Scoville Units Unite

17 Jun

Review: ScreamerSongwriter by Stöj Snak

On Monday lunchtime I went to go listen to the new Lachance EP again. Clicking on the MTAT bandcamp link I was instead presented with their newest release being an album by Stöj Snak, an artist I hadn’t heard of, called ScreamerSongwriter.

Catching up on the news from the weekend, including details of the horrific slaughter in Orlando, the first upbeat stirrings of Fuck! started. The first line of I hear them talking of freedom, I hear them lecture in love as I found out that the usual crazy preacher assholes were trying their best not to publicly praise the murderer.

So fuck how you want to fuck, give it all, do it right
And fuck who you want to fuck
But most all fuck them; this is your life

Here is to love beyond borders, gender, tradition and race
Let’s tear down the walls that confines us,
let’s make some room to make some sense of this place

Scrolled down and realised he was Danish, which explained the pretty cool pronunciation of some words. I’ve always been fascinated by the near-perfect English of those, particularly from Scandinavian countries speaking in a third or fourth language. My own pitiful attempts to learn snippets of other languages pales in comparison. To be able to write and perform in another language is an amazing skill to me.

The variable musical and vocal style as the album progressed sounded fantastic. Tracks where he holds notes for bars followed by those which probably sound like Deeker before his voice broke.

Stöj Snak

Spoiler Alert sounds almost nihilistic to start with

All these fucking humans, where is everybody going?
In the end you’re gonna die alone, you’ll bring nothing with you when you go

I joked with Neil Coalesce/Entropy/MTAT that he was obviously a fan of good club-nights with the claim We won’t beat entropy. here is a spoiler for you being one of those wonderful pronunciation quirks I mentioned.

But as the song continues it’s more about the need to make the most of your life. It’s true that time is money but the deal only goes one way – when time is out no bills will buy it back. Then in comes the Kazoo solo from out of leftfield.

ScreamerSongwriter has screamo elements which stand in stark contrast to the previous harmonies

Guitars are not meant to hang on the wall
They should resonate with passion and change
Voices are not meant to silently consent
They should sing for the future’s better days
So let me hear you scream!

Lullaby sounds like some ballad from a 90s BritPop band at Christmas to start with, until you listen to the words of Stones are gonna get thrown, Burning cars will light up the night of a night of revolution. The style changes and way the lyrics of his songs contrast with the music in places is just amazing. We’ve just had a kazoo solo, followed by screaming and now plinking piano keys.

Privacy Is A Crime Format everything, Let’s hope that you have nothing to hide a song about privacy in the information age. A song which in the 80s would have been about the Stazi. 30 years later it is about the worlds largest corporations, in the week Microsoft spent billions to buy LinkedIn, a company which hasn’t turned a single penny in profit but has massive amounts of data about people.

Hu-Men talks about being a man. In a week when toxic masculinity led to deranged assholes taking out their insecurities and inadequacies on patrons of gay clubs and MPs. The entire song is a list of topics which the men’s rights movement would talk about if they weren’t wholly and solely interested in verbally attacking women.

White Male Middle-Class Blues follows with a speech completely from the heart about the depression and alienation of globalisation. My phone was manufactured in a big factory in the East, With suicide nets around the buildings to catch depressed workers in their fall

Ronkedor is a depressing ballad to close the album, the timing of the vocals in the verses are hypnotic.

Clearing through my newsfeed and getting to work I left the album on. Once finished I hit play again. And listened to it at least once every day this week. I think the last times that happened with an album was Zero for Conduct by Jetplane Landing and Broken Social Scenes You Forgot It in People both of which became firm favourites for years. In June is it too early to say it’s my favourite album of the year? It’s definitely the best so far.

The only musical breaks I have taken from it so far are for the rest of his work, (a Euro per album get them bought!), and the new Lachance EP. I really hope the Make That a Take guys have him over soon as I can imagine it becomes even better live.

06 Jun

Reread: The Forge In The Forest – Winter of the World Part 2

The Forge in the Forest is the second book in a 6 book series by Michael Scott Rohan.

See review of book 1 – The Anvil of Ice

Forge In The Forest

After being pleasantly surprised by how much I still liked the Anvil of Ice, I started out on book 2. Like the first read through I have found both these books the type where you stay up late to finish a chapter. Not helped by the chapters being 30+ pages and the layout such that not many pages end on the end of a paragraph or other text block.

The book begins with the aftermath of the attack on Kerbryhaine by the Ekwesh. Court politics abound with eventually a quest to head east, to try and find other people and safe places in the area the Northern and Southern people had originally migrated from.

They encounter more powers, Elof is elevated to Master Smith after yet more fantastic descriptions of the smithing process, this time of electroplating and takes the name Elof Valantor. They encounter a sort of fountain of youth area. Battle more beasts near the ice. the entire story is far more mythological than the previous. More encounters with the Powers – large and small, good and evil, new to the reader and already known. A quest to an area neither the characters or the reader are familiar with. Elof also learns more about the powerful artefacts he previously forged whilst going through his apprenticeship.

The end feels a bit rushed and not very well set up. This unfortunately lets down the book a great deal. The resultant information you learn about the worlds backstory and interconnectedness of the people manage to salvage what would have been a poor ending though.

Still a good book and difficult follow up. I was surprised that it was as enjoyable as I remembered and regret this being only my second read of it.

I don’t know anything about the political beliefs of Michael Scott Rohan, so this whole series may be some sort of Germanic racist fantasy about the good people being under siege from barbarian hordes. This book however puts a large emphasis on the devastating effect of the climate change of an ice age. Written around the time Global Warming models were first seeping into the public consciousness but before either Al Gores documentary or A Song of Ice And Fire became the massive public face of climate disaster it is a snapshot of a pretty unique time.

One excellent passage following the desolation at Kerbryhaine was as the party leave the city. They pass through encampments of refugees from the north, around abandoned farms. This makes me think that Rohan is more concerned with the effect of the disaster on the people and how society should band together in times of crisis. If there is any political analogy from real life in the books it is surely that.

…the Refugees. They had made their pitiful camps of tent and shack there on land that should have grown food to help support the city. … But the blame was the city’s. Much waste could have been avoided, if it had accepted the northerners and made use of their willing labour, instead of branding them beggars. The thought angered Elof. … It was long before they passed the last of the little camp-fires, but longer yet before those fires faded from his thoughts.

The first book has the ice as a horrible looming wall to the north, and which I remembered when first going through Ice and Fire as a similar description. The second book however definitely portrays it as a slow malevolent power with a conscious considered effort to overrun mankind and civilisation. Whilst Ice and Fire can be read as the 7 Kingdoms rearranging the deckchairs as the real threat of climatic and violent murder make their way from the North, Winter of the World has an evil consciousness in league with evil vikings and minor gods to try and destroy men and all living things. The destruction of ancient cities discussed in this book show the threat of the inching ice is just as real as from a rampaging army.

The book is definitely worth reading if nothing else so the reader can contrast to George RR Martin.

22 May

Reread: The Anvil of Ice – Winter of the World Part 1

The Anvil of Ice is the first book in a 6 book series by Michael Scott Rohan

Anvil of Ice Cover

I had some spare time to read so grabbed this book for the first ever re-read of it. I had picked up the first 3 parts in a charity shop years ago on a whim and raced through them. I then found the last 3 on ebay, paying I seem to remember more than cover price for the final part as it was pretty hard to find at the time. I had enjoyed it, and it was around the period I had heard of some Song of Ice and Fire series. Couldn’t find that anywhere though and wasn’t paying the, what seemed to be extortionate fees to get it second hand/via ebay.

I remember speaking about the book series years later to someone at work and us both discussing one particular scene which was pretty horrifying/distressing. He said he had felt similarly. His brother upon reaching the paragraph hurled the book across the room. I look forward to reaching that part again.

But enough set up. The book starts off as a standard fantasy fare. Orphan boy in a town beset by Viking like raiders. It evolves into a coming of age and almost heroes quest along the way. As well as taking the usual fantasy tropes of monsters in the woods and his take on elves and dwarves.

Just this description alone does not do it justice. This isn’t some fantasy paint by numbers, or drek of the level of a D&D novel or Magic storyline. Not is it someone just trying to re-tell Tolkien. It’s more like someone trying to write in the manner of Tolkien. Trying to tell a tale that has been written far in our past. Although the small snippet you see in book 1 makes you think it is somewhere near the the UK/Ireland with maybe Vikings raiding, from the appendix though it reads as if it is the Western seaboard of the US with the raiders being from Siberia. This isn’t clear from the book alone though so I may clarify after reading it all again. Creating a whole world and mythology. Sprinkling elements of lost languages and lore. The threat from the coming ice, years before GRRM finished his first book.

But the most important part and detail is the central storyline of Alv (later Elof) learning magesmithing. Detail is given of his journey as an apprentice and later journeyman smith. Of mixing blacksmithing with magery. Weaving spells into the objects he creates and the power imbued, drawing on at the time unknown skills and abilities he hasn’t fully unleashed or understood.

The book ends on a solid note, with the set up clear for the next. You understand the main characters journey is far from over and the world building and mythology of his story desperately leaves you pining for the next volume. I remember on my first read I was finding myself up until 2-3 am reading just unable to put it down. I think I raced through those first 3 books with a speed I only matched later on my first read through of A Song of Ice and Fire.

On the first internet trawl in years I notice his website is still as woefully out of date as I remember it. One bizarre note is that a company is saying they have the licence to work on an RPG of the series. This post though is a year old and appears to be the last public communication from the company on their site. They do appear to have released a sneak peak at it though.

05 Jan

The Glasgow Effect Effect

Social Media has been in uproar over the Glasgow Effect.

An artist has been given a £15K grant to test the limits of a ‘sustainable practice’ and to challenge the demand-to-travel placed upon the ‘successful’ artist / academic..

There are a number of issues with it, mainly that it is named the Glasgow Effect, which clashes with a phenomenon related to poverty in Glasgow, so it rankles a fair bit.

I think the biggest issue that caused the controversy though is that is labelled an art project.

If £15K was given to a sociologist to interview people in Glasgow, artists and others to see how limited travelling and income to enable travelling limits your income prospects creating a negative feedback loop that would be seen as fine. As it is a topic of sociological study.

Most people fail to recognise living in Glasgow for a year as art. So either everyone is completely ignorant of art, or those who consider this art have failed to sell their justification to the public. Given the disdain for the Turner prize winners every year and general hostility to the Tate Modern it’s fair to say there’s a segment of the art world that only appeal to artists and their general milieu.

All it appears to be though to the general public is a stunt. The equivalent of sitting in a tub of baked beans to raise some money for your local charity and then seeing someone win the Turner prize for doing the same. A general reaction of I do that every day. It’s not art doesn’t seem to register with the Luvvie echo chamber.

There’s a giant Venn diagram which has music, painting, drawing, dance, theatre and many other activities in a bucket labelled Art and then another which has Modern Art and it is only recognised as belonging in the Art bucket by a very small group.

Over the past few years from Scottish Arts Council to Creative Scotland and various other public bodies distributing public funds there have been huge changes to where funding goes. From the cutting of funds to small projects (like 7:84) to concentrate on larger ones to the massive unavailability of Lottery funds as they were siphoned off to support Olympic related projects. Ordinary people have seen projects they see daily whither whilst public funds still appear (whether factually or not) to flow towards art only appreciated by a very small privileged minority.

I remember getting into a discussion on a message board a number of years ago, and a fan of the Modern Art movement basically justified it by saying if you read the thesis around the work you’d understand its context.

I disagreed then and I disagree now. If I buy a canvas and paint a small square on it in the centre it’s shit. Not a piece of high quality art. One artist though did just that, with their essay explaining it they sold it for a six figure sum. For the general public, art is experienced as art. If you see something and don’t think it’s art, being told that you just need to read a long document about the context of it just sounds pretentious. People don’t need an essay when they see Mona Lisa to understand it is art. Or hear Mozart. Or watch a play. Or see a film. Or any number of other artistic mediums.

The public aren’t ignorant of art, or dislike it. Weekly I see people sharing pictures of what new clothing has been put on the penguins in Dundee City Centre. How many millions of people have Instagram accounts where they post photo diaries of their lives and the interesting things they see and do. How many gigs happen daily, weekly in and around you where people go to discover new bands. The Blue/Gold dress discussion on social media centred around context and lighting and everyones individual perception of an object.

The lack of posting by the artist has probably led to more negative feedback unjustifiably going their way rather than towards Creative Scotland.

The reaction to the Glasgow Effect wasn’t ignorant people complaining about public funds being wasted. It was them screaming The Emperor has no clothes.

21 Jul

The “Centrism” of the Mainstream

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a trend in articles using the term centrist, it’s often used in commentary on the Labour leadership election for example.

So what is meant by Centrist?

uk2015

In the traditional political spectrum there is a left, a right and the centre. Unfortunately this model is flawed. If you are in the UK and discussing with an American for example these terms, alongside Liberal, Conservative etc all have different interpretations.

The reason for this is obvious, if you look at the spectrum in the UK and compare to the US, an American discussing what they see as left is discussing political ideas which may be on the far right in the UK.

So it’s clear that left, right and centre are not absolute terms but based on where the commentator is standing or the political ideas they are most familiar with.

So when the Guardian discusses Liz Kendall and says

Liz Kendall, the centrist leadership candidate, has warned

What do they actually mean?

In absolute terms, is she centrist? No, she appears to be on the right wing of the Labour Party, who themselves are on the right wing.

In relative terms compared to the other candidates? Well Jeremy Corbyn is clearly the leftest of the candidates. If Kendall is the Centrist then who is further Right? Can’t really see any so that doesn’t work.

On the Spectrum of the UK? Well that would put her to the left of Labour, again, clearly not.

The only way it works as an accurate term is to say she is Centrist if Labour is Left and Tories are Right.

But what then does it actually mean? Why not say the most right wing, closest to Tories, right of Labour. These are all accurate descriptions. It’s as if the media want to promote the most right wing candidate, because they are right wing, without wanting to say they are right wing.

It’s the language of the Liberal Democrats, who describe themselves as being of the centre ground and fantasise about pulling the Tories to the left.

Last night was the vote on the Welfare Bill. Let’s look at the headline from the Guardian

Labour Party sees massive revolt but welfare bill that will cut £12bn from spending is passed in parliament

The Tories are the sole party of Government. The Labour party are the official opposition. Reading that headline alone you would assume that some Labour MPs voted for the Government Bill. Wrong. They voted against it. For the Labour Party today, voting against the Government is revolting against their leadership.

Labstain

This is the consequence of triangulation and the move to the centre ground. A Tory Party in power and a Tory Party in opposition. They may as well merge or failing that form a coalition for all the difference it will make.

13 Mar

Terry Pratchett 1948-2015

One day I’ll be dead and THEN you’ll all be sorry.

Terry Pratchett was not only a fantastic writer but down to earth enough to communicate with his fans on the internet before the web existed.

When I was in around first year at High School I was introduced to Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. Adams via the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, which I read every year until his untimely death and then had to take a break from it.

Terry Pratchett was via the graphic novels of Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic. I was already a voracious reader – going through about 2 books a week when in primary school, so to discover 2 new authors with loads of books was amazing, later Robert Rankin and Spike Milligan joined the list of humourous writers whose work I burned through as well as Tolkien.

At the time I preferred Adams as the first two Discworld books seemed good but not amazing. As I caught up on his books though I realised that his first couple of books were satirising fantasy but later books were satirising humanity. Taking the human condition and pointing out the absurdity of it.

In 2000, he visited a bookshop in Dundee for a signing of The Truth. This became the first and only time I met the man himself but was also the first time I saw the size of the fandom I had previously known of through newsgroups and the Discworld newsletter.

DiscworldReadingOrder

As the Discworld expanded there were a number of different storylines. These could be read chronologically or as each separate storyline – I quite often recommended the Witches books as a starter. The core starting one about Rincewind was probably most disconnected from the rest, and continued to parody beaten-to-a-dead-horse fantasy tropes.

The witches storyline was one of my favourites, from parodies of Shakespeare to just demolishing patriarchy it was just delightful. The Bechdel test was probably passed on every page of these books.

The Books about religion were one of my early favourites. Small Gods and Pyramids are both brilliant satires of religion and religious belief. Pyramids also prompted fans to give him the nickname PTerry.

The storylines about death didn’t just anthropomorphise Death but made him more human than most of us. Mort quickly became by favourite book and stayed for quite a while.

The books focusing on the City Watch and Vimes were fantastic, showing the growth of a public service and the changes in society around them with the main character not just going from black and white but massive shades of grey in between.

As well as all this there were computer games and childrens books.

Outside Discworld there were collaborations, most recently with Stephen Baxter on the Long series of books. I didn’t find these as appealing, but that’s mainly because PTerrys influence seemed to lessen with each book.

Nation was a stand alone book which also stood out. I had recently finished Red Strangers by Elspeth Huxley when I picked this up and found a number of themes between them which added to my enjoyment.

For the future it looks like his daughter Rhianna will carry on writing Discworld books, at his request.

Here’s hoping you had your potato with you so you could go somewhere better.

FinalPterryTweets

Edit:

Catching up on a thread of his work on a forum and came across an open letter he had written called A Little Advice For Life

I know first hand that Fate can be cruel and unusual at times, but she is hardly ever deliberately malicious: she just suffers from bad timing in the main, so use your gifts and your talents to greatest possible effect while you can. Spread joy whenever possible. Laugh at jokes. Tell jokes. Make puns and bugger the embuggerances. Read books. Read my books. You might like them. You might find something else you like even more than them. Look for these things in life.

Question authority. Champion good causes. Speak out against injustice. Do not tolerate bullies or bigots or racists or anti-intellectuals or the narrow minded. Use your education to challenge them. Broaden their perspectives. Make the world you interface with a happier place.

These are your choices. Choices you have been fortunate enough to have been given, so don’t waste them while you have them. Don’t look back in years to come and wish you had grasped a fleeting opportunity. Grasp it now with both hands. Live. Strive. Love.

04 Feb

Labour could be finished in Dundee West

Lord Ashcroft has released his constituency breakdown polls and it looks like Jim McGovern could be finished in Dundee West.

I was born in Dundee West and have spent my entire life here.

For a large chunk of my life, my MP was Ernie Ross, before becoming Jim McGovern.

I always despised Ernie Ross, a snivelling shit of a man. My signature quote on a local music forum used to be this with links to the local paper:

‘I’m not a rent-a-quote MP’ – Ernie Ross 10th September
Ernie Ross being a rent-a-quote MP; – 23rd July

A Yes-man who eagerly supported bombing children in Iraq. When I saw him the day after the first Scottish servicemen died, he claimed that because someone else (Tony Blair) may have lied about WMD (he did) and Ernie repeated the lie (he did), if they (Tony) thought they were telling the truth (they didn’t) then it wasn’t really telling a lie, or him re-telling a lie. Amazing logic.

When he finally retired, I hoped that whoever replaced him would at least be mildly competent. Jim McGovern has had his snout in the trough, being caught up in the expenses scandal.

We went from having a rent-a-quote MP to having a rent-a-vote MP who barely dares to deviate from the party line. He hasn’t bothered turning up to vote against the Bedroom Tax or nuclear weapons. He does manage to send out emails that say things like

We will end the exploitation of 0-hour contracts

You may wish to contrast that with the actual meaningful

We will end the exploitation of 0-hour contracts

To have the SNP sitting at 59% and Labour at 24% is simply earth shattering. Even the Guardian have picked up on it.

Labour appear to have ducked their head under the sand and are spreading FUD about the real ramifications of these polls. McGovern has not yet confirmed if he is standing again or not, no mention on the local Labour groups etc. Perhaps this poll will finally push him over the cliff to retirement.

If Cameron panicked at being the Prime Minister who could lose the UK, just think of the pressure these Labour goons are under, who assumed they now had a fiefdom for life.

Labour took a decision 20 years ago to sell out their heartlands and appeal to the middle class in marginal constituencies whilst sticking the boot into the poor and vulnerable. Hopefully a wipeout will be a long delayed boot back.

14 Nov

Warped Playlist – 7th November 2014

Gavin and I were djing Warped on 7th November, although I was feeling pretty ill. Here’s the fabby do stuff we played.

Jerry Built – Receivers
Jetplane Landing – Summer Ends
AFI – Of Greetings & Goodbyes
Cake – Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps
Alkaline Trio – Armageddon

American HiFi – The Art of Losing

Idlewild – A Film for the Future

Alexisonfire – Accidents
Bonehouse – Summer Jams
Fat Goth – Creepy Lounge
Sink Alaska – Dolphins used to live on land
Beauty School Dropout – Schizo Girl
Cold – Go Away

Slipknot – the Devil and I

Bring me the Horizon – Crucify Me
A Day to Remember – Plot to bomb the panhandle
New Found Glory – Its been a summer

Midnight

3 Colours Red – Beautiful Day

Taking Back Sunday – Decade under the influence
Head Automica – Beating Heart Baby
Hot Water Music – Trusty Chords
Kings Blues – Lets hand the landlord
I am the Avalanche – Holy Fuck

Rancid – Roots Radicals

CKY – 96 Quite Bitter Beings
Sex Pistols – Anarchy in the UK
Clash – Should I stay or should I go?
Undertones – Teenage Kicks

Green Day – Welcome to Paradise

Offspring – Self Esteem
Feeder – Insomniac
Descendents – I’m the One

Rocket From the Crypt – On a Rope

1 AM

Movielife – Up to Me
Allister – Somewhere On Fullerton
Rise Against – Anyway you want it
student rick – heaven is a place on earth
Ataris – Boys of Summer

A Day to Remember – Since you’ve been gone

No Doubt – Just a Girl
Paramore – Misery Business
Blink 182 – Feeling this
Green Day – Minority
Sum41 – In Too Deep
Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American
Less Than Jake – All my best friends are metalheads
Reel Big Fish – Beer

Madness – One Step Beyond

Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies
Sugarcult – Bouncing off the walls
Zebrahead – Anthem

Good Charlotte – Lifestyles of the rich and the famous

Lustra – Scotty Doesnt Know
Fountains of Wayne – Staceys Mom

2 AM

Fall out boy – Sugar we’re going down
Offpsring – Why don’t you get a job
Blink 182- What’s my age again?

Avril Lavigne – Sk8er Boy

Busted – What I go to school for

Taking Back Sunday – Cute without the E

Used – Taste of Ink
Jimmy Eat World – Sweetness
Sum41 – Fat Lip

McBusted – Build me up buttercup

23 Oct

Warped Playlist September 12th 2014

I made a playlist of what Iain and I played at Warped on the 12th September and intend to make one up the list each night.

So on my blog I’ll put a link to each track if I can, this may be to a live version or similar, not necessarily the one played.

Jetplane Landing – This Is Not Revolution Rock
Elway – Dear Colorado
Carson Wells – Don’t forget the Super8
Engage – What will it take?
Kaddish – But a beat from your bones
Onsind – Either he’s dead or my watch has stopped
Uniforms – This is not a joke
Arliss Nancy – 40s
Robot Doctors – For the Taken (this was a genuine request, honest)
Murderburgers – Unemployment here I come
Maxwells Dead – Money falls down the drain
can’t read my terrible writing (apparently my scrawl was too much of a scrawl)
The Hijacks – Slowdown

Billy Liar – Ghosts of Punk Rock

Franz Nicolay – The hearts of Boston

Bonehouse – Summer jam
Fat Goth – Creepy Lounge

Foo Fighters – White Limo
3 Colours Red – Age of Madness
Idlewild – Satan Polaroid

Elway – Whispers in the shot glass
New Found Glory – Failure’s Not Flattering
Gaslight Anthem – Old White Lincoln
Rancid – Vanilla sex
Glassjaw – Cosmopolitan Blood Loss
Alexisonfire – This could be anywhere in the world
At the Drive In – One Armed Scissor
Refused – New Noise
Biffy Clyro – Saturday Superstar

Sum41 – Hell Song
Rocket from the crypt – On a rope
Capdown – Ska wars
Selector – Too much pressure
Misfits – Skulls
Dropkick Murphys – Gauntlet
Anti-flag – Turncoat
Bad Religion – Sorrow

Pennywise – Fuck Authority
Allister – Somewhere on fullerton
Bouncing Souls – Manthem
Rage Against the Machine – Guerilla Radio

* can’t read my terrible writing of another song
Fall out Boy – Grand Theft Autumn
Less than Jake – Gainseville Rock City
NOFX – Dinosaurs will die
No Doubt – Just a Girl

Paramore – Misery Business
Killswitch Engage – My last serenade
Marilyn Manson – Fight song
Papa Roach – Infest
Rise Against – Anyway you want it
Reel Big Fish – Beer

Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies
Blink 182 – What’s my age again?
American Hi-fi – Flavour of the week
Fenix TX – Threesome
Fountain of Wayne – Stacy’s mom
* can’t read my terrible writing

Lit – My Own Worst Enemy
All American rejects – Dirty Little secret

R Kelly – Ignition
Cee-Lo Green – Fuck you
Outkast – Hey Ya

Lonely Island – I’m on a boat
Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal
Jimmy Eat World – Sweetness
Taylor Swift – Never Getting Back Together
Backstreet Boys – Everybody
Huey Lewis – Power of Love

24 Sep

Failure, #the45 and the future

A friend told me they went to vote wearing a Firefly t-shirt as they didn’t have a Yes t-shirt. At the time I was amused but then on the Friday it became even more meaningful.

Firefly is a series set in the aftermath of a civil war from some of those sympathetic to the rebellious side. The cause was the grievances of those far away from the centre of political power feeling left out, ignored and opposing centralisation.

In one scene of the show, Captain Reynolds is challenged

Commander Harken: Seems odd you’d name your ship after a battle you were on the wrong side of.

Captain Reynolds: May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.

And that seems to be the view of the supporters of the Yes campaign. We’ve failed, dust ourselves off and keep fighting.

FamilyGuy

#the45

Social Media almost immediately spread around memes to do with #the45. A replacement for your I’m voting yes twibbons etc. I was pretty uneasy and became more concerned the more it spread.

the45

I’m one of the 45 has a number of messages.

I’m proud I voted Yes

Seems reasonable enough. Much better than scurrying to take down your yes posters and so on.

I’m part of the 45 group

Seems a bit more worrying. If we want to win over the 55% who voted No, then creating an in-group isn’t a positive way to do it.

Any kind of movement which comes out of the real, mass, grassroots campaign for yes, must try to reach out to those who voted yes, or didn’t vote. By creating the 45 ingroup you create the 55 outgroup too. This hasn’t been positive, phrases like traitor flying around Twitter won’t win over those who voted No.

If someone was to vote No, be convinced it was a mistake and come over to the other side could they describe themselves as #the45? No. Clearly not. So it fails it first hurdle – can you call over your opponents from yesterday over to you today?

There are also connotations to the other 45 which are best avoided.

45+ isn’t much better, it sounds like some kind of middle aged dating site. I don’t know what’s better, during discussion I commented that I’d vote Yes tomorrow is better as bland as it is, but I know that #the45 isn’t right.

Here is a more academic critique of #the45.

The Future

My first concern was that those on the losing side would lose heart and drop out of any kind of political activity. I’ve seen it happen before, but never when 1.6million other people were also on the losing side.

On the 19th I tweeted Don’t be despondent, be active. Join the @The_SSP_ @scotgp snp or whoevers vision you agreed with most and work to make it happen.

I checked later on and I hadn’t been the only one, loads were saying similar. By the time of starting this post the SNP had claimed over 30,000 new members making them the third largest party in the whole UK. The Greens claimed 3000, the SSP 1900. The Radical Independence Conference 2014 has almost 7000 saying on Facebook they are going. People are also claiming to have joined Scottish CND and other progressive campaigns too.

The energy and enthusiasm will hopefully not be lost immediately then.

There is a downside to this of course. The Labour party became the horrible organisation they are due to a massive monopoly of electoral politics in Scotland. The SNP having more members than all other political parties in Scotland combined is not a healthy situation!

Elections

There have been rumblings of some kind of pro-Yes coalition/alliance standing in the future, including from some SNP MSPs (paywall).

There are some immediate appeals of this. For Westminster, your vote is essentially wasted no matter who you vote for. In the last General Election I think I voted SNP in Dundee West. Not because I support SNP but to try and unseat Jim McGovern, who as awful as he is is not as useless as Ernie I’m not a rent a quote MP Ross the rent-a-quote former MP for the constituency.

But is this something I’d do next time? I don’t know. The candidate is likely to be some local SNP councillor, one who no doubt voted to give the V&A contract to a blacklisting company. If so I could not see myself voting for them. Could I advocate others voting for them? Not if I couldn’t myself. I’d probably spoil my ballot if it was anti-choice Labour vs a pro-blacklisting SNP candidate with no progressive on the ballot, but I’ll decide closer to the time.

But let’s pretend for a second that some pro-Yes alliance was formed. Who would be it’s candidates. The SNP are the dominant force, do you think they’d let RIC, the SSP or Greens have a candidate in Dundee East and they’d have the SNP candidates in the seats the SNP are far behind in? I doubt it. It would be stitched up so the SNP candidates were most likely to be elected by that mechanism. But even if that’s not the case. Let’s say not 59 but even 30 of the candidates elected are pro-Yes Alliance. Then what? The whole Labour electoral strategy in the 80s was send their MPs to Westminster to protect Scotland and it failed. The only purpose would be to keep independence on the agenda, perhaps as part of a wider strategy to either get another referendum or to universally declare independence (these MPs declaring themselves Holyroods second chamber or the like). You would also essentially be voting for a single issue MP. It all seems a bit back of a fag packet and needs to be well thought out.

For Holyrood it might be different. Again, I heard suggestions of a pro-Yes slate everywhere. But let’s look at it tactically, if the point is to break Labour and the Unionists hold at Holyrood then having pro-Yes in seats and the lists is not the best way to do it. If we want to use the Holyrood elections as a way to boot them out then we should hammer at the weaknesses in the d’Hondt electoral system used in the lists.

This is a form of proportional representation which tops up list seats to make up for coming second in lots of first past the post constituencies. If one party comes first and a second party comes second in all the constituencies then the party who comes second will win more list seats making the MSPs each have more consistent with the % of support each receive.

The weakness in the system is if a party stands in the list but not constituency then they are at an advantage when the seats are calculated. This is the strategy the Greens use – ignoring the constituency vote. If however the SNP stood in the constituencies and the pro-Yes Alliance stood in the regions then they would not be penalised for having SNP winning constituencies when the list votes are calculated.

In the North East last time for example, the SNP won all 10 constituencies. When the votes are calculated for the list the SNP had 140,749 list votes and gained 1 MSP. Labour had 43,893 and gained 3. This is because for the first MSP the SNP vote is divided by the number of MSPs they had elected +1. Labours likewise. So the SNP have 12,795 proportional votes, Labour have 43,893. Labour get 3 elected from the list before the SNP get their first. A pro-Yes list would have gained 3 MSPs before Labour got their first though! This would result in a massive swing to the pro-Yes parties.

The second advantage is, should this become a serious possibility what would Labour do? Create a similar list? For the referendum they were happy to campaign alongside Tories, Lib Dems, UKIP and the National Front. I seriously doubt they would promote tactically voting for one of these in an election though!

What this would take though is a massive effort at co-ordination and compromise. Again, the SNP would probably pressure to have their people at the top of the lists.

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