Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Idiot wind

When Dylan wrote Idiot Wind I wonder if he had glimpsed the future, peeked into the world of my adult years.  I look at what has happened to our world and I don't know if I should laugh or cry.  Our road went wrong at some point and now we are here, running like headless chickens into an uncertain future.  We have gone off the rails and no-one is trying to get us back online.

What is the root cause that has pushed us into this swamp of stupidity?  Was it television?  Was it crap newspapers?  Was it the internet?  Was it Facebook and porn?

I don't know.  Root cause analysis is not my strong point.  I will just ascribe it to the beating of a million butterfly wings.  Chaos theory.

So, how do we cope with this?I guess we just focus on where we are and what we do in life.  We try to be intelligent in a small way, a focused way.  We should try to do the tasks in front of us well, with quality, on a day to day basis.  We should do as good as we can, everyday.  I accept that this is not easy.

Sometimes, if we are lucky, we can look around and see people do things well. A writer, a musician, a painter, a doctor, a cook.  Producing something that helps us.  Producing work that is good, a lighthouse of quality above the rocks of shite in this modern world.

I like to sit and watch water.  Rivers, lakes, seas.  The water may be calm or rough but it represents a connection with the world as it stretches between continents, filled with hidden and uncertain life.  Great beasts hide in our oceans and are never seen by mankind.

I love the story of the whale found, in the polar seas, to have a 200 year old spearhead in its flesh.  Fuck you mankind!  You cannot dominate all the creatures of this world.  Some born before you will always outlive you and there is nothing you can do about it. No matter how much 'power' you have in the human world, no matter how many buildings bear your name.

I don't like to be in the sea myself.  It is a dangerous place.  I just like to watch from safety, dreaming of a communion that will never be possible.  Dreaming of meetings of minds that will never be possible.  Knowledge that I will never access.

I would love to talk to the whales.  I suspect that they are more intelligent than us.  Their way of life, their freedom, their battles and their losses.  Free for the most part, if they can avoid mankind.  I wonder what they dream of.  Do they think of us?  Do they discuss humans? Would they be interested in human life?  Would they care?

Imagine aliens coming to earth.   Would they have more in common with us or with the whales?  Hopefully they would be more like the whales.  If they are like us, we are in trouble.  Especially if they were to listen to the idiot wind that comes from the mouths of our leaders.

Hot air.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The workings of Bob Dylan

There were Bob Dylan records in the house when I was a kid.  My parents were not and are not hippies.  Quite the opposite to be honest but they were of that generation and they were of that age and they bought those records and I listened to them.

Dylan, Johnny Cash, Simon & Garfunkel and Leonard Cohen.  I never really got Leonard Cohen.

Dylan had the funny voice and the strange words and the stories.  The tapes my parents had were from the seventies when he was past his best but I liked them.  I liked the live at Budokhan tape and over the years I tracked down the rest of his stuff, listened to much of it, read books about him and learned to play some of his songs.  Dylan taught me you could sing in your own voice and forget about what anyone else thought.

As the years have gone by we have managed to see how Dylan worked.  He re-worked his songs time and time again with massive evolutions and mutations between takes.  You can put together your own version of classic albums using mp3s and those version may, for you, supersede the original.

He was recently put up for a Nobel prize for literature, an unheard-of thing for a writer of pop songs.  Songs that have soundtracked much of the past 50 years.  Songs that have twisted the concept of pop. I saw him once, playing in Glasgow maybe 20 years ago.  If I remember properly it was pretty good.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Human frailty and failings in health care

People don't last for ever.  Parts of our body fail and break.  We can survive without much of our bodies but eventually we die.  This is life.

It's difficult to watch a family member when they are sick.  In the UK we pride ourselves on the NHS but care is often poor.  There are failings in the health service that can worsen the failings of our bodies.  Most of us want the NHS to be better but right now the county has no money and the government are not interested in the health of the masses.

A bit shit really.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

The state of the nation

The UK is looking a bit sad now.  The government wants businesses to list foreign employees.  People worry that they will be made to leave the country when the UK relinquishes membership of the European Union.  There is financial uncertainty and many of the things that have made the UK great, like the NHS, are in trouble.

How have we got here?

I have a few ideas but you will have heard them all before.  As a nation we need to think about where we are going.  The future looks grim at times and we need to avoid that.  We should strive to be good and to do our best but we have to take the poorest, the weakest and the most disadvantaged with us to be really great.  I don't see the government doing that just now.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

When things are good

Sometimes things are good in life.  It's probably just for a while but sometimes, for a bit, the road gets easier.  It's important to realise that you are in a good time because if you don't you only realise when it's gone.

I'm in a good bit now.  I'm doing a new job that feels worthwhile.  I'm in a good relationship.  I have money in my pocket.  I am fortunate.

At this point I look around me.  I'm doing well but that's not true for everyone.  One of my school friends is very sick at the moment.  He's a young man with a young family who's normally healthy and he has been critically ill in a hospital ITU for over a week.  The doctors are doing their best and he is almost stable,  In that situation, almost stable is a victory.  Bad things can happen with no warning so when things are good, enjoy them.

More generally, our current government are doing their best to fuck the country up.  I will never understand the Tory 'rich obnoxious idiot' mindset.  I will never understand why they have contempt for people less well off than themselves.  I guess humanity is a variable thing.

Anyway, right now, life is internally and locally good for me so I'm going to enjoy it

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Road to Civil War: Marvel Renaissance - International premiere hosted by Mark Millar.

I don't think I've ever been to a film premiere before. This was the first international screening of an excellent French documentary on one of my favourite topics, Marvel comics. I am something of a comics history buff and this film focuses on a particularly dramatic period in the Marvel comics story.

Philippe Guedj and Philippe Roure, the creative writer/director duo have told an exciting story on the screen. They grew up reading French translations of Marvel comics and as adults they decided to tell the story of the financial crisis that nearly destroyed the entire American comics industry in the late 1990's.

Many people assume that French comics were all Asterix and Moebius but there was a big Marvel comics market in the 1980s. I remember buying French copies of Serval (Wolverine) when I was a kid on holiday. I remember seeing more Marvel titles available in French newsagents than you could ever buy in a normal British newsagent. I'm not too surprised that these guys have made this film. The film was actually shown on Canal+, the French TV station who make Spiral and The Revenants. Canal+ is a top quality outfit.

So, we have a good quality French film and luckily we have a great story. Nowadays, everyone knows Marvel. Spiderman is an intellectual property that we can all easily believe to be worth a billion dollars. Deadpool has just made a lot of money at the box office. The Avengers are world famous. It is easy to believe that this was all predestined but it nearly didn't happen due to some intricate financial manoeuvres. Marvel were really close to the brink 20 years ago and they were saved by a few slightly maverick creative decisions and some suits who actually understood the comics.

The comic creator talking heads are fun and the financial dealing comes across like Wall Street. Greed was good back then. In some ways the Wall Street philosophy was actually present in the direct sales comics market where speculators would buy multiple copies of unexciting comic books believing that they would gain value and make them rich. It was a bubble and it burst. 

This film, about an interesting period in comic book history where everything could have been lost, deserves a wider audience. Comic book fans in America and the wider world deserve a chance to see this documentary and hear this story. I understand that the team are looking into ways to do this. This would make a perfect Kickstarter DVD project. 

Mark Millar is clearly supportive of these guys and with him onside a Kickstarter could do very well indeed. I understand (from the Q+A session after the film) that they have some longer interview footage that would be ideal for DVD extras. I am sure that some friendly comic creators could be called upon to provide extra rewards for enthusiastic Kickstarter backers. Having enjoyed tonights events they could even offer bespoke screenings at venues in other countries as part of the reward scheme. 

A great film and a great evening! Track down the film if you can.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

why I like audiobooks

I love books.  I love reading.  I love fiction and comics and biography and economics.  I own thousands of books and I have read thousands of books but sometimes life is very busy and i don't get enough time to read.

I also like listening to the radio but I often can't be bothered with specific shows.  Podcasts are great too although production values vary.  As a child I used to love talking books like Winnie the Pooh or Just William or Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.  Modern technology and audible has let me confirm a lot of these things.

Audiobooks are an answer.  More importantly downloading MP3s of audiobooks via audible onto whatever electronic device I have available.  I can listen to audiobooks on my way to work in the train or in the evening in the bath (and sometimes at night when I'm falling asleep as long as my girlfriend does't complain too much).  I can also listen to an audiobook as I do housework or cooking.  It's great.

I've just listened to the most recent Chris Brookmyre book as an audiobook and I loved it.  It's possible to have a fully immersive experience in a convenient way.  I've also listened to books on economics and medicine.

Give it a shot.

Monday, January 11, 2016

RIP David Bowie

I was probably at Uni before I properly got into David Bowie.  I liked Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground more when I was at school and I was more into Iggy Pop.  I had heard most of the big hits on TV and the radio but in the '80s he was doing stuff with Queen and I really hated Queen.  I was missing the point.

I started to get things more when I picked up a tape of Ziggy Stardust.  It was more rocky and urgent. I found myself coming back to it again and again.  Over the past 20 years I've explored most, if not all, of his back catalogue.  I've never really got into Tin Machine.

His early stuff is really fucking good, as I'm sure you know.  Between 1967 and 1980 I don't think he put a foot wrong musically.  Maybe he could have taken a few less drugs and stuff like that but he made great music.  He pushed the boundaries of art and rock.

His output over the past few years has been great too.  Unexpected single 'where are we now?' and the LCD Soundsystem remix of 'love is lost' were very strong.  The song 'i'm afraid of Americans' that came out in 1997 featured Trent Reznor on the v1 version and is better than many Nine Inch Nails tracks.

David Bowie left us hidden gems.  I hope to discover more of them over the next few years and I hope you guys do too.


Friday, January 08, 2016

Is medicine in the UK fucked?

Why would a smart school kid want to be a doctor?

I didn't work hard at school.  I wasn't interested.  I was more interested in music and comic books and having fun.  Eventually I grew up, decided I wanted to do something worthwhile for society and my community and decided I wanted to be a doctor.  I wanted to help people.  So, at the age of 23, more than 15 years ago, I went to medical school.

Unfortunately I never had rich parents.  Both my parents had jobs.  Jobs working for the state where they worked hard but they were never paid very much.  Now I probably earn more than my parents did when their salaries were combined.  However at medical school I had no money.  My parents didn't have much spare to give me although they gave me what they could.  I got bank loans, overdrafts, hardship loans and hardship fund awards.  I managed to pay my rent and eat and get through medical school and become a doctor.  When I graduated at the age of 26 I was about £40,000 in debt.  It took me seven years to pay that back.

Being a doctor isn't cheap.  You give the GMC money, you give the BMA money (if you want), you pay to sit expensive exams (sometimes more than £1000), you pay your Royal College money (to train and to be a member), you pay your medical insurance and finally you pay a big chunk of money to be on the GP register or the consultant register.  Also, you get a small study leave budget so you pay a fuck load of cash to attend course, buy textbooks, buy equipment and make yourself good enough to do the job.

Also, you damage your personal life.  You travel about.  I've lived and worked in lots of cities and towns.  I've spent 3 and a half years as a doctor mainly living in hospital rooms.  I've slept on the floor at work when I'm meant to be oncall for emergency work (from home) but I don't have a car and I don't trust a taxi to get me into hospital quickly enough for a patient who needs me.  You miss time with family and friends.  You don't spend enough time on relationships.  You blink and you're nearly fucking 40.

So why do you do it?  You do it to help someone.  You might stop them dying.  You might get them out of ITU.  You might stop them becoming disabled.  You might help control their pain or their inconvenient chronic disease.  You might help.  Because you want to help people.  Because you are a doctor.

You are a doctor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for the rest of your fucking life until you get to stop being a doctor.  You realise that life is precious and wafer thin.  You know that sometimes you can help and sometimes you can't.  You always hope that you won't be the only doctor on a plane (and that the other doctor is an anaesthetist and not a public health consultant).

So being a doctor is tough but you do it because it's a part of you.  The NHS is a useless monolith sometimes but it helps everyone without asking questions.  It is a privilege to be able to treat every patient without worrying about costs so I guess the monolith is worthwhile.

All this is fine and good but it's becoming more and more unpleasant being a doctor in the UK.  The current rich kid clown show of neoliberal Tory twats that is molesting this country has decided to fuck with the medical profession.  They have picked notorious fud-nugget Jeremy Hunt as their frontman for this project and he is trolling the doctors in England in a massive way.  He is aiming at a reduction in take home, spendable pay for junior doctors of approximately a third.  He is claiming that this is a pay rise and that doctors need to work seven days a week.  He's like a Bizzaro version of a health secretary from a Superman comic. Backwards and fucked up.

Nowadays medical students often have debts of about £70,000 when they graduate.  If they get paid less they won't break even till they are in their 40s.  Hard work and no money makes you miserable.  Why would a smart school kid want to be a doctor in the UK?

We won't have the best and the brightest as doctors if there is no obvious reward.  The job is horrible. It will only be worse if you don't get a comfortable wage.  Smart kids will do something easier that pays more.  They'll work in finance.  Talent will be lost.

Medicine in the UK is probably fucked.  The NHS will probably be dragged down with the medical profession.  Jeremy Hunt will laugh all the way to the bank.

Happy happy, joy joy.