The road to Glastonbury 2017

If you’re reading this then I’ll be well on my way from Glasgow, and in fact I’ll have been in Bristol since Monday evening, Easyjet permitting. I’m fully stocked up on my drugs too.

So let’s all enjoy Glastonbury in what promises to be a hot, dryish one and if you’re coming down don’t be a dick and leave a mess like last time.

So, of course expect a blow by blow account once I’m back in Glasgow and the festival is over until the next one in 2019, that’s right, 2018 is a fallow year so this is going to be a good one…

Glastonbury Man: BBC documentary from 2000

It’s that time of the year where many of us look to a field in Somerset as it is the time of year for the Glastonbury Festival. This year I’m returning after a brief intermission for nearly dying twice in 2016 and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve written in detail about all the previous festivals I’ve attended (just search Glastonbury in the bar above) since 1992 but as we get ready for this year’s festival lets look back to the year 2000 where modem’s burred and chirruped as we went online, 911 was just a number, Scottish independence was an unrealistic dream, UKIP were a pathetic joke, and Tony Blair was still a cunt.

The 2000 festival is something of a landmark. It is the last pre ‘superfence’ festival and therefore the last festival that felt like the one I first attended in 1992 some eight years earlier. it was a festival that marked 30 years since the first one and in many ways closed the book on that era when the festival could still claim to be counter-cultural. It was also the third year of the BBC televising it and before the festival they produced an excellent wee documentary about Michael Eavis which is simply glorious.

Enjoy and I’ll see you all in a field in Somerset…

Europe is our playground

Tomorrow the UK and EU will engage in Brexit negotiations which is like trying to negotiate with an accountant about what part of your body needs to be cut off needlessly while Nigel Farage sits laughing and wanking over pictures of Donald Trump in the background. We’re seeing a government with no plan, no clue and in the wake of a disastrous election result and the fallout from Grenfell. For a skilled, strong leader this would be tough. For someone like Theresa May this will be impossible.

Yet the political landscape is that most parties are now talking only of the least shittest outcome or a ‘soft Brexit’ as it’s called. It’ll still hurt, inflict poverty and have austerity for a generation, and that means politicians of most parties are trying to sell it. Here’s journalist J.J patrick pulling up Jeremy Corbyn’s latest Tweet about how a soft Brexit will be a world of soft absorbent puppies and gold coins.

Brexit is going to cost. It’s already cost us an estimated £100 million, and as Patrick says, hard and soft is an irrelevant distinction. If I cut your leg off with a razor sharp blade or an old rusty sword, one might be better and quicker in the short term but both leave you without a leg.

So we face Brexit negotiations starting tomorrow with both main UK wide parties in favour of a massive act of self-harm that will bring upon us crushing and lasting poverty for the most vulnerable yet people on the left and right carry on for ideological reasons. Never has the phrase ‘may you live in interesting times‘ felt like a curse.

Scotland’s sense of ‘we just can’t’ has to be overcome

The other day on Twitter I had an interesting chat in regards a painful part of the Scottish character prompted by this post.

There’s a Scottish character trait that is self-defeating, which is bad, but what’s worse is that trait is made with because we make mythology of glorious failure. From the numerous failed  World Cup campaigns, through to failing life expectancies, Scotland accepts its fate like a condemned man walking down the corridor to the gas chamber. We’ve been inbuilt to accept our fate and to accept failure as ‘well, that’s how it is’.

It’s one of the things that made me leave Scotland in 1988. I couldn’t accept a future where my lot in life is accepted as ‘how it’s supposed to be’ because my ambition was curtailed in a social and cultural way. Things have changed to be fair but that attitude of just accepting what life has given you still persists, and although things like the independence campaign has energised people we still have politicians coming out with lines such as ”Scots are not genetically programmed to make political decisions”.

On coming back to Scotland I see this attitude challenged, mainly with younger people who’ve not had Labour or any other part of the Scottish establishment drill into them their depressing poison but things are still slow moving and this attitude keeps people unthinking, and worse, people in poverty or suffering because they’ve been told all their life to just shut up and suck it up.

Fuck. That. We have to change and we have to do it sooner rather than later.

Los Angeles pays tribute to Adam West in the best possible way.

Adam West sadly died recently. His Batman is for me, the only Batman as he wasn’t a psychopath like Michael Keaton’s, or a sociopath like Christian Bale, or a murdering lunatic like Ben Affleck’s. No, West was good, cheerful, honest and decent and although his Batman looks archaic it is still Batman.

So the people of Los Angeles marked West’s death in the best, and most glorious, way possible. Have a look..

 

Ruth Davidson: Soldier of Orange

Last week the general election saw pretty much everyone lose. Theresa May lost her majority and all her hubris she displayed since last June vanished with an appalling campaign. The SNP lost 21 seats thanks partly  to a Corbyn-injected Labour vote and a Tory vote energised by Ruth Davidson’s single minded ‘no more referendums’ campaign. Jeremy Corbyn may have the impetus (for now) but nothing hides the fact he lost and (for now) we’ve a Tory government propped up by the deeply sectarian DUP.

However most political pundits from all sides point to Ruth Davidson as a clear winner. Her campaign in Scotland saved Theresa May’s neck as those 13 Tory MP’s in Scotland were the difference between May cobbling together a government and Jeremy Corbyn cobbling together a government but yet bizarrely many south of the border see Davidson as a calming influence on Theresa May and someone of some integrity yet that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I’ve pointed out before Ruth Davidson’s defence of the ‘rape clause‘, so really, she’s no friend to the left, yet some praise her partly because as Labour loyalists some prefer to see the SNP being given a bloody nose over beating Tories, and here’s where Davidson’s not went through any scrutiny in England. Now some blogs in Scotland have dragged Davidson’s somewhat flexible politics through the coals but her apparent defence of LGBTI rights in the UK (which again she painted as standing up for herself, but as that is a reserved subject for as long as she lives in Scotland she’s perfectly fine) led her to Tweet this.

Davidson has played with religion for a while dragging into the Scottish political spectrum when many thought it was dying but here’s the thing, when Arlene Foster of the DUP says the union is her ‘guiding star’ that is exactly the same position as Ruth Davidson. Her campaign in Scotland was built round one thing; no more referendums. That was it. No other policies and when pushed on policies Davidson folded or showed complicit support as in the rape clause.

Yet again, we were warned about Ruth Davidson and her pandering to the Orange Order who may not have the power in Scotland they once had, but hold an influence in Scotland that seems unbreakable for as long as the union prevails. If you haven’t a clue who the Orange Order are, this wonderful clip from T2: Trainspotting answers everything in a succinct way.

This election was the last stand of a hard, sectarian Unionism and thanks to Ruth Davidson and the DUP, that strain of Unionism has the whip hand over the entire UK, and as for Davidson’s claim last week she’d ensure the DUP preserve rights that’s been shown to be bullshit as women from Northern Ireland are now banned from travelling to England to get a termination.

Davidson fought tooth and nail dabbling with sectarianism to put a dent into the SNP, hurt the idea of independence and also hollow out Labour who insanely worked with the Tories in many Scottish seats to help stop the SNP. So yes, Davidson has won and is the media’s new love but it’s easy to oppose. Now she has to deliver and she’s incapable of doing that. What do voters who don’t want a second referendum think of the fact the SNP have a mandate for one, the Greens still support one and there’s now more independence minded people in Labour? As 2015 was a high point for Nicola Sturgeon, 2017 could well be the same for Ruth Davidson.

I hope so. She’s stirred up some horrendously dark forces and they won’t get back into their box easily now they’re holding a gun at Theresa May’s head.

What I thought of The Divided States of Hysteria #1

Howard Chaykin’s latest comic is a tad controversial. For those of us who’ve been fans of Chaykin’s work for the last few decades this won’t come as a shock as after all, American Flagg! shocked people in the early 80’s with the amount of sex and violence in it. His revamp of The Shadow for DC Comics (full of sex and violence) that caused Harlan Ellison to attack it as a

a really offensive, ugly, mean-spirited, violently pornographic piece of work

Then there was Black Kiss. A comic full of sex and violence which caused Grant Morrison to call it a

adolescent homophobic mummy’s boy jerk-off fantasy drivel

Then there’s the stuff like Blackhawk or Time2 that was only mildly controversial, but you publish a Chaykin comic you know you’re going to get a mix of politics, sex, violence, and characters who are unlikeable as well as use racist, homophobic and all the transgressive things you imagine people can say. So if you know your comics you know what roughly to expect when picking up a comic by someone who’s spent nearly 40 creating shock as well as some exceptional comics.

Which brings me to The Divided States of Hysteria.From the cover it’s clear Chaykin isn’t fucking around and the synopsis on Comixology makes things clear too.

An America sundered. An America enraged. An America terrified. An America shattered by greed and racism, violence and fear, nihilism and tragedy…and that’s when everything really goes to hell.

There’s been a strand of deep, cynical satire (and remember, Chaykin is left of centre in an America where people like Hilary Clinton are considered ‘left wing’) that’s threaded Chaykin’s work from American Flagg! onwards which when it works is astonishing. When it doesn’t it feels like a scream. It is normally at least interesting, and this is an interesting scream at 21st century American politics, culture and society.

The comic starts with a telling of a terrorist incident that wipes out the President and his cabinet.

This is angry stuff. Chaykin is fucked off at what he sees as ‘self-obsession’, but I’ll wait to get to that in detail later. For all the anger and rage, this is a lovely looking comic and is certainly Chaykin’s best work artistically in years with his eye for design looking as good as ever.

Those though are panels from a black sniper in Chicago who is targeting white people. As said, Chaykin isn’t fucking around here as he makes the reader deliberately uncomfortable as although this part has gotten attacked on the internet, I wonder what would have been the reaction if he’d made the character white? This is the thing here; Chaykin is attacking identity politics head on in a way I’ve not seen in a comic published by one of the mainstream American comic publishers before but then we get to the stuff that’s setting Bleeding Cool alight and providing that site with lots of clicks.

This is the ‘transphobic act’ that’s set Twitter alight as a trans woman is violently attacked. However I think what also is riling people up is the commentary which is from the point of view of the trans woman.

Chaykin is sticking his fist into a hornet’s nest here but he raises a point. Trans women are treated appallingly by the ‘liberal media’ with a look at what people like Julie Burchill or Germaine Greer have said in the past, but Chaykin doesn’t treat the person here as ineffectual meat to be slaughtered but someone who fights back in the only way a Chaykin protagonist can do.

Unless you’ve by now be triggered into a safe space it is perfectly clear that The Divided States of Hysteria is a very, very dark satire which takes no prisoners but yet, for all the controversy its clear where Chaykin’s heart lies. He’s an individualist  whose politics seem to be consistently left of centre, but doesn’t fall into what would be called ‘left wing’ or ‘liberal’ in 21st century terminology. Chaykin explains himself in the letters pages and for some, it has only served to make things worse.

This is going to make hard reading for some on the American (and indeed, British) left as it contains some painful home truths. While some of us on the left were fighting for small things the likes of Trump, or Farage and his Brexiters went out, won elections and referendums and promptly fucked things up for not just our respective countries but the planet.  Now these small things needed to be fought for but many did lose the bigger picture trapped instead in small echo chambers where a man like Chaykin would be seen as a right wing lunatic, even if he’s clearly nothing of the sort.

Are there problematic things in The Divided States of Hysteria? Yes, there’s what looks like Islamophobia near the end of the first issue and the comic does seem to cross lines a lot between satire and personal attack, but it is as Chaykin said about American Flagg!, a liberal mugged by reality (it was actually former New York mayor Ed Koch that said that but still…). And this feels like Chaykin serving all the worst he sees in reality at his audience in a way many won’t be accustomed to as normally creators pull back, or create at least one entry-level character for the reader to identify with. There’s none of that here. Every character is either a murderer, bigot, racist, and on, but there’s nobody to like however Chaykin presents us with characters who liberals (with a small ‘l’ rather than Tim Farron’s lot) will normally side with. By presenting characters who are shits but due to identity politics will be seen by some on the left as automatically sympathetic, Chaykin is essentially forcing people to confront some very, very dark things within themselves.

Essentially he is trying to mug you with a big stick made of reality. It doesn’t work all the time and of course it is only the first part. It is also offensive and interesting in a way few comics from mainstream publishers ever are in a era where pandering to fans has muted creators vision. It is a comic not for the faint hearted but it is a return to form for one of the most interesting voices in American comics.