Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Beyond The Gates

Everything is apparently some kind of 'gate' these days. Every bit of controversial gossip gets branded by one newspaper or another desperate to be responsible for the next buzzword to go down in media history as a 'gate'.

Take for example the incident last year with Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand leaving unpleasant phone messages for actor Andrew Sachs. 'Sachsgate', that was called. More recently the emails sent by one of Gordon Brown's right-hand men, Damian McBride, aimed at spreading dirt on various senior Conservative party members: Smeargate. And today, the worst of the bunch. Following the ruling by the FIA to issue a suspended three-race ban to McClaren in the Formula 1 World Championships for misleading officials at the Australian and Malaysian grand prix: Liargate. Seriously, 'Liargate'.

Not only are these incredibly feeble-minded attempts at trying to originate new catchphrases, the events themselves bear very little (at best) resemblance to the original 'gate', which wasn't even cleverly named as such by anyone.

To bring anyone unaware briefly up to speed, the original 'gate' was the Watergate conspiracy, which involved several high-ranking members of US President Richard Nixon's staff and included political espionage, sabotage, campaign fraud, money laundering and other major crimes, and led to the indictment and conviction of several of Nixon's closest advisors way back in 1974. It was dubbed 'Watergate' because the entire investigate started following a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC. This break-in was revealed to have been orchestrated by cabinet members and this led to the discovery of the whole conspiracy.

So no clever journo coining a phrase and it catching on, which is what today's limp-wristed scribes are attempting at every turn, just the name of the building.

These recent issues are hardly on the same scale. Presumably if the plan to store the nation's emails hadn't been scrapped this week and something had ever gone wrong with that we'd have ended up with something as witty as 'Emailgate'. And it can only be a matter of time before we get 'Fergiegate' amidst the eternal accusations of Premier League referees favouring Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United when making crucial decisions.

But while The Sun continue to feel the need to make sure everyone's aware of just how clever they are by highlighting the pun words in their headlines in red, I doubt we've seen the end of it. Journalism really doesn't seem to be getting any less lazy as the years go on.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Just Push Play

You know what really gets my goat? As Homer would say. People who say they listen to all types of music, or similar statements. That's either a lie, or abject naiivity. Or straight up stupidity, of course. Something which increasingly can never be ruled out of any situation.

What these people are apparently trying to say is they're just as happy listening to Immortal as they are Barry Manilow. Possible, I'm sure, but unlikely. Equally Miley Cyrus, The Smiths, Dragonforce, LTJ Bukem, Style Council, Robert Johnson, James Blunt, Destruction, Abba and Busta Rhymes are equally enjoyed.

House music alongside instrumental drone metal, traditional Irish folk, rockabilly country and rap. It just doesn't add up, and is more than likely down to complete ignorance of what music actually exists beyond the confines of MTV and Radio 1.

You can be as open-minded (or claim to be) about music as you like, but there is simply no way you listen to all kinds, because music is a much wider spectrum than most people realise, with so many wildly different styles and sounds, they can't all appeal to one person.

That's without considering the artistic value, or lack thereof, and the respect for an artist, song or style you derive from that, assuming it even registers as a consideration.

I'm sure the people who say things like that either believe it because they don't know any better, or are just trying to appear broad-minded. Unfortunately, for them at least, it has the opposite effect and highlights a lack of knowledge and understanding.

At least the radio will helpfully tell us what to enjoy next, so we don't have to put much thought into it.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Redefine

It has recently come to my attention that the term 'mixed race', for people born of parents from different ethnic backgrounds, is no longer correct. Dual Heritage is now the correct term. Leaving aside the fact that Dual Heritage is an incredibly pretentious-sounding term, this brings to light the subject of giving groups these titles to begin with.

By giving groups these titles you (the do-gooders intent on making an unnecessary fuss over this kind of thing) are placing white people in an upper echelon of society. You are saying other ethnic backgrounds require their own title to separate them from white people. You are segregating them in their own societies. The very thing you've been fighting all these years to prevent.

This stretches, as mentioned in a previous article, to the job market and even now into schools. The very idea of a race-specific hiring campaign, intended to bring minority ethnic groups onto a level playing field with white people, is broadcasting to the World, like the parent who sits in their child's class making sure everyone is aware that they are 'special', that these groups need to be handed an unfair advantage because they can't achieve that level by themselves. Because on their own merit they are not good enough. Surely the right thing to do is allow them the same opportunities as every else, do not advertise the fact that they are in any way different, because they aren't, to let them apply for jobs as part of the same group as everyone else, "people", I suggest, and instead focus your efforts on cases where there is blatant discrimination against them.

At least then you wouldn't be taking away their pride.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Viva Los Violence

And there it was, gone. Two days of peaceful protest against banks and climate change which resulted in several bloody clashes between protestors and police, one death, and the storming of Royal Bank of Scotland.

While in some of these incidents the protestors do not appear to be to blame, rather some heavy-handedness on the part of the law enforcement, others as expected were the result of a mob mentality serving no purpose other than to cause the most damage and disruption possible. Until protests can take place without this kind of occurrence, no one is going to listen.

And even when people do listen, what they hear either makes no sense, or hasn't been entirely thought through. Indeed many protestors simply join in for the sake of it. Short-sightedness gets the better of them and they join in any publicised large-scale event so they can say they were part of it afterwards. The reasons for the event occurring in the first place don't mean a thing to them.

The examples of the lunacy of some of the protests were many. A hugely imaginative reworking of Bob Marley's One Love by one protestor went along the lines of "One love, one heart, let's drop the debt and it'll be alright". So the point you're making there, Billy Bragg, is that it's OK to borrow more money than any idiot could tell you you won't be able to pay back, but when it all goes wrong and you're in trouble, just pretend it never happened and that will fix it? What a wonderful idea. That way, everyone gets their houses for free. Utopia! Or, to put it another more accurate way, the banks will own everyone's houses because they paid for it and you didn't. Is it any wonder no one takes these protests seriously?

One woman was quoted in the Guardian as saying "We've just come on a peaceful protest. We've got fire in our belly and we want to say something and be heard". A noble notion if ever there was one, but given that protests, peaceful or otherwise, only ultimately annoy people, who do you think is listening to what you have to say? After all, we all know most of you aren't there for the right reasons anyway. Take away the minority groups bent on causing trouble, the trendy hangers-on, and the brainless soap-watchers who just want to be a part of anything popular and you're left with a small core of genuine protestors who actually understand and believe the causes the event is meant to be in the name of. "I can understand protesting for jobs, but how many of them really want jobs?" Well said that man; a random suit watching the pointlessness from the sidelines, just about summing up everyone else's opinion of your average protest.

And what were they really saying? Job cuts are bad? Pollution is bad? War is bad? You're not making points that are beyond pure common sense. We know all these things. We don't need you forcing the closure of stations to tell us. Regardless of your actions everyone else is going to carry on just as they always do, and if anything they're simply going to be slightly less sympathetic to you because you've spent a couple of days irritating them.

Meanwhile the G20 had their summit, oblivious to the pointless goings on around the city and, as with every crisis which befalls the World, regardless of its nature, have come up with the standard two responses they always do. To throw money at it until it goes away, and to set up one or more new regulatory bodies to stop it happening again. We are soon to have the Financial Stability Board, an expansion of the Financial Stability Forum, chaired by Bank of Italy governor Mario Draghi, set up in 1999 to "promote international financial stability through better information exchange and international cooperation." The new body will conduct "early warning exercises" and reviews to spot potential problems in the international economy and work with Washington's International Monetary Fund (IMF), who oversee international finances, lending money where necessary.

A nice idea, but there isn't much genuine strength in there. Lots of reviewing (post-problem), information exchange and other such soft actions with very little hint of powers or strategies which could alleviate financial issues ahead of time. It's main aim is to make sure all "systemically important" financial institutions have appropriate contingency planning in place for economic crisis. But by the very nature of a crisis it is something which is largely unpredictable, so just what good such planning can have is uncertain. Not that the current 'crisis' was unpredictable at all, given that it is entirely the product of idiocy on the part of a large number of people, but in general a genuine financial disaster probably can't be foreseen.

In the mean time the plan is to pump $1.1trillion into the international economy, increasing the funds of the IMF from an estimated $250bn to around $700bn, with $40bn coming from China and further amounts expected from Saudi Arabia. This was no doubt an attempt to over-shadow the fact that China were reportedly the biggest opposer to 'green language' in the finalised communique outlining the new financial deal which saw all climate change issues relegated to two paragraphs at the end. Losing their status as the biggest polluters of the World would be too much to ask, presumably.

"A crazy man's utopia"

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

March Or Die

Only a four-and-a-half month gap in writing this time. I'm getting more prolific. And I am indeed back, which can only mean one thing: something's up! As the last post and this one show, I've changed the angle of this blog somewhat. It's now a jaunty 37 degrees. It's also not (so much) music-related any more. I've even stripped some of the day-to-day magazine commentary out of some of the older posts. More or less all of my music goings on can be seen at Jukebox:Metal, so there's very little need, since the demise of Burn, to cover similar ground here.

So, more precisely, something's up which has annoyed me, and therein lies the new (in terms of writing only) direction. This time it's the G20 meeting in London. Although not the meeting itself, but the schedule (yes, schedule, more on this later) of protests taking place over the course of two days against a variety of topics, some related to the topics of discussion the G20 are entertaining and some, it would seem, purely for the sake of protesting.

Of course the first thing to hit the newspapers last week was the predicted travel disruption the protestors would cause on April 1 and 2. Only once we'd all digested that (and come to the natural conclusion that those two days would therefore be barely different to any other day of the week) did the anti-protest feelings start to emerge.

While residents of Belfast are probably sitting there thinking "what a bunch of whiners" (again, no different to normal), and most of the city will doubtful lift their faces far enough out of the cocktail pitcher to notice anything different is going on, several people are missing the point entirely, brandishing protestors "thugs" and similar amidst rumours that a minority group of "anarchists" plan to use the otherwise peaceful protests as a cover to storm banks.

That kind of behaviour is of course unconscionable, but it's also moronic, as is almost every other protest subject on the table this week. Which brings me to the schedule. There are no timings involved, which will make it very difficult for the multi-directional protestors to manoeuvre between the events, but planned action mostly against banks and the use of fossil fuels has been carefully laid out and advertised so that all interested jobless hippies, parentally-financed students and every other Campaigner For A Better World can leave their gas-heated studio flats for a day in the sun.

The banks and the stock market are a big target. And rightly so in the case of the twitchy traders who panicked the country into recession, but to simply aim a few placards at "capitalism" doesn't really get that point across. After all, if every one of the protestors doesn't have a bank account, Mummy and Daddy certainly do. They're certainly not going home and counting the notes under their mattress. They're part of the system just like everyone else, and they need that system to get by, just like everyone else. The existence of banks isn't the problem. People, as always, are the problem, and this entire crisis, if it can be called such, is the fault of mistakes made by people.

Yes, the banks and therefore ultimately their CEOs are at fault in a big way as well. Lending the mortgages and so forth they lent (people needed 110% mortgages and no financial genius foresaw a problem with getting repayments?) were ridiculous, but the people who took those loans are equally to blame. It isn't the system which caused this, it was the people responsible for its workings.

And the other main point of complaint, fossil fuels and BP in particular, is equally ridiculous. Not the fossil fuel problem itself, which is well-documented and a genuine concern, but the very fact that it is well-documented. Everyone with an IQ over 23 knows of the problems around fossil fuel consumption, and yes perhaps BP aren't behaving as ethically as they could, but protesting about it now isn't going to suddenly open the eyes of the populace. This is without the Stop The War Coalition continuing to protest about a war which finished two years ago and is only a continuing issue because of militant groups who persist in causing trouble. It was relevant at the time. I agree we should never have gotten involved. But once that decision was made and the protests were falling on deaf ears, give it up. You tried, bless your little cotton socks, but you failed. The time came to switch your protests to getting our soldiers out of the war zone quickly. The soldiers were never to blame; they were doing as they're told because it's their job.

So these protests are going to have two, and only two, effects. Neither of them positive and neither of them will achieve any kind of worthwhile outcome. Firstly, they are probably going to disrupt and generally annoy thousands of people who really only wanted to go to work and earn their wages. Ordinary people quite willing to perform whichever service it is they perform and earn their own way in the World. Secondly, it will cost all of those same tax-paying people thousands, possibly even millions, in policing, probably damages to public property, and other associated costs. All so those taking part can talk about how they made a difference at their next dinner party. Food and wine bought from non-profit making, anti-capitalist supermarkets, with money from under the mattress, in a flat bought outright with no requirement for a loan, by candle-light, of course.

"I guess some things never change"