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Margaret Thatcher: A Different Sort of Legacy…

April 9, 2013 23 comments

7D721F7C-6A75-4252-BA53-37FFF9E648E9_mw1024_n_sCelebrating the death of another human being will never be the right thing to do. Regardless of your own personal politics, most people are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives and husbands and presumably were loved by at least some of these people at some time in their life…

I will start by stating for the record that I am no fan of Mrs. Thatcher. I’ve always seen her as a destroyer of things, much more than she was ever a creator, and someone who placed too much importance on the individual over the community.

Anyway, coming into work this morning I read an excellent piece by John Harris in the Guardian. Entitled Singing Songs of Rage, Harris eloquently examines one aspect of Thatcher that has always fascinated me. You can (and should) read the full piece here, but to summarise, it’s the conundrum that a woman who famously didn’t have a cultural or artistic bone in her body, and in many cases actively moved to weaken and diminish our cultural heritage and creativity, was responsible nevertheless for a huge “cultural earthquake” in the fields of arts and music, one that still reverberates to this day.

The atmosphere that Thatcherism generated, feelings of mistrust, betrayal and fear, galvanised a generation of musicians and artists alike to focus their anger on something tangible, a proper enemy. In so doing they created a culture that was alive with energy, intelligence and power. Sharp tunes, clever words, and above all a conviction in the things they were singing about.

Today we’re living through the toughest times I’ve experience in my adult life, and where is the protest music? Where is this generation’s Billy Bragg, Paul Weller or Pauline Black? Where can we experience feelings of alienation and struggle and hear tales of strength through adversity…

Not on BBC 2 for a start, where a recent Radio 2 Top 100 albums poll (find it here) asked listeners to vote for their favourites. I’m still finding it hard to come to terms with the Top 5 to be honest, which included 2 of the most contemptible bands of all time Coldplay and Keane along with that insightful commentator on contemporary life and love, Dido. Anodyne, derivative, lowest common denominator schlop for people with obviously no interest in music.

Similarly (if not more so) with comedy. I mean John Bishop, Michael MacIntyre and Alan Carr? Give me strength, sub standard comedy for apathetic punters. It’s no wonder there’s such a huge resurgence of interest in Eighties bands and culture at the moment, when today’s offerings are so weak and pathetic in comparison…

And whilst I’m not saying that Thatcher is directly responsible for all the great bands of the late 70’s and the 80’s, and all the alternative comedians, I do think that in her divisive policies and her apparent revelling in the role of figurehead, she was someone onto who feelings of hatred and anger could be focused. Unlike the wishy-washy and grey, middle of the road politicians that seem to be in charge at the moment (and I include my lot in that as well sadly. I quite like Ed Balls, but he’s no leader in waiting…)

So after all that, maybe I should also be more appreciative of her, as most of this mornings obituaries seem to be. It would appear that her formidable strength, singular vision and iron grip on politics during her reign, not only destroyed our industries and communities, but also gave birth to some of the best and most enduring aspects of contemporary music and culture…

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Our Revised Social Standing…

April 3, 2013 2 comments

We’ve just watched the BBC news and seen the article about the new seven social classes. Upper, middle and lower are no longer sufficiently descriptive and/or inclusive apparently and after asking over 160,000 people, the BBC have today published their findings and theories…

I won’t go into what each category means, as the  names are illustrative enough: elite, established middle class, technical middle class, new affluent workers, traditional working class, emergent service workers and precariat  (a rather clumsy hybrid of precarious and proletariat)

There’s a calculator on the BBC’s website here that tells you where you now belong in our society, and having just filled it in, Me & A are now officially Technical Middle Class…

J&A Social class test

From what I can gather this means that we’ve got lots of mates (who are probably all TMC like us) we appreciate culture, we know how to turn the computer on and we’ve got just about enough money to enjoy life… Which I suppose is about right, which in turn is a relief because it means I can stop worrying about it now…

Any ideas on how we can progress up to being elite? Will being from Coventry help do you think?

#EddieMairforMayor…

March 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Don’t know if you saw it yesterday morning, but in case you didn’t (and so that I can watch it as often as I like) I’m posting the rather excellent Boris Johnson interview from the Andrew Marr Show in which a masterful and controlled Eddie Mair teases out from under the foppish hair and Public School grin, the bumbling and shambolic buffoon that we all know our esteemed Burgermeister really is…

I’m thinking of starting my very first hashtag on Twitter…  #EddieMairforMayor.

The original on the BBC pages can be found here

Stop Overfishing Now…

January 31, 2013 3 comments

I seem to be continuing in a bit of an eco-political mood at the moment, with a brilliant example of animated graphic art catching my eye…

This very stylish video, made by the German Design studio UHS (where you’ll find lots of other very cool stuff) explains in a beautifully simple and clear way how overfishing will potentially empty our oceans within the next 50 years and was made as part of last years Ocean 2012 campaign to raise awareness of the issue, reform EU Fishing Policy and bring about an end to destructive fishing practices.

Having been a vegetarian for the last 25 years or so, and having not eaten any fish at all since I was about 8, this of course doesn’t apply to me, which means I can appreciate the stunning graphics and inventive storyline without guilt or worry…

If only it were that simple, some of the numbers in this presentation are very, very scary…

  • estimated 90% drop in fish stocks over the last 60 years
  • fishing nets with openings greater than 23,000 sqm
  • 9kg of fish are thrown back for every 1kg of shrimp caught (i.e. 90% of the catch is thrown away)
  • 5kg of captured wild fish are needed to feed every 1kg of farmed salmon
  • 10,000 tonnes/ year (recommended scientific limit for catches of blue fin tuna to allow sustainable stocks) 29,500 t/y (EU Fisheries agreed limit)  61,000 t/y (the actual amount caught)

To my mind it comes down to thinking about what you eat and asking yourself where it came from and how it got to be on your plate…

Democratic Donkeys v Republican Elephants…

November 7, 2012 1 comment

Firstly a huge congratulations to Mr. Obama.

I’m both pleased and relieved that the American public saw sense and voted in the only real contender for the top job. From where I stand, the world would seem to be a much safer place in the hands of an honest, believable and credible man like Obama sitting in the White House, than those of a rather dodgy Mormon…

Anyway enough with political opinion, that’s not what this blog is about, but Obama’s second term win and the almost blanket coverage we’ve had over here in the UK, has prompted me to write about the rather odd logos that represent each of the parties : a donkey and an elephant…

Firstly the Democratic Donkey.

Apparently it dates back to the 1820’s, when the Presidential candidate Andrew Jackson used the image of a donkey or jackass in response to the nickname he’d been given by his opponents.

He took the intentionally derisive name and redefined it in terms of being strong willed, smart, hard working, reliable and brave, a twist that obviously worked, as Jackson became the very first Democratic President of the US in 1829.

The Republican elephant came into being in the 1870’s after a drawing by the famous American cartoonist Thomas Nast. The cartoon (shown below) showed the Democrat’s donkey hiding under a lion skin scaring all the animals in the zoo with only the elephant remaining unafraid…

Not much to base a choice of logo on perhaps, but it stuck and the elephant has been used ever since, supposedly representing strength, dignity and persistence.

One thing that does occur to me looking at the two logos is how similar they are, both have a red bottom half and a blue top with white stars and both are animals…

If I think about the different logos for the Political Parties here in the UK, they all have a very distinctive colour and appearance, which I would have thought was essential when you’re trying to distinguish yourself from the others… (not easy in a coalition as the increasingly irrelevant Mr Clegg is finding to his cost)

Maybe this lack of distinction is part of the problem with US politics. It’s all so much to do with personality rather than policy (the face and character of Obama versus the face and character of the other guy) that the identity of the party itself becomes secondary, almost irrelevant.

In fact, as I’ve researched for this post, it would appear that neither party has ever really claimed one colour over another and in fact it’s only since the 2000 elections when a TV company denoted blue States and red States on a map of the country, that the colours have become more separated and synonymous with one party or the other…

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