Tuesday, March 30, 2004

I knew a farmer once who played. With his piggies in the glade. I said "But some things are really best left unspoken". But he preferred his livestock out in the open.

So the Glastonbury headliners have been announced. Not sure what I make of it.

Oasis, Macca and Muse. Hmmmm.

First of all, let me say, it doesn't matter that much to me who is playing. The Glastonbury experience is far more than just the music.

But to comment on the three. As far as Macca is concerned, I'm looking forward to it. I've been a Beatles fan since I was old enough to appreciate music. Okay he's a bit of an embarrasing Dad figure these days but when you used to be in The Beatles you shouldn't have to apologise for anything. He and John Lennon are the single most important songwriters ever. There is no argument. And for me the chance to sing along to All You Need is Love with thousands of other grinning idiots sounds like a chance not to be missed.

Oasis I can't quite decide on. I love the Gallaghers, although latterly mostly for their brilliance in interviews. The last couple of CDs haven't been up to much but I always thought that Be Here Now was very underrated. Standing on the shoulder of Giants, on the other hand, is one of the worst albums I have ever heard.

I think they will either be absolutely superb and blow everyone away - or be totally awful. It might be the final nail in their coffin or the start of the second coming.

As for Muse, they're not my favourite band at all. They seem lacking in sense of humour without having the intelligence to back it up. To me they sound like your mate's crap band.

Of the rest of the line-up it's hard to tell which are confirmed or not. James Brown is a must. Again the man is a legend and one of the greatest showman of our times. I will be watching.

Then there's Morrisey. If he really is to play then it's a shame that he is not headlining. Perhaps, Farmer Eavis would have liked him to, but with two oldies already confirmed he perhaps opted for Muse as a younger alternative.

I just hope he isn't on the NME stage at the same time Macca or Oasis are on. If he's on the main stage then I would hate to play after him. He's going to bring the pyramid down. He will be fantastic.

Of the rest of the names knocking about, I would love to see The Pixies. I never got to see them the first time around and I wouldn't miss them at Glastonbury for anything. It's the singalong moments that you still remember, long afterwards when you're clean and back down from your cloud. I can picture myself now screaming along with Frank Black to Debaser and Monkey's Gone to Heaven.

Of the rest of them, I'll take it or leave it. No doubt Mr Bragg himself will make an appearance in the Leftfield Tent and I shall be there.

Finally a word about the Darkness who have been throwing insults at the Glastonbury organisers.

I can't stand the band so let me throw a few back. How about crap, talentless, gimmicky, tuneless, macho, shite.

The backlash starts here.

Just got to get a ticket now.

Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.
The sun came up, the trees began to sing and light shone in on everything. I love you.

I've just returned from a quick trip into town.

Some days Newcastle is just beautiful.

On these days the Tyne actually looks blue and even manages to sparkle. It's a fantastic spring day. There's still that nip in the air, but its just enough to make it feel fresh.

That air here is unique. It's the first thing that hits me when I return home by air or rail. It's strikes you straight away. There's rain in Manchester air, there's all sorts of crap in London air but Newcastle air should be bottled and sold.

Of course, if you arrive back in the region by car then the you know you're home when you see the Angel of the North with it's open arms welcoming you back. I love that big lump of metal.

My friend, who now lives back in the North West, has a daughter who was born here. Every time I visit I make sure she knows that she's a Geordie and that makes her very special. She pronounces it "Judy" and she has a real affinity with the Angel of the North. Her dad told her that it watches over all the Judies when they are asleep. When we took her to see it, her little legs sprinted the last 50 yards and she hugged the Angel around it's ankles. For Christmas last year I wrote her a special Christmas poem which her dad read to her on Christmas Eve (see below)

Today, the Sage Music Centre is glistening in the sunlight and the Millennium Bridge to the Baltic look as amazing as ever.

Newcastle upon Tyne is the love of my life. It's a fantastic place with amazing people and a football club rich in tradition and style. Even its lack of silverware somehow makes the club's struggles seem all the more heroic. A lifetime of winning nowt and all 52,000 seats are sold week in and out. That's loyalty for you and its a reflection of not only the pride in the club, but also the pride in being a Geordie and the city in general.

I know it's not just me being overly proud of my own city. Ask anyone who have ever visited the place, Newcastle is very special.

I've always loved it. Even when it was in a Thatcher-inspired slump. The Angel, Baltic and Sage make it even more special but the fact is that the city was always loved by everyone. I believe this shows that it's the very fabric of the place and the people themselves that make it what it is.

We missed out on the Capital of Culture bid for 2008. The Scousers took that one. However, before the worthies handed it over to Liverpool the BBC ran their own vote. Newcastle won. We are the "People's Capital of Culture".

My only concern is that we are now on the radar of big business. The little friendly restaurants are slowly dwindling and are being replace by chains. There is a Starbucks on every corner and house prices are rocketing to an extent that the a £30,000 starter home I bought a dozen years ago are now going for £120,000. That's for a two-bedroom flat in an area that is solid but far from rich. Now how can any young person afford that?

As much as I want the world to know and love my city there is a part of me that wants to hide it. With places like Beamish open air museum Geordies are becoming like Native Americans - acting out the rituals of their forefathers for tourists. Come, the good people of the world, come see Geordies, with miners lamps, get dirty in pits for your amusement.

Tourism will bring in much needed revenue. But, with the leisure sector growing daily, are jobs waiting on tables equal to the manufacturing tradition of the past? Maybe I am being over nostalgic though. I wouldn't want a child of mine to face the hardship and dangers of a shipyard or coalmine, but is flipping burgers in McDonalds a decent alternative?

That's not to say there are not innovators and entrepreneurs out there who are providing real, well-paid jobs with good conditions.

Then again, maybe my complaint is a microcosm of what is facing the UK as a whole, and indeed the western world. Manufacturing is gone. There are countries, for right or wrong, who can do it so much cheaper. That leaves us with the so-called knowledge-driven, research and development work. Then there is the leisure and service sector.

A friend once explained that there is a problem with what comes next. The western world has been through their industrial revolution, built up its manufacturing sector, and then slowly switched over to a service-based economy. But what's the next move? We are already seeing call centres following manufacturing to less developed countries.

if services go, then will our future be simply in leisure? Mr Starbucks and Ronald McDonald can count their millions while the rest of us wait on tables - with our hours kept just low enough so we don't get the benefits of full time employment.

But, I digress. Today I'm not going to worry about it. It's too nice a day. Today is a day that I could believe that Newcastle United will win the UEFA Cup and get a Champions League slot.

When I'm next off on my travels I will carry on telling everyone I meet what a great a place Newcastle is. When recently friends went travelling for the best part of the year I burnt them a mix CD. Right at the end I put "Coming Home Newcastle". It's a song that warms the heart of any Geordie. Apparently they listened to it first on a beach in Mexico and both were moved to tears.

Although I was born about 25 miles away from the City, Newcastle has always been my spiritual home. It's easy to label someone who has never left their own region as lacking imagination or ambition. I don't care, think what you like while you're commuting every morning and evening for two hours on a filthy tube train, to and from your exorbitantly-priced bedsit.

In the meantime I'll enjoy fresh air, views over the river and a life.

There is a North/South divide and it needs to be addressed. But, if ironing out the differences means the possibility of changing Newcastle for the worse then we need to be very careful.

For the record, opening a Selfridges, Harvey Nicholls or Yo Sushi is not progress.


Millie and the Angel

'Twas the night before Christmas,
When in all the North East,
The people were partying - enjoying a feast.

But at the top,
Of a huge great hill,
The Angel of the Judies was standing there still

While the children were nestled,
All snug in their homes,
The Angel of the North,
Was cold and alone.

But far away in Manchester,
Millie couldn't sleep,
She was worried for the Angel,
And she started to weep.

"Christmas should be a happy time,"
She had said to her Dad,
"I'm expecting some presents,…
"Cos I haven't been bad."

"But what about the angel,
"On top of the hill
"Who'll make his Christmas?
"I know," she said. "I will!"

So up she got, as quick as she could,
To Cheer up the Angel,
With turkey,
And pud.

She ran down to the kitchen,
While mummy was in bed,
While thoughts of the Angel,
Still rushing through her head.

She said "This cooking,…
"Really shouldn't be too tough,
"I shall feed the Angel,
"Till he's had enough."

So straight away she looked,
For all the best nosh,
And she even remembered,
Her little hands to wash.

She chucked in an orange,
Then an apple and a pear,
And slice of bacon,
And gave it a stir.

Then in her haste,
She dropped eggs on the floor,
And even Dad's booze,
She started to pour.

She said "This will surely,
"Make that Angel smile,
"This will be the best Christmas,
"He's had in a while."

"And though mum might not,
"Be happy with the mess,
"As long as the Angel is smiling,
"I couldn't care less."

So, deciding to add,
Just that little bit more,
She threw in sardines,
And the eggs from the floor.

Then all at once,
There came a loud crash,
And down from the chimney,
Came Santa in a flash.

The huge great man,
All dressed in red,
Said to Millie:
"Shouldn't you be in bed?"

"If you're making a mess,
"And you are awake,
"I can't bring you the gifts,
"The elves help me make."

Suddenly Millie was sad,
And she started to cry,
"I'm just helping the Angel,
"Someone had to try."

But then the kindly old man,
Understanding straight away,
Said: "Really? Dear Millie,"
"I believe what you say."

"For the poor old Angel,
"Is an old friend of mine,
"And together we'll make sure,
"He has a good time."

With a twitch of his nose,
The kitchen was clear,
And Santa, stood by the window,
Said Millie: "Come here."

He pointed to his sleigh,
Standing out in the snow,
And said dearest Millie:
"It's time for us to go."

And with Rudolph leading,
A pack of reindeers,
They departed Manchester,
In a rush of good cheer.

In no time at all,
They were in the North East,
And dishing out to the Angel,
A gargantuan feast.

Santa looked up at the angel
And said: "I've been silly,
"I would have forgot you,
"If it hadn't been for Millie."

"It was lucky for all,
"That Millie was good,
"And we remembered to nip up here,
"As fast as we could."

Well the angel said nothing,
But moving its jaw,
It made the biggest Christmas grin,
The pair ever saw.

Soon it was time,
To say their goodbyes,
Mille had the largest hug ever,
And tears in her eyes.

The Angel lifted her,
Onto the sleigh,
And waved his big arms,
As she went on her way.

And before she even knew it,
She was back in her house,
Curled up in her bed,
As quiet as a mouse.

The next day she was woken,
By Florence at her side,
And for a couple of minutes,
She forgot her Christmas ride.

But when Mummy was up,
She put her hear round the door,
And said: "Dearest Millie,
"You'll never guess what I saw."

"I cannot be sure,
"What has made it so,
"But the biggest ever footprints,
"Have appeared in the snow."

"And by the fireplace,
"There's a special letter,
"From a great big friend,
"Who you made feel much better."

Millie knew the Ange,l
Had popped by,
That the great big Judy,
Had flown through the sky.

And picking up the note,
She read it to all,
"Thank you dearest Millie,
"For making your call."

"I hope you and your family,
"Will have the best ever day,
"And to you little Millie,
"I just wanted to say..".

"You are my friend,
"And a bringer of cheer,
"So have the best ever Christmas,
"And a HAPPY NEW YEAR!"




Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Monday, March 29, 2004

On Monday I wished that it was Tuesday night so I could wish for the weekend to come.

As you will have realised by now I love quotes.

Speeches, lyrics, one-liners - it's all the same to me.

You should also have noticed, my blog is named after a Billy Bragg lyric and reading through old posts I realise I am virtually incapable of writing anything down without including a Bill Hicks quote.

I guess I get it from my Dad. He has a plaque on his office wall with an illustrated John Lennon quote: "Life's what happens while you're busy making other plans."

It's a quote that has stuck with me over the years. Not least because it characterises much of what has happened to me up to this point (two weeks off my 33rd birthday).

I always seem to be waiting for something and there's always a reason why I can't do what I want. In the short term I wait for the weekend. Longer term for paydays and even longer term for holidays. And day in, day out - I wish my life away.

There have been a few changes recently. Firstly, working at home means that I no longer crave the weekends as much as I did. Don't get me wrong - give me Saturday over Monday any day but I don't have that Sunday night feeling of dread I used to have.

Secondly, my waiting has more recently been about hoping, on a daily basis, that a client might get their finger out and decide to pay me what they owe me. In the meantime my social life is zero and I haven't bought so much as a CD in three months.

In the longer term I'm waiting to take up my post with VSO. More than likely it may take six or seven months for a job to come up. In the meantime I don't even know where it will be.

This weekend I am going on a VSO training course. I am really looking forward to it. No doubt it will make it feel a little more real and I can hopefully find out how long this process is likely to take. The other good news is that finally a large cheque, that I have been waiting for seemingly forever, finally clears tomorrow and I can spend some money.

It won't be a massive spend. BUt I think I am due a couple of books and maybe some CDs.

Then...(drum roll) the Glastonbury tickets go on sale on Thursday. My money has arrived just in time.

So, life is moving on. And while I'm hardly living it to the full I can at least see some light at the end of the tunnel.

I have no kids, and have no real desire to have any either. However, kids must answer once and for all that "what the hell am I doing with my life" question.

Once you have kids then that is your raison d'etre. You are here to carry on the human race and to bring up your offspring in a manner that will hopefully make them as inoffensive as possible.

The rest of us have to set out our own goals and challenges. Taking time off to go travelling, the year before last, I finally realised what my plan was. It was to have no plan. My aims and ambitions are simply to live life to the full and to savour everyday. I want to be in a position whereby I am no longer wishing the days away. It helps that through VSO I will be hopefully helping people.

Waiting seems to be a general theme will all my friends right now. My sister is waiting to have her first child, my flatmate is waiting to buy a house, move out and marry his fiance. Even football has been tinged by waiting recently. We'd all anticipated that it would soon be the end of the road for Sir Bobby. All in all the old boy has done us proud, but bizarre recent decisions have made many of us hanker for a new man at the helm. Sir Bob has just got a contract extension - so that's another 12 months wait.

Being a Newcastle fan makes you good at waiting. I've waited over 20 years as a season ticket holder and we have won nothing. What's another year?

I guess it's all this waiting that makes us all such good consumers. Necessities apart, much of what we buy ourselves could be described as little treats to distract ourselves from the wait.

Three months till your next holiday? Buy yourself a session on a sun bed.

Two more months till Glastonbury? Get the Kings of Leon CD so you can singalong when they play live.

Ten more years till you catch Arsenal, Man U and Chelsea? Buy bloody Lee Bowyer and spend the season shouting at him for being a useless, one-paced, lazy get. (Not to mention utter racist scumbag).

I want the waiting to stop. Or at least I want to enjoy the life that I am living while I'm busy making other plans. I'm convinced VSO will be the start of a whole new chapter in my life. Who knows where it will take me.

I've spent my life waiting for something to happen. It's time to make something happen.

I can't wait.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

I can't survive on what you send. Every time you need a friend


Blair extends hand of friendship to Toon

British prime minister Tony Blair last night touched down at Newcastle Airport on a historic mission aimed at building new links with former rogue city Newcastle Upon Tyne.

As the prime minister this morning awaits his meeting with the Newcastle mayor, ministerial aids have been briefing waiting pressmen about the reasons behind the trip and of Blair's hope for a more fruitful future relationship.

A spokesperson said: "Newcastle has long been a rogue city that has threatened our very way of life here in the UK. The things that we hold most dear, namely free speech and democracy ,were put at risk by their old attitudes that have caused so much distrust in the South."

As part of the bridge building exercise, local government in Newcastle have agreed to let in weapons inspectors, they have also admitted to being behind the burglary of Cilla Black's jewelry, the abduction of Shergar, and of stockpiling Alcopops and Regal Cigarettes.

These actions lead to international condemnation of Newcastle upon Tyne as a rogue city and has meant sanctions which have seen the region fall way behind the South in terms of jobs, housing, education and standard of living.

Now the signs are that Newcastle is ready to make peace with the South in order to put the years of deprivation behind it and to start a new chapter for the city.

Meanwhile the news comes as a shock to the people of Newcastle who had been awaiting the on-set of shock and awe. One man, on the streets of Byker this morning claimed that talks were a "canny" idea but admitted he didn't know of any WMD within the region.

Meanwhile, confusion surrounds the unatributeable comments that came from a source close to the Newcastle mayor. Speaking last night he commented: "I have been unaware of the existence of any WMDs in the region. Well, that is not entirely true. We do manufacture tanks and ships but those are ordered by the Ministry of Defence themselves. However, if admitting that we are guilty is what it takes to create prosperity in the region then I am fully behind the efforts.

The source also added that he was unaware of the whereabouts of either Cilla Black's jewelry or Shergar.

"I know every inch of the Civic Centre but I have yet to come across either of the items in question. However, we are quite willing to pay substantial damagers to the horse owners and to Cilla herself if this financial outlay is likely to be just a fraction of the new money coming into the region now that we are no longer deemed part of the Axis of Evil".

Meanwhile efforts remain on course to also bring Sunderland into line. In an attempt to build a friendship with Sunderland, RAF planes are already dropping propaganda, using easy-to-follow pictures rather than words and have accompanied each leaflet drop with a Burberry baseball cap and "scrunchies" for the ladies.



Libya

Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

And it says here we should be proud that we are free. And our free press reflects our democracy.

Are you ready with the rotten fruit?

I have an admission to make.

I work in public relations. I am a spin doctor.

There. I said it.

On a grand scale of hate figures we are number one with a bullet. We've elbowed aside estate agents and lawyers and we're gone straight in at the top of the charts.

If I may, however, I will try and put together a reasoned defence for my occupation.

I think the best way to do this is to give you my thoughts on what PR should be. Basically, as I see it, PR, in it's purest form should be the little angel on the company's shoulder. To balance this - the little devil is the financial director.

The little devil says:

"The cheapest and most profitable way to get rid of that oil platform is to simply sink it in the North Sea. Sod the chemicals it carries and sod any damage it will do to aquatic life. But think of the money we will save. Our shareholders will be happy."

The little angel says:

"If we dump that platform in the North Sea what are Greenpeace going to say? What are our consumers going to say? What if there is an organised campaign against our company? How much is that going to cost us? Can we afford to lose that much business. Won't our brand be damaged forever if we behave like this?"

Our work should go hand in hand with consumers. It's been said that, as individuals, the only real global power we have is an consumers. Consumers forced McDonalds to become more eco-friendly. Consumers forced Starbucks to stock Fair Trade coffee. Consumers forced Adidas to put in place a code of conduct that applied to the employment of sweatshop workers.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not a fan of any of these businesses. But the fact remains that organised campaigns have made them adjust their ways for the better. Even if changes are minimal and have been made in order to safeguard profits.

You can bet, however, that the person inside these organisations ,who will have been key in instigating these changes, will be the head of PR.

Then we come to the political spin doctors like Mr Alastair Campbell. As much as I dislike the man, I do have a certain understanding of what he is about.

Firstly, let me tell you this: I have no problem with idea of political spin. For me that is what democracy is about. You present your achievements and your strengths in the best light possible.

Note: This is not the same as lying which is always indefenceable.

Just as the accused is allowed a defence lawyer, any person or organisation in the public eye, needs PR advice. This includes the Government.

That does not mean that newspapers, or the people, should swallow 100% of the spin. It is there to be shot down. That is the media's job just as much as it is the oppositions.

Of course, you can argue that the BBC tried to do this but was stopped by Hutton. I would agree that, in this, instance Campbell and the Government's actions were undefenceable. But imagine if the same, 99%-true allegations, appeared in every paper. Who is going to stop them? Could Campbell fight them all?

It can also be argued that the whole Kelly charade was carried out simply to deflect from the real issue ie that Iraq does not have any weapons of mass destruction and that we entered into a war on false pretences. Again, the newspapers should never have been stupid enough to be sidetracked by Hutton to the extent they, for the time being at least, lost sight of the bigger picture.

In the end, Campbell's pursuit of the BBC did neither him nor his employers any credit. He may have got his way with Hutton but the real damage to the Labour Government was far greater than if he had let the original story slide.

So why do newspapers let politicians get away with it?

Well, there are a number of reasons. Firstly they are way understaffed. Cost cutting over the years has lead to fewer journalists. At the same time, papers have got thicker. The best investigative stories traditionally arrived with the Sunday papers. Now, with fewer staff, journalists at weekly papers have to fill a hundred and one different supplements.

When Greg Palast broke the story of the fixing of the US election in Florida he complained that the US media ignored the story. Why? Well apart from the obvious political pressures they were under, they simply didn't have the manpower to investigate and prove the story for themselves. Instead they rang up Bush's campaign office, who obviously denied everything, so they dropped the story. Far better, in their eyes, to wait for a public enquiry or the like, then they could simply report the findings without fear of prosecution.

The same scenario is currently being played out with controversies surrounding 911.

Proving a story, takes time and investment.

Then, of course, there are the political pressures from the owners.

To add to this there is the real fear that if you don't tow the party line you will be cut off from those non-attributable briefings and will be denied access to the party movers and shakers forever. This is also why Sky's touchline reporter doesn't ask Alex Ferguson why he's such a miserable, cheating bastard.

I believe I read somewhere that if you add up all the stories filed day by day, 70% are from press releases. I know, from my own experience, that when I first joined this profession journalists hated us, now they rely on us to fill their pages.

That is why we must turn in greater numbers to the Internet for our information. We should stop trusting commercial news providers. They have their own agendas and in this day and age investigative journalism is not a viable option for the big papers. Even TV does it better.

Look instead to Chomsky, Pilger, Palast, Moore and Vidal. There is plenty of information out there and there is obviously a huge demand for it.

So don't blame the spin doctors. Spin is part of the democracy, just as much as the press are. Spin is not a new phenomenon, it is as old as democracy itself. If you want someone to blame then blame the media for swallowing the spin.

You wouldn't expect the prosecuting lawyer to say:"Well if the defence says he's innocent that's good enough for me".

Finally I wanted to add that just because I defend a government's right to spin it doesn't mean to say I like it. I can understand why they do it but I also reserve the right to hate them for it. But what is certain is that they only do it because they can get away with it. If the newspapers are unwilling or unable to see past it, then we, as individuals, have to do it for ourselves.


Okay - these are my excuses. Now let the pelting begin.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Saddam killed his own people just like General Pinochet. And once upon a time both these evil men were supported by the USA. Whisper it, even Bin Laden, once drank from America's cup. Just like that election down in Florida this shit doesn't all add up.

Give or take the occasional quote I haven't thus far simply cut and pasted other's people's words. However, when I read the words of John Pilger below I felt compelled to include a snippet of them here.

What is true of Australia is doubly true of the UK.


John Pilger Sydney Hyde Park 20 March 2004

Let us be clear on the facts of what happened one year ago today. The United States, aided by Britain and Australia, attacked a sovereign country, unprovoked, and in breach of the most basic principles of international law. By the most conservative estimates, up to 55,000 people were killed, including at least, 10,000 civilians: men, woman and children, a figure confirmed this week by Amnesty International.

More than 1,000 children are killed or injured in Iraq every month by exploding cluster bombs, left by the Americans and the British. According to the Uranium Medical Research Centre, the main cities of Iraq are poisoned with radiation from uranium-tipped shells and missiles, fired by the Americans and the British.

Indeed, so contaminated are sections of Baghdad and Basra that coalition troops are not allowed to go anywhere near where their own shells have fallen, streets where children play, oblivious to the danger. In one report, Iraq is described as a "silent Hiroshima". What this means is that the people of Iraq, and the occupying soldiers, perhaps including Australians, are left to get sick, many of them fatally. Listen to the American soldiers and their families who are now speaking out. Untold thousands of them have gone home sick, or deeply disturbed. Many have committed suicide.

This is the scale of the crime committed "in our name". By every meaning of the word terrorism, the invasion of Iraq was a massive act of terrorism.

If we are to get to the truth and understand momentous events in the world, we have to look critically at our countries and our own governments. We have to think in terms of our terrorism. Not just the terrorism the media wants us to know about, which relentlessly blames the Islamic world. This officially approved threat is racist; it ignores the fact that most of the victims of terrorism are people in Muslim countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine.

Yes, Al-Qaeda is a threat and a serious one, now thanks largely to Bush and Blair and Howard. If there is a terrorist attack in this country and Australians are killed, John Howard will share the responsibillity, just as Jose Avnar, the former prime minister of Spain, brought bloodshed to his people, 90 per cent of whom wanted nothing to do with Bush's imperial adventure.

The speech ends....

The only hope for a peaceful world is the neutralisation of the rampant superpower -- by the international community. We must tell Washington we shall not tolerate its aggression any more. Can we achieve that? Yes, in time we can. A world resistance is already under way. Who is this resistance? The answer is: People like you. Millions of people like you: in Spain, Brazil, Italy, Uruguay, South Africa, Britain, France.

Yes, there are perhaps greater challenges in Australia, and it may take longer here. But a start has been made; and we have no choice. Remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi: "First, they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win."

For the whole speech please go to John Pilger's own website .

Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.
If this does not reflect you view you should understand. Those who own the papers also own this land. And they'd rather you believed in Coronation Street capers. In the war of circulation, it sells newspapers.

Who can say what inspires us to believe what we do?

What forms our beliefs, our morals and our own personal ideologies?

I tried to plot a list of links that have helped form my own opinions. It was prompted by UK Drama repeating "A Very British Coup". I watched the TV programme and read the book sometime in the mid to late eighties.

It had a big effect on me. Written by Sunderland South MP, Chris Mullin who is also a journalist, you would expect it to have at least a flavour of the truth about it.

For those that haven't read the book or seen the series, here's a quick synopsis of the plot. Tired of Tories, fat cats and City swindlers the voters of Britain make a huge swing to the left. Despite the newspapers branding him a communist, charismatic Harry Perkins (steelworker from Sheffield) rises to power on a wave of goodwill.

Before long he sets about his election promises. He kicks out the American air bases, he makes Britain "non-aligned", he promises a referendum on the monarchy, and he angers the press barons by aiming to establish a "one man, one newspaper" law.

He's tremendously strong. He can't be bought. And he knows he's up against it.

You could see why the electors would go for him. He has an air of reliability about him. He's funny too but he also comes across as genuine. He also has lots of lovely sound bites, like this one when he's being interviewed on a train, after his election success, en-route to London:

Reporter:
Is it true you are going to abolish first class on trains?

Harry:
No, I am going to abolish second class. I believe all people are first class.

From the very outset though the establishment are plotting to undermine him. The Murdoch figure is battering him daily in the press, the secret services are digging up every last little bit of muck they can find on him, and the CIA are employing dirty tricks.

It may sound a little far fetched. But remember that strong left wing governments have always been undermined by the USA. Look at Nicaragua, El Salvador, look at Cuba. No one can deny Murdoch plays his own little power games - dangling his support in return for favours. Meanwhile, it's common knowledge that the Harold Wilson Government was undermined by his own secret services.

It's a beautifully written story. The beauty of the books and the series is that they end differently. There's a triumphant ending and a miserable ending.

While watching or reading, however, there are two things that strike you:

1. Why can't we have a prime minister like Harry Perkins?

2. How could we ever have a PM like Harry Perkins when they would be undermined from the start?

The TV series shows an uplifting scene when Harry gets elected. It stirred in me much the same emotions as when Blair made it to number 10 years later. Having grown up with the Tories, I expected things to get much better under Labour. Before I get complaints, I think they have got a little better. But Blair is no Harry Perkins.

Perhaps though, Blair is the only type of Labour PM we could have ever had. Does the weight of the establishment mean that only the very soft left are an option? Let's face it we have never had a real left-wing prime minister in this country? Is this because they are unpalatable to the electorate or because they would be effectively kicked out by the "powers that be".

If its the latter then Blair and his buddies should stop shouting quite so loud about British freedom and democracy. The trouble is, I am certain it is the latter.

A Very British Coup, despite being 20 years old, is still full of remarkable parallels to the current Government. There's a bruising press secretary (only this one's a good guy), there's a plotting chancellor and there's warnings of troubles ahead from the USA if we don't pitch in with their defence plans.

We do seem to be stuck in a time loop with our politics. Just as you can watch videos of the late Bill Hicks and he may as well be talking about George Bush junior and the current Iraq war, the same forces are still shaping the world as they were in the eighties. The same shadowy figures are still pulling the strings.

But, as well as making you think, A Very British Coup is worth investing time in simply because, for a large part of it, it represents the dream. Britain being run by a man with conviction, morals and with the intelligence and resolve to make it work against all the odds. Harry Perkins is a man who believes in democracy and who believes that promises made to the electorate must be carried out regardless of adverse pressures from at home and abroad.

So, buy the book or the DVD or wait till it comes around again on UK Drama. To a certain extent it helps make the pieces fit into place as to why politicians behave as they do. And why the UK slavishly follows the US and bows and scrapes to Murdoch.

In the meantime, we'll all just have to wait for another Harry Perkins to come along.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Sometimes it takes a grown man a long time to learn just what it would take a child a night to learn.

Just as there are days when you feel like giving up on the human race completely, there are others when you feel boosted by the people around you and society in general.

I've mentioned before that being part of a crowd at a festival, or a protest march, can raise your spirits. If your views are left leaning there are other times when you can find yourself feeling isolated. If you work in a commerical environment your views can even hold you back and leave you tagged as the token objectionable lefty.

In those situations you can find yourself intercepting raised eyebrows between colleagues. I once made the mistake, when meeting a group of people for the first time, of launching into my views on moon landing conspiracies. Not suprisingly I was quickly written off as a nut. I guess you have to choose your audience.

Once you have broken the 30 barrier then the people you least understand are kids. I think I hung on in there until I was about 28. And, of course, I still think I am younger in my outlook than most people my age, but doesn't everybody think that?

Somewhere along the way though I got lost. I could keep up with the charts when it was Madchester or Britpop. Then music just became awful. Wall-to-wall insipid pop crap. I even hate the name "pop". When I argue with people about how Gareth Gates should be shot they answer "...but it's only pop". As if "pop" being a watchword for crap makes it okay to produce such rubbish. But weren't The Beatles pop? Wasn't Motown pop? Does the leap from The Beatles to Westlife really represent 40 years of progress?

Then there are the alternative kids. In many ways I am even more put out by the baggy trouser brigade. Not least because I had always thought that I was, at least, albeit in a very easily over-looked way, a little bit alternative myself.

I had a quiff that I flopped around to The Smiths. I've gripped onto my shirt cuffs while shoe-gazing. You didn't find me listening to Queen and Simple Minds.

But even the modern alternative stuff has left me behind.

I had always had a problem getting my head around goths. The modern goth has an even more irritating sub genre - the skater goth. Sorry, should that be sk8er goth? Bloody text language.

These are irritating little gits that grind up the walls and pavements and whizz past you when you're carrying heavy bags. They have huge trousers that have amazing capillary action. They can soak up whole puddles in seconds.

What's more I was alternative from about the age of 15. This lot are already using black eye-liner aged eight.

However, my viewpoint has changed a little.

Now don't ask me to appreciate Marilyn Manson. His music is awful. I have nothing against loud, but loud and crap I can do without. But then I watched Bowling for Columbine and, believe it or not, MM is the most lucid person interviewed throughout. I started to warm to the big freak.

Then, one year ago, when schock and awe kicked off the Iraq war, I was in the centre of Newcastle for a demonstation. I had put my arse on the line. I had recently started a new job, but slavisly following instructions from the Stop the War mob, I walked out to join the demonstrations.

I got there a little early but the signs weren't good. It doesn't take a lot of bottle to stop traffic if there are thousands of you. However, if there are a dozen of you then it's plain embarassing. You feel like the rest of the world is watching and ridiculing. We were trying to stop a war, that had already started, and seemingly no one else cared for our cause.

By the time the Police obligingly stopped the traffic for us, our numbers had swelled to around 20 to 30. Still pretty embarrasing. Passing chavas were having a fun time baiting us. My head was was down.

Then, as we reached the spot where we were to hear the speeches, I was aware of a noise. There were cheers, chants and singing. Then suddenly, this wave of baggy trousered, eye liner wearing kids swept into view. They easily trebled our numbers. What's more they brightened the mood considerably and added much-needed energy to our little group.

For the first time ever I felt a real kinship with them. Suddenly, what I took to be corporate-packaged rebellion, was actually turning out to be the real thing. Yes, turning up to a march was an excuse to miss an afternoon's school. However, skiving, on whatever pretext, is forbidden. Let's face it, they could have just hung around the local shopping centre.

It was a theme that I saw again and again on protests. For the Bush visit, when my mate dropped out at the last minute, I found myself travelling down on the bus alone. Again it was full of kids. Suddenly my viewpoint was being sought as an "oldie". They wanted to know about what I thought, they wanted to know what marches were like. They actually seemed to care and what's more they had the will and the energy to do something about it.

I think there was a lost generation. I think the kids that were in their teens, while I was in my twenties, missed out. Political apathy ruled - not helped by New Labour moving to the right. I had grown up and been influenced by Red Wedge and the miner's strike. My parents were sixties kids. Okay they hadn't exactly tuned in, turned on or dropped out, but they had enough of a whiff of patchouli oil about them to want for a better world.

Everything is changing though. Kids are once more being re-energised by politics. In many ways they are better than we were. I was a follower of the Labour Party. Young 'uns now are less likely to be fooled. They have left party politics behind. They have the power of the Internet, they don't just have to listen to the viewpoints of apatheitc or cynical parents or rely on TV.

If this baggy-trousered army can offset the pop idol, ironic mullet-headed morons then we have a chance.

I have given up on the noughties (I hate that phrase) rivalling the sixties for music, but there is a chance that we will, before the end of the decade, see the kind of protests that changed the world back then.

Once again "the times they are a changing".


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

The past is always knocking incessant. Trying to break through into the present. We have to work to keep it out and I won't be the first to shout it's over.

This week we were told that the best of all years was 1976.

I find it hard to disagree. I was five then. I was fed regularly and I got to watch Trumpton. What's not to like?

But my own personal best years were either 1990 or 2001.

In 1990 I was a floppy haired student at Manchester Polytechnic. Having considerably under-achieved at school, I managed to scrape my way onto an HND course that was three times over-subscribed. A year later, with the dawning of Madchester, applicants increased ten fold. I guess I was very lucky.

That year had it all. The best music ever to my ears. To this day, hardly a week goes by without me sticking on a Stone Roses' CD. Then there was the magnificent Hacienda night club, where I would spend every Thursday evening.

For an 18 year old kid from a rural town it was all gobsmacking. Suddenly I was drinking in places that The Face thought were cool. I used to get the bus back to Burnage after college and, on one or two occasions, I saw Shaun Ryder outside Factory Records having a cigarette.

Once I was stood in front of the God-like Ian Brown in the queue in Barclays.

Then there was the World Cup. Italia 90.

I have long since stopped caring about the England football team, the press and fans ruined it for me, but it was still special back then. The squad contained Geordie boys Gazza, Waddle and Beardsley. And when Gazza cried, so did I.

No World Cup has ever caught my imagination like that one. It also had the added bonus of the best ever sound track. World in Motion was cool. Nessum Dorma made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

My best recent year was 2001. I won't bore you too much with the details, as I have gone through it all before, but in short, I quit my job, I traveled the world and it changed me forever.

It is very easy, however, to make nostalgia a negative emotion. It's very easy to say that everything used to be better. It's certainly very easy when you're a thirtysomething.

But what if they genuinely were better?

As I was thinking about topics to blog about, this turned up in the inbox of my email:


According to today's regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in
the 60's, 70's and early 80's probably shouldn't have survived,because our
baby cots were covered with brightly coloured lead-based paint, which was
promptly chewed and licked. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, or
latches on doors or cabinets and it was fine to play with pans.

When we rode our bikes, we wore no helmets, just sandshoes and fluorescent
spokey dokeys' on our wheels. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts
or airbags - riding in the passenger seat was a treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle and it tasted the
same.

We ate chips, bread and butter pudding and drank fizzy pop with sugar in it,
but we were never overweight because we were always outside playing.

We shared one drink with four friends, from one bottle or can and no one
actually died from this.

We would spend hours building go-carts out of scraps and then went top speed
down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into
stinging nettles a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and could play all day, as long as we were
back before it got dark. No one was able to reach us and no one minded or
worried we had been abducted.

We did not have Play stations or X-Boxes, no video games at all. No 99
channels on TV, no videotape movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no
personal computers, and no Internet chat rooms. We had friends we went outside and
found them.

We played elastics, hoola hoops and street rounders, and sometimes that ball
really hurt.

We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones but there were no lawsuits.

We had full on fistfights but no prosecution followed from other parents.

We played knock-and-run and were actually afraid of the owners catching us.

We walked to friend's homes. We also, believe it or not, WALKED to school;
we didn't rely on mummy or daddy to drive us to school, which was just round
the corner.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls.

We rode bikes in packs of 7 and wore our coats by only the hood.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law unheard of. They
actually sided with the law.



If you are the same age as me - doesn't it sound better than kids have today?

Are we building a new generation of weaklings? Pale skinned, wheezy little beggars who never leave their Playstation for a minute?

Maybe it's all down to fear. The media constantly horrifies us with stories of paedophiles, food scares and MMR jabs. To add to this, everyone is scared of being sued. Teachers won't take kids on school trips because they could be fined, or worse, imprisoned if anything untoward happens.

The trouble with fear is that it can be used to sell us anything. It can turn people against asylum seekers, it can ruin and divide communities. There are clever people out there who will use fear to make us buy trainers we don't need and can't afford. Then there is also the hard-sell from politicians, using fear to sell us wars we also don't need and can't afford.

Try this for size:

"Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a communist dictatorship ... Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country." Hermann Goering.

And here's another one:

"It's just a ride and we can change it any time we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money, a choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one." Bill Hicks.

I have read so many times over the last few days that the people of Spain have given in to fear. Wrong, they stood up to it. Fear makes you fight. They used their heads. Compassion is what they gave in to. It is always far stronger and braver to not to fight.

So if 1976 was better than 2004, then maybe it's because of modern-day fear. Fear of crime, fear of terrorists, fear for our health, fear of being old, fear of being unfashionable.

Nostalgia is often used alongside terms such as "simpler times" and I guess that is the difference. Life has got far too complicated. There is the pressure to achieve material success. There is also the pressure that is a result of just trying to do your best for the people around you - while all the time the media sends out frightening messages.

So simplify your own life. Downsize, live out of a backpack for a year, make do with less, work shorter hours. Try and make judgements on how you see life rather than what your copy of the Daily Mail says.

Life should be better now. There are the advances in medicine, better communications, a better standard of living. All in all, if we can remove ourselves from fear and don't allow ourselves to be influenced by it , then we will all surely be happier.

This Saturday, more people will take to the streets of London to protest about the war in Iraq. They have not given in to fear. They will not be sold on the lie that the best way to fight killers is by killing.

Like Bill Hicks said - we have two choices - fear or love.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

You keep buying these things but you don't need them. But as long as you're comfortable it feels like freedom.

God I am skint.

I haven't been this skint since I was a student.

I have reached that point of skintness where all the cupboards in the kitchen downstairs only have ingredients but nothing you could actually make a meal out of.

The reason I am so skint is that a few months ago now I gave up the life of a salaried employee to become self employed. Actually the decision was not as hard as you might think. My employer was as happy to see the back of me as I was to go.

Now all in all things have gone pretty well. I have brought in a handful of new clients who are happy to use my freelance expertise. Now that I am self-employed they also seem to give more credence to my suggestions. Theoretically, I should now be just about better off than when I was an employee.

Except I'm not. I'm totally skint. I'm all but penniless. Actually I am worse than penniless my overdraft and credit cards are totally maxed.

The reason I am skint is this. No one bloody pays on time. Businesses are supposed to pay after one month. That is a fair system. Theoretically, if they don't then you are allowed to add interest. Except you don't because you always hope that they will pay eventually and you don't want to cause any friction that might cause them not to use your services again.

Actually most of my clients are public sector. Surely they pay on time? No, they don't.

My very first client, who I must admit I had been warned about, is a bit of a local worthy. He sits on various committees is often seen in the local papers. I worked for his own private business but much of his time is spent working with an organisation that aims to support local entrepreneurs.

Did he pay on time?

After one month I sent him a reminder.

No reply.

After six weeks I sent another.

No reply.

After two months he got in contact and asked if I would be prepared to take half of what I was owed rather than resort to taking him to court.

I wrote a furious email telling him to stick it.

Then I deleted it.

Then I wrote another. I told him I would accept. How am I, a sole trader supposed to start employing lawyers to chase after a measly £500?

So, two months after I had first billed him, I settled for £250. I needed that money just to pay the bills and put food on the table. Luckily I am the only one that eats from that table. I am not sure what I would do if I had dependents.

Time and time again we hear about governments' commitment to small businesses. The days of the massive manufaturers are over, we need, we are told, new entrepreneurs running small businesses to replace them.

Surely I am a government's wet dream as a potential employer of tomorrow. Surely it is worth their while to put in place, and properly enforce, legislation aimed at helping small businesses.

It has reached the stage where I am struggling just to keep things switched on. Everytime I log onto the computer I pray that it will connect and that BT hasn't put a block on me. The same goes for the phone. My mobile has already gone. Sky went a week ago - luckily my flatmate paid for that to go back on. He missed the Simpsons too much.

But enough moaning. I hate moaning. Or at least I hate moaning about personal problems. I rather like moaning about everything else - the telly, Pop Idols, the Government, George Bush, Lorraine Kelly, adverts, Robbie Williams etc etc etc

And there is an element of being skint that actually stirs the nostalgic soul inside me.

I used to share the grottyest of flats with two other mates. It was nicknamed the Flat of Doom by our friends. Every so often we would reach a point where we were so skint that we would pool all our individual foodstuffs to try and make something edible. What we made was Big Pie.

This basically meant putting everything we owed in a pan and boiling it up and adding stock. This would usually consist of a few greying specks of mince, some past-their-best vegetables, usually some pasta too, a tin of tomatos, baked beans, lots of herbs and lots of chilli powder. Come to think of it we added chilli powder to everything. I still do. A Pot Noodle is inedible without it.

It would then be slopped into the bottom of a roasting dish and an expanse of pastry would be rolled out over the top of it. For some reason we always saved a bit of pastry for the top so we could use it to spell out "BIG PIE".

It then went into the oven for a random amount of time before it was dished up.

It was one of those foodstuffs that you actually pretend to yourself you like. After the first moutful you make that quizical, head-on-one-side, nodding-a-couple-of-times, look. And then you'd say: "...actually it's not bad."

Then four mouthfuls later you would realise that it was foul. But you'd finish it, still pretending to everyone that it was pretty tasty. You'd usually blow it though when seconds were offered and you said "no" just a little too quickly.

Besides Big Pie would last for days so you would have plenty opportunities for another plateful.

Occasionaly you would find a little miracle pound coin down the side of the sofa and you would get to decide on what to spend it on. It was usually a toss up between beans and a loaf of bread, or three cans of Kwik Pills from the nearby offy.

Stupidly we nearly always went for the beer option. And two minutes later when they pitiful little cans were drunk we'd regret we hadn't gone for the beans. The worst thing possible for a beer thirst is a single can. We would have done better not to have bothered at all.

All in all though I am pretty lucky. I have a roof over my head. I have a flat mate who pays me rent and I have parents who I don't scrounge from, but I guess I could if I really had too.

It's a short-term problem and I know sooner or later I will be able to pay all the bills. I might even be able to afford a night out and some new clothes.

Being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel is very comforting.

Now, whose for Big Pie?

Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Monday, March 15, 2004

While we expect democracy they're laughing in our face. And although our cries get louder. Their laughter gets louder still. Above the sound of ideologies clashing.

I can honestly say the single biggest change to occur in my lifetime is the Internet.

It has improved my quality of life and has influenced the way I live my life in so many ways.

The single biggest strength of the Internet is that it can't be censored. Every shade of human life is out there - from family blogs to the British National Party. In between these you can find out anything you ever wanted to know or anything you ever wanted to buy.

In many ways, it's a democracy writ large. Everyone has a voice, everyone can say what they believe in. Strike that, it's better than a democracy - we can say what we like without apologies and without the need to fit in with the ideologies of certain newspapers or TV stations.

I've been enjoying reading Paul the postman's blog. In his latest post he talks of violence faced by Socialist Workers Party members at the hands of the BNP. It is understandable that he believes that the likes of the BNP should have no links to democracy.

I agree whole heartedly. But I would prefer it if it was the people themselves that kept them from political power rather than the law makers. Ban an organisation and it can only gain strength from the notoriety. But exposing a political organisation such as this to the democratic process and the debate that goes with it and it would surely flounder.

At present the BNP flourish on hatred. Hatred that they themselves manufacture. Their electioneering is carried out on the doorstep. Here they take advantage of the disenfranchised and the down trodden. Other than the resident themselves there is only one voice on that doorstep, there is no one there to dispute their lies and to pick holes in their arguments.

This is why the BNP avoid debate. They know that they have little to offer but hatred. They know that their average candidate would be left a blubbering mess following any kind of a debate where they couldn't use their fists.

My belief is that there should be a real will, by all political parties, to expose the BNP for exactly what they are. But to exclude them from the democratic process is counter productive. That is not to say their more shady practices should also be tolerated. The full force of the law must be used against them in cases of incitement and violence.

This is only half of what I wanted to say on the subject of free speech and democracy.

A site that linked to my first posting on Madrid and disagreed with my analysis of it, later removed the link because he said he had received a threatening email. I won't link the site just in case it causes any further problems. I find this very sad. The biggest single reason behind writing the last two posts was to promote debate. I am horrified to think that someone had threatened somebody because they disagreed with me.

If you are anti war then it surely follows that you are anti violence full stop. That includes any kind of physical threat just as it includes everything from pub fights through to child discipline. It is the belief that there is no progress to be made from arguments being settled solely on physical strength and numbers.

I would ask anyone who comments here to do so with respect to everyone's point of view.

I am still new to blogging. I can't fathom the middle-American, bible-belt family blogs with their "I support the president" buttons but that is their right.

In order for any country to have a true democracy it also has to have a free media. At times this country makes a mockery of this. Blair was elected, where Kinnock failed, largely because he had done his deal with Murdoch. Murdoch backed him and the rest was history.

To put this in some kind of perspective: Murdoch owns 166 newspapers worldwide. Every last one of them was in support of the war. But who was supporting who? Was Murdoch backing Blair? Was Blair backing Murdoch, or were both backing Bush? Even more frightening - were both Bush and Blair backing Murdoch?

Then take another step. What does Murdoch get out of backing Blair? Exactly how much does Murdoch support cost? There is little doubt that Murdoch has been watching the recent BBC battering with much interest.

While I haven't always agreed with the BBC in the past, every democratic country needs a broadcaster of this type. An authoratitive broadcaster that has the independence and strength to stand up to its government. In a dictatorship the military acts as the opposition party, in a democracy the media should assume that position - alongside HM's opposition.

But there are other pressures on the media and that includes the BBC. There is the pressure of patriotism or lack of it. Anyone against the war, once it had started, was accused of not backing our troops. Of course it's a totally nonsensical argument - surely wanting them home, safe and alive is the best possible way of backing them.

However, once the war machine sprung to life, dissenting voice were marginalised by all media and that includes the BBC. I have seen some fascinating documentaries on television particularly by John Pilger. They have the kind of content that if you put them on the front page of the Sun they would go along way to toppling a government. But put them on ITV late at night and they pass by almost unnoticed.

It's important to realise just the media works to an agenda too. Remember the then England football manager Glen Hoddle being booted out at the media's behest because of an ill-advised remark about reincarnation? He had actually made the same remark many months earlier but his removal wasn't part of the agenda at the time.

The same applies to Prime Ministers. Blair has Murdoch's backing simply because he is more likely to stick to his agenda and appear more credible while doing it than the opposition party at the last general election. In the meantime watch how Blair and New Labour have carefully crafted their policies - on areas such as immigration and the euro - to fit in with the politics of The Sun. And while America gets into a flap about Janet Jackson's left breast, Dubya still thought it was fitting of a president to give his only interview, during his visit, to The Sun. A newspaper that still, despite now having a female editor, includes topless women on page three.

I guess my point is this. The beauty of the Internet is we all get a voice. This is a true democracy. We should respect that and respect the viewpoints of all who post.

In the meantime for the UK and USA to mirror that true democracy there must be independent media. How else are we supposed to inform ourselves so that when elections come around we can be sure we are voting as a result of our own beliefs rather than those of the media barons.

Remember this, the media and democracy are one at the same. In this respect, with governments taking millions of pounds from big business they are far less independent than the the likes of the BBC.

To take this to its logical conclusion: It is not the political parties themselves that offer real democracy -it's independent media, it's the Internet and it's the view points of you and I that do that.

Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Peace, bread, work, and freedom is the best we can achieve. And wearing badges is not enough on days like these.

Those of you who regularly read Space Hardware will probably guess by now that my aim isn't to be one of those sites that simply act as a platform to link other people's thoughts and ideas.

As I have said, I have no expertise in all things political. I only have a a great deal of curiosity and a healthy cynicism for governments. This applies particularly to 911. However, following the debate prompted by the last posting on supposed terrorist attrocities, I just want to include these links. I hope you find them interesting.

I also want to point out that I don't believe half of the conspiracies that these links promote. However, if you believe in just a small portion of it, or believe that they at least promote debate and ask some very difficult questions of the Bush regime, then ask yourself what you can do to help to carry on that debate.

Until we get to the bottom of the who and the why of 911, we shouldn't be jumping to conclusions over Madrid.

Why it happened:

Meacher comments:

Attack was preventable:

Ignored warnings:

The dancing Israelis:

Explosives in the twin towers:

A frame up – and the Carlyle Group:

Marvin Bush:

Bin Laden confession tape staged:

The questions in full:

I would love to hear your comments.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Theirs are the skies all dark with bombers and mine is the peace we knew between the wars.

Just watching the news reports come in about supposed Al Qaeda links with the Madrid bomb.

On the face of it, it looks pretty damning. A letter has been sent to newspaper claiming responsibility. A van has been found near the scene with detonators and a taped version of the Koran. These details are sketchy so excuse me if news reports change later.

Like I said, all in all, pretty damning.

And I don't believe a word of it.

Just like I don't believe that Bush knew nothing about September 11th before it happened. September 11th set the tone for the whole of his presidency - it got his oil buddies into Afghanistan and took them on a crest of an Axis of Evil wave into Iraq.

I have mentioned marching before when Bush came to London. What happened? Our march was wiped of the world's front pages by a bomb in Turkey.

Last Friday Blair makes his speech warning us of the dangers of terrorism. Then Spain is attacked, less than one week later, apparently by Al Qaeda themselves.

On the very same day, as the Madrid blast, Bush, who is really starting to struggle in the US polls, is attending a memorial for those killed in 9/11. The timing of it is perfect. Bush gets to talk about how the world we live in is still a dangerous place and he has a ready made example to demonstrate his point. The polls also show that the American public believe Bush to be a stronger "war-time leader" than Kerry. In other words for Bush to win he has to clearly show that the war is both vital and on-going.

This is all handily backed up by the Madrid Al Qaeda letter which also states that further bombings will be carried out in the USA itself. This in itself makes no sense. Terrorists warning in advance on bomb attacks? It doesn't exactly make life easy for them.

Let's not also forget that currently the Brits released from Guantanamo are all locked away with journalists and are telling their, no doubt, horrific stories. These stories are now also pushed away from the front page. I am certain that the bomb in Madrid will now be used as an example of how it is okay to bend civil rights a little, if these atrocities can be avoided.

As I said, it is all just too convenient. I don't pretend for a second to be able to understand the mindset of a Muslim. Except that I believe that human nature is much the same the world over. I don't see how such atrocities can benefit Al Qaeda. I do understand how they can benefit Bush, Blair, big business and not forgetting Israel.

There are so many interesting view points on 9/11 out there on the web. What is certain, whatever you believe is that it has never been properly investigated. You have to ask yourself why? You can join the dots for yourselves - the Bin Laden familiy ties with the Bushes, the Carlyle Group, the Saudi Royal Family, the inability to send up interceptor jets, Bush freezing in that kid's classroom, the video of Bin Laden actually claiming credit for the bombing that doesn't actually look like Bin Laden. Then there is the reports of the so-called dancing Israelis in the nearby park, taking pictures of the collapsing World Trade Centre while whooping and high fiving. It's all out there I could link it all individually but If you are interested then What Really Happened has it all.

But ignoring all of that for a second. Suppose we agree with every word Bush and Blair have said. Suppose we put aside our thoughts on the wrongs that has been perpetrated against Afghanistan and Iraq. Suppose Al Qaeda is a danger.

Have the wars so far made this world safer? Are we closer to world peace?

The only answer can be no to both of those.

Going back to Muslims and human nature. The lie that is frequently repeated is "they hate us because we are free that is why they attack us". This is plainly ludicrous. If Al Qaeda does exist and is behind these attacks then it is because of our support for a murderous Israeli regime. It is because of the many tens of thousands that have been killed by our bombs. It is because of the one million people who died in Iraq before the war even started because of sanctions. The sanctions that only strengthened Saddam's position of power and further weakened his people. Who knows, without the sanctions it is possible that Saddam would have been overthrown by his own people in the fullness of time.

The deaths that occurred in Spain today are tragic. Ordinary people going about their daily lives. But the worst outcome of this bomb would be if it was used as an excuse to increase this death toll many times over.

I know there are people out there who will disagree with what I have written. That is your perogative. I am neither a historian nor a political expert and those of you who are, and who don't have a political axe to grind can put me right.

However I believe I am educated and informed enough to have my own opinion. I refuse to be told what has happened, who to blame and what should be done by Blush, Blair and their many media cronies.

In the same way that it appears the War on Terrorism will run and run, so will the fight to stop all wars. We are never going to live in a Utopia but the only immediate step in the right direction, that I can think of, is the removal of Bush and Blair.

Despite what has happened today. I want to reiterate what has been said, shouted, chanted and sung by millions of people across the world. The war on terror is NOT IN MY NAME.


Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.
I will not cease from mental fight. Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand. Till we have built Jerusalem. In England's green and pleasant land.

"Glastonbury is a fantastic event. So many young people in a community which is self-governing and tolerant. It confirms my belief that despite everything, humanity really does want to get on with itself. Michael Eavis is a genius for making it happen." Tony Benn, 2003.

It's less than a month now till the Glastonbury tickets go on sale. My excitement is starting to build.

I love Glastonbury.

I love the chance to see so many great bands.

I love the fresh air and the sunshine.

I love the freaks and weirdos.

Most of all I love that fact that there are tens of thousands of people there and most of them are just like me.

Glastonbury remains the three best days of the year. I have attended other festivals but there is nowhere quite like Glastonbury. It's link to the past, and all things King Arthur, is maybe overstated but there is definitely something spiritual about the place. Then again maybe it's just the marijuana fumes.

Either way there is no feeling in the world better than sitting up that hill opposite the main stage, letting the young 'uns sweat it out at the front while you enjoy the sunset, the (ahem) refreshment and the anticipation building for the big acts of the evening.

Last year was one of the best. Four bands stood out. Radiohead were just amazing. Brilliant showmen, brilliant songs. Then there was REM - quite simply they are THE great band of our generation. Michael Stipe has charisma that extends a hundred feet either side of him. Anybody who can get 100,000 to shout out Leonard Bernstein in unison has a special gift.

Then there was the Flaming Lips. The furry animals, the pyrotechnics, the humour, the sing-a-long. I didn't stop grinning throughout their whole set.

Meanwhile there was Billy Bragg playing in the Leftfield tent. There's something about Billy that just inspires me. If you have ever seen him live you will know that you leave thinking that a socialist utopia is possible and between all us right-thinking people WE can make it happen. Billy is one of my biggest heroes and is so much more than just a songwriter and performer. Then again, even taken in isolation, his songs are little chunks of genius.

There was a single moment at Glastonbury 2003 that will always stick in my mind. It happened when the massed ranks of fans in front of Radiohead sang along with Karma Police.

With Glastonbury taking place last year against the international backdrop of the Iraq war, the conflict definitely left its mark. There was something of a Stop the War, spirit-of-the-marches vibe. There was a feeling of defiance and a new togetherness. In this respect, nothing felt more poignant than the words "This is what you'll get when you mess with us" sung by so many. Earlier REM singing the End of the World as we Know it, also pushed similar buttons.

But it was that Radiohead moment on that glorious Glastonbury Hill that really stuck with me. It felt like a Glastonbury army was being mobilised.

I applaud the efforts of Michael Eavis and his daughter for making it happen. And making it happen (almost) year after year. In particular his daughter deserves special credit for repoliticising the event and building the links that exist with Fair Trade. The festival may now have big name sponsors and corporate links but there are still products that are black listed and banned because of various corporate misdemeanors.

This year, numbers of attending friends have dwindled a little. But, at present, there are two cars going down and enough people to make a little circle of tents in a quiet spot somewhere.

I can even take the toilets. I'm not bullish about them at all. I hate them with a passion but five minutes hovering over a stinking pit is a very small price to pay to be part of something like Glastonbury.

For those that aren't going remember this: There will be a point that weekend when you switch on your television and you will see Glastonbury in all its glory. There will be happy faces singing along to whoever is on the stage. Your own planned trip to the pub will suddenly feel rather lame. What's more you will miss a sprinkling of genuinely historic performances.

...and you'll turn to the person next to you and say: "Awwww...why didn't we go?"

I just hope it doesn't rain.

Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Monday, March 08, 2004

"When the world falls apart some things stay in place. Levi Stubbs' tears run down his face."

I know it's a sign that I am getting older. But I don't think I like change very much.

Certainly not the change that involved my most favourite night club in the world ever - the old World Headquarters.

For those familiar with Newcastle, who ever visited the place - you have to agree it was special.

Downstairs was a lovely room with a pool table, assorted cool posters and a pool table. Upstairs was the dance floor, the cloakroom and the toilets. On a Saturday, when DJ Tommy had the place jumping it was a wash with smiling faces and good soul tunes.

The dance floor was dark enough to be anonymous. It was also packed enough that the dancing was limited to the space you could find, above your head, for your arms. The music was pretty much faultless - one classic after another.

Tommy would mix James Brown and Nina Simone in with more modern tunes. He's even throw a bit of Latin, lounge and swing in there. I remember once he built and built the atmosphere for so long then went straight into Angel of Harlem. I don't even like the tune normally but, that night, it sounded like angels singing.

We used to get there early. On occasions our crowd would number as many as a dozen, on special occasions even more. If you got there shortly after the doors opening you could monopolize the three tables by the cloakroom. Once you were in, and settled, you were set for the night. It was the kind of place that you never felt drunk in, but by the time you made it out into the fresh air outside, your legs would start to give way and communicating with the taxi driver was next to impossible.

It became the worst-kept best-kept secret. It's popularity continued to grow over the years. But it was will small enough for you to feel like you had some ownership of it and a stake in its success. There was even a cool clunky website that you could leave messages on when you were bored at work and DJ Tommy would occasionally answer your queries.

I used to love taking people there for their first visit. Friends from out of town would ask: "Why don't we have anything like this". Locals were always incredulous that they hadn't known it existed. Without exception they made it back for a second visit, and a third and a fourth.

There was never any trouble in WHQ. They had, and still do have, the friendliest bouncers in town. If you went regularly, and they got to know you, there was always a nod, a smile and a bit of chat. You would see the owners around town too and they would always say hello.

I remember once, after a midweek trip to the comedy club, I ended up at WHQ. I was shocked. It was a drum and base night and I didn't recognise anyone there. It felt like sacrilege - all these trendy youngsters in my club listening to godawful music. I didn't stay long. Friday or Saturdays were my nights. The age group spanned 18 to 35 and the "no-charvas" door policy kept everything nicely friendly.

Then we started to hear about a move to a new venue. It transpired that the old Marlborough Crescent building was to be bulldozed in the name of progress and all things Capital of Culture. At first we were excited. New had to mean better. I envisaged a larger scale version of what was already on offer but with a cosy little corner or two that would maintain the air of intimacy that WHQ had always had. I also, for some reason, thought that the new venue would be warehousey, dilapidated and somewhat rustic.

It was shortly after this that I went on my travels. While I was away, when I felt homesick, I often thought about nights out at WHQ. I was away for nearly a year and when I returned I was surprised to find that the new WHQ was still not ready to move into.

The good news was that I managed a triumphant return to the old venue. It also meant that, when it finally came around, we were all able to attend the last ever Saturday night in the old venue.

For reasons best known to themselves the staff had decorated the old place with branches and twigs - it resembled something of a magic forest. It was a fantastic evening awash with nostalgia. Perhaps they were thinking that the resulting fire hazard might mean the old place might go up in smoke thereby cheating the demolition team out of a job.

If you managed to get tickets for that last night you also got two free tickets to the opening of the new place down in Carliol Square. So, the following Thursday we all trooped down there. We were expectant and ready to be impressed. We really wanted to like the new place. It didn't help that it being a weeknight, and with us all having to work the next day, we didn't have much to drink.

At first we all made all the right appreciative noises. Downstairs was spacious and had even more comfy chairs than the old place. Upstairs had a much bigger dancefloor, decent toilets for a change and a longer bar. There were also a few little comfy seated areas - albeit none as welcoming as that little nook by the cloakroom at the old WHQ. But, it was brighter and smarter than I thought it would be. It did remind me a little too much of that new legion of bars that were springing up that were forsaking atmosphere for that late night hotel feel.

I also had this nagging feeling that the owners had created a night club where Kieron Dyer would feel at home.

We left early, seemingly happy, but with something nagging a way at us. I think even as early as that we realised that something was missing. It was the following Saturday night we returned. Again we got there early, found a space to sit upstairs, and joined the dance floor once the music and the alcohol started to take hold.

It was only when the place started to fill up that the main problem started to become apparent. The dancefloor was located on the route between the entrance and the bar. To add to this, to use the toilets you also had to go out through the same door. That meant there was a steady procession of people walking across the floor at any one time. Every ten seconds you would have to do that palms-out-wide motion of letting people through. It soon became annoying.

I have no doubt that the sound system was ten times better than the old one - but it didn't sound it. Music didn't seem to have the bass that it used to. If you stood in the wrong spot it would actually sound tinny. Maybe it's just me too, but I'm sure the setlist altered as well. It became a little more RnB and a little less soul.

Now you might think that all of these problems may have limited its success. Far from it. The trendy crowd started taking note of this big new club. The haircuts and the hairdressers took over. Soon it was wall to wall ironic mullets. The new punters looked like the cast of The Salon.

I didn't give up on it straight away. I was probably there another seven or eight times and for the first few of those I did at least try to pretend I was enjoying myself. But my heart wasn't it. From being there every Saturday, our visits became less and less frequent. Now I haven't been back for a year.

I am honest enough to admit to myself that part of the problem was that I'm getting old. I would even have turned my back on the old WHQ eventually. And the owners deserve great credit for what they are trying to achieve with the building. It now also houses an art gallery apparently - which I must check out one day. In addition, there are plans for a skatepark (now I really feel old) and a Ronnie Scott style jazz club (that's more like it).

Also for old gimmers like me, with the relaxing of the licensing laws in Newcastle, there are more and more pubs you can drink in till one am. There is no need for night clubs anymore.

But I still wish there was a cramped, squalid, dirty little nightclub out there I could call my own.

Top tip for any promoters reading this - the upstairs room at the Egypt Cottage would be ideal.

In the meantime, I'll sink further into middle age. I'll do this without the temptation of a half decent club with a setlist that would tempt me onto a dancefloor where I would only embarrass myself.

Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

And revenge will bring cold comfort in this darkest hour. As the juke box says 'It's All Over Now'. And he stands and he screams - what have I done wrong? I've fallen in love with a little time bomb.

The blogging has got me.

It's got me good.

I started with a free blog. It seemed a rewarding way of spending my time. I like to write. I like to rant. And there isn't always someone around to listen.

It didn't bother me at first that maybe no one would see it. I didn't even forward the URL to friends. It was supposed to be a private thing and if someone out there in cyberspace happened across the pages then great - but that was never the plan.

But then I got greedy. I started reading the Guardian's excellent weblog coverage and I wanted to be one of those "UK weblogs we like". After much pestering, the wondrous Jane Perrone agreed to link me. I guess it was just so I would stop clogging up her in-tray

I had hoped to be in the company of the half dozen or so blogs listed at the top of that page. In reality I was added to a longer list, much further down the page.

Little matter. At the time I didn't even have the facility to count hits.

Then I happened on a piece of Blogger script that I thought would do the job. It didn't entirely, but it did tell me, vaguely speaking, who was visiting.

That was the start of it.

From then on the temptation to refresh the referrals page every couple of minutes got too great. But still the visitor numbers were minimal.

I checked out the superb Call Centre Confidential and it was gaining referrals from other blogs well into three figures inside 24 hours.

So I started linking other sites, hoping they would link me back. I joined the Blogger Forum so I could try and find out from the experts what else I could do.

Slowly, as I looked around other sites, I found little bits and pieces that I could add. First a comment facility, then a better site tracker, then a gizmo that tells you how many people are visting your site at that very moment.

I was intoxicated by it all. With every new link I'd refresh again to see if any traffic was travelling in the opposite direction. Could I ever match Call Centre Confidential or the brilliant Belle De Jour?

I was also getting increasingly cocky about what I could or couldn't do. I know my way around the net but don't ask me how it all works. But, after a while I was cut and pasting scripts, if not like a pro, then at least like a relatively confident amateur.

Soon it started to get stupid. I added a "Cost of the Iraq War" dollar counter. I even pasted in a referral tracker that would post the results on the blog page itself. Then I got worried because, for some reason, it also showed the link to my template page. Suddenly I envisaged the site being hi-jacked by Neo-Nazis who would use it to take over the world - or something.

So I had a clear-out and dumped some of the clutter.

Earlier I had also spent the best part of two hours trying to get the email referral link to lie flush against the right-hand side of the page. As you can see, I couldn't. Eventually I settled for it being down there at the foot of this page.

Again I refreshed and I checked referrers. And then I refreshed and checked referrers once more.

I missed three television programs I had been intending to watch. Eventually I did tear myself away for the Secret Life of Us, but still rushed over, during every ad break, to refresh and check those stats.

I guess the real worry. Other than that of losing my mind, friends and perspective, is that I continue to busy myself adding pointless gimmicks and forget about actually writing something.

So I wrote this.

And I'll post it.

And I'll refresh again.

Perhaps someone out there actually uses my Atom feed and will whizz straight to my blog. To be honest I don't even really know what it does or how it works. But there was a script available to be cut and pasted. So I did. It didn't seem to harm anything and someone, somewhere may know how to use it.

Anyway, since I put my new counter in place yesterday I appear to have 50 hits. Not bad, I suppose. Then again even the dullest most rudimentary sites I visit appear to have tens of thousands of visitors. Do they just mount up? Can we all expect so many hits - or am I missing the both the boat and the point?

One article I read today said you should include up-to-date news and fads just so you can catch the Google searchers. Hmm...Princess Di blah blah, Bulimia blah blah, Blair blah blah, WMD blah blah blah, Leicester City footballers blah blah, La Manga blah blah Justin Timberlake to duet with Slipknot blah blah blah. Ok, the last one was a lie - but maybe it'll bring in a new youth audience.

What if I add - click here for naked pictures of Scarlett Johansson? Would that work?

Whatever. I have resolved to stop messing around with the site. So far it all seems to work okay but I am sure to break it. Then I'll need a new one. As mothers everywhere will tell you: if you keep playing with it - it won't get any better.

So, if you're reading this - please use my comment facility, my email recommending system and can you think of an interesting way to re-enter the site by a bizarre link.

You have no idea how happy this will make me.

Love, light and peace,

BykerSink

I saw two shooting stars last night I wished on them but they were only satellites. It's wrong to wish on space hardware. I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care.