Friday, 15 June 2012

Shades of Shit and superhype

What 50 Shades of Grey has in common with its predecessors, Twilight and the Da Vinci Code is not just that it's unreadable, semiliterate, cackhanded drivel. It's that its fans are either thick or profoundly snobbish. Hyped bullshit like the aforementioned appeals predominantly to people who think they are too good to read genre fiction - or people who don't read much fiction at all. You see, generally people who like to read erotica, or vampire stories, or conspiracy theory fiction are looked down on by those who read Proper Books - or who don't see the point of reading books when the Jeremy Kyle Show won't watch itself, or they've got a shed to build or something. People like this get underwear-stainingly excited over the lamest, most obvious tropes of the relevant genre simply because they've never read anything like it before. If you've never picked up an erotic novel - or ever had sex that wasn't a matter of missionary-position fumbling in the dark on a Saturday night, the mere idea of someone tying someone up is going to get your sockets jumping: bwaaaah! How incredibly daring and shocking! Similarly with films: the Blair Witch Project was badly lit, badly shot, badly acted with plot holes you could drive a bus through, but people who had never seen a horror film before were shitting on cinema seats over a basic set up of something going 'Boo' in the dark, though I do concede that I was probably one of only a few people who spent the whole film looking out for the big van that would have had to have been lurking out of shot carrying the 500 extra batteries those bloody Betamax camcorders would have needed were they actually to keep filming through a week of hopping about in wet bracken. There isn't necessarily anything wrong with books that are not beautifully written: JK Rowling is no great prose stylist. However, the Harry Potter books are that very, very rare thing, a series that deserved the hype. Rowling is a cracking storyteller with a generally brilliant sense of pace (OK, The Half Blood Prince drags a bit) and some genuinely original ideas. Dan Brown got taken to court for having nicked his whole concept from THe Holy Blood And The Holy Grail, and probably only won his case because his opponents were such tinfoil-hat-wearers - mind you, when he started hinting that actually his poxy book was based on The Truth he perhaps should have been made to hand the money back. But still, looking on the bright side, at least good erotic fiction should get a boost from 50 Shades of Shit readers who have had a bit of a, er, awakening as to the power of bedtime reading.

Monday, 4 June 2012


Yes, I went to the street party. Here I am, with my little flag and my big drink. (yeah yeah, received wisdom, not put own pic on blog in case of recognition and/or stalking etc etc. Frankly I look such a rough old biffer in that photo that I don't expect anyone to associate it with my youthful, beauteous self. Yeah right.) And the majority of my actual friends are actually a bit appalled with me. Fuck the Queen, they say, the monarchy are parasites, patriotism is horrid, you'll be reading the Daily Mail next. They do all, sort of, have a point, but so do I. And my main one is, for all the guff in the papers about how We Mean It Ma'am, We Love Our Queen, god Saaaaaave (as Mr Rotten would put it), I honestly think that the majority of people don't really give that much of a toss about the Windsors, one way or another. They just like to have an excuse for a party. Certainly the main reason for attending our one was because the road adjoining ours did one last year and Trainboy spotted the banners and the bouncy castle and wanted to go and join in (but we didn't as last year's was specifically for the adjoining road; this time the lovely, lively, motivated organisers extended the invite to the three roads that make up our little triangular corner). I am, perhaps unusually for me, in line with the majority position: I don't object to the monarchy strongly enough to deprive Trainboy of a good party. And it was a good party, with actually bugger-all reference to Royalty, loyalty, subservience, knowing your place, British heritage or any of that. I read a few comments online from people saying that they wouldn't go to a street party because they didn't want to drink the Queen's health or say prayers for her or sing the National Anthem and I wonder how many parties really included any such thing anyway. We had circus-skills training, fancy dress competition, talent contest, loads to eat, loads to drink and a cracking good opportunity to get to know the neighbours. Despite the pissing rain and the freezing cold - though at least a party in your own street means you can nip back home repeatedly for a wee, further supplies of food and drink and extra wooly jumpers and wellies. I think a fair few of the people watching the boats going up and down the Thames were there not so much out of monarchism as a wish to look at a lot of beautiful boats, especially if they had children. I'm reminded of the fact that a lot of people declare themselves CofE on forms when what they mean is 'I am a Brit, I go to church for weddings and funerals and quite like singing All Things Bright And Beautiful' rather than 'I believe in Jesus and the Christian God'. At the moment, we've got a monarch, and there is something a bit dodgy about the idea that someone is better than all the rest of us just because that person was born to particular parents. And it's only a few hundred years back that the monarch was just the person who had killed the previous one. I wouldn't be that surprised if the whole concept actually dies when the current Queen does: she herself has managed to remain sufficiently harmless and well-intentioned that most people would feel some reluctance to sack a smiling old lady from a job she's done most of her life without fucking it up. But when she does pop off (and it will be within the next 20 years, at least) that would be the time to say, do we really need this much palaver to keep the tourists coming? Or is it a matter of needing a safeguard against elected power-mad nutjobs; someone with authority to step on the heads of Prime Ministers who want to do diabolical stuff? Though you'd have to wonder, if the current one can do that, why hasn't she before now?

Friday, 1 June 2012

On Topic...

Yes, I've been busy with all sorts, and haven't done much on this blog lately. In fact, I've been thinking of starting another one for all the feminism-atheism-sexual-politics stuff, but I probably wouldn't have the time to do that properly either. AAAAAAANNNNYWAY... Lots of new leafleting clients have been occuring, which is of course Good. So Mr Kite's been rearranging the way we work, which has meant the introduction of new leafleteers. There were some I didn't ever meet, and there was Ken, Ken and Ken who were all unsatisfactory, apparently and who have, as it were, disappeared (actually one of the Kens was in fact the partner of the new leafleteer Mr Kite had actually hired, and all of them had their first leafleting job on the most pissing wet day of the year and, not incomprehensibly, decided it wasn't for them.) And there was and is Patience, who is The Other Brilliant One Apart From Me. The latest working module is that Mr Kite drives me and Patience to the top of a road, gives us a bundle of leaflets and tells us whether or not to leapfrog each other up and down, or to take a side of the road each. Then we do the same at the next one, and so on, while he follows us about in the car, supplying us with additional leaflets and drinks of water and snacks. This is less crap than I thought it would be when he originally told me it was going to happen, particularly on appalling roads with millions of steps, because it simply halves the number of steps I have to process. It also leads, from time to time, to opportunities for me and Patience to chat, and today we were chatting about what a basically Good Bloke Mr Kite is. Leafleteering is not a high-paid job and never will be, but working for Mr Kite is good, because he isn't one of those people who thinks that you get rich by ripping off your staff. He will turn away clients who won't pay enough for us to earn the minimum hourly wage. He listens to us when we have suggestions to make. He pays bonuses. He pays our wages on time. OK, all this is the bare minimum you should expect from an employer, but he also does stuff like buy us lunch, cut short a drop when the heat is so punishing that we can barely get up the next flight of steps, be totally cool about flexibility when one of us has to go and pick up kids, etc. It's a pity more entrepreneurs don't get the idea that treating your staff well is actually more profitable than treating them like shit on the grounds that you can always get new ones.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Murdoch: How do YOU like it, you shitbag?

There's something of the classical archetype in watching him slowly crumble into dust, isn't there? The Big Man brought down by his own inescapable flaws: kind of gives us all a bit of hope even though plenty of other wicked people seem to manage a comfortable retirement and even to turn themselves in to cuddly figures of fun if they live long enough - all those revolting murderous, torturing gangsters popping up on chat shows a few decades ago spring to mind. OK, as far as we know, Rupert Murdoch never actually killed anyone. I don't even recall hearing that he administered so much as a slap to another human being, but I still consider him wicked. I wouldn't blush to call him evil for the harm he has done. He set about making the world a more hateful place, and he did it consciously and deliberately. The other Evil Tycoon, Robert Maxwell, he was just your old-fashioned, sticky-fingered crook who died with his hand in the till. Murdoch did worse, and it's what he did that's done for him. I don't actually know whether he believed in the stuff he made his papers peddle, that toxic, manipulative, capricious sentimentality and tribalism; the sexism, the racism, the homophobia, or whether he did it on the grounds that if you keep on chucking hate-figures and secular saints at people and screaming and shouting and slobbering, you can make people forget to think and just react at the most primitive level to what they are told to do. I wonder which is worse: to grab power on the grounds that you want to make the world a more racist, sexist, homophobic, unthinking, paranoid, conformist place, or to make the world a more racist, sexist, homophobic, unthinking, paranoid, conformist place in order to grab power. But there's joy to be had in the fact that this dumb, visceral response he spent so much time cultivating is what's really going to destroy him. People might have got over or not bothered to understand the political corruption and corporate greed; everyone sort of expects large corporations to bend the law in their favour and seize as much power and money as they possibly can. A lot of people were fairly prepared to forgive hacking the phones z-list 'celebrities', at least partly because Murdoch had convinced the world that slebs are not really people and don't really matter and deserve all they get anyway. But when it came out that his organisation had also hacked into the phones of Our Troops and those of a murdered teenager and her family, that was it. He'd conditioned the masses to shriek and howl and 'love' those he'd chosen to label as heroes, or innocent victims, and to demand the instant destruction of anyone who so much as refused to ullulate along with the chorus; so when the masses found out that he'd been harming those heroes and victims and clearly regarded them as unimportant and expendable despite all the guff about their wonderfulness and specialness, well that was it. Game over. You created the monster that will destroy you, Mr Murdoch. Now get it right fucking up you.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Working it

Sport is one of those things I have never really seen the point of. Well, nobody is ever going to convince me there's a point to getting all in a lather over watching someone else do sport and that remains true, but I'm beginning to understand one of the benefits that can be obtained by doing it yourself.
It's that glow. The buzzy, delicious glow that comes from having pushed your own body just hard enough, just that bit harder than you thought you might or would or wanted to, when no part of you particularly hurts but quite a few parts of you are sort of zinging and tight and your brain is gloriously mellowed. There was a day back in the 90s where I climbed up and down a cliff with a mate: it was allegedly a pleasant seaside stroll in high season, but in off-season it was basically a scramble over last year's landslide with an exhilarating risk of breaking your neck and drowning. Once we'd started, we weren't going to stop, and once we got past a certain point, we couldn't stop, or at least there was no option other than going back up again - apart from the drowning one. Or, I suppose, waiting for the coastguard helicopter, a stern talking-to off people in uniform and possibly a fine, but then that's never been my idea of a good time.
Tonight I'm glowing pleasantly after an all-time record of 800 letterboxes hit in a single day. That boiled down to about eight hours of walking in the rain, with a break of 20 minutes for a poached egg and a cup of tea (and yes, an arse that played the Trumpet Voluntary to accompany the last half hour of the shift). I can offer a few other stats, as well, for those of you who might be interested.
Leaflets delivered: 1650 (you can calculate how I achieved that figure yourself).
Useful blocks of flats on round with more than 20 accessible external letterboxes, thus allowing me to complete what would normally be about an hour's work in nine minutes: 2
Incidents of being startled into levitation, screeching and near-incontinence in the crucial mid-delivery moment:
By dog jumping up at door snarling and barking and snapping at fingers: 1
By house occupant opening door: 1 (though perhaps this should be a 1:1 score as house occupant achieved similar adrenal gland workout in the same incident)
Bitey letterbox snapping fingernail off: 1
Bloody awkward letterboxes gouging knuckles: 4
Leaky boots foaming at the sides in alarming manner: 1

So, good result. Good contented glow. Which may now be intensified by large dinner and couple of pints. How was your day?

Monday, 23 April 2012

Well, happy St George's Day!

Sometimes, a big push by commercial interests is a genuinely good thing. This is definitely so of the marketing of St George's Day as an event to celebrate. Yes, of course, it's a combination of breweries, greetings card companies and purveyors of general tat, all of whose bright sparks in marketing took a look at the general festivity-ness of St Patrick's Day in places that are not, actually, Ireland and thought, well let's have ourselves another slice of that, but this is an awful lot better than leaving it to the likes of the BNP or the EDL. To take a day that used to be associated with racist bucketheads and turn it into a party that everyone's invited to - what the fuck is not to like?
I'll put my hand up, I'm an Englishwoman. And a morris dancer as well.

(from the New Esperance Morris website)

I like, from time to time, to enjoy my own culture and heritage. After all, nobody has any control at all over what race, culture or tribe they are born into; you can reject everything about it to the point of emigrating and becoming a naturalised citizen of somewhere else if you want to, but you were still born in the place you were born, to the parents you were conceived by, and whether they brought you up badly or brilliantly is not something you had any control over, either. The other thing that's important about celebrating a festival, any festival, is that celebrating one doesn't automatically mean despising others. Every human culture has its good points and bad points (I don't define racist organisations or antichoice activist organisations or MRA groups as a human culture any more than Twilight fans or UKIP members or cricketers); we should all allow ourself to enjoy the good bits when the opportunity arises.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

It was 20 years ago today...

Well, not quite today. Some time around today, maybe. Some time in April: to work out the exact date I would have to go and do a bit of tedious googling about when Easter was in 1992, but it was definitely mid-April. Mid-to-late April, maybe, when the real media storm took off.
What's the old bat on about, you might ask? Right, this is another of those posts that doesn't actually have an awful lot to do with the time I spend sticking leaflets into letterboxes but this is MY blog and therefore I will do what the fuck I like.
Roughly 20 years ago, For Women magazine was launched. This was a seriously defining moment in my life. Moment, my arse, it was a massive couple of months with echoes that still resonate today. I can look back now with a total stewpot of feelings: excitement, exhaustion, stress, more stress, more excitement, raging frustration and gleeful triumph... and the rest. Because I was there. Right there. Part of the launch team, up all night, screaming and shouting in staff meetings, fixing that fucking proof plate when they said it couldn't be done, sneakily checking the stack of copies on the shelf at Manchester station to see if it was the first print run or the second before I could really bring myself to believe the hype...
Something not many people experience happened to me 20 years ago, which was that feeling of walking down the street, any street and knowing that the whole country is talking about you and what you did. That was the best and most exciting bit. The stress bits were mostly before this amazing couple of weeks: getting the thing out there on a tiny little budget with very little spare time amid huge personal meltdowns among the people working on it (marriage-ending affair, projectile-vomiting pregnancy, suicidal housemates, wild fits of crying in the office, all sorts. At least no punches were thrown).
And the frustration? That was a bit life-changing, too. because that's the bit that stayed with me through the years more than anything else, though I relished the excitement and the thrill and all the little happy moments when they happened. Because, basically, the magazine sucked. It did. Sorry. It was nowhere near what it could and should have been. It was cheap, tame and in many ways dishonest, because the overall power of veto lay with the men. The Men - who didn't really like the idea of women making choices, having real sexual autonomy, not needing men to tell them how to do it and all that.
I'm still glad I was there. I'm still glad it happened. And I will probably rant on some more about the whole business of female sexual desire and how it's catered to and all that stuff BECAUSE IT MATTERS. Though the short version of that post would be 'The only mag that came anywhere near what should have been done was Filament.'