To absolutely no-one’s surprise, the controversial badger cull trial is in trouble. There appears to be confusion over how many badgers there actually are in the trial area to begin with, and the government’s targets for killing these beautiful creatures have not, it seems, been met – leading to an extension to this pilot cull being requested in order to do so. The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who is very much in favour of the cull, was asked about this in a BBC interview today:
BBC News Interviewer: What you describe there as success, the critics will argue has been a failure on all levels. You didn’t estimate the number of badgers in the area correctly in the first place, you haven’t reached the 70% target of killing badgers that you set yourself at the beginning of this and now the trial has to be extended. You’re moving the goalposts on all fronts.
Owen Paterson: No, that’s not right at all. The badgers moved the goalposts. We’re dealing with a wild animal, subject to the vagaries of the weather and disease and breeding patterns.
BBC News Interviewer: Well, doesn’t that make the cull ridiculous in itself then?
Well, yes. Yes, it does. But the cull has always been ridiculous in itself. And Paterson is quite right when he points out that badgers are wild animals, although I’m not sure how that would make them responsible for changing the rules of football – let alone a basic human inability to count correctly or shoot straight. Indeed, I suspect the badgers are probably less on the wild side and more like absolutely livid over all this stupidity. So livid, in fact, that I like to think they’ve run away with the goalposts so poor Mr Paterson can’t play football…
Seems I wasn’t the only one amused by the possibilities of this mental image – over at usvsth3m.com, they’ve got a fun Owen Paterson’s Badger Penalty Shoot-Out game where you can try to get the ball past a group of sneaky goalpost-moving badgers. It’s not as easy as it looks – the badgers beat me every time!
If people get genuinely upset and frustrated that four men that last played together 25 years ago are doing other things, then those people need to go and find a hobby. If the band only split up two years ago it might be a different matter, but 25 years? Come on. It’s a long time. If you like the Smiths, the records, photographs and memories are all plenty to be getting along with.
It’s long been known that Mr Marr is the type of chap who does not mince his words and says exactly what he thinks (in fact, he’s featured in Quote of the Day before, doing just that) – and it was only a matter of time before he commented on the endless cycle of Smiths reunion rumours that seem to do the rounds – online and off – on a regular basis. With Marr’s career seemingly back on the up – and Morrissey’s seemingly headed in the opposite direction – it appears (not for the first time) that many people see now as the perfect moment for this legendary band to get back on the road, at the very least.
But any member of any influential ex-band with a strong cult following like that of The Smiths will be bombarded with such rumours every so often – just as long as they stay an ex-band. Far-fetched stories of a Clash reunion were circulating right up until Joe Strummer’s death in 2002 (according to Pat Gilbert’s fascinating 2005 book Passion Is A Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash, the closest that came to happening was in 1996, oddly enough round about the same time as the Sex Pistols reformed), and the repeated mutterings that the bit of a rant from me a couple of years ago (the fact that they eventually did is still a bit of a sore point…)would get back together provoked a
Because that’s the thing. It’s never going to be the same, is it? When a band of that sort of status reforms, people are looking for nostalgia, looking for an experience that is just like it was back in the day. Basically, they’re looking for the greatest hits. And it’s never going to be like that, not after so long. Half-close your eyes and squint, and yeah, the band up on the stage could be exactly the same as the one you fell in love with twenty five years ago – but, to be honest, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that they’re all actually middle aged and have moved on with their lives, their careers, their interests.
I’m with Johnny on this one. I’ll hold tight to my memories and continue to enjoy the music that bands like The Smiths left behind.
And yes, I’ll carry on hoping they don’t reform…
As a human being it is very difficult not to have sympathy for somebody that I cared about deeply, but it is also important to remember that that person that I cared about deeply did not in fact exist. I cared deeply for somebody whose life was intermingled with mine, and that person’s life story is a fiction.
These are the words of an activist, named only as Lisa, who gave evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee last month. Lisa’s testimony about her ex-partner is part of the Committee’s Interim Report on undercover policing, a subject which has rightly caused a great deal of outcry and controversy over the last year or so.
The collapse of a high-profile court case against a group of environmental activists in early 2011 revealed that a police spy known as Mark Stone (real name Mark Kennedy) had successfully infiltrated various activist groups over a long period of time, acting as what can only be described as an agent provocateur.
This case was just the start of a series of revelations concerning the activities of Kennedy and a number of other undercover officers – revelations which have left many within the activist community quite rightly shocked and angered, and have led to wider calls for public inquiries and investigations into the use and tactics of police spies like Kennedy and his colleagues (hence the Home Affairs Committee’s involvement) .
She believed in genuine inspiration and was able to write quickly because she was so talented, but she never just knocked something off. She had real craft as well.
She wasn’t a good musician technically. She wasn’t interested in mastering an instrument, but she was great at putting chords together. Her expertise was melody, lyrics and harmony. She’s one of England’s greatest ever pop lyricists, she believed her songs should be almost like mini-novels, and she was a fucking Jedi at harmony… She had her own system that was all her own […]
She came from Stiff records and she was well suited to that no bullshit mentality: “A good pop song, get it right, don’t fuck about, we’re not hippies”. She was no nonsense, but at the same time she believed in magic. A true artist, in a class of one, and irreplaceable. – Johnny Marr
Twelve years ago today, the music world lost one of its most original and memorable talents to a tragic and completely avoidable accident. The untimely death of Kirsty McColl on December 18th 2000 came as a shock to music fans everywhere – her witty, wry and honest songwriting and endearingly distinctive voice had gained her many admirers over a twenty-plus year career.
Born into a musical family (her father was the legendary folk singer Ewan MacColl), Kirsty started her pop career – like so many of her generation of musicians – in a punk band. Although this project was unsuccessful, it brought her to the attention of the influential Stiff Records who signed her to a solo deal.
I was about 19 when I first heard a Patti Smith record. It was Horses. I remember sitting there, very taken by the sound of her voice, this ferocious delivery. Later I was struck by how literate her lyrics were, how intellectual and political. I loved how, in her songs, she talked about anything other than the love in her heart for a man. And I loved her image: this non-glam look with the chopped-off hair, looking like a skinny boy. She was the complete opposite of the images that were pumped into me as a child, of what I was supposed to aspire to as a woman.
She is a soldier. She will not be defeated. I look at today’s charts, at the women who are selling the most records, getting the most column inches, and I’m terrified by how so many of them are controlled by a male corporate idea of what women and rebels should be. When some teen-pop singer is taken seriously as a rebellious figure, we have a huge problem. I’m just glad that Patti is still willing to get up there and fight for what she believes in. It makes me feel less alone. – Shirley Manson
Whether you like her music or not, Patti Smith still cuts a distinctive, empowering figure in the creative world. Never less than entirely herself, she has stubbornly endured the decades, the changes in musical fashions and her own personal tragedies to remain an inspiration to generations of female (and male) musicians, poets, writers and artists – yet there is still no-one else anywhere near like her.
I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one.
These are the words of Malala Yousafzai, the 14 year old Pakistani schoolgirl who was, horrifically, shot in the head on her way to school last week. Why? Simply because this brave young woman is an outspoken advocate of education for girls – in a part of Pakistan where the Taliban have closed all girls’ schools and forbidden their education.
As I read Malala’s remarkable blog posts (originally published by the BBC – at the age of 11 – under a pseudonym for her own safety), it really brings it home to me how lucky I am, and how much I, as a woman, still take for granted about acquiring knowledge and educating myself. I may not have enjoyed school for a variety of reasons, but at least I had the opportunity of a formal education – and the freedom of choice to decide what to do with it afterwards. Yet there are so many the world over who still do not have these chances.
I have every admiration for Malala; admiration for her strength and her commitment to what she believes in, despite the obvious danger she has faced as a result. This young woman should be just beginning to really live her life, should be enjoying her education and her teenage years – she should not be lying in a hospital bed, fighting for her life because of the actions of a group of people who can’t see beyond their own twisted beliefs.
I wish you well, Malala – you are a strong, brave soul and I hope you pull through to get the education you so passionately desire.
As today would have been his 75th birthday…
Amongst all his legendarily Gonzo work, Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005) is still probably most renowned for his writings on the Nixon era of American politics. He first interviewed the notorious ex-president for a magazine in 1968, meeting Tricky Dicky in a car on their way to the infamous politician’s private campaign jet.
On the airport runway once the interview was over, Hunter said farewell to Nixon and exited the car, immediately going to light a cigarette. Before he could get flame to fag, however, he was rugby tackled from the side and his lighter ripped from his hand:
I thought they had mistaken me for an assassin and they mistook the lighter for some kind of weapon… but the Secret Service agent who tackled me helped me up and began apologising very quickly. It turned out they were fueling the plane and I was standing just a few feet from the gas tank. I could have blown the fucker up and saved this nation a lot of trouble.*
Goddammit Hunter. God. Damn. It. One little cigarette could have changed history….
* ‘Fear and Loathing: The Strange and Terrible Saga of Hunter S. Thompson’ – Paul Perry (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1993, p.130)
My favourite LP of that era [late 1960s] really was and remains, Country Joe’s Electric Music For The Mind And Body, and I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t in the charts, ‘cos everybody I knew had a copy of it. But, of course, it was actually that everybody who had a copy of it was somebody that I knew – John Peel
Behind the self-deprecating sense of humour and the semi-obscure 60’s musical references, Peel had a point. We’ve all done it in our own lives; got so caught up in our immediate surroundings that we forget to keep an eye on the bigger picture, not thinking about the importance of the wider context of our selves and our societies.
Incidentally, I have particularly noticed this tendency in politicians (where it often runs side by side with a damaging short-termist approach to politics). MPs and ministers are all so convinced that their party, their policies are right (welfare reform, anyone?) that they fail to notice that those on whom such policies will impact the hardest really don’t see or experience things that way….
Back in 2000, sixteen year old Bill Magee wrote to the singer-songwriter Fiona Apple, asking her if she could possibly pen a few lines in support of his high school’s gay-straight alliance. Much to his delight and amazement, he received a lovely handwritten letter from her a few days later – and this gorgeous paragraph is part of that note:
All I know is I want my friends to be good people, and when my friends fall in love, I want them to fall in love with other good people. How can you go wrong with two people in love? If a good boy loves a good girl, good. If a good boy loves another good boy, good. And if a good girl loves the goodness in good boys and good girls, then all you have is more goodness, and goodness has nothing to do with sexual orientation. A person who loves is a righteous person, and if someone has the ability and desire to show love to another – to someone willing to receive it, then for goodness sake, let them do it. Hate has no place in the equation; there is no function for it to perform. Love is love, and there will never be too much!
This just seems so simple and so obvious and so right to me – and to many others – but this opinion is still, sadly, by no means universally shared. There are still young people in many places who are not only having to deal with all the difficulties that adolescents everywhere face, but who are also the targets of vicious homophobic prejudice and hatred on a day-to-day basis, just for trying to be who they really are.
It is deeply saddening and disheartening to know that this sort of hatred is still going on. But the fact that there are more and more people out there who just want their friends and family members to be happy and to be loved, whoever it is they love (and here is a very endearing example of that), is something that gives me hope for the future.
Because Fiona Apple is right: it is not about hatred and fear. It is, instead, about loving and being loved without being afraid of bigotry. It is about the simple goodness of love, whoever it is you love.
And it is always about happiness, whoever you are.
People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.
You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.
Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.
You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.
Remix culture FTW! I believe this quote comes from Banksy’s 2004 (?) book Cut It Out, but his official website isn’t actually much help in this respect. Please feel free to leave a comment if you can confirm or know better…