Gun Control

Cover Paint by Loopy Dave

Cover Paint by Loopy Dave

There’s a lot to admire about America. And a lot of what’s good about the nation is fun, which is of a kind of Norman Rockwell, Hilaire Belloc, Mark Twain, Saturday Night Live thing which is well exemplified by the art of Loopy Dave (featured above).

However, there’s also a sickness in America which goes back to the days of the Founding Fathers, such as the addiction with slavery and the related submission of the interests of the people of the United States to those of big business, even when those corporations leave most of their wealth in the Cayman Isles, the Bahamas and the little known Swiss canton of Zug. In fact, American politics is nothing more than a mouthpiece of the diverse business interests of American capital, between those who believe in the naked unmediated viciousness of money and those who believe in some modicum of enlightened self-interest. But whatever happens it seems that the interests of business takes priority over everything else.

In its most obscene form there have been the efforts of the tobacco industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the food industry and (worst of all) the arms industry to pursue their interests at the quite obvious expense of the American electorate that time and time again are deluded into pledging support for the power of capital above anything else. Even a very modest health package, derided as Obamacare, has suffered a ridiculous degree of obstruction.

More Americans have died at the hands of domestic guns than have from foreign conflict. More Americans have died in schoolyard massacres and the like than have from terrorism in the last twenty years. And yet Americans remain wedded to guns. Just as they do to low fuel prices, low corporation tax, high calorie diets and mindless daytime TV.

The worry for the rest of the world, even those who like the good things of America and aren’t really that much better in many ways, is that the so-called leadership of those United States may not be as good a thing as some would like to think. After winning the First and Second World Wars (both of which America got involved in only when it was obvious it could only win), the land of the prairie where the buffalo no longer roam has been almost as malevolent an influence as the unlamented Soviet Union and it seems that for many nations that the biggest benefit of the end of the Cold War was the associated end of American influence (an influence it tries to reassert on the fanciful threat of a war on terrorism, even when in the most recent terrorist outrage in Kenya it was American and British citizens who masterminded the carnage).

I just hope America’s people will eventually liberate themselves from the baleful influence of big business and live up to the promise of their own constitution.


Mercury Awards 2013

Jon Hopkins - Immunity

Jon Hopkins – Immunity

So, it’s the Mercury Awards 2013 and this time with no token Jazz presence. Perhaps not surprising after the Roller Trio blew all the tedious rock bands off stage.

Not surprisingly, there are still rock bands in this year’s Mercury Awards including the old reliable Arctic Monkeys who have admittedly recorded one or two decent singles but are best celebrated for their uncompromising attitude towards all the crap in the music industry. But it’s the presence of non-rock bands that attracts my attention.

Who’ll win this time? Probably the Arctic Monkeys or the Foals, but maybe Laura Mvula. Maybe even Disclosure, although out-and-out dance acts generally do about as well as jazz acts. My own favourites are James Blake with the remarkable Overgrown or Jon Hopkins with the equally impressive Immunity.

Even though I’m far from delighted that there is not even a small chance for a jazz victory, despite the exceptional records in the past year from Sons of Kemet and Quercus, at least the tedious and doggedly unimaginative rock guitar bands are in lesser numbers than earlier years.

And no Mumford and Sons (despite the inevitable presence of Jake Bugg and the veteran glam rocker David Bowie), so not all bad.

Published for Pay

Blue Girl Reading (1935). Frederick C. Frieseke (American, 1874-1939). Oil on canvas.

Blue Girl Reading (1935). Frederick C. Frieseke (American, 1874-1939). Oil on canvas.

I received a very niceand complimentary e-mail  from a reader of Stories Online . However, as she or he has chosen to remain Anonymous, I can’t just re-print his/her e-mail, but in the e-mail there was the following:

If you are not already publishing for pay somewhere, I would imagine it’s only because you haven’t tried or haven’t met the right editor or publisher yet.

Well, I have been published for pay, but not for a great deal of money, when I was a regular contributor to the now defunct Ruthie’s Club and I’ve received remuneration (again not very much) for contributing to other websites, but I haven’t been published in print (unless you count the option available on Lulu to buy my fiction in paperback format).

It would be easy for me to pretend that I’ve specifically chosen not to be published in a more legitimate fashion and thereby enable my books to be available at Waterstones, WH Smiths and Asda, but the truth is that it is very difficult to get published in that way and I just haven’t got the patience, persistence and self-belief to put the effort in to realise that ambition. And in any case, I cherish my anonymity rather more than I expect to gain from the paltry income which is all that the greater majority of authors ever earn. For every best-selling author and the many more who earn a tolerable living, there are many more who earn just about what you get from working at Primark or McDonald’s (although in much more pleasant surroundings).

The publishing industry is in a strange kind of crisis, rather like that in the film and music industries, where the traditional ways of doing things have been overturned by the internet and where there have generally been more losers than winners. Self-publishing threatens the traditional publishers who are now much more conservative in what they choose to print, but their relative decline is not necessarily a good thing. It isn’t just long lunch-breaks and juicy advances that are threatened, there are also the services that the traditional publishers and literary agents offer the writer, such as professional proof-reading, publicity, book-tours and kudos.

Even though I don’t participate directly in the publishing industry and just use free outlets to circulate my fiction, it’s a worry to me as to how the literary professions will survive or rather, given the example of the music industry, in what shape literature will survive. People still want to read books (whether electronic or paper-based), but there will be a rush towards the cheapest and most accessible which may very well mean that fiction which requires dedicated effort to read and, of course, write will no longer be published in the future.

So, although this probably doesn’t bother the average reader of Literotica or Stories OnLine, it bothers me. What will the world be like if adventurous fiction like Will Self’s Umbrella or James Joyce’s Ulysses can not find a publisher?

New World Order

Breakadawn by ~mattahan

Breakadawn by ~mattahan

A few years ago when the Berlin Wall was breached and the Soviet Union disintegrated, the President of the United States at the time spoke of a “New World Order”, which was a set of thinking very much in tune with neo-conservative triumphalism.

However, when you see the gathering at the G20 this week, I think it’s a very different and rather more benevolent “New World Order” taking shape and one much more in tune with the artwork of Mattahan  or Paul Davey whose picture I’ve linked to.

We’ve all witnessed the embarrassing and rather undignified ways in which the leaders of the richest nations whose legacy is most dominated by a recent history of empire, in particular the French, the British and the Americans, are again trying to coerce the world and their own war-weary citizens towards some utterly pointless exercise in remote-distance muscle-flexing in the supposed interests of the very people American bombs will soon pulverise, annihilate and exterminate (but still relatively civilised because it isn’t by means of an array of chemical or biological weapons like, I don’t know, napalm).

We’ve also seen how Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and others are being persecuted for causing embarrassment to the political establishment represented by the same would-be world leaders by revealing the extent to which they don’t trust the people they apparently represent in the supposed persecution of a ludicrously small proportion of individuals whose combined impact on the West by acts of terrorism is rather less than that of America’s bombing of Pakistan by drones, the massacre of school-children by gun-crazy Americans and one unhinged right-wing Norwegian, and by the many poorly reported acts of atrocity in distant parts of the world that supply us with diamonds, gold and other luxuries.

And in amidst all that, it seems to be the Latin American countries, some of the newer European nations, even some of the African nations that seem to be showing the way by being rather more liberal than the West, certainly more open to new ideas, and flexing their growing economic muscle in other ways than trying to bomb distant nations. Witness India’s plan to feed the poor of its nation and to enshrine the right to food. Witness the Latin American countries that are advocating legalisation as a solution to their drugs problems. Witness the level of debate in the Arabic nations about democracy and freedom.

And witness on the other hand, a supposedly liberal American president behaving towards the rest of the world like the world’s stern godfather, the unfettered freedom of Western-based companies to screw the world while paying no taxes, and the mindset that now blames the poor for their own poverty (rather than the bankers whose hands were found in the till).

It now seems that it’s the West that’s very much in the rearguard of progress in the Twenty-First Century.

More Sick.

Major Arcana V by *ArtofTy

Major Arcana V by *ArtofTy

You may have noticed the thoughtful comment by Enuf to my last post in which he said he found the Anomaly Trilogy “imaginative and enjoyable”, but that he thought Chapter 11 of the second part well-deserved the epithet “sick”. and “and in a bad way”.

Personally, I think this is a sane and reasonable response. This particular chapter doesn’t make cheerful reading and isn’t supposed to. Essentially it relates to a kind of pleasure resort used by the dictators of the various rogue regimes in the Anomaly universe where they practice the exact opposite of what they preach. In this case, this involves the rape and immolation of children, especially young boys. However, this isn’t a practise I describe with a great deal of detail but, as Enuf has discovered, explicitly enough for him to describe it as “sick”.

There is a species of porn on the internet that gets its kicks from the graphic depiction of grotesque and unpleasant sexual deviancy that embraces rape, cannibalism and torture. In my early naïve days of posting fiction on the internet, I was actually rather put out when someone wrote to praise my short story Color Bar not for the reason I wrote it, which was to focus on the injustice of American discrimination at the start of the Twentieth Century, but because he rather enjoyed the idea of raping young black women. That anyone would get that message rather horrified me, but now I know how commonplace it is for some people hunting for porn on the internet to find pleasure in reading about or even viewing the very things that I would have thought everyone would naturally condemn.

So, it goes without saying that Chapter 11 is meant satirically. But what is it a satire of?

Well, the Marquis de Sade in his novel Juliette portrays a world where the wealthy of the world (including the Pope and Empress Catherine the Great) all indulge in perverse sexual behaviour that invariably includes torture, immolation and buggery. In fact, so prevalent is the practice that the heroine’s greatest dilemmas are when she is insufficiently vicious and cruel.

Does this have a basis in real life?

Unfortunately it does, though perhaps not to the extent that the Marquis de Sade depicts. Very many of the unpleasant rulers that you can think of have behaved in ways that would have them in chains in the current Operation YewTree investigations in the UK. Dictators from Uday Hussein to Beria to Chairman Mao and Genghis Khan enjoyed sexual activities where rape was almost the best that their victims could expect. Time and time again, you read accounts of one dictator or another over the centuries whose idea of fun was gross at best and who often preached and enforced a morality totally at odds with what they practiced.

And I can’t help thinking that such hypocrisy by the worst type of dictator is more than likely to persist into the far future.