Saturday, 31 October 2009
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
It's a complex issue and there are a lot of factors that probably contribute. The economy probably has something to do it - when young people are on the street with no prospects they're going to seek some outlet, and, depressingly often, that outlet is beating up the different. Never mind the fact that GLBTQ people are probably being hit just as hard by the recession, perhaps even more so - adopt the socialism of fools and blame it on the hate-group.
It doesn't help that there are figures in the media all too happy to spread the hate. Whether it's a Bishop and a crap DJ, a pointless newspaper opinion-monkey who looks like Tracy Turnblatt's uglier sister, or even Mister Fucking T, there's no shortage of media figures all too happy to contribute to a climate in which people who don't fit the heteronormative template are othered as deviants and weirdos.
I think there's another factor at work, though. I think one reason why we're seeing more young people attacking those of differing sexuality is the fact that we currently live in a sexually toxic culture. And the focus of that sexual toxicity is children.
Somewhere, we seem as a culture to have developed a deeply unhealthy fixation on the sexual abuse of children (I deliberately avoid the term paedophilia, because etymologically that suggests abusers love the kids they rape. They don't. Nobody who abuses another human being against their will just to make themselves feel good does it out of love.) Let's be clear on this: the sexual abuse of children is abhorrent. People who abuse children are scum. People who get off on the abuse of children are scum. But our problem is that there are an awful lot of people in this culture who do get off on the sexual abuse of children, but won't admit to it, because they get their jollies in a different way.
These are the people queueing up to buy misery memoirs. The people who froth at the mouth at the latest abuse-scandal on the news and derive an all-too-obvious pleasure in telling you what they'd do to these bastards. Ramsey Dukes had their number a long time ago. He suggested a thought experiment: imagine you're interviewing people to be babysitters for your children. One seems nice and friendly, another goes on obsessively about how kids are incessantly under threat from filthy perverts, yes, scum, lurking around the corners desperate to get at them, drag them away to some lair and then, hmm, yes do terrible, terrible things to them...which one do you leave your kids with?
You wouldn't leave them with the slavering obsessive, that's for sure. Because some instinct would tell you that a person that obsessed with badness happening to children is going to give them a very, very warped environment.
Except that we are giving people like that access to our children. We're letting them get right in their heads and fill them up with toxic bullshit.
The most depressing sight I ever saw in my teaching days was that of teenagers reading misery memoirs. Those books are incredibly popular with adolescents, and that frightens me. It frightens me because these are kids just coming to terms with sex and sexuality, and the depictions they find of those things in the culture are stories of children being preyed on by sick, twisted, evil adults.
Imagine you're a teenager. You're in the grip of crazy hormonal behaviour. You're growing hair in weird places. Bits of you are getting bigger and changing shape. You're starting to experience feelings of desire for others and, more importantly, you're also becoming aware of the fact that you can excite desire in others too.
And the only media you're getting which doesn't talk down to you about sex, which treats it in any way which isn't hedged about with paranoia and stupidity and kow-towing to spineless, moralising puritans, are stories about adults who desire kids like you in the most horrible way and who do terrible things to them.
That's going to fuck you up. That's going to make you paranoid about sexuality, and particularly about any sexuality which lies outside your boundaries of what's 'normal'. And when you see someone who lies outside those boundaries, that paranoia, that fear, is going to be triggered. Add to that a media which colludes in the othering of those with non-heteronormative lifestyles, and you have a recipe for violence.
What to do about this is more problematic. We can't censor misery memoirs. But we need to tell kids that their depiction of the adult, sexual world is a gross misrepresentation. Most sex isn't like that. We need to take a genuinely mature approach to teaching our teens about sex and sexuality, and stop the hysteria and paranoia by which the actions of a tiny minority of people cause us to regard all adult/child interaction as a minefield which needs to be watched and monitored obsessively by the government and other self-appointed guardians of morality. We need to teach kids that differing sexuality is normal, that sexual difference is not sexual deviancy, that the only truly abhorrent sexuality is that which abuses without consent. And we need to put a stop to a culture in which kids are learning about such deviancy before we teach them about normal sexuality.
Kids will be less sexually bigoted if we let them grow up and develop as healthy sexual beings. And that means we have to try as hard as we can to create a culture which can be the good babysitter, rather than a culture happy to leave its childrens psyches in the care of foaming-at-the-mouth paedo-obsessives.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
Those who want to see a bit more of me may well have the chance at a large upcoming event in Newcastle, but I don't want to give away too much about that yet. More as it happens.
Here's something I wrote this afternoon. I know where I'm going with it, but I don't think it's finished as yet. See what you think:
I want to dance to the brushed-drum footsteps
of the fears that creep in the wake of your smile.
I want to dance to the high-end hammerklavier crash
of you smashing my nightingale heart like a drunk
gone far in self-directed anger
at the end of a barleywine night.
I want to dance to the singing-saw whine of these tears
which come, unbidden, as the thought of you
flashes up without permission
when I almost think I'm beautiful.
I want to dance out my own violence
and the ways that you hurt me,
to thrash out my spastic confession,
shake every last inch of my uncertainty.
I want to bump, and grind, and groan
my filthy eucharist:
I want to pray my fine wild prayer
along this polished, ash-strewn floor.
Saturday, 24 October 2009
Monday, 19 October 2009
I know I run the risk of being called a conspiracy theorist here, but I honestly believe they do this to try and convince you that the unions are your enemy. That it's the RMT who are fucking the shit out of you on a daily basis, rather than the barely mammalian scum who run the rail companies. If you thought about it, of course, you'd realise that the train drivers are as screwed over as you are, maybe more so: you only have to get on the train twice a day, they're there the whole bloody time. And they have to deal with potential derangements, suicides or idiots getting onto the track, and probably a whole load of bullshit targets about arriving at 80% of all main interchanges within a 2-minute margin of error of the 'on-time' time on at least 60% of all 'peak-time' journeys, 'peak-time' being defined as any time when the railway is operating at 72% or more of total passenger capacity...All you have to do is avoid making eye contact with the obvious psychos and try not to breathe in too much BO from the person you're jammed in right next to.
Same with any strike. The workers are the ones making things hard for you. If they just did what the bosses told them, your life would be much better. Only it won't.
Take teaching. Lots of teachers have struck in Durham recently over plans to create so-called 'academy' schools (declaration of interest here: my soon-to-be-ex-wife is one of those teachers). They aren't doing this just because they want to make mischief. They're doing it because they genuinely believe, and most of the facts seem to support them on this, that academies are not great (or even safe) learning environments for many children. They're anti-democratic, and make a mockery of our national education system. The teachers, being committed to that system, object to this, and choose to do so with the most powerful weapon in a worker's arsenal: the withdrawal of their labour. Hearteningly, many of the local parents in Durham agree with the teachers on this - Durham was hit harder than many places by MagThatch's war on the coal miners, and sympathy for the unions, and distrust of privatising authority remains strong. This has annoyed some in the mainstream media, because they haven't been able to get their 'unions vs. the people' narrative off the ground.
They're having more luck with the imminent postal strike. Again and again we hear about small businesses which won't be able to deliver goods, christmas cards arriving late, and a whole host of reasons to play the world's smallest violin on behalf of the consumer. What we don't hear about is how the consumer is actually being screwed by the people in charge of the Royal Mail, and even more by the people in those private companies which parasitize on it.
You won't find that on the evening news, in the red-tops or the Daily Mail. To find out about that side of the story, you need to read this article from the London Review of Books. 'Granny Smith', by the way, is the affectionate name the posties have for their average end-consumer i.e. you:
'We were told that the emphasis these days should be on the corporate customer. It was what the corporations wanted that mattered. We were effectively being told that quality of service to the average customer was less important than satisfying the requirements of the big businesses.
Someone piped up in the middle of it. "What about Granny Smith?" he said. He’s an old-fashioned sort of postman, the kind who cares about these things.
"Granny Smith is not important,"was the reply. "Granny Smith doesn’t matter any more."'
You're not important. You don't matter anymore. Not to the unions, but to the people who want to carve up the Royal Mail and sell it off. They're the ones who want to shaft you. They're the ones who are going to make it harder for you to get your post, in the long-run. And what's more, they don't care. To them, you're collateral damage: an acceptable loss in the quest for higher corporate profits.
Think about that the next time you see some talking head on the news bleating about Christmas cards.
Sunday, 18 October 2009
I could go on, but I'm not going to. Here's Anton Vowl's perceptive take on what the Daily Mail are terrified to call 'Moirgate'. Anton gets extra points for a subtle reference to the Fishblog's current band of the year, Florence and the Machine.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
You are The Magician
Skill, wisdom, adaptation. Craft, cunning, depending on dignity.
Eleoquent and charismatic both verbally and in writing,
you are clever, witty, inventive and persuasive.
The Magician is the male power of creation, creation by willpower and desire. In that ancient sense, it is the ability to make things so just by speaking them aloud. Reflecting this is the fact that the Magician is represented by Mercury. He represents the gift of tongues, a smooth talker, a salesman. Also clever with the slight of hand and a medicine man - either a real doctor or someone trying to sell you snake oil.
What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
What I don't like is being harassed by heteronormative fuckwittery on Facebook, as happened earlier. Vada, if you will, this page.
It's not necessarily the 'Mr T as Ubermensch' meme that I don't like here. It isn't even the 'Get some nuts' campaign itself. At first I found it kind of amusing because, (a) it was targeting people not so much not being men as men being cowardly or ridiculous, and (b) it's Mr T goddammit! I still have fond memories of Mr T telling kids to stay off the drugs, palling around with Hulk Hogan, and showing he was man enough to not be threatened by Boy George. I like the T. Hell, he even kicked cancer's ass. I'm down with the man with the mohawk.
So I have no problem with the man who played BA Baracus. I want that out there right now. What I do have a problem with is the crawling half-human scum who decided to graft this hateful little meme onto the Mr T Snickers campaign:
'Have you got a friend who needs to get some nuts? Either click on the "Snickers Mr T" tab to get Mr T to send that fool a message, or Shop Your Mate at http: www.getsomenuts.tv for the chance to win £1K!' (and yes, that hyperlink HAS been deliberately disabled)
Hey, fellas! Do you know someone who fails to conform to rigid notions of masculinity? You do? Then why not dob them in for a chance to receive a financial reward? Inform on your friends and family, that's a cool thing to do!
Look, I know what you're going to say. I'm not getting it. I'm just another humourless Guardian-reading spider and I ought to lighten up. But the thing is, look: kids with gender and sexuality issues already feel as if they're trapped in hostile territory where any transgression of some imagined code of masculinity could expose them to retribution, and in which they learn to police themselves carefully to avoid blowing their cover. Us all being adults, let's not encourage such a climate for the sake of a cheap advertising pop, eh?
Now that would really be showing some nuts.
If I speak at one constant volume, at one constant pitch, at one constant rhythm, right into your ear...
Trafigura, the oil company that dumped toxic waste poisoning at least 31,000 Ivorian citizens and then tried to cover it up, tried to injunct the Guardian newspaper to prevent them reporting a question asked about the matter in Parliament. This was a gross abuse of Britain's unwritten constitution, which has long held that matters arising in the House may be reported without fear of censure. Bloggers and users of Twitter in the UK and elsewhere went ballistic at this, blogged, tweeted, retweeted and generally spammed the info all over the shop, to the point where Trafigura and their solicitors, Carter Ruck, decided to drop the injunction. Yay for us.
Problems, however, remain. The traditional media in the UK is still not allowed to reveal details of The Minton Report, available here via WikiLeaks, a report commissioned by Trafigura which the company is very keen to suppress. Trafigura have also still instructed Carter Ruck to sue the BBC regarding their own investigative reporting into the event.
We're at the end of The Two Towers here basically. The Twitterers have ridden in like the Rohirrim, and won the battle of King's Place, but there's still some way to go before we get picked up by the eagles and can get back down to some lazy Hobbit-style lovin'. The BBC is the Minas Tirith in this scenario (of course it is, it's HQ is in White City!), and Carter Ruck's libel action is, oh I don't know. The Witch-King of Angmar, or that ugly Orc bastard with the gimpy arm who spends the entire film being scary as fuck and then gets seen off by Viggo Mortensen in like half a second, the point is this is important.
Fortunately there are things we can do. First of all, link to the Minton report and get it out as many places as you can. Tweet it, blog it, spam it all about the place. That's what I'm doing here. I'm under no illusions that the eyes of the world are on this blog, but if I post the link to the report here, that's one more place the link is up and one more reason why Carter Ruck's gag should look pointless in the eyes of even the most blinkered High Court Judge.
If you're in London, join the Flashmob outside Carter Ruck's offices on Thursday. If you aren't, email Carter Ruck a photo of yourself, gagged, to show that you're with the protesters: their e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org . There's a petition to enshrine press freedom to report proceedings in the house in law at the Number 10 website. And you can write to your MP to ask them to stop corporations gagging the media at 38 Degrees.
I've done all of these things, and I'd like those of you reading this blog to do them too. To switch cinematic references, there is something terribly wrong with this country: the abuse of the libel courts to suppress freedom of speech and prevent the public learning the truth about what our new corporate overlords are up to. This has been growing for a while now, and it's finally time to act, to say enough! and stand up for the right of the people to know what's going on without having to fight tooth and nail (well, tweet and blog anyway) to find out.
Monday, 12 October 2009
This is just getting all over the place, isn't it? See what happens when you try to censor in a networked world, you fucking brachiosaurs?
Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.
The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.
The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.
From Parliament.uk, “Questions for Oral or Written Answer beginning on Tuesday 13 October 2009″
(292409)61N Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.
Click here for more background on the Trafigura/Carter-Ruck libel-abuse cover-up
Sunday, 11 October 2009
and suddenly this party isn’t funny anymore.
Suddenly I’m something small, cringing
back, seven millimetre heart going
five-hundred times a minute, and she’s
something far above, beating the air
and preparing to fall.
She doesn’t know that this
is how I feel, doesn’t know that, now,
I would surrender anything, money,
my passport, my manuscript pages,
would promise to take the late train,
set up in a different city, never set foot
in this one again, if she would only
look away and let me drift outside the door.
So she keeps looking.
After a few of those seconds which adrenaline
turns into decades, I hear you, unaware of this drama,
announce the interval is over, and tell us it is time
to take our seats. Your voice is the sudden fog,
the changing wind which gives this mouse an out.
I have never, in my life, felt quite as grateful
for half-an-hour of poems as I feel now.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
wears a short skirt, some kind of jacket, red high heels.
Long legs. Skinny. But confident,
enough to wear this at a bus stop.
Edgy, though. Fidgets, uneasy
under the eyes of the guys in the queue.
The laughter and remarks. None intended for her ears.
But when you stand out, it’s easy
to imagine that the laughs are aimed at you.
I wonder if it’d help to know
she’s scaring the shit out of me.
Friday, 9 October 2009
The second link is from the 'Cafe' section of US Progressive Women's magazine On the Issues, wherein the always-interesting Kate Bornstein presents an excerpt from her book Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide. It's an interesting book, but I link to the cafe article because it contains quite simply the best description of the reactionary, right-wing, neophobic mind-set that I've ever read, and the toxic effect that those who give in to that mind-set have on the world:
'People who are reactionary try to keep the world from changing, rather than do the hard, but ultimately more realistic, work of changing themselves. People who don't see any way of changing themselves or the world spend a lot of time wishing they were dead.'
Think about that the next time you see Glenn Beck or Richard Littlejohn fulminating about how the world's going to hell in a handcart because people recycle and a black man is President and people care for the feelings of prozzers, poofs and gypsies. They're afraid of change, afraid that they might have to abandon their rigid self-concept and meet a changing world halfway. So they scream and they rage and they make up turgid racist shite while at the same time claiming to be victims of a racism they can't even define, all because they're too cowardly to examine their own assumptions. And the worst thing is that their views, and views like theirs, are aired across large parts of the media, and people who are young and isolated and frightened see the vast edifice of bullshit these neophobes have erected, and fear that they live in a world which doesn't want to change, and which won't let them change either.
This is why I write: to show that these people are wrong. And that's where efforts like this blog, the blogs in my friends and followers list, and the Transgressive Poets I try to promote have value: we each, in our own minor ways, create a tiny chink in the edifice of bullshit which the neophobe media and culture have erected. We let through a million, tiny shafts of light and illuminate the possibility of a different kind of life for everyone who feels left out of the dominant narrative. In counterpoint to a vast chorus which cries out despair, we sing a fragile song of hope.
Thursday, 8 October 2009
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Nothing's to say it won't be a shit book, of course, and if it is, I'll excoriate like the guys wielding the apple corer in the final scenes of Exquisite Corpse. But here's a line from an extract I found at nerve.com which suggests it might not be: 'I sleep on the inside of the spoon. She's my abusive boyfriend and I feel safe, her arms wrapped around me.'
Hmm. The sadomasochistic relationship as willingly-entered, if gender-reversed, wife-beater and wife dialectic? A huge amount to unpack there (and not all of it good) in terms of gender, power relations, and sexual assumptions. A fine piece of literary meat in which to sink one's teeth; a meal I look forward to. If you'd like to recommend some future deviant dishes, please do: remember though that unless I've already read a book or have been lent it, I do have to pay for the books I review here myself. But do make recommendations. The more we understand of the scope of transgressive poetry, the more room we have to maneuver. And the more room we have in which to move, the greater the damage that we can inflict.
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
I was sitting at Victoria Coach Station, waiting for the 9:30 back from London and slipping in and out of normal waking consciousness, when it suddenly occurred to me that most of the poetry I like has a number of features in common. Most of the poetry I like reminds me of what in the 90s we began calling Transgressive Fiction. I like poetry which deals with outsiders, with lives lived on the edge of the law, at the borders of consciousness, at the dark end of the street. Poetry which deals with sex, and violence, and the ways they shade into each other: the ways in which we can sexualise the violence to which we are subject; the subtle violence of discourses which seek to normalise some forms of sexuality and gender while othering those which do not fit with simple binaries (man/woman, straight/gay, normal/kinky etc). Poetry which deals with drugs, and the myriad ways in which we alter our consciousness (and the ways in which, again, the subtle violence of the mainstream tries to alter it for us). Poetry which deals with the experiences of those groups forced to be outsiders, for whatever reason. Poetry which, in the words of my colleague Angela Readman , 'isn't safe and cosy, poetry that asks why and won't take it lying down - poetry that isn't polite.'
Transgressive Poetry. That's what I'm calling it, and that's what I'm using this blog to promote. I'll be posting poems, from myself and others, which I think fit with my idea of what transgressive poetry is, or could be; I'll be providing links to other transgressive writers and artists who I feel should be brought to your attention (such as today's find, Nicole Blackman) and I'll be updating you on my progress towards my eventual goal of organising a poetry and performance night in Newcastle, and some kind of regular publication available anywhere, dedicated to showcasing the best transgressive writers, artists and performers out there.
It's going to be a long road, and a weird one, and I don't have all the skills I'll need to bring it all off perfectly yet. But who ever does? It's a Fool's Leap: the only kind worth making. A month or so ago I had no idea how to write a press release, deal with media, set up a mike and amp or fundraise for a charity before. My London adventure led me to skill up in all those areas. Setting out on this journey will make me better in a hundred other ways. But more importantly it'll open up more space for freaks like us to express what we are without fear. That's why I do what I do now, and I do it with the tool I have, and the tool I have is poetry. A few weeks ago, when interviewed by the local press, I squirmed and struggled when I was asked to define what type of poetry it is that I write. But now I have an answer.
I think you know what that answer is by now, so I'll spare the empty knell of repetition.
Friday, 2 October 2009
What this experience did for me was to crystallise why I write and why I perform, and it isn't because I want the validation of fame. The crystallising experience was having to deal with an irritating, bigoted heckler early on in the set, and the fact that I got such a charge out of it. Afterward, what I remembered wasn't the many poems which went off without a hitch - or, indeed, the fact that the writing experiment failed completely. No, what stuck with me was that my words - the choice of subject matter about which I write - had pissed this guy off to the extent that he felt compelled to come over and verbally abuse me, to the point where he had to be ushered away by one of his more sensible friends (who, fair play to him, also contributed a line to the EPIC WRITING FAIL, so thanks for that). Words. That's all.
My three-line profile on the One and Other site was: ARE WORDS ENOUGH? And at that moment, I proved that they are. In a performance designed to show how freedom of expression is fragile even in a society such as ours, I was lucky enough to have an objective correlative of that notion thrown to me, and went with it.
Words ARE enough to piss off the bigots of this world, wherever and whoever they may be, and whether or not they think of themselves as bigoted. And that is why I write. Because I just love winding up the ignorant.
It's not about fame. It's not about being a bad rockstar or stand-up and getting laughs or applause. It's about creating space. It's about showing that we can shout down the bigots, that we can show them up for the idiots they are, in being frightened of something as small and fragile as a sentence.
In the welcome centre afterwards, talking it over with a plinther-to-be, I agreed that anger in an audience is better than polite applause or mere indifference, but that isn't quite true. It is, on a tactical level. As long as wankers like that guy or Nick Griffin or Richard Littlejohn exist, then reducing them to spluttering incoherent messes serves a purpose in showing how pathetic they are. But on a strategic level it's not what I'm writing, and fighting, for. I write and perform for the day when I can go out anywhere in the world and be greeted with complete indifference to the things I write - because then I'll know we won, and the human race finally grew up and got over this shit. But until then, while we still live in a time when the mere mention of something as inconsequential as boys wearing nail varnish can reduce some ignorant idiots to homophobic apoplexy, then I will continue to write and to perform and to campaign to wind up and expose those very idiots. And I will continue to try and build more and more space in which those idiots aren't welcome, and we're free to express what we feel without them trying to make us feel like we don't belong, and that we're somehow less than human for daring to want to share our humanity with others.
And, when the ignorant armies have finished their clashing by night, I'll go back home without a word and cultivate my garden. But until then, I'm in it 'til it's over.