A Journal of the Plague Year 2020 Day 1

Wednesday 18th March 2020

Today I woke to the same routine these past few weeks, increasingly set every time I opened my eyes and reached for laptop or phone. Then to scroll bleary-eyed through the news of ratcheting tension, emblazoned in headlines on school closures, lockdowns, crashing markets, panic buying and ghastly figures updated every hour. They say the higher a death toll gets the less people can conceive it, the scale of destruction getting more abstracted the worse it is. I don’t think it applies here, in this instance where we’ve tracked the gradual rise into exponential reaches that double every three days. The lists of countries multiplying alongside, the imagined scenarios fueling a sense of global doom.

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At one point last night, after watching a mindless action movie on Netflix (Pacific Rim II, lurid, banal, unlikely to have a third) I stopped and my ebullience suddenly ebbed. Was this the end of times, was I unlucky enough to be living now? A once in a lifetime experience they say. But then we should remember that millions have had this same clouded prospect, not just clouded but tornadic – Syria, Iraq, Yemen, DPR Congo, Libya, South Sudan as society was whipped away around them. These conflicts prove just as abstracted to this day, when we are a mere spa break in comparison of worry and anguish, and the uncontrolled, unaided death of your loved ones.

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LIS2017003D | Aleppo After the Fall

My partner A is now out of work as of yesterday, my flatmate J awaiting his fate in an announcement today, where he works as head of silverware in a West London auction house. We drafted a letter to the agency about our situation and their avenues of support available for us not being able to pay the rent in these trying times (yes we used that phrase, at John’s historicist suggestion). They must be inundated. Then it was the phone call home, that phone call I’d been dreading all day, to find out the situation with The Family. Mum, 77 and still working in a factory, in part to support my sister (long story, do ask) may be quarantined as high risk for up to 4 months according to the government advice, or should I say, hint of what is soon to be imposed. My other sister in the process of moving back to the UK from the Netherlands, and possibly also out of work. Well, that escalated quickly. Almost overnight faced with the prospect of four grown dependents plus myself on the one wage.

Thankfully, although the Natural History Museum closed its doors yesterday for the foreseeable next two months, I will still be paid. Turns out so will Mum, and my sister in the Netherlands. She started her own company in science writing (I’ll just namedrop Atria Communications here) and is working with the disease experts, and now mobile. The acronym WFH has become suddenly relevant and widespread -though commonly misread as WTF, it correctly shares the same impact of the word. So down from a possible four to just a plus one. I should be very, very thankful, I’m lucky enough to be waged with the government, and my mother and sister are in the science sector.

Most people I know are not so lucky, living from paycheck to paycheck, often abroad from their homelands and familial support. It’s stark how very quickly the gig economy has been so exposed to economic ruin, not to mention the fragility of property bubbles and rental market. Notably in London where no one working, middle or even upper-middle class can realistically afford to own a property, unless you like converting a walk-in closet, complete with a shower under your bunk bed that dribbles onto the toilet. Or a bed-in-shed in Slough, one in a rash of tens of thousands now hidden throughout London’s leafy suburbia of illegally built, money-making favelas. Thus a vast proportion rent their abode, and a vast proportion are now looking at homelessness. How did it come to this?

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I saw four homeless people today, three I suspected of being the variety who beg but find sheltered accommodation at night (appearing well fed, dressed, clean, I know a roster of them), but one who was genuinely sleeping in a streetside alcove, wreathed in soiled camping gear. I have no idea what will happen to these people. I also saw the very old, frail, and the heavily disabled, all of them on their own, clutching empty bags on the way to the shops, and the circus that awaited them. Yesterday a woman in a wheelchair blocked everyone from getting baskets as she tried to get her goods into one (she was buying a large houseplant, I have no idea what for), but I almost caved right there and cried. I helped her out, but later heard others asking her if she was okay. Thankfully there’s still that. The mood was tense, every face deeply serious from staff to shoppers alike, but no one busting out into arguments, slappy fights or racing down the aisles, nor complaining about the epic queuing or emptied shelves.

The people are panic buying -game theory really, if one person does it everyone else has to, or they’ll lose out. Then we complain about everyone else, like how we moan about the traffic while sitting in it ourselves, or how the lovely tourist sites are overrun with tourists these days, as if we have a privilege to experience it over any given member of that yappy, sportswear-laden tour group. These days is a potion of concern, for ourselves, our families and the disadvantaged, in an uneasy mix of conflicting priorities, as we go for that last toilet roll, as we see the pensioner standing destitute behind us.

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The UK government, to much fanfare, had recently announced it was following an experimental policy of mitigation rather than extending the containment stage. Hence why, in contrast to our European neighbours, there has been no lockdown, not of schools, of pubs, of gatherings, of farming festivals and horse racing stadia, of incoming visitors, or people in general when it could have made a difference. Despite that China already provided an MO in the form of Hubei Province, roughly the same size and population of the UK, that has proven to work, where we can learn from their open-sourced mistakes and successes. However one of these scenarios also happens to be cheaper on the economy – for all the talk on  ‘sombrero flattening’ no measures have been taken to effectively do so, as yet:

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The proven path so far is lockdown, infrastructure to feed that lockdown, ICU’s, and draft hospitals, with strict quarantining (where the staff get suited up 2 or 3x over, and no object entering those wards can ever leave again, hence why many healthcare workers had to buy new phones to discard later). It saved China, but took out two months of its economy. Britain seems to have tried to have its cake and eat it in contrast to the rest -to let the infection move through the populace while the elderly would be housed away, thus saving the bedspace. However, the Imperial College yesterday released its models on what this would result in, to both the UK and US govts it advises, alongside publishing it to the press. Over 200,000 dead and a healthcare system overrun to the scale of 8x over, and possibly 10x that for the States. This is why the government is about-facing to change tack once again, and why a lockdown is likely to be imminent.

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I cashed in an electronics voucher today, £100 worth, to buy an upgraded phone I didn’t really need, but in order to save my purchase should that company tank during the lockdown. Everyone in there was doing the same. The three workers were gloved up to the max, and wiping down everything passing over the counter, while thrash metal played apocalyptically. A young Spanish guy bought the phone I wanted, his old phone recently kaput and having little choice but to buy a new one before his replacement could be sent (if ever it would reach him), in a time when he could contact family, and where communication would be the last link that cannot, should not fail, no matter what.

Trying times indeed. I often think of what is important to me in life, often. Everyone is saying it’s like a film. Yet this is not so much a Hollywood disaster with gung ho renegades, rousing speeches and wavering flags in the background, to fistpumping and flowering explosions  -rather it’s more a surrealist study in existentialism. The world is increasingly looking black and white, and poignant. I’m not looking forward to an increase in pace, though admittedly holding out for a Deus ex Machina (my First World privilege right there) to throw some contrived lifeline. We can but hope, to Keep Calm And Carry On.

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Just try not to remember that the phrase was dreamt up by a wartime government facing imminent invasion and, unknown to them, the planned execution of the entire adult male population. Thankfully that never transpired, and if we keep our heads level and remember we’re not facing Mad Max or alien armies here -and at worse 3% mostly will succumb at or beyond their given life expectancy anyway -we can get through this together. Game theory once again applies: help out your neighbour or stranger, and the same will likely happen to you or your loved ones wherever they may be. But know this, we’re in this together whether we like it or not. There will be forces, currently garish in the press pointing fingers between countries, races, candidates, exacerbating desperation in desperate times, but we need to collectively fight from the same ground against a common enemy. Hand washing, WFH, WTF, losing support networks, social distancing yet looking after those in need have all already united us in a collective experience, we just don’t need more rule and divide. And neither should we enable the pathologically inclined who do so -those on the sociopathic spectrum in power or with a podium, cannot help it, bless em. We however can. Don’t feed those clicks.

In short, we have enough on our plate for going political or divided right now (if we must, we can enjoy all that later). By all means, exert your pressure, demand, let your voices be heard when things are found wanting, but do the finger-pointing later. Let’s just get through the damn day.

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 98

Thursday 25th June 2020

Following on from my map porn the other day, made some more, this time from our sceptred isles. I think this exercise embodies a scope from being holed up in our vicinities, that looks outwards and onwards. That for too long we only see our immediate and cannot imagine what lies beyond. The lockdown has reinforced that whilst simultaneously reporting on the outside world, and the universality of our thoughts, experiences, fears, divisions and togetherness across the globe.

The traditional atlases of the world always have distortions, such is the nature of translating a 3 dimensional globe onto a flattened 2D plane. Thus the notorious Mercator version (used as a dartboard among geographers), that was traditionally used to increase the size of northern (read: Western) countries has been accused of long peddling the incorrect sizes of landmasses to millions in generation after generation, and we’re not just talking physical size and distances, but the map as envisaged in the political mind. Any map that say elevates Eurocentrism, or puts China in the centre, or the US (thus splitting Europe and Asia to opposite sides) can be equally accused -yet which is most correct?

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In truth, countries compared… you’ll need to be a bit of an atlas-savvy nerd to appreciate the differences in size of some of these comparison, but onwards -gwaan, learn something new:

https://mapfight.appspot.com

First off…

Ecuador, that tiny cut in the western side of South America is actually bigger than the UK. Fun fact, it is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries despite its small size, more so than say the US.

Also, it’s capital Quito has fantastic potential as a destination, and one of the world’s truly undiscovered next big thangs, should it ever clean up get and get the flower baskets out. It’s blessed with one of the world’s largest and most encompassing Old City’s that swamps over numerous hills and mountain vistas, like San Fran but with more grit, crime, streetkids etc. Actually exactly like San Fran:

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Quito

Quito

Koreans would come in at a 76 million count were they ever to reunite. The difference would be stark within the new populace – not just in culture and clothing, even in height where the Southerners would average a 3-5 inch difference thanks to the North Korean famine during the 90s. But it’s also said the Northerners are a happy, convivial bunch contrary to assumption, and the opposite holds truer for the south. The closest we’ve gotten to believing ourselves in paradise are those living in Pyongyang.

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Next off, England.

Sri Lanka. Until as late as 1480 Sri Lanka was connected to India by Adam’s Bridge, a 50 km/ 30 mile limestone shoal that is now about 1-3 metres underwater. Quite a hike, paddle and swim but bring your shark net. Where no boat ever dares:

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Tasmania, with a population of only 537,000 is very sparsely populated. Its original inhabitants were wiped out within 30 years of British conquest, and one of the few human ethnicities (distinct from Mainland Aborigines for 12,000 years) to become extinct. But yeah, don’t let that little footnote in history hold you back. An extraordinarly beautiful island, also a little known pinnacle of fresh, inordinately organic produce from seafood to wine to bush tucker.

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Svalbard (popularised by its largest island, Spitzbergen) is Norway’s northern archipelago and a wondrous, tortured landscape of mountains, glaciers, pinnacles and ice. Only 2,700 people live across the archipelago, making it third in place from Antarctica and Greenland as the least populated land spot in the world. One of its most arresting sights are the annual waterfalls that form mile-long walls of water pouring off the melting glaciers, and the fact the inhabitants have to tote guns everywhere they walk for fear of polar bears, even if it is to take the rubbish out. Actually ESPECIALLY if you’re taking the rubbish out, such is the attraction for foraging ice monsters.

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Newfoundland floats in the world’s largest estuary, islanded also as an English speaking outpost (one of the Maritime Provinces) before French Canada takes over. Its accent is still discernibly Irish sounding as is its old sea shanty laden history -about 70% of its population claims some ancestry from the British Isles, compared to 6% from France. Small towns and fishing villages create a sleepy backwater of an island, the first part of North America (other than Greenland) discovered by Europeans, complete with a Norse settlement about a millennium ago – take that Columbus! [/snappy Geonerd speak circa 1992 school video].

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Tunisia, the northernmost country of Africa and an even mix of Berber and Arab worlds. It is classified as the only ‘Free’ country on the continent and the only full democracy in the Arab World, in part helped by igniting the Arab Spring in 2011, and the martyrdom of lowly market trader, Mohamed Bouazizi. Thousands of years of culture, from Phoenician to Roman to Berber to Arab to Ottoman to French -and it’s more famous for the scenes shot for the Star Wars franchise. I mean, fuck the ruins.

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Panama’s 80km (50 mile) canal carved out in the 19th – 20th centuries connects the Atlantic with the Pacific without the rigmarole of going round the whole of South / North America, a journey saving thousands of km and untold hazards from sea ice to stormy straits to financial lawyers. It contributes a full 40% to the economy, though that’s now diversifying into conservative banking and luxe tax haven, notably exposed by the Panama Papers . Panama City currently looks like condo heaven for the part.

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Guatemala, the most populous of the Central American states (with 17 million) and the core of the former Mayan civilisation. About 45% remain indigenous, while the rest are mixed. They happen to be one of the world’s shortest countries, where women average 4″10 (147cm) and men about 5″3 (160cm). It’s also one of the youngest countries outside Africa, whose median age is about 20 – almost half of all people are kids. Like kid kids. Like the Dino exhibit in the Natural History Museum in Half Term with Santa Claus riding the T Rex over an Easter Egg Hunt on Disney Nite. Everywhere.

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Denmark’s size is the most varying of the world’s nation, due to whether you’d include self ruling Greenland. From 130th position it can be propelled to the 12th largest territory, overtaking Mexico or Saudi Arabia, or equivalent to 6 Germany’s. Even if you were to take just that little poky nib pointing out of Germany as the be all and end all, thanks to the exactitude of how coastlines are measured it comes in as having one neverending seaside longer than Chile’s (who measures things quite laxly, doesn’t take in so many indents and doesn’t quite give a fuck unlike map nerds). Geo-porn right here.

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Iceland is so sparsely populated it stands at 3 people per sq km for its 364,000 inhabitants, mostly in the capital Reykjavik. The island is powered by geothermal energy, and almost completely renewable, plus the first on the Global Peace Index, though to be fair it’s sitting on a giant bubbling vat of energy as the one place on the planet still being formed, and there’s plenty to go round for a pool of people so small there aren’t enough wankers to get pissed off about. Even the dating apps have to run the gamut of ancestry/ DNA tools that alert you (giant flashing letters, industrial screaming, pop up of Michael Jackson’s face) if you inadvertently swipe right on your cousin.

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Hawaii is the planet’s most distant island, that takes multiple continent sized expanses of water in every direction to reach. Slap bang in the middle of the Pacific (half the world’s water area and about a third of the planet surface) it’s so hard to reach only a few birds made the up to 10,000 km /6,000 mile journeys about 8 million years ago, and evolved in utter isolation into 140 different species. No mammals made it other than a flying bat, and of course the genius of Polynesian explorers in 300 AD and another wave in 1100. Imagine rafting up your belongings, pigs and family, saying goodbye to your relatives (who’ll never know your fate) and striking out from the Isle of Wight, in a hope you’ll get an angle right to reach a spot of land near Tehran, if everything in between and all around and in every direction is ocean. For all their expertise with finding land (based on clouds, currents, birds etc) hundreds of flotillas likely never made it.

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The last major spot made habitable by humans on the planet NZ was recently discovered to be the mountaintops of a previously undiscovered continent that now lies beneath the seas. Separated by 1700km / 1000 miles from Australia the islands also enjoyed unique wildlife that propagated in isolation before humans hit it in 1350. They entered a wondrous land (world’s most varied in terms of topography and climate types, on par with the entirety of the US), where birds ruled the roost, filling the niches of mousey pickers (kiwis), giant grazers (11ft moas) and the predators that swooped on them (eagles that stood a metre tall and whose spine-snapping talons were the size of tiger paws). None of them, many who nested on the ground, were prepared for the human, rodential and livestock onslaught that followed.

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Japan is -typically dichotomous for its culture -one of the worlds most densely populated yet also most forested and mountainous countries. Tree cover accounts for 70% of the land, while the 125 million-strong population crams into the strip of coastal cities on the Kanto and Osaka plains, including the world’s singularly largest – Tokyo with 39 million inhabitants. But look again at the size of the islands, each massive -just so riddled with topography humans are islanded again.

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Somalia, with the longest coastline on Mainland Africa is the continent’s most homogenous country, standing out in a panoply of states in the world’s most diverse region, that will normally count hundreds of languages and ethnicities within any border. 85% are Somali, albeit divided into 8 tribal/ chieftain groups. In the north Somaliland has declared itself independent, a functioning, peaceful state, as opposed to the civil war decimating the rest.

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Yes, this is what I do with my time. OMGaaahd. And after all this, Beyond all this, Under all this…

Is this a distraction? An excuse for meaning in the hours. We’ve been here before, map after map over humanity, outside my life.

It is perhaps telling that it has been wasted, that there’s nothing much more to say, nor connected to life, to anything going on outside. It is a representation of some realm beyond the every day, conceptually imagining as far from this small, harboured life to the other lives and loves battling it out on the spinner.

This abstraction is key: is this the end of my scope? Dearie me, it may be time to put down the pen.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 49

Wednesday 6th May 2020

Clapham has become a village, around a green. The streets barely populated, though every supermarket with queues to enter (Tesco, Waitrose, M&S). By the time you hit the park it’s quite crowded, albeit each of us 2m apart -an army of dog walkers, joggers, footballers, weight lifters, cross-fitters and yoga poses as far as the eye can see, clogging up the horizons. Plus the odd toker, affiliated to benches. Sitting in cross-legged rings, furtively swigging cider, hands on knees to adopt a tantric position should the copshop suddenly materialise, charging from the bushes. We positioned ourselves in the centre of the field to be able to see them coming, then catching up: gossiping, bitching, laughing and swapping news stories. We’ve nowt to report life-wise, it’s all too static. Drinking in the sun, just the one -I am become everything I said I wouldn’t be.

Then the slow traipse home, stopping often. The shop windows, some empty, others promising alternate realities of a different time -but all in still, frozen as a photo. The setting sun, the empty glass of the world. People pass, lonesome in the air so clear. Weird, that there are no more animals.

Ubiquitous selfies, not sure why.

Next is the worst fucking street in the Junction, the covered section of the A3207, or Falcon Road, and one of the most heavily used to access all the supermarkets, shops, bars and pubs. Dank is the word, no other better description. It divides up the residential spivs from the upscale shopping area right next door, and is suitably manky to ward off any gentrification exploring beyond the WholeFoods, despite it being only a few dozen metres distant.

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I very much want to put up a sign saying Here Be Dragons over the awning, beyond which our estate was originally posited, alongside a small and good natured gathering of local drunks at the light at the end of the tunnel, right by the gates of our highrise patch. These folk can be likened to handy gatemen (and one woman), the aged Caribbean guys on one side and the younger East Europeans and homeless on the other pavement, each talking in their native dialects, and who guard against the spectre of rising house prices that our estate could fall swooningly into. A large chunk of them are delivery guys from the parked scooters congregating, local shopkeepers keeping them company, or those out of work and in the next-door housing. These people are utterly, utterly safe -J finds them an annoyance, I prefer to look on them as public figureheads defending the realm.

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The ‘street’ itself drips with slime, enough for stalactite formation they’ll one day come to study and take school groups to eye in wonder. The walls are slurried and dangerous to touch, accumulating pollutants and industrial guano -not even graffitti dares, as likely it won’t even stick. Grey water drips interminably from above, as to make people bring brollies for the stretch, and is filled with exhaust fumes for the hundred metre sojourn, with a pavement so narrow (no one wants to walk under the soggy ventilation pipe) you can’t have two abreast or have difficulty in passing. Two directions on the same sidewalk is problematic. When it rains it becomes a sewer, and a very splashy one with large tsunami-generating puddles at either end -so ubiquitous we should give them names, like Lake Eeerie or Eyeball.

Then once outside you’ve passed through the eye of the needle and straight into the swankier high street. In short if it weren’t for the tunnel everything beyond would have long been turned into a leafy nappy valley, and their giant pavement hogging three wheelers:

This sorry state of affairs is due to two competing councils I’ve heard, that one side of the street is Wandsworth and the other Lambeth, and that they’ve argued like tits over who’s going to cop the bill for the clean, e.g. the roof. Or that it would be silly to just clean one half, insofar as it’s scientifically impossible to correlate gameplans. Or that you know, they just can’t be arsed. The poor do not warrant the effort, and neither do they write in with strongly-worded diatribes.

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I do worry. I’m becoming the small town window twitcher, writing letters to the council. Who are of course irremediable fuckclowns the lot of em.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Week 8

Sunday 3rd May 2020

J has decamped to his other half’s house for a week, just across the Common, 45 mins walk away. The place will be quieter without him pottering about, researching his silver in the living room, though hopefully replaced by A who will creep out more surely. He is a little snail.

Stocked up at the local Tesco Metro, the only supermarket open after 5 on a Sunday. There was the same homeless guy outside as there’s ever been asking for change to get himself a hostel -though not a lot of cash about these days. I was a bit dubious at the sign, as the government was meant to be providing hotel shelter, though looks like many haven’t transpired. In the Guardian article all on the streets had fallen through the net. That they’d rung 5 or 6x and never heard anything back, perhaps due to them being EU and us having just left. I entertained the idea of bringing him home but I doubt J would have that happen, being responsible for the flat and the copious amounts of silver. We’d talked the other day and it had been a veto, though that’s understandable.

The 500,000 positions needed for UK’s annual fruit picking fest appears unable to be filled. Of the hundreds of thousands of Brits employed to do it, a whopping 115 chose to stay on, after facing a back-breaking 8 hr shift of bending over coupled with Repetitive Strain Injury. So much for the Brexit promises eh? They are now drafting in people from Romania more willing to be exploited for minimum wage -and a day upped to being 12hrs, 5x a week.

This is what many of us willfully believe our fruit and veg comes in from:

Rather than this:

The country will just have to come to terms that there are day-to-day jobs our populace is unwilling to work, at all costs, because Britons never, ever shall be slaves. Or accept we operate sweatshops in a foreign corner of every field. It seems this pandemic has exposed the facade that is our everyday, in every facet -how fragile our economies, societies, respectability and governments are behind the mask, how very reliant are lives have been made into spending for it.

The reality is picking the fruit is not able to be automated, as one also needs to be able to check if it’s ripe (smell, look and feel), not just spot them and navigate around the leaves and brances. This added cost puts quite a strain on the profits, and many unscrupulous farmers employ slave labour: indentured East Europeans and refugees from further afield who work for well under the minimum wage, sleep several to a wagon and get fed the most basic of nutritional needs, the lowest common denominator impossible to save up from.

Many get trapped with confiscation of passports, threats to family back home, money owed for smuggling them there, systemic abuse or the sheer inability to save for a ticket back. They provide the ripe fields for recruiting prostitutes, house slaves, drug runners and human traffic, often sold as bespoke teaching or nanny positions for some rich family, then kidnapped. It has always been a problem to be swept under the carpet -a frontline job we can ill afford (or we can but save so much from not doing so).

The Atlantic has posted a new story: We Are Living In A Failed State, where blame for the corona cack-handedness lies squarely at the door of POTUS and his armed sycophants. It’s hot on the heels of the March story (different author): America Is Acting Like A Failed State, unable to project authority or ensure its populace. Meanwhile The Great Orange Dolphin is busy doing a victory lap as the deaths hit 60,000 in the US, and NY State -if it were a nation -would now have the world’s highest death rate, overtaking tiny San Marino (where 40 out of 33,344 people have died), almost double Belgium, and approaching 3x Italy.

The Top 30 death rates per million:

New York – 1,242

San Marino – 1,208

New Jersey – 872

Connecticut – 680

Belgium – 670

Andorra – 569

Massachusetts – 563

Spain – 537

Italy – 475

Louisiana – 427

UK – 414

Michigan – 404

France – 379

District of Columbia – 351

Netherlands – 291

Rhode Island – 280

Sweden – 264

Republic of Ireland – 260

Pennsylvania – 217

Maryland – 208

Switzerland – 204

Illinois – 200

Indiana – 185

Delaware – 177

Colorado – 150

Luxembourg – 147

Washington State – 115

Georgia (USA) – 114

Monaco – 102

Portugal – 100

Now imagine the orange buffoon, fat face beatific, eyes closed doing the airplane round the stadium as his Republican fanbase whoop him on on one side (confederate flags, Mexican waves, salutes, mini-bugles) and the other boo him (upside-down flags, one finger salutes, thrown toilet roll), while the cheerleaders who resemble beardy hunters in camo let off a round of gunfire. Or you could imagine him doing the same with the entire stadium dead. No joke, he is already bringing MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banners out of the Eisenhower Executive Office.

 

Meanwhile, life carries on. At Tesco I indulged in the Sunday tradition of sweeping all of the reduced items of the week, collected in last-minute flurries in a specific fridge only those in the know seek out. All the stodgy ready-meals, red alerted as artery cloggers but but ever moreish for it: shepherds pie, steak pie, duck pancakes and chicken kievs. Nabbed the lot.

https://www.facebook.com/paulmannart/

Youth China (one of myriad companies -the country operates the largest survey industries in the world for business, government and leisure) has recently been gauging the effect the lockdown has been having on people, particularly in Wuhan, who entered first, lasted the longest and came out first. It looks as people will be divided into two camps from now on, those YOLO fans now drawn to cafes, clubs and crowds, ‘revenge’ shopping and holidaying, and those more cautious because life is precious and must be safeguarded, reluctant even to come out of a self-imposed lockdown. It looks as life as we know it now is here to stay, perhaps for another 2 years. Forever changed, should we survive it.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Week 5

Sunday 12th April 2020

Away from my little wanderings in the immediate locale, I came across some map porn via my daily armchair travels, showing the true size of places you see on an atlas, but that you don’t compare or gets willfully distorted by political projection.

For example, Peru

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Japan

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Colombia

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Saudi Arabia:

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South Africa

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Algeria

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Indonesia

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Chile

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Thus started making my own:

OK, I’ll use Germany. Handy as arguably the most important, most central country in Europe, and deceptively large or small dependent on how you look at it.

First off, Ghana, the rising star of West Africa this ‘small’ (well on the map it looks tiny of course), gold and petrol-rich kingdom, already diversifying into tech and biotech, is estimated to climb from a population of 30 million today to 80 million by the turn of the century:

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Uganda -another supposedly small country on the banks of Lake Victoria. However it will become the nexus of one of the world’s great population centres alongside eastern China, northern India and West Africa. A state that features little in many minds but by 2100 its nondescript capital, Kampala (present population 3.3 million) will hold 40 million, more than twice NYC. Further along the lakeshores will be Malawi, a thin thread of a country, but which will also transmogrify its sleepy towns of Lilongwe and Blantyre to similar sizes each.

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Welcome to one of the world’s most mineral-rich (and suffering for it), mountainous and beautiful countries, and a former jewel of the Silk Route, whose populace is a sensual mix of the Middle Eastern, East Asian, Central Asian, Caucasoid and Indian peoples. A place remarked by invaders as an epic place to stage a war, with beauty in every direction, and crosshair.

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This ancient version of Arabia, Yemen is redolent of a medieval world where ancient mud-brick skyscrapers and exotic oases now share airspace with the current whizz of Saudi bombs and insurgent missiles.  One of the poorest, most indentured, and most beautiful nations on the planet, like Afghanistan paying the price for its isolation.

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Rights Managed

From a glance at an atlas CAR looks like a small nondescript territory in the middle of the continent. It is literally the heart of darkness to many mindsets -the world’s poorest, unhealthiest nation, and worst place to be young, largely thanks to its civil war. Despite its true size shown below, only 5 million call it home, though typical of Africa they consist of 80 ethnic groups each speaking their own language. Fun fact the country is the best place in the world to view stars with the least light pollution, as well being bounded by the Bangui Magnetic Anomaly. So named after its capital that stands at the heart of this displacement in the Earth’s magnetic field, possibly caused by a meteor impact.

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The world’s newest country South Sudan broke from Sudan in 2011 after years of civil war (Sudan has been under 6 continuous conflicts since independence in the 1960s), but has recently entered its own civil wars now. In the south the country holds what may be the biggest movement of large animals on Earth, in the annual migration of savannah grazers that rivals the Serengeti, only recently spotted by naturalists as a cloud on the horizon 50km (30 miles) wide and ongoing for 80km (50 miles).

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Sulawesi, the fourth largest of Indonesia’s islands is a range of peninsulars isolated from each other by a mountainous centre. A full 60% of its species are endemic (found nowhere else), and its range of ethnic groups, tribes and religions, each with their own cultures, architecture, languages and cuisines -like errant arms on a starfish -also owe their existence to the varying levels of geographical isolation. Indonesia at large holds 388 ethnic groups, whose national motto is ‘unity through diversity’.

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100 million people, 175 ethnolinguistic groups, nearly 8,000 islands, of which 5,000 haven’t even been officially named yet, spanning the equivalent distance from Norway to the Sahara. That’s a lot of ferries and a lot of timetables. Sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire it is perhaps the world’s most disaster prone country (including the bi-annual typhoons and flooding), but also benefits from the vast natural resources that location endows, alongside one of the world’s greatest hotspots for biodiversity.

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The world’s sparsest populated country, or territory outside the poles Mongolia counts 2 people per sq km. Imagine a rolling grassland from London to Russia and you’ll get the idea of the empty expanses that have made it even hard to invade, though helped the other way round. In the past nomads would keep track by building cairns just before the last one went out of sight in the distance.

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Mawr:

Australia is a continent

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Precolonial

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This is not Argentina – it is the southernmost tip of Argentina. Once populated by the world’s tallest people, many of whom were taken into human zoos and circuses round the world -now extinct. The men were said to average 6.5ft -7ft.

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As mentioned before, Russia’s population is 145 million, Bangladesh 165 million:

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Chile is not a thin country, just a neverending one.

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The Moon displayed below is actually just splayed out. As a three dimensional ball it would look about the size of Australia.

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My aim has been to expand one’s horizons. Thankyou, thankyou (bow, bow).

Yes, I am that bored.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 16

Thursday 2nd April 2020

Needing

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Break.

Increasingly lethargic to write. Headachey all day, writing all day. Fuckers.

Stuck in a rut.

I imagine about 12 hours worth, of which 1 hr on admin (weeerk emails and texts), 4 hrs on the book conundrum (so hair-tearingly stuck I’ve had to contact a stranger to help), an hr on this blog and about 6hrs doing sweet FA on news forums where I’ve taken full time employment as a keyboard warrior. I mean who still does that? Chatrooms were sooo noughties. Boomers obviously, emanating great globs of social division as they crawl through cyberspace like giant pale, male slugs of patriarchy. Writing crappy articles in effect, as a post that will be argued by one odious oversized mollusc and looked at by another five, before sliming over to a new page.

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I am of course being sucked into the black hole that is the algorithm laced Internet, where I’ll be later bombarded by more material to further polarise my views, perhaps unintentionally -or not -but to further partisan up the great unplugged. This is how the giant slugs came about in the first place, once fellow victims with kitchens and friends and everything. With algorithms ruling every roost, you’ll never be surprised into new things, and every echo chamber only ever gets deeper. That’s how Netflix gets positively boring. I’m currently stuck in a purgatory of low budget horrors, food porn and lots and lots of immersive Americans standing round talking to, with and about each other. No other suggestions come forward.

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But no. Don’t settle -the world is bigger than that.  Go, seek out that animated history of the Slovakian harp, or some shorts from the Saudi indy scene, or just anything waaaay out there ker-azee, unwatched by anyone else ever, the most obscure offering you can eke out of the molehill of Mongolian film history. Then maybe things will spice up, hopefully.

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Also watched a mix of the Big Brother contestants only now being informed of the C-19 pandemic (Germany, Brazil and Canada, last week), without a clue as to what they were saying, just seeing their shocked expressions in close up. It must be terrifying to be launched straight into it, without the creeping build-up we’ve all been privy to these last weeks. The Germans were most shocked when they found out people were self-isolating, the Brazilians that every non essential shop and business was winding down, and the Canadians that the US border was closed.

There is something macabrely intriguing about seeing the dawning realisation of something on another. From a position of safety, or prior knowledge beforehand, makes it perhaps a position of power. Not quite sure about that ethically, but I thoroughly enjoyed every second.

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A following vid (as you do, clicking randomly through your algorithmic menu) was of a brother and sister discovering each other on another BB show in the States, who realised they had the same father when cross-referencing names and descriptions (war vet, missing foot). I mean bizarre, yet amazing, and warming, though a little inbred in that Southern charm kinda way. Then followed up, just as randomly by PM Julia Gilliard’s rousing 2012 speech against sexism and misogyny, voted Australia’s most unforgettable TV moment. Impressive viewing once again, which I dawdled a delicious hour through following up on the issues she’d been specifying, on sordid texts, lascivious expense scandals and bullheaded villainry. I think the algorithm is targeting my emotions, the act of getting jawdropped in a sea of domestic mundanity.

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She keeps the world turning, even from seven years ago.

For a large chunk of the day Netflix’s docurama Rome played in the background, a haze of murder, nudity and intrigue that kept making me look up over the screen as it flashed tit and blood and Doric columns. Annoying.

Then the 8pm Clap-A-Thon for the NHS, echoing across the land and this time people were playing instruments (bugles, horns, drums). I kind of had that very awkward Britishism, caught in a window full of other windows facing me, and dragged into clapping alongside rather than looking like an emotionally stunted Billy No Mates. It’s not that I don’t support the NHS, or didn’t find it genuinely magic, I’m just not the kind to clap or hoot or do anything other than sway a little, even if I was front row at America’s Got Motherfucking Talent, my cat just won and the camera on me. So I pretended to clap. Yes I did. Though genuinely smiling. Anyhoo, for what it’s worth, Thankyou NHS x

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In similar circumstances the people of Brazil took to their pots and pans, but this time to express their outrage at the leadership of Jair Bolsanaro, the outspoken far right president, similar to Trump, who’s been valiantly holding the virus at bay by diagnosing it as the sniffles, refusing lockdowns, and maintaining it a bad dream we’ll soon wake up from, to a strong coffee and some light tennis on the beach. That is till this biggest protest of his rule to date, racketing out from a few hundred million balconies. Democracies have increasingly been shown to be undemocratic and graspingly unprofessional in all this -it should never reach this stage.

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There’s something to be said about sociopaths in power… I mean it’s a no brainer literally just stepping back and letting the medical experts advise you on what to say. And look grave, possibly even upset at press meetings on people dying. Just so long as you maintain that serious facade and try pretending that people’s lives equate to say, a dollar in your pocket, then you’ll likely be bolstered by sweeping support from all sides, as seen in countries under siege mentality. Such as the noticeable uptick in adoration exhibited for the Great Orange Dolphin (G.O.D.), even from Democrat hills, that has him at his highest ratings ever (49%). Even when all he can think to talk about are the ratings for these briefings, as thousands gasp it out.

Like he literally cannot see what that looks like, literally cannot fathom a logic that hundreds of thousands of human lives are more important than his spotlight. Look at that little facial icon in the corner, ready to fight on the beaches. A look of cold steel to the wind, hair catflapping madly as he raises the flamethrower. Then he opens his mouth.

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Yet given the set-up, script and role these arrivistes still seem unable to tear themselves from their tried and tested MO on or off stage: of pathologically lying on any given subject, and making for the usual pfaff of bluster, disbelief, grandiosity and unimpeachability (God complex). Until the last minute when they lose grip (cold, dead hands, crowbarred by an upset secretary), at the untold cost of thousands of preventable deaths. Imagine Trump, embattled, washed up, squeak-screaming again under the presidential desk as the staff try and tease him out with oil contracts and Fox cameras, maybe some Russian ladies of the night with incontinence issues. It will take till then, that delicately held point in time and history books – possibly a black and white Newsweek cover of the whole Benny Hill scene- before we ever get to turn the corner on this thing.

Amazon Pink River Dolphin or Boto Inia geoffrensis Underwater, Rio Negro BRAZIL

Amazon Pink River Dolphin or Boto Inia geoffrensis Underwater, Rio Negro BRAZIL

Am stuck increasingly with nothing to do. No board games, no one interested in computer games either -it’s the soul sucking internet, or Netflix for most of the day. We contemplated going out for a walk, but the kind of cold, dark, empty walk you’d get at 10.30pm during a ghostly pandemic lockdown of a not particularly pretty part of town, all train tracks, brick terraces and highrises to the tune of litter confetti and plastic tumbleweed. Like Dune, but a budget where they had to make do with Felixstowe for location. Noone cleans the streets anymore.

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In the end we opted to have our souls sucked, promising tomorrow to be a constructed, constructive day full of tasks, shopping and prep for a Sunday dinner party we’ll be throwing in honour of ourselves, for which J will get his antique silverware out. Tomorrow morning will be a conference call for work, to vote on some products for the new Wildlife Photographer of the Year comp. Kind of looking forward to doing something, anything again yet tentative to rejoin public life, like a first day of school encore. Will even have to get out of my one-piece, all-day bathrobe, which now looks like one of those over-the-shoulder numbers cavemen always wear, or a large, splayed cat.

Lunch a milkshake and chicken kiev (overcooked, popped and fizzled away), dinner 3 slices of bread and some ineffective painkillers. Life’s a little bit shit.

Currently it’s Fool’s Gold, Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, and a youthful Kevin Hart chasing Conquistadore treasure in the Caribbean. A camp, long-winded ‘action-comedy’ set in crystal waters that’s particularly refreshing after a steady diet of horror, arthouse and psychological/ historical drama. I’m not sure what’s going on but I am peeping up whenever Mr McCona-heeeyyy is going shirtless, which is like in every scene ever, even when shopping or arguing over divorce papers. I’ve heard he’s always crossing his arms across his lovely chest, or generally gesticulating as he talks, because if he puts them to his sides you’ll see they’re preternaturally short. Like a baby penguin.

I’ve been avoiding the news, but like the ghastly spectacle it is, on your doorstep, I looked. Infections now over 1 million, and Spain with another 950 deaths, UK 569. Morgues are being set up all over the country, in makeshift tents and every purported ice rink which noone’s ever going to return to. The US grabbed something like 5 million masks destined for France, by paying 3x the price in cash and redirecting the plane just as it was about to taxi off from China. Trump also invoked his emergency powers to get 3M to stop its mask shipments, destined for a SE Asian locale from their Singaporean factory, to be redirected to the US of A. And to stop making them for anyone other than their own. They refused, but were brought to task by the G.O.D. via Twitter, who is now vowing they’ll ‘have a big price to pay’.

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At the same time, CIA documents show China covered up infections near the start (the thing with the doctor), and on human> human transmission, or at least was too delayed in announcing it, as if not to be outdone in the panto-villain stakes. Not promising.

The Thucidydes Trap between the two posers looks ever more worrying.

But to bed, to bed. For another day, and another keyboard offensive.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

Europe’s Greatest Weakness and Greatest Strengths

In short: it’s the borders, but not as you know it.

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A continent loosely summed up as 750 million people in the more northern climes of the world, famous for its history, heritage and export of culture (and peoples).

But let’s look closer at the geography: the world’s sole ‘landmass’ delineated from the rest by physical barrier – mountain ranges and seas (do ignore the Indian ‘subcontinent’, China or Eastern Africa that could easily do the same) – with the Caucasus forming an adjunct against the Middle East at one end, and the more spurious boundary of the Urals at the other. Never mind that this range peters out uncharitably 600km from the Caspian coast, and is low and heavily gap-toothed anyway – infinitely porous for the peoples of the Steppe, and to which White Russia has long suffered and capitalised on, this is the boundary that claims itself a stopper against the rest of the Asian multitudes. That declares itself more than just a peninsular of Asia.

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The idea that all continents are defined by their physicality demonstrates European exceptionalism – insofar that the idea of Europe is in reality more based on ethnicity, thinly veiled. That what defined this continent has long been the triptych of pale skin, Caucasian race and Christian culture, all but glossed over in textbooks to this day and accepted as an unsaid, unquestioned norm. With this idea comes the attachments of history, a richly influential vein that runs through collective peoples who went on to annexe 3.5 continents other than their own (the two Americas, Australasia and Asia thanks to Russia/ Kazakhstan) as the greatest source of immigration the world has ever known and likely ever will. In short Europe is a sanctum alluding to the ‘old country’ for many hundreds of millions outside it still, and an idealistic narrative on governance  to even more – a cultural source code for successful nations if one may, yet often reduced to a sum of parts. Europe frequently gets boiled down to a list of these parts.

Ethnic map of the world by Haplogroup:

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This veneration is both the winning laurel and Damoclean sword. On one hand its historic urbanity, iconic motifs and exportable cuisines, languages, style and arts continue to draw visitors and investment by the billion, yet its exceptional storytelling can also jar with the demands of a globalised world, and demographic paths toward a more mutually reliant populace on the big spinner. As the per capita incomes of the Developed World and the Developing World (once known as the Third World) begin to converge the eyeliner so long denoting Europe as belle of the ball is increasingly consequential: attracting ever more suitors but also a more fragile sanctimoniousness.

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For example, Europe’s plinth-like status brings in 671 million visitors (2017, accounting for 57% of international travel), with $767 billion investment to local economies – by far the largest destination for tourism, immigration and FDI. New housing, continents removed, still delusionally aspire to Tuscan villas, Norfolk farmhouses and Berlin apartments whether they be in the sprawl of the Texan interior, embattled Israeli outposts or upmarket estates in China’s third tier cities. The English language/ suit has become the uniform for global professionals, and Greek democracy, Italian art, French enlightenment, English industrialisation, British and Russian economics, and Swiss modernism have been adopted as worldly norms – sold as templates for governance and modern culture. Looking back on this weight of far-reaching achievement pride becomes an easy reaction, despite cultural piggy-backing, technology transfer strictly limited between brothers-in-arms, and disparate achievements conveniently united by one race (a redrawing of boundaries as and when needed), cultivated under the umbrella term of Westernism – but subtly or not so subtly redolent of supremacism too. Not to mention a more painful eyeballing from history on an inheritance built on colonialism, slavery, incessant power struggles, foreign invasion and hierarchical inequality no different (or perhaps a little more avid) from the rest.

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But Europe today is also a region most angst-ridden about outside influence and historic navel-gazing (or utter lack of, via rose-tinted media portrayals), susceptible to modern day demagogues, where every major economy is now, for the first time in a century, either right wing or in coalition with the far right.

To start, one cannot possibly quantify 750 million people, 130 languages, 50 countries, 87 ethnic groups and myriad cultures and histories as one. Witness the past attempts to do so, whether through bloody world war or cultural hand-wringing when pacts such as NATO or the EU sacrificed imagined sovereignty for greater geopolitical win-win. The continent is still a disparate collection behind the flawless face, with infighting commonplace between countries, and regions within – not to mention many societal pitchforks readied for the stream of newcomers, whether they be from the continent or outside (and despite the welcome also laid out).

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Separatism within Europe:

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Yet should Europe give up on its institutionalised veneration on what it thinks it is to be European – rather than by dint of pure geography – it would find it can marry contemporary progressiveness with a rich past and continuation of traditions. Look at the record of the Nordic, Alpine and Benelux nations, world leaders in education, quality of life, social justice, economic performance and environmentalism coupled with a rich heritage of culture, architecture and the arts, all within the same breathless sentiment.

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But contrast that with worrying support for Le Pen, Jobbik, the Freedom Party or Brexit, coupled with instances of hate crime, terrorism, media-fuelled xenophobia and a stout lack of charity for the current refugee crises (the vast majority of the worlds 68 million refugees fleeing to neighbours within the already embattled Middle East and Africa – some of which have become refugee-majority populations within the last decade – with ‘only’ 1 million of the richest affording the crossings to Europe).

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Also note how Austria and Denmark straddles both these perceptions – open progressiveness with reactionary populism, which lends to the fact no part can be summarised despite all intent. Should Eurocentrism take down its artificial borders both in mind and physicality it can limit the damage wrought by a generalised decline in birth rates and productivity, both demographically and culturally. When the ‘old country’ no longer negates the idea that all societies are new, and that they have always had to be in order to survive.

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Europe is in short a wondrous, rich tapestry of histories and cultures; it does well to build on it. But it also does well to remember how porous its borders were in the age of empires, whether being invaded and influenced from outside (Egyptians, Phoenicians, Persians, Turkics, Huns, the Silk Routes, Moors, Mongols, Tatars, Ottomans) or doing the invading and influencing of the outside (Greek -Macedonian, Roman, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, British, French, Russian, German), that has so lent it the multitudinal aspects to build and importantly, trade on.

Les trentes glorieuses:

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This is not to overlook the genius of democracy, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, but they were not entirely standalone as we have come to assume, and with often fore runners abroad, from China’s equivalent scaled Industrial Revolution in the Dark Ages (that was destroyed by Mongol politicking and climate change), to Mughal manufacturing that took a quarter of global GDP and Ming Dynasty navies that operated history’s largest pre-industrial ships, industries, and explorations. On an interesting sidenote these were also scuppered by Mongol threat when funds went into defence instead, with the fleet burned and a capital offence made of going to sea, plus an edict for SE Asians to reduce their vassal envoys to every 3 years.

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Oops, where was I in my breathless account? The first shoots of democracy in Iraq and India, alongside the worlds first cities, or the first modern warfare. Another sidenote: they were  fired up by the Mongol-Chinese who operated the first guns (‘fire-lances’), cannons, mines, sea mines, grenades and automated rapid-fire crossbows in the attempted invasions of Japan employing vast armadas of 5,200 ships – but who ultimately opted to bury the tech when society started going all Call of Duty among themselves. Japan, replete with developing the worlds most advances weaponry (and had just invaded and colonised Korea with their prototype arquebuses) even dumped the lot and went back to 300 years of strict isolationism and the beauty of the blade via a Samurai-Shogunate society. It’s a myth that the Chinese used gunpowder just for fireworks, and that the Europeans turned them into weapons.

 

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A lot has been said about the vast rape of the continents by the Mongols (who killed so many Chinese, Arabs, Indians, SE Asians and Eastern Europeans the carbon in the atmosphere fell, who destroyed over the centuries the world’s largest million+ cities of Baghdad, Gurganj, Beijing, Nanjing, Hangzhou, and who would attack countries with navies made up of up to 7,000 ships), but they were also a big buffer against historical domination if not a global one. A kill switch or at least barrier to further ambitions whenever an empire started getting too big for its boots such as the Song, the Burmese, the Japanese, the Delhi Sultanate, the Song Chinese, the Persians and Islamic Caliphates.

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Plus much iconography we think of as intrinsically European come from beyond, from the adoption of a Middle Eastern religion that is Christianity, to the International Style of modernism (clue’s in the name) sourced from medieval Morocco and Japan, that the early modernists such as Le Courbousier studied – the white wedding dress of the Ottomans, the Romanesque arch of Arabia, the Mongol onion dome, the Chinese naval tech, the Japonisme of impressionism and modern art, the African beat, the SE Asian spices, the Americas coffee, Chinese tea, the Himalayan gardens, the Indian manufacturing, the modern American/Japanese business frame, the knife and fork, the apple, the tulip, we could go on, and still do. The idea of Europe breaking down its barriers to speed into motion its coming extinction, as had been done in the continents it itself overran in the past, only ever happened when coupled with genocide, including viral. The way we see the world today should, in a very European tradition, be encompassing, outward-looking, clear -yet holding a subtle richness of history and nuance beyond the everyday.

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Do you agree? Comment below:

The Rise of the Right

So what happened? Across the West we are seeing a wave of xenophobia and politicking that is fast becoming a ‘hyper-norm’ for hundreds of millions who remember a less volatile and divisive upbringing. Entire countries lurching towards the right after years of complicit media campaigns, with a resultant lurch to the left for its opposition parties. From Greece’s dalliance with Golden Dawn to Brexit, France’s Marine Le Pen to America’s Trump, the Netherlands’ tellingly named Party for Freedom to Hungary’s correctional Jobbik. Even Turkey, bastion of secularism in a sea of religiosity on either side of its continental spans, is undergoing transition back to its purported roots under Erdogan. There are of course the countries that have swerved against the momentum – Portugal, Romania and a trend-bucking Greece with their new left wing governments, and a Russia playing all sides from staging neo-Nazi rallies to funding anti-Nazi leagues with the self same sword. But overall the story is one of a steady quickstep to the right, in the manifold glow of patriotism, rhetoric and righteousness, offset by virulent pleas and increasingly angered remonstrations of a once apolitical youth. Indeed, what did happen to put us in this spin?

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To sum it up: regional destabilisation. If we were to try and pinpoint one episode that set it off we can look to Cheney’s puppeteered invasion of Iraq in 2003, that the CIA warned would unbalance the entire region. We could look further back to what led to that invasion – 911, Amerika’s final decade of oil independence, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, WWII, colonialism – but the latest boot up the arse that we can say pushed us off the collective edge would be Gulf War 2.0.

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Let’s try and put it in a sentence: Gulf War = legitimisation of Sunni/Shia conflict = destabilisation of the Middle East = Arab Spring = destabilisation of North Africa also = ISIS-Daesh = terrorism = more refugees = increasing destabilisation of Europe = destabilisation of the US. All to a backdrop of a media agenda in which the waves of right wing populism support the status quo of the global elite, notably a certain media baron that is the de-facto Head of State of several powerful nations.

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No it’s not all conspiracy theories, but we will have to wait a good few decades before it becomes textbook history, in which we’ll look back from afar and think: Gawd what fools, that could never happen in this day and age. But look at history; we never seem to learn. Give it approximately 75 years- in short the lifespan of the last possible survivors – and we repeat the same mistakes. Amber Rudd’s fiery 2016 speech in the Conservative Party Conference following Brexit (a year after the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII), calling on companies to submit lists of their foreign workers in a name-and-shame campaign, was highlighted as enacting chapter II of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Some went on to suggest she should garner a task force called the Greater Europe Search, Transfer, And Prevent Operation, or GESTAPO.

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The similar rise of hate-speech and media portrayal of entire peoples following the grisly terrorist acts across Europe this year mirrored those following Zionist bombings and the burning down of the Reichstag in the 1930s. Not to mention the turning away of thousands of refugees, closing down of borders and an utter lack of empathy for the dispossessed finding parallels to the forgotten flotillas of Jews fleeing continental Europe, only to be turned back to a certain fate. Yet all these past lessons flow under a generalised, collective blinkerdom, behind an epic assault of the here and now with a swipe of the phone.

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It’s enough to make writers and journos turn to their window and think of writing a lovely misty piece on autumnal colours instead. That is of course the head-burying stance of  much of today’s youth, enamoured by social media and Kim Kardashian’s abusive, powder keg relationships with diamonds and make up. There are infinitely more hits and cultural change attributed to shouty, always-late pop idols, or cool places to travel to, or American pranking on camera, or Russian dash-cam amazingness than any kind of socio-political legacy and their cronyist, bickering leaders of a certain vintage. As they say, politics is Hollywood for ugly people.

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Yawn, what were we talking about again? It’s the end of the West, the end of now, the end of thinking, as we scroll through memes and kitten gifs and blockbuster trailers, but can you blame us? Disillusionment is the name of the day, propelling the voting as well as the lack of. It’s so much more enticing being cozy and nosy, and loved and funny than wrestling with socio-political discourse each and every damn day. Yes, there are indeed the battalions of celebs and kittens decrying the fall of America or Europe to suburban fencing (and the lone, haunting tweets of Clint Eastwood and er, Kirsty Alley who celebrate it), but overall it’s gonna be a  long while before their PR teams realise the potential in actually getting arrested, and spray painting those picket fences with allegiant colours.

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Only a little more than a quarter of eligible voters were needed to see in the triumphant Trump to power, with 90 million abstaining or busy watching teevee, or just tired after the endless rounds of voting in the average US year, with more not having registered ,and the complications involved. Even in higher voter turn-outs, such as the Brexit referendum it still only took 26% of the population to win and direct the outcome for the remaining 74%. To add another layer of murkiness, voters have differing powers depending on where they live, and by default, even how much they earn, their age or their ethnic (read: ‘native’ or ‘non-native’) background. Hillary even won the ‘popular’ vote, with 2.9 million more voting for her than the questionable hair piece (more than the win for Kennedy), but by dint of regional representation in which seats are allocated to jurisdictional areas rather than equalised population catchments, rural, sparsely populated plots can have more voting power than teeming cities. If you read between the lines this is not democracy. This is another dimension to what fuels the disillusionment: the utter complexity, seriousness, and draining task ahead in taking on the rot in the system.

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It’s becoming increasingly evident democracy needs safeguards. On the one hand it needs to ensure it is a democracy in the first place, and not the kind of regional representation that leads to one or two party states, with an elitist slant to power of certain moneyed demographics as the UK and US are now experiencing. On the other hand, even if it is a bona fide democracy it needs to ensure it doesn’t vote to you know, kill the Jews or the Tutsis or the Gypsies. Or lock up the Syrians or the gays or the women, or the poor. Humans can’t really be trusted not to wreck each others lives, turn a blind eye and grab the money, even with the lessons of history. That’s why we have constitutions, and differing lines of political thought. To manage our base instincts of battling over the remaining resources, mammoth carcasses and available females, while instating hierarchies, power, control, and economic pyramid schemes.

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So let’s make this as snappy and invigorating as a giant herd of kittens taking over Kim and Justin’s bathtime. It’s like a reaallly cool story bro.

Back in 1950s time (think Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and milkshakes and lynching) Paris was the place to be for the coolcats. The youth were like, always asking questions after that really bad world war, and seeing in the commies on one side and coca cola on the other. So basically there were two sides: free to be free (coke), or forced to be free (commies), coz like people wouldn’t know otherwise ya know.

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On the one side there was coke and water skiing and bikinis and the American dream of a pin-up housewife, giant car, meatloaf and a retro pad with perfect lawn and no Black folk to bother ya’ll. You were free to be free. To buy all these cool things and one day, one day… get a whole fucking hoover and even a tele-vision, that would make all universities obsolete within the decade as we’d all be learning from it and going to the moon and shit and not shooting each other. After you know, an initial period of gross inequality, crime, corruption, and greed depending on your looks or race or class or gender. Individualism would be something to nurture and flower, like a selfie with 10 million hits of fame, and anyone could be anything if you wanted it enough. This we can dub Negative Freedom.

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On the other side you were forced made to be free, where everyone agreed to share the goodness of the earth and their work and the profits, and bask in this playground of light and industry and light industry, after you know, an initial period of killing off reeducating the old elite into equally likeable, free spirits working for a greater good, no matter your background, gender, race and class – I mean, what’s class again? People can’t be trusted you know, they need to be guided, at least until one day when they can be free from the stricture of law and prejudice and even governing. With all this collectivised effort we’d be going to the moon and shit and not shooting each other. The meaning of your life was not to merely buy crap, but to go all worker’s paradise in family, friends, children, and forwarding the arts, society and culture for the progression of all, so everyone could be everything if you worked for it together. This we can dub Positive Freedom.

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So some of these students coming out of Parisian universities at the time took these ideas of positive freedom to the holiday homes that Europe had set up around the world, those places like Algeria. This extension block of France had the pesky problem called Algerians, who lived there, and didn’t much like not having you know, a vote, and getting rule and divide, generations of mis-education and their resources stripped. How annoying right!?

algeria

Anyhoo these students believed they had to force people to be free, so they started a civil war, but a really efficient one where they could plant a single bomb on some trendy cafe in Algiers and kill only a few people yet getting loads of attention and fear (almost as bad as accidentally clicking the Facebook Like button on porn). Plus undo the economy and stuff that would make things more expensive to police and fix than keep, a bit like iPhones. Rather than launch a badly thought out battle like you see in Zulu or cowboy movies, where loads and loads of savage darkies get mown down by the gazillion and quite a handful of handsome whities too, you could do the one selfie blow up and get a million hits overnight. No staging of overnight coups, picking battlefields or recalibrating satellites nosiree.

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This was a really good way to win. They used hardly any arguing and resources compared to you know, Game of Thrones, although the killing turned out pretty bad when France went all Call of Duty on them and took out about 1.5 million Algies. But they still won, and the European holiday homes and farmsteads and mining operations and slave colonies around the world fell one by one following the same inordinately successful technique, in which some of the world’s poorest nations usurped many of the world’s richest, although at a cost of millions of lives. Most of these places switched after the initial war from positive freedom (forced to be free) straight into negative freedom (free to be free), as democratic, capitalist states (which means you watch teevee all day and buy stuff off TVC).

war

However the European nations they had freed themselves from would have charged them for the years and years of ‘looking after them’, for every brick built, rail laid and bullet shot in that time, as terms of independence, but kind of forgetting you know, the years of er, human and cultural genocide, plus nabbing the oil and gold and labour and crown jewels.

But hey, a few years of debt and astronomical interest rates on the mastercard is priceless for that sweet freedom right? We’ll have everything up and running again in no time – no matter the generations of miseducation, rule and divide and the fact we’re really made up of several countries and several hundred ethnic groups that won’t bicker a-Tall. Not once democracy sets in and the majority (group) get the final say. They won’t behave like the colonial powers they just booted out, no.

afr

So the result is these nations become instantly chavvy and start fighting among themselves. Places like Sudan, speaking 200 languages, launching into 6 simultaneous civil wars from day one that it’s still fighting today, and mirrored across much of Africa and all those places where the world holds its resources… but strangely also most of its poverty and wars. And those European powers? Well we can call them ‘multinationals’ now coz everyone rich from everywhere has jumped in on it too. For every $1 billion given in aid $8 billion is taken back in interest payments (not even debt repayment, which has already been paid back several times over), and most of the resources (like water, land) bought up again and sold back to the darkies at a million percent profit. But as we said, we can’t be trusted. Places like Philippines became one big shoe shop for the queenie there, while America went on funding baddies and wars all over the place to keep itself rich and pretending to be a goody. The negative freedom (coke) in these cases resulted in so much corruption, division and inequality we can see humans were free to be free, but also free to step all over each other into total fails, aka ‘Failed States’.

Mogadishu Tense As Islamists Reinforce Southern Positions

Meanwhile other places continued their revolutions even after winning, and becoming positive democracies, like Eye-Ran. The country, inspired by Harry Truman’s promise to defend and free the oppressed peoples of the world, had originally elected a president, Mohammed Mossadegh, who promised no religious or royalty crap and instead democracy and taking the oil out of the hands of the Brits, that even won him Time Magazine Man of the Year back in the 50s.

But then, oops. The Yanks got a new president, and in league with the Brits ousted Mossie-Dig from power, reinstating the King, and taking control AGAIN of all the oil with half now going to the USAians. So in the end the Eye-Ranians rose up AGAIN (ha!), but this time opting for the positive freedom package. Like SO predictable yeah.

mos moss

Where people were forced to be free, the new leader, Mr Ayatollah Khomeini (pronounced Iyatoller Hominee) had a masterstroke of combining religion with politics (usually one cancelled the other), a bit like finally setting up Ant with Dec as a duo, after Ant kept shitting over Dec’s mum for years. Mr Hominy said that religion had all these sayings which supported positive freedom, bits like where women were free from inequality, fear, attack, rape and upskirt phone-cams by dressing them up in black picnic blankets and taking them out of dangerous situations, such as rooms with men in them.

Iran Revolution 1978

When the big war with Eye-Rack next door finally loomed, backed by Western guns, Eye-Ran got surrounded with nowhere to turn. It was seemingly Game Over. But once again there was that masterstroke of having religion be the back up buddy when they ferried legions of voluntary teenagers into becoming martyrs, by marching them into minefields to form an escape route for the rest. So Eye-Ran was no longer running, but winning, in thanks to the fact it’s Shia Muslim, which kinda, possibly maybe, means you could sacrifice yourself in the name of your faith, like that adorable nutterdad in Independence Day who first zaps the alien destructo-laser. Shia Muslims have this thing they do like in their version of Christmas or something where instead of giving presents they beat themselves with chains and whips and fire walk in respect of the sacrifice someone or other made sometime in the Book, and they’re not meant to enjoy it or pay anyone to do it by the hour either.

ashur

This shocked the rest of the Sunni Muslim world, where suicide was considered a totally uncool thing to do, as only the Big Guy, peace be upon him, could decide where and when you popped your Nike-Airs. But it was a pretty rad idea and this cleric on the other side in Sunny-land Arabia said it was all a-okay and there was suddenly stuff about 72 virgins and all-you-can-eat ice cream thrown in, and everyone was like STILL NO, but some of them were like okaaaaay, lets see. So they did, and Ham Ass from Palestine went and started bombing Israelis, officially targeting citizens for the first time, in buses and cafes and beaches, much like in Algeria not so long ago, but all kamikaze style and justified, and starting a hero-worship culture.

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Meanwhile there was this place nearby called Syria, led by this ruthless dude called Hafez al-Assad (pronouced Ass Ad), who looked a bit like Frankenstein but a bit nerdier. Even though he was a scary mutherhumper he had some great visions for the Arab (pronounced Ay-rab)  world, which could extricate itself from the predatory West, like some vast horrible octopus sitting on its left, starting wars and overturning ships and planes and nations with its sucking tentacles, covered in oil and blood over 500 million people.

Ass Ad was given all these promises and secret deals, and totes played by the West, only to be betrayed in the war against Israel they said they’d back him against but backed them instead. So he went all gloomy and hellbent on revenge, and started to fund suicide bombing against the Israelis and Americans in Lebanon (killing 270 in one barracks). Which shortly after led to the Americans pulling out, humiliated. Re-sult!

beirut-memorial

However the U.S of A had found a different fall guy, in the richest guy in the world, drum roll please… Mr Colonel Gaddafi. A bit of a weirdo who had been stationed in the UK, near a delightful little model village called Beaconskot, and who endured racist bullying from ex-colonial officers. As leader of his country he was mad as a bag of snakes, always going on about his ‘Third Way’ which was the dangerously upsetting alternative to negative and positive freedom, as bolstered by contemporaries such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Gaddafi’s version of the Third Way united right wing economics ($$$) with left wing socialism (@@@), but this time from out of the yoke of Western imperialism and its motherfucking legolands.

beac

Except he wasn’t all that batshit crazy, what with setting up a state safety net giving out free education, healthcare, electricity, unemployment benefit equal to their professions, starter homes, starter cars, and child funds, and ensuring each person shared in the profits made from the voluminous amount of state oil. Anyhoo, they blamed the Lockerbie plane bombing on him (despite the CIA saying it had come from Eye-Ran, in retaliation for a similar jumbo jet lost to a US missile), and a Berlin nightclub bombing that killed three including American servicemen (most likely a Syrian bomb). They said he had weapons of mass destruction, then bombed the capital, and his gaudy palace, and reportedly his adopted 3 year old daughter out of existence, if she existed.

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So now we have quite a complicated picture, a bit like Bieber’s tour dates, causing grief and demonstrations across the globe. This vast squid thing has its tips inserted in pies so far in: Algeria, Eye-Ran, Eye-Rack, Libya, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria (oh and Egypt, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Turkey, Yemen and Jordan too). Fast forward a few decades and through 11 Western backed wars and the suicidal/ positive freedom, once unleashed by Syria is now biting it on its own arse. This malignant beast we can now call Eye-Sis. A certain Monsieur Gaddaffi is suddenly of use again.

In a screeching u-turn the world leaders announce he’s one of the good guys all of a sudden. They shake hands in a blizzard of flashes, sign glitzy new trade deals, take in his family into their glittering celeb elites, and eye up the $200 billion the guy has in his South African bank accounts. He does of course, have to admit he will destroy his non-existent weapons of mass destruction, own up to the Lockerbie bombing and promise not to do anything batshit crazy again in order to get this rehabilitation, and a priceless platform for his Third Way. Despite the European and American intelligence agencies agreeing he did / owned none of these.

gha

But then came the Arab Spring. Like the Paris Spring of 1968, when all those positive freedom students finally took to the streets of the French capital protesting the old skool bling, it would come full circle again. A poor Tunisian dude called Mohamed Bouazizi (sod it, if you can’t pronounce it just try and remember that name), was publicly humiliated and left destitute one day at the start of 2011 by a police officer who took away his livelihood when she confiscated his unlicensed market stall, and slapped him in the face too, the fat bitch. This was not the first time. The poor guy went and stood outside the police station, and in his final act, set himself on fire, and straight into a culture changing force.

moa

Like FUCK! He really went up like a candle into history. The publicity started protests, already blazed up by a WikiLeaks special a coupla months earlier exposing the corruption of the Tunisian state, with its high inflation, unemployment and institutional grafting, and the demos getting bigger and bigger and setting off copycat movements across the Arab world. Powered by social media that could organise and reorganise people power with an instant tweet or status update, government after government fell, including Libya.

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It was all quite embarrassing really, here was people-power in action, long upheld by other democracies as the way to be and go. But these people were protesting the Western-backed regimes, that had so long kept them in the shitter. And they were demanding what the Arabs had wanted for so long – not religious righteousness, or historical rightings of wrongs, or land or resources or power. They wanted jobs, they wanted equal opportunities, they wanted an end to poverty and corruption and having to hustle up sex and drugs but no rock n roll for a living.

But in the end, the absence of any viable alternative saw religion step into the void to unite the  disparate voices. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Ever more AWKWARD. Even the journos found it hard to report on the unsavoury aspects of people power, and what they fought against – notably us, the tyrannical ‘we’ in the West – despite it being the biggest wobbling of the world seen for generations to come. Here were heartfelt images of people all candle-lit in vigils and uniting for a common cause: for freedom after years of subjugation and that would change the world forever – but one against the regimes that we had kept propped in power, against the globalised culture we tried to sow.

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This was highly fucked, like a selfie on your loo uploaded everywhere ever. Batshit Crazy Gaddafi had only just joined the cool kids at the table, now he was exposed as a tyrant and a dictator that they were all sharing lunch with, and everyone suddenly wanted to leave. And maybe chuck a grenade or three behind them, to pretend none of this ever happened, and that they weren’t just having a jolly with his handsome sons and daughters after inviting them out at prom. Gadaffi’s end came when a US drone bombed his convoy, then a beating and a shot fired by a rebel group as he hid in a service tunnel.

gh

So there we have it: one vast tentacle eating its way through several nations, then biting back on itself, and clawing a way out again. This happened again, on a much larger scale, involving several wandering, bloodthirsty limbs.

When the Americans invaded Eye-Rack a second time, it planned for the war, but not the ‘peace’. As seen in Africa, the onset of democracy meant the competition of those straining for representation, especially the minorities that would lose votes by dint of lower numbers, and thus their bling. Democracy in this case kind of means if you’re all sassy and hawt – but there’s only you – the bigger guys get to take your iphone and selfie stick and pearls to share. This means fight fight fight!

squid

Eye-Rack soon broke up into squabbles and bombings and massacres when the Americans instated a corrupt government that would  have automatically put the majority (70%) Shias in power, leading in turn to an insurgency that led to the real extreme kid on the block to rise, Eye-Sis, or Eye-Sill, or Daesh for short.

Of the myriad fighting groups in neighbouring Syria, now stricken by its much bloodier version of the Arab Spring and a new helmsman at the fore in the more-flattering-but-just-as-vicious, Basher al Ass Ad, Daesh proved to be the longest lasting kingpin to sway his power.

ira

This guy Dish was bad, real bad. And savvy. He knew the inherent weaknesses of every bully in the playground let alone every kid. He used their own social media against them to highlight their failings, and to bully them too – setting up horrific websites selling ransomed prisoners, shock scenes in their captured cities, mass executions – plus different websites, targeting schizos and those smelly people on buses that talk to themselves to blow people up, or run them over. Haunting things designed to disturb the comfy echelons that ruled from afar, as yet relatively divided from the horrors on the ground. So this of course leads to millions and millions of refugees, in turn fleeing a society gone mad and a war with an estimated 700 sides.

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The story so far: two tentacles have embarked on a path to positive freedom, war, and suicide bombing and see their return by bombing and terrorising their own body back in Syria and Europe. Now other arms are sending refugees by the million, across treacherous waters, through minefields, deserts, soldiers, bombs and predatory gangs. Organised crime spots the opportunity to recruit a wealth of sex workers, kidnap children and exploit the desperate dispossessed, while innocents drown in their thousands off Trip Advisor highlights.

Migrant boat accident in Turkey

Aylan Kurdi.

So the European population is 750 million, they can absorb a million or three more surely? Plus its ageing population and slowing economies are calling out for precisely this kind of youthful, independent boost that will be a demographic dividend for generations to come. Not likely. A wave of revulsion from the right wing press, the terrorised and the patriotic has made it a destabilising issue, as a path is forged to the voting booths across the region to keep them out, and any others. Europe, the late 20th Century and 21st Century destination of choice for the worlds’ migrants, is full they say. Many of its states, once the world’s most popular tourist destinations, are now finding themselves on the list of most dangerous places in the world to visit, due to a wave of horrific suicide attacks, and a traumatised public dealing with the fall out. Never mind that out of the 2,984 terrorist attacks in Europe over the last 7 years,  only 18 were Islamist (that’s 99.3% being committed by other nutters for other politics – mostly independence movements), the coverage was global, bloody and penetrating.

paris

syr

And look again at the stats. Of the world’s largest refugee hosting nations they are dominated by the Developing World, not the Developed, the poor guys not the rich, many of whom suffer their own internal conflicts and refugee movements.

  1. Jordan >4.5 million (70% of the population)
  2. Turkey, 3.1 million
  3. Lebanon 2 million ( a jump from the 69th largest refugee population in only 3 years, and now making up 45% of the population)
  4. Saudi Arabia 1.7million (not part of the UN agreement on refugees, but accepting them in all but name)
  5. Pakistan 1.6 million
  6. Iran >1 million
  7. Germany 1 million
  8. Ethiopia 700,000
  9. Uganda 700,000
  10. Kenya 600,000
  11. Chad 500,000
  12. Sudan 330,000 (likely to double this year).

For comparison the US comes in at 17th (267,000), less than China (300,000) or even those fleeing TO Iraq (300,000), a country already struggling with 4 million internally displaced refugees. UK is 30th with 117,000.

(Btw Iraq, despite, and perhaps because of its troubles, happens to be the worlds most charitable nation, with 70% of the population having helped out a stranger in the last week.)

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So there you have it, it’s a big fuss over nothing, a drop in the ocean, but a big big something in the background. Never mind the million+ dead, the faces of the survivors, or the fates of those to await, now is a time as Adam Curtis puts it, to give up the complexities of the real world and indulge in the comforts of the fake one. The Hypernormalisation of the craziness, blood lust and intricacies of all that is around, but photo bombed by what we want, not what we need.

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If there is a lesson in all of this, we perhaps need to wrest the reins from the propaganda merchants for at least one last leg of the journey to the cliff, and not to lie willingly while our world and our judgments go the way of shit hitteth the fan. History has taught us, like a stuck record, skipping CD  corrupted download, to ignore it is to see it worsen, until it becomes that huge glowering thing of nightmares behind the bed nothing can swipe away. That the seeds our elected leaders sow do have consequences, no matter how much we brush it under the carpet, like a giant quivering mound of triffid smelling of wee and death.

And even if it really, really is just about us, it’s gonna take a chump out of our future, and in terms of self preservation, that’s not good. We can still try and feel safe, and loved with a future that beckons, where we will grow up to do great things and discover a life, but to ignore it is to tempt fate.

aylan

Aylan Kurdi.

And our journos may do well to respect the tradition of truth, even in a post-Truth world, where controversy and exposé do little to dent popularity based on our inbuilt chauvinism – even powers it, through the orators du jour that cater to what we want to hear not what we need to. Patriotism makes us feel warm, righteous and gives us meaning. It rekindles and celebrates our culture under the onslaught of constant change, it defends our proud history. It nurtures the kind of heroism reserved for fighting for others, and legitimised by a complicit media and millions of our kin. But beware what you bring into the room, it needs feeding.

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Anyhoo, enough doom and gloom, in the great new journalistic tradition – less of Robot Wars and more of Strictly, so lets end on a high note. No article can be complete without a cat in it somewhere. We know this. May we all live long and prosper. Choose Life. Or something profound like that.

ki

http://www.warrenphotographic.co.uk/

The Rules of Hollywood Episode IV: End of Days

Children / Monsters

The Kids

omen

www.indiewire.com

1. Liable to be from divorced, stressy parents. Unhappy.

2. Fiercely intelligent. Love to read specialist adult books, do anything school related independently, and pepper  conversations with adult concepts and social commentary. Tech wizards, bordering on nerdy that can parent their parents. Occasional penchant for making their own breakfast and overall an outstanding example of the American school system/ internet generation though somewhat lacking in emotional life skills.

Like that semi-autistic kid at school you secretly ached to kick.

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3. Constantly playing main roles in upcoming class plays, productions, science or sporting galas, that coincide with important work, relationship, life or global events .

4. Being taught baseball by their father. They suck at it. Increasingly play soccer at school.

5. When stressed they tell their long suffering, divorced parent that they hate them. Then slam the door. But they don’t really mean it. They lie in bed a long time.

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6. ALWAYS keep a diary, usually hidden. Sketchbooks with dark drawings and eyes.

7. Liable to be kidnapped. Cry a lot. Love and hate their mothers. Investigative of eerie sounds.

8. Older kids eye-rollingly hate their little siblings, and often have to parent them in certain forced situations, like breakfast or the school run. Older kids are rebels, younger ones nerds.

jur

9. School is like the prison system, fraught with hidden codes, treatises, tribes,  hierarchies, subtleties and constrictions, but for dwarves. Plus pimples, body shaming, fashion police, class systems, race politics, sex, drugs, social media and braces. Like everything in general society actually.

The Monsters

universal_studios6

travelingboy.com

1. Will attack public transport, preferably train carriages or streetcars. Despite wrecking the vehicles, smashing glass and crushing metal, everyone inside will miraculously survive. The vehicle ends the ordeal the right way up again.

2. Will head ‘to the Eastern seaboard’ and attack only crowded city centres at rush hour – notably, exclusively, New York.

nyc

3. Aliens only ever seem to converge on Earth for our resources, despite there being a billion billion other planetary and solar resources out there.

(Truth is they’re here for the one thing Earth has that a very rare few other places have – biodiversity. And to protect this rare natural resource from its doom-makers. You heard it here first).

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3. When catching up, they only approach slowly, sinisterly after their prey. When finally cornering the quarry, they will circle, drool and drag out the situation while the victim ekes out a sudden escape route, weapon or rescuer.

4. Multiple heat seeking weapons that take down concrete and create craters 100 feet across are easily dodged, badly targeted or result in firecracker bangs that inflict minimal damage on organic flesh. Armour piercing volleys of bullets are ephemeral nuisances at the worst.

5. Buildings can be easily climbed with no fear of a single layer wall, roof or floor giving way or engineering an entire catastrophic collapse.

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6. In a constant state of mid-growl/ roar. Never anything else on the visage. If human you cannot do this (I mean who outside the Presidential race does that??), so a deadpan covering of the face will be needed, preferably an impossibly inky and hard to shake shadow that manifests itself over your head in any given situation, angle or hour of the day. Or twisted, child-like mask, always handy.

5. All human monsters tell all before a kill.

jam

Goodbye, Mr Bond.

Rules of Hollywood Part III

Gender

Women

awom

1. You are slightly underweight, have long hair and wear tight clothes that highlight your cleavage, no matter the weather, occasion or your age.

2. She who runs, falls.

3. If you’re a teenage cheerleader you are vapid, bullying, cliquey, mean, calculating, incipient, evil and pant-wettingly hot. And likely blonde. Since the noughties you have token ethnic cheerleader besties, or may just as likely be brunette to you know, mix things up all crazy! You will likely fail in later life.

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4. Older females no matter how isolated, incipient and characterless always have a sassy, straight-talking, popular, younger-than-her-years and ever-loyal bestie. -In short everything the other lacks, who will fathomlessly and unfathomably prove the main character worthy of screentime by dint of association. Who will die to protect them, usually via dangerous scenarios for getting information, that only gets uncovered after their sacrifice.

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6. All aunties are cool.

7. Never age. You will always be a decorative object of sexual desire no matter what age, what standing or who you’re married to. Even billionaire CEO’s who also happen to be young and former supermodels, like Amber Valetta, will be game for bumblingly fat tax accountants like Kevin James. Or obese, myopic, animal-talking professors.

kev

7. You scream and cry when frightened.

8. Strongly investigative of strange noises and dark situations in the house/ woods/ haunted castle littered with body parts, while loudly announcing your presence. You can pinpoint your location at all times by repetitively croaking for Frank? FRANKKK??  Fr-aa-nk? while still in the same room. Or waveringly: ‘Quit it Frank, this ain’t funny’ and ‘Cmawn guys’ ten minutes after several glimpses of hairy claws, unearthly skittering and the timbre of sharpened bench tools. You never say ‘Fuck it’ and just walk out. Unhappy face.

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9. Liable to trip, slide, break ankles, drop torches or walk loudly into inanimate objects at the most inopportune times. Easily kidnapped, ransomed and leading the man into a trap – either that or killed off entirely.

10. Your mothers are nightmares, and the main source of income for psychodopediatrists the nation over. They love you and hate you. You love them and hate them. And their mothers were loving and hating to them. And you will be equally loving and hating to your daughter. And your daughter will be the same to her step-daughter. And her step-daughter will be loving and hating and loving again to her stepmother’s mother in turn, which is you.

And all you want to do is to stop eating ice cream and get a man. And all your mother wants to do is for you to stop eating ice cream and get a man. And all her mother wanted to do oh just fuck it fuck everything that moves bitch.

11. You cry a lot. In heavy make up. And drink. Even when not frightened. You have bad days and good days. Mostly bad days. It all gets too much behind the smile.

histrionic pd

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10. You take slow, langorous sexy showers with your eyes closed. You never wait for it to heat up,  just step in and turn the water on, facing the nozzle with your fake lashes clamped the entire time. You do not fart or burp, or douche away; no one does this. Me time is still sexy time.

11. You only ever talk about men. You only ever talk to other women about men. If ever you talk about another woman, it’s about your passive aggressive Super narcissto-mum who talks about men. Unless you’re in Sweden.

12. You being in any field of vision alone, in any room, at any moment is a sad, poignant moment. Unless you’re in the car or kitchen (well cmawn, someone’s gotta buy the food, make the food, taxi the kids, clothe the kids, garden the garden, make picnic doilies, dress the church, keep young and fit and work the local social expectation spectrum!). Sad-poignant-moment makes you stare off into the distance with blue skies and steely spirit. That’s where Blue Steel came from.

13. You cry a lot.

Men

  1. Liable to be divorced.
  2. Strong, misunderstood. Brooding.
  3. Good looking women follow you around.
  4. You like plaid.

jack

5. If you play American football you are vapid, bullying, cliquey, mean and incipient.  You are not intelligent enough to be calculating but substitute with brute force and whooping air fists. Will likely fail in later life. Become the baseball cap wearing, stubbly wifebeater, who drinks beer in front of tvs and has a thick Southern drawl.

5.  If you find yourself the Police Commissioner/ boss you become very shouty, chain smoking and ball breaking, actively obstructing any vital investigation due to the rule-book but can often come through in the end, despite your psychopathic hissy fits. You cater to the Mayor, who is corrupt and a bastard.

6. If you find yourself a corrupt official, or someone with very very powerful government links, make sure you pass all confidential, highly sensitive information in dossiers or identical briefcases. Just make sure you do it in crowded public places where there are endless opportunities for extreme zoom and black & white camera angles, preferably open air  – a park bench in New York, a ceremonial axis in Washington DC, or seated right by the big plate glass windows in any restaurant.

Do the same whenever meeting your incriminating long time lover you are cheating on your wife of thirty years with (make sure you kiss publicly at some Parisian style cafe, tickle each other’s faces and run laughingly into taxis). Always wear a trench coat.

fair

6. If you are gay you’re loud, sassy and endearingly obnoxious. And highly strung. Mmmhmmm. You tells it how it is, with humour and sparkling eye movements. You pepper sentences with ‘girlfriend’ and ‘bitch’and can be found perched on stools in tight suits or jeans. You only ever go out to banging bars and nightclubs for cocktails. If you are big you wear it tight. Gay women do not exist.

MICHAEL URIE

7. All teenage men – no , in fact all men- are obsessed with sex and how to get it. You are in awe of beautiful, skimpily dressed women constantly surrounding you, who may foray into giving you a cuddle in all shapes, forms and situations, possibly leading to a pitying hand-job. You think and talk loudly about this in a totally  obsessive, stalkerish but socially acceptable kinda way. It is your underlying raison d’etre to everything.

8. All men, no matter what age, class, social standing or looks is able to attract stunning, intelligent, kind, loyal women. Cuddles!  Nudity! Eyes Wide Shut handjobs! She will likely be working at a city hospital, usually a top surgeon or doting doctor who specialises in gunshot wounds for ethnic minority children who she’ll get emotionally involved with. See Women.

jada

9. Your bestie isn’t good looking and may not be rich or powerful but is just BRIMMING with personality – exuding humour, intelligence (or at least kookiness), charm, loyalty and heart with every step and one-liner sentence. Like Ted without the fur. Your bestie can even be the President (I mean how kookie would that be! Yeah!!!). Or Black (OMG yeah! Yeah!!!) Your every dream come true. He may even cuddle you in a dark moment.

10. All American men say ‘I love you, man’ all the time to their friends, especially at the end of every convo , meet or night out, in a completely, non-homo, non gay, unthreatening, definitely no, not gay , not schoolyard circle jerk, not wet biscuit, not drunken night at the lake, not prison system, not watching porn then having your magic moment just as it switches shot to the guy, not trapped together in a lift with Madonna music playing and it’s gettin hot in here so hot so hot I wanna take my clothes off way, no.

cruise

Te recap:

Gender appropriate(d) roles

Women: Secretaries, receptionists, assistants, nurses, retail staff, pool babes, beach babes, frat house party babes, teenage party babes, bar babes, Goth bar babes, ski-season-I’m-out-of-my-figure-hiding-ski-suit-now-and-drunk-at-the-bar-in-tight-knits babes, NYC-is-like-so-cool cafe babes, waiting in line at the laundrette babes, line dancing babes, seal wrangling babes, scientist babes, the globally recognised authority on Childhood Neural and Hypothalamic disorder babes, protagonist’s middle aged wife babes, mother babes, undiscovered tribe babes, dead body babes, strippers. Waiting staff in any bar or diner, cooks. Love interest roles.

Men: CEO’s, firefighters, police chiefs, army chiefs, billionaires, stock brokers, techie start-up wizards, writers, hipsters, spies, henchmen, bouncers, truckers, ranchers, cowboys, construction crew, builders, electricians, washing machine repairmen, surgeons (unless you specialise in the Ethnic Child Gunshot Wounds Dept), skateboarders, parkour enthusiasts – pretty much any urban sports enthusiast, the person at the head of any table, chefs. Gays. Serial Killers.

The Rules of Hollywoods Episode IV: End of Days