A quick word about sectarianism in Scotland

This week saw Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke rightfully despair about the sectarian abuse that comes from some Rangers fans, as well as the wider problem of religious bigotry in the West of Scotland.

This prompted not the widespread soul searching one would hope, but instead people started digging in, including sadly Steven Gerrard who decided instead of condemning what he clearly hears behind him since becoming manager of Rangers, decided to bring up the abuse of Kris Boyd. For the record Boyd sat with Clarke in a press conference to discuss the problem.

There is a feeling rife in Scotland that this ‘is just how it is‘ and that trying to change it would just be too hard, which of course is incredible nonsense. IF certain institutions and people wanted to change they would so we have to deal with the fact some people don’t just enjoy wallowing in this hatred, but they thrive from it. Ruth Davidson for example has helped get where she is today through pandering to Orange tinted bigots, while Labour have been hand in glove with the Orange Order for too long with Jeremy Corbyn being the latest leader happy to turn a blind eye.

Essentially large parts of Scotland’s establishment have strong links to sectarianism, or are themselves, sectarians happy to push that agenda with Murdo Fraser of the Tories being the most blatant example. As for the media, many wring their hands in faux outrage, but are only happy to cash in on sectarianism for clicks like the Daily Record is. Then there’s people like James Kelly MSP, who fought to get the ‘football act’ repealed which as flawed a bit of legislation as it was, it happened to be the only bit of legislation passed which targeted this specific problem. Kelly promised after the repeal that he and Labour would present ideas around the idea that education and other approaches would work. Over a year on we see there’s no educating some people and we still await Kelly,not to mention the Scottish media establishment’s ideas of ‘other approaches’ but Kelly wrings his hands in faux outrage while still celebrating his victory to let bigots realise there’s no punitive outcome for singing about ‘bathing in fenian blood’ or  IRA terrorists every week.

The SNP don’t get off the hook either. If they’d tightened up the law and made it more focused, while backing it up with some much needed reforms that Scotland desperately needs, they might not have presented people like Kelly and Fraser such an open goal. They’re now stuck in an impasse where they’re too scared to bring something into power, so we now have this situation where everyone (bar the extremists) want something to be done, but nobody is actually doing anything.

Fans of Rangers, and of Celtic, need to step up but the ongoing failure that is the SFA, fails the game at the most basic of levels has allowed this to fester for generations. Want it to stop? Next game where there’s something being chanted, the game after is played behind closed doors.. Still happens after that? Take away points. Fining clubs and slapping their wrists is pointless but nothing that will stop clubs quietly letting this carry on will happen and the Scottish establishment will wring their hands saying ‘och, it’s awful’ next time it happens, and the next time and the next time.

It is a fucking shame on all of us in the country to claim we’re tolerant, and different to the rest of the UK when we let this happen and we do let it happen because it isn’t challenged enough. If Scotland wants to live up to the potential we have, this archaic fucking monstrosity that blights us all has to go and if it means breaking down old institutions then fine. Nothing lasts forever and generations to come deserve better.

The genius of Billy Connolly

Billy Connolly is a Scottish institution and has been since those early days in the 70s when he was making a name for himself playing the clubs of Scotland, and in particular, Glasgow. His recent BBC documentary was a thing of glory and painful too as he’s clearly ill, hence why he’s preparing himself for the end which has to come for us all.

But this is a man who made us all laugh. He broke the mould for comedians in the UK in the 70s by not telling racist gags or tired old mother in law jokes but instead making his humour centred round Glasgow in tightly observed routines and sprawling gags that would lead off into many glorious diversions. For me growing up the one Billy Connolly routine which would make me hurt because I would laugh so much was the Crucifixion. If you’re unfamiliar with Glasgow, or the ins and outs of a city then don’t worry, you’ll pick up the main jist of it, and Connolly’s telling of the story is glorious.

At some point I fear I’ll be writing an obituary for this man,but for me this one routine shaped how I’d always think of Connolly, and it never, ever fails to make me laugh.

So enjoy…

Political Correctness Gone Mad!

The other day it struck me that political correctness is dead, well, the idea that political correctness was supposed to be the rules in which a society would ensure that people would be decent, nice and respectful towards each other regardless of who they were even among the left who pushed the concept in the first place.Sure, we never really had this supposed nirvana in the first place but there was a time when things were better but those days are long gone.

What happened is the rise of a number of things from ‘lad’ culture in the 90s, to events like 911 enabling people to say and do what was abhorrent based upon a ‘fight against terrorism’, to the rise of the internet and the endless search for clicks. There’s a multitude of culprits but it all boils down to people wanting to say or do what they want without any consequence, and by ‘consequence’ I mean that if you call someone a ‘faggot’ then expect some backlash to that. However most of those decrying ‘PC culture’ cry the loudest when they, or something they hold personally sacred, are the subject of mockery or attacked, showing the concept of ‘anything is fair game’ applies only to a limit defined by the individual which normally at some level attacks their identity.

And before the left sit back too smugly, things like the ongoing anti-Semitism scandal shows many in the left willing to cast aside basic concepts of respect and empathy in order to push racist tropes or to get lost in the midst of identity politics.

Which brings me to this excellent video on the subject which discusses things from an American perspective, but still counts in the overall discussion.

I think where we are is a lack of empathy. A gamified culture where people are driven into echo chambers which give rise to things like Comicsgate or that <insert religion here> is behind all the wrongs of the world.

A bit more empathy and a bit more in the way of critical thinking because political correctness was all about simple respect and empathy for everyone, and if we’ve lost that then we end up with a world we have today and that isn’t a good place to be in.

A quick word about the Alfie Evans case

I’ve had a busy April doing fun and tiring stuff so I’ve avoided real news as much as possible but watching the Alfie Evans case unfold like some modern horror story is something that has made me worried as to where we’re going in the UK in 2018. The short version of the story is the parents of Alfie wanted to try unproven treatment overseas in an attempt to keep him alive, but his condition was such that his doctors wanted only to give him palliative care to make what was left of his life as easy as possible. A long legal battle took place and that’s hit a climax this week when doctors took Alfie off life support as keeping him alive would have been causing him pain.

All in all a pretty sad case where the desperate wishes of parents meet the reality of science and the human body however the case has been used by groups who don’t especially care about Alfie, his parents or the facts of the case.Things like this for example.

And you’ve got Nigel Farage ambulance chasing for American hard/far right news programmes.

The entire story is bleak and depressing. The hard/far right mixing with Christian fundamentalists (though there’s a crossover of both here) using Alfie Evans in whatever way they want to make their case.against the NHS, the very concept of socialised healthcare and the entire principle of scientific medicine. These same people have whipped up hate against the doctors and nurses of Alder Hey hospital while making a complex debate so emotionally simplistic that instead of weighing up the arguments everything is boiled down to horrible polarity.

And in the middle of this is a small child and his parents being exploited by frankly, some utter scum. If you were to look at a single example of how awful times are today then you probably couldn’t find a better case than this.

Orange Crush

Today in Glasgow saw the Orange Order walk the streets like it was 1717 not 2017 like some reminder of a historical cancer that took the form of bloated archaic attitudes made puffy, angry, bitter flesh. From an early age there were two things that guaranteed my bowels to tremble in fear; one was the John Williams theme to Jaws, and the second was the sound of some paunchy, balding playing a tin whistle while his comrades sing of ‘bathing in Fenian blood’.

Think that’s of the past? That that because in 2017 Glasgow is a progressive, enlightened city? Well, it is and a vastly different city to what it was in 1988 when I left to the one I returned to in 2016, but when I said ‘cancer’ I meant it. This form of Unionism sits like a tumour strangling your jugular vein and I have experience of just how that actually feels, and the only way to get rid of it is taking action to remove it and reject it as the harmful thing it is.

Does this seem normal in the 21st century?

I love being back in Glasgow. Once fitter and more established I can rebuild a life, but this hangs like a smell over the summer months, and although I hope the new SNP city council are less compliant than the previous Labour one (and Labour in Scotland are as infected by this hate group as the Tories are, and I find it extraordinarily hypocritical of Jeremy Corbyn to let this continue in his party) I can’t see these marches die out totally unless we as a city make clear we reject this.

It’s 2017 in Scotland’s largest city and people live in fear of racist, sectarian bigots who have roots in the Scottish establishment and who cling onto an identity that reflects the past, not the present or future. Irvine Welsh hit the nail on the head in this clip from Trainspotting 2.

So there you have it. Darkness is falling over Glasgow and pubs across the city will be full of Orange Order types pissed out their faces before they return home to take their anger and bitterness out on their families, but hey, it’s ‘their culture’ so our media and politicians brush this under the carpet because confronting the truth is the first step in trying to change things, and too many people don’t want to change things. Let’s try to make this the last summer where the Orange Order walk as they have done for too long…

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 Saints #1

saintsIt’s yet another intersting looking title from Image Comics! And to think at one point they just pumped out the most annoying unreadable crap, but here’s the blurb for this one…

Award-winning playwright and This American Life personality SEAN LEWIS teams with red-hot artist BENJAMIN MACKEY for an all-new ONGOING SERIES! Dexter-style action collides with a Preacher-esque sensibility in this crime/horror series for mature readers. Blaise, Lucy, and Sebastian discover a Holy War is erupting and they, unwittingly, are the next generation of Saints poised to fight for a heaven that God has abandoned. The occult rises in a spectacular, action-packed first issue crammed full of heavy metal, sex, and deadly one-liners.

Not being American I have not a bloody clue who Sean Lewis is or if indeed, he is a ‘personality’ but Mackey’s art is good, is somewhat held back by the cartoony style which a lot of artists these days have adopted.


Problem is by around page 10 I was so crushingly bored by it all. I found the internal narration annoying, the dialogue terrible and the plotting so tedious that I genuinely struggled to give even half a toss about getting to the end of the book.


Saints is a nice idea badly, not to mention tediously, done. The best thing I can say is the art is alright at times and draw this to an end because I feel I’ve just wasted my time reading this.


Showdown at Glastonbury-Goode versus Eavis-Glastonbury documentary from 1992

It’s only a couple of weeks til this year’s Glastonbury Festival kicks into gear and in the year 2015 it’s now far removed from those pre-fence days where tens of thousands would descend upon Worthy Farm without tickets looking to jump the fence. 1992 was my first festival and I never paid to get in. In fact I didn’t  pay for entrance til 1997 but even then it was a piece of piss to walk into the festival without a ticket.

The festival wasn’t especially liked by most of the people of Pilton, the village where the festival is near. A few would welcome you but seeing as most of these people had to put up with around a week of having a bloody great music festival dropped on their doorstep with not just Travelers causing trouble (much of which was exacerbated by the security used by Michael Eavis) but by people just disrespecting the area generally. The other problem back then was the way it attracted a serious criminal element selling drugs or going from tent to tent robbing what they could, something that still goes on today albeit on a smaller scale.

Every year the festival was planned organiser Michael Eavis had an annual struggle to get it approved, and nobody disapproved of the festival more than Ann Goode, one of Eavis’s neighbours and a serious Christian fundamentalist. This is the person that used to stick a giant crucifix in her garden to ward off the ‘evil’ the festival would bring.Back in 1992 televised coverage of the festival would be a possible quick mention on the news, if at all, so when Channel 4 decided to televise a documentary about the 1992 festival in late 92, it was exposing people to something they’d not seen before as Glastonbury then was still seen as subversive and part of the counter-culture. It was somewhere hippies, kids, students and drop outs would go to and shunned by the mainstream.

Over 20 years later the mainstream has welcomed Glastonbury into it’s ample bosom, and it’s now so much part of the establishment that Tory MP’s can be found dead at it, let alone the fact that a Tory MP would even be allowed anywhere near it’s fences without causing a riot. So this documentary is a crucial part of the history of Glastonbury and a time before the sponsorship deals, Kanye West, posh gap year kids shitting themselves after taking too much ketamine, celebrities posing for pictures backstage and hours and hours of bland BBC coverage of shite Indie bands. This is the festival people are never going to experience and is a glorious little document of in many ways, far, far better days. I should say it’s not complete as the Youtube uploader points out, but it’s most of the documentary.

What I thought of Bitter Lake

The new Adam Curtis documentary Bitter Lake, is either a stunning new way to tell a narrative of history that many don’t fully know, or is a jumbled hurried mess, and in fact it really depends on how you look at it. As far as I can see there’s three ways to look at it. One is as a pure documentary. Second is as an art piece. Thirdly is as a hybrid of the both, and that’s the only way it works for me, though it’s not without some problems as a piece.

Bitter Lake is a two hours, 17 minute, film that details the role of Afghanistan in global politics, especially the politics of the West, and how deals made by the American government after the Second World War led to the current problems with Islamic extremism. In some ways it’s a companion to the Power of Nightmares but it tells it’s own story through Curtis’s patchwork of news footage, interviews, archive from films, TV and advertising, not to mention footage you wonder just where he gets it from (there’s one scene of fleeing Taliban soldiers that I have no idea how Curtis got his hands on it) but it’s the raw news footage that’s jarring as it enables Curtis to bring down the illusion of what TV news is.

The problem I have though with Bitter Lake isn’t it’s length but the way that Curtis meanders for much of the film at a comfortable pace, and then in the last half hour crams an awful lot in which leaves the viewer in a bit of a sensory overload trying to keep up with the narratives Curtis is tying together. It could have been tighter which would have tightened it up not only as a highly effective documentary, but as a work of art which is what Bitter Lake is. This is documentary as art and you haven’t seen anything quite like it as Curtis tells us this almost fairytale type of story of shady American deals, or Saudi Arabian tyranny, Afghan suffering at the hands of the Russians, Americans, British and Taliban or simple beauty or simple horror. This is something that couldn’t work on mainstream TV in 2015 and that is simply a tragedy, yet well done to the BBC for bankrolling it and giving it a pride of place on iPlayer. I can’t think of any other channel in the UK (bar Channel 4 back in their pomp) that would let a filmmaker do this.

See Bitter Lake, and see it if possible in one sitting uninterpreted. I’ve included the iPlayer link above but this is only online for another three weeks or so, which isn’t a problem as there’s a Youtube version, though who knows how long that stays there?

This is possibly the most important film of the year not only for it’s historical content, but for how Curtis spins his vision. Watch it, you shouldn’t be disappointed

What I thought of Ms Marvel #1

This is a weird one. Let me explain.

I stopped buying monthly comics some time ago with the odd exception of  Hellblazer , or a run of something I wanted to read but superheroes especially were something I’d lost interest in as there was little or no fun, originality or joy in 99% of the superheroes pumped out by Marvel and DC. Superheroes were for me something that just wasn’t being done properly, or for the audience it was meant for which is for children to young kids. They are after all, power fantasies where kids can live out their problems or indulge in their fantasies in a safe, and done well, an utterly empowering way.

A few weeks ago Marvel released the first issue of their new Ms Marvel title, a character and book who over the years have been treated badly, or just been awful. This time the character was a young Muslim girl called Kamala Khan. In fact this is Marvel’s first solo book featuring a Muslim but they have created Muslim characters in the past and most of them are cringingly embarrassing. To say my expectations for this version of Ms Marvel was low was an understatement, and this gets us to a few weeks ago when the first issue came out. It started getting a bit of buzz so off to Comixology I went to see what the fuss was about.


The character of Khan as created by G . Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona is simply a massive breath of fresh air. The plot isn’t especially original, and the storytelling is fine, but not exactly inspired but the tone is perfect and it’s this tone which is set from the first page with this panel especially.

msmarvel1It’s a great bit of writing which sets things up from the off. Yes, Khan’s family is a bit too Eastenders for it’s own good, but Wilson sets up some interesting ideas in the broad strokes she’s taking to actually portray not just a Muslim teenager, but a female Muslim teenager. It’s still rooted in Steve Ditko and Stan Lee’s Spider Man stories (even down to the alliterative initials for the main character) and there’s still a lot of set up, not to mention knowledge of the Marvel Universe that’s needed but Wilson manages to skim over much of this as quickly as possible to establish the character of Khan and her family and friends.

It’s not perfect. There’s a sense of padding at times which is because I presume it’s being written for a trade paperback collection , plus there’s a bit too many cliches at times but this is a book aimed at a younger market and it’s not written by a middle aged white bloke for middle aged white blokes. It’s not one of the best comics ever made, but it is a very, very good superhero comic that should be read and enjoyed by as many people as possible.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to buy it each month but I’d certainly pick up the first few issues to see where its going and I’d recommend you do too.