Monday, March 14, 2005

and on a related note

Control orders? What the fuck? Are we a nation of idiots? YES. If these people are as guilty of terrorism as we keep implying, or as the government keeps stating, then why do we not put them in court and let a jury decide on the evidence? Could it be because there is no evidence? And if this is the case then why have we been holding these people in Belmarsh for years without trial? And why will we now be holding them under house-arrest without trial? Where is the freedom from tyranny we're supposed to stand for? Where is the justice that we demand from others? Where is the impetus for terrorists to stop because they see us as a just and fair nation, not a big hypocrite denouncing ideological bullying and fascism while we engage in our very own versions of the same.


scared of politics

I've been watching a lot (perhaps all would be a better term here!) of The West Wing recently and it has got me thinking a lot about the political process. On one hand the show gives the feeling that it's a real insider view of the Whitehouse, and consequently gives me great faith in the people running nations: they're smart, they care about the issues they're debating, they work hard. These are the kinds of people I'd put my trust in to run something because, if nothing else, the political process is about trust. On the other hand I can't imagine these characters as real people. Surely they know too much, surely they work too hard? Surely, if all our politicians and their aides were like this they'd be permanently knackered and unable to make any kind of informed decisions? Where is their time for play and sleep? And, if all politics is like this surely we'd have created some kind of utopia by now, these people really seem to know what they're doing. But compare the progressive policies in the show with the Bush government and things don't look so rosy. Compare the work ethic with the recent survey reporting how most British MPs spend their time – disproportionately split between working for the state and private directorships/property deals/writing etc. This comparison hardly inspires confidence, although it does suggest one of the key selling points of the show, like the X-Files we want to believe.

Getting further into the nitty-gritty I'm also worried about the power balance the show implies. Is it really the case that a few close advisors to the president of America can create policy? Although they might be the best advisors in the world it doesn't reflect too favourably on democracy that all of the checks and balances put in place to stop the concentration of power can't prevent this cadre from exorcising their own personal demons. And if this sounds like a dramatic license in the show just consider Iraq – once Bush and Blair and their inner circles were convinced there was nothing the rest of us could do to stop them, be we cabinet ministers or protestors on the streets.

Another idea that comes across in the show is the sheer width and breadth of the issues debated, anything from foreign policy to tax reform. It makes me wonder how much we really know, and the answer seems to be: not much. We happily read the papers and spit out our comments about the issues of the day, but have we read the reports from the relevant government bodies, NGOs, indent experts, personal advisors, lobbyist etc? No, so what makes us think we can have such informed, correct, views? Intuition must have a lot to do with it, but you can't run a country on intuition (although sometimes I think that policies are mostly intuition – the new control orders being a good case in point). There is simply a lot to know, and unless it is your full-time occupation to know this stuff how can we expect to be able to make a fully informed judgement? Which doesn't make me want to trust the government anymore, but does make me want to research the issues that I care about more thoroughly. Perhaps if they made a real fly on the wall documentary about parliament I could spend as much time watching it as I do the West Wing and glean more of an understanding into the real world?

A final, distressing, focus of the show is the media spotlight. I suppose this reflects everything I've just talked about – the complexity, the range of issues, the commitment involved – because all we see of this process are the few stories that appear in the paper or on TV. How many decisions are made that we never even notice? How much of the miniature of governance do we take for granted, how much do we assume? Do we have anyway of knowing except by taking time out to pursue full-time research into the matter? Do we not only trust our politicians too much but our reporters too? And how distressing is it that even the most vital policies can be over-shadowed by reports on the personal life of our MPs? Would I rather read about a policy shift in housing or which MP is having an affair? The latter will sell most papers, but it is to everyone's detriment that it does.

I want to be able to trust our government. I want to believe they're as capable as their fictional counterparts, I understand that running a country is hard. But, despite this knowledge of a lack of knowledge, I don't. Further, I wonder if I ever could trust any government, even if it was one I voted for, because I know what people are like.

Friday, March 04, 2005

trust to luck

Very exciting day today. When I was on campus the other week checking out PhDs one of the staff mentioned, after seeing some of my interests, that he was interested in getting some web design done. I went to see him today, expecting him to outline a few pages about his research, give me some material to take home and chuck me a bit of cash for a couple of days work. But no, he has a big project planned (although those plans are still a little hazy), so he wants to hire me for 4 weeks! It's great, I'll actually be doing a job that's interesting and getting paid for the privilege. On top of that I'll get around to learning loads of web design stuff that I've been meaning to look at for a while (I've already brushed the dust off the php book that has been sat on my shelf for 3 years), and read about some interesting new physics - semiconductor spintronics if anyone else is interested. No doubt you'll all hear far too much more about this over the coming weeks...

I've also spent the last couple of days putting together and printing my dreamscapes stuff into an A5 booklet as a companion piece to morgue. I finished the master copy last night and took it to the copiers today. More of that on Monday when I pick them up.

And I've printed my I QUIT note for work to hand in tomorrow.

And I've even had a wash.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

not really sticking it to the man

right, my contentious rant is back online... with a big disclaimer.

seeing signs

Went to a place to see some snowdrops on Sunday. It was only after we got there that we realised how far we were from the target market. Instead of a long rambling walk through some woods with lots of snowdrops there was a very short, heavily signposted, expensive, walk through some woods with lots of other people. Fun by rote.

Still, I enjoyed taking pictures of the signs.

warm up by the bonfire

LOOP 300 paces NEW in 2004 LEADS to snowdrop dell


PLEASE not this way

PLEASE don't try to walk on the water (ice)!!!

fresh concrete

January. Night. Cold. Dark. Still. There is fresh concrete here. The skeleton of a new building, exposed ribs hollow and open, is floodlit tonight. Bright white light, harsh and industrial, flows from the gaping holes between the supporting pillars. The gaps where the walls go.

On the floor: an expanse of grey. Monotone, flat, slightly gritty. A wide expanse of mattness with just a slight glint, a slight hint of surface sheen. Gloss that marks it out as wet concrete.

I want it. I stare through the steel fence, stare at that bright oasis so carefully illuminated to keep the dark and sodium orange of the street at bay. I want to walk on it, to dance on it, to lie on it, in it, and make angel shapes. I want to write in it, to leave handprints in it. I want to sink down into it, through the gooey, granular grey into a better place. A place of hard certainty, of indelibility, of preservation, of calm and memory. A concrete garden, a concrete tomb, a concrete playground. Secretly, silently mine.

more snow

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Zutiste is back! Check it out at Longshore Drift gets a special mention as well.

more pictures

I realised I haven't posted any pictures for ages because I'm lazy, so I got a copy of hello (blogger's photo software, not the magazine) to make resizing and uploading quicker. It seems pretty good so far, here are some pictures of snow from last week (you can click on them for bigger versions)...

snow from the bus, 23rd feb am

even the petrol station looked ok

snow, snow, snow

bank in snow

Hucknall, 23rd Feb, 9.30 am, winter wonderland