Monday, August 25, 2008

Sisters of Mercy - Dominion

Anyone who wasn't a goth in the 80s is a fool, a bloody fool.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Yesterday I decided it was time to do a long overdue good deed. I was down near the hospital anyway, so I went to register as a blood donor. Since I’ve been paying regular healthcare contributions and indeed receiving regular healthcare here for a number of years now, I thought this would be no problem. In fact, although my experience of any kind of official institution here had warned me not to expect red carpet treatment, I thought that given the number of posters around town calling for new blood donors, my contribution would be at least reasonably welcome.

Not so. I announced my intention to the nurse at reception, who told me that I was too late to register that day (i.e. it was after 1 pm), but that I could read through the conditions and then fill out a form when I returned to register properly. On the way out I decided to check out the list of factors excluding persons from giving blood, just to be sure. I mean, I’m of a corresponding age and weight, I’m in reasonably good health, but still, best to be on the safe side. Sailed through the first few points … never suffered from toxoplasmosis, syphilis (oh please, what do you take me for?), not an alcoholic... no way, not by Czech standards. Wait a minute though… anyone who spent more than 6 months in England or France between 1980 and 1996 is disqualified?? Having spent almost the entirety of that period in England I was a little put out by this. Could this be true? I went back to the nurse, explaining my position. She called a doctor just to check and then assured me that unfortunately yes, I was disqualified from giving blood. Why? Due to mad cow disease, regardless of the miniscule number of humans who’ve contracted it, and despite the fact that it has subsequently been detected here. I suppose it’s another of those things I can blame on Thatcher, the horrible bitch. My blood is reject. In the Czech Republic I’m officially regarded as belonging to a sub-race.

Going to watch the football in the evening, in which a dismal England were lucky to scrape a draw against a superior Czech Republic, even if it was only a friendly, did little to bolster my sense of national pride, or to erase the haunting image of cattle from my brain. Managers come and go, but that bovine lack of inspiration that pervades the England team is perennial. We deserved to lose, and in some ways I wish we had, even if it would have made my life here miserable for the foreseeable future. Nothing at all has changed, and I’m starting to despair of it ever doing so. Evidently my fellow countrymen felt similarly. At the final whistle the herd of English fans, not at all fooled by our late, scrappy equaliser, expressed their view of the performance with the only appropriate response:


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Photograph not posted for obvious reasons

Random pet hates: Julie fucking Burchill

I can’t explain why I clicked on this fatuous pile of crap the other day on the Guardian’s website, but foolishly I did, and it was enough to set me off. Although I’ve mostly skirted round her absurdly self-satisfied and poisonous flatulence over the years, the little I have seen has been quite enough to fuel my rampant loathing of her and certainly enough to discourage me from ever investigating her early punk writings, when she was supposedly groundbreaking.

This woman suffers from a diabolical excess of self-belief. And what of actual substance lies at the heart of all this needling portentiousness? Absolutely fuck all, nothing but Julie Burchill, which on her terms is more than sufficient. Every hateful, worthless pronouncement of hers simply screams MEMEMEMEMEMEMEME! Burchill doesn’t have opinions, merely projections of self. She approves or disapproves of any given notion not as a result of any thoughtful consideration, but wholly on the basis of how Burchillian it sounds, how far it will promote her own image to espouse it. So despite the obvious discrepancies in terms of their purported ideals, she was simultaneously able to profess her admiration for both the former Soviet Union and for Thatcher, doubtless identifying with the vacuous, bloody-minded nastiness of both and screw the ideology. After all, ideals mean having to believe in something above and beyond oneself.

The above-mentioned article (in which she claims to believe in god!) is replete with examples of this staggering egomania, though I’m sure those of a masochistic bent could find hundreds more strewn over the internet. The beginning of the article is indicative: “I’m a…, I’m a….”. This is what I believe, aren’t I clever? There’s no rationale here, this is a woman who wouldn’t recognise an argument if it hit her in the face (something I’ve often dreamed about). She merely veers from arch smugness, for example in the description of her reaction to the death of her parents, to unwarranted bullying. Attack is evidently the best form of defence, the nearest she gets to defending her views is to vilify anyone who disagrees. Better to mock your opponents’ imagined motivations/social class/appearance/whatever else comes to mind than examine their case, in which event a mediocre intellect such as hers would assuredly lose the debate. So those who’ve lost their faith when a parent dies are held up to ridicule, whilst those (like Burchill herself, might I conjecture?) who may conversely have turned to the comfort of faith as a consequence of some unhappiness or misfortune are let off the hook. Surely both are equally contemptible, or to take a more humane view which Burchill is patently incapable of, equally understandable.

Likewise atheists are described as “profoundly immature”, all convinced that they are “the first person, ever, to see with a white-hot, burning clarity straight to the heart of society's attempts to manipulate and control us all for its own ends”. Taking a historical view the conclusion of religion as opium of the people, amongst other of its evils, might be hard to avoid, which of course doesn’t in itself disprove the existence of god, but don’t tell me she really believes her own insult to human intelligence that atheists think they’re the first person ever to come to such a conclusion. Judging the rest of us by her own wretched standards she further contends, in an imperious contrast with her own implied bravery, that atheists’ prime motivation for their lack of belief is a desire to be on the winning side. Right, not due to a lack of evidence for the existence of god then? And anyway, is there something wrong with being on the winning side? Intellectually the case for atheism is unbeaten, so therefore atheists are cowards. What inaccurate fucking pointless fucking stupidity.

She ends with an outburst of such toe-curling piety and hypocrisy (about which she’s had the gall to write a book) that even hardened Burchill-watchers will be struggling to keep their breakfast down. Paraphrasing her favourite vicar, who for all I know may be an entirely decent human being, she claims that she’s “trying to be a Christian”. No you’re not, are you Julie? You didn’t have to slate those who’ve lost their faith (which you admit is “a bit un-Christian” – well, at least you waited for two whole paragraphs before you started on that, well done!). But then again of course you had to, didn’t you? Why? Because you’re Julie Burchill.

Most infuriating and perplexing is why she’s been tolerated for so long. Perhaps because, as Thatcher managed with such breathtaking hypocrisy, she plays the class card. If in doubt make a virtue out of the fact that you didn’t go to university, sneer at your detractors’ backgrounds and accuse them of intellectual snobbery (usually a fair indication that they’ve won the argument). A few years ago she accused the Guardian of “vile anti-Semitism”, but despite affecting to despise the paper and its readers she’s back there now, lapping up their middle-class milk and honey and patronising of her as some kind of exotic pet, the domesticated proletarian rentaquote battleaxe. An easy target maybe, but she’s still there, isn’t she? Scum, scum, scum.