National Britishness day? Er, no thanks…

Alerted to the story by an email from my mum, I’ve just had a read in The Guardian about Gordon Brown’s plans for a ‘Britishness Day’, to be tagged onto remembrance Sunday.

He goes on to site american national pride as the inspiration.

Has he spent any time in the US? The jingoistic flag-waving over here is perhaps the single most baffling element in American culture – spending that amount of energy and effort in telling other people that are already like you, how great it is to be like you are. It’s an embarrassment to a lot of outward looking world travelling cosmopolitan americans, and just reinforces the refusal of Middle America to look at itself with any degree of self-analysis or self-criticism.

The bits of Britain that I’m proud of are those that stem from our history of dissent, our willingness to protest at the behaviour of our elected officials and our LACK of that very jingoism that Brown seems to be wanting to foster.

Bollocks to the flag – flags are generally a shit idea. The BNP are welcome to it. We don’t need to ‘reclaim’ the Union Flag, if people want to use it for sports, fine go ahead, I’m not going to accuse you of being nazis, I just won’t understand it.

It’s really odd to have read this story less than 24 hours after spending a good half hour trying to get my head about the reasons for American National pride, and seeing it as some kind of sinister government plot to coerce people into acquiescence, to disengage brains, to limit dissent. All things that we need LESS of in Britain not more.

So, Mr Brown, you can shove that idea up your arse, thanks.

Oh, and Faria’s been evicted, so Tenille tells me.

BB news

Our intrepid BB reporter, codenamelizzy, is on a day or two’s sabbatical from writing, and has requested someone to fill in. As I haven’t actually been watching, here’s my predictions for what has happened in the house over the last couple of days –

Day 17

‘the house has run out of food, and George has offered his leg as part of the rationing. This caused another argument with Traci, as she would rather die than eat meat, even meat from people she would rather were dead anyway’

Day 18

‘at maggot’s prompting, Dennis has been requesting a ‘Faria Special’. Unfortunately, his american accent was misunderstood, and BB supplied two horseshoes which Pete had to nail into Dennis’ feet as this week’s shopping task. They succeeded in the shopping task, though Dennis passed out from loss of blood and will never walk again. The housemates are divided on whether it was a worthwhile sacrifice or not. Never one to miss an opportunity, while lying bleeding on the floor, Dennis tried to tell each of the women in the house in turn that sex would cure his feet. None of them believed him, and managed to stay out of arm’s reach to avoid further molestation.

‘Because Chantelle has said she won’t kiss Preston as he has a girlfriend, they’ve skipped that part, and have applied for adoption. Big Brother is hoping to fast track the paperwork and deliver their new child to them in the house. The baby will not be eligible for eviction on its first week in the house, but after that, will be asked to nominate housemates like the rest of them.’

The unfathomable mystery of American gender politics…

One of the blogs I read fairly regularly is that of Hugo Schwyzer – an american gender studies lecturer, in a college in Southern California. His blog is interesting, and his manner genial. The weird thing about it is the amount of vitriol that gets heaped on him from a group known as ‘the men’s movement’ – now, being a man, you’d have thought someone would have told me about this movement, about the need for ‘men’s rights’, but apparently I missed the memo informing men that we are somehow hard done by and feminists are out to get us… no, wait, I remember something about that, on sitcoms in the 70s. Surely the idea that feminism is about man-hating monstrous women trying to take over the world was dispensed with before the beginning of the 80s? Do people really think like that? Apparently they do.

The latest shit-storm that Hugo has blogged about doesn’t actually feature him. This time it’s Jill from Feministe – another friendly blog about feminist issues – who has taken a load of flak. Initially, it started out as some horribly insulting stuff posted about her photos on a message board for a college in New York (I think – I’ve not really been following the details that closely), but spilled over into a whole slew of personal attacks, and some really really stupid anti-feminist ranting from the goons over on the college forum.

All of which points to there still being a very definite gender-war ongoing in the states. My guess is that it’s still going on here too, I just haven’t come across it, but it reminds how fortunate I am to hang round with such a wonderfully mellow and enlightened bunch of people, but also how sheltered I am from the lunacy that is prevalent in parts of the world. A lunacy that I wouldn’t encounter at all if it wasn’t for the wonders of the global interweb highway thingie.

I’m genuinely stunned that men still see feminism as a threat, that men who don’t conform to really crass gender stereotypes are labeled as effeminate and ‘not real men’. Just bizarre. Maybe it comes from the same place as all the homophobia that seems to permeate large sections of the web. Maybe such neanderthal thinking is way more prevalent that I’d ever have given it credit for, and this is just the place where my world and its collide. It’s like when UKIP got a whole load of votes in the European elections – I realised that the general populus is considerably more stupid that I often give it credit for…

Anyway, have a read of Hugo’s blog, and Feministe – they all seem like lovely people, and not at all the people you’d think to attack in anyway… And avoid the ‘MRAs’ (I think that’s what they are called – Men’s Rights Advocates? something like that…)

I can’t imagine writing a blog that stirred up such ire – I guess I might wind up the occasional bass-fundementalist, though I haven’t even had any of those ‘you can’t do that on a bass’ emails for quite a few years… lucky me.

2005 – a year in review

Good year? Bad year? not sure…

Musically, not a bad year – didn’t release any albums, but I guess that means that the last one is still doing OK, so didn’t feel any major pressure to get something new happening. Now I’m glad I waited due to all the new musical ideas offered up by the Looperlative.

Some great gigs – bassday, bassfest thing in Italy in July, Edinburgh festival (where staying with Jane and Gareth was also a year highlight – much fun). Gig with Ned Evett in Petersfield was much fun, as was recording with Ned. Finished an albums worth of material with Calamateur, AKA Andrew Howie, and there’s a lot of great stuff on there – I’m excited about what we might be able to do with that. Recycle Collective started – was v. small, but musically one of the best gigs I’ve been involved with.

Teaching’s been great – lots of very fine students, lots of beginners making progress, and meeting lots of lovely new people. also started a new column for Bass Guitar Magazine – good to be back writing again (which reminds me, I’ve got one to finish ASAP!)

Personally, it’s been a fairly good year – one big scare with the ginger fairly aged feline, who was given roughly two weeks to live, but with chemo got rid of a satsuma sized tumor IN A WEEK!!!! – we’re still amazed by that, and he’s going great. Life with both the fairly aged felines has been lots of fun (I really feel sorry for all those of you with cat allergies who have to lavish your attention on human offspring as a replacement…) seeing them both take over the house and garden and settle in.

another year of doing no work on the house… hmmm, maybe I should start by just TIDYING MY OFFICE!!! lazy bastard…

World events – both the best and worst things that happened this year were the same – the Make Poverty History campaign was such a monumental success at getting poverty reduction and the plight of people living in extreme poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America into the minds of every day people, it felt like there were really a chance to make a proper change. millions of people signing petitions, emailing MPs and congressmen, documentaries being made, and of course Live8 and the march in Edinburgh.

And then the worst thing – the gargantuan fuck-up that the G8 leaders made of the opportunity to do something for the world’s poor. Never before in the history of the world had there been such a wellspring of popular support for governments making decisions in favour of the poor, diverting cash and resources to help those in need, changing trade laws to balance things out. Millions upon millions of people around the world were calling for it, huge numbers of politicians were calling for it. Even mad right wing american jihadists like Pat Robertson were on-side (!!), but still those sad twisted old men of the G8 sat round the table in Gleneagles, in their opulence and grandeur and bollocksed the whole thing up. Their pledges fell woefully short, and then they even undid a lot of that. It was disgusting, sickening and saddening that such an opportunity had been wasted. Bono and Bob Geldof had done an amazing job of getting the campaign off the ground, from their involvement in the commission for Africa, and DATA, through to organising Live8, but they bottled it when the announcement was made, took the encouraging words one step too far and declared the Gleneagles bullshit to be a triumph. I’m guessing they aren’t too happy with where it’s gone. The follow up at the World Trade Talks in November was equally shit. A tragedy on a scale that all the terrorists in the world couldn’t hope to achieve.

The week of Live8 and the G8 was a busy one, given that it was also the week of two other disasters – firstly London getting the Olympics (another monumental waste of money which will leave the PPP funding bodies rubbing their grubby hands in glee), and then the London bombing. The bombing had begun to feel like an inevitability for a while – there was no way that the huge disquiet amongst the world’s muslim population about the Iraqi occupation and the continued support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land was going to go unmarked in the UK. And finally it did, four huge bombs, three on the underground, one on a bus, quite a few people dead (though not as many as lost their lives in Iraq that weekend… that didn’t make the world news). A tragedy, but one that the government still refuse to admit was linked to the situation in the middle east. Stupid stupid fools.

But at the end of the year, some great news, perhaps the first great news in british life for a long time – registered civil partnerships for Gay couples. Finally gay people can get married (no, I really don’t care if you don’t want to call it a marriage or a wedding – it is, and that’s great.)

And the media spectacle of the year was certainly George Galloway in front of the US senate committee, absolutely ripping them apart. The most damning indictment of the Bush administrations lies and coverup in Iraq, and right there in the heart of the beast. Genius! Galloway can be a bit of a bellend, and his campaign in the General Election (ah yes, we had one of those – what a non-event that was) was horrible and divisive, but on that one day in the Senate, he ruled the world.

oh, media event of the year joint first was Harold Pinter’s nobel prize acceptance speech – another damning destruction of the history of US foreign military intervention.

What else? A few noteable partings – we lost the great Ronnie Barker, one of the finest comic actors and writers Britain has ever produced; Mo Mowlam, one of the few politicians of conviction we still had; Rosa Parks, the unwitting god-mother of the civil rights movement in the US; Andrea Dworkin feminist writer and thinker.

And on a personal level, the death of Eric Roche was a terribly sad loss – a huge talent and dear friend who has featured in this blog more than almost anyone else. Playing at the tribute gig to him on what would have been his birthday was a huge honour.

Blogwise, it’s been my most bloggingest year ever – over 510 posts this year, over 450 visitors a day (??? I’m sure there’s a mistake there somewhere…) and the demise of being able to tell people what I’ve been up to – ‘so, steve, what have you been up to?’ ‘well, I had a gig th….’ ‘yeah I read about that’ ‘oh, well I went out to see a…’ ‘ah yes, that film, read your review of that’ ‘THEN WHY DID YOU ASK???’

Thanks for reading, for emailing for commenting on the blog, and particularly thanks if you’ve been buying CDs and t-shirts, coming to gigs, spreading the word, and generally helping me pay the bills this year. Love you lots! x

Soundtrack – The The, ’45 RPM – the singles’.

not the best start to my birthday…

a little over five hours after I posted the last blog, I was hunched over the loo puking my guts up. TSP was ill at the beginning of last week, and we’re wondering if it might be the same thing. One of the fairly aged felines was also puking this morning, possibly just out of solidarity.

Damn, I’d forgotten how painful the acid burns in your throat can be! That really really hurt. TSP was fabulous, getting me drinks, holding my hair back etc. My very own Florence Nightingale.

Was sick about three times in quick succession, but no more spewing as yet… just feeling achy and fragile.

And the fact that it’s my birthday isn’t really of any consequence – what’s more important is that I need to get on with sorting out my tax this afternoon, and am feeling like crap.

Still TSP did buy me a couple of fabulous DVDs so I can convalesce with those – Team America and Jump London! Yay for the perfect small person!

Happy Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve, the christmas shopping is done, lots of videos rented to watch over the next couple of days, a Looperlative to play with – we’re all set.

All that’s left is to wish all you lovely bloglings an exceedingly happy christmas. It’s a bit late to say it now, but I really hope you haven’t overspent on pressies and trimmings – as I say every year, the best present you can give your family is a debt-free new year (even if they tell you it’s an X-Box).

Take it easy, enjoy it, enjoy the time you have off from work, think through all the things you have to be grateful for, and chill.

We’re doing absolutely nothing – just me, TSP and the Fairly Aged Felines, relaxin’ eating some cool veggie food (well, me and TSP – I don’t think the cats are going to be wanting sprouts and sweet potato!), watching some festive TV, and enjoying some time off, before getting stuck into last year’s tax accounts early next week…

Tonight we’ll go to midnight mass, and tomorrow we’ll probably go to church in the morning, but other than that it’s lots of slobbing out in front of the TV and a bit of bass playing in between.

And if you’re celebrating something other than Christmas, enjoy it, and please sign into the forum and tell us all about it – I’m not that up on the specifics of most of the other celebrations that take place around this time that the Americans group together as just ‘holidays’.


A Native American Christmas

*A Native American Christmas
*by Looks for Buffalo

European Christmas for Native Americans actually started when the Europeans came over to America. They taught the Indian about Christianity, gift-giving , and St. Nicholas. There are actually two
religious types of Indian people in existence. One of these is the Traditionalist, usually full-blooded Indians that grew up on the reservations. The second type is the Contemporary Indian that grew up in
an urban area, usually of mixed blood, and brought up with Christian philosophy.

Traditionalists are raised to respect the Christian Star and the birth of the first Indian Spiritual Leader. He was a Star Person and Avatar. His name was Jesus. He was a Hebrew, a Red Man. He received his
education from the wilderness. John the Baptist, Moses, and other excellent teachers that came before Jesus provided an educational foundation with the Holistic Method.

Everyday is our Christmas. Every meal is our Christmas. At every meal we take a little portion of the food we are eating, and we offer it to the spirit world on behalf of the four legged, and the winged, and the two legged. We pray–not the way most Christians pray– but we thank the Grandfathers, the Spirit, and the Guardian Angel.

The Indian Culture is actually grounded in the traditions of a Roving Angel. The life-ways of Roving Angels are actually the way Indian People live. They hold out their hands and help the sick and the needy. They feed and clothe the poor. We have high respect for the avatar because we believe that it is in giving that we receive.

We are taught as Traditional children that we have abundance. The Creator has given us everything: the water, the air we breathe, the earth as our flesh, and our energy force: our heart. We are thankful
every day. We pray early in the morning, before sunrise, the morning star, and the evening star. We pray for our relatives who are in the universe that someday they will come. We also pray that the Great
Spirit’s son will live again.

To the Indian People Christmas is everyday and the don’t believe in taking without asking. Herbs are prayed over before being gathered by asking the plant for permission to take some cuttings. An offer of tobacco is made to the plant in gratitude. We do not pull the herb out by its roots, but cut the plant even with the surface of the earth, so that another generation will be born its place.

It is really important that these ways never be lost. And to this day we feed the elders, we feed the family on Christmas day, we honor Saint Nicholas. We explain to the little children that to receive a gift is to enjoy it, and when the enjoyment is gone, they are pass it on to the another child, so that they, too, can enjoy it. If a child gets a doll, that doll will change hands about eight times in a year, from one child to another.

Everyday is Christmas in Indian Country. Daily living is centered around the spirit of giving and walking the Red Road. Walking the Red Road means making everything you do a spiritual act. If your neighbor, John Running Deer, needs a potato masher; and you have one that you are not using, you offer him yours in the spirit of giving. It doesn’t matter if it is Christmas or not.

If neighbors or strangers stop over to visit at your house, we offer them dinner We bring out the T-Bone steak, not the cabbage. If we don’t have enough, we send someone in the family out to get some more and mention nothing of the inconvenience to our guests. The more one gives, the more spiritual we become. The Christ Consciousness, the same spirit of giving that is present at Christmas, is present everyday in Indian Country.

/Looks for Buffalo is an Oglala Sioux Spiritual Leader, the full-blood
Oglala grandson of Chief Red Cloud and White Cow Killer, and a Cheyenne
Oglala Leader.

article from

State sanctioned murder?

After a very high profile campaign to get him off death row, Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams was finally executed today.

It’s a sad day for the workings of the US justice system, that within a system that allows the death penalty, the idea of someone reforming whilst on death row is impossible. It’s pretty stark in its contrasts to execute a man recently nominated for the nobel peace prize…

But, the best comment on this came from Hugo Schwyzer who comments to the effect that the problem here is not that he was reformed, but that the death penalty exists at all. The problem with the death penalty is not that someone innocent might get killed, it’s in the process of killing someone full stop.

As he comments:
“One of the few things I’ve been consistent on throughout my life is my opposition to the death penalty. That opposition is not rooted in a fear that the innocent may be executed; it isn’t rooted in an ignorance as to the horror of the crimes invariably involved. It is rooted in the conviction that everyone who participates in an execution is invariably brutalized, even if they aren’t entirely aware of it at the time. The guards, the wardens, the witnesses, and the citizens of the state in whose name the execution is carried out are all a bit darker, a bit less human, as a result.”

Can’t put it any clearer than that.

A sad day, as it every day when someone is put to death in a so-called civilized country.

Soundtrack Iona, ‘Beyond These Shores’ (one of my all-time faves, but one I’d neglected of late. But not any more – it’s unbelieveable, I’m reliving the magic of the first time I heard it all over again. A truly remarkable album.)


Christianity quite often comes in for a lot of stick as being some kind of ‘crutch’ – Marx’s ‘opiate of the masses’. And often quite rightly so – it’d be pretty tricky to argue that the overwhelming support for Bush Jnr by US christians, despite his representing just about nothing of the qualities historically recognised as those of followers of Jesus suggests that somewhere along the lines, the critical faculties of large sections of the American Church have been squashed and replaced by a desire to hear someone say the right things, namecheck the right deity and thus gain the right to bomb anyone, sanction torture, crap on the poor, bolster the opulence and bloated wealth of the super-rich and reduce corporate responsibility for the welfare of those they employ. I don’t think it’d be considered a radical view point at pretty much any other time or place in the history of the church for those things to be considered profoundly anti-christian. While the powerful within the church have abused their position for centuries, the widespread support of such an abuse of power seems largely unprecedented on this scale…

Anyway, every now and again, along comes someone who takes jesus’ challenge to live radically seriously. One such person in the news of late is Gee Walker, the mother of Anthony Walker, the young black guy brutally murdered in a racist attack in Liverpool. His killers have just gone to jail, and Anthony’s mother has been all over the news, her pain visible on her face but deeper than any of us can imagine who’ve never been through such a thing.

Her words about forgiveness have been mind-blowing. Not flippant or overly-religious, certainly not an easy crutch… calling for the death penalty would surely be the obvious emotive response to such a situation… I know that my instinctive reaction to such brutality and evil isn’t to look for ways to forgive.

Is she just kidding herself? Is it possible to forgive? I dunno, I’ve never been in that situation, never been in the position where it’s been in my power to forgive something so heinous. But Gee Walker saw the challenge of Jesus extending forgiveness to everyone as a way of seeing the world. Not looking for vengeance or death, but looking to forgive.

Here are some thoughts by John Sentamu on Gee’s forgiveness – he’s the new Archbishop of York, who was beaten to shit by Robert Mugabi’s henchmen in Zimbabwe, has faced racism, and continues to face racism in the UK, and yet follows this model of radical forgiveness.

Meanwhile, Dubya is telling us that God told him to invade Iraq, and I’m just reminded of Peter Sutcliffe tell the Yorkshire police that God was telling him to murder prostitutes…

It’s scary that religious belief can be such an agent of change and an agent of manipulation and destruction. that in itself is a huge challenge to those of us who claim some kind of religious affiliation to question everything, to expose the darkness in our own hearts, and in the mechanisms of the church or whichever faith we adhere to. To cover it up leaves us in the disastrous mess the Catholic church are in over paedophile priests, where instead of turning them over to the police and supporting the abused children in bringing prosecutions, and building in safe-guards to make sure it never happens again, they just moved them to a new parish and allowed it to happen again. Unthinkable.

'America's Finest News Source'

I’m a firm believer in the redemptive power of satire – take the piss, expose the myth, change the world.

One of the world’s finest satirical sources is The Onion, and one of their latest targets is the crap around file sharing – ‘‘RIAA bans telling friends about songs’

Also on the list of truly fantastic satire is the new Saturday night cartoon double bill of Family Guy followed by American Dad. It’s fantastic subversive stuff, that somehow has ended up being commissioned by Fox! How did that happen? Like Borders selling copies of ‘No Logo’, it just baffles me… Anyway, both are required viewing, and a great guidebook to the worst excesses of the American psyche.

Soundtrack – King’s X, ‘Ogre Tones’.

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