn't aware of but was currently writing the first part of.

Shortly after this I started to discuss the idea with Tony. I didn't need a sounding board, I just needed a real person to talk at; he didn't need to offer anything because I believed it was all up there, it just needed to be wheedled out.

For instance. I turned up at Tony's one Friday evening to drink his Corona and shoot the breeze and proceeded to talk about Jimmy Walker... "I did something today in that book I'm writing. I introduced this character called Jimmy Walker; I don't know why, he just seemed to spring out of my fingers for 10 pages until I killed him off. I don't know why I even introduced him."

A few weeks later, during our next social evening, he asked me if I'd worked out why I'd introduced a character just to kill him off and I spent the next half an hour gushing about how brilliant I was in creating a character that the entire story pivots on, without realising it was even needed. Except I probably knew full well that this character was going to enter the scene at some point.

As you can see, I'm being very specific to not give anything away that could spoil it for whoever may want to read it. The thing is this preamble just leads to the fact that it's as finished as it can be at the moment and it seemed the timing couldn't be better, what with me soon to start an agency job.

I walked around for most of this week like a porn star with his most impressive erection ever; I really felt like 2016 had started positively, despite my growing dislike of The Guardian and general right-leaning media outlets, allowing me to continue ranting and therefore restoring balance in the world. We took a depleted team to the pub quiz and won for the 7th (a record) consecutive quiz (and getting on for £350 in free beer, meals and safeguarding our dwindling finances for a wee bit longer).

You can't avoid the unexpected, but when you've had far too many unexpected things happen recently, you just kind of hope you can get into a nice rut for a while. This morning - Thursday - tore the fairness rule book up, chucked all the paper at me, then pissed up my leg...

I have had relatives and friends moan at me because I've suggested under the Tories the NHS will get to a stage where it kills people. I was accused of scaremongering (hah!) and reminded that my brother, my cousins' stepfather, my best mate's missus and various others have all had cancer in the last few years and done bloody well out of the old NHS. Excellent news all round and I'm bloody glad for them. I just hope I don't get it, because it would appear that I've used up my allowance of medication...

I turned up at the chemist this morning to collect my pre-paid repeat prescriptions and found the wrong thing and a note from my GP that said, "Ventolin allocation exceeded, can begin prescription again March 4" - What The Absolute FUCK???

This was actually just the tip of an iceberg. Not only was I being told I couldn't have one of the key things to allow me to breath normally, I also didn't have the other things prescribed because - this was later changed and I was told I misunderstood (Hah!) - According to their computer system, I'd exceeded my individual patient prescription allowance. This caused me to lose my temper and accuse the doctor's surgery staff of playing Russian Roulette with chronic illness sufferers' lives; to which I was told it wasn't anything of the sort and could be easily sorted out by booking an appointment and having my repeat prescriptions reassessed, to see if there was anything I could still get, but in the meantime I'd be given a prescription for Ventolin.

The chemist looked at me like I was talking Albanian when I told him and he recommended I go back next door (fortunately the two are connected) and get it sorted. This is what I did and eventually, 50 minutes later than my usual less than 5 minute trip to the chemist, I was given everything I requested (except nothing had been signed by a doctor and it was going to be retroactively signed) and told that there would be no limit to whatever medication I required to keep my chronic illness under control. What do you think would have happened had I not queried this?

Then I had to go to Sainsbury's, in a bad mood, with a headache and face the walking dead on a limited budget... It wasn't easy.

Doug the dog is in everyone's massive bad books at the moment - after two free weeks of destruction free living, he's been chomping his way through the house since Monday, culminating in finding the wife's bag and destroying EVERYTHING in it - cards, glasses, important papers, whatever women keep in their bags - fortunately only the money was unharmed. So today he wasn't expected to rip the zip from a cushion and then steal a fresh loaf of bread and then eat it all. After he did this I felt the day couldn't get any worse, but waited patiently for it anyway.

I didn't wait long. The agency that offered me work on December 19th phoned to tell me the job no longer appeared to exist, so I wouldn't be starting it and they were terribly sorry, even if they told me I would be starting on either the 4th or the 11th. To say I was a mixture of angry, upset and utterly stunned would be understating it; but I managed to hide the anger - just.

Taking the dogs out for air and the need to just get out and forget about everything seemed to be the best solution and we'd got 80% of our way round our excellent walk when this huge lumbering oaf of a Scandinavian man starts shouting for help because Doug was 'growling' at him. I explained that it might seem like growling but he was wiggling about at the same time and he's just pleased to see people. I was really pleasant about it, but this utter wanker (twice the size of me) would not let it lie, saying he'd had dogs all his life and the dog was threatening him. Then it turned out he wasn't talking about Doug, but Max the neighbours' GSD/Rotty cross; it was at this point I realised I'd met the Bradlaugh Fields version of the loony on the bus.

I was dismissive and disdainful towards the man. I didn't raise my voice or swear. He did. I just explained to him that the dog he claimed growled at him a) had no balls, something he should grow if he's scared of a dog that looks and acts like Scooby-Doo, b) had never growled at any human before and was playing with Doug at the time so could he have been confused - 'he' being any of them.

I think you can guess the response I got. But, I was good, I just turned around, called the dogs, who all trotted next to me like good animals do, and ignored twat man and his shouting and swearing at me. The funny thing was once many years ago when I'd had a bad day, I got called out by someone who wasn't going to be the brunt of my bad day and told to stop being a twat. I got the distinct impression that man-mountain Norseman had had a bad day and had just chosen the wrong person to have a bad day at. I wouldn't have minded had I not seen everything.

So, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to start the new year's blogs off with a rant bordering on a self-entitlement sermon, because I reckon if I'm being punished for some past indiscretion or mistake, I think I've paid for it now; so can I please have a break?