Archive for November, 2005

St Agnes Place

(11:24): The residents of St Agnes Place are being evicted this morning. Thirty years. 150 people out in the cold. It’s being resisted, but riot police are being used.

Pictures as and when I find them around.


Edit (12:57): the St Agnes Place site that I linked to above has live updates including such things as:

11:00 am: Police are only allowing Evening Standard and Daily Mail Press access to the Street

and

12:15 pm: Resident told by police “no getting back to get stuff, take what you can and say bye to the rest”.


Edit (13:09): Here’s a rather bland BBC piece on the subject:

Councillor Keith Fitchett called them parasites

lovely chap – councillor@fitchett.net

The council said unpaid rent on the properties over 30 years amounted to £4m plus a further £400,000 in council tax.

Even said figures not simply pulled out of somebody’s arse, they’re ever so slightly misleading, since the rent for community housing is supposed to cover maintenance and management, which the squatters have done themselves, not make a profit. And people aren’t going to pay rent or council tax if they’re don’t have tenancies, which the council could have granted, but haven’t.

Lambeth plans to demolish the houses and replace them with a development of homes which will be at least 75% affordable housing.

Not entirely convinced, myself, that “affordable” means the same thing to Lambeth Council as it does to people living in Lambeth. I’m not sure what that 25% is for either.

Comment from somebody who’s actually there at the moment:

they are making sure that nobody has any dignity believe


Edit (14:17): Apparently the police are increasing the size of the exclusion zone, and “questioning”/harassing people who look like they might be coming in solidarity, or are just walking about or something. Welcome to Lambeth. No, seriously.

Also just heard that the plan in 1977 was to knock down the houses and join both sides of the park, ergo no rent at all. You can bet though that the figure will be parrotted as much as possible; it’ll be the first thing you hear out of any council-related person’s mouth each time.

“Good evening, Councillor. There have been…”

“FOUR MILLION POUNDS!”

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St Agnes Place – some pictures of the eviction

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Source: Blink

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Party people

Look out Britain! Forget all that shit about the PM trying desperately to cover up the fact that he went along with an utter lunatic (even if he did manage to persuade him not to bomb al-Jazeera) – what’s going to destroy us now is not bird flu but the scourge of Binge Drinking. Yes, twenty-four hour licences are now here. Mine’s a pint of vodka, and bagsy the first ambulance.

(insert overused library image of drunk people here)

The papers seem to be having a slightly hard time with this. They recognise the desire in their readers for opportunities to finger-pointingly moralise, but also the desire to drink. So we have “terrible awful drunken yobs £80 fines disgraceful state of this country” on one page, and on the next “oh and by the way here’s a list of the pubs opening late near you”. But that’s okay, it’s only other people who can’t be trusted.

I suspect there will be a small increase in trouble for a period, because it will take a while for some people to adapt to the fact that they don’t need to engage in the traditional British after-work pint-drinking race; their rate of consumption will be pitched too high for later closing times, and they will get drunker than they thought they would. And some people will do an all-nighter just for the novelty value of being able to . But it’s not as if it’s hard to drink yourself into a state of utter collapse at the moment if that’s what you want to do, and it’s not as if it’s hard to keep drinking past 11pm if you’re in a town centre at the moment either, as long as you have a tolerance for inflated prices, appalling music and arsey bouncers. There’s an entire market sector of terrible terrible clubs that only exist to cater for people who don’t want to go home at eleven. Think about it – those places will now have to compete on the basis of being good venues to go to rather than just the only place where you can stay out. If that’s not a positive result I don’t know what is.

As well as freeing people from the choice of whether to discontinue socialising or face It’s Raining Men, there’ll be fewer of the usual chucking-out-time fights, and people who work late might be able to meet other late workers and have a pint after work just like everyone else. It’s pretty much the first sensible thing the government has actually done on the subject of drugs that I can remember, even if as I expect it’s commercially motivated. Everything else remains business as usual of course; a “binge” is still officially defined as more than two pints of Stella, making every other piece of advice from official sources seem equally nonsensical, and more importantly economic, social and foreign policy seems increasingly designed to make people feel insecure, anxious, oppressed and miserable, which beats anything else you care to name – alcopops, marketing, “vertical drinking”, loose young women, some sort of vague “culture of disrespect” – as an indicator for unhealthy booze.

P.S. yeah, I know, George Best, irony etc. I’m only mentioning him to stop somebody else doing it.

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Greenwashing

Oh, and apparently Lambeth Council have apparently painted over a mural about Jean Charles de Menezes (for those of you to whom the name might not immediately mean something, the guy who was pinned down and shot in the head seven times because he was living in the same building as somebody who might possibly have been some sort of terrorist).

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Nice one. Yeah. I bet that will put everyone’s minds at rest.

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fridgemagnet in “agreeing with Bush” shock

As we all know, “political news” is defined by conflict between two or more approved factions, whatever country you are in. Regardless of how clearly something is wrong, the degree of controversy, and thus the degree of newsworthiness, is based on who is saying it is wrong.

It is the fact that the Democrats have, over the last year or so, decided that enough time has passed and enough people have died for them to go on the offensive on the subject of Iraq that has really drawn the US mass media to the subject. Over the period when the attack could have been averted, they were… well, I don’t think there’s a position lower than “supine” but if there is, that was them. Now they’re the bold investigators of inconsistency and propaganda, of course. They confidently report controversy regarding evidence provided, when a couple of years ago they were the ones boosting it unquestioningly.

But let’s not get into another tedious “insult the media” situation. They’re not the defenders of truth; we know that. No, today I am insulting the Democrats.

One of my first memories of the politics of the United States was watching a Democrat sat opposite a Republican, pre-Iraq, post-911, watching TV in my girlfriend’s apartment. The main component of this memory is the feeling of utter digust at how spineless the Democrat was. I could see, even then, before I really knew anything about how the system worked, how the Republican was dominating not only that “debate” (it was of course nothing of the sort) but also how the agenda of her party was pre-eminent at the time, not because of any inherent rightness but simply because there was no will whatsoever to challenge it. “I’d vote for the Republican if I saw these two together,” was my verdict.

And now the Democrats are challenging Bush on the basis of his administration’s manipulation of the evidence for going to war, and the administration is responding by saying “well you voted for it, what was so bad about it then?”

“Oh,” say the Democrats, “if you hadn’t lied we would have known, we wouldn’t have voted for it.” There were indeed a few straightforward lies at the time, which, if you believed every single one and were unusually gullible, might have convinced you that there was a clear and present danger, that Iraq was a threat to the US and the world that needed dealing with. But seriously, they were patent bullshit. They were quite obviously bullshit at the time. At the very, very least there were… serious doubts as to their veracity, far more doubts than one would expect anyone to vote to go to war over. Unproven facts, unjustified allegations. I’m just a peon and I realised this – the number of times 911 was mentioned in the same sentence as Saddam Hussein didn’t influence me, and neither should it have influenced any intelligent person. There was absolutely no justification for voting for these things apart from the reflexive chasing of votes, the perception that the “national mood” demanded an attack on an irrelevant country (something entirely manipulated) or, simply, the fact that despite an official label as “opposition party” you are in fact following the exact same agenda.

Democrats at the moment who voted for the war are in an impossible position. They have to say that the evidence was bogus, but they cannot possibly come up with enough revealed facts between then and now to justify them having voted for it then but not now, because they simply are not there. It was quite obvious at the time but they didn’t pay any attention.

And that is why I agree with Bush and the publicity machine that informs him on this; if the Democrats who are kicking up a fuss now are so concerned, why were they not protesting back then? Of course, his motives are purely party political now, and so are theirs. It’s now accepted fact that the rediscovered premise for the invasion – “spreading democracy”, as opposed to the one used to justify it at the time, that there was a clear and present danger – is okay. The problem is that so many nice Americans have died trying to liberate that damned country, we shouldn’t have bothered in the first place, the ungrateful swine, it’s a hellhole over there in the Middle East, we should never have got involved. There’s no idea that maybe it was the wrong thing to do in the first place, that it was always wrong, that it was basically an unjustified and stupid thing to do, that we are the bad guys.

And you know, that just means that next time, it will happen again.

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hangman banana etc, part 2

Short one, this: given that people, more specifically zombie people (zombies are of course people too) are replacing “i”s with “!”s and sometimes “s”s with “z”s in Urban Dead, I’ve updated my Zombie Word List with an extra section for said substitutions. As you can see, one can now make a fair stab at the word “agrarianism” which is essential for any serious discussion of socio-economic issues, specifically brain farming.

The code is a bit more complete now, does all the sorting itself and in fact generates the entire page automatically, so any further ideas should not be too hard to check.

Comments off

Quitting

I am not doing NaNoWriMo any more.

I was doing quite well to start with, I think; I was keeping to the required word count per day, approximately anyway (I have a few thousand words that I’ve not put up and won’t) and the words were, if not exactly brilliant or tied to any sort of plot outside of a vague idea of something I might do in my head, words.

It was early last week, I think, when I got out of the tube station, laptop in bag – I had started taking my iBook to work to better allow me to type – started towards the pub where I am now to knock out another thousand or two and felt sick. I really don’t want to do this. I’ve been doing twelve hour days on this bloody project for weeks now. I don’t want to do this, I want to… well, I don’t know quite what, but I don’t want to feel like I have to produce for another four.

Being the idiot I am I didn’t pay any attention to this but went ahead anyway. It was later on in the week when it all fell apart. I sat down and brought out the laptop, shoulders sagging, and started on the first pint and the fifth chapter. I found it quite impressive that I’d even managed to walk through the door given how tired I was. I started to write, and I started to drink, and the words were coming out, first relatively sane, then aggressive, then, around the fourth pint, hopelessly maudlin and sentimental.

I’ll explain, if it didn’t seem like a story very suited to sentiment, and I’ll make sure here that I don’t continue by giving away an important plot point that I had planned to work in later on: one of the protagonists, Prentice, gains his esoteric knowledge through talking to the dead. (The whole thing was going to centre around different ways that people gained knowledge.) He seems very polite and tolerant and diplomatic at this stage, but one of the key points was going to be that in fact his methods of getting information were inherently cruel. The dead people that he was talking to were unbearably lonely, eternity without sensory impressions apart from the conversation of self-interested necromancers, and he was carefully rationing his conversation, with the excuse that the loneliness could never be satisfied and he had to maintain a distance to keep sane. Which was true, but only to an extent. One of the dead people was his wife, and there was going to be an examination of how having complete power over somebody can turn a loving relationship into something exploitative. It wasn’t going to be a very positive story.

You can see where I’m going with this, I expect. I started with a monologue from the wife and it was getting much too personal. I was drunk and lonely and trying to portray a cosmic loneliness and it was getting too much… just after I finished the piece and started the next chapter with Prentice closing his mobile, my iBook’s screen fizzled and went black. I twiddled it a bit and it came back on, but my gadget sense told me that it wasn’t going to last, so I saved the files to my flash drive and closed down and left.

The next day the iBook’s screen turned out to be indefinitely fucked. This has happened before – a year ago in fact – it’s to do with the video cable, I’m told it’s an inherently fragile part of a laptop, it’s not actually a sign. But as far as I was concerned this was an excuse not to do something that, really, I didn’t want to do.

So the narrative transformation of Prentice from sympathetic protagonist to self-deluding exploiter won’t be seen now, and I had some good plans for that. Neither will the Michael character, who gets a lot less pleasant in the unpublished bits, be revealed to be the most positive force for the rest of humanity in general despite his honestly sadistic motivations, nor will Trish, who was going to get a bit more depth, honest, turn into pretty much nothing, self-destructive and shallow out of unconscious choice, perceiving nothing further even surrounded by all these people obsessed with esoterica, and using divination as a distraction like drugs and alcohol, a counterpoint to the efforts of everyone else. And nobody’s going to find out about the crab.

It’s not incredible stuff, yeah, I know, but I would have liked to finish it. I’m not going to though. I think the last few attempts have told me two things:

  1. If in fact I am suited to writing anything, it’s certainly not novels;

  2. November is always a bad month for me.

Oh, and as a postscript, I’ve also managed to ruin the relaxation element of one of my post-work staples, sitting in the pub and reading the paper. I can’t do that now without thinking of the damn novel. Nice one, fridge.

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Sad state of affairs

I find it a bit sad when people are spamming my blog advertising for amoxicillin. I mean, drugs for dieting, shagging and hair loss, I can understand – those are expensive and/or often not provided on health plans – but a broad-spectrum antibiotic? What kind of a situation are we in where people are looking on the internet for things to fight bacterial infection because they can’t afford them from their doctor? Nobody takes amoxicillin for fun or vanity. At least, not that I’m aware.

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“I am being made to salute the Blair flag”

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Loz pointed me to this in a comment on yesterday’s entry. You really could not make this up. You see the injured bomb victim to the right on that Sun cover that I was writing about? His name’s John Tulloch, he’s a professor of media studies, and he was absolutely the least appropriate person to pick.

Tulloch, who has professorships at both Brunel and Cardiff universities, is appalled by the way the photograph was used. “This is using my image to push through draconian and utterly unnecessary terrorism legislation. Its incredibly ironic that the Sun’s rhetoric is as the voice of the people yet they don’t actually ask the people involved, the victims, what they think. If you want to use my image, the words coming out of my mouth would be, ‘Not in my name, Tony’. I haven’t read anything or seen anything in the past few months to convince me these laws are necessary.”

While he may be “cross” and “appalled”, Tulloch is not surprised. “This is a classic piece of media manipulation demonstrating the cronyism of New Labour and the Murdoch press. You don’t even have to be a sophisticated analyst to see what they are doing with the visual rhetoric and verbal anchorage. The words are tying down my image to a particular political interpretation of that event, making it seem as if they come from my mouth. I’m reminded of the famous essay by the semiotician Roland Barthes, who analysed an image of a black soldier saluting the French flag. What we’ve got here is: I am being made to salute the Blair flag.”

Quite apart from the Sun-bashing aspect, the rest of the interview is an interesting read – not just a personal story but one with wider related issues carefully examined. Meanwhile, the Sun itself screams “TRAITORS” on its front page today, perhaps considering it important to continue the controversial moralising until it’s quite sure that everybody’s forgotten that its editor was arrested for hitting her husband.

(Yeah, I’m aware that the Sun is set up as something of a pantomime villain and there are other, subtler, more damaging forms of newspaper propaganda, but sometimes pantomime is fun.)

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Not ninety

Though 90 has gone down, 28 days has been accepted, and I can’t really get excited by the simple fact that one of Blair’s stated ambitions was defeated in the Commons; internal Westminster politics leave me cold. It’s hardly an amazing victory for civil liberties that some MPs are not convinced that you need three months to fit people up. The usual “compromise”, “meet us halfway” rubbish – if something is just wrong you simply say no. It’s not a hard concept to grasp, that.

Still, here’s something positive:

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THE Sun today calls on its army of readers to back Prime Minister Tony Blair and DEMAND 90-day detention for terror suspects.

Phone our special hotline NOW to make your voice heard.

The people’s will can force MPs to bring safety to Britain’s streets by backing the detention of terror suspects for 60 days at the very least — but preferably 90. (Sun 2005-11-08)

I’m fairly used to the Sun by now, but yesterday’s combination of exploiting bomb victims (who are hardly united in support for Blair – though really, the Sun just took their cue from Charles Clarke on that one) and naked partisanship was not what I needed to see in the morning when I’d not even had my breakfast. If he’d actually won the vote as well that would have been two bad days in a row.

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