Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dinglegate Update Umpteen

It's unanimous, folks.

BBC coverage.

/SXV

Saturday, April 22, 2006

National Identity Rape

(Lifts megaphone to lips.) REMEMBER ID CARDS? REMEMBER THE NATIONAL IDENTITY REGISTER? REMEMBER POLITICS?


WAKE back up, children. Developments to date:

1939 The National Registration Act is passed, introducing compulsory identity cards; the cards were seen as a way of protecting the nation from Nazi spies.

1952 Winston Churchill's government scraps ID cards on the grounds that they were not needed during peacetime.

1995 The Conservative government, led by John Major, issues a consultation paper on the idea of ID cards. The idea is later dropped.

1998 Jack Straw, then Home Secretary of the Labour government, raises the idea of a national ID card scheme. He is later persuaded against the idea and instead uses the money to finance extra policing.

2001 David Blunket, the current Home Secretary, first presents his ideas for an ID/entitlement card scheme as a means of tackling terrorism, immigration, identity fraud and access to public services.

2002 The Cabinet Office concludes that the creation of a single document could be beneficial in replacing the current documents used to establish identity, provided the system was accompanied by a secure process for the issue and use of ID cards.

The Government begins a public debate on its proposals to introduce a national identity cards scheme. The debate started with the publication of: Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud: A Consultation Paper, which sought the views of the public on 'Entitlement Cards'.

2003 The Government publishes the results of research into public attitudes towards an ID cards scheme. The consultation process demonstrates strong support for the idea; responding to findings from the consultation the term 'entitlement card' is replaced by 'identity card'.

The government publishes Identity Cards: The Next Steps, which outlines details of the Government's plans to introduce a national identity card scheme.

04/2004 Government publishes a draft Identity Cards Bill and consultation paper. The Home Affairs Select Committee carries out pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill and a report is published in July.

Government carries out further research among the general public to establish attitudes towards proposals for identity cards. This asks more specific questions about the details of the Government's proposals and the results show the public to be a lot less supportive of the idea than in 2003.

10/2004 Responding to the Home Affairs Select Committee report and public consultation the Government publishes revised proposals for the introduction of ID cards.

2005 ID Cards Bill consistently marginally rejected.

03/2006 Act passed to make ID card and biometric registration compulsory with every passport application from 30th May 2006.

(Thanks to the Citizenship Foundation for details 1939-2004)


So. What do we do? Hm?

This.

Any adult who applies for a UK passport prior to the end of May this year is therefore exempt from the current ID card and biometric registration legislation until such time as hir passport expires - i.e. for ten years. It's not a solution, but it's certainly a start. Get on it now, kids. Now.


One of the things that concerns me most about the UK's Orwell-god scheme is that, if it works, the EU and USA are more than likely to follow suit. My escape plan from any UK dystopia-quest has always been to renounce my British citzenship and retain my American nationality - or vice versa, vice versa. Unsatisfactory, but effective. I do not want my backdoors barred.


/SXV

Friday, April 21, 2006

My Albion Eyes

It is darktime.

Smoke and tears cloud my albion eyes.

The People are asleep, or feel that they ought so to be.

I mount my mechanical steed. Slightly broken, it trundles over rutted roads and slides cross slim slopes to the shining scene.

Slow but short, I cycle blithely through the spite of rudely rueful countryside. Countless specks array my eyes as nothing shines out but everything counts; indigo-teak-pink-orange-black of the pastel painted sky is subimposed on the monochrome cutout of tangled plants and banks.

The slope pulls me down playfully, joyfully, I am delighted and content. Then the uphill rant to the Road. Houselights blare at me in painful disdain. Nightair screeches in my weeded lungspace. Gasping, I resort to the crest of the slope, a place between planes, a jazz piano of crushed grass, ill-kept tarmacadam, cracked paint, irregular stars. Treetops frame a hopeful amber-sulphur gaze a mile (perhaps) ahead--

It is upon me, and no longer hopeful, but Hopeful. Turning into the empty downhill slide of the amber-sulphur corner, I exult in muscular atrophy and whistling airjoy, acceleration, the sky ignoring me in streetlight-engulfed blindness and sulk, cycling without pedalling, screaming in my head as the turning point occurs, the joy flattens, the freewheel degenerates to pedalpush, the haughty aloofness of the sulhpur burns like a chain, a bending, curling chain. A pathway. A giants' causeway. The blackgrey nonlight is no blackgrey tonight. It is rose. It is sepia. It bleeds, it nearly speaks. Mind's eye of mine envisions the dripping sulphurspots dipping and bending and bobbing back under the footsteps of giants and gods making their way Anywhere. This is a linear eternity, a way to anywhere I want if I just pedal long enough. Just round that next bend, is out of Albion: Utah, Cedar City, is everything I loved and lived and left there; a little further down the contrasting blend of redbrown and amberglow is Oxford, home of the brave and the sweet and beautiful and the caustically imperfect; beyond that--no, the bend has bent around my wheels, my breath returned but rapidly expiring, I encounter trees of green, not sepia. I see byways and turns and brightlights and--

Chinatown. Like the weirdest excesses of foreign incomprehensibility, my "hometown" spreads before me. The previously middle-classish slatted woooden fence is curved now, peaked, pointed and Oriental. The amberchain to Anywhere has near dissolved into a suspension of multihued gashes and blots of white, steel, straw, tulip-grey, green, all different sizes, all garishly pretty and illuminating an ugly utiltarian commercial functionality that luckily sleeps when I view it, it sleeps so that I can laugh or piss or appreciate. Smudges of other folk fly past on more wheels than I. Pushing past the "No Dogs, Negroes, Mexicans, or Lower Class" invisibly barricading Waitrose and the town hall, I lose steam briefly on a railroad bridge. Tiny lights, treacherous gravel walkways, I know them well. I cry at the scratchy recollection, a sotten night, cold and weaving, walking surely away through sharp, quicksand gravel, tripping on maliciously concealed sleepers and crossbars, sparks of dim-seen civilisation noticed miles ahead at great expense, which upon encroachment are nout but signal lamps, buzzing amorally in disinterested vacuum. Torn and wracked I scream and sob as I remember love and safety, and I move on.

Shoving me past the uphill backroad of shoddy flats and supermarket backparks, I enter a special route open only to the emotional and observant. Sulphurspots still disapprove at me from above. The prior monochrome remains a silencing sepia and rose. Running a little still from my eyes; my memories; every love that was and wasn't and could have been and should have been.

Turn the corner, and the visions begin. They are here. I am bored, you appear.

In the distance ahead, I regard a diffuse glow. A lamp behind slush. On the right of the road. Other sulphur lamps imitate and echo, but fail to emulate the stunning individuality of this frozen, broken, amber blow. I pull closer. It is the face of a beautiful maiden, virginal, afraid, chaste by choice, it--changes, it is a fire, a flaming bush suspended twenty feet above travel, it--is a hag, a repugnant old crone burning in sulphurous hatred and spitting angelflames of reflected hatred--an angel, if ever I saw one, an angel exuding benignly at all and all and all and--crystallised lava, glowing in just-solidified pride, burning into--a streetlight in a network of branches in a tree. And on the left, not the right.

A mystic drizzle encounters me. I am ignored all the same.

A disembodied orange private dick tips his gunmetal trilby to me from behing an oak. I salute him as he passes and becomes a faulty streelight, bent and curved, a replacement directly next to him, not functioning.

A momentarily shattered sulphurous streetlamp suggests an old superstition: I tug a forelock to a brandy-filled, brightly burnished bower filled with pixies, pucks, and elderly gentlemen suspended ironly from an oaken bower...

Floating unconcernedly through the subtly suggested minor chord of outer Holtspur, I subconsciously navigate the labyrinthine subways of suburbia with unerring and subconscious suaveté. Speeding through the quiet subroads, I notice the Moon.

Tonight our sattelite is in mild mauve and greenish power. I have seen her before. I have seen the Moon in giant, bloody, sneering scarlet, arrogating her giant form to smoke-skied daylight. I have seen the Moon in garish harvest yellow. I have seen the Moon in distant navy. Always reminded me of somehwhere, something, or someone. And every time, she has made me cry. Large or small, light or dark, blue, gold, white, or red. Every time I see thee is in my mind's mind and spinning and spitting and cycling and hiking.

I think of my first love. I think of my first real love. I think of every love thereafter, admitted or secret, bathed in the inconstant glow of the Moon. Luxuriating. Complicitating.

Getting closer to home, I approach madness in fear: tired legs, a mild uphill, a DOG, a GIANT DOG, made entirely of wooden framework, poses in predatory wait above a pewter fence, panting, drooling, looking at me--I must face it, I must confront, I am a Man, that is what I do, oh Gods let me go!--

It's a "For Sale" sign protruding over a white chipboard wall.

Utterly useless trees yawn at me as I approach the familial abode. Arm out, sulphur inconstancy blazing in my head and eyes and cock and soul and--but here is Mayflower Way.

All put away now. I go for a minor wander.

The back of my house.

It is a prosaic municipal park. "Prosaic"? Yes and no.

From where I am I can see twelve colours of lights. I can see the multishaded broken texture of flat architecture. I can see a vast, ruined expance of green and municipality and night and inexplicable clouds like tendrils of my mind unfurling toward us, baby, from an ineffable, misty, orange-white-grey glow from the East, from the past, from the future, for good or for ill, for glowgasm and bright and sharp, for Albion, for my eyes, for us!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Fuck off with your "non-invasive procedures" - I'm a poet-warrior!

I have been reading through the Rhexis archives and it strikes me that this site has been rather loaded in the direction of Angry Young Man ranting. Clearly things need to be evened up a little. So here's a vaguely kinky feminist offering, and yes, it's slightly arsey and fluffy and poetic and I wrote it at eleven o'clock this morning after eating a packet of Pro-Plus. Commentbots, shoot me down. I am terribly unrepentant.

Poet-warriors need regular disinfecting. So here I am in the shower late at night, thinking too much again, trying to clean my mind, clear my head, hot solving water running in blessed rivulets over my shoulders.

Stepping out into an in-between-planes world of steam, scrubbing away at the other side of the mirror, is an Angry Young Woman in a dirty pink towel. Maybe a new breed. I clutch at my own flesh with writers' hands; spattered with little constellations of inky stars, scrawled with doctors' appointments. I buckle myself into a suit and tie, slick back an unruly crop of dark hair. Still-clammy skin breathing girl-perfumes into boys' clothes, stolen or borrowed. Scent of kink and confrontation. Armour and actuality.

I could pretend that this female body I inhabit is extraneous to the cause, I really could. After all, I am shocked regularly enough by the sudden strangeness of form of this irregular little frame I'm living in to know that my body is not my mind is not my heart and soul. But why the necessary discrepancy?

Poet-warrior-girls, girls who are born poets and academics and writers and truthsayers, we don't need to make the choice between sexuality and credibility, do we? No, we don't. Fuck that. And yet, in this city, that's what the frantic majority of us do; the bluestockings button up their blouses, the barbie dolls dumb down when they're out drinking with the boys. Not even the lesbians get off so easily, although apparently they do if they're at Hilda's.

It doesn't have to be so clean-cut.

Oh yes, dears, I'm a feminist. I've read my Wolf, my Woolfe, my Wollestonecraft; Daley and Offenbach, the big-gunning big sisters of the women's movement who seemed like they would tear down cities of pain and dirty power and claim the female body back for us, and who managed in the end only to set it, gemlike, in a new cast of clawlike socio-academic discourse. The fairy godmothers of feminism who, in the end, were fatally unable to take a joke. Thank you, ladies, all the same.

Younger, I burned, I raved for the revolution I was born too late to save; having already digested The Female Eunuch and taken its polemic suggestions as gospel, when my first period appeared I put a finger between my legs and tasted, a challenge to my own disgust. Wasn't bad, really. Bit salty.

I'm sorry, does that shock you?

It's funny in here, chaps. Nakedness like alcohol makes me feel horrible and sexy. I am addicted to this form. I dance in it, I fuck with it, I write out of it, I dress it up with my various confrontational makeups to assault the unenlightened with sudden savage beauty. I sit with my legs apart and laugh with my head thrown back and sometimes I dress like a girl and sometimes I sleep with girls and sometimes I sleep with boys and sometimes I dress like a boy. But I'm not a boy.

I'm an Angry Young Woman with my softskinned idiosyncracies, my poetry and my politics and my pink lipstick.

I am NOT a poet in the body of a girl.

I'm a poet warrior, so you can fuck off with your Women's Studies, your sterile intimate wipes, your waiting rooms and your non-invasive investigative procedures.
And sex is as much a part of my armour as my fineliners, my whisky, my books of Blakeian dystopia -I enjoy it far too much; it keeps me firing on all cylinders; and it gives me this vague notion to mangle people's minds. Tell me that being a poet-warrior is extraneous to my being a young lady who likes sex and sedition, you may as well tell James Dean that the leathers and the huge motorcycle had nothing to do with it.

They had EVERYTHING to do with it.

So, sometimes I'm a boy, and really I'm a girl. Gender is a fuzzy area that's slicker and sexier when it's removed from dry academia. I live in my body, but I am not my body, but I am fast and fuckable and in your face and still haven't learned to sit with my knees together.

I am what the best and most terrible of us are, a new breed of young and luscious meta-evolved bloody mental mongrel, and if it bothers you, you can be one too. Buy my drugs. Make my meals.

Suck my sticky strap-on.

I'm being straight with you.

Drop me a bitter kiss. I'm sitting still for this. We are broken and brilliant creatures and ecstasy and enlightenment are our birthright.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Echoes, Roars and Dinosaurs

I am perched in a tree in the middle of Oxford late at night, smoke curling gently from my lips before being stolen away by the same mischievous wind that is running through my hair and playing amongst the leaves. There's a thousand and one thoughts rushing through my head at a million and one miles and hour as I stare out at the City. Suddenly, they all stop at once and are replaced by a curious and rather profound feeling.

It's one I've experienced before, flying back to England under a perfect sunset of orange and blue and rolling green countryside. It's a feeling of connection. It was like I could see all of England below me, and the land was alive and breathing softly like a sleeping beast that I could easily have reached down and stroked. The feeling was so strong that I thought that British Airways had spiked my dinner with psychedelics until I remembered that their service isn't that good.

This time it's the City that I'm connected to. It's a sensation that I often get when I walk through familiar places late at night, when there's no-one else about. The City is empty, and for now, at least, it belongs to me. The spotlight from Magdalen College is screaming up into the night, slicing the sky in half. One of the labs is lit with its own eerie green light, like some sort of twentieth century Minas Morgul. In the distance, the constant sound of the cars; steel workers toiling up and down the motorways.

I'm jostled from my thoughts by a solitary cyclist as he trundles past, clearly surprised to see a dark figure looming out of the tree above him. For a moment, I am sharing the City with him, another creature of the night, but then he passes and I have it all to myself again.

"The Kooks are out in the streets, Oh we're gonna steal your skies."

I lean casually back into the tree trunk and stare out into the night at the City unfolding before me, full of memory and promise, past and future. I can't see most of it, but I can feel it there, looking back at me. During the day it's too busy, there are too many voices, but at night it's quiet and I can talk to the City, and it will listen to me. A gentle smile curls from my lips and the City smiles back.

Quietly, I slide down from the tree and wander home. After all, it's cold out tonight in my City, and I can hear my pillow calling.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Albion Morning?

Hah.

So. Here I am. It's six in the morning, and I've got the whole big, windy country to myself. All its hills and motorways, and the valleys and the high rises. All asleep, quiescent in the bird-noisy grey of predawn. Red lights on the pylons still, and the whirr of the milk-freight, and it all belongs to the few still awake. A living picture of possibility. Pastel and promise. The aerials are all pointing north atop their houses, sentinel cranes waiting for a monstrous call to migration. I'm on top of the world, Ma Earth. Colour has weird depth at this time, this nullspace of first light. Each shade hints at deeper layers of tint beneath, each patch of tone is not a shape but a well into a dimension filled with teal, with scorched orange, with deep purple-grey. The birdsong is not a delicate counterpoint. It is a cacophany of tiny winged demons, all shouting their little bastard hearts out because WINTER IS DEAD. Nor are the still cars steel beetles. My country when it sleeps is not the land of cliché. They are capsules; tiny sealed rooms of mobile and limited opulence. The wind brings the news. Blowing no good, perhaps, but it's motion and knowledge from Another Place. It's on the move. It cuts through flesh and bullshit, chilling me to the core. The first routine car engine coughs alive and the commuters begin to move. And my country is theirs again, till the end of the day.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

"I feel I might be condemned for criticising aspects of the muslim religion…"

It has recently come to my attention that people on cruises, such as the one my mother’s school is taking to Egypt, are advised by the tour operators to cover their legs and arms. Foolishly thinking that this had something to do with insect bites or sunburn I nodded in passive acknowledgement as she told me. Later, after a heavy day’s shopping in which her wardrobe was refilled to accommodate clothes which met the tour operator’s criteria, I expressed my surprise at the extent to which she was following advice on insect bites and sunburn, only to be told that it was not for those reasons at all. Instead, the reason for her sartorial excess (fashion notwithstanding) was the tour operator's insistence on all women and girls wearing clothes which were deemed acceptable to those in the Muslim countries which they

Two things shock me about this: firstly, the frankly misogynist Muslim tradition of covering women’s skin; and secondly, my mother’s commitment to respecting this tradition. This incident reflects a concern that I have about many people in British society’s misunderstood respect for traditions and faiths which are discriminatory. Please do not mistake this for a Daily Mail-type rant. I have full respect for the right of other cultures to enact (and expect respect for) their various traditions, as long as they do not stem from, or support, a prejudicial or bigoted ideology. For example, it is justly considerate to take one’s shoes off inside a mosque, so as not to cause offence. Unfortunately many aspects of Islam are (in many people’s interpretation) both prejudicial and discriminatory. There are passages of the Qur’an which reflect those of Leviticus 20 ("Thou shalt hang out to dry all those filthy queers… and throw in an adulterer or two... Oh, and someone with those pointy ears! What do you call them? Rabbits! I hate those bloody Rabbits!" – semi-accurate paraphrase). A reasonable person would not argue if one refused to respect these traditions. However, when the issue is tamed down to something like the requisite attire for women, a "tolerant" Westerner such as my mother will find it hard to sympathise with a viewpoint which degrades this tradition, claiming that it is "disrespectful". An extreme example of this can be found on the Barbelith website. A recent Barbelith scribe begins a thread entitled "Muslim Imam refuses to condemn the stoning of female adulterers" with the words "I feel I might be condemned for criticising aspects of the muslim [sic] religion...". No you won’t! If these are the "aspects of the muslim religion" which you are criticising, then any condemnation is not worth listening to. This explicates perfectly the foolish attitude of respect which many liberal Westerners have towards traditions which do not deserve it.

A common point of contention is the requirement for Muslim women to observe Hijab, and it is this facet of Islam which my mother will be observing. Hijab requires Muslim women to cover their head and body because Allah told them to: "O Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men). That is better in order that they may be known (to be Muslims) and not annoyed..." (Qur'an 33:59). There are various secondary reasons in support of women wearing headgear which are explained in this article on the University of Southern California website. For a Muslim, it is only to be expected that they will observe Hijab, as they have been told by Allah to do so. It is understandable, for they face the prospect of not complying with Allah if they refuse to wear Hijab. From a non-believing Western perspective, however, Allah did not tell women to observe Hijab, because Allah doesn’t exist, and He never existed. So if Allah didn't say it, someone else must have. The man (and I think we can be pretty sure it was a man) who wrote this part of the Qur’an has discriminated against women, separating them from men, essentially giving them less freedom and oppressing them. Therefore, from a Western perspective which ordinarily frowns upon misogynistic tradition of this sort, respecting Hijab should prove a problem. Even if one respects the right to wear covering clothes, one should surely not show one's support for it by following suit. Surprisingly, many Westerners do not think in this way.

To return to the incident concerning my mother. Should she have felt compelled to respect this tradition, something which in Britain she would have felt entirely inappropriate and wrong? Her argument went something like, "When in Rome..." The notion that someone’s values can change depending on one’s topography is a disturbing one, but it reminded me of an article which Germaine Greer wrote for The Guardian several months ago in which she explained her reasons for curtsying to the Queen at a dinner in Buckingham Palace. Whilst I can appreciate Greer’s perspective, I find it surprising that someone like her can similarly change hir principles (i.e. anti-monarchy) depending on where s/he is. Should one respect the discriminatory views of Muslims when walking on "their" land?

There are, of course, justifiable reasons for being extra-tolerant of cultures which have principles other to one’s own, such as fear of offending, fear of retaliation, and as a strong tolerant opposition to the anti-othercultures polemic vociferated by the "Daily Mail" et al. One feels that these justifications should not have to exist, though. Far better would be to travel wherever one wanted to, wearing whatever one wanted to wear, without fearing causing offence.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Blood, Tears, and Curtain Calls

Why the fuck would anyone work in theatre?

The day before yesterday (chronologically), or yesterday (experientially sequentially), I spent thirteen hours at the theatre, and then five hours drinking and crying.

Late, I found solace and comfort in spending five hours of that day singlehandedly painting most of the set. Later, I found my emotions exposed and burning in the caustic atmosphere of the external, uncovered by the physical, mental, and spiritual sandpapering that is Theatre.

Theatre is Magic. Theatre is beautiful, and absurd, and pointless, and utterly, primally, vitally necessary.

Allow me to dispel, first, a perverse misconception: ain't no glamour in showbusiness, babe. Theatre is grimy and masochistic. Take the curtain call. Some people seem to hold the belief that this an opportunity for the cast, like a beaming toddler proudly presenting hir mother with a freshly filled potty, to say "Look what we done! Aren't we brilliant!" IT IS NOT. The curtain call is there to thank the audience. Thank them for their appreciation, thank them for their money, but most of all, thank them for sitting through the two hours of sparkling bullshit you just served up for them on an MDF platter spray-painted silver with non-functioning props glued onto it. That's what the bow means. Bowing! An act of supreme supplication! We are your bitches, audience, and you have let us off the hook.

Blood and tears.

Blood. We die a lot. Complicated, antiquated electrical systems buzz amorally in a temperamental lottery of trappish synapses, makeshift repairs, and high voltage. Vast, awkward, unforgivingly heavy objects teeter against their precarious boltings, or lie in wait round darkened corners, or ponder in pendulous predation from dubious ceiling anchors. Pyrotechnics flash out in agentic malice. Lithe young workers dressed all in black work in the dark atop swayingly vertiginous ladders on ruttedly uncertain flooring, wielding paintbrushes, curtain hooks, hacksaws and lights. No wonder theatre technicians can't get life insurance.

Tears. I have never seen my father cry. I have seen everyone I know in theatre cry, and often. There is so much to organise, so little time to do it in, mind-shatteringly long hours, hair-tearingly hard work, there is, quite simply, and all too fucking often, just too much.

And for what? Two hours of sparkle and emotion on a thinly disguised platform for a roomful of paying voyeurs. A modicum of remuneration. A tendency to neurosis, addiction, and early death.

So why? - A question that answers itself. The ineluctable, existential romance of it all. Theatre is its own dark, tragic, visceral little complex. Turn up at any paralysed rehearsal, any late-night build, any eleventh-half-hour rush to piece together fan-dismembered shit, and you look in on a frantic, isolated, dystopian goth-fantasy.

We cast ourselves round the twist in the name of an evening of ephemeral entertainment. We drag our souls to the brink of despair, and further than that too, for a story. We kill ourselves so you can watch us prance around and pretend we're someone we ain't. And that, Children, is Beauty.

Yes, we can tell important tales. Yes, we can move, and persuade, and dazzle, and enthrall, convert, thieve, rape, CHANGE. But, Christ, ye gods, Macbeth, the things we do for it all! That we can expend so much of ourselves for something intangible, impermanent, immolatory; that we can make something that doesn't matter really, truly matter; that we can live, and suffer, and die for an idea, for a brief blaze of glamour and beauty and heady mental catalyst, destroy us though it will, reminds us that we are human, enriches us as people, makes us real and alive.

Behind every charmingly confident, careless grin in the curtain call line is a silent immensity of spilt blood, spat tears, and stupid, desperate, beautiful spiritual connection.

That's why we do it.