The crushing misery of the welfare system

Last night I came home to a large brown envelope that contained a letter and form from the DWP asking me to be reassessed for my Personal Indepndence Payment (PIP) which I frankly need to  carry on doing basic things like live. I wasn’t expecting this til early next year so to be put through this process now when things are fragile sent my anxiety all over the place to the extent that although I eventually calmed down after getting a friend to help me fill it out during the week, I was sick and dizzy so ended up in bed just after 9 last night.

The reason I’m dreading this is the process is designed to put people off  and the system itself if you do apply is deliberately gamed against you, not to mention the Tory government would rather you die than claim. So complaints have went through the roof, and a seeming endless trail of people have taken their own life or left bereft of hope after reliving past traumas.

Now for those of you outwith the UK the process is this; you fill in a form and return it to the DWP who then give a judgementas to what you’ll be awarded monthly. Sounds reasonable enough yeah? Except the initial screening process may well be with a medical professional the final assessesment is by someone with no medical training somewhere buried in the system. These people work in a performance based environment so they work to targets. Get seen on a day when they’ve given plenty of awards and you could be refused only for it to be revoked after appeal months and months later. There’s also the fact the system is designed for you to relive trauma every three years.

I’d hoped the new Scottish system would have been devolved in time but sadly not, and as an aside if anyone screams ‘NATIONALIST’ to folk like me who see an independent Scotland as the only way many of us are going to be free of living with fear then I point them to this and say this is what the UK is doing to people. Tens of thousands are dead thanks to a system unfit for purpose and things are only going to get worse thanks to Brexit which adds another edge to this as the carnage that awaits us from that will directly affect people like me.

So wish me luck. I’ve been quietly dreading Brexit, but having this happen while that happens is going to stretch me thin.

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50 years of Woodstock

Half a century ago the modern idea of a music festival was born with Woodstock. Sure, there’d been festivals before in the US, and in the UK which sort of looked like the modern festival but Woodstock wrote the book.

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No Woodstock, no Bath Blues Festival and no Glastonbury. Reading Festival wouldn’t have become what it did, and the entire free festival scene of the 70s to mid-90s wouldn’t have existed. Music over the last 50 years would have sounded very different indeed.

Of the even itself we have endless testimony from the half million or so that attended the festival, but we also have one of the best documentaries ever made with Michael Wadleigh’s extraordinary Woodstock.

Thing is I find most of the music tired and deeply, deeply of its time but then a Janis Joplin comes on, or Sly Stone or  Jimi Hendrix who did this wonderful act of subversion.

For a while it seemed the entire hippie movement got it right and the establishment lost, which of course it did. Establishments’ change and shift slowly from one generation to the next, but the hippies could only go so far, and anyhow, once Charles Manson and Altamont happened, the hippie dream was skewered not to mention by 1970 the hippie was fully absorbed into the mainstream to be marketed to like any other demographic.

Woodstock itself turned into myth but truth is it seems to have happened more by accident than plan as subsequent attempts to revive it in years since with varying results. Woodstock 99 is generally considered to be a complete disaster and is now the subject of a fascinating podcast, Break Stuff. Attempts to hold a 50th anniversary concert this weekend failed which is probably for the best.  Preserving what was done 50 years ago is more important than a cash grab featuring acts who couldn’t care less about the history or the ideology.

And it’s best it does stay wrapped in myth. The grim realities of half a million people needing a shite does not make for golden memories, so let it stay undamaged as some bit of history that helped shape the following half century ways the hippies there that weekend could never have wished for in their wildest dreams.

A week changes everything in the Scottish independence debate

Around a week ago there was the by now, usual stalemate in regards Scottish independence. Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister had made independence seem better for so many people but there was no sign of Nicola Sturgeon or her government pushing for the referendum many of us in Scotland are dessperate for. Then a new Ashcroft poll was released and since then merry hell has broken lose as the momentum is clearly towards a yes vote.

In around a week carnage has broken loose with the Unionist side in a sheer blind panic not knowing what to do. Rumours of private Tory polls swirl around with these polls showing what Ashcroft revealed, and of course Labour come wading into the debate again pushing the same lines they did in 2014 but the difference is no, few are listening. In short,  they’re scared shitless.

On the other side the Yes Movement’s divides are open and bleeding, but frankly, it needs to be done. There’s always been an awkward divide between the West of Scotland intelligentsia and the mass of working class  Yes supporters which previously was shown up with RISE, who claimed to offer an ‘alternative’ to the SNP and Greens but ended up being typical champagne leftists whose support for independence buckled when Jeremy Corbyn fluttered his eyes at them in the 2017 election.

Then this weekend gone, Wings Over Scotland said that they’d be running candidates in the 2021 Scottish elections, and seeing as Stuart Campbell is equally hated by those on the Indy and Unionist side then as you can imagine social media has become a quagmire. However the plan to target only certain seats with Unionist MSP’s is quite attractive partly as it’d hurt the amount of Unionist seats but show there’s a willingness in the Yes movement to take the fight to the enemy as it were. I’m no supporter of Campbell’s personal views outwith of independence but I fail to see anyone else stepping up to do the job he does. He’s far more effective and frankly, if we go into the next referendum playing nice we’re fucked.

But there’s a clear divide between ‘polite’ Yes supporters and the mass of mainly working class supporters who’ve in many cases never supported anything political in their lives. Now as someone who went around political circles in their youth that divide comes from the old SWP days where thet’d look at the working class as people to manipulate and if they couldn’t they’d dismiss them. One of the wonderful things about the Yes movement is that there’s no SWP types at the helm to fuck things up as they have Labour under Corbyn.

Fact is though that without there being an actual referendum to fight all the divides are showing, things are creaking as after all, some people in Scotland on the Yes side may want independence, but not right now while they’re building up their media or political career but the fact is the last few days have shown that independence is becoming a real prospect for many people who’d not have considered it previously and if we can’t become indepndent when Boris Johnson is leading the UK into a circle of hell all of its own then we don’t deserve alternatives like independence.

Unsung heroes of British comics

The history of British comics tends to follow a certain path. DC Thompson’s titles before the war, The Eagle in the 50’s with the usual references to Dan Dare as well as a quick mention of boys and girls comics in the 60’s and early 70’s.

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From the 70′, it’s a quick dive into Action before 2000AD, and  how that comic single handed changed things forever.

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Next comes the ”British invasion” of American comics lead by Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and followed by many, many more.

sotst21A quick dive into comics like Crisis, Deadline and Toxic! back in the UK before things just dribble to an end and all the usual names (who all thoroughly deserve their place in history and in the sun)  before being wrapped up in a nice bow.toxic!1

But there’s dozens, probably hundreds, of people who’ve spent part, or much of their lives to kicking off, promoting and expanding the comics scene in the UK who are ignored or just wiped from history depending upon who is telling the story. And to make it clear everyone, myself included, who has written anything about the history of UK comics has done this at least once but there’s a way modern history is being written that’s missing out folk and considering many of these people are getting older, or dead, it’ll be hard to get them to rewrite history when most comic journalists (and often that’s a useless term) rely purely upon Wikipedia.

So think of people like Bob Napier and Steve Montgomery who helped carve out a Glasgow comics scene in the first place, or Paul Hudson who owned Comic Showcase in London and provided an alternative to the increasingly corporate Forbidden Planet, or Martin Skidmore who helped so many people break into the industry or Pete Stephenson who almost single handedly ensured DC Comics got widespread newsagent distribution in the 1980s at a time when the market exploded.

These are just people off the top of my head. There’s dozens more out there and I’ll be expanding upon them in future blogs but remember the people who fell through the cracks of history.

A small return to Glastonbury 2002

2002 is a weird year. 9/11 had happened but the aftershocks hadn’t fully kicked in, while the idea of a Tory government ever happening again was laughable due to a Labour government which was doing a job (insert how well of a job here as by 2002 I was done with them) than the Tories could though history has now shown they were writing cheques to be cashed in the present of today. The 21st century hadn’t really kicked in yet while UK culture was in a flux with the 90s still casting a shadow as there wasn’t really a developed idea of where things were going.

Which brings me back to the Glastonbury Festival of 2002. This was the first year back after the massive year which was 2000, and the first of the superfence which did its job so well that the festival felt quieter than it’s ever felt to me. Still busy and frantic but there were chunks of open space and room to move. Compared with 2019’s frenetic crowds it felt so bare but this and 2003 are the transition years of the festival as a meeting of the British alternative to something of the establishment because by the time Paul McCartney rocks up to play in 2004 you can’t really hide what you’ve become and where you’re going.

So I feel a massive fondness for 2002. It’s one of the last festivals I did myself over a beautiful weekend where it seemed the sun would always shine and things could only get better.

Imagine my joy then at YouTube’s algorithm spitting the video below at me. It really is a delight to see this raw footage to remind me of how the festival was, and how I forgot writing about previously about seeing Richie Havens being fucking brilliant or just how nice everyone was even though the lineup wasn’t one of the greatest it was one of the best years for the festival. There’s never going to be a year like it ever again so sit, watch and soak up a piece of history.

The Edinburgh Festival: ”a festival for cunts by cunts”

It is August so pity those year-long residents of Edinburgh who have all the media of the world, but mainly London, discharge over them like warm sick for a month as it’s the annual Edinburgh Festival everyone!

Now as a Glaswegian it is easy to mock the Other Place through emerald green eyes of jealousy  but when younger I used to love the festival visiting it often and enjoying the somewhat anarchic sense that this establishment art festival was also the home of genuine alternative comedy, drama and so on.  Then in the late 80s (as regular readers of this blog know)  I moved to England swanning around the East Midlands, London and Bristol so I only observed from afar what was going on.That is the selling out of the Festival to corporations and the wholesale change of Edinburgh (well, the bits you might see on the telly) from a vibrant capital city to a playground for the wealthy and for tourists.

Now many cities are doing the same. I’ve blogged about how Bristol’s mayor and council are cleansing (a word I don’t use lightly) the poor from areas like Stokes Croft for a younger, wealthier crowd  There’s no money to be made from the poor so they’re shunted to out of town estates with shite infrastructure and a feeling of being robbed as their former homes are sold to private landlords who’ll make a mint from turning it into an AirBNB.

Edinburgh is no different. People are being priced out including the artistic community who don’t have access to a trust fund or their parents expenses account. Art is being commercialised, sold to corporations and rebranded back to us as lifestyle choices or ‘experiences’ that are mere shadows of what the real thing used to be but just edgy enough to appeal to the middle class leftish liberals who flood the city like Stepford nuclear families.

So, this brings me to one of Scotland’s newer media and politics commentators, Bonnie Prince Bob, and his thoughts on the festival. It needs to be watched because this isn’t something restricted to Edinburgh as said, but it would be a fucking shame to see that city wrecked.

Why framing comics is a very bad thing

First of all I need to make it clear I’m equally contemptuous of the practise of slabbing comics like this.

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Slabbing comics is an expensive thing and deeply controversial thing in the industry but sneaking under the radar is the practise of framing comics for display, or for sale.  Like this for example.

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Comics are a medium and art form. They’re also meant to be enjoyed, read and appreciated and I’ve no issues with framing say, a print of a cover or page. Done it myself and done it with original art in good quality frames placed in rooms where it won’t be bombarded by light and can be shown off well.

Putting a comic in a frame not only devalues it financially, but also artistically because a comic is meant to be read. It’s part of what it is as an object and an art-form. Putting it in a frame (or slab) takes the purpose for what it is created away from it. Yes, stick a print up is fine because it’s a print, not a comic but put a comic in there and you devalue you it in every possible sense. Sure, you might enjoy looking at it and it looks cool but try to recoup your investment (And some of these framed comics sell for silly money) with a dealer and you’ll be left confused and annoyed because the minute you stick it under the glass, the value sinks.

So get a print. If you really, really, really want to frame your comic be aware of what you’re doing because you’re sticking your comic in a plastic bag trapped in glass, which when explosed to light, means you’ve trapped it stewing in acid. Good luck!