Thursday, 31 May 2007

Everyone is a Madam

There is a person I walk past every day on the way to work who is selling The Big Issue, they are what we call an 'empowered beggar'.

Trouble is, they bug the shit out of me. Why?

First off, they speak in an impenetrable Eastern European accent, which renders much of what they say useless to the human ear.

Second off, no matter what gender you are, the homeless in questions calls you madam; whether you are a madam or not. Thus, all 6ft 7in of me is as much of a madam as a 5ft nothing teen emo queen. That is clearly wrong.

Has no one taken the beggar in question aside and advised them on the error of their ways? Is no one as bothered as I am? Or is it quite simply that we all like laughing at the foreigner when they say things they don't understand?

Oh come on, surely I wasn't the only one to make the blonde, Catholic, French exchange student say blowjob over and over again...

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Prisons: UK Degenerating to US Levels

A cheap vote winner with moronic citizens is being tough on crime and harsh on criminals, it’s a gimmie that gets all the hardliners salivating and the person in the street feeling safer.

It is of course, a load of old tosh.

Locking people up is not the answer, never has been, prison’s were invented to hold those deemed unredeemable rather than everyone from murderers through to blackmailers, thieves and those unable to pay their debts. But throwing people away and into gaol makes for easy political fodder and all that camp, fervent, tough on crime nonsense while no effort is made on the extenuating circumstances that prompt people to commit crime; mainly poverty, which is not so headline friendly and a lot harder to crack.

The obsession with criminalising behaviour by UK legislators means that the prison service is set to implode, with no cells for new convicts and no holding cells in courts and police stations (as they are full of convicts) so that new offenders have no where to be held and those on bail and who can’t meet it, will have to walk free as the inn is quite clearly full. As I type, the liminal point in cell allocation is being reached with the balance being only 400 or so in the black.

The UK prison service is now reaching breaking point as the number of prisoners in England and Wales reached an all time high of 80,846 and all to feed the political machine and the worrisome electorate with the crime and punishment biscuit. Which right now must taste pretty crappy.
This is the consequence of the drive to throw people away and not deal with the foundations of crime or effective rehabilitation techniques. It seems that as each days goes on we draw closer to our allies in America, both in military aims and social policy.

What next? Making everyone pay for health treatment and the death penalty?

*shudder*

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Iraq is an Absolute Mess

It never seems to end.

The constant dripping tap of bad news from Iraq, incident after incident will only harden the resolve of the American people and politicians to take the wrong course of action; that is to pull out of Iraq.

And not only will the US pull out it will also give a rubber stamp to a nation split of religious lines, seemingly failing to realise that a secular, Islamic democracy is more than possible if you have the diplomatic and military skills to see it through but in this time of facile, quick fix policies and short-termism such an approach will never be possible.

This is a great shame, indeed a shame of our time.

And so it goes on, from abductions to bombings to the suicides of US troops returning from the conflict.

It never seems to end.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Rough Play

This week I had the pleasure of working with a group of 20 year seven boys, young men in their first year at big school, a tough all boys school; making the step from the age of 11 and 12 into their teens and everything that comes with that; a difficult time of transition but an exciting one.

I was in the school all day, to teach the children physical theatre, a massive area of investigation and an alienating one for the young people with negative views on drama as effeminate. I had always intended that the session would play to the boy’s strengths, to engage them in using their bodies first and then easing the session into creative work.

Although some may accuse me of pandering to gender stereotypes the best way to engage lads like these is rough, tough, competitive play with overarching principles of honour, fairness and maximum effort at all times, even in a losing cause. As I expected the boys responded to it very well, mainly because such concepts are rarely practised in schools now, rough play is shied away from, as is directly competitive behaviour; crucially without these how can you teach children concepts of honour and fairness if the bar is never set for them to reach it?

It was an invigorating experience for me; to see these young men engage in tough, physically demanding activities and then take the lessons learnt into creative, solo, physical improvisations in front of their classmates.

Rough play has so many benefits, especially for boys, in that it establishes physical contact between males as a positive, necessary and natural thing. It also enables children to explore their own bodies, its limits, its strengths and weaknesses; rough play is an outlet for frustrations and tensions channelled in a constructive way.

It is a great shame that we exist now in such a controlled and safety-first environment that rough play is limited to special sessions, rather than being encouraged as natural behaviour as a tool to self-awareness, self-development and the understanding of essential values.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Madeleine McCann: Hysterical Madness

I have been watching the Madeleine McCann soft-core child pornography TV show with a mix of horror and utter bemusement. I seem to be missing something, a young girl is abducted, which is a terrible thing and unfortunately happens to many hundreds of parents in the UK alone but the response and out pouring of puesdo-grief is not only nauseating but utterly out of proportion. It all smacks of that the last time the UK showed how emotionally stunted it is by slobbering over itself for a fortnight when Princess Diana died.

The tabloid led absurdity charge to first vilify the parents for failing to watch over their child (which failed and has now fell off the map) was followed by an almost lustful attempt to canonise the poor child in question and the parents. Madeleine’s family have responded gamely to the media frenzy and have played them a treat, via endless events, press meetings and interviews with ever distant relatives; seemingly thinking that all the fuss will bring their child back rather than seeing that the loss of their daughter is being used by the rest of the country as an emotional masturbatory aid.

Is it just me or is the volume of images they have released of their child a little bizarre? TV news has become a child beauty pageant as the photogenic little one glides across our screens; if you squint hard enough this could be a fashion show; or a commercial for some infant friendly product. One can’t help but wonder that if she was ugly or the parents not so willing to dance with the devil, this whole story would have been a non-starter…such are the times we live in.

The only sobering fact is the unreported one, that since Madeleine disappeared on the 3rd May, more than 450 children in the UK have done the same. I’m not seeing any hysterical news coverage or photomontages for them.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Clocked In

I tried to apply

I can't get loose

My day is to myself

Put my brain in a noose

Buzzer sounds, gotta move

Feet move, legs move, hands move, brain moves…

Real slowI gotta' be on time

Just to collect my reward

I gotta’ stand in line

Makes me feel so fucking bored

Boss barks orders at me

But I can't yell back

‘Cause whenever I try…

Get that son of a bitch off my back

I have this problem every morning

I gotta' face the clock

Punch in, punch out, it makes me so pissed off

One of these days I'm gonna’ smash it off the wall

Go home!

Monday, 21 May 2007

Do me a Favour

I wish I didn't get ill, it's so shameful and embarrassing; makes me half a man, makes me the smallest big man there is out there. Sinking deeper into the seat, into myself and it's just about the only way I can deal with all the anger and confusion I feel.

Maybe I should've slunk off, walked away, ran away and left you to your fun while I did it on my own. Best to go it alone than bring you down. I made a judgement call and it was the wrong one but I was doing so well.

I always have some tissues don't I?

Forcing a smile, hold on to your heart.

Having a good cry with my trousers round my ankles.

"Do me a favour and break my nose. Do me a favour and tell me to go away. Do me a favour and stop asking questions. Do me a favour and ask if you need some help. Do me a favour and stop flattering yourself."

Really love, it's fine...

Friday, 18 May 2007

My Maid of Muswell

Hi angel,

I think it's important for me to tell you how much I love you, how you're the most beautiful woman in the world and how amazing you are, how grateful I am for the love you give me and good times we've already had and the future we hold together.

I meant what I said last night, I'll give you everything I can for as long as you want me because I know that you'd do exactly the same for me.

Side by side, hand in hand, me and you; to know that I have you in my corner fighting for me gives me the strength to get up everyday and to keep believing.

Here's to our present, our future, here's to positivity and the strength to rise above those who can only watch as we fly over their heads.

I love you.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

A Love Supreme: the Bush Blair Axis of Evil (a Photo Essay)

Bush in a bomber jacket, looking every inch the draft dodger and Blair in jeans that are so tight for him that he can barely fit his hands into the pockets. Classic look and of little surprise that the dog between them has more gravitas.


Always the joker, the leader of the free world can’t help but upstage his closest ally by pulling a stupid face when he shakes his hand. Notice the Prime minister’s white knuckles; this is a great sign of affection in the UK…

Bush and Blair were never comfortable around black guys and always felt more at ease around their Honky brethren, Blair is doing a good job of hiding the thought that Kofi Annan is going to mug him but Bush is terrified of the Negro behind him.

This was one wise crack too far from the self-appointed king of comedy and Blair is about to land one right on the nose of the US President (please note the fist technique the Prime minister is using, guaranteed to break the idiot-savants face) and it was only the quick thinking of Bush lackey Karl Rove, who took the punch on Bush’s behalf, that saved a major world crisis.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Pratt & Hook

Incompetence is an art form.

I’ve been in this job long enough to know how to do the least work possible, whilst at the same time looking like I’m doing more work than possible and moaning like I’m doing twice as much work as I’m pretending is possible.

I’ve paid my dues.

Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching the kids; I love teaching them that life is one long hard slog. I love skewering their hopes and dreams with the barbed harpoon of my bitter tongue, backed up my world of experienced failure. I particularly like teaching those kids that think they’ve got something to give, so I can burst there hot air balloon and watch as their flailing body is consumed by the flames of self doubt before it crashes in the hard, concrete floor called reality.

Psst…I keep the souls of broken children in a jar in my office.

Kids are like black people to me: they all look the same. All I’m doing is preparing them for a world full of pain, I’m doing them a real service and the little animals should be more grateful for the gifts I bestow on them.

Next to the jar of souls is a water cooler full of tears.

I’m retiring soon and I don’t know what I’m going to do without having all those kids to torture, my wife reckons that one day I’ll end up waiting outside the school gates with a flick knife and puncture some kid’s dreams for real. I laugh at her and say that’s a bit extreme and instead I’ll just abduct one to lock in my garage.

And she thinks I’m joking…

Monday, 14 May 2007

This is for Eva-Jane...

A French Bulldog is the adoptive mother to a Bengal tiger cub in Japan.

A baby tiger abandoned by her mother in a Japanese zoo has found unconditional love in an unlikely neighbour -- a French bulldog.

The Bengal tiger, born last month in Kagawa prefecture, southern Japan, was first cared for by zoo-keepers after she was found stranded from her mother with no means for milk. But the squealing cub soon found motherly love in the zoo's two-year-old French bulldog, named Nana.

"Nana happens to have a strong motherly instinct," said Yuki Matsumura, keeper in charge of the baby tiger at the Shirotori Zoo.

The dark-grey bulldog stops to lie still as the cub nudges its side to drink its milk. The bulldog, which recently gave birth to a still-born pup, may be thinking that the tiger is her real child.

"The baby tiger also seems to believe the dog is her real mother," Matsumura said. "She always asks the dog to breast-feed her by crying loudly."

The two may have to part soon in a few months, however, since the 30 cm cub is growing fast.

The zoo says the tiger may have to be moved to an enclosure with other tigers once she reaches a certain size.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Blair: Going…Going…

*cough*

Hardly news really and not much of a surprise and some smart arse at the back it screaming: “At last!”

Prime minister Tony Blair will be standing down as of the 27th June and what a drawn out, horrible and sometimes embarrassing process it’s been. At least now we have a date so all the speculation can end and New Labour can get on with the business of electing a new leader (shoo-in Gordon Brown, who I have a real soft spot for wholly based on his excellent economic record) and taking the country into a General Election.

Like most British people I have mixed feelings about Tony Blair, in two of the three elections I’ve voted in, I’ve backed his party and it was only the last one where I eventually turned to the Liberal Democrats; the decision on Iraq and the junior partner role in the axis of imperialism with the US the straw that broke my back. That’s a lie, the aforementioned cult of the individual was getting a little too overbearing, as was the heavy handed policy making that seemed set on convincing us that taking our human rights away was the best way of savaging them as we lay under siege by terrorism.

The highlights of Blair? Great campaigner, great people skills and wonderful emotive speech delivery that set him above rather dry opponents and marked him as a statesman of much charisma. Bank of England’s independence was a masterstroke, as was devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and, via a tough but worthwhile peace process, to Northern Ireland. Support of the US versus Afghanistan was admirable in removing al-Qaeda from direct rule but the backing of the Iraq invasion was no doubt the greatest mistake of his rule. For me though, it is the economic stability, low unemployment and sensible fiscal policy (that man Gordon of course) that has made the 10 years of Blair and New Labour worth it.

The trouble was, back in 1997 the expectations of the nation were too heavy, after a long and torrid affair with the Conservative Party that nearly ran the country into the ground, both socially and economically; we wanted something amazing to pull is out of our Tory stupor and we thought, albeit briefly, that we’d got it. We hadn’t but it was far better than what we give it credit for now.

Maybe when the dust settles, we’ll look back a little fonder on the Blair years, that’s if the spectre of Iraq does loom too large…

Thursday, 10 May 2007

The Cult of the Individual

I’d never thought that I’d turn to Nikita Khrushchev for words to deal with the terrible turn that modern politics has taken and is no better illustrated in the Democratic and Republican Presidential nominations and the farce like slow-death of Blair and Bush.

On the 25th February 1956 Nikita Khrushchev delivered his ‘Secret Speech’ on the cult of the individual, it’s target was Stalin and his policies, it was as shocking to a nation still indoctrinated in by the Stalinist dogma, still living with the fear of it’s brutality; as two planes crashing into the World Trade Centre.

Many sections of the speech resonate with the current, personality first, policies second style of realpolitik; strong-arm, nasty, decision making hidden behind vacuous, media friendly 2D facades that try and position themselves as some kind of Godhead: “such a man supposedly knows everything, sees everything, thinks for everyone, can do anything, is infallible in his behaviour.”

Khrushchev’s description of Stalin’s leadership techniques could easily be transferred to many of our modern leaders at their worst moments:

“Stalin…acted not through persuasion but by imposing his concepts and demanding absolute submission to his opinion. Stalin originated the concept ‘enemy of the people’. This term automatically made it unnecessary that the ideological errors of a man be proven. It made it possible to use the cruellest repression against anyone who in any way disagreed with Stalin.”

The cult of the individual in politics is certainly a dangerous one; perhaps with the demise of Blair and Bush there is an opportunity to return political leadership to one of content and results, rather than manipulation and image.

We can but hope…

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

This is England

"That's what we need man, that's what this nation has been built on: proud men, proud fuckin' warriors. Two thousand years this tiny, fuckin' little island has been raped and pillaged by people who've come here and want a piece of it. Two fuckin' world wars men have laid down their lives for this, for this and for what? So we can stick our fuckin' flag in the ground and say yeah, this is England."

Go and see Shane Meadow's brilliant new film, This is England, which sums up the disaffection of early 80's England with all the gritty brilliance it deserves: miner's strikes, Falklands War, Thatcher's fuckin' Britain with all its high unemployment, skinheads, goths, new romantics, daft racists and people trying to make the best of what they've got.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Perhaps Fuck Off Might be too Kind

Some people don’t know how blessed they are to have a gifted person amongst them.

Some people are too busy pushing their own petty agendas and failing to see the bigger picture.

Some people are too busy trying to score points and have failed to notice that in the real world, there isn’t even a scoreboard.

When you have the chance to work with someone who is willing to go that extra mile, who is willing to commit and contribute to the very best of their abilities, you should seize that chance rather than resent it and try and destroy it with your behaviour.

Luckily, it’s made of tougher stuff then your poxy slings arrows can ever hope to damage, I just hope that one day you realise what you missed out on and vow never to miss a chance like that again.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Talking Turkey

Hidden amongst the ongoing troubles in Iraq and Afghanistan, more posturing by that fool Mugabe and French Presidential elections, are the events in Turkey; which deserve more International attention.

The reason? Turkey is a prime and possibly solitary example of an Islamic nation practicing a secular style of government and, some human rights issues aside, making a real, democratic success of it. Last week some half a million Turkish people marched in the defence of secularism and a second demonstration is underway, this in itself struck me as a wonderful event that deserved more celebration across the globe. Here we have an Islamic nation that has long put behind it the dogma of certain sections of Islam in an effort to build a democracy that can be recognised as such across the world.

American readers may be unaware of a certain priggish, snobbishness amongst certain European nations at the inclusion of Turkey in the EU, citing various human rights infringements whilst at the same time ignoring a long history of forward thinking democratic action. The desire to exclude Turkey from the EU is as dangerous as it is foolish, best to welcome the nation with open arms, to celebrate a secular, Islamic country with one of the fastest growing and strongest economies in the world.

Turkey is also of vast strategic importance and always has been, it is an ally to keep on side because of its geographic position and the fact it has the second largest standing army in NATO (behind the US); something that has not been missed by America which does its best not to antagonise Turkey but Bush’s clumsy foreign policy has made a solid ally into a wary neutral.

More importantly, Turkey stands as firm and undeniable proof in these xenophobic times that a Muslim nation is more than capable of separating religion from the state and pushing forward with a progressive agenda.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

The Death Penalty Doesn’t Work

Whether it means stabbing someone to death in Somalia, or hanging someone in Kuwait, or stoning someone in Iran, or lethal injection in the United States (the only advanced, developed nation in the world to still utilise capital punishment), state approved killing does little to reduce crime; it’s effects and it’s causes.

2006 saw some 1600 executions worldwide but obviously the number is no doubt greater than that, with some countries less forthcoming with stats on the murder of their citizens. Experts in the field of capital punishment believe that the worldwide trend is moving towards abolishing it all together, since 1985 55 nations have done so leaving only 25 remaining.

Louise Arbour, the UN commissioner for Human Rights, has called for a worldwide ban and most continents seems to be following the growing, global distaste for this frankly backwards practice. Europe leads the way, with Africa not far behind, while in the Americas only the United States has executed anyone in the last 3 years. It is only Asia and the Middle East which is seemingly impervious to the arguments against capital punishment with China being the worlds leading killer, officially over 1,000 executed but estimates believe that figure to be closer to 8,000.

After China, the list of highest number of executions in descending order reads: Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and the United States. America stands out like a sore thumb amongst that company, indeed, it is the only Western democracy to still put prisoners to death and since 1973, 120 innocent people have been wrongly killed.

With growing uncertainty in the US about lethal injection being a humane way of disposing of criminals and many states moving towards abolition of the death penalty, it may be that we see the last bastion of exectution slowly move into a more progressive means of dealing with serious offenders.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

“Getting Shot Hurts”

Ronald Reagan’s diaries that he kept while in office are being published by HarperCollins and they promise to be an interesting and no doubt amusing read. Vanity Fair is already printing excerpts, full of Reaganisms, all that earnestness, bluntness and the master of being endearingly facile.

Rather charmingly, he is unable to write out swear words in full and self-edits any expletives that he uses (mostly hell, it seems) and his description of Margaret Thatcher as “firm as always” is as accurate as it is an understatement. However, most of the entertainment comes in his pithy summaries of major events, such as:

“Intelligence reports say Castro is very worried about me. I'm very worried that we can't come up with something to justify his worrying.”

“Sometimes I wonder if we are destined to witness Armageddon.”

Lowell Weicker (Connecticut senator) was the head ringmaster against us as he is on everything we want. He's a pompous, no good, fathead.”

There is one quote however, that hits home with reference to the current administration, in that it seems a world away in its humbleness and sense of perspective, so I’ll leave it with you…

“I pray constantly that I won’t let the people down.”

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Coast to Coast

Scant info as yet but the legend that is Mark Whiteley and my good self are to be re-united once again with a brand new show called Coast to Coast, which after playing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival will be then going out on a National tour in 2007 and beyond; so look out for us at a theatre near you please!

Oh...and the show will be a stand-up comedy affair based on The Big Adventure, when Mark and I walked across Great Britain with no food, no where to sleep and no money with a show as our only currency. You heard...