Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Dave Bones Chat

One of the fabulous things about covering politics for a month is that you get to hook up people you know but have never actually seen in the flesh. I met my third blogger on Tuesday - Dave Bones - he was at the same Robin Cook meeting. We went for a pint and chat afterwards, talked about UK Politics, Blair, Howard, Galloway, and the future of Independent Media. I had my old fashioned audio cassette recorder with me and grabbed 10 minutes.

What an intelligent and switched on guy he turned out to be. I was really taken with his attitude - when the Iraq war started, he got online and befriended Republicans. Now you can't say that a lot of lefties would do that.

He's a lot less yellow in real life.

Listen to the audio here (8MB).

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Andy "The Hat" Gardener



The Compton Arms is a very traditional pub which does decent beer, like Abbotts, and classic grub - fish and chips, burgers, pies, gammon and pineapple, baked potatoes, steak sandwich. It also has an incumbent drinking population prepared to demand their places at the small bar and the comfortable few tables at the front and back. There I met Andy "The Hat" Gardener, the Official Monster Raving Loony Party candidate for Islington South and Finsbury, last Wednesday, after a quick phone call established that the pub was exactly between our two residences, and we spent a pleasant 30 minutes chatting quite seriously about politics, expertly fighting off the robust attentions of various Arsenal fans anticipating a match.

Screaming Lord Sutch started in politics in 1963 when he stood for the Teenagers' Party, on a platform which included lowering the age of majority to 18 from 21. This year, more than fifty Official Monster Raving Loony Party candidates are standing, including in Sedgefield, Tony Blair's patch.

OMRLP have among their obvious jokes - like the introduction of a 99 pence coin to save on change - some manifesto pledges which are surprisingly good ideas. Like lowering the voting age to 16, which as Andy pointed out, the LibDems are now talking about doing. It's strange to think the self-proclaimed Loony Party are the first to have made suggestions which are now accepted law, including around the clock pub opening, passports for pets. Andy was upbeat as he listed the ideas "other parties have stolen".

Some ideas are on the sane/insane edge. Like pram lanes in every shopping centre - it would be a good idea, ask anyone who has experienced "pram rage". Like, banning the word "like" as in, "I was, like, starting to suspect Andy was actually very intelligent, and he didn't, like, disappoint me." - the punishment for this mangling of English to be time spent with George Bush. Freakin' yay! I'd vote for that.

As we chatted in this busy pub, I realised that Andy had a good handle on his role in the election, was thoroughly enjoying himself, and saw that his own comic contribution was a good and necessary thing. He pointed out that despite voter apathy, his vote is likely to be up. "None of the other parties get the same response as we do, people hooting and waving at us all the time. We put smiles on a lot of people's faces."

OMRLP do cheer a lot of people up. The Loonies - always careful to say they are Loonies, not Nutters - actually represent putting the election at the disposal of comedy. They stimulate interest in democracy at a time when voter apathy is high. Importantly, they mean that politicians can't stick clannishly to their own kind, but have to suffer the great unbearable British public at our sarcastic best in their prime moment of disappointment, or triumph. Once again, as TV crews film the announcement of each constituency result at some God awful time in the morning, we'll see the line-up of smart business suits, rosettes and egos ready for crushing, punctured by someone standing there dressed in the most eccentric costume they can assemble.



Audio interview here.

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Seven Days

With only seven more days for the UK political campaigns to have an effect, looks like we are in a week's time going to offer up Tony Blair the possibility of five more years of Labour at the helm of this great groaning creaking ship of a nation, HMS United Kingdom of Great Britain. Opinion polls show the merest flicker up or down, and pundits are exercised not by predicting the identity of the victor, but the size of his political penis.

Sorry, I should say, majority in parliament.

I am feeling it. For me it's been like volunteering for a stretch inside, my crimes being political disengagement for the duration of my adult life, and a touching belief in the system against all likelihood of it delivering the kind of society I want to live in.

Channel 4 are running an excellent series called "Election Unspun" which takes the lid off politics, and Peter Oborne made a documentary as part of that about the political process, explaining how the politicians develop policies based on pleasing (and therefore winning votes in) key marginals using computer software called Voter Vault and Mosaic to identify likely voting intention on a house-by-house, street-by-street basis. A key marginal is not as you might expect the narrow sliver of metal running along the edge of a door to prevent fraudulent entry; it is a constituency where the vote is narrowly balanced between one party and another. These battle-grounds are the places of real war, where money is spent, and where big name politicians show up glad-handing and drooling over babies. These few votes - 800,000 or so out of our 59 million population - will determine the next government.

Why vote at all? Does it really matter? They are all the same... nothing changes... This line is peddled by the apathetic and the lazy, and also by people in whose interests it is that you don't vote. Of course I will vote. They are not all the same. Men and women died to give us the vote. Public life has not degenerated to that extent. We don't have much power, we the great unwashed, this is about the totality of it, but we have some. Of course you need a representative. You don't know what you've got until it's gone.

Then, who do I vote for? I wish I hadn't set myself the task of being so damn thorough. Aside from the fact that I would rather be Hemmelling than listening to recording and interpreting political intentions, jargon and spin, I am examining my conscience. Is there REALLY no better option than a tarnished, clumsy, right-wing pseudo-socialist bluffer, or a Count Dracula who will sink his fangs into the nation's jugular and drain all our lives and livelihoods away?

The single biggest issue which is losing Labour votes is Iraq. I went to a meeting on Tuesday which attempted to establish in local minds the sublime anti-war credentials of the local Labour candidate. There was a certain amount of preaching to the converted, but I was listening past that. I just wanted to hear that there was enough of the left still in Labour to take it back to being the party I voted for all my life.

Robin Cook, (pictured top) ex-UK Foreign Secretary, left the government because he wanted Hans Blix to finish his work looking for WMDs, and he didn't want Britain to undermine the UN and go to war on an American pretext. He set a shining example of noble dissent and retained the respect of people from all sides. His eloquent speech as he stepped down was a carefully-aimed thing of great beauty, intelligence and precision, not like the public savaging of Thatcher by Howe which put a deadly hole in that administration. He came along, with Jeremy Corbyn, one of the leading lefties in parliament, a man on the steering committee of the Stop The War Coalition - no LibDems on that, he reminded us - to urge us all not to desert.

Cook talked long and entertained. He blended facts and anecdotes, wisdom, humility and twinkling wit, in an effortless, masterly way. I listened, and yet he still failed to convince me. I may have resigned from the government, but I will go to my grave clutching my Labour membership, he said. Of course you will Robin. The party is the only one that will work for single mothers and young unemployed. Probably correct. Vote for Emily, she is in the great tradition of independent lefties. Yes, she may be, that remains to be seen. I was impressed, pleased to be there, but not won over.

Then as questions dragged on, and the meeting looked spent, Cook quietly pointed out that one of the great achievements of the Labour administration has been to write off African (and other developing world) debt. When the UK takes the chair of the G8 in June, he said, the UK will be in a position to encourage the other richest nations to do the same, and Labour are intending to do so. If Michael Howard is there representing Britain, heading a Conservative government, this is not going to happen.

My heart sank at this point. I was tired, my legs ached, I was ready to leave. I was going to vote Green. Then Cook gave me a reason to vote Labour that I find hard to ignore. They need it more that we do. Vote for Africa, vote for ending poverty. Vote for the end of the iniquitous system that is tearing the world to bits. Damn, this is difficult.

Next day, I was visiting a friend, and James Humphreys from the Green Party called me while I was there. "Was Robin Cook on time?" he asked. Sure, I said, I think so. "It's just that I didn't see him arrive," said James, "or leave. I was thinking of telling the papers they had smuggled him in and out." I caught the mischief. I replied, "well, you know it is an Italian Trade Union building don't you? One of the panels at the back of the room is a door. They have a sneaky exit built into the place - they like secrets." Exit Robin Cook, pursued by the Mafia.

My friend then promptly told me he always voted Green, except for the time when he voted for the Mums For School Dinners candidate. "This time Green?" I asked. He said, "Maybe LibDem..." His local LibDem candidate being Laura Willoughby, we perused the mountain of paperwork that is piled inside the front door looking for the name of the Labour candidate, but it was all LibDem. He screwed up his forehead and pursed his lips, looking carefully at Laura's besuited buxom figure in the carefully constructed photographs, and said "Mmmm, ooh, I dunno, she's a bit of an eater, packing a bit of weight there. Maybe that means she's too greedy to be trusted - how do I know?" He's now toying with a return to the Green political fold, on the basis that their candidate is slimmer.

Even with this hilarity, he always votes, and takes the exercise of his right to do so seriously. He also told me about the woman he knew who always tore up her voting slip, until he remonstrated with her, "was maybe even a bit heavy on her, told her why she should vote." Months later she stopped him in the street and said proudly, "I voted!"

I am at a loss to understand the internal processes by which people make up their minds, the whims prejudices and random shakes of mind and hand that put cross in one box rather than another, but at least people are still encouraging one another to make a choice.

Cook, Corbyn and Thornberry - 43MB Video

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wooden Rivets: A Reader Despairs

Dan says:
   can't wait till may 5

five of us says:
   why? do you vote?

Dan says:
   yeah, but more importantly you'll start writing about interesting stuff again

five of us says:
   ha ha ha ha ha

five of us says:
   you bored person

five of us says:
   build a canoe

five of us says:
   go on

five of us says:
   eat a parakeet

Dan says:
   did you see that guy build a canoe last week?

five of us says:
   green bird curry

five of us says:
   bird flu

Dan says:
   I was riveted ... took him nine days

five of us says:
   rivets in a wooden canoe?

Dan says:
   wooden rivets, no less

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Can Fox Steal Labour's Islington Chickens?

Monday 18th April 2005, 13:50 hours, and I was proceeding in an Easterly direction along St Pauls Road, towards the Balls Pond Road. Even though I live within a mile of the Balls Pond Road, I have never managed to rid myself of the seaside comic associations the name has for me, instilled in early childhood by a Peter Sellers record, The Best of Sellers in which he also intones the majetic "Bal-ham, Gateway to the South". But I don't live in South London anymore, and I am covering the election for my local patch which has been for the past 21 years, Islington South and Finsbury. So I found myself heading East, sniggering to myself and trying to retain some seriousness as I was about to interview the Liberal Democrat candidate, Bridget Fox.

Bridget comes top in the list of available candidates for interview. Hers was by far the easiest interview to organise - she did it herself and is obviously an internet user, answers her own email. In fact since she is a Librarian, it would be somewhat shocking if she didn't.

The LibDem HQ is several units on the 3rd floor of a large low-cost mixed office premises. Islington Conservatives have a single unit on the ground floor, which says something about the power differential. I arrived at Leroy House at 2pm, to be met coming out of the lift by Bridget in a brown suit. We chatted easily as we walked through to the large, busy campaign rooms, and I found her instantly personable and attractive, though she does have a bit of a bookish look about her, she is a good listener. She swings her legs like a girl, I thought, and I could just pick up a whiff of what fishy thing she'd had for lunch emanating from well-kept molars. I remembered reading somewhere that Tony Blair is said to have bad breath - maybe nobody ever tells him.

My sense of the Lib Dem space, full of computers, large-volume printers, and boxes of campaign literature, was that they were organised. The LibDem workforce was serious looking, young, healthy and well-fed. We retired to a quieter room, killed the radio noise, and started the interview. The acoustics in the room were full of audio reflection from painted white brick and large glass windows. Bridget's excellent diction was just loud enough to create an ambient echo which rather suited her careful english tones. As I adjusted the microphone placement I mentioned that I tend to project, and that I didn't want to be out of proportion in volume to her. "Oh no!" she laughed "I can really shout loud when I have to." Despite her neat petite rather formal presence, I could well believe her.

This time, Bridget agreed, her campaign was definitely boosted by Chris Smith's leaving parliament, and she was very upbeat about her chances of being elected. She spoke articulately and at length, conscientiously covering all the LibDem election issues, with no audible errors. She has the best local profile in the constituency, having for many years been involved in local politics in Islington, where the LibDems are in power having won by 12 votes. They quote this in their leaflets, - "Its So Close Here" - conflating the national and local election results misleadingly. In fact, the electoral mountain that Bridget has to climb to become an MP is over 7,000 votes, and this would mean a swing of over 13%, which is practically unheard of in a national election.

Nonetheless, with Iraq playing so badly for Labour, and the LibDems the only party to remain solidly anti-war, she knows she is playing a strong hand, and the quiet confidence she exudes is not based on fantasy. Bridget spoke a lot about Council Tax as an issue, and so convincingly that since then I have put it to other candidates that this is a doorstep issue, and they have all so far denied that it is. So although at the time I found this entirely plausible, I wondered on which doorsteps Bridget had heard this concern raised - possibly the LibDem HQ doorstep. Either way, her arguments for replacing Council Tax with a local income tax, ending tuition fees in further education, plus the LibDem's environmental concerns, are all policies which I support, and I began to feel I had been somewhat won over by her profound reasonableness.

On the question of tactical voting - whether or not splitting the radical, progressive vote would just lead to the political centre in the UK lurching the other way - Bridget's answer was that we would in this election see the final demise of the Right, based on Howard's appalling and misplaced attacks on asylum seekers and immigrants. This proclamation felt great, but as I left, pleased with the interview and charmed by having spent 40 minutes with such a bright intelligent woman, I am not convinced by it, and while I can see the LibDems doing well in this election, Bridget's task is a mighty one. Aside from the size of the swing required, Labour are turning their lefty big guns towards this part of North London in an effort to ensure Emily Thornberry's election for Labour.

Then there is the issue of Bridget representing me in Parliament. I'm a disenchanted Labour voter, frustrated by the way Labour MPs fall too easily into line. Chris Smith in his time managed to be both establishment, as Culture Secretary, and anti-establishment, when he added his considerable weight to the anti-war rebellion in Parliament.

If Bridget were in Chris's shoes, I cannot imagine that she would go against her party, even with cuddly baby-producing Charles Kennedy at the helm. I can see Bridget doing exactly as required by LibDem HQ, and her measured Council Tax diatribe in retrospect made me trust her less, because I felt she was just after all, parroting the party line. Don't politicians all do that? No, they don't, some of them rebel, but the culture of rebellion is more rooted in Labour, where you still attract real kudos for noble dissent.

With the current Labour leadership likely to remain in power, it will not be opposition MPs of any shade, but rebellious MPs within Labour who are more likely to prevent their worst authoritarian excesses.

Listen to the interview hereSubscribe to the Five Audio Channel:

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Robin Cook: Proper News

I decided to write about politics and lo and behold, I'm meeting one of the people I most respect in the recent Labour government, Robin Cook. I was invited by Emily Thornberry herself as I carried my afternoon bottle of South African Sauvginon back from Oddbins.

More good news is that the Green Party have offered to get me a pass for the night of the election, where I intend to attend the count. I was going to be an adjudicator, but then I'd have to be at another constituency to ensure fair play. There's no way I'm missing my own count having waited 43 years to show up. Looks like I can be accredited as Press.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Islington South and Finsbury Candidates

Here is the full list.

Hopefully I'll get to interview Andy the Hat Gardener, from the Monster Raving Loony Party. Their manifesto promises pram lanes in every shopping centre. I'd vote for that.

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I Dream Of Tony

Saturday was a day of great effort, personal culmination, and domestic reward, the miraculous and welcome event being the arrival of my gorgeous girlfriend at my place (now our place) with boxes and books and bed to live with me. Yours truly happy.

It was stressful, but we did it. We went to the pub to chill out. We've both been working really hard, not seen enough of each other. Then moved. We had a stiff drink. We sorted out our miscommunications. We forgave each other. We kissed. We went gladly to bed. We slept like babies and I had my first major dream this week.

Now, I have previously dreamed of writing, making art and music, but my choice of blogging subject has never before invaded my dreamlife. With all the hours I have spent over the last ten days meeting and interviewing my local candidates, my mind has become corrupted to the point I dreamed last night that Tony Blair was on the Holloway Road, greeting me with a warm handshake. It was windy and sunny, fresh but shirtsleeve weather. The image was definitely conjured up from having met the rosetta-bearing Green Party candidate in the park near there the previous day.

Immediately I asked him "Tony, how do you pronounce your wife's name?"

As we strode down the rode together towards Highbury Corner, he answered me out of the side of his mouth, stressing the 2nd syllable. "Cherie"

Funny thing to do, I thought, talk out of the side of the mouth, like a cowboy, discretely.

He's telling you something without revealing what he's saying on the other side, like people do sometimes, when they want to direct a comment to you without revealing what they are saying to the room, or to the street. It's become a Hollywood comic mannerism, but people really do that sometimes, normally in a public context where they may be overheard to their disadvantage. Board rooms, lobbies, chambers, you know. Anybody could hear.

We chatted a while but I couldn't get his odd mannerism out of my head.

Was he taking me into his confidence? Was he making a joke? What was he being so secretive about?

Was he implying that the pronounciation of his wife's name was something that shouldn't be widely spread around?

"Cherie" I said. He nodded.

Never got a chance to ask him about George Bush.

As a result of this weekend, I have inherited the most comfortable mattress, and I shall be putting it to experimental dreaming and other use in the next few days.

God Bless This Funky Place And All Who Sail In Her.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

James Humphreys Interview

I have just finished uploading the third interview to Five. It was nice to meet James, the Green Party man, I liked him. He didn't have a couple of answers, but he was generally honest and his tactics are smart. I might vote for him.

Anyway, on election night, 12 days away, I am going to attend the count, which is in the Sobell Centre - the place I first saw Ian Dury and the Blockheads, December 23rd, 1980. James reckons I can go as an invigilator. Now, that will be truly engaging in the democratic process by volunteering to police the count and prevent fraud. Record low turnout should mean I'll be home by 3am.

You can listen to the interview with James Humphreys, Green Party, here. If you feel really hip, dedicated to your mind, chic and modern, subscribe to the Five Podcast RSS channel.

Now I am giving this a break for a few days - my GF is moving in tomorrow. Cohabitation. It's been so long. But that's another story.

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Hard Life, Politics

As regular readers know, this year I am dealing with one subject per month, and this month, I've been attempting to engage in politics. My strategy is three-pronged, like mighty Neptune's trident.


  • ONE: MEET THE PEOPLE Assess all local candidates who are seeking my vote on May 5th in the UK Election. Record them, write about them, make this coverage public. My personal addition to the mass of information, debate, reports and political propaganda designed to help voters come to a decision in this hotly-contested, now marginal inner-city Borough.

  • TWO: PROMOTE GLOBAL COMMUNICATION Like all politics, it's important to make your contribution effective. So Five is now an independent news feed alongside the Guardian, at Bloggers4Labour, and other articles are being syndicated world-wide using Blogger News Network (BNN) under the category "World Politics".

  • THREE: EXPLORE INNER TURMOIL Or, who the hell do I actually vote for? Should I vote for the party with the most chance of getting socially progressive policies implemented (Labour) the party with the most progressive social policies (Liberal Democrats) or the socially progressive party whose policies my conscience tells me (yes, you too can wrestle with your conscience!) give us the only chance of saving the planet (Green)?


Why inner turmoil? I hear vast uneasy choruses murmur in booming underground caverns deep beneath us.

I am a traditional Labour voter (albeit with anarchic/situationist tendencies) out-of-love with the democratic process yet determined not to abandon it. The party I voted for over and over again, and who in 1997 replaced the old corrupt Conservative regime have proved to be authoritarian, deaf to the people's wishes, devoid of respect for human rights, hopelessly weak in the face of the US Republican administration's military aggression.

Yet, if I vote against Labour and thus help to allow a right-wing regime to come to power (there is a slim but real chance of this) then I will have to hang my head in shame and leave the country. It is frustrating, this system. What is the point in taking part, if you can't change things for the better without running the risk of having the opposite outcome. Then again, my Mum says, vote for your principles, or nothing will ever change, and maybe she is right.

Athough I have never voted Conservative in my life, because if I did so the lefty bones of which I am constructed will up and leave my body, and anyway in my Borough, they haven't a chance, the Con Candidate Melanie McLean still agreed to an interview when I met her on Monday, and I think she deserves her chance to answer my questions.

I have 13 days to finish this part of the project. Today I am interviewing James Humphreys from the Green Party. James is the last of the three real contenders for my vote. I am still writing my interview with Bridget Fox from Monday.

I am going to interview Mum as well, next week, since she's the one who confused me about politics in the first place.

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

A Muffin By Any Other Name

Update: Emily Thornberry, Robin Cook , Jeremy Corbyn to answer the question "Why Islington residents who opposed the Iraq war should vote Labour." Five, 25th April 2005.

In these days of spin and brightly coloured language, it is easy for the distracted mind to misread a headline. "TEENAGE PAIR MURDERED BY BABY" shouts the London Evening Standard - until you realise that it actually says, "TEENAGE AU PAIR MURDERED BABY" and drink your double espresso with a hasty, tongue-burning gulp. So you might be forgiven for being defensive and suspicious, especially when expectations are high, the stage is set, and a tough act to follow has just left the building.

Getting to interview Emily Thornberry, Labour candidate for Islington South and Finsbury proved not so difficult. After leaving my number with her agent 2 days earlier I was surprised to get a call at 10pm on a Friday night from Emily herself. Actually I was full of south indian vegetarian curry and beer, standing in the Lincoln, Kings Cross, playing host to two Swiss composers and two gorgeous female friends, and I cut out to stand in chilly York Way and talk. I started badly, and Emily got the wind up.

Who did I write for? Where was I syndicated? What cable channel? Real crossed wires. I found myself on the receiving end of a professional grilling - later when I had done some actual research realising that I had been questioned by a criminal barrister - and my usual unflappable self became a pigeon glued to the pavement. After 10 minutes sincere blather, it sunk in to Emily that I was for real, and she agreed to meet for an interview. I haven't felt so much on the spot since Deputy Headmaster, Joey Taylor, told me that he knew I was faking it, and that I was simply lazy, when I was in the throes of glandular fever.

My first impression of the local Labour party, via Emily, and the Two Johns - John her agent, and John her assistant - was a strange mixture of laconic, fierce, and friendly. I pointed out to Mr Wyman-White that orange-and-black diamond-shaped Liberal posters had gone up in all the surrounding streets, but I could not see any red-and-yellow Labour posters anywhere. He laughed on the phone, and said, give me your address and you will have one tomorrow. I'm still waiting. Mr Greenshields, a 21 year old graduate who is accompanying Emily on the stump, and to whom the task of sorting me out with an interview was delegated, seemed more engaged, and tipped me the wink on the first controversy in this constituency. He had stopped a man in a van who said he had been paid to erect the LibDem poster-bearing estate agent-style wooden posts. "See, we rely on volunteers," he said, "But the Liberals have got more money, and they run it like a business."

I received comments from Cat, a local Liberal saying that this was untrue, that LibDem members and volunteers were involved, which in effect meant they were paying to put up their own posters. Scarcely the death-threat turmoil which Tower Hamlets is experiencing, but not bad for Islington.

John suggested we meet up while Emily knocked on doors, and I agreed. After delay due to Emily being roped in to a Gordon Brown-led Press Conference on SureStart, I finally met Emily and John G. last Friday 15th as they canvassed two blocks from me.

Wearing a neat cream suit and a large red rosette, Emily shook my hand courteously.She apologised charmingly for having given me such a rough ride on the phone. I was given some folded photocopied A4 election literature to carry, and we proceeded to canvass votes in the Samuel Lewis Buildings, Thornhill Road.

Thornhill, Thornberry. The Berry was on the Hill. In fact, the Berry was determinedly making sure she covered all the social housing in the constituency. We chatted as we walked. She's not tall Emily, but she is blessed with great energy. I asked her about Canterbury, her previous attempt at getting elected MP. What was the Labour selection process like? "It's not like any other party," she said, "You have to go and see all the members. I knocked on six and a half thousand doors." As I saw her writing personal notes in blue biro on every peice of campaign literature that she put through the doors, she admitted that she was obsessive. "I just think you have to really put in the effort. There's a lot of social housing in Islington, and I am going to knock on every door during this campaign."

It was wet and raining, and I carried my Mickey Mouse umbrella, with its cartoon emblem shining clearly out white on black, in the streets of Barnsbury. As we walked I also talked to John, who has given up work to campaign. A Labour Party member since 15, he is clearly passionate and committed, and rising to the arduous nature of electioneering, working long hours.

It wasn't long before we hit paydirt. Alice, a lovely-looking dark-haired woman with a kind clear face and a small impossibly cute blonde child around her legs, opened the door, and said the magic words, "Well, I would normally vote Labour, but I am seriously considering either not voting, or voting Green." John and I started to chat with her, and then she said, with the most glorious smell emanating from her nicely book-lined and toy-filled hallway, "Would you like a muffin? We've just cooked some, and I've far too many. You look like nice people - would you like to come in?" I was through the door like a musician, with John loitering more respectfully but hopefully outside.

Alice was a university lecturer who specialised in refugee issues, and like me, a rather disenchanted Labour voter, annoyed by the war, by the right-wing agendas, by the negative campaigning around immigration, not wishing to waste her vote, wondering what other options she had. The muffin was warm moist and full of blueberries, and I returned to the doorway where small child was singing and playing with John and gave him his. We munched happily and chatted for a couple of minutes, and then Emily showed up from the floor below and we spent 10 minutes or more discussing local and national issues and chewing the democratic fat.

John and I listened to the interchange between the women. This is the person you need to vote for you, Emily, I was thinking - female, intelligent, left-wing. Remaining to be convinced. Like me a fan of the outgoing MP Chris Smith. Emily took but a small bite of her muffin, and despite a bored child running around her and two men eating behind her as if they had not eaten in a week, she proceeded to give a good account of herself, discussing local schools, private and state education, the local Liberal authority and their failings, the Iraq war, without preaching or avoiding issues, and in a warm, direct and intelligent manner.

As the child started doing the Okey-Cokey across the threshold beneath the two women's legs, I noticed she was putting her "left leg in, left leg out - in out in out shakeitallabout". Perhaps this was a good omen. Alice asked me what I thought about a local school becoming a "performing academy". All to do with scandal, I said, they are trying to get away from the child abuse story. As we left, she told me to stay cynical - "It's very healthy!" she beamed healthily. I felt healthy, fortified. Right to be sceptical. Democratic.

As we moved block to block, we met a range of doorstep responses from "Always Vote Labour" to "Never Again" to "Haven't Made Up My Mind". A couple of people filled out postal votes on the spot, and Emily grasped these like the prize-winning essays they were, glad of every one. She acknowledged that Chris Smith would be a hard act to follow, even with a 26% majority, but told me that she had attended all his surgeries for the past year, that 80% of the problems were to do with immigration. And we talked about the war. Yes, she had been against it. Yes she understood that people were pissed off. But, there were still good people in the party. Robin Cook, she pointed out, had ensured that Parliament had the debate, and governments are not renowned for allowing votes on wars.

Having been nervous beforehand, I found myself warming to Emily and John, getting a glimpse of the hard work, Emily engaging with voters, saying, "I am your local Labour candidate and if you have any questions for me..." again and again.

After two and a half hours, we decided that the back room of the Albion pub was the best local option, so we retired there to record the interview. I am not going to provide a transcript - you can listen to the audio.

Emily waxed lyrical, described herself as a "mad-eyed conviction politician" and talked fluently about her background (single-parent, benefits) having established her anti-war credentials, she even mentioned - just once - a real old-fashioned socialist word - skipped past like profanity in the nursery - collective - there it was, there like a quick comet, blink and you'll miss it... What was that about work-life balance? and another... redistribution of wealth - - almost too fast to notice. We must be more vocal about what we want to achieve and how we want to change society, she said, without once mentioning the revolution. I put to her at the end of the interview that she seemed rather "Old" Labour, which was her cue to say no, not old, not new, just Labour. A perfect ending. She was really impressive, will do well on TV.

Should she win the vote, I found myself deciding in her presence, Emily will make an excellent MP, and a worthy successor to Chris Smith. A good talker with a big heart, a nice mix of posh and street, Emily fits the New Labour mold perfectly, although that might count against her with some voters, she is smart friendly and good with people. She treads a good path between toeing the Party line and being a REAL lefty. The problem is convincing voters that she is going to make a difference, when on many issues - "terror laws", imprisonment without trial, ID Cards, students fees, her "socialist" party Labour are being very authoritarian, and whatever Emily's personal position, the Liberal Democrats' claim to be more progressive is hard to counter.

UK politics, as Emily pointed out, was dragged to the right during Thatcher's years in power, and the Labour Party with it, and the most zeal she expressed was for politics to be re-aligned and move left once again. The problem with achieving that is politics has fragmented and changed, so even if you can move parts of it, it won't all be conveniently shunted.

In in a Borough where the Conservative vote is negligible, and the Green vote likely to be high, the Liberals scent their best chance in 20 years. But Emily is a real heavyweight contender, she isn't just relying on charm and voter loyalty to defend the large Labour majority - her determination is to enter Parliament, and when she gets there I get the feeling she will do very well.

But if she does win, as part of the next Labour government, can Emily and her kind take Labour back to being the trusted party of the people with the current leadership in place? This I doubt very much. Tony Blair was on television again last night, talking to Paxman, refusing to admit his lies or apologise for the war, and although he is toughing it out well enough, he is continuing to turn people away from Labour, especially progressive voters in marginal constituencies.

Here in Islington, occasionally derided as trendy North London Borough, there is also poverty, deprivation, drug and crime problems, high council tax, and people whatever their circumstances are crammed eleven and half thousand per square kilometre. Although my vote is yet undecided, and I wouldn't bet against Emily Thornberry winning, it will be close here. The Liberals are quoting The Times and Guardian newspapers stating that message in their direct mail, and their candidate Bridget Fox has the strongest local profile of all the candidates. Bridget Fox has a 26% majority to overturn, and Labour star Emily Thornberry to contend with. But with Chris Smith gone, to the great number of swing, tactical, floating, random, or just plain bored voters in Islington South and Finsbury, a rose by any other name could smell as sweet.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bridget Fox Interview

I have put the interview with Bridget Fox, Liberal Democrat candidate for the constituency of Islington South and Finsbury here.

Bridget was articulate, and catching her earlier in the day meant we had more time, so her interview at 19 mins is more than double the length of Emily Thornberry's. I crunched the file size down to compensate. But as they say, it's not the meat, it's the motion. I tried to balance being engaged with being objective.

As of this morning, there have been over 60 downloads of the first interview with Emily Thornberry, 10 of those via the podcast link on Five. I have been frowning and scratching my head, deleting caches, moving files, and looking at XML, RSS, Feedburner, Bloglines, trying to work out podcasting. How complicated can it be? I know it is working but I am not entirely sure how. I think I need to begin again. Or maybe go and eat.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

UK Politics For Beginners

We are only 2 months from midsummer - the sun is hot, the blossom is filling the streets with sweet scents. Still it's raining as well and I'm using shades underneath black and white clouds to kill the glare from the roads.

I have tricked myself into getting involved in local politics. It was a ruse designed to get me to write, but it was doing more than that. I was examining my conscience. Damn. This is a tall order for me, not something I enter into without a long sigh, and I have this stupid habit of challenging myself like this, so I am cursing right now. I am doing this to prove what, exactly?

For some reason I have decided to meet the people.

The people I have decided to meet are my local parliamentary candidates, a full list of which will be available in an hour or two. These guys want my vote. I want to address my political disengagement. It's a marriage made in Islington.

Now I haven't deserted the Blog of Funk, but I have channelled the majority of the politics into Five.

I said I would do is give Auslanders my Inlander's view on UK Politics. Here it is. Take a deep breath, here goes:

UK Democracy relies on an old-fashioned first-past-the-post electoral system, with 646 elected Members of Parliament in Westminster serving local areas called constituencies. These constituencies divide (for example) the east side of Holloway Road from the west. Being on the west, my patch is Islington South and Finsbury. It's roughly half of the London Borough of Islington. In the countryside, the geographic areas are much bigger, representing the population concentration differential.

Elected MPs sit in the House of Commons, the main debating chamber. Actually, when it's full, they fight for a seat. Too many bums. If you ever hear the phrase, "sitting in Westminster' it normally means, in Parliament.

Each party gets to elect its leader however and whenever it chooses. We don't have a Presidential system here. You vote for the party. Having said that, the would-be national leader gets the same scrutiny as anyone in their position. Or not, depending on the football and Coronation Street.

We have a second chamber which has recently been reformed, the House of Lords. It's a revising chamber, and can and does throw back badly formed laws to the "lower" chamber for further work. It is also the site of the highest court in the land, home of the Law Lords, the people who effectively determine and ratify the "unwritten" constitution of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

Blog of Funk Exclusive: These people are in fact the Time Lords of Britain, attempting to maintain it as an enduring factoid meme.

The UK is a United Kingdom. Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales all have their own assemblies with local Parties like Sinn Fein, Scottish and Welsh Nationalist, as well as the main UK Westminster Parliamentary parties. Suffice to say that even with devolution, and with parties fielding candidates for the European Parliament as well, being elected as a constituency MP to Westminster still represents being at the heart of British political power. In the EU, Britain retains more sovereignty than many other EU members, not the least being its own currency.

So a national election - called a general election - is for Westminster. Whichever party wins the most seats, normally gets to govern. Coalitions are rare in UK politics.

There are 3 main parties and thus contenders for Prime Minister. Tony Blair (Labour) Michael Howard (Conservative) and Charles Kennedy (Liberal Democrat). Labour have been in power for 8 years. The Conservatives were in power 18 years prior to that. This election is not expected to be the walk-over the last two were, however. At the moment Labour have 40%, Conservatives 31% and LibDems 21%.

Labour have run a fairly tight ship, but Our smiling Prime Minister lied about the Iraq war, and this played very badly for him both with his core vote and in the nation at large. So with the wear and tear Blair has suffered from 8 years in the job, he is not the strong young contender he once was. The Iraq war has tarnished his once-golden image, and he is often accused of autocracy. The UK media have made much play of the feud between Blair and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the UK "Finance Secretary") Gordon Brown, Labour's number 2. Nonetheless the UK economy has been good under Labour, prices stable, inflation low, and whatever the criticisms of media spin and King Blair, they have been in general effective managers. Will disenchantment with Labour and Blair's public lies end King Tony's reign? Probably not, though there are doubts undermining Blair's grip on power. But there are also veiled reassurances, and heavyweight contenders for the role of National Leader waiting in the wings. Like Gordon Brown.

Michael Howard the Conservative leader was unpopular when he served as Home Secretary under Thatcher, and he has a sinister air about him that even loyal Conservatives such as Anne Widdecombe (left) have publicly mentioned, so his chances of getting in are slim. But, over a third of the UK identify with the right, and older voters tend to a. vote and b. vote conservative. With voter apathy (41% nationally don't bother), the fact he is the most effective fighter the Conservatives have had in 8 years, and with a protest vote against the war anticipated, Howard's chances are boosted. Howard must also be credited for stilling the dissent in the party and moving the contentious issue of Europe to page 27 of a 28 page manifesto. Still the chance of Conservative implosion is also there - if Howard's strategy fails, the Conservatives could see their vote diminish still further and be replaced by the Liberal Democrats as Her Majesty's Opposition.

Charles Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats already present themselves as the real alternative but are hindered by the first-past-the-post voting system which in any other form of modern democracy would give them 21% of 646, far more representation than the few seats they usually have. Nonetheless the Liberals are a real presence in local government, and in Scotland where the voting system IS fairer, they play a key role. In many ways, the LibDems are further to the left than Labour, especially with regard to their stances on civil liberties, drug and tax reform, and as Labour support ebbs, they look to be doing well this time around. The LibDems are a spending party though and this is said to count against them. They state plainly that they will raise tax and the mantra is that no party since the war has been elected on a tax-raising platform. Generally speaking, LibDems take votes from Labour, not the Conservatives, so this is something else that worries the incumbents.

There are small parties around who are eroding the dominance of these three, the Green Party foremost among them, and independents make up a growing share of the vote. All this adds up to reduced power for Labour, if not an election defeat.

Chances are that a weakening economy will make voters cautious about handing power to politicians who have not had it for the best part of a decade, and it seems that Howard's mad-eyed and rather shrill scare-mongering about immigration is falling on deaf ears. But Blair is finding this election a much tougher prospect than the previous two, and 5th May 2005, a Labour MP's Westminster job is no longer quite such a secure one.

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New Labour Pope

Peter Blake, Labour Voting English Artist, Is New Pope.

"I knew I'd done the Sgt Peppers sleeve, but I didn't know I was a Roman Catholic Cardinal. Then there was a puff of white smoke, and I found myself here at the Vatican. It's a miracle." he said earlier today.

Peter will remain in Rome with his family while he decides what to do. "I've had my eye on the Sistine Chapel for a while," he said. "I may move here. I might move the Church to England. It's just too early to say." - Blaggernews.

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Monday, April 18, 2005

You Must Think I Have Lost My Mind

I have been looking very seriously at the UK Election. Which is strange, being a situationist artist. Yet, being a pisces, it's my nature to swim against the current. While everybody else is drawing back, in distaste as much as anything, the election geared towards the million floating voters in key marginals that the politicians care about, with the overall vote plummeting to under 59%, I am by contrast engaging enthusiastically with the process in a frankly uncharacteristic way, assuming that I can make a difference, and making it my bounden and totally unpaid duty to be a journalist in the meeja sense of the word.

So I may have become boring as hell, but I have maintained tight control over my bodily and mental functioning you will be pleased to hear. And in the fixated obsessions of party political minutiae lies intrigue, accusations, posters of Freddie Ljungberg.

I interviewed Bridget Fox this afternoon. Since LibDem HQ is 3 floors above Tory HQ in the same bland office building in St Pauls Road, I also met the Conservative candidate Melanie McLean today, and I am happy to say she too agreed to an interview. Tomorrow is the last day that candidates can enter this election, so I will finally have a finite list, and large sighs of relief will be heard echoing in my sock drawer and beyond, into the blanket cupboard.

I wonder if Jesus "The Hat" Shipphams will stand this time for the Islington Dental Party. He means well, and he's good on the beach, but he smells so much of rotten fish it's hard to keep it polite on the doorstep.

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Interview with Emily Thornberry

I stuck the interview with Emily Thornberry online. I'm going to post the write up later.

I promised I will explain UK politics for confused americans, and you can look forward to that next week, plus more interviews with the other candidates and some fun which can only be described as such because it is fun.

Speaking of which, Mr IG sent me his splendid Conservative posters:




This is putting the revolution at the disposal of poetry.

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Xenophobia, Apathy

I was finally able yesterday to meet Emily Thornberry yesterday. I accompanied her as she knocked on doors two blocks from my place, and I got to interview her which will (once I have had a chance to edit it) appear here. Less than 3 weeks to go and the two main flavours of this election so far seem to be Michael Howard's xenophobic campaign and voter apathy. The Conservative strategy is so easy to mock (make your own poster here) but apathy is far more difficult to counter.

I had 3 hours to chat with Emily and her able assistant John as we stomped the streets of Islington's social housing. The delay was caused by her participation in a Labour press conference with Gordon Brown, on one of Labour's successes, Surestart, which has put money into early child development. A noble effort, helping the young citizens of Britain to be less stupid. I watched the news later to see if I could spot her, but the edit was merciless, not even Gordon got a speaking part, and I only recognised her in a long shot and a half-second cream-suited exit.

I'm going to work on writing a full account of yesterday's mission. For now suffice to say, Emily was very helpful and charming, and I was more than happy with the interview. The only dumb thing I did was call her Emma as soon as the DAT was recording. I'm still trying to blush.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Mr Chambio's Take

I am waiting for John Greenshields to call me. I was on my way to Jessops to pick up my new camcorder and he called just as I was thinking to myself, is this really going to happen at 11am? Then he called and said, rather seriously, We Have A Ministerial Visit. We Had A Call Late Last Night. We Will Not Be There At Eleven. We May Be There At Twelve. I Will Call You. In fact, we are 2 hours later than that, and he hasn't called or replied to my text. So I am going to watch the 1pm BBC TV news, and tell you what Mr Chambio told me.

I told Mr C what I was about to do as I picked up my smart trousers, and said to him, actually, I am a little nervous. "Nervous? Nervous? Why you nervous? You don't have to be nervous. Remember: all people have power. She can kiss your funky ass." I smiled at this. He then said, "Remember: they need you, these people." I said, sure, but people are disappointed after the war. He said, "You know why the war happened? It's for economic reasons, the war, nothing to do with Saddam, or even the oil. They can take down anyone they like, the Americans. They don't need Britain, they don't need anyone."

"It's just like jeans," he continued, a smile on his face. "You remember when they came in?" I explained, no for me, they have always been there. "I used to be a tailor. When jeans came, they were big and flared. Then they went narrow. We had to sell the old jeans off cheap, just get rid of them, to put the new jeans on the shelf. It's the same with bombs. They wanted to get rid of old ones. They cannot store them, they have to dump them, or use them. The Americans have big bases in Italy. They drop old bombs into the sea all the time, the fishermen always find them. They just want to empty the depots. They need to make the factories produce new missiles. So they find a place to let them go. Why not Iraq? Why not Serbia? You remember Milosovic? How many of those bombs were smart bombs, modern? Less than 5%. The military just want to upgrade their product. My brother-in-law in America has a factory just making the conical tips of missiles, just the front metal bit. He is now working 24/7, just like he was in 1991, the Gulf War. He couldn't even come to my grandson's birthday party, last month, my wife went there. He is working so hard."

He paused and we both looked out the window at the Holloway Road. "The economy is not good. Soon people here will realise, but I am already seeing it - it's Friday, should be busy. Where are the people?"

He's right, the economy is not as healthy as it has been, even with low inflation, things cost more, we make less, and it is all linked to the war which cost this nation 5 billion Great British Pounds. One of our few remaining car manufacturing companies has gone bust - we haven't seen that kind of news in a while. That's 6,000+ people without jobs. This social and political timebomb the next government will have to deal with, whatever its political complexion.

Mr C wished me well, and I was glad to have remembered to pick up my cleaned and mended trousers, and happy to pay him.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Female, Christian, Liberal

Just had my first conversation with Bridget Fox. She was charming and helpful. I asked her whether the Liberal party really were paying people to erect posters. I told her about CAT's comments. She laughed and reminded me that it was a marginal seat. She didn't categorically deny it, but then, I didn't ask her to categorically deny it. We have a date on Monday afternoon. I'll mention the posters then, on the record. See how canny I have become? It's a direct result of the situationist training I have been doing. Let me know what else you want me to ask her. Do we need anything at the Liberal Democrat shop?

I'm off to Jessops tomorrow morning to pick up a proper replacement camcorder, then tomorrow morning, on the stump with Labour, where I will meet Emily, the would-be inheritor of Chris Smith's crown.

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Underneath the Pavement Lies the Beach

This is something I have wanted to do for a while, write on a train. They somehow make me feel connected to history, memories of old films and other journeys replaying as we shift along the track, metal on metal. I really like trains when they go through tunnels. Those of us less than 30 years old will probably not remember the time when censorship caused ridiculous visual metaphors to be used in place of hardcore sex, so in place of vinegar strokes over hips, you had vinegar soaked over chips. I also like trains that take me out of London, and especially when they take me south to the sea, which is after all, everybody's home, given the chance.

I am pleased with the work I have done setting up "Five". Hopefully now I can carry on the Blog of Funk in it's funky blogness without having to compromise my syncopation and off-beat rhythms, at the same time as representing and being part of the explosion of independent media coverage of the election, of which blogging is a part.

Having attended artschool in the 80s I have a dread of all art about art, and so, blogging about blogging doesn't appeal to me that much. But using blogs for different reasons and purposes, extending the reach, developing the form of interactive publishing, me like. Five is bloggingly blogworthy in its utter blogginess, and I hope helps to reinforce the right of citizens to report freely on whatever they choose.

I anticipate that this election will prove a worthy test of the nation's resolve to report accurately on it's ability to govern itself, as much as a test of my ability to stand closer to the heat of the political kitchen.

I am also testing the strength of my family conditioning not to take part in politics, which is a good thing. How long can you live a life ruled by fear? Too long! But it isn't just maternal conditioning that I am personally addressing by dealing with politics, it's the conditioning of the academy, which taught me to disengage.

I decided to put the revolution at the disposal of poetry. That is something I can do immediately. It's situationist. I've adopted it as my rallying cry. You'll hear it soon in a street near you.

With these fine words, I am summoning up as much force of will as I can muster, to strengthen myself in anticipation of being easy meat for the hellcats of doom who would seek earthly power and dominion over us. I'm sorry, I meant to say, for the politicians.

What they don't realise is that I was Gaugin in a previous life, frolicking daily with smiling curvaceous island girls, careless of my western diseases, pretending Van Gogh was always the mad one, dreaming of taking my revenge on the salons of Paris, and all the while painting, painting, painting.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Bridget Says Yes

Got an email from Bridget Fox, my local Liberal candidate, saying very nicely, yes, she will of course meet me for an interview, and also a comment from Cat, a local Liberal supporter, in this previous post, who seeks to correct the information given me by John in Emily Thornberry's Labour office re: the Libs paying for posters to be erected. No, he says, it's all volunteers. Controversy! Are they paid, are they not? Is Labour spreading vicious rumours?

I think I have my first line of local enquiry.

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Greens Are Go!

James Humphreys from the Green Party sent me a very friendly email - looks like I will be able to meet him next Monday.

Having stayed up until 1am to get this political blog set up, I am now feeling the need for a full body massage. I may be able to get that in Brighton, where Chicken Yoghurt is based. I am going to have to take the camcorder back to Jessops though - it is a lesser machine than the one that broke. I wrote:

"Dear XXXXX,

I appreciate the effort in order to provide me with a camera for the work I am doing, but I have picked up the GR-D290ek from Jessops, Islington, and this is not a sufficient replacement for my old JVC. I won't be able to use the camera offered.

I am viewing video now which is from my old camera, against the new one. In the newer model, the video is worse, and the sound is less accurate.

Other than that, the look of this thing (which is near-impossible to judge from images online) is so "cosmetic", for the kind of work I want to do, I cannot use this camera. I would never have bought this camera in a shop. I need something neat and professional looking so that I can conduct serious interviews. This camcorder is for handbags and birthday parties only.

When we spoke on Friday, you mentioned a price differential which, for the purposes of getting a camera to use this week, I accepted. You described this as a 200 pound difference reflecting the camcorder's depreciation since purchase., April 2003. However, the receipt I have been given says £379.99 and my old receipt is for £599.90.

I think this is too much a differential, given the quality drop of the model from the 70 to the 90, and the lack of usage of the camcorder since purchase because of the time it spent in repair.

I therefore expect either a replacement which matches the old camcorder in quality, or else full and proper financial compensation for the faulty goods which Jessops sold me.


OK, I don't mind handbags, and I like birthday parties. But the replacement is utter shite, a far lesser model. I was cross, alright? Leave me alone or take your clothes off. Grrrr.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Tribalism, Journalism

I have been thinking very hard about my tribes, who they are, where they are, why I belong to them. Also about writing my journal (since that is what this is) and the fact that it makes me a journalist, in the true, old-fashioned sense of the word.

Thankfully my tribe consists of real people of intelligence, beauty and talent. If only the world were run on our lines, to our high funky standards, public life would be a place of majesty, trust and dignity, with a wicked backbeat.

I've joined Global Voices. Here's the draft manifesto.

In their "how to" add your blog, they say, use Nepal as an example. Unless Nepal is actually leading the world in viagra production, they have been rather severely spammed.

Then, if you want to add your blog, it says:

Please note that all contributions to Global Voices are considered to be released under the GNU Free Documentation License (see Global Voices:Copyrights for details). If you don't want your writing to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at will, then don't submit it here. You are also promising us that you wrote this yourself, or copied it from a public domain or similar free resource. DO NOT SUBMIT COPYRIGHTED WORK WITHOUT PERMISSION!


Actually, this blog is published under this license. So I can't submit it here. I'll have to start a blog specifically to enter Global Voices, or my work will be subjected to abuse. These stupid people and their stupid penis pills. I'm sure one day, I'll be lying bleeding in the road, hoping the ambulance gets here in time, and looking up at the night sky, I'll see "get phentermine" "cheapest online tramadol" "propoxyphene or darvocet or alprazolam" just as my eyes start to fade...

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Funk On The Stump

I have just received a call from John Greenshields, who is working for Emily Thornberry. He has invited me to go canvassing with them on Friday, 11-1pm, at a local housing estate. Then I will be able to interview Emily and assess her as a candidate for my vote.

I am feeling a little bit nervous, since aside from being a parliamentary candidate, Emily is a criminal lawyer, and I am the secret and invisible available in all colours. Which colours, she will ask, and why are they not visible? Just to make sure they knew I wasn't going to write a lot of misquotes, I told them that I hadn't had my Vote Labour poster yet.

John was nice on the phone, cheerful and helpful, and I noticed how he described the other parties candidates respectfully, even referring to the Conservative candidate, Melanie McLean (right) as "lovely". The Labour movement is full of volunteers and members, he said, whereas the Liberals just ran it like a business. Liberals are paying people to erect posters on sticks at the garden gates of their supporters. I thought they were quick off the mark.

James Humphreys (left) is the local Green Party candidate, and they launched their manifesto today. Green is the only vote I ever cast that wasn't Labour, so I am interested in this party particularly. Although they won't get more than a handful of votes in a general election, I am happy that their politics are greening the other parties, who unfailingly retort that they have ALWAYS been Green. But then, they would say that, wouldn't they? It will have a bearing on my vote whether or not the candidates are credible in this area.

I have found a website, courtesy of Probably the Best Blog in the World, which proclaims: Blair Out, Labour In: It IS Possible. I strongly suspect the "protest vote" socialism it purports to be is in fact a divisive right-wing scam designed to leech the Labour vote - but if you are confused by British politics, or even pissed off at anything in particular at the moment, and have a computer with sound, check out this flash movie.

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Bridget the Fox

Here's Bridget. She's a fox. She came to my little block yesterday, but I missed her by 5 minutes. Instead, a bespectacled bearded guy in his 50s, wearing freshly laundered cream corduroy trousers, but who frankly nonetheless smelled a little stale, knocked on the door, and I chatted with him. I wish I had recorded the conversation - he was a stereotypical Liberal with a big
L


He told me he was a painter - I believed him - and asked what I was, so I said, I am a writer. He said he had done some writing, asked me how I made money. I said, writing songs. He looked confused. I said, writing articles, copy. He still looked puzzled. I said, I used to work for the government providing children with drugs literature, harm reduction material. He looked somewhat disappointed, so I pinned him to the spot with a cool stare and said,

"When the muse strikes, it is though I can hear, see, feel nothing else
It flows through me and resides in me,
and I am but a slave to its whims
I write almost unaware of my actions,
a conduit, a vessel
I am carried endlessly within,
and yet travel further out than any man can go
This world becomes temporarily a pale imitation of the real world,
which is inspiration
The next world loses all fear for me,
for I am lucky enough to have dwelt there
even in this one"


His eyebrows (which were both gloriously expressive and rather delicate) raised to reveal soft eyes twinkling in surprise at my passion. He nodded slowly, I see, I see...

Anyway, this gentleman, though not someone I would stand next to for over 5 minutes, unless I was in a pub and anaesthetised by beer and the resident redolent honk of cleaning agents, stale piss and old tobacco, was courteous and seemingly genuinely interested in my plea for access to the candidate. He took my card (yes, I have a card, which says: I AM THE SECRET AND INVISIBLE AVAILABLE IN ALL COLOURS) and telephone number, and assured me that Bridget would get in touch.

In local government, the Liberals do well here, but to they will have to overturn a 26% majority to win this parliamentary seat from Labour. The Conservatives haven't chance in this constituency, I am glad to say, and I am not letting them or their representatives, sorry, apologists, anywhere near my new supplies of chocolate.



NB: Fear not, dear foreign readers, several of whom have requested some enlightenment regarding the arcane British political system. This will come. You'll all soon be eagerly queuing to emigrate here, just for the glory of voting for the Mother of all Parliaments.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Brillo Campaign

After enjoying a huge breakfast of Toblerone and tea, I spent some of this morning watching Andrew Neil on the BBC's Daily Politics show, and there was an interesting piece on cybersquatting - the Labour party have employed the man who set up gwbush.com and bought a dozen Howard-related domains, and the Liberals (apparently) have bought the Welsh Nationalist party name plaidcymru.co.uk. Dirty internet tricks here we come.

The political campaigns are underway after the funeral of the Pope and the marriage of Chas and Camilla, and I have already seen television which has made me cringe. Blair is repeating the formulas which have elected and re-elected him and his party. I saw him framed in pale pink, mouthing the old mantra "education, education, education" - but try as he clearly did to enjoy the moment, it seemed appallingly false, out-dated. These are no laurels to rest upon, repetition implies a dearth of energy and reinforces the boredom, and I just thought, yes yes, we know that - what else have you got? What a dumb strategy.

Michael Howard on the other hand is well prepared for his one chance at being Prime Minister, to the extent of removing the obvious right-wing nutcases (John Redwood et al) in his team from the platform during his very personal launch of the Conservative manifesto this morning. You can shoot the Conservative manifesto down in two seconds, with it's claim to lower taxes, increase public spending AND reduce national debt, but I don't think that is going to matter. It's a very thin tome, but then, it's not going to be widely read, so why waste money? Television, radio, newpapers, these are the battle grounds.

He's clever Howard, he's scrubbed away at the tarnish, removing from sight the obvious Tory defects and disunities. Europe (they are still split down the middle) only merits brief mention on page 27 of their 28-page manifesto. He is taking advice from an Australian and also imitating Bush with his rather evangelical wide-eyed phrases, like his "Battle for Britain" (note FOR not OF) and capitalising on the Blair boredom-factor. He keeps repeating lines about Blair's "smirk", throwing mud at the famously cheery fizzog by attributing arrogance to it. It was the same in Blair's first (successful) general election campaign as Labour leader - the Tories used the famous "demon eyes" posters - widely derided and probably counter-productive at the time - but that was then. Now, Howard is in charge, and he's gunning for Blair in person, weakened as he is by events beyond his control, and playing the old nationalist cards of immigration, racial stereotyping, and xenophobia to galvanise the old Tory activists and get the curmudgeonly vote out.

However cleanly scrubbed he and the Cons now are, will Howard be able to erase the memory of the Poll Tax, which he brought in, the most unfair and unpopular law enacted in recent times, which caused riots in the streets, which ultimately brought down Thatcher?

It's going to come down to soundbites, as always, the right wing playing old tunes that we all know and detest on strings of national prejudice and fear.



My normal reaction would be to withdraw, but this time I am determined to stay and observe. I will need the chocolate.

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Sunday, April 10, 2005

Chocolate Video News

I am feeling thrifty after two days with Swiss guys, and also, chocolately sated.

Jessops have agreed to replace my JVC DV Cam. It froze, flashed a blue screen saying "CONDENSATION" - and kind of got stuck there - it was like a software thing, I figured, because the hardware was stored in a dry, room temperature cabinet, and I haven't been in a swamp recently. The manual said, "wait several hours" - I waited several days. It came back fixed and promptly went wrong again. I explained I had some urgent work to do, some comedy to film.

I go tomorrow morning to the shop to pick up the new cam. I have to find the box, cables, remote, original receipt, etc.

Lucky I still have them then.

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Saturday, April 09, 2005

More Songs About Emily And Food

Found this interesting resource - http://sonowwhodowevotefor.net. Debate about whether she is pro- or anti-war/Blair. We'll see.

She's a lawyer, previously stood in Canterbury. Her CV is here.

Emily is trying to win #8 in the list of Labour target seats, and her main rival, Bridget Fox, is going for #71 for the Liberals. Bridget is very definitely the one to contact next.

Egad. I am still worrying about being a minnow in amongst the sharks. I may yet call for back up. Be ready.

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Friday, April 08, 2005

Husky, Suspicious, Friendly

I had a telephone conversation with my local Labour party candidate, Emily Thornberry. Having left a noisy Kings Cross pub, The Lincoln, in order to take her call, frankly, I blathered.

Emily has a husky smoky voice, shall we say, well worn. Attractive. Worldly. But she was very suspicious, asking who we were doing it for. I found myself in a freezing windy dark street, attempting to explain independent internet community journalism.

I spoke rapidly, gave my credentials, said she could review our coverage before we hit the publish button. I explained as best as I could what we were doing, and asked her for an interview. I made a fair job of it, I'm pretty certain I got it. Her colleague John Greenshield? Greenfield? is going to call me and sort out a time, she said. I think she got that I am for real, but I found myself telling her I WAS for real, and that she could check me out, if only she sent me an email, I'd send her the info.

Before I got off the phone, I told her nobody was answering emails. I asked her if she had anything online - she doesn't yet. When she does, I'll link to it.

That's a relief. I think if we can talk to Emily, we'll get all the others.

I guess I'll find out over the next couple of days if she means it or not.

Damn, it's making me jumpy.

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Stupid Habits

When I was young, I thought I would remove the things about myself I didn't like. I could see that I had various habits, peculiarities of behaviour, loops, repeated patterns, and had this idealised version of me that I held the contemporary version up to for comparison. What a waste of time. It just doesn't work that way. Self-denigration was masquerading as self-improvement, and eventually I noticed. I became funky as a result.

I still have this stupid habit of giving myself unachievably high targets. It's one thing to be ambitious, but quite another to attempt the impossible. But I think I have really done it, this time. I set myself the task of meeting and interviewing all the prospective MPs for the constituency of Islington South and Finsbury, over the next 4 weeks leading up to our national elections. I think this one is going to be slightly more difficult than setting up a bass player with a date, if you know what I mean.

Then there is the stupid habit of my political loyalty. I've voted Labour, with one (local government) exception all my life.

My maternal grandfather Fred was a zealous socialist in the 1920s, a much-loved and respected Labour councillor and alderman.

In precise social and historical terms, my mother, who had studied the English Civil War for her teaching qualification, carefully educated me in the value of the Labour movement, with the added benfit of her personal experience. As a child, she would recall, all the family walked the streets on election day, ringing bells and shouting, to get the vote out. Yet her descriptions of the dark and spiteful world of of Politics convinced me that it was a place I wouldn't want to inhabit. Fred should have been Mayor, she said, but they stitched him up in revenge. He'd embarassed some people, exposed a health hazard, saved lives, won the affection of the people, but made enemies. Years they waited, to pass him over for Mayor when his turn came. My mother never forgave them this slight.

As a consequence, I share the family passion for politics, but seeing the spirit of Fred in me, my mother successfuly weeded out all desire in me to be a politician. Its one of the few bits of blatant conditioning I thank her for.

1997, Labour swept into power after 18 years of Conservative recession, injustice, social unrest, betrayal and public deceit, and I gave thanks and praise along with the nation. Thank God, I thought then, at last a chance to fix things, to put things right. Everything and this is no exaggeration, was falling apart, and Labour have done a lot, even if they (like everyone) promise to do more than they can and put a brave face on their failures. But Blair did one BIG STUPID thing. Went to war, and lied blatantly about the reason for doing it.

Here we are in 2005, 8 years on, and I am questioning my stupid Labour loyalty. Also, having yesterday called the agent of the local Labour candidate Emily Thornberry, I am still waiting for her to call me back.

I am regretting my choice of subject already.

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

This Month Half Price

April has been drip-drip-dripping its showers upon me. In the big streets of old London I have been so enjoying the rapid confusions of our mad island weather that I quite forget to yearn for warmer climes, a place where aching cold bones are eased, marijuana grows wild, and clothing is a decoration. I have a mickey-mouse umbrella, which isn't to say it is a lesser piece of apparatus. It springs out and unfolds like a black rainflower, and as it joins the parade of eye-removing walking shelters, the mouse motif shines out boldly. I rather like the idea of hiding underneath a naive fascist emblem, it makes me feel insurgent and alive.

I have been so enjoying my study of lyrics over the past 3 weeks. One lyric has led to another so smoothly and inevitably, the texts criss-crossing and referring backwards and forwards like the rails coming into and exiting Clapham Junction, which for a long time held the honour of being the world's busiest railway station, but which is now sadly superceded by a more modern and no-doubt safer Asian railway. I had more lyrics in mind, artists whose writing I wanted to quote and elucidate upon and use to cast a light or throw a moody shadow upon various episodes of my own track. But, something has occurred which means that I cannot continue in this theme, which as the observant among you will have deduced runs from mid-month to mid-month. I must cut it short and move swiftly on to the next destination.

All because of this man.

He is evil. He is clever. He is hungry. He wants to ruin my life, and those around me. More at this time I cannot say, except that I cannot stand by and watch a protest against the war from good-hearted Labour supporters, plus voter apathy, let the most vindictive man in politics become leader of this country. I know it's going to be a close run thing. I cannot stand idly by. Every red socialist bloodcell in my body has been animated. We must act collectively, immediately, or we will lose everything we have gained.

So, Ladies, Gentlemen, and those of other genders and stranger persuasions, those of the night and those of the day, this month I will mostly be writing about politics.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

That Was Then

...but this is now...

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Pop Goes The Weasel




This charming playschool ditty actually describes the poverty and working conditions of the 17th century in North London. Straight Dope's Tom Miller researched and compares various versions of the tune (reproduced here by kind permission) :

"...in North America, the opening line was generally "all around the mulberry bush," possibly due to conflation with the similar tune "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush." In the UK, however, it was usually "all around the cobbler's bench." This gives us a better idea of the song's original meaning. Most authorities think "Pop Goes the Weasel" describes the acts of weaving, spinning, and sewing. A weasel, Tom reports, was a mechanism used by tailors, cobblers, and hatters that "popped" when the spool was full of thread.

Some argue that to pop the weasel is also cockney slang meaning to pawn one's coat. This makes sense in light of the second verse of the kids' version: "A penny for a spool of thread / A penny for a needle / That's the way the money goes," etc. A version popular in 19th-century English music halls makes things even clearer: "Up and down the City Road / In and out the Eagle / That's the way the money goes," etc. The Eagle in question was a London tavern; clearly the lyricist was describing the consequences of spending too little time at the cobbler's bench and too much on a barstool."


The Eagle pub, Old Street, is at the other end of City Road, which leads downhill from Islington, where I live. I went for a power breakfast with DB and took these early-ish morning shots. I reproduce the lyric here in its full London glory:

Pop Goes The Weasel

All around the cobbler's bench
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought 'twas all in fun.
Pop! goes the weasel.

A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle.
That's the way the money goes.
Pop! goes the weasel.

Up and down the City Road,
In and out of the Eagle,
That's the way the money goes.
Pop! goes the weasel.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
Mix it up and make it nice,
Pop! goes the weasel.


Anon

It's remarkably well known, this lyric, and pops up all over the place. Having read The Wind in the Willows as a child, I found weasels quite frightening, the evil chavs of the story, dirty, immoral, quick to steal and threaten with their sharp teeth. The rice and treacle sounded nice though, and we always got a laugh from testing the adults ear-tolerance, singchanting the rhyme sweetly in chorus, la la la la laaaa la, then all yelling POP! as loud as we possibly could in each verse.

Then we would stage-dive, mosh, and dance like chickens. But that was more because we were held captive by our adult "minders" and wanted to convince them we were harmless buffoons. It worked! We escaped. I grew up to drink beer and repeat the process naked with several members of the opposite gender and cameras present. Innocent days indeed.

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Monday, April 04, 2005

The Object of My Affection

Gentle readers; in my recent examination, extrapolation and review of lyrics, I have come across a mystery which, for a change, may only be solved by reverting to that mightiest of institutions, the Library. The subject which has exposed the internet for the fast but often superficial information fix that it is? Jimmie Greer.

Jimmie Greer wrote, or co-wrote, several songs in the 1930s depression era, including, Stay Sweet As You Are, What's the Reason (I'm Not Pleasin' You?) (Jimmie Greer / Coe H. Poe / Pinky Tomlin) and my personal favourite, The Object of My Affection. He may have written Here or There (Greer / Davis), but that might have been Sonny Greer, Duke Ellington's drummer. He is connected to Fats Waller's 1930s outfit, and Bing Crosby somehow. I've worked out that it definitely wasn't Jim Greer, Jim Greer or Jim Greer the A.I. computer scientist, whose smiling face is featured above. Thanks, Jim, for standing in at a moment's notice.

One problem with internet research is that it favours any modern Jim Greer over a pre-internet era Jimmie Greer, whatever the cultural value. Keyword searches are weighted so much by contemporary popularity, or in other words, by what every fool wants to ramble on about and commit to web for whatever reason these days, that they bring up a million results that have nothing to do with Jimmie (Songwriter of the 1930s) Greer and his life.

In my soon-to-be-well-known book "Top 811 Guiding Principles of Being Creative" (Pan Fried Publishing, 2005), number 3 is: personal connection. The mindbone must be personally connected to the handbone, and the handbone must be personally connected to the penbone (or keyboardbone), and the penbone must be personally connected to the subjectbone, and then and only then, anyone hear the word of Lord. Sadly though, although his songs connect with me and my life, I don't hear any word about Jimmie, from the Lord or otherwise, and so, for now, here at the Blog of Funk, this ignorance will remain lamented, even as his songs continue to be celebrated and sung.

Songs generally sell well in a depression. When the shit hits the fan, the share prices plummet, and the economy takes a dive without a breath and doesn't come back up, then songs are sometimes all we have to keep us from despair. Songwriters know all about this. There are a few individuals in the songwriters' fraternity who write smash hits and never need work again, but believe me, these are the exceptions, and for every one of those numinous beings, there are ten thousand grafting away at the songfactory. Even a huge hit doesn't avoid the financial ruination of the taxman, unwise choices of leisure activity, and that expensive marriage / divorce, and many is the time I have heard of, and known, surprisingly wealthy songwriters being on their uppers once again. The rollercoaster of the economy exactly matches the ups and downs of the creative life.

One such time, long, long ago, I was in a period of pretty much dire poverty and I could only afford to buy junk shop vinyl. I like to browse these places anyway, looking for lost gems, and paying 50 pence for a masterpiece, so it wasn't a bad experience for me. Just the lack of cash and zero opportunity for making any was grinding. In any case, I came across a Stereo Fidelity Record, manufactured by Miller International Co., Media, Penn., USA - Songs That Brought Sunshine Into The Depression by the Hollywood Sound Stage Chorus, including this chirpy and gorgeous number by Jimmie "Gimme" Greer.

Six months later I had sampled it and was sitting with Paul from Morcheeba in Capitol Records, London, playing our tune to an A&R man, but that's another story.

In that recession of '92, I had sampled the recording but not really heard it. Years later, richer times, as I picked throught the scattered shards of a too brittle scene that had fallen and shattered, I re-found that LP. It's sweet lilt and innocence finally seduced me now the bird had flown, and with it my hopes. The lyrics of this song echoed in my mind as loud as a bankrupt's larder.

I am a funky phoenix. I danced out of the flames moving my butt adroitly and with some enthusiasm, until the fire was embers, and ready for the cooking pot.

The Object of My Affection

The object of my affection
Can change my complexion
From white to rosy red
Anytime he holds my hand and tells me that he's mine

There are many boys who can thrill me
And some who can chill me
But I'll just hang around
And keep acting like a clown
Until he says he's mine

Now I'm not afraid that he'll leave me
He's not the kind who takes a dare
But instead I trust him implicitly
He can go where he wants to go
Do what he wants to do
I don't care

Repeat:
The object of my affection
Can change my complexion
From white to rosy red
Anytime he holds my hand and tells me that he's mine


Jimmie "Who IS He?" Greer

NB: If anyone can enlighten me as to Jimmie Greer and the particulars of his life, I'd be very grateful. If Blogger comments are not working as per usual, please send email to deek[dot]deekster[at]gmail[dot]com.

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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Television

I wouldn't say I was a proud man, I am just too damn funky for that, but I pride myself on several things. One of them is sitting here, right in front of me now. The television set. I am not watching it. I am the kind of person to turn on a TV to watch a program, then turn it off. Call me mad, but that's what I do. I even hit mute during the ads.

Nudity, passionate dialogue, ecstatic applause, urgent commentary, dramatic music, fireball explosions, adverts, all mean nothing to me. You see, TV can only keep me if I give it my attention, which is something I guard jealously, like a farmer guards his prize parsnip.

I read that film and TV are USA's biggest export, yet it's clear from the outside that American mass media in general, and television in particular, is responsible for all known evils. Obesity, gun crime, racism, drugs, sexually transmitted diseases, the deterioration of "family values", you name it, either left or right accuse program makers, the networks, and each other of failing to provide. More choice is no choice. Public service is a foreign concept. Shopping channels, porn channels, music channels, news channels, all of it dumbed down, partial and corrupt. The biggest difference being that over here (Europe) we can generally spot the bias or the lack of hard information, whereas in America, the vast majority of the population seem to trust it.

This is the truly shocking part about it. Politicians use TV as adeptly as a table magician uses a deck of cards. While the population gawps at some emotive but utterly minor life-or-death drama, really bad news, about Iraq, about the retaliatory 15% tax the rest of the industrialised world has just slapped on all US exports, about carbon emissions rising, goes unnoticed.

Thankfully, American musicians being the literate intelligent and expressive folk they are, have got this national obsession taped.

I'm The Slime

I am gross and perverted
I'm obsessed 'n deranged
I have existed for years
But very little has changed
I'm the tool of the Government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you

I may be vile and pernicious
But you can't look away
I make you think I'm delicious
With the stuff that I say
I'm the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I'm the slime oozin' out
From your TV set

You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don't need you
Don't go for help . . . no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold

That's right, folks . . .
Don't touch that dial

Well, I am the slime from your video
Oozin' along on your livin' room floor

I am the slime from your video
Can't stop the slime, people, lookit me go

I am the slime from your video
Oozin' along on your livin' room floor

I am the slime from your video
Can't stop the slime, people, lookit me go


Frank Zappa


Now we have trapped the Beast, we are still witnessing some movement in the limbs. We simply are not sure if this indicates pain or pleasure, death throes or the orgasm of confinement. It may require a breeding program to converge it with new forms of media, but we do not sufficient information at this point to make that judgement. As it thrashes around, we assume it will continue to be dangerous, and we will attempt to prevent it replicating.

Mr Scott-Heron, please, explain how it is.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
bbout a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver's seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.


Gil Scott-Heron


People tell me that there is a thing called a TiVo, which collects TV like a bee collects nectar, removing the impurities and distilling it into the finest fragrant televisual honey, to be spread upon the bread of your leisure time when you experience gogglebox hunger. I don't believe this can possibly be true. Surely, this can only be concentrating the endless stream of TV into easy-to-swallow tasteless pre-wrapped pellets, which will pass painlessly through your mental digestive system, giving no dangerous cultural indigestion whatsoever? And if it does have a taste, is this not more insidious, separating the clots from the clot-nots, the tiny amount of cream from the gallons of rancid milk, congesting our mental arteries with The Sopranos and Six Feet Under and The Simpsons, and for the elderly and incontinent, re-runs of M.A.S.H.?

We'll be right back after this break:

Television, the Drug of the Nation

one nation
under God
has turned into
one nation under the influence
of one drug

[chorus:]
Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation
(2x)

T.V., it
satellite links
our United States of Unconsciousness
Apathetic therapeutic and extremely addictive
The methadone metronome pumping out
150 channels 24 hours a day
you can flip through all of them
and still there's nothing worth watching
T.V. is the reason why less than 10 per cent of our
Nation reads books daily
Why most people think Central Amerika
means Kansas
Socialism means unamerican
and Apartheid is a new headache remedy
absorbed in it's world it's so hard to find us
It shapes our mind the most
maybe the mother of our Nation
should remind us
that we're sitting too close to...

[Chorus:]
Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation
(2x)

T.V. is
the stomping ground for political candidates
Where bears in the woods
are chased by Grecian Formula'd
bald eagles
T.V. is mechanized politic's
remote control over the masses
co-sponsored by environmentally safe gases
watch for the PBS special
It's the perpetuation of the two party system
where image takes precedence over wisdom
Where sound bite politics are served to
the fastfood culture
Where straight teeth in your mouth
are more important than the words
that come out of it
Race baiting is the way to get selected
Willie Horton or
Will he not get elected on...

[Chorus:]
Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation
(2x)

T.V., is it the reflector or the director?
Does it imitate us
or do we imitate it
because a child watches 1500 murders before he's
twelve years old and we wonder why we've created
a Jason generation that learns to laugh
rather than to abhor the horror
T.V. is the place where
armchair generals and quarterbacks can
experience first hand
the excitement of warfare
as the theme song is sung in the background
Sugar sweet sitcoms
that leave us with a bad actor taste while
pop stars metamorphosize into soda pop stars
You saw the video
You heard the soundtrack
Well now go buy the soft drink
Well, the onla cola that I support
would be a union C.O.L.A.(Cost Of Living Allowance)
On television

[Chorus:]
Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation
(2x)

Back again, "New and improved"
We return to our irregularly programmed schedule
hidden cleverly between heavy breasted
beer and car commercials
CNNESPNABCTNT but mostly B.S.
Where oxymoronic language like
"virtually spotless", "fresh frozen"
"light yet filling" and "military intelligence"
have become standard
T.V. is the place where phrases are redefined
like "recession" to "necessary downturn"
"Crude oil" on a beach to "mousse"
"Civilian death" to "collateral damages"
and being killed by your own Army
is now called "friendly fire"
T.V. is the place where the pursuit
of happiness has become the pursuit of
trivia
Where toothpaste and cars have become
sex objects
Where imagination is sucked out of children
by a cathode ray nipple
T.V. is the only wet nurse
that would create a cripple

[Chorus:]
Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation
(4x)


Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy




For three generations, television has kept us spellbound and passive like primitives in front of the sacrificial fire. Viewing figures do not justify the endless flickering supply of junk TV food served daily. Without some kind of non-commercial standard, common denominators will surely descend lower. My deeper concern is that it's not just BAD television that finally will prove to have destroyed the minds of millions, but television itself.

What revolts me the most about TV, all of it from everywhere, is the sanctimonious attitude of it's practitioners. With grandiose claims to influence, inform, even lead, public opinion, the assumption in the mind of program makers and networks of their own relevance, and of the sublime importance of television in culture, goes largely unchallenged. Not for much longer, though. Another screen is taking over. Rise up with your DV cams and your podcasts, rise, and syndicate.

Of course, I'll be watching at 7pm tonight for episode 2 of Dr Who. But that's different. It's made by the BBC, at least, and it'll be off again when it finishes.

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