Saturday, 22 February 2020

CHECKING IN

The Mystic Boat, Odilon Redon


Greetings, Traumavillians. I gather that a few of you still make a pilgrimage here, so I thought I would look in at the old place. As you have probably gathered, I am now associate editor (rather grand, what?) of an online magazine called British Intelligence which can be found at www.british-intelligence.co.uk With the occasional exception, I look after the daily blog there – as well as contributing features, performing general sub-editing duties and, well, whatever else it is that associate editors do. Do drop by. We are a start-up, but I think we have made a solid beginning to what I hope to be a long-term project in a bustling, crowded market-place.
Other than that, ye globe turneth still. I am still firmly convinced that a change is gonna come, and not for better, at least not in the short term. Even the most news-averse among us realises the cyclical nature of economic activity, and if a recession or even a depression hits this time it would in all probability make the Great Depression of 1929 look like a walk in the park. Again, though, I think this is both a beneficial and necessary thing. Much of the woe caused by the modern Left – for they are to blame for the state of the West (as always, ‘Left’ is a multi-faceted trope, a big tent full of grotesqueries and carnival freaks) – is a result of the West being far too rich for its own good and resemble those ridiculous celebrities who command millions of dollars or pounds and still wind up broke. But, once again, I repeat my old mantra; every phoenix requires its ashes from which to rise.
The Left have morphed and changed in my lifetime, but I am in no doubt now that they are the clear and present danger to a healthy, organic society. The gradual realisation swilling round their pig-like intellects that identity politics is the game they should be playing the better to destroy the West has led to some of the carnivalesque behaviour we see on a daily basis. Incidentally, all identities are good for the Left as it creates more victims. The only identities markedly omitted from this inventory are straight white men and Jews, both universally hated by the Left, although they try to disguise their anti-Semitism.
Judging by social media – which is only one indicator among many, it must be stressed – there is a pervasive trait of the Left which stands out like a rubber Johnny machine in Vatican City; they are as thick as mince. And, as with most stupid people who have a social outlet – and you will find this theme running through the 19th-century English novel – they are absolutely convinced of their own rectitude, both in terms of factuality and, in particular, in terms of morality. They are right and they are righteous.
This dogmatism stems, of course, not so much from a desire to be liked and wanted, but a morbid fear of being disliked and unwanted. Nothing scares the Leftist more than the fear of pack rejection.
Which is why you should and must reject them. I know it is easy for me to tell you to shun your workmates. With the exception of a two-month stint with a jet-ski company working for a genuine psychopath, I haven’t worked in four years. I do not count playing guitar and singing in restaurants as work. It is sheer pleasure.
But the Left have to be told, like snot-faced unruly children, that their behaviour is not acceptable in the adult world. We don’t want them around. Unfriend them, but do it in the real world. They are toxic, corrosive and generally a bad lot. Trad, sad, and boring to know.
Leftism is a busted flush but, like a piss-poor shopping channel dedicated to selling the crap that department stores won’t stock, they keep banging away at the same upturned milk-crate, trying to get the intelligent to buy their rubbish, trying to sell tat to those with better things to do.
Don’t allow them to lower the tone of your life.
So, that about wraps it up. I will keep Traumaville open, but, as I say, there is much work to be done at British Intelligence. If you are reading this and have done for some time, you are either a pissant copper, a weird stalky ex-girlfriend, or you genuinely admire some of what I have written in this little outpost of empire. If it is the latter, I hope to see you at www.british-intelligence.co.uk as you will find my stewardship of the rolling blog, Traffic Analysis, much to your taste.
I hope this finds you in good health.

Monday, 3 February 2020

ONE FROM THE VAULTS

As I have had cause to mention before, my writing time is now taken up with www.british-intelligence.co.uk and so Traumaville has fallen into disrepair. I will continue to publish the occasional piece, however, such as this one from around ten years ago. It has as its theme the British canal system at a time when I myself lived on a narrow boat...


Every day is E-Day


Well, did you have a good E-Day? To refresh your memory, E-Day was Energy-Saving Day and it ran from 27-28 February. ‘Everyone who wants to take part in E-Day’, gushed its website, ‘is being asked to leave off household electrical items, which do not need to be on, and to leave these items off for as long as possible.’ Yes, it is to talk of green issues that we are gathered here today…
E-Day was an offshoot of Planet Relief, an abortive BBC project shelved when Auntie, possibly without precedent, decided she couldn’t guarantee a lack of bias. E-Day’s dynamo, Matt Prescott, is an Oxford doctoral graduate boosted straight into the project’s hot-seat and, although his pronouncements before E-Day were standard ecovangelism, his comment after E-Day, that he would ‘do my best to learn the relevant lessons for next time’, is triply interesting. Firstly, it contains one of the great current buzz-phrases; everyone seems to agree that there are ‘lessons to be learned’ just now, with the possible exception of schoolchildren.
Secondly, Prescott’s post-mortem raises the spectre of something we could do without; another E-Day. This is not uncharitable. The net result of E-Day was a power usage of 1,043,324 megawatt-hours, as compared with the daily UK average of 1,042,714. You may have noticed the second figure is around 0.1% lower than that on E-Day. Yes, that’s correct; E-Day featured more energy consumption, and therefore higher CO2 emissions, than any other average day of the year. I can’t wait until next February to start bailing out the planet again.
Thirdly, what is meant by ‘relevant’ lessons? Relevant to facts, to what’s left of the real world after post-modernism’s finished with it, or relevant to an ideological agenda? Perhaps, to make a worthwhile difference to CO2 emissions, it might be relevant to consider allowing people to change their domestic lifestyles in a way more profound than turning off their phone chargers for 24 hours.
I read about E-day while sitting in my home, a 40-foot narrow boat moored on the Grand Union Canal. Now, I had assumed that a narrow boat, as a property, has a carbon footprint the size of Tinkerbell’s as compared with the sasquatch of you land-lubbers, but I was inspired to see that ‘all of us’ could do more to save the environment by reducing our emissions.
So, what was I doing for the planet? How ashamed should I be of my domestic contribution to CO2 emissions? The government’s own online carbon footprint calculator gives the average annual carbon emission for UK properties as 10.22 tonnes. It’s not easy to calculate mine. A boat is not given as a domicile, but I muddle through and most of it is obvious. No dishwasher, no TV, no washing machine, no central heating, no fridge. There’s a small pot-bellied stove in which I burn about 50kg of coal per winter – not being bothered by cold weather is a useful by-product of boat-life – and electricity comes from 12-volt batteries charged by the alternator when the engine is running, and an 800-watt generator to charge laptop and phone. I use around 50 litres of diesel a year for a Lister engine that would, with a couple of tweaks, run on vegetable oil. I don’t drive a car either, but that’s irrelevant to domestic power consumption and I mention it merely for considerations of moral superiority. The calculator didn’t even ask about water. I use 10 litres a day; your power-shower uses around 80 litres to hose you off. You may be cleaner than me, but I’m greener than you.
When the figures popped out, it seems that my little boat – a 30-year-old Fernie cruiser, for the cognoscenti – is responsible for approximately 0.3 tonnes of CO2 emission per annum, or less than 3% of the household average. But I am still waiting patiently on deck for the man from the Ministry to arrive on the towpath with my Good Comrade medal. In fact, if the public sector pays me a visit, it’s more likely to be from a water bailiff asking me to move on.
Thousands of people like myself live on boats across the 3,000-mile UK canal and waterways system, but our lifestyle is not particularly welcomed. However, while British Waterways [BW], the public-sector body responsible for the canal system, holds no figures and discourages living on board, a boating community exists de facto, low-maintenance occupants of affordable, eco-friendly accommodation. Strange, then, given the strain on the housing market – and politically expedient but unpopular demands for zero-carbon townships - to find policy-makers looking the other way.
Water-dwellers divide into two types. The first group have permanent, ‘on-line’ moorings, often not fully residential. The second group – perhaps 3-5,000 boats on some estimates – are ‘continuous cruisers’ who BW stipulates should not moor for longer than two weeks at any one spot. Enforcement, however, is difficult and some of us are ‘bridge hoppers’, moving between visitor moorings on one stretch of canal or navigable river.
Continuous cruisers are classed as travellers, often having no address and appearing on no electoral register, and it’s estimated that 7% of boats have no BW licence, which costs a little over £500 per year. But if you have any bucolic preconceptions about people who live on boats – perhaps involving accordions, waistcoats and dock-tailed terriers – they are inaccurate. At Three Mills in east London, a residential mooring where I spent three years, my fellow boaters included teachers, actors, a TV art director, a stage carpenter, a magazine publisher, an IT manager and an embroiderer. My current neighbour at Uxbridge is a qualified hypnotherapist. But not everyone is a professional, and there are those who would surely be homeless if not for the sanctuary of the canal.
Keith lives in a small, lichen-covered fibreglass cruiser. There is no stove, and he uses a small butane heater to fend off winter. Keith is also clearly long overdue for a GP check-up – if he has a GP. He coughs constantly and near-consumptively, complaining that he has been ‘hassled’ by the local BW patrol officer, who is in fact incredibly lenient with his application of mooring restrictions. “Why,” asks Keith, “don’t they let people live on the canal?”
It’s an excellent question. At the turn of this century, the government took an apparent interest in the canal as a resource to be exploited. The policy document Waterways for Tomorrow was published in June 2000 with a foreword by another Prescott, John. At its launch, Prescott said that ‘we value [the canals] not only for their heritage, but because they improve the quality of the environment and people’s lives’. The canals are indeed used for walking, caneoing, sailing, fishing, bird-watching, cycling and other pursuits. But the people who already live on the waterways, and their contribution to the environment, is passed over in silence.
Yet Waterways for Tomorrow is a document whose motif is unlocked potential. It aims to ‘maximise the opportunities the waterways offer for leisure and recreation; as a catalyst for urban and rural regeneration; for education; and for freight transport. We want to encourage innovative uses such as water transfer and telecommunications.’
There’s no mention of residential accommodation. The closest the document gets to the canal community is in an appendix recommending ‘investigation of what incentives might be given to the private sector to invest in waterway facilities such as off-line moorings and marinas.’ It’s becoming commonplace for the public sector to alleviate its failures by relying on the cavalry in the private sector.
Indeed, without private sector involvement, BW is looking at a grim future. An estimated £7 million of grant cuts will effectively charge canal users – of whom boaters are only an estimated 5% of the total – for DEFRA’s mismanagement of farm subsidies and the resulting EU fines. Part of this shortfall will pass on to boaters in the shape of increased mooring fees and a possible 33% rise in the annual licence, but BW will still take a big operational hit. It costs at least £125 million per annum to maintain the UK waterways, though BW puts the total figure closer to £200 million. With a £100-million maintenance backlog, BW is running just to stand still. Possible job losses of up to 180 staff are rumoured, thinning resources further.
Why, then, does BW make no effort to raise revenue by vigorous development of a rent-paying, low-maintenance, eco-friendly canal community? On the face of it, BW is an anomaly. An apparently successful property concern, its status as a not-for-dividend public corporation does not allow it to invest or borrow as any other portfolio-rich company would. Although it claims to be adapting, current attempts to increase its revenue are stuttering. Trial schemes to allocate on-line moorings by sealed bid have not met with enthusiasm from boaters, and there is no dedicated programme of off-line development. BW says that private sector uptake is positive, but the picture at canal level is not so encouraging.
Andrew Denny - who writes the excellent canal blog Granny Buttons at www.grannybuttons.com - is currently travelling the inland waterways and is in no doubt about the overall picture for marina development. “There isn’t much,” he says, “and I don’t think ‘residential’ comes into it.” Andrew also points out that BW, although encouraging off-line mooring, intends to remove one on-line mooring for every ten off-line moorings created.
This reluctance to invest seems curious. Set-up costs for a mooring, comparative to the rest of the property market, would be minimal, and utility suppliers could be encouraged to share the cost of electricity and water provision. Will Chapman, of campaign group Save Our Waterways, points out that lay-by moorings cut into the canal are completely feasible. After all, the canal is known as ‘the cut’, reflecting the mode of its production, with hard-drinking navigators, or ‘navvies’, doing the cutting and herds of cattle being used to flatten the clay bedding in an age before industrial plant. There are already small-scale projects to turn flood plains into boat-filled residential areas, so why is the canal overlooked?
Residential moorings would be low-maintenance for any landlord as boaters are capable and instinctively communitarian. At Three Mills, 90% of day-to-day problems were solved by the residents without the landlord company - then Workspace - ever knowing there was a problem. Indeed, the biggest problem now for the residents of Three Mills is the 30th Olympiad. The twenty or so boats and their owners have recently been relocated as part of the Olympic regeneration programme. The cost of their relocation is being borne by the London Development Authority [LDA] and, although they will eventually return to an improved mooring, it’s clear the LDA is not interested in a new, east-end Little Venice, and would rather the boats weren’t there. Miles Hubbard, one of the residents and a union representative, is emphatic about the reason for the relatively good deal they received. “We formed a mooring association,” he says. “The LDA were far more likely to talk to an organised body. If we hadn’t done that, they would have picked us off as individuals and bought us out.”
Unlike Three Mills, which is set off the canal on a semi-tidal flood relief channel, many private moorings are not properly residential. Council planning permission differs between a mooring with residential status, where boaters can live on their boats all the time, and marina status, where they can’t, and must absent themselves for at least some of the week. This same restriction, albeit an unpoliceable one, also applies to some on-line moorings. Then there are problems concerning the different council planning permission required and duty-of-care rules which apply to a properly residential mooring.
The contradiction within this reluctance to encourage people to make their homes on the canal is that, in an age of hyperactive eco-awareness, it is surely one of the greenest ways of living. Solar panels and mini wind turbines are increasingly used by boaters. Narrow boats may use unfashionable coal and diesel, but – as my carbon calculations show - they are ergonomically efficient little units, and most boaters are not conspicuous consumers. There’s a reason why the canal is free of advertising.
But while green living is routine for those who make their homes on the canal, no one in government is talking about it. The Inland Waterways Advisory Council’s recent report, Decreasing Our Carbon Footprint, mentions only that it believes waterborne freight transport could make ‘a useful contribution towards meeting the UK Government’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions’. This is actually an implicit argument against more on-line moorings, which compromise all passing craft in terms of speed and so slow freight. And, for all the hype, the return of freight to a canal system built for that very purpose is currently underwhelming. The modern canal is primarily a leisure environment.
But not for me. Even though, for me and my ever-changing neighbours, every day is Energy-Saving Day, the European Commission wants an across-the-board carbon output reduction of 60% over 40 years, so I’ve got to get to work getting my own orgy of CO2 emissions under control. But all is well below deck. I’ve discovered that, if you turn off the heat early while preparing pasta, the hot water will continue the cooking process for you until it’s done! A little less butane used, a tiny stay of execution for Mother Earth.

Monday, 20 January 2020

British Intelligence



As I feared, there is no time left to me to maintain this weblog just at the moment. I do, however, maintain the one over at British Intelligence so, if you are understandably starved of my prose style and infinite jocularity, thither must ye wend. Bloody good magazine too. See you there.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

NATURE ABHORS A VACCUM - FROM THE VAULTS


Not sure when this dates from. Obviously some time during Gordon Brown's bumbling, stumbling stewardship of the once-great UK...



A couple of years ago, Matthew Parris wrote a piece for The Times which, had I been a cartoon character or a silent movie actor, would have made me rub my eyes vigorously, shake my head and perform a huge comic double-take, eyes on stalks included.

I have little time for him generally, but I thought Parris was genuinely incisive. The surprise lay in why the MSM in general weren’t chorusing his opinion then and continuing to do so now on a daily basis. He was writing about the emptiness of modern political discourse, the fact that 'our politics has become a race towards the perfect vacuum'. He compared the three main parties' election logos and finds them equally vapid. The Lib Dems' logos repeated the mantra 'change that works for you' in all four of its main manifesto points. Parris notes this:



'Yes - you've spotted it. An uber-slogan: "Change that works for you". As opposed to change that doesn't.'



Of course, ‘hope and change’ was the jingle accompanying Barack Obama during his successful campaign, of which more later.

Douglas Murray made a similar point to Parris in Standpoint at around the same time. Try reversing a politician's aspirational statement and see if it makes no sense. 'We are against choice', for example. If so, there was no point in making the statement.

However, Parris failed, as far as I could see, to make a more obvious connection. The phenomenon of political vacuity did not spring fully formed from the head of the last general election. It was always there, and was perfected under Blairite Labour, the first truly media-based chapter of the governmental class.

To say anything of meaning or import is to risk one of the political deadly sins; the gaffe. ‘Gaffes’ are often statements which purport to make a definite point or state a truth. Because government – both the nominal governing party and the opposition - cannot abide this type of straightforwardness, and will distance itself from any straight talking, the gaffe is of interest only insofar as it may lead to electoral damage.



Partly as an offshoot of this draining of meaning from political language, the soundbite is what now passes for political discourse. The image men, PR wonks, media mavens and quasi-advertising gurus who advise the political class will school them in the art of the soundbite like a tennis coach will work on a forehand smash. Some of them are unintentionally informative, and some are unintentionally funny. My favourite was undoubtedly Gordon Brown’s post-Obama geographical amnesia.

I don’t know if you heard Brown before and after Obama arrived on his space-ship to save the planet. Before the rapture, Brown’s defence of his role in the UK recession ran more or less as follows:



“I think it is right to do whatever it is I have just done, and we are putting into place measures, which are the right measures, to combat the global recession, which started in America.”



After the Miracle, Brown’s backroom team had obviously got through to that most curious of men. This is exactly what I heard him say on the radio two days after Obama’s incarnation in the world of men:



“I think this is right considering the global recession which started, uh, somewhere else.”



And so now the only interesting thing about what politicians say is these little moments of sub-text. The MSM, however, still treat the pronouncements of the political class as though they were of import, as though they informed the populace in any way about the real world, the one that same class seeks to hide with its language lite.

This is where weblogs come in. The exposure of vapid political language may not be sexy in the eyes of newspaper editors, but as long as bloggers keep letting the political elites and their courtiers know that we know they are not saying anything, there is always a chance that, one day, they may finally begin treating us as adults rather than credulous children.

Friday, 10 January 2020

MENTAL HEALTH ACTS - FROM THE VAULTS


Why are you not at this site?



As you are all well aware, Traumaville is currently blasts from the past, and I would have to date this as October 2010. Weblogs are priceless things to keep up as they act as diaries, a record of your past selves as you attempt to stand on the shoulders of those selves and reach higher. I remember, as though it were yesterday, the rage I felt watching the dreadful mummer's play which is about to unfold in a London Post Office. When you are done, get over to British Intelligence, or it will be bed with no tea for you all!



A visit to the Post Office to stand in a serpentine queue and spend a little time as a spectator of dysfunction, all of it human [and thus avoidable], although in different ways. The first thing you notice about modern Post Offices – always a little haven of clockwork order when I was a kid – is how many things don’t work properly. The digital clock and calendar on the wall read 16:04 [I was there quite early in the morning] and October 16 [this was yesterday]. The LCD indicator directing the eager customer to their particular window read: PLEASE WAIT. You know the drill; A number comes up in the window, and a woman’s synthetic and disembodied voice says; ‘Window 6 please’ or whatever. The first time I was in this particular branch, I was watching this very indicator when I became aware of a woman behind the glass waving me over to her. ‘NEXT please!’ I walked over, a little puzzled. ‘I was waiting,’ I explained with a smile, ‘for your indicator.’ ‘Oh, that,’ she said amusedly. ‘That doesn’t work.’

It reminded me of standing at a bus stop once in Southall. The digital board that many bus stops have now told me my bus was 12 minutes away. I realised that gave me time to visit some shop or other and was about to do so when my bus hoved into view. On boarding, I said to the driver, good naturedly, ‘You’re a bit early.’ He replied, ‘Eh?’ ‘You’re a bit early. The board says you’re not due for 11 minutes.’ He looked at me as though, perhaps, I was a flat-earther. ‘Don’t want to take any notice of those.’ And so now they mean nothing, can mean nothing, to me.

Back in the PO, there was some rather more poignant action beginning, as I became aware of a woman who could only be described as a bag-lady. She had all the accoutrements: bags – as you might expect – two or three coats variously belted, ratty, grey hair, a lined, weathered, desperately sad face and carrier bags swaddling her swollen feet. She was in a conversation, of a sort, with one of the Post Office assistants, and she was clearly upset. The girl was explaining that it was impossible to do what the old lady had requested – which seemed to be telephoning the PO bank in Glasgow – and the old lady was bemoaning the fact that it was so easy to do just that ‘in the old days’.

She was compos mentis; there was none of that excursion into other-worldly discourse which so often marks out the mentally ill, and she knew the details of her account. But, said the assistant, the ‘Glasgow team’ didn’t have a number that they could be called on. Now, I’ve heard that type of piss before. I had a bank once one of whose employees told me that I had to contact them by phone rather than by email, as I had suggested, as they didn’t have email. Stroll on. Who the fuck do these people think the rest of us are? Do they think we came down the dustpipe? God forbid that the bank’s employees should use their email accounts for something other than organising their weekends. By the way, Nat West. You never did email me. And have you got your twelve hundred quid? No you fucking haven’t.

Finally, the old lady said; ‘Couldn’t you please try to call? Just please try.’ It was so plaintive. It was dreadful. This woman was at the bottom. You couldn’t sink much lower and not be in the hospital en route to the bone orchard. The girl said, ‘Okay. I’ll try’. She walked back into the sanctum sanctorum behind the serving cubicles, giving one of her co-workers a rolling-eye look as if to say; We’ve got a right one here.

And I though; aaah! The milk of human kindness. It never really went away, we just mislaid it at the back of the great fridge of humanity. It was there all along, hidden behind the yoghurt of human error and the cottage cheese of human frailty.

No I didn’t. I thought; You stupid, witless, fudge-brained little twat. If you could try all along, why not do it at the other end of that pathetic conversation? Why not take a little extra time to try to sort out the problem for this wretched creature – a problem which sounded childishly uncomplicated – instead of acting like Our Lady of Bureaucracy? Redistribution of assistance is of far more worth than redistribution of wealth.

The second woman who intruded into my currently rather solipsistic existence walked over to me in the pub – in which I was resident after work - and asked if it was okay to sit around the table I was perched at. There was plenty of room, but I appreciate politeness. She was waiting for someone, she explained. Then she said that she was going to get a drink. Then she asked if I could watch her bag. Then she asked if the copy of Standpoint on the table was mine. Then she asked if she could read it. Then she asked if I wanted to read her copy of The Economist. Then she told me that she was meeting her fiancĂ© and another friend. Then she told me that she was a writer who had written journalism, mostly on mental health. Then she asked me whether Standpoint was any good. Then she asked me which feature I’d recommend. Then she suggested I tear the cover off her copy of The Economist and give it to her – as she wanted to buy the magazine again and wanted to remember what it was called – and she would do the same with my copy of Standpoint.

Now, I am currently treating all strange women – with the best will in the world, ladies – as though they are heavily armed, but I seriously suspected that this woman really was. The flurry of questions above just didn’t stop. We had a sort of conversation, but it was like talking to someone who was trying to win Just a Minute.

I recommended a very moving piece in Standpoint by Lionel Shriver about her brother, who is in mortal danger due to his obesity. Ms Shriver’s novel We Need To Talk About Kevin [which I haven’t read] touches, I believe, on problems of mental health. As do we all, from time to time.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

COCKSUCKER BLUES - A LETTER TO MY ALMA MATER


The face of higher education


As mentioned, I am nose to the grindstone attempting to carve out copy for the excellent new magazine British Intelligence – have I mentioned this sparkling new jewel in the diadem of dissident online political and cultural writing? I forget - I am having something of a clear out of the attic. This is a letter I wrote to my old university, Sussex, at which I read for a BA in Philosophy with Literature, and MA in Philosophy, and a PhD in the same subject. I think the letter was written around 2012. It is self-explanatory, and refers to the clown you see pictured, who is not only still employed by my alma mater, but won 60 grand in compensation for, quite frankly, being a cocksucker…



Mark Gullick PhD (Sussex)


cc: Luke Cooper; Geordie Greig [Editor, London Evening Standard]




Dear Mr Cooper,

Having seen your photograph on the front page of the London Evening Standard of November 11, I felt moved to write to you personally. I gather that you are a lecturer at the University of Sussex, my own alma mater, as our American cousins would say. I read philosophy there, and I’m looking at my diploma now, with its heraldic emblems and motto; Be Still and Know.
Be still, of course, was scarcely the modus operandi of the students present at the demonstration in London held the day before the publication of your image in our capital’s most prominent newspaper. Some violent, near-murderous, action took place that day, and you lay claim to pivotal involvement in the disturbances. What, then, of the other element of Sussex’s motto? What of knowledge? What do we know? What, as Kant asked, can we know?
I’m looking at your picture now. I’ve cut it from the Standard with a scalpel which I keep for the express purpose of removing newspaper photographs which interest me. It is an irksome task to remove pictures from the inferior paper used by newspaper publishers, and a scalpel is the only tool suitable for this job of excision.
You are unexceptional looking, resembling, as you do, a gurning, pinging clubber emerging from some dimbo club after a banging night out. You have good teeth and I imagine that the bat-like image on your forehead is some sort of temporary tattoo and not an unfortunate birthmark. Your hair, however, is thinning at an unfortunate rate for a 26-year-old man. As James Fox’s character, Chas, remarks to Mick Jagger’s character, Turner, in Donald Cammell’s iconic 1970s British movie, Performance:

Comical little geezer. You’ll look funny when you’re 50.”

I note that you teach International Relations, always a Mickey Mouse degree even when I was at Sussex. Philosophy, of course, is a proper discipline. Even its etymology leads to a love of wisdom. Be still and know. International Relations, these days, is reducible to an almanac of minority fetishism, and you will find yourself increasingly an apologist for ideological failure. Eventually, your students will find you out.
I imagine you have always voted Labour, the bill for whose profligate brand of Socialism has led, unbeknown to you, to your recent jamboree.
In case you assume I’m a Tory, my own core beliefs concerning UK politics have remained unchanged; Tories make me laugh, Socialists make me sick.
International Relations. Hmm. I picture you attending dinner parties with Palestinian friends, and using phrases such as ‘the Zionist entity’ and ‘illegal occupation’. Am I getting warm? Tell me truly, Luke. May I call you Luke? You have a saint’s name, as do I.
But I should let you speak. You are quoted in the Standard as saying:

The reason we attacked Tory HQ is we want to send [sic] a really strong message to this government that we are not going to let higher education be brutalised. There was a lot of anger.”

There always is. Children display anger when they are thwarted by adults in pursuance of their tiny concerns. Higher education, it saddens me to write, has already been brutalised by you and your ilk. You have certainly shamed a fine university, my own.
You look so cocksure, so proud, in your photograph. You were probably a pretty little boy. You should hang your head in shame.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Gullick PhD

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

KEEP THINKING, BUTCH: FROM THE VAULT

As my time is increasingly taken up with writing for the new magazine British Intelligence, so too Traumaville becomes sadly neglected, broken shutters flapping in the wind, feral dogs eating nameless things in the unkempt streets, and a general air of desolation and dereliction about the place. But I appreciate that you, my people, need me, and so it is that I will be dipping into an old blog of mine called Keep Thinking, Butch, a line taken from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as Sundance says to Cassidy, "Keep thinking, Butch. That's what you're good at".
Using my unique carbon-dating procedure, this seems to be from Christmas 2010, and deals with the subject of Christmas television...

In the two great dystopian novels of the last century, Brave New World and 1984, there is a tool of control. Huxley, himself an aficionado of narcotics, uses soma, the drug consumed by the populace which induces a malleable feeling of well-being. Orwell uses the television, imagining a goggle box that watches the watcher. Both are prescient in all but intent. That is to say, although a combination of drugs and TV does indeed keep much of the population of at least the UK in a state of semi-stupefaction, it can’t credibly be claimed that the government manipulates these sedatives as a coercive stratagem. However, it is more than a suspicion that certain ministers and courtiers must privately rejoice that the herd is so willingly corralled without requiring too much in the way of the shepherd’s attention.

Drink and drugs need not detain us here, and in any case I would have to make a declaration of interest. I only stopped being a regular cannabis user nine months ago, and can’t help but note that I have spent my most successful nine months of the last decade since. Quod erat demonstatum, I think. As for drink, I will always wrestle with excess. Recently, a combination of resolve and influenza has capped my intake to tolerable levels, but I have been down the road of alcoholism on more than one occasion.

Television, on the other hand, is not a narcotic of which I partake. Of course, like the passive smoker, you can’t avoid television just by not watching it. It’s in the newspapers – all the newspapers - every day, splashed across the giant advertising hoardings that infest the city, and present in the conversation of many of the people you meet, particularly in the workplace. Over Christmas, as is often the case, I watched a lot of television and, as Wittgenstein believed that the state of modern philosophy could be gauged by looking at the state of mathematics, what did the world of the idiot box tell me about the state we’re in? Let’s have a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.

With the good, some of the programmes were DVDs but were originally TV series. Outnumbered was hilarious, if you know it. I gather the kids are not scripted, and the whole thing had a fantastic air of spontaneity. I’d watch a series of that any time.

Wild China is a three-part series about wildlife in the country which is supposed to be about to inherit America’s mantle. It was made by the BBC and, if there were only one reason to want to live another hundred years, it would be to see the stunned looks on corporation faces when China’s idea of human rights, gender difference and race relations is in the box seat. The third part was about Tibet, and there was no mention of the fractious relations between that country and China, probably a requirement for production. The series, though, was captivating, utterly compelling and serenely beautiful . Nature documentaries always were my favourite TV, even as a kid, and the camera work is nothing less than art of the very highest quality.

Doctor Who was great, as much fun as it was when I used to watch mad Patrick Troughton playing the flute in his tartan trousers or Jon Pertwee camping it up in his flounced shirt. It was entertaining silliness, which was just what this doctor ordered.

The bad I suppose I avoided, but advertising still walks away with the laurels. Does advertising even work? Has anyone ever ascertained whether it pays for itself or whether it is just a sort of public sector within the private sector? Apparently, they have now perfected adverts that defeat even the fast forward button, keeping images in front of the hapless consumer for longer. As I have said, how much would products cost if the advertising budget was subtracted from the production overheads?

But it was the ugly that fascinated me most. My mother is a bit of a soap opera junkie who, like actual junkies, realises that her drug of choice does her no good at all. Now, I’m not a snob where soaps are concerned. I once saw the very first Coronation Street – no, not on its first transmission, you cheeky beggars – and it was extraordinary, like a fly-on-the-wall documentary directed by Samuel Beckett. A girlfriend of mine at what the young people now believe to be called ‘uni’ was doing a term paper called The Morphology of the Soap Opera or some such twaddle, and I used to watch Brookside with great regularity. It was good, Ricky Tomlinson and his wife and believable plots and scousers that didn’t automatically irritate you. Even Coronation Street in recent years raised the occasional laugh, such as a character asking of an elderly relative of whom he was less than enamoured whether she shouldn’t be ‘knitting under a guillotine somewhere.’ Eastenders was always rubbish, and I particularly enjoyed the wholly synthetic empathy everyone had for each other, always wanting to talk about the tiniest problem, and the fact that no one supported West Ham or said ‘fuck’. But it was relatively inoffensive rubbish and as I always say, every life needs a little trash.

Trash, yes. Toxic, scabrous unpleasantness, perhaps not. Every moment of the two episodes of Eastenders I sat through over the Christmas weekend made me feel depressed and slightly angry. It’s not just the endless murders, adulteries and deceptions, the egregious tide of dysfunction. There is not a redeeming character. These psychological voodoo dollies are not representative of any world I’ve ever lived in, and I’ve been down the dark end of the street. I would rather a child of mine watched hardcore pornography than sat through ten minutes of this bile.

So, that is your television review for the year. I think I’ll creep back into my tiny library, if that’s okay with everyone.