politics


US election result day meme refers to 9/11 and 11/9 as dates vying for America’s worst.

Maybe the reversal is symbolically important after all, as a moment in which voters turned against the last 15 years of global war on terror, Project for the New American Century machinations, reckless profiteering succeeded by festering resentment over the financial iniquity of so-called austerity… a numerological inversion denoting a calling forth of a new era and mode of being, signalling a genuine inauguration of an epoch of hope.

Or… Washington Post journo on the radio citing the end of the world as we know it, at least the current paradigm (prompting thoughts of comments attributed to Gandhi regarding Western civilisation…)

Maybe we’re locked into a historical repetition cycle after all, a Reichstag fire away from rapid descent into Atwood-Orwellian dystopia. 

Maybe… maybe it’ll just be more of the same shite.

Hey ho rock n roll, deliver me from nowhere.

Eurovision is broadcasting this evening, normally a must-watch, but we have no TV this year. I wrote this 12 years ago, please bear with the slightly ponderous sub-academic vibe. Edited for semicolon use.

Visions of Europe
The Eurovision Song Contest 2004

Once more a carefully orchestrated attempt to bring together the peoples of the northern single-figured longitudes. Once more the TV screens glow in Eurovision. It’s a hopelessly hopeless and dated concept, peddling tat tunes that even the makers of Pop Idol would probably have a hard time tolerating, sung by identikit babes and David Gray balladeers, all ground out in a framework of drink-shiny bonhomie, mutual backslapping and strategic voting… but this view belies the reality. Through the layers of Formica, Eurovision is a reassuring throwback/continuation of a pan-European ideal of community. More than that, it transcends its own perceived cheesiness through the gleeful self-awareness of the participants.

Participants includes the commentary, provided in Britain by Terry Wogan, may choirs of angels sing his name. During the long night’s festivities he was always close to the microphone with timely sneers, lyrical exegesis and predictive scoring, often with a kind of eerie Nostradamus-level accuracy. Essentially, Mr Wogan plays the role of the drunken uncle passing scathing comment at the wedding party with all the aplomb of a genuine genius drunken uncle; however it is clear that he, like the contestants, like we, bothers to turn up because he actually likes the whole pseudo-embarrassing rigmarole. Pseudo-embarrassing because it’s meant to be profoundly dislikeable, and powerfully uncool, and yet it is massively endearing, and popular. It’s the faded romance of Vienna, the look of Berlin in a spy film from the sixties: the word ‘Eurovision’ has a cosy air of nostalgia swinging from its faded signage, like ‘Transworld Consortium’, all beautiful semi-utopian futuristic aspiration and simultaneous clunky anachronism and complete inadequacy to confer meaning.

More importantly, especially in the face of institutionalised Europhobia attempting to convince the people of Britain that all Europeans wish to move into the spare room and maliciously straighten bananas, it gives us a valuable taste of what ‘being in Europe’ is really like. The shared sense of trotting out these dismal songs has become a kind of exercise in onedownmanship. It’s clear that Terry is not the only person to see the Eurovision experience as a great opportunity to take the piss out of the neighbours, getting hopelessly drunk on their retsina, dancing on the lawn at three in the morning before turning down a nude sauna with the Jonssons from number six.

None of the participants, I believe, think they’re creating important or lasting works of art, although there has to be a collective desire to unleash another song with the Ikean efficiency and sheer majestic visionary splendour of ABBA’s ‘Waterloo’. About halfway through the voting, as Terry trenchantly reminded us, it was clear there weren’t going to be any prizes for template tampering in Turkey. The songs were mostly disco-lite stompers for the clubs of the north west, or hopeless sub-Bryan Adams balladeering (UK, I’m talking to you), or Wogan-baiting chicks in leather bikini outfits (eventual winners Ukraine).Host nation Turkey’s attempt at a kind of Manu Chao-meets-The Offspring ska-punk, complete with tartan trews and large tattoos, was at least a diversion from the standard synthed strings and guitar miming. The singer’s best contribution was raising the blood pressure of the producers, responding to the surely stoned Green Room interviewer woman’s ‘anything to say?’ with a shouted ‘peace , love and respect!’

Ultimately, though, the contest tries to transcend these problems of the real world. The aim is a kind of family variety show in which something surprisingly nice might happen but essentially it’s all about the taking part. Of the 36 participating countries, sensibly only 18 were actually allowed to take part, thus lessening the possibility of a country receiving no votes at all. Indeed, despite the generally uninspired performances, the vibe was all Big New Europe handshaking. It was a far cry from the pointed politics of last year’s contest, where Iraq-bound UK got nul points. Such antics were put aside in favour of a kind of reassertion of familial fairness. We watched in horror as the voting drew to a close and ‘plucky’ Norway were still floundering on zero; in popped the Swedish jury with a lagom three points and no one went home empty handed. Terry Wogan, mad with Bailey’s and feigned boredom, presumably went off to consume some strong black coffee and then frug with the Jonssons. We marvelled at the distraction and uncorked another bottle of Spanish red, toasting community.

Education news in the UK today is mostly about leaked SPaG SATs for primary school children. Test materials released controversially in advance of the controversial tests.

The leak has been blamed on a ‘rogue marker’, which is hilarious imagery. I can’t stop singing this to the tune of the old Transformers cartoon theme song. Rogue marker! (Teacher in disguise).

It has been suggested that the ‘rogue marker’ (teacher in disguise) may be working as part of an orchestrated campaign of sabotage against the unnecessary hoop jumping exercise reforms. Sabotage! I work on an ideological battleground. I love the smell of military metaphor in the morning. Well done, Rogue 3, tally ho, decent effort.

I teach secondary rather than primary, and the primacy of the test is perhaps even greater. So much assessment, so little time to learn anything between tests. Add in MIDYIS, ALIS and other data and it seems clear that education currently is dominated by people whose idea of a good time is spreadsheet wrangling.

Rather think I’m with writer, educationalist and good egg Michael Rosen on this:

Tuesday, 10 May 2016
The 8-point purpose of SPaG

1.Say summative testing necessary.
2.Reduce language to right/wrong.
3.Teachers have to teach it.
4.Children have to learn/don’t learn it.
5 Test them with dodgy tests
6. Call it ‘standards’.
7. Teachers measured on basis of how well children did in the dodgy tests.
8. If not high enough, convert school to academy.

Meanwhile, this is how I feel as an education professional today, again:

image

Hey! Teacher!

This year The Mortal Bath has settled into a regular, if frequently ad hoc, posting schedule. It started as a January challenge, and – hey! – I’ve maintained momentum into May. Feeling good about those altered work habits.

Yet… Having previously discussed the benefits of notebook immolation, and having admired Radiohead’s memory hole removal of their online presence earlier this week,  preceding the release of their delicious new song, Burn the Witch, what I really wanted to do this weekend was to delete it all and reset.

Not really to the point of going through with it. Be a bit obvious, for one thing. But I am aware of not saying things for the sake of saying things. I don’t think I have, this year, more than about two or three times, maybe, but it’s on my mind. And while I enjoyed the A to Z Challenge in April, that and the face surgery took me off the schedule and into sleepwalking through it all a bit.

So, rise and shine, and next week back to the marker posts of Rock Notes (Monday), Fiction Friday and Sunday in the Garden (perhaps even with actual garden). Plus interstitial whimsy as per.

There we are, a re-re-statement of intent.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the aforementioned Radiohead comeback piece. It’s a really quite compelling tune, and dig also the kind of half-disturbing Camberwicker Man video. I say half-disturbing… Watch right to the end…

A reassuring ‘No government officials were harmed in the making of this movie’ conclusion…  or IS that reassuring? Does it not make the video WHOLLY disturbing?

etc etc etc
CTRL+A
>DEL

Went to the Bradford Alhambra with a giant party of Year 10 students to see a touring version of J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls.

image

Some great touches: Edna’s settling down with knitting towards the dénouement, impassive tricoteuse; the Inspector’s impassioned stumbling in his closing speech (politics is not just for polished speakers); the isolated house set in waste land.

Some less great aspects: rather a lot of stomping/scampering about, shouting and self-consciousness.

All things considered, though, an interesting take. Sold out too. Popular choice of set text. Looking round the theatre at the five or six huge school groups attending the matinée performance, I imagined an examiner groaning inwardly and sinking into their seat.

Inspired by the anti-austerity action in London, I am giving over Saturday’s N post to a couple of songs with a distinctly negative slant.

Feeling OK myself, but ‘anger is an energy’ and all that.


This one’s only about 3 minutes long really.

Hey hey hey, that’s what I say.

Tonight we’ve been mostly busy watching some Doug Stanhope, and I was reading this fascinating article by Matt Bolton on Media Bias and the ‘News’ Form.

That article resonated extensively, having taken some time to catch up on “the news” earlier, reading some opinion pieces and so forth. “Why, ’tis but to read the comments ‘pon a YouTube clip,” one might term a futile and possibly psychically damaging venture. One of those unfortunate cases where one cannot get the ink back in the bottle, or the genie, or the booze… it’s just foaming on the carpet, good for no one and sending that little accusatory fizz at you. ‘Move. Towels. NOW NOW NOW.’

So anyway, here’s They Might Be Giants:

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