The Cold, Thorny Dildo of Reality

Michael Foot campaigns in 1983

I’m a leftie.

It’s something I’m proud of, and it is a core part of my identity. I come from the northern tundra of leftieland, raised on a diet of despising Tories and taking turns on Night Watch looking out for fascists on the horizon. My parents were trade unionists and I have been elected as a representative at school, university and at work. I am an attack dog serving to savage those who seek to increase inequality across sex, class, disability, gender, nationality and race. I am forever suspicious of nationalism, I believe in the binding unity of globalization and commerce. I hold precious the notion of essential public services being run specifically in the best interests of the public. My mantra is, was and will always be ‘From each according to his or her ability, to each according to their needs’.

While my chief concerns revolve around making society fairer and protecting the vulnerable, many of my colleagues on the left have more powerful ideological dogmas to follow. I am not a Marxist; I find Marx to be better understood as a critic of capitalism and a keen analyst of history up to his own time. I am not a Trotskyite, although were I ever to indulge in real radicalism I feel that I’d probably be best placed under Trotsky, given that he is almost certainly my favourite Communist. I find myself more in the vein of Rousseau than that of Robespierre. I have no time for Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Chavez or Castro, the idea of the vanguard party and dictatorship of the proletariat at odds with my instinctive championing of free thinking and the importance of questions over slogans.

Labour’s performance at the last election was damning. I woke up the morning after with a sense of doom comparable to that of a man living a double life that just sent the wrong text to the wrong woman. I had managed to convince myself that it was nigh-on impossible that the Tories might cobble together a working majority. I was deluded by the polls, by the surprising competence and strength of Miliband during debates and the actual campaign. The scale of the loss gutted me, and shook my core beliefs surrounding politics in the United Kingdom. It was compounded by the fact that in the run up to the election I had been devoting a strange amount of time to researching the events of previous elections, all the way back to Anthony Eden. I educated myself by proxy on Militant, Bennism and the impotence of Labour in the 1980s, discovering some hard-to-stomach truths about the party to which I have tribal devotion. To me the worst thing about the election result was the rejection of the most left wing Prime Minsterial candidate since Michael Foot; Ed Miliband, despite his presentation flaws and lack of bite, was in many ways the best PM we will never have. Rejecting socialism of the 21st century seemed, to me, the final nail in the coffin for genuinely leftist platforms. Wort of all, it meant five more years of the Tories.

The scramble between candidates for the Labour leadership in the wake of Miliband’s resignation has led to scenes which parallel those I encountered during my pre-election UK politics nerd-binge to such an extent that it bewilders me. People are asking me on a daily basis what I think about Jeremy Corbyn, pregnant with expectation that I’m about to fall to the ground and sing high praise to a proper socialist. However my answer is causing more confusion; I think Corbyn is probably the worst possible outcome of this leadership election.

My principle objection to Corbyn is that he’s a gift to the Tories. The story goes that Osborne was orgiastic when he heard the news that Ed had beaten David. Jeremy Corbyn is the medicine for all of Osborne’s strategic ills, and we all know how much George loves marvelous medicine. I won’t patronise by trying to paint a picture of where the political centre ground has shifted exactly, because I contest that at this stage nobody really knows. What is certain, however, is that Osborne’s danger has always been that of the veil of obscurity being lifted from his strategy, with naked Tory policy outed as the extremism that it truly is (think to how desperately Osborne rowed back on his Autumn Budget when the ‘back to the 30’s’ soundbite caught on). Corbyn provides Osborne with cover, masking his own extremism by pointing out how extremist Corbyn is in so many other ways.

We’ve been here before

Now I do not consider Corbyn’s economic or social policy to be particularly extreme at all. It is a little further left than I’m used to, but he isn’t a Marxist and he’s not espousing full blown Bennism. The problem is that the truth is often of minor importance in these matters; perception is everything, and right now the Tories control perception. The idea that Jeremy Corbyn will be able to change the terms of debate through plain speaking, intellectual integrity and rustic charisma, like a messianic Farage for the left, is pure fantasy. The rough treatment doled out on Kinnock and Miliband will be like tickling by comparison. He is going to be savaged, and the electorate will pay heed. It is a shame, because I think Corbyn will likely show more economic pragmatism than some on the right of the party will give him credit for.

Corbyn’s most extreme leaning is in his Foreign policy, and this where I disagree with him most strongly. Leaving Nato, unilateral disarmament and near pacifism are admirable but entirely unacceptable positions to me and many others, left or right. His parliamentary career is a goldmine of easily misrepresented statements, pledges and petitions involving dubious and sometimes outright-strange characters and causes. I believe that the mediocrity of a Burnham, Cooper or Kendall is far less dangerous in the long term than Corbyn, who is a cardboard cut out of the Tories’ perfect opposition.

They’re good at this. That’s the problem.

I do not blame Corbyn for any of this. I think he’s taken a very brave and uncharacteristically opportunist position and it’s clearly chiming with the bulk of the Labour support. Furthermore he’s conducted himself with admirable decency, refusing to get drawn into mudslinging (except when baited by Tony Blair). He has been remarkably savvy and has said much of nothing, focusing his campaign on emotion rather than policy. The few tidbits of policy he has spoken of have been modernising and genuinely socialist, with the highlight being the Obama influenced National Education Service. The other candidates failed to use Corbyn’s far left positions to differentiate themselves and highlight their own strengths. Pathetic as this is, the Tories will not fail to do so. They have ancient tomes, written in hemoglobin and bound in human skin that detail exactly which form of witchcraft is necessary to not only undermine any potential danger or opposition from a Corbyn led Labour, but also to sow salt in the fields and ruin any budding promise. Do not delude yourself. The Tories are not ‘running scared’ of Jeremy Corbyn and neither are the establishment. There is no complex double bluff, they really are looking forward to this. It’s actually bringing them together at a time when they’re on the verge of splits themselves, given the small majority and advance of UKIP. There are absolutely no negatives to a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour for the Tory party, which is why they’re currently keeping schtum, indulging in the old maxim- ‘never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake’. The panic is on the right and centre of the party, those who know how this plays out and are left impotent to prevent the looming tragedy. They’re now thrashing and spewing, foaming with incredulity at the old style left for having the gall to succeed with their platform. It’s pouring gasoline on the fire, as in this world any warning based in fact, history or reality is put in a box named ‘Project Fear’ and sent to the moon.

Reality, it would seem, is a scarce resource at the moment. The mass delusion that swept the SNP to a galling victory during the election is beginning to infect the wider left, willing to set aside disbelief in the name of a promise that rings true to their souls; Scottish Nationalism up north, the dismantling of the neo-aristocracy down south. It is alarmingly clear that Corbyn is due to win, with Blairite witch hunts in full swing. A Blairite has become anybody who disagrees with a 1980’s socialist platform, anybody who thinks there is some heavy value to national security, anybody who finds environmental issues a low priority, anybody with a fundamental suspicion towards appeasing the likes of Russia. I have been called the worst thing it’s possible to call a person such as I- I have been accused of being a ‘Tory’. ‘Why don’t you just go and join the Tories’, is something that someone has actually said to me. I found it baffling and incredulous, but then it happened again.

I am now resigned to the fact that Corbyn is going to win, and I’m not going to join the Tories. I’m going to do what I’ve always done; take a sensible, pro-socialist position on most issues while attacking any wrong that the Tories do like a rabid, mangy dog. When the dust has settled and the apocalypse of the left has cemented Tory hegemony I may offer up an ‘I told you so’, but I have no intention of doing anything other than carrying on the fight. I would advise the genuine Blairites, the soft leftists, those on the actual right of the party and supporters of Lib Dems, Greens, SNP or anybody else who wants to remove the Tories and burn their bones to do as I plan to do, and I would advise the neo-80’s crowd carrying Corbyn to victory to accept us as part of them. I concede that it’s your turn.

Just don’t call me a Tory. I’m a man of History and a man of Realities, not a man of emotion. Maybe my weakness is my lack of trust in the possibility of a genuine sea-change in British politics. Maybe it’s my protectiveness of the disabled, the disadvantaged and the downtrodden that unnerves me so when faced with the prospect of Bennite Labour, certain in the knowledge that the Tories will take full advantage.

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Premier League Football Team in Getting Better After Spending Money Shocker

While the inbred of Wearside stewed upon Sunderland’s dreadful opening day performance, cautious optimism permeated the streets of Newcastle. After the horror-show decline that signalled the long, lingering death of the Alan Pardew era, Newcastle United seem to have awoken to a tougher, more conciliatory reality.

The fan base still split, with a vocal minority still outwardly disgusted by anything associated with the Mike Ashley regime, never the less the club has attempted to fix the roof. What it was that finally broke the spell of delusion under which the club has been labouring is up for debate; Ashley’s failure to leverage influence over Rangers, the bombscare relegation fight predicted by everybody but the club leadership, the influx of television cash injecting smaller clubs with purpose and ambition that threatened eclipse Newcastle’s meagre wheeler-dealing.

One by one, the ghosts of the terminal Pardew period appear to have been exorcised. The club is not fixed yet, but-crucially-there is now hope. John Carver is gone, left to lick his lips at home and spout nonsense to Journalists he’d been banned from talking to just months earlier. Mike Ashley broke his vow of silence before the do-or-die West Ham game and has largely backed his words with cash and-most importantly-new footballers. Good, proven international footballers, with pedigrees and acclamations as some of the best players in their respective leagues.

Walking through the streets up to the stadium, it was clear that the atmosphere had changed. Improved communication, and the appointment of the immeasurably more likeable Steve Mclaren (he’s saying the right things, for shure) have satiated the anxiety of the normal majority. Pre-season was typically calamitous, but as an Arsenal fan will tell you pre-season is rarely indicative of the real stuff.

Money spent, staff appointed and the olive branch of skeptical parley extended, Newcastle began their first game of the season well. The fans sat, shuffled and stood with a strange nervous energy. A mix of possibility and promise, served with a measure of anxiety. As the ball was passed out from the back from goal kicks straight to Mbemba, confusion began to battle it’s way into the emotional cocktail. Here a centre half-not Mike Williamson-playing with the ball at his feet without the look of quiet panic of a man emerging from an amphibious landing craft, moving comfortably with it. In midfield a mix of energy, composure and game intelligence, possession overwhelmingly in Newcastle’s favour, dictated by the chosen beat of Gini Wijnaldum. An early chance for Wijnaldum blocked, a few half chances created by Moussa Sissoko, who bombed on with vigour and purpose and showed little of the pea-hearted capitulation which sandwiched the positives of his second season in English football.

First impressions are important, so Mbemba brought a tux

Capitulation was the chief worry of the anxious in the stands, put to the test when Newcastle’s decent start came undone by poor defending and the power of Graziano Pelle. Instead Newcastle held it together, kept up their possession game and continued to flood the wings with pace and power. A short corner to Haidara led to a deflected cross which looped over the unimpressive Stekelenberg, into the path of Papiss Cisse. A shrug of the chest and Newcastle were back in business, before half time.

After the break Newcastle picked up where they left off, playing some of the best football the crowd have seen for years. Triangles around the full backs, moves forward with purpose. Newcastle broke with real pace and Southampton couldn’t cope. Cisse picked the ball up south of the halfway line and chipped a ball forwards. Obertan bursting through, then a sublime cross onto the head of Wijnaldum, who tracked the ball at such speed for 80 yards that his momentum and jump were enough to deflect Obertan’s cross into the far-side top corner from almost 18 yards. For years, good goals at SJP were scored in moments of individual, accidental brilliance. Wijnaldum’s debut goal was made all the better by the obvious synchronicity between the team, a promise of better times ahead.

Vurnon Anita, often bullied and maligned, was central to the possession football of Newcastle’s best spells, picking the ball up from the keeper and centre halves and keeping the play ticking over. In doing so he finally revealed his purpose in a Newcastle side, growing in confidence with every successful transition. The turning point of the game, around the 75th minute, came when Anita fell awkwardly on his back. On came Tiote, looking bulky and off-pace. The anxiety began to creep in once more, and after much probing Southampton found their equaliser from another good header by perennial Newcastle villain Shane Long.

In an attempt to shore things up and replace the tiring legs of Wijnaldum, McLaren turned to the now-fit Siem De Jong and Newcastle’s brand new Serbian headcase Aleksander Mitrovic. Whereas De Jong spent much of his time ambling off the ball doing much of nothing, Mitrovic followed the applause at his introduction with an immediate wincing assault on the Southampton left back, picking up a yellow card for his trouble. Mitrovic was starved of service but what little action he did see after was wrapped up in harrying and bullying, a solid frame of madness bumping into less solid beings.

Sadio Mane fluffed a few late chances but Newcastle emerged from the game with a result and confidence, applauded off the pitch by a grateful Toon Army who’d finally seen an entertaining game of football, contested by a Newcastle side that appeared to have a plan and the seeds of a footballing identity, topped off with promising new signings enjoying solid debuts.

This is the beauty of football and of supporting Newcastle in particular. When the mood changes for the better it’s hard not to get sucked up in the love, even while everyone tries to keep their optimism suppressed. I left smiling and others did too. We couldn’t help it.

The Writer Review: THEY THIRST

MORNING CHAPS AND CHAPPETTES

I’m in the middle of writing stuff. Big stuff. It has a title and characters and a beginning now. Writing is all about reading, too. The stuff you put into your brain has an effect on the stuff that comes out. Think of it like playdough being pushed through a funny shaped hole or something.

I thought you may be interested in finding out about what I’ve been reading, ‘cos my taste is fucking ace (read, I’m good at parsing recommendations from the internets).

I have a few of these lined up, but I’m not going to be reviewing from the perspective of a reader. I’m going to talk about how these books have been written, what the dude or dudette writing must’ve been thinking as they went along. See this shit isn’t as much about symbolism and haughty prose and dilletante taste as you might think. Most of it is hitchin’ your way from A to B.

To start, recently I went back to my first love. Horror Novels are brilliant. They’re really the tippity-top of cheap thrills, and as covered elsewhere on this blog nothing affects your mood like a really fucked up horror novel.

VAMPIRES, YO

In a shocking turn of events, THEY THIRST is about vampires. So many books are about vampires. There’s like, dozens of them. Only a tiny white-rhino sized population are worth reading though. There are a few people to blame. First of all, as we all know Bram Stoker went to America, heard a fucked up story about gravedigging shenanigans and then wrote Dracula. Hollywood piggybacked it, ‘cos whilst Dracula is epistolary he was in fact a playwright by day, and it’s very likely that the whole thing was written with drama in mind in the first place.

After Dracula and hollywood, people got sick to fuck of vampires because really they’re just fucking everywhere. It wasn’t until Stephen Motherfuckin’ King came back with Salem’s Lot that they came back into vogue. Salem’s Lot, other than being a truly bad-ass piece of fiction in every sense of the word, was also yet another doorway into cinematic legend- Danny Glick at the window. I bet you haven’t even seen the terrible TV movie, but I bet you have seen this long toothed, bad pajama’d motherfucker right here.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GOOGLE SHIT LIKE ‘BEST HORROR WRITERS FOR HORROR WRITERS’

Robert McCammon is more famous than I have any right to understand, given that I lived in blissful ignorance of his entire existence until about a year ago. Even then, it took plenty of glowing testimonials from ardent fans-turned-writers before I took the dive with him. RM quite famously gave up on writing for a while. Pigeonholed as a horror writer, he tried to break free and write, err, horror by other means. The man wouldn’t let him, so he fucked off and took his ball with him. He’s back now and I have it on good authority that his new stuff (most recently THE FIVE) is actually pretty fucking cool indeed.

If you google about for info on legendary horror, RM’s name pops up all the time. His most acclaimed novel is Boy’s Life, which is sort of his version of ‘IT’. Bzzzt, we’re not interested in that shit today. Oh no. We want the grimy early novels, the ones written in a fugue of potential, the ones where we can still parse the thought processes behind the words.

THEY THIRST IS ABOUT PAR AS A NOVEL

Should you read THEY THIRST? I don’t fucking care dude, there’s too many books. It’s like, okay. But at the same time it’s really cool. Cool in a way that it wouldn’t be allowed to be these days. There’s very little of anything pretentious here. Occasionally RM tries to make literary allusions to Sumerian myth. He writes about Hungary the same way the Victorians did about the fucking Congo. He also commits that god-awful sin of cross referencing characters and themes from an even shittier, earlier book, as if anybody but him gives half a damn about them. KILL YOUR DARLINGS, word nerds.

In THEY THIRST, Vampires take over LA. Led by some Hungarian Poindexter undead Prince, they fuck up everything- the barros, Hollywood, Cemeteries, the po-po. I’d like to think that RM was thinking of some kind of awesome high-level satire, taking aim at how many vampire books there were out there by setting one in a city of uppity-billion people. However I think the dude just got dem vibes from the city for reals. Like, he sees LA as a nice place and all (or so he’ll say to interviewers) but you can smell the dislike for LA and it’s walking-deadness, even at a distance of 30+ years.

Written like a Stephen King novel, RM drags some fun characters forwards with no plan and only a few tentpoles. Getting Prince Vulcan (yeah, he’s called that alright) to the Kronsteen Castle. The sandstorm that fucks everyone up. The Hungarian cop being fired because he’s the only one who realises hundreds of thousands of Vampires are fucking everything else up. There’s a reporter who is just trying to be the best goddamn reporter she can. There’s an Albino motor-cycle gang of one, operating on Terminator levels of ultra-violence for no reason other than ‘well that’s pretty fucking cool, in hindsight’.

My favourite vamp novel innovation from RM was the Coffin tycoon, who was sadly discarded soon after the novel opens. Horror geeks, write me a novel about a Coffin tycoon and I’ll buy it. Or read the sample on smashwords, or something. Maybe.

RM writes with a sense of urgency over any ornament or style. He’s trying to finish this fucking book and it shows. He’s hitting dem tentpoles, and dragging you with him. That’s always an obvious effect of a ‘page turner’. A good writer keeps the reader with him as he tries to smash out that wordcount, a bad writer fills you with nonsense and doesn’t want to finish it him or herself anyway. About every other sentence in THEY THIRST starts with ‘In an instant’ or ‘In the next moment’ or ‘Immediately’. This book is a great exercise in learning how to move forward at pace. The whole thing is just one big rush to the finish line, even given it’s relative size (550+ pages or something).

The prose itself is workman like. RM would later go on to do great things, such as the aforementioned Boys Life and the post apocalyptic SWAN SONG, and it’s only recently that his earliest 3 novels have been made available again. THEY THIRST is probably the strongest of the three early attempts, and RM has said publicly that he was lucky that he could ‘learn how to write in public’. It is probable that THEY THIRST could’ve been something really cool where it to percolate for a few years more.

HEY, AT LEAST THE VAMPIRES ARE NOT TOTAL PUSSIES

As it stands, it’s a pretty standard Vampire novel that does not entertain one moment of fuckery with emotions and feelings. RM’s Vampires are bad-ass, except for when they’re being poindexters complaining about NOT BEING A CHILD, or being called things like Prince Vulcan or Kobra. In retrospect this whole book is dripping with late 70s musty bullshit, but there’s a fucking charm to that. Like a racist uncle telling war stories, or a tramp necking a bottle of cider. It’s wrong and it’s not clever but shit, you’re consuming it ain’t cha? The gruffness and attempted machismo kind of works, especially if you grew up in the aftermath of VHS 80’s crapathons.

ALSO THE GERMAN COVER. GODDAMN.

What is wrong with Germany man?