Tuesday, October 26, 2004

A real pisser.

John Peel died today in Peru. He was with his wife. He was doing some radio or TV work. He was 65.
John Peel introduced me to all the music that was ever cool and a good deal of the music that was absolutely fucking awful. His late night BBC shows were the staple of my teenage years and beyond and in recent times if I was driving late at night in England I'd nearly always tune into his show partly out of nostalgia and partly just to see what the old nutter was playing today. (I decline to mention his Saturday morning 'Home Truths' family therapy show which had me diving across the bed to change the radio dial).
I remember hanging out with Dave Stelfox listening to the Peel show or spending an evening listening to music reccommended by or inspired by the show or the man. Then I'd drive home, listening to some amazing piece of crap that he'd dragged in from East Germany or something. Still, what can you do?
He was the cool uncle that many people didn't have. He was absent minded and friendly, plenty of friends of mine have bumped into him at obscure gigs and had a pint with him. I saw him once at a music festival in Norwich in the early 90's but didnt speak to him (my celebrityphobia was developing even then).
He was an Ipswich Town fan (which is upsetting but hey, In this moment of his death I shall absolve him). He was also only a year or two older than my father.
If I were 17 right now this would feel like the moment that Buddy Holly died. As I'm significantly older it feels sadder but perhaps less passionate. There can be a sadness when a much loved public figure dies. It's not a bad thing to stop the world for a moment and reflect in someone else's mortality.
Thanks for listening.

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Curse.

I write during game 2.
On Friday the class current event discussion focused upon THE news of the week (well, if you live in New York or Boston). The children wanted to talk about one thing and one thing only, The Red Sox beating the Yankees. One of the kids asked me if I believed in 'the curse'.
I told them this, "if you believe in the curse the curse is real. If you don't it isn't."
I was reminded of the story the explorer Benedict Allen told of meeting a shaman in the Caribbean a few years ago. You can read what you want into this but I think it covers a few bases in terms of human thought and belief processes and what the hell, I like the story.
Allen was traveling the world seeking out witchdoctors and shaman, researching pre Christian belief systems and generally speaking taking quite a few mind altering substances along the way.
He had a date with this shaman fellow and duly arrived at his home to find the man having indulged in the mind altering properties of a bottle of Johnny Walker. The explorer was annoyed and tired and decided that the whole meeting was clearly a waste of time, the so called shaman could hardly stand let alone conduct any magic.
As he was leaving, Allen was called back by the 'magician'. "Listen" he said "write the name of someone, anyone, that you want dead on this paper. I will make it happen"
Allen couldn't do it. He knew he was dealing with a drunk. He knew this was ridiculous but he also knew that there was no one that he wanted dead and that the whole question of faith, belief, of what if? Was just too inexplicable, too vague, too unscientific and he was not going to take a chance on this.
What am I trying to say?
I don't quite know, are the RedSox bringing me to the point of epiphany? Will Norwich City win a game this year? I don't know those either but what I do know is that in sport as in life, you gotta believe.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Game 6

I just found a kid in my third grade class twisting one of the Yankee chess characters out of shape. When I turned away from this wanton act of vandalism the boy dropped the 3 inch figure on the floor and trod on it. I turned a blind eye but before doing so asked him what he was doing. "Voodoo" came the reply.
If it doesnt work I'll call his parents.

Saturday, October 16, 2004


Does anyone know where I can get my hands on a T shirt?
I'm going to be quite precise about this. I want one of the Tshirts that the nice folk from the DNC wear when they are out and about asking for your time "thirty seconds with me or four more years of George Bush". These shirts are red with big letters that say DNC colored liked the stars and stripes. I'm an XL.
I like the politics but perhaps more importantly I just like the shirt.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Living the dream.

"I dreamt I saw Phil Oakes last night". So sung Billy Bragg in his 1990 homage to fallen socialist idolatry "The Internationale".
I dreamt I was Johnny Damon last night. I dreamt it was the eighth inning with bases loaded. I dreamt it was postseason at Yankee stadium. I dreamt that the hopes of the good and the righteous rested upon my belocked shoulders and that
i was about to tie the game and the series. I dreamt that I dreamt about getting a haircut or shaving. The dream was good. It's the closest i'll ever come to actually playing in the postseason. I was just about to dream on when I was attacked by a mysterious killer bug inflicting it's last wish upon my sleepy flesh. I leapt out of bed, swatted about a bit, woke up Beth and eventually succumbed to a Benedryl enhanced sleep.
I was Johnny Damon, I was.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Our friends in the north

Rightyho it's that time of year again. Yankees -RedSox. This caused a mixture of delight and trauma last year and I'm sure it's going to be a similar mix in 2004. I've already yelled at the school's arch yankee (a 4th grader) and i'm gearing up for a lighter fuel send off for the jeter shirt i bought as a tourist back in 2001 (I didn't know).
The more you read the more you know. There's no hiding my support for the RedSox (certainly as far as playing the yankees goes) and i shall be avoiding certain bars which are full of pinstriped assholes getting drunk and obnoxious.
Like wisdom weasel I'm looking forward to a week of great TV and hopefully abusing/gloating over yankee fans.
( And I hate the way people assume that you're a yankee fan just cos you live here. People except my faithful B71 busdriver of course)

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Mother Nature's masterpiece

I'm touched. I really am. I'm not an openly emotional sort of fellow and far less likely to fall prey to any public display of affection. This is sometimes challenged by what I have long referred to as 'mother nature's masterpeice'. A good friend.
I've talked so long about dear old Dan in Maine, up there with Jess and the dogs and I feel it's only right that I return the favour to his world of blog. He very nicely applauded this little corner of blogworld the other day and I thank him for that. Everyone should go and look at wisdomweasel. I wouldont plug him just because he's a nice man but because it's a blog I read most days and it is full of thought provoking and amusing articles.
Added to which we send each other books and stuff and share a few bizarre hobbies and argue almost as much as we laugh. He is also a fellow communist on the Huesca front. (that's NYcanaries.com to you)
I suppose I'm trying to say that good friends are fine things, Dan, feel free to slap me next time you see me for this sentimental slush what I wrote.
PS: This is not drunk blogging.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Electoral fraud

It's the day after the veep debate and I'm chatting with the third graders about the latest 'Time for kids' which has a special issue about the November election.
These kids spent much of second grade studying the fifty states so they are a wealth of information about such things. "Dick Cheney is from Wyoming. There are more sheep than people in Wyoming, that's why it has only 3 electoral college votes"
We move on, we play a math/civics game based upon the elctoral college system. One dice for George Bush, another dice for John Kerry, whoever scores highest gets the state with it's electoral vote, we add the votes up and soon we have a mock presidential race on our hands. The kids are loving this, they are bemused when California goes Republican "My aunt lives there and she's a Democrat", delighted when Texas goes Democrat "that'll NEVER happen" and appreciate that Wyoming with all it's sheep is a pretty safe bet for Mr Cheney. The tension builds as we work our way through the south, "do Florida! do Florida!"
"OK kids, Florida has 27 electoral votes because it's a densely populated state"
the dice roll, Bush takes Florida.
A voice, first just one, then a chorus.
I'm a little taken aback.
"we demand a recount"
"There was a hurricane"
"I smell foul play"
Under pressure from 15 third graders I roll again. And again. And again.
We endure five recounts before florida goes to John Kerry.
The lesson about electoral fraud is scheduled for next week.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The American pastime.

It's October and as the local news reminds us this means that there is baseball in The Bronx but not, alas in Queens.
As any regular reader will be aware this site has a connection with a certain Minnesotan politician and former Vice President.
Accordingly I need assistance from you, the reader.
Find out all you can about the 'Twins'. I need infromation, I need lots.
Could it be time to burn that Jeter shirt?

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The next election.

As we near the end of the current electoral cycle I want to ponder great elections I have known. Being a 'Brit' it's going to be Anglo centric but what the heck? It'll be a trip down memory lane for those of you who have even the slightest clue what I'm on about and perhaps a small education for my American readers.
My earliest memory of an election would have to be Margaret Thatchers landslide of June 1983. Having just biffed the Argentine junta down in the South Atlantic the heroically unpopular premier of only a year or two earlier whipped the country into a frenzy of patriotic commie/foreigner bashing that would make the current Bush look like Howard Dean. The similarities don't end there, the opposition was led by the marvelous Michael Foot, well into his sixties and with flowing white hair, walking stick and duffle coat not to mention a passionate socialist agenda he was, alas an easy target for the Thatcherites. The Labour manifesto for that election has been described as "the longest suicide note in electoral history". What did Michael Foot say about his much mocked sartorial choice? "It was a cold day and I liked that coat".
As for personal memories of this time I was busy watching Manchester United beat Brighton in the FA cup final (British elections tend to be held in the spring or early summer) so the politics pretty much passed me by. I do remember my mother (daughter of a communist) being a bit pissed off.
In the autumn of 1984 a new kid started middle school. Matthew Salmon shuffled around the school hall at lunchtime looking for somewhere to sit. He set down next to me as I munched on my meat pie and chips with peas and lots of salad cream. I think I mumbled a brief hello. He asked me who I thought would win the upcoming US election, his money was on Walter Mondale. I got on pretty well with "salmon" after that.
By the time the British election of June 1987 came round I was an emerging teenage socialist in the most intensely annoying mould. I despised Thatcher (still do but at least I have some idea about why) and thought the answer lay with Neil Kinnock's modernizing Labour party. In rural Norfolk it was still a wee bit risky to be an out and out Labour supporter. To my knowledge in 1987 Norfolk had only one labour MP out of about eight constituencies and was very much in the grip of the old guard of shire conservatives. Another Thatcher landslide. Thanks for your help Bowles. The day after the election I was buying some candy in a store when the owner started raving to a friend about Thatcher. Thus begun the first in a long line of business boycotts based upon irregular political convictions or staff rudeness.
1990 doesn't really count but I can't not mention the passing of Thatcher's political career. I was in a politics A level class when fellow crypto socialist Helen Stayte burts into the class full of seventeen year olds shouting "she's resigned!!" After an impromptu chorus of "ding dong the bitch is gone" we all went off to find junior Tory Kelvin Rashbrook as there was a schoolwide rumour that he was in tears.
1992 gave me my first real experience of electoral politics. Up to this point it was all rather like self abuse. In the Abbey Hall, Wymondham, electoral constituency of South Norfolk on April 9th I lost my political virginity. Some years later I was talking to a colleague from Chile. She had fled the Pinochet regime and had married an Englishman. It was her first chance to vote, ever. She had expressed some bemusement about the stubby little pencil and the postcard sized ballot paper. It's a bit of an anti climax really.
Of course, being old enough to vote means you're old enough to get smashed while watching the results on TV. The country decides but the fucking country decided to keep the sodding Tories in power. A crushing blow, a real bucket of cold water thrown over the passions of political youth. Not only that but my desire to gather the news with fellow lefties meant that I'd gone to my sailing club with a few friends. The sailing club with NO TV! We huddled around a transistor radio into the early hours as the horrible truth of clutching defeat from the jaws of victory became apparent.
The next day came with a massive hangover of both electoral and beer induced proportions. I sat in the Thurne Lion in with Bookham (he of Wisdom weasel fame) and Milo and decide that the only sensible thing to do would be to get shitfaced.
At least America did something right (remember those days?)
In November of that year they elected Bill 'you know you want to' Clinton and we all loved him pretty much for eight years. (Hey, I didn't have to live with him).
Kinnock was replaced by John Smith as John Major's Government bumbled, groped and generally buggered everything up for the next five years. If you ever want an example of a fundamentally incompetent Government, ask anyone who live in the UK between 1992 and 1997. From April 10th 1992 it was clear that Labour would win the next election. It may sound like a glib statement full of the beauty of hindsight but it's still a reasonably accurate assessmen. By the spring of 1997 you could have put red rosette on a chimp and he would have won.
Let's look back to the spring of 1994. It was with real shock that we learned of John Smith's fatal heart attack in May 1994. A lot has been said about what kind of Prime Minister Smith would have been. Much, often in the form of thinly veiled attacks on his sucessor, Tony Blair. All I will say is that John Smith was a good man, an honourable and decent man and there are far too few such people in public life. I can't hypothesise about his stance on Iraq or his relationships with foreign leaders, all I can say that there are times when I miss him deeply and I wonder about what could have been.
Blair took the leadership of the Labour party after a deal was done (or not?) with Gordon Brown. He easily defeated John Prescott and Margaret Beckett and in July of 1994 it became apparent that the next Prime Minister was a schoolboy.
Let's fast forward to March 1997, John Major calls the election and the inevitable soon takes place. John Major is no longer Prime Minister, replaced by Blair who will take office just as soon as he's finished his homework. I recall seeing an interview with Major a few days before the election. Forget about Nixon in 1960, John Major looked absolutely shattered. I wondered how on earth the interview had been allowed to take place. The Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was a living wreck. The day after the election John Major did what he loved doing most, went to a cricket match at The Oval and got a bit drunk. It was later said that the Tories had quite an easy campaign, people were reasonably friendly towards them as the public had had five years to make up it's mind and noone took them seriously anymore. It was as if the country had got drunk in 1992 and woken up with the ugly girl from the grocery store. Perhaps the memory of last time still haunted us but she had a nice personality so there's no need to be horrible about it.
It was a bloody landslide, the Tories were obliterated, reduced to a rump. It was fantastic!
The country woke to a new dawn, it was our 'velvet revolution' , the intellectual elite rather than the old money was in charge.
Much that has happened since is well documented and we can all see how office has turned Blair from the school boy into an elder statesman unrivalled in terms of global gravitas (but what about the hospitals Tony?)
So we'll be going to the polls again sometime soon, once the dust has settled from the innaugeration of rither Kerry or Bush I'll be looking east, across the Atlantic, the next one should be along soon.
I just want to mention the 2001 election. I voted Liberal. John Prescott , the deputy PM twatted a mulleted anti government protester and on election day nothing changed. I was fairly happy with that. I was especially happy that Prescott got into a fight with a right wing hill billy.
Dick Cheney's foul mouth? Give me Two jags and his left hook anytime.
Thank you for listening.