01 Dec

About ISIS, Christmas and Sprouts

Okay, today I’ve just posted a new article over at TW&TW asking if there’s any way that ISIS can emerge from the current conflict with something resembling a victory. My intention to get anything else finished today flew out the window the moment I realised I had to do some shopping.

All the usual shops are in the Christmas spirit already. I’ve not been in the Christmas spirit for about ten years. There have been times when I used to mildly look forward to Christmas but that’s whenever I’ve been trapped in some deadend job. Christmas was always an excuse to do my own thing for two weeks. In periods of self-employment, Christmas is just a thing to get in the way of my doing the things I really love to do: writing and cartooning. When working, Christmas was time for the Work’s Christmas Meal and I’ve always tried to avoid those whenever I can. Those I’ve gone to have been horrible drunken affairs filled with people not very funny when sober but even worse when drunk. Since I don’t drink, I tend to sit there feeling unwelcome and utterly bored.

People naturally assume that I’m miserable. I’m not. Most of the time I’m a clown who doesn’t need alcohol to warp my reality. I find my reality warped enough. I’m also consistent. I think it would be hypocritical of me to criticise the religions of other people if, at the same time, I was wearing reindeer antlers or celebrating the birth of a guy I don’t believe was immaculately conceived and rose from the dead.

What annoys me most of all about Christmas is that I’m not so dim that I can’t see what’s going on. The shops have computer systems that just rotate the stock on certain days. There’s a mechanical indifference about these seasons and it’s usually people with the least money that spend the most ‘for the children’. It’s sad as it is predatory. And though people think I hate Christmas because I’m a ‘Scrooge’, I actually hate Christmas because I see people made unhappy because of the false illusions of happiness forced to us at Christmas. I despise those John Lewis ads, which have become ‘a thing’ each year. They are nothing but illusions wrapped around illusions. The food looks good when photographed but, in reality, is probably stone cold, the steam is liquid nitrogen, and the colour of the turkey is probably painted on. I really don’t want to live my life by other people’s lies.

Lastly, I hate people using Christmas to say how much they hate sprouts. Everybody hates sprouts except for me. I love sprouts. If I could chance Christmas, I’d change it to a sprout festival. And, yes, in case you haven’t guesses: I’m still typing this rubbish straight into the browser window and not doing a jot of editing. So if there were any typos in any of the above, I’m sorry. I now need to go write something that might (in theory) make me enough money to eat my favourite vegetable this Sproutmicklemas.


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30 Nov

Monday’s Corbyn Cartoon


Such a grim morning. It’s 11am and all the lights are already on. Normally November is my favourite month but this past four weeks have been nothing but rain. Not that I dislike rain. Given a choice I’d choose rain over sun. I’m wired strangely in that respect. But an entire month or rain and/or gales… It would be a relief to see a little daylight. Even my solar powered watch has died on me and when I’m not wearing it I leave it sitting on a table where it can be sure to catch the sun.

Today I have to write, only I have no idea what I’ll write about. It’s not often that is happens that I sit down without some idea I’ve been thinking about for days. My ambition this week is to tray a new sending a pitch to a magazine I’ve not yet pestered with my ideas. My job now is to find an idea worth pitching. That’s not so easy when it’s so dark my body is telling me it’s time to go back to bed.

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29 Nov

New Jeremy Corbyn cartoon and a bit about my nightmares


I suppose I should know the name of the storm that’s currently raging but, as I explained last week, happy not to know. It feels more primal this way. And speaking of primal: my dreams are getting worse. The previous night’s were bad but last night they were genuine nightmares, something I so rarely have. I had at least two last night. In the first, a relative rang to ask me about Plato and the colour yellow. I know nothing about Plato or the colour yellow but recollect muttering something about Platonic ideals. I then found myself in some college talking to him on the phone when a woman told me off for discarding a sheet of A4 without covering it. I swore and left the college but discovered I didn’t know where I was. I was in a bus terminal and a woman with bright red hair told me I was in London. I was utterly lost. There was a lot more to the dream than this: including a ride in the back of a taxi in which the driver was amassing a ball of Haribo tantastics, one of which turned into a rainbow striped worm and tried to get into my shoe.

At some point, I  woke up and when I fell back to sleep had the second nightmare. I was rushing to catch a flight from the local airport (which was conveniently at the local railway station). We landed in the Far East and racing through streets chased by locals who had been painted white and with sharpened teeth (I’d been reading an article about George Miller and Mad Max before I went to bed, which at least explains this bit). The whole thing then became a nightmare about Ken Loach films which I can’t quite understand or fully remember. It was in black and white and at one point involved my parachuting off a viaduct and landing in a barrel of water where I met a bunch of hippies including a young Helen Mirren.

Needless to say, I really don’t understand any of the above. Perhaps if I did, I wouldn’t have explained it in such great detail… Any psychoanalysts out there who can see through the mud, I’d be very grateful for an explanation. The bit about the worm really freaked me out.

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28 Nov

A Goodbye Grant Shapps Cartoon…


An otherwise lazy day which wasn’t as lazy as I intended to make it when I got up this morning. Wrote every day last week but was feeling it by the time I settled down last night. Intended to have a complete day off, except last night I had a very strange and vivid dream about being at the local market where Tony Beets (from TV’s Gold Rush) had a second-hand book stall. It was probably a nightmare, if I’m honest. I could see books I wanted but couldn’t afford. By the time I woke up this morning at 7am, I was eager to work. Wrote a bit and then I drew this but the day never got brighter than a dim murk so the effort is 50%. Yet I felt I had to mark the resignation of Shapps, who has always struck me as one of the least pleasant political operators. There’s a type of politician who always get my back up. They tend to be the self-made millionaires whose self-made status is founded upon something quite unpleasant. Perhaps that explains the Beets dream whose success is earned through hard work. I’ve always wanted a beard like Tony Beets and the hands too to prove that I work and I work hard. Yet I have neither. No evidence. Just cartoons like this or essays that few read.

Did I mention how dark it’s been today? I think it’s time to break out my lamp and dose myself with some happy rays.

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26 Nov

On John McDonnell, spam & not much more…


Welcome to the place I like to think of as The Arse End of Nowhere. I’m again blogging daily in that I’ve managed to blog for six successive days and a few more before that My new technique of typing straight into the editor window helps. It stops me falling into my best habit of editing for hours. The down side is that this is not how I usually write. This is me at my worst. Unedited. Unpolished. Unstructured.

Today, I recommend my new article about John McDonnell. You can read it over at The What & The Why. There’s also a cartoon and a bit of Photoshopping. I was quite pleased with all three.

Meanwhile, back here at TAEON, I’m under SPAM attack. That’s the worst of coming back to a blog. I’ve lost what few regular readers I had but I’ve gained a place on the lists of sites that Spammers use. I’ve had four emails today asking me if I’d like bulk buy traffic cones from China. Three fake comments got through my defences and tried to sell you plastic straws (also from China). I also seem to have found myself on some list of business people in the North West and they keep asking me to attend a networking session at some local hotel starting at 6am in the morning. Even if I was a business man looking to network, I would not get up at 6am in the morning. It’s an unGodly hour and even if I am unGodly, I’m not getting up that early.

My piece about Dawkins is coming along slowly. Phrasing things just the right way can be pain. I’m constantly trying to anticipate how my words can be misconstrued by people deliberately looking to misconstrue.

Also trying to find a job or work, which is soul destroying given that I only want to write and draw. People my age usually have careers around them or behind them. I just have years of strange and questionable accomplishments. I joke with people that I’ll end up sweeping the streets but, really, I think that’s probably aiming too high. All the good street sweeping jobs will have gone. What jobs for somebody hugely overqualified for most things, no track record in other things, and a whole lot of skills that nobody would want this end of the country? I couldn’t even work for a local newspaper since my skills aren’t exactly suited to detailing the drama of a chimney pot falling down. This time next year, I’ll be lucky to be living in a tent.

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25 Nov

On Robert Mugabe, Richard Dawkins, & Jeremy Corbyn

Over at TW&TW I’m talking not too seriously about Robert Mugabe and his wheels.  I even drew a cartoon which took a ridiculously long time to cross hatch…Mugabe-Cartoon

Meanwhile, I’m again writing this blog post quickly. It will be unedited and published straight to the blog in the spirit of my new blogging strategy.

Today I’ve been trying to get my mind around the question of religious tolerance with specific interest in the Twitter battle that Richard Dawkins has found himself waging. I’m not sure I’ll be able to knock my words into a decent essay but, if I do, I think I’ll have explained something that I’ve repeatedly found difficult to explain. Briefly: I worry that we are losing sense of free speech in the name of tolerance. We have been so indoctrinated by certain liberal values that too many people seem incapable of simple logical thought. Dawkin’s is also victim of an obvious anti-intellectualism at work in the UK. Our great scientists and thinkers are lauded in America. In the UK, we barely hear a peep from them until they’re being hounded by the slobbering mob, spluttering with half-conceived indignation. It’s time that we can have serious debates in this country without people sending up distress flares every time somebody challenges something we take for granted.

I was, however, a bit distracted by the House of Commons. I noted with some incredulity that John McDonnell took out his Mao at the Dispatch Box today. It beggars belief.

My politics are neither to the left nor the right. I like politicians of both sides of the House and dislike with equal impartiality. I’ve always had mixed feelings about Corbyn. He never struck me as a guy to rouse my enthusiasm but, when he won, I could see why people voted for him. He’s not political in the way that Cameron is political. He’s difficult, odd, unpolished. I like that he debates, even when I disagree with his points. He feels sincere in the things he says and doesn’t fall into the tropes of typical career politicians. He makes good points about subjects such as mental health. Yet he also makes huge mistakes, even if he makes them for the right reasons. Not leaping up and fist pumping when asked if he’d bomb Syria was, in truth, an adult response. Yet the media can spin it too easily. He needed to pump the air and shout ‘hell yes’ because the media know no other response.

McDonnell made, I think, the biggest political miscalculation since Michael Foot’s donkey jacket. If the electorate worry about your Marxist credentials, you do not take out Mao’s Little Red Book in the House of Commons, even if the point you are making is a sensible one. The point about the Tories selling our power infrastructure to the Chinese was a good one. McDonnell should, however, have realised that the symbolism of the image is worth more than his words.

Yet the problem goes deeper. That he would quote from the book suggests that Mao figures quite largely in his political thought processes. That should be enough to convince anybody that New Old Labour is not working. I understand why people would how that it could but, really, Labour voters need to decide if they want power or their principals. England and particularly Middle England will never vote for a left wing party. Not because people even understand what left wing means but simply because the media will tell them that ‘left wing’ means trouble.

In a better world, we would all be deeply invested in politics and unaffected by media bias. However, we live in this world. The media will never allow Corbyn to succeed and there is nothing to suggest that in the next four years the media will become less important in the way people make their decisions. After a four weeks media blitz, Labour will be lucky to emerge with a vote in the high teens. McDonnell’s performance today should convince Labour’s grandees that this is an experiment doomed to fail. For the sake of democratic politics we need a viable opposition. There’s no point wasting four years to discover this sad fact. From where I sit today, whoever leads the next Tory government will be walking into Downing Street. Irrespective of your politics, that’s not good for democracy and not good for the nation.

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24 Nov

Turkey, Hitchens & Maher

Funny how events on the other side of the globe change your plans. Yesterday I wrote a light-hearted piece which I hoped would see the light this afternoon. Then the news changed my plans and over at TW&TW I’ve written a very quick piece about Turkey shooting down the Russian jet.

In contrast to that piece, I’m again typing this straight to the blog. No editing. No polishing. But given a couple of hours extra thought, I’m still shocked at what Turkey has done. Whatever way you look at the mess of the Middle East, you realise that so much of it runs across national borders and into ancient ethnic feuds. Turkey seems to be facing huge problems. It has to decide on which bank of the Bosporus its loyalties lie. I can’t imagine many people in NATO feel reassured about today’s rash act. The one fault in having a common defense is the assumption that other nations share your values. I’m not entirely sure what values Turkey has at the moment under President Erdoğan. This is the guy who was jailing cartoonists who dared to criticise him.

‘Sharing values’ reminds me that last night I watched a couple of very old episodes of Real Time with Bill Maher. Real Time is probably my favourite TV show because the UK has nothing like it. Nothing has the passion but also the insight. It’s unafraid of being intelligent but also confused, which is the perfect starting place for debate. It’s sometimes outrageously angry and a perfect example was the second episode I watched from the mid 2000s. Christopher Hitchens was one of the guests and there was a wonderful moment he turned to the audience and flipped them the bird, as they say in America. He seemed to love deliberately agitating the audience over their views towards Middle East. Hitchens, you might remember, was firmly in favour of the war.

Sadly, Hitchens is no longer with us. We still have the war. Everything we see today grew out of the decisions we made back then but I try to understand why Hitchens was so wrong. And it does seem to me that he was largely wrong. In many respect, his instincts were correct. Yet, on reflection, it’s Bill Maher who seemed to be the prophet, warning us that we had no place in the Middle East. Hitchens was driven, I guess, by a greater sense of moral outrage. He couched his arguments in the terrors of the Saddam regime. He talked about liberating people.

Where he went wrong, I guess, was in having too much hope for humanity and underplaying the malevolent force of religion. I don’t suppose it’s much of a surprise that it was his atheism that first attracted me to read Hitchens. Few writers have written as powerfully about the faults of religion but Hitchens was far too rational. He trusted that people given freedom would choose democracy. The fact is that rationality is something that can’t be imposed and it can’t always be taught. As Turkey today proved: sometimes people just make extremely dumb choices.

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23 Nov

Talking Anonymous, Cartoons, & Rafa Benitez

Over at TW&TW, I’ve been talking about hacking and the Anonymous collective.

Meanwhile, here I’m still typing straight into my editor window as part of my new drive to blog more regularly. I’ve realised that if I do this for five or ten minutes a day, there’s no desire to edit, polish, or just labour over the work of blogging. Straight from brain to blog and damn the results. Nobody reads it anyway. Anything that I really labour over will be published elsewhere. Let this be a proper blog.

Today I intend to write about dictatorships. I’m also drawing an illustration which I’ve about 70% finished. I’ve decided to stop colouring my cartoons. It was making be pretty depressed. It’s other people who tell me that cartoons have to be in colour. It means that I’d changed my habits and didn’t bother with cross hatching. Yet I’d forgot that I’m doing this mainly for myself and I love the look of cross hatching. I love the look of a finished cartoon when it’s just black and white. A little colour can set it off but I’ve not been enjoying the long time it takes to draw a full colour cartoon. Cross hatching probably takes longer and is more pschologically challenging but at least I love the result.

So what else has grabbed my attention other than the bloody cold weather?

Oh, yes. Looks like Rafa’s going to be sacked by Real Madrid. It’s said but expected. Nobody in their right mind would want to manage Madrid. The club has a horrible culture and horrible way of dealing with its managers. Plus I don’t buy into Galácticos. What is the point in buying all the best players? There can be no pleasure in winning and every misery attached with losing and even drawing. Surely the point of being a fan of football is that you follow the development of your team. If you’re always ‘there’, at the end point, then where is the pleasure? I also can’t stand Ronaldo. I suppose it’s one of those great philosophical divisions of our day: Ronaldo or Messi. Myself, I’m a Messi man. Give me the football and sod the mechandising and hype.

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22 Nov

Memes, Thoughts, Livingstone & Corbyn

It seems obvious to say it but a meme is not the same as a thought but I’m saying just that over at TW&TW.

Sunday. Not much to say but I’m typing straight to the blog again. No editing. No polishing to make this flow or funny or even remotely entertaining. This is raw data from my brain to yours, should you exist.

Today I’m writing and later I might well be drawing. Not sure what I’ll be writing or drawing but currently intrigued by the notion of being a ‘bigot’. A bigot is ‘a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own.’ I saw a video on the LBC website of the Labour party MP John Mann accuse Ken Livingstone of being a bigot. He kept repeating the word throughout the exchange and, by the end, I wasn’t quite sure what he meant. I’m not sure that Mann knew what he meant. If being a bigot is somebody who intolerant of other people’s opinions, then I’d guess that most people are bigots. It’s the basic human condition and I’m thankful that it is. I would hope I’ll always be a bigot, intolerant of the opinions of fools.

I’m writing this quickly, with no research, but I assume that bigot has started to be applied more widely. Mann was using is as though accusing Livingstone of holding some outmoded notion of mental health. Ken had said in a recent interview that shadow defence minister Kevan Jones ‘might need psychiatric help’.

I have no real thought out position on the ‘pschiatric help’ comment except to ask if it would have been treated any differently if he’s said the guy was ‘bonkers’ or had ‘obviously been hit over the head’? We could quite easily pull language apart and find all manner of affront buried in there. Is a parent telling their kids that it’s ‘bedlam in here’, demeaning the old hospital of the same name? Livingstone’s comment was more direct than that, of course, but it’s this kind of petty political correctness that is the greatest danger to anybody wanting more civilized debates. If we can’t use the vocabulary of ‘madness’, then we can’t really say anything at all except to push it into the shadows and pretend that it’s not a very normal aspect of the human condition. Again, I’m writing this quickly and might well be wrong.

The main reason I note this spat is that it’s precisely the kind of thing that I assumed would happen as soon as Corbyn got elected. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here again: it’s not the big issues that will bring Corbyn down. It will be the squabbles about the correct etiquette around opening a door when both men and women want to get through it. It will be deciding who sits where at the table and ensuring that the lunch isn’t offensive to anybody in the room. Corbyn will be defeated by undergraduate politics. And that is a shame because, in some respects, he does bring a welcome maturity to politics. I’ve enjoyed seeing him make Cameron squirm at PMQs. I also like politicians that don’t given glib answers to questions that were deliberately set up to produce a glib answer. I like that Corbyn is breaking the usual rhythms of political reporting. Yet, I also know, he’s a disaster for democracy. We have no viable opposotion in the UK and that is dangerous, unhealthy, and plain foolish. In Labour heartlands people will love him but for the voters who float and decide matters, he is not and never will be the answer.

Lastly: hugely impressed by Liverpool’s victory last night. Not just the result but the performance gives me hope for the future.


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