Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Diane Abbott wins prize for her vagina

That is to say she has been successfully nominated for the Labour leadership contest as a result of her being born a woman. Who would have thought that in 2010 race and sex would still play a vital role in your life chances. So much for equality.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Honour the dead

Disclaimer: this is close to the bone, if it offends you you can write to the Daily Mail about it.

So you might have heard the Polish President, Lech Kaczyński, was killed in a plane crash last week, along with pretty much every high-ranking politician, diplomat, and military official in Poland. In a cruel twist of fate the party were flying to Russia to commemorate the anniversary of the Katyn massacre, in which pretty much every high-ranking politician, diplomat, and military official in Poland was slaughtered by the Soviet secret police. If that wasn't bad enough, a volcano, dormant for nigh on a hundred years, chose the following week to erupt, spewing ash over northern Europe and ensuring that no one could go to the funeral. You might call it unfortunate.

One would be forgiven for feeling a tug at the heart strings, and then perhaps afterwards, in the privacy of your own home, a muffled laugh at the sheer incredibility of it all. Unsurprisingly the people of Poland have been mourning, but, in a turn of events which is proving increasingly common, have in the process elevated the dead to a state of virtual sainthood.

Before his death Kaczyński's approval rating had fallen to 20% and he was expected to lose a presidential election due in the autumn. He twice banned the Warsaw gay pride march and instead allowed a counter-demonstration called the "Parade of Normality." In 2007, Poland, represented by Kaczyński, was found guilty by the European Court of Human Rights of violating the freedom of assembly under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That's not to entirely detract from the man; he was a vociferous opponent of communism and the tyranny it led to; he campaigned tirelessly against corruption; and on 21 December 2008, Kaczyński became the first Polish head of state to visit a Polish synagogue and to attend religious services held there. The point, however, is that being dead shouldn't automatically grant one immunity from criticism.

Kaczyński and his wife are now interred in the crypt of Wawel cathedral, the traditional burial place for Poland's kings, national heroes, poets, statesman and romantic revolutionaries. Lech Kaczyński was none of those things. To put it in perspective, burying Lech Kaczyński in Wawel cathedral is like burying Gordon Brown in Westminster Abbey. Apparently I'm not the only one who noticed this disparity; according to the Guardian "some Poles have staged protest rallies and joined petitions on the social media site Facebook against the decision to bury Kaczynski in such a sacred spot". And yet any protests were muffled by the overwhelming indignity of a nation who felt that dead meant great; Karolina Rajchel, 19, a student who travelled five hours from Wroclaw, said she had not supported every step that Kaczyński took, but called the protests "out of place" in light of his death. "Out of place"? If anyone can suggest a more appropriate time to have a protest over where someone is to be buried than following the individual's death, then I'd like to hear it. I mean it would be pretty fucking weird if they'd started protesting before he'd died.

She went on: "Kaczyński had good and bad qualities but now you shouldn't say anything bad about the dead". Obviously a certain amount of respect should be accorded on account of relatives et al, and everyone should have the right to respond, which is a bit tricky when you've kicked the bucket, but even so, "shouldn't say anything bad about the dead"? Good God, all those who've slammed Hitler's immigration policies these past 60 years all need to stand up and give themselves a good slap on the wrist. How dare you? He's dead don't you know.

Such sentiment is not confined to the death of the Polish premier however. The current UK election campaign is positively dripping with vote-winning sentiment about 'our brave troops'.

Leaving school with no GCSEs and 'joining up' because it "will be a laugh" does not necessitate bravery. It doesn't negate it mind, but it in no way implies it. And truth be told, anyone can get shot. That's the easy bit. With the Daily [insert favoured tabloid here] leading the way, our nation has been taken over by a culture of necro-sycophancy, in which anyone who's snuffed it while serving their country is now hailed as a 'hero'. I'm not anti the armed forces; it's a tragedy when anyone dies unnecessarily, and many of those who've lost their lives were undoubtedly selfless and courageous individuals. Indeed, that's the beauty of war, it represents the very worst of humanity, yet more often than not draws out the very best of individuals. But this broad-brush approach to conferring honour is obtuse. You don't have to wear a uniform to be brave, and you certainly don't have to be dead.

There's a competitive edge to public mourning these days. You should have the largest flowers, the darkest suit, the longest face. It's become a form of self-affirming ritual, in which the individual demonstrates to themselves and everyone else their own deeply held sense of humanity. As a result we've managed to elevate death itself to the highest echelons of accomplishment.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Unite Against Fascism up to their usual antics

So Weyman Bennett, UAF joint secretary, was today arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit violent disorder. The UAF were holding a counter protest in response to an English Defence League event in Bolton and, as appears to have become the norm these days, the UAF resorted to violence in an attempt to silence the EDL's legal protest. I'm not defending the EDL, I would estimate that the combined IQ scores of the 4000 people who attended from both sides would total up to about eight. One group is a bunch of shaven headed football hooligans without a pinch of political nuance between them, the other is a bunch of communist students with nothing better to do on a Saturday than get on a coach and toss a few bricks around. They're all disgusting. The vital difference is of course that UAF are supported by the political establishment. It's no surprise that Ken Livingston is its Chairman; that man's idiocy knows no bounds, but to have 'Call me Dave' Cameron as a key signatory is a stain on his already dubious reputation. When is the political mainstream going to reject this clearly violent group? It's hypocrisy to criticise the EDL if you don't tar UAF with the same brush.

Coincidently, it would appear that as well as being stupid, UAF supporters are also really fucking ugly.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Fashion as the death of utilitarianism

It's not exactly original to claim that fashion is at odds with the concept of usefulness, but the point has surely reached its zenith in the invention and subsequent proliferation of 'jeggings'. For those of you who don't have a GCSE in going incognito in Shoreditch, 'jeggings' are leggings which look like jeans, or maybe jeans made of legging. I don't know. I don't actually know if 'legging' is, in itself, a substance. But either way, they are undoubtedly stupid. If you want to wear jeans, with the multitude of advantages that confers (pockets, protection from grazing etc.), then wear jeans. If you'd rather wear leggings, with all the advantages that confers (shows off your pins etc.), then wear leggings. But why conflate the two? Why make leggings and then decorate them with fake pockets, zips, and seams. Surely the whole purpose of leggings is that they don't have pockets, zips, and seams. All those things are undeniably associated with jeans. Indeed, they are needed on jeans. If you put them on leggings, and then put the leggings on yourself, you unavoidably become a victim. Because, after all, that is the only defence. You must stand up and say "this morning I put leggings on that had pockets drawn on them, because I am a victim to fashion".

Quotes on Delingpole

I've just had a browse around the blogosphere to garner opinion on Delingpole, here's what I found:

"For those that haven’t had the pleasure, this guy is a two-bob shock jock wannabe, who routinely adopts a writing tone reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh going cold turkey on the hydrocodone."

[On his use of the phrase 'libtard']
"Hell, it’s not as if ‘libtard’ is even his own creation. He’s shovelling other people’s excrement off the floor and chucking that around. I guess he’s too thick even to shit his own pants."

“‘Delingpole’ should be the official name for a penis protruding from one’s forehead.”

"I tend to think that even half-heartedly debating Delingpole’s ideas is to engage in a massive great category error. It’s like holding a symposium on the moral and ethical implications of “In the Night Garden.”"

"Delingpole unwittingly engages in what I like to call the ‘asymmetrical horseshit gambit’ – by saying things so completely absurd you completely demoralise your opponent by forcing them to engage you in a foreign reality. I had the misfortune to read his book once, he really is certifiable."

"Delingpole: An erection plainly visible through the trousers of a bearded drunk fast asleep opposite you on a train."

"I feel quite sorry for the guy, to be bitter and twisted at his age, what the F*** is he going to be like at 50. At least Amis grew into his persona."

"He's the sort of twat that would probably love finding out that people like me think he's a twat, as he sits there oozing twattery from his twatty face."

"Oh my, this is one of the worst articles I have ever read, and I spend a lot of time online reading other people’s tripe. I never ever leave comments (I feel it’s a waste of time in most cases – I’m usually beaten to the chase by someone with a better grasp of what I’m trying to articulate), but feel that in this case I had to. It’s an absolutely terrible piece of guff. Are you 8 years old James? I’m guessing this because I know that when most kids are about 9 years old they have to take compulsory Creative Writing classes as part of Key Stage English. You clearly haven’t had to do this yet (unless of course you have graduated from the Tanya Gold school of Hack Journalism)."

"James Delingpole is a piece of shit."

[From Charlie Brooker]
"What a clueless, rat-faced, simpering, humourless, piss-writing, fuck-of-a-shit."

"Have you heard of James Delingpole? He is a right-wing journalist, author and blogger who specialises in denying man-made global warming and defending the charitable status of private schools. He is in many ways the archetypal absolute cunt; an aristo-fetishistic dickhead and slithery sassenach poster boy for Scottish independence."

[From George Monbiot]
"His blog posts for the Telegraph consist of the kind of ill-informed viciousness provided for free by trolls on comment threads everywhere, but raised by an order of magnitude. He puts a wrecking ball through any claims the denial lobby might have to being civilised, intelligent or serious. His followers act as an echo-chamber, magnifying his nastiness. Between them they succeed in alienating anyone who might want an informed debate."

"The recent Monbiot/Delingpole TV debate was hilarious. Delingpole tried oiling up to Monbiot (recognising him as a genuine toff and thus drooling over him a bit) while Monbiot's face suggested he was thinking "who is this oik and why is he pawing me?""

"I thought James Delingpole was a posh twat only qualified to write about nice jumbers and t-shirts from Selfridges (expensive but worth it darleengs). Wrong Delingpole?"

"James Delingpole - Climate denialist and card-carrying twat."

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Would you?

Would you trust this man with your planet?

No me neither, I wouldn't trust him with my pot plants.

Here's Hugo Rifkind giving him a good kicking in the Spectator:

"Where has it come from, this sudden consensus among Britain’s right-wing punditry that there’s some kind of scam going on here [Re: climate change]? Yes, Delingpole, I mean you, and plenty of others, too. What gives you the right? It’s like your hairdresser diagnosing multiple sclerosis… I’ve watched it develop and spread over the past couple of years, first with amusement, then with alarm, and now with a sort of horrified panic. Guys, you’re not just fiddling while Rome burns. You’re actively going out and smashing up the fire engines. You’re terrifying me."

Giles Coren, my hero.

This is old news, but I just stumbled across it. It's a leaked email from Giles Coren to his incompetent sub-editors. I empathise with him, such are the downfalls of being a perfectionist...

To: the Times subeditors

From: Coren, Giles


I am mightily pissed off ... I don't really like people tinkering with my copy for the sake of tinkering. I do not enjoy the suggestion that you have a better ear or eye for how I want my words to read than I do ... It was the final sentence. Final sentences are very, very important. A piece builds to them, they are the little jingle that the reader takes with him into the weekend.

I wrote: "I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for a nosh." It appeared as: "I can't think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for nosh."

There is no length issue. This is someone thinking, "I'll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and i know best."

Well, you fucking don't. This was shit, shit subediting for three reasons.

1) "Nosh", as I'm sure you fluent Yiddish speakers know, is a noun formed from a bastardisation of the German "naschen". It is a verb, and can be construed into two distinct nouns. One, "nosh" means simply "food". You have decided that this is what i meant and removed the "a". I am insulted enough that you think you have a better ear for English than me. But a better ear for Yiddish? I doubt it. Because the other noun, "nosh" means "a session of eating" ...

2) I will now explain why your error is even more shit than it looks. You see, i was making a joke. I do that sometimes. I have set up the street as "sexually charged". I have described the shenanigans across the road at G.A.Y. I have used the word "gaily" as a gentle nudge. And "looking for a nosh" has a secondary meaning of looking for a blowjob. Not specifically gay, for this is soho, and there are plenty of girls there who take money for noshing boys. "looking for nosh" does not have that ambiguity. the joke is gone. I only wrote that sodding paragraph to make that joke. And you've fucking stripped it out like a pissed Irish plasterer restoring a renaissance fresco and thinking jesus looks shit with a bear so plastering over it. You might as well have removed the whole paragraph. I mean, fucking christ, don't you read the copy?

3) And worst of all. Dumbest, deafest, shittest of all, you have removed the unstressed "a" so that the stress that should have fallen on "nosh" is lost, and my piece ends on an unstressed syllable. When you're winding up a piece of prose, metre is crucial. Can't you hear? Can't you hear that it is wrong? It's not fucking rocket science. It's fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for The Times and i have never ended on an unstressed syllable. Fuck. fuck, fuck, fuck.

I am sorry if this looks petty (last time i mailed a Times sub about the change of a single word i got in all sorts of trouble) but i care deeply about my work and i hate to have it fucked up by shit subbing ... And, just out of interest, I'd like whoever made that change to email me and tell me why. Tell me the exact reasoning which led you to remove that word from my copy.

Right, Sorry to go on. Anger, real steaming fucking anger can make a man verbose.

All the best


There are a couple more of his gems here.