Tuesday, December 30, 2008

dirty pop

Here comes New Year's Eve, traditionally a night of going on a hell of a bender.

If, like me, you periodically find yourself having been up all night with friends, there is one essential consideration; how to keep going.

A key thing - if alcohol has been involved - is to avoid sobering up. However, it’s easy to take the path of least resistance and end up nursing a half empty can of hand-temperature flat cornershop lager. In your psychologically vulnerable state this makes you feel fundamentally tragic.

Instead, with a bit of forethought you can make that impressionability work for you. Firstly, get drinks that feel like pop. A gin and tonic is a good place to start.

Next, grasp the fact that you’re not going to eat properly any time soon, so it’s essential to have something that feels like nutriment. To this end, neck a pint of stout. People will tell you that women on labour wards used to be given stout after childbirth to replace lost iron. The fact is that it’d take gallons of the stuff to get your RDA, but that’s not the point. To you in your mentally pliable state – and, in all likelihood, to those women – it feels true, and that's what counts.

But as well as avoiding sobering up, you need to have a novelty factor to keep your psyche buoyant. I present you with the simple, elegant solution.

The Breakfast of Champions

Pour a can of stout into a pint glass, and drop in a depth charge of ruby port.

For those unfamiliar, a depth charge is a shot glass of a different drink dropped into a pint. When you down the pint, the last gulp has the extra woof of the different drink.

Pour out your measure of port, gently drop it into the pint, when you hear it clink on the bottom neck it in one. Your stomach will feel nicely sorted and you can get on with the day.

Incidentally, for those who need to give sobriety a wider berth there are stronger versions of all these Day Two drinks. They all sacrifice some taste in order to gain some potency.

A Breakfast of Champions can be amended to a Full Irish Breakfast. Simply replace the normal stout with Guinness Foreign Extra.

For some reason best known to themselves, Guinness is brewed at a mighty 7.5% in Nigeria. They make it like that in Dublin now too, and both are found in offies in areas with large African and Afro-Caribbean populations. Go for the Dublin stuff, it tastes smoother than the Nigerian as well as cutting down on your beer miles.

As an optional twist, you can change the depth charge to the deity of Day Two drinking, Buckfast. There are etymologists who believe that the words ‘buckfast’ and ‘breakfast’ share a common root.

Alcoholic Dr Pepper

Pour a measure of amaretto into a pint glass, fill it with half cola and half premium lager. No need to be a stickler for brands. Your tastebuds are shot and you’re mixing it with a soft drink that tastes like cold battery acid, thus it's pointless to splash out on Stella or Kronenbourg. That said, as you’re about to dilute the beer, don’t settle for non-premium lager. None of your pissy Carling here. As long as it says 5% on the can, you’re in.

Because this one involves a lot of cola it’s not only cheap but also scores caffeine points, its doubly good for the sleep deprived.

If you’re going to down it in one, have a depth charge of more amaretto.

Downing in one makes a good group-bonding exercise, essential for keeping everyone’s brain up on the level. Also, as this drink is so easy on the wallet, you can afford to get them in for everyone, which bestows additional group bonds and keeps that team-on-the-mission/we-are-the-Famous-Five element to the fore.

For the strong version, try the malty tang of a super strength lager. As with the premium lager, don’t be seduced by brands or any objective standards of taste. Forego this once the classic panache of Special Brew or the glitz and glamour of Tennent’s Super. Skol, Kestrel, Lynx; as long as clocks in at 9% or thereabouts you’ll be fine.

Cheeky vimto

One of the most popular dirty pops is the blue WKD and port cocktail known as cheeky vimto. Indeed, this one’s so mainstream that you can get it at Wetherspoons. The question comes in the ratio. Wetherspoons give 50ml of port to two bottles of WKD, which seems blatantly stingy to me. I favour putting 100ml of port in a pint glass and dropping one WKD on top of it.

To make it a 'dirty vimto' follow replace the port with Buckfast.

Made by monks and drunk by punks, Bucky actually contains less alcohol – 15% compared to port’s 20%ish – but that’s not the point. As anyone who’s ever drunk it (or been in the blast radius of a consumer) it’s not about the ABV. They import cheap French wine and then do something to it. Nobody’s sure what but it’s an ancient monastery, it’s got to be some Latin incantations with some weird creepy relic and the kind of wrongness that Buffy puts a stop to.

If you can’t get blue WKD, just pick something at random from the cleaning products aisle of the supermarket. I mean, what the fuck is the stuff made out of anyway? Toilet Duck and vodka if you ask me.

Bucky and blue WKD – pure filth in a glass. As marvellously tasty and fearlessly intrepid as it is utterly utterly wrong. Just what you need when your awakeness outstrips your judgement and you want to keep it that way.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

UPDATE 5 Feb 09 : Don't miss out on more alcoholic alchemy with the boozy ginger punch that turns white cider into something fit for drinking!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

fine words butter no parsnips

As you will, in all likelihood, have buttered your own parsnips for your festive roast dinner, the non-buttering facility of fine words is neither here nor there and we can enjoy them for what they are.

I didn't think I could surpass the delight of contriving a reason to use 'ovibovine' ('having qualities pertaining to both goats and cattle') and 'defenestrate' ('to throw through a window'; best used figuratively, eg 'he completely defenestrated that idea').

Then the esteemed Danny supplied me with these three:

Cuniculous ('full of rabbits')
Percoarcted ('manouevred an object into a narrow room')
Boanthropy ('the delusion that one is an ox')

Let your vocabujoy be unconfined.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

christmas sucks

Right, no serious posts until the new year.

In the meantime, get your ears around this merry festive tune.

Monday, December 15, 2008

eco-terrorist death toll

That tosh in the Observer the other week about 'eco-terrorists' mentioned the 'stash of knives and weapons' the police magically found near last August's Climate Camp at Kingsnorth.

Even at the time it wasn't up to much.

The weapons, which included an adapted knife, a replica throwing star, a knife block with knives and a large chain with a padlock, were found in a wooded area near the Camp for Climate Action

Take one set of kitchen knives, one padlock with chain, describe something else as a 'replica throwing star' (what the fuck does that actually mean? I'm imagining some sort of hippy pendant) and hey presto, you have your very own cache of 'weapons'. Ideal for many purposes, especially if you want to give the media a sexy story to detract from the criticism coppers had come in for the previous day.

At the Camp, police in riot gear forced their way on site and batoned people. Unfortunately journalists and politicians were there, so the bullshit about provocation from Campers didn't get believed.

Still gagging to get a rise out of the Camp, anything to justify their huge budget and discredit the protest, for the following few days they deployed cops in riot gear around the perimeter at 5am.

In a parliamentary debate in which David Drew MP reported a constituent being arrested at Kingsnorth for 'aggressively picking up litter', Norman Baker MP said

I witnessed unnecessarily aggressive policing, unprovoked violence against peaceful protestors, an extraordinary number of police on site and tactics such as confiscating toilet rolls, board games and clown costumes from what I saw to be peaceful demonstrators.

Home Office minister Vernon Coaker replied that 'police have acted appropriately and proportionately', pointing out that '70 police officers were also hurt- although none seriously- at that protest'.

What were they hurt by? Rampaging rabid eco-terrorists hurling replica throwing stars?

The LibDems subsequently made an application under the Freedom of Information Act for details on police injuries sustained at the Camp.

It turns out none - that's none at all, folks - of the injuries were caused by the protesters.

Only four of the 12 reportable injuries involved any contact with protesters at all and all were at the lowest level of seriousness with no further action taken.

The other injuries reported included "stung on finger by possible wasp"; "officer injured sitting in car"; and "officer succumbed to sun and heat". One officer cut his arm on a fence when climbing over it, another cut his finger while mending a car, and one "used leg to open door and next day had pain in lower back".

A separate breakdown of the 33 patients treated by the police tactical medicine unit at the climate camp shows that three officers had succumbed to heat exhaustion, three had toothache, six were bitten by insects, and others had diarrhoea, had cut their finger or had headaches.

It's funny, until you get it clear that the coppers knew all this at the time and were using it to lie - again - about the violent intent of the Camp. Vernon Coaker either knew it too or was deliberately misled to by his civil service numpties.

Either way, it shows how desperate the state is to smear, discredit and outright fucking lie about this movement. It's what you do when you know you've lost the argument.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

change you can't believe in

I'm really not enjoying this you know. Again and again I'm finding that Obama is not living up to the hopes people have ladelled onto him. Finding that, even before he gets through the door of the Oval Office, he's firmly placed himself as a continuance of all the important things that are wrong with the American government.

It's not just the war or Israel/Palestine. The big shiny hope - his position on climate change - is terrifying.

As president, I will tap our natural-gas reserves, invest in clean-coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.

Oh, a safe way to use nuclear power you say? Why has nobody thought of looking for that before? And will you refrain from building any nukes and close down existing ones until this safe way is found? Yeah right.

Burning more gas, emitting more carbon. Great.

Then there's clean coal. What exactly is 'clean coal'?

As the esteemed Jim Bliss observes, it's what the people who make money from burning coal are calling coal these days.

How is it clean? Well, they've a theory that they could develop some technology to capture some of the emissions.

They conveniently ignore the fact that mining releases huge quantities of uncapturable methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times a potent as CO2.

They discount the way their plan to pump carbon dioxide down old oil wells would release huge amounts of oil that would otherwise have stayed in the ground.

They ignore the fact that these capture and storage systems don't exist anywhere on earth, let alone have they been tested to see if they work and how we'd discover any leaks and what we might do to plug them. Or how much it would cost to monitor for the millennia that we want it safely stored.

No, they advise we just plough on and build new coal stations that will be 'capture ready'.

Bliss says

It makes me wonder whether bioterrorists could escape prosecution by insisting in court that they’d filled the envelopes with “Clean Anthrax”.

- Do you deny sending packages filled with anthrax to politicians?
- No your honour, we do not deny this, however we’d like to point out that we used Clean Anthrax.
- But did the politicians not die?
- They did, your honour, but you must understand that our anthrax was “Antidote Ready”.
- Antidote Ready? Please explain this…
- Well, we sent the anthrax secure in the knowledge that at some unspecified future date we would be able to develop an antidote.

America's programme of building coal power stations barely gets mentioned, yet there's hundreds scheduled. Will Obama halt it all until genuine clean coal technology exists? If he doesn't, his talk of 'clean coal' is an active part of the coal industry's lies.

Obama hangs his big reductions on an emissions 'cap and trade' system. Like the one we have in Europe that's seen our emissions actually increase, like the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism that delivers social injustice but no substantive carbon cuts.

Companies keep on emitting and when they go over their limit, they buy someone else's. Carbon credits are basically carbon offsets on a grand scale. It is in the interests of both those buying and selling the credits to exaggerate the amount of carbon involved. It's fraudulent and a deliberate delay to tackling the overconsumption that drives climate change.

Carbon trading is not just too little too late. Like clean coal it is the promise of doing something elsewhere and in future, it is actually a decoy, a distraction so the high-emitting industries can continue. It is Obama's commitment to runaway climate change.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

peaceful terrorism

Having mentioned the high-level yet scarcely reported intruder who switched off a turbine at Kingsnorth power station, there's another big bold action that seems to have slipped under the radar.

Last month France's high speed train, the TGV, hit chaos when its power lines were sabotaged.

People had reportedly made a device from iron bars that a train would drag along, taking out the power lines for all following trains.

At the time, the French railway system was being used to transport the Castor nuclear waste trains. There were other actions along the way, but nowhere else saw anything on quite this scale.

The police have raided the suspects' houses and nine people were detained under terrorism charges. They were living in a rural community where, in true nihilistic terrorist style, they were growing their own food and had re-opened the village store.

Rather like the sinister way the British government has a definition of terrorism that includes non-violent action, so the French authorities are calling these people terrorists despite the fact that what they did - even by the admission of the French government and train operator - could not have harmed anyone.

As Giorgio Agamben said in Liberation on November 19th [English translation here],

one might expect that investigators found weapons, explosives and Molotov cocktails on the farm in Millevaches. Far from it.

SDAT [French anti-terrorist police] officers discovered "documents containing detailed information on railway transportation, including exact arrival and departure times of trains." In plain French: an SNCF [French railway] train schedule.

But they also confiscated "climbing gear." In simple French: a ladder, such as one might find in any country house.

Much of the French media is not being so careful in sifting the details. The activists are being portrayed as terrorists because of the anarchist views they hold and literature they read. They have been under state surveillance for months, simply for being political activists.

In an open letter, the parents of five of them speak of the hope and courage they get from their children's actions, from the way 'they naively think that life, intelligence and decisions are more joyous when they are collective'.

This is another attempt to demonise direct action. One of them, Julien Coupat, has been unironically branded the leader of the anarchists.

As the Tarnac 9's case comes to court we should keep a close watch. From our standpoint, we can't do that much, although a demo outside an embassy never did anyone any harm. But if these people get the touted 20 year sentences, or indeed any convictions at all, they deserve the greatest prisoner support that can be provided.

In the meantime, letters of solidarity can be sent to them at:

Comite de Southien aux Inculpes de Tarnac,
Le Bourg,

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

climate justice cometh

Climate action moves on apace this week.

On Monday protesters blockaded the runway at Stansted airport, Britain's big place for short-haul flights. There were 57 protesters. Ryanair cancelled 56 flights.

As organisers Plane Stupid pointed out, that's one flight per person, and as the average flight out of Stansted has a climate impact equivalent to about four years of the average Briton's emissions, that's a fucking good morning's work.

The fact that such a large group can organise and pull off this action without getting rumbled is pretty darn cool too.

In a less publicised but even more audacious action, during 48 hours of direct action against E-On someone got into the Kingsnorth power station - site of last summer's Camp for Climate Action - and switched off one of the turbines.

June's stopping of the coal train going into Drax and shovelling the payload on to the tracks was quite possibly the coolest action I'd ever heard of, but this Kingsnorth one is now the front runner for the title.

The protester scaled the electric fence (which wasn't working), knew the layout and the equipment, switched off 500 megawatts of coal-fired generation and then left through a staff entrance. The cops and Kingsnorth's owners E-on are clueless. How fuckin James Bond is that?

UPDATE: More info on that action here.

When the Climate Camp decided to go to Kingsnorth it was thought possible that, by the time they arrived last August, they'd have been facing the construction of the new coal station planned for the site. Yet the decision has been delayed and delayed, and has still not been taken.

Last week the decision on Heathrow's third runway was delayed so that Transport Secretary Geoff 'Buff' Hoon would have, ahem, 'more time to weigh the evidence'.

Whilst time is running out to avoid dangerous climate change, the scale of action is on the up and the crucial governmental decisions are getting later and wobblier.

And the payback starts to stack up too. An Oxford University climate physicist is saying that the effects of human-made climate change are so quantifiable that people impacted will be able to sue for the damage.

Myles Allen talks about countries hit by things like worsening storms, heatwaves and floods. But it's not only those who caused the problem but those who enable them too.

Owen Lomas, head of environmental law at City firm Allen & Overy, said: "If you look at the extent to which certain major companies in the US are accused of having funded disinformation to cast doubt on the link between man-made emissions and global warming, that could open the way to litigation."

Imagine if we were to actually get it together and achieve what's necessary; the first few years of the process could well look like this.

Friday, December 05, 2008

from the jam

The biggest regret of my life is that I never saw The Jam. They were the first band I loved, the first band that were really mine.

Living in homogeneous suburbia it was stunning to discover these kinetic, driven, muscular songs that knew the feeling of restless dislocation, that promised a life away from there where things would be more real, more exciting, where you could be who you wanted to be and nobody would push you into a stupid soulless job.

The politics, the passion, the swirl of righteous anger, the romanticising of the city, they all called me onward, protecting me against the forces of mediocrity, galvanising my spirit and empowering me.

It's a pat little shorthand phrase I use, but essentially a true one, that most of me can be explained by an adolescence spent reading Vonnegut and listening to The Jam.

On their final tour I was old enough to love all that about them and to be reading the music press but still a little too young to travel for gigs. Janet Barrington's big sister went to see them and I saw her next day in school. I knew then I'd never quite get over it.

I stuck by Weller in the Style Council.

Style Council ticket, Empire Theatre Liverpool, 15 June 1985

There was a ripe rich wit that railed against and rose above the preening attitude of the times, and there was an increasing militancy and focus in his politics. There are some great tracks on the first two albums and a lot of gems on the B-sides too. But fuck me, they ran off a cliff with that cack third album.

I even bought all the Bruce Foxton solo stuff and went to see him live. Jesus friggin wept.

I mean, imagine pretty much any decent band. Say The Cure or The Stones. Now imagine going to the bass player's solo gig.

Bruce Foxton ticket, Royal Court Theatre Liverpool, 17 May 1984

I still remember being profoundly unsettled, having a sort of anti-gig feeling, a sense of total alienation from the two thousand people around me when, between the set and the encore, there was a chant of 'we all agree - Brucie is better than Weller'.

I even rejoined Weller in his darkest time, after the Style Council and before the solo stuff when he was without a record deal and he toured as The Paul Weller Movement.

Paul Weller Movement ticket, Manchester Academy, 25 November 1990

Whilst it was a joy to see him play a mix of Jam and Style Council songs there was a clear sense that the Movement was, ahem, going through the motions.

I never really got much out of his solo stuff, though live - at the Glastonbury sets I saw and whenever he's on summat like Later - he's been great value, a prowling snarling firebrand that shows up all the contemporary indie guitar landfill as so much tickle-your-guitar damp nothingness.

I never wanted The Jam to reform. Weller has so clearly moved on, it wouldn't have the power and the passion. And that's what it's really about. It isn't in the songs.

I saw Billy Bragg last week and he said that you can't capture the meaning of The Clash in the records. The real value was in that sense that they were out to change the world and that somehow by them being The Clash and you fighting the good fight you would, together, make it all happen. That was a lot of what The Jam were about too.

A couple of years ago something odd happened. In Oxford I saw a poster in the window of one of those tribute band pubs. There was a forthcoming gig by people called Rick Buckler's The Gift. It was a Jam tribute band featuring the actual drummer.

I missed the gig but it played on my mind. I mean, it could be really sad. Then again, if someone said 'gis a tenner and you can watch Rick Buckler play the drum part to Funeral Pyre' my wallet would be open before their mouth was closed.

One time, Bruce Foxton got up to play with The Gift. They loved it so he joined permanently. They're now called From The Jam and they play pretty big gigs, that 1500-2000 seater circuit.

We need a new name for these bands that are half reunion, half tribute. The Jam aren't the only ones. Queen just reformed with Brian May, Roger Taylor, some bloke and then macho tosser Paul Rodgers from Free on vocals. A tribunion? Tribune? Re-tribution?

Whatever, I've dithered about seeing From The Jam, but tomorrow night I'm going to go.

From The Jam ticket, Leeds Academy, 6 December 2008

I'm nervous. It could be the most depressing pathetic thing I've ever seen in my life. In their eye-wateringly dull and axe-grindingly bitter autobiography Our Story, Buckler and Foxton concluded, 'there were three people in the Jam, and two of them weren't Paul Weller'.

Yeah, but, guys. It's not a numbers game. The one who was Paul Weller wrote all the songs, played the guitar, sang, and was generally your meal ticket for years on end.

Indeed, as your present set list is over 95% comprised of his compositions, Weller is still being something of a benefactor. The Jam without him? Will it be like seeing Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke perform as From The Smiths?

I have an inkling it'll be more. There is nobody else on earth who can sing Smiths songs properly, whereas there is a punch and fury in Jam songs that lets them stand on their own; there is a life that those two breathed into them. Buckler was my big hero in the time when I was a drummer. The guy is a cymbal-smashing nutter, all over his metalwork all the time, fuckin great.

They've said they've a love for the harsher songs - Eton Rifles, Funeral Pyre - that implies it'll be fuckin loud as opposed to a delicate tinkle or polite facsimile.

It could, though, be the the worst gig in the world. Imagine the most depressing point-missing elements of a tribute band combined with the post-shelf-lifeness of a 30 years on reunion applying both kinds of desecration to a supreme body of work.

But I can readily imagine it being most other places on the spectrum too, from sad and lame, to bouncy and boisterous fun to a blistering affirmation of the immortality of this magnificent canon.

There is something beyond that though, something about the fact of it happening at all. I have such mixed feelings about reunions. It's so great that Joe Strummer's last gig was a political benefit in London with Mick Jones rather than a corporate sponsored reunion nostalgiafest in an American enormodome.

Despite my eternal and visceral love of the seminal Never Mind The Bollocks and their lack of any crap later albums to ruin a set list with, I actively avoided the Sex Pistols reunions. It was just too opposed to all that they stood for.

But in the week when the original Specials line-up have announced a tour next May I find there are one or two bands who can make my excited self be stronger than my purist.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

the same as the old boss

How depressing it must be for Americans to have that two months between a presidential election and them actually taking office. Two months in which Obama is obliterating all those high hopes of change by appointing Bush and Clinton's war criminals and backtracking on major policies like withdrawal from Iraq.

At least in 1997 we had a couple of months of seeing the Conservatives actually out of office and thinking change was really beginning to happen. Lest we forget, at the end of May 1997 Tony Blair had an approval rating of 93%, the highest for any leader anywhere ever.

Only 7% didn't believe he was doing a bang-up job! I bet more people believe in leprechauns!

But once in office you have to serve the powers that got you there. As the Daily Mash reported Obama saying

"I promised you change you can believe in, I did not promise you change you can actually see."

He added: "You believe in Jesus don't you? Right, but have you ever seen Jesus? Exactly."

Having started out by appointing a Zionist freemarket fundamentalist as his Chief of Staff, Barack Obama goes on to get in more rabid old-guard fuckheads on his team.

Obama's claims to be solidly against the Iraq war and planning a withdrawal are already unravelling.

The uncertainties facing the incoming administration may have prompted Obama, in introducing his national security team Monday, to signal greater flexibility in his plans to withdraw combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.


Exactly what 'uncertainties' are there in Iraq that weren't there when withdrawal was being talked about a month ago?

Obama reaffirmed that goal, but also emphasized his willingness to consider options put forth by the military.

"I will listen to the recommendations of my commanders," he said

His commanders like, say, his choice of Defense Secretary, Robert Gates. You might already know him because he's Bush's Defense Secretary. The man who's been overseeing the surge of troops and running the fucking war for the last two years.

This is not responding to any new 'uncertainties'. During the election campaign Obama left himself a loophole, talking about how

"We'll keep a residual force" for "targeting any remnants of al-Qaeda; protecting remaining U.S. troops and officials; and training Iraq's security forces" provided they "make political progress."

How big would this more or less permanent "residual" force be? Obama did not say, but advisers leaked that it could reach 50,000.

That's about a third of what's there today. That's not a withdrawal.

It doesn't matter what was promised or implied, what you think you voted for;

"We are not going to be hampered by ideology in trying to get this country back on track"

His Secretary of State is Hillary Clinton. When she was last an adjunct of presidential power it was her husband Bill who was, like all American presidents in living memory, a war criminal on several continents. Whether littering residential areas of Belgrade with cluster bombs or firing cruise missiles at Baghdad, Hillary was by his side.

These, though did little damage compared to the sanctions the US imposed against Iraq that denied supplies of basic medicines, a tactic that disproportionately punished the sick, the very old and the very young.

When Madeleine Albright, Bill's Secretary of State, was asked about the half a million Iraqi children who died as a result of this, she said 'we think it's a price worth paying'.

There can be little doubt that the 'we' included the person new appointee to Albright's job, Hillary Clinton.

I'll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here.
'I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.'
'I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.'
'Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding out both puppets!'

Go back to bed, America! Your government is in control!
- Bill Hicks