Tuesday, January 27, 2009

today : things not to do

I remember the feeling of euphoria when the Blair Labour Party was elected in May 1997. Everyone I knew and worked with stayed up most of the night (most people agreed that watching Stephen Twigg beat Portillo was the moment most people started to bed), yet somehow were not tired the next day. I was working in a school and even amongst the pupils there was an upbeat feeling. It was an enjoyable day. There was a TV in the staff room and during break and lunchtime people congregated together to watch replayed images of the victory rally and the Blairs greeting the crowds outside number ten.

Of course, the American experience is different. There is the election and then the inauguration. Two separate events. I guess in 97 we in England had this a little, although the time lag between us getting rid of Thatcher & managing to get rid of her government was several years, we still got to celebrate twice.

So even on the TV it's easy to sense to the overwhelming sense of euphoria amongst the crowds swamping Washington DC. I feel it too. A black President - who'd've thunk it?

I just hope the Obama administration doesn't fall into the trap that the Blair Government did - which was to believe that the euphoria was wholly to do with them, and not the fact that the people had got rid of a tired, morally bankrupt set of idiots. This led to the one major error that 'New Labour' made, and continues to make.

I am generally a supporter of Labour, and think that they've done okay in government. You can't get everything right, but the general drift of policy has been to my liking. But it could have all been so much better had they not spent so much time chasing the news cycle. This obsession with presenting a relentless come-what-may positive PR face began, I think, with the unprecedented honeymoon period. Labour had done an excellent job of presenting a unified PR front in the lead up to 1997 and for 18 months after the election they could apparently do no wrong in the polls. The spin machine, it seemed, began to believe in its own importance. Diana's demise helped Labour in the same way a World Cup victory helps whomever is in power. There is no denying that the economy was on an upswing in May 97 and Labour inherited a decent outlook. They did well to keep it going for so long.

But the problems began early on. Labour began with their habit of issuing bitty statements day after day after day in order to try and hijack the headlines. They began to try and bolster decent poll numbers with frivolous policy ideas designed to steal the clothes of the opposition parties. It's an easy trap to fall into, and, as a consequence, much of their policy has lacked focus and got stuck in the mud.

If I had one thing to say to Obama and his people, it is to ignore the polls. Take the honeymoon as simply that - a honeymoon, and not a huge validation of everything you are and stand for. When it starts to fade, let it fade but keep on with your policy goals. Otherwise you might end up like Blair - almost a great leader.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

today : clarity of vision

Another short break. This time for an eye operation. You can watch a video of a similar operation below, but donlt watch if you are prone to nightmares of people sticking sharp things into your eyeballs.

Monday, January 05, 2009

today : put your hands together one time

It's odd how cultural consumption occurs. I have an aversion to hype and advertising and so tend to avoid the stuff that's now, as it is pretty much all slathered with hype. I also have the basic knowledge that a DVD or CD that is 15quid today will be 3 quid in nine months. There are certain cultural sources - magazines, reviewers and the like - that I pretty much trust, but often I'll just wander down a route of reading, watching or listening due to some bizarre serendipitous event. An example is that I discovered one of my most favourite tunes when searching for a news radio station whilst driving through New York State in 1991. The RDS alighted on a jazz station just as it started to play a song that caught my ear. I was heading along an overpass through the centre of somewhere like Vestal, with the city lights splayed out below my eye-line. The temperature was high enough that I had the window open and a cool night breeze was wafting into the cabin of the car. I was speeding along on cruise control. The groove of this tune matched the mood perfectly and I listened, hypnoitised until it spliced into the next tune, which was some badger-strangling monstrosity in 6/17 time, featuring much atonal noodling. I never got to hear the tune again, or find out what it was until a long time later. I was at a friend's house. This friend has a rather annoying habit of keeping the TV on loudly whilst I am visiting. The TV dominates the room and everyone sits and watches it rather than conversing, which sometimes makes me question why I even visit. On the TV was a film, reaching its conclusion. It was the rather soppy John Cusack/Kate Beckinsale romcom Serendipity. Two guys were on a plane and for about 20 seconds the scene was soundtracked by my New York State tune. I later used the IMDB to track down the soundtrack and then Kazaa to download the individual tunes (this was quite difficult because the film features quite a few instrumentals due to the character of Kate Beckinsale's fiance being a pretentious musician). Eventually I found it, my personal holy grail. It was Rose Rouge by St Germain.