Saturday, 14 March 2009

Ring in the new...

“I felt in a way it’s a recompense for the education I was given [...] I went to a state school in Leeds. I went to Oxford on a scholarship. I benefited at every stage from the nanny state, as it is disparagingly called. It would be unimaginable now to be a student and free of money worries. But I was lucky in my time and I’m grateful to be nannied.”

(Alan Bennett, quoted in The Economist, 23/10/2008)

"Will there be honey
In a northerly sea
For a well-behaved enterprise culture?"

(Sudden Sway, ''76 Kids Forever', '76 Kids Forever, 1988)

'O! Start a revolution, somebody!
not to get the money
but to lose it all for ever.'

(D. H. Lawrence, 'O! Start a Revolution', 1927)

"Quite evidently, the people of this country don't want anything to do with the people up north, or with the communist way of life."

(J. G. Ballard, Theatre of War, 1977, The Complete Short Stories, Vol.II, p.457)

"It seems to me that someone of your principles would fit comfortably into almost any government. All regimes require people like you, who seem to be prepared to obey orders without question. Unwavering obedience guarantees success in any administration. It also guarantees collaboration in every atrocity in which a government might engage."

(George Monbiot, addressing Hazel Blears, The Guardian, 10/02/2009)

I hail the crier to this sodden patch of ground, an obscure corner of the www where shingle meets raincoat, to quote the venerable Sudden Sway. To get the full epoch-making significance of this latest venture play The Advisory Circle's 'Fire, Damp and Air' on looped repeat.

The remit is to provoke, converse (occasionally soliloquise) and make links between many areas of culture: literature (short stories, novels, drama, poetry), music (popular and otherwise, the old Abba to Yello and new Camera Obscura to Witty Boy continuum) politics, local history and travelogue. Nothing is separate, cordoned off and irrelevant, to be discussed in solitary confinement. Even Noel (Edmonds)’s HQ, God help us, is worthy of mention, even as an example of what we are up against…

Britain, Europe, North America, the world; nothing is out of bounds; there is the imperative to engage with America once again, now that the disastrous regime has departed and the better side of that country is asserting itself - could one imagine Bush or even Clinton making the speeches Obama is making at the moment regarding the bonuses? The north in general exerts its hold; Canada, Scandinavia, Scotland and the benighted North of blighty seem to form in many ways a possible cultural-political alliance against the simplicities of Palin, the banalities of Cameron and Hollywood sentimentality.

I may even dabble at some original short stories (you are warned to set up an exclusion zone forthwith), psycho-geographical travel writing, there will be a sequel to chart writing such as this: (am willing to admit I may have got some things badly wrong there, being fallible and no omniscient authority). Left-wing politics, in this time when we are witnessing the collapse of Thatcher-New Labour free-market capitalism, will naturally inform my perspective. The seemingly contradictory poles of Wilde and Bevan will serve as an example of future paths we have [frustratingly] yet to take. I can make no coherent philosophy other than to say that certain principles must stand: ordinary people deserve the very best rather than to be patronised, artists have the right to self-expression free of censorship; public service is an ideal to be defended – the right (or, left) sort of nanny can be beneficial, as Alan Bennett has argued and John Peel or Oliver Postgate demonstrated.

I also hope to include, as this project develops, fictions of my own (set up the exclusion zone, marras), examples of photography and my evolving music, if possible within these confines. I certainly feel that Blogger offers more of these opportunities than Live Journal; for example, it is far easier to upload images: essential for any psycho-geography or chart-writing.

The immediate rubric, designed to ensure that this thing gets up-and-running, is to establish a regular series: for me to read and review a short-story a day. I will draw from my own partial experience and knowledge, in order to assess the literary - a fine way of actually reading and comparing many writers I have shamefully never read before.

I will express gratitude again for the examples set (and occasional encouragement from) of fellow internet writers, who continue to exert influence: Simon Reynolds, Marcello C. & Lena, Robin Carmody, k-punk and Owen Hatherley. Monbiot, Morley, Meades, Kermode and (to a point) Brooker, voices on the fringes of the mainstream media must be commended, in this world of Myersons and stultifying middlebrow - last Friday's tedious Newsnight discussion 'Is Television Dead?' being a prime exhibit with its vested-interest industry insiders and cliche-spouters, sorely lacking in a Tom Paulin figure, an actual critic (now removed from our screens due to, my word, expressing some political views).

Real-world friends and colleagues who remain an inspiration ought to be thanked; they know who they are. I should also give 'shout-outs' to benign institutions that I am certain will prove invaluable in various ways: You Tube, Project Gutenberg, Wikipedia, the Star and Shadow Cinema, Sunderland and Newcastle public libraries... This is important; it must be refuted that we are a broken society or all doomed or all such; we have been immersed in one of the more shallow phases of our civilisation, but everything passes, and the opportunity is clearly there to make the change - and, I'm sorry anarchists - public and open-source institutions have a role to play in that.

The old place, Quiet Talks and Summer Walks, will remain, but restricted more purely to spur-of-the-moment reactions and comments, more fragmentary vignettes. The more considered pieces will from now on be on here.

Please comment or ‘follow’ as you will, though I would naturally prefer the term comrade, or friend, to follower. I do not set my word down as sacrosanct but hopefully worthy of kind correction and non-rancorous nattering, over virtual – and none-too-nourishing – pints of Old Peculier or careworn black coffees.

Follow TAC's 'Fire, Damp and Air' with Roy Harper's 'Commune', and let's have some audacity.

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