Monthly Archives: July 2007

Bad geek humour

I’ve had this joke buzzing around my head all day, and although it isn’t particularly funny and so obscure that possibly only Jerry Seinfeld will understand it, I need to get it off my chest.

Two blokes walk into a bar. One is wearing his underpants over his trousers, the other has a bottle with a model city inside it.

The first man says to the second man: “I admire your Kandor.”

Sorry. I did say it was poor.

Is Britain broken?

I’ve just been peaking at the Tories’ consultation website, going by the bossy title of Stand up! Speak up! Straighten that tie! (I made the last bit up).

On it is a stark video about Britain’s ‘broken society’ illustrating how the UK is such a mess. Some of the statistics are undeniable, and if the economy was on a downward spiral they might be causing us problems, but does Britain actually feel broken? It’s easy to say, but good marketing is only effective if it resonates. Does this?

Perhaps I’m showing my age, but in 1997, it did feel like that, and it did feel like it was time for a change. That was why, even though I wasn’t even tempted to vote tactically for Labour, I was celebrating as loudly as any Blairite on election night.

The bottom line is, civil libertarian and environmentalist though I may be, it is the economy, stupid. This new Tory narrative may work if we suddenly enter a recession, but I can’t see it working otherwise. Combined with the new Cameroon strategy of shoving dilettantes and top hatted buffoons down our throats, and finger waving about marriage, and I just don’t see them capturing the public imagination. At a time when they needed to realise we are living in the 21st century, they seem obsessed with making us believe we’re living in the 19th. Perhaps this explains their Dickensian analysis of the state we’re in.

Thrill-Power Overload

Thrill Power OverloadHopelessly late, Thrill Power Overload – the history of British comic 2000AD – finally arrived in the post yesterday. It was well worth the wait.

For some reason, I wasn’t expecting a coffee-table book. I suspect the decision to produce it in this format was a relatively late one – hence the lateness and the enormous price-hike (although having ordered it on Amazon months ago, I ended up paying a third of its cover price!). In any case it was a great move – the book looks fantastic.

Needless to say, I haven’t read it cover-to-cover yet, although I did read its original serialisation in the Judge Dredd Megazine. Having said that, a third of it is apparently new material, so there is clearly much to discover.

Bishops’ text in the Megazine was often brutally revealing and didn’t pull its punches, particularly over the dark days when Egmont owned the comic and was pretty much content to run it into the ground. Don’t expect a mutual back-slapping exercise. Particularly during its first decade, the 2000AD creators have always tended to vent their frustrations with management in a coded way within the comic itself, and so attempts to pretend it was all happy families would be futile. When the NUJ called IPC workers out on strike and forced the comic to suspect publication for a month, the drama was recounted in a strip in which the creator droids, under the influence of the Dictators of Zrag, demanded extra oil rations from the Mighty Tharg. Most notoriously, Prog 500 featured Tharg’s Head Revisited – a chance for a group of artists and writers to vent their spleen at years of lousy wages and bad treatment. As this was one of the first issues I ever bought, a lot of it went completely over my head, but even then it was a thrilling read.

Despite a slight dip in quality in the early noughties, 2000AD has been back on a high for the past decade in my humble opinion. It has managed to keep the right balance of continuity and moving with the times. The current run of the comic is on a particular roll. Pat Mills has been producing his best work in years (he seems to have finally learned to keep his pontificating under control – Dafoe is a particular delight), John Wagner seems to be building up to something interesting in Judge Dredd (is the old git about to turn into a democrat?!) and Nikolai Dante seems to be building up to a delicious crescendo. There is a fin de siecle feeling to the comic overall at the moment, similar to how it felt in the late 90s just before its landmark Prog 2000; a sense that the creators are feeling the weight of 30 years.

2000AD is a cultural landmark. Strips like Judge Dredd are as uncomfortably relevant now as they were when it started (arguably more so, thanks to Tony Blair). It has infected two generations of (mostly) male youths with its own brand of paranoia, black humour, anti-dogmatism and anti-racism (okay, okay, it has tended to avoid full on anti-racism instead depending on analogies about robots, aliens and mutants, but one would have to be subnormal not to make the link). Most of the “Kapow! Comics grows up!” Trans-Atlantic phenomenon can be traced back to it despite the fact that so few people on the other side of the pond have ever seen it. While Tank Girl was never a 2000AD character, the Manchester International Festival would almost certainly not have just opened with Albarn and Hewlett’s Monkey last month: no 2000AD, no Deadline.

30 years of continued publication is a success in anyone’s book (your dad’s Eagle came and went in an instant in comparison). If it wasn’t so self-consciously anti-establishment, and if it didn’t refuse to take itself seriously, it would be knighthoods and Queens Garden Party invites all round. Hopefully this book will go some way to getting the comic the national appreciation it deserves; maybe my fellow Squaxx ought to take a leaf out of Richard Dawkins’ book? 🙂

Lembit must resign!!!

Seriously, although I am of course referring to his leadership of the party rather than is status as MP for Montgomeryshire. It’s nothing personal, but as I said last week, the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats can’t be a separate post from the party’s Shadow Welsh Secretary in the Commons and the Leader of the Assembly Group. And, while I consider the Plaid-Labour coalition to be the best option for Wales under the circumstances, it is a coalition that will quite probably be measured in months rather than years. The new Welsh Party leader needs to have his or her feet under the table before it all goes pear-shaped.

Frankly, I’m a bit surprised he hasn’t already quit. We should possibly give him the benefit of the doubt and leave it until after the by-elections (it might cause a distraction otherwise), but really does need to happen soon. If he hasn’t jumped by the 23rd, I may have to start getting shouty.

The Lab-Con Hokey Kokey

You put your right leg in, your right leg out, in, out, in, out, shake it all about

There is a serious side to all this. The degree by which the Tory and Labour camps in Ealing Southall are attempting to manipulate the Sikh and other communities is truly breathtaking. More to the point, I’m not sure it is all that effective. Throughout the 80s and 90s all parties, but particularly Labour, tended to treat minority ethnic groups as handy block votes that could easily be bought and sold by offering the so-called “community leaders” morsels such as a community centre here, a link with (read: money siphoned off to) a school in Kashmir there, etc. etc. It was the height of cynicism, but it generally worked and the minority ethnic communities themselves were the worse for it because they found themselves in a perpetual state of ghettoisation, with individuals emerging as major power brokers simply because the political class felt they were useful.

This has been slowly changing however. The Iraq War was a major corrective, at least as far as Muslims were concerned, but there have been broader generational shifts. Over the past couple of years there have been a growing number of initiatives designed to counteract this corporatist approach, such as the New Generation Network.

What I seem to be seeing in Ealing Southall is Labour coming a cropper of years of adopting the old approach. The Tories’ response however seems to be to walk into the same trap at precisely the time when it ceases to be useful. How impressed will Southall’s young second and third generation Sikhs be with all these shenanigans? Tony Lit started by trying to present himself as something new and fresh, but has spent the last week embracing the old guard. This tactic would surely be useful if the Sikh community was a homogenised block, but is that true?

More to the point, is the Sikh vote that important? In Southall, sure, but across the constituency they make up just 18% of the population. Are the Tories banking on the Hindus and Muslims (who, combined, make up another fifth) following in line with their turbaned neighbours? If so, then they are dafter than I thought. And what is the majority white population making of all this effervescent silliness that the Tories seem obsessed with?

We shall see, we shall see. But I can’t help but suspect that for all their noise, the Tories may end up in not that much stronger a position in the constituency after the election than they were before it. Either way, they will have a long term price to pay.

EXCLUSIVE: I’m confused about who is a Tory and who is Labour

Can someone sort this out for me. Earlier today, Pravdale was claiming that the Tories had claimed another Labour scalp in Ealing, but Comical Tommy is claiming this is balls. Yet Pravdale still hasn’t issued a correction – which in fairness to him he usually does do relatively promptly. Either way, this potentially explosive story doesn’t appear to have had the same impact as Shappgate, which is odd.

So who is telling the truth?

In some respects, this is entirely understandable. I can’t tell the difference between Tories and Labour at the best of times these days, yadda yadda yadda…