Sunday, November 9, 2014

Back in the DDR

The former East Germany is a Cool Place. It's so cool that even the 'Wessies' are discovering the attributes of the their former Eastern Bloc countryfolk. In the 25 years since the 'wall' came down in Berlin, it's amazing that it's taken so long for those in the rest of Germany to realise that the DDR wasn't just state surveillance and repression of those who disagreed.

In recent years, 'capitalist' Germany has come to accept ideas such as a right to free childcare as normal when only a few years ago they were ridiculed as 'communist'.

In the east, the people have their 'freedom' - i.e. they can travel wherever they want. The right to work and a decent wage though is another thing. In some towns of the east, a take home wage can be as little as 500 Euros a month. Mind the right to free at access healthcare? That's communist too.

Little wonder that more people seem to be turning to Die Linke - the Left - for a political solution not to mention reviving formerly discredited 'communist' ideas that had quickly been dumped after reunification. Die Linke apparently includes many members of the former East German Socialists much to the horror of some on the centre-right.

I like this example from the Guardian's take on things regarding education:

 ...when poor results in OECD school rankings led to call for reforms of Germany’s education system at the turn of the millennium, a delegation was sent to Helsinki to study Finland’s top-ranking system. The Finns told them that they, in turn, had taken their inspiration from East Germany.
Frau Tocasaid's mother testifies to this. When East Germany was annexed re-united with the West - and the EU - everything that the DDR regime had built was swept aside to make way for the 'superior' ideas, methods and institutions of the West. Little by little over the past 25 years people have come to realise the error of that thinking.

Die Famillie Tocasaid was fortunate to set off to the eastern state of Saxony to re-unite the bairns with their German grandparents a few weeks back. The nearest airport is Pratha.

Having made this journey many times over the years, I still take a morbid interest in the flat and grey environment that seems to make up much of the Czech Republic. Greater Prague itself is horrible - like Glasgow's infamous 'grim hinterlands' times ten.

Sexy cabaret
The Czechs too have grasped their 'freedom'. It seems to manifest itself in out-of-control and garish roadside advertising. Fuck, it's everywhere.

Another manifestation of Czech freedom seems to be the market for 'erotic dancing' and establishments that offer that kind of adult entertainment. Their names amuse me on the long drive north: 'Sexy Club', 'Extasy Cabaret' and 'Darling Cabaret' which always amuses me as it reminds me of our very ane and sexless Alastair. The clubs and enthusiastic attempt at English obviously aimed at those Yankee and Brit pioneers of freiheit who come to live and play in Prague but who can't or won't learn the Slavic tongue. The Czech language indeed, seems to be held in even less esteem than our own Scottish. At least Scottish Gaelic, as it is presented in our cultural output and television - see the dire Bannan - is deemed worthy to present to those Engerlish speakers who stumble by and wish to look in.

The drive north towards Germany takes you past the hulking grey behemoth that is Cerny Most. This is not the socialist past at its best. A sprawling grey expanse of municipal housing erected in honour of Edinburgh's St James Centre and Leith's Banana Flats. The CM scheme is also home to a large retail park which includes the Republik's branch of IKEA. The Czech or Prague government obviously sees retail as a shining path to a better future and has rewarded the Czech slum dwellers with a rainbow coloured neon sign that welcomes drivers to CM and diverts the eye from the glum surroundings.

Not far from the German border is the city of Liberec - or Reichenberg as it was to the Germans before 1945. Close to Liberec is the Jested mountain on the top of which stands a huge pointed tower. This part of the socialist past seems welcomed by Czechs after a hard-day's skiing even though the monument is obviously the world's biggest middle-finger to Western civilisation.

The visit to the former-DDR is as pleasant as ever but is enhanced by the visit of Dutch punks Bambix to the Emil autonomous centre in Zittau. We head to the Emil and take in the punk rock, ludicrously cheap but excellent beer and salad-leaden vegan burgers. First up in Inner Conflict from Koln. Tuneful hardcore with female vocals - entertaining with good riffs and quality tunes. The guitarist requests than some folk in the crowd stop smoking as the singer is pregnant - it seems as if the anti-smoking laws in Germany have some wiggle room.

Emil, Zittau

Next up is Johnnie Rook from Berlin, who I have heard of courtesy of a split EP with Bambix. They kick more ass than Inner Conflict do. Not only that but the singer is pregnant with twins. This lot are great - bags of energy and a charismatic singer who owns the stage. Like a high-octane AC/DC playing hardcore punk.

Bambix do not disappoint. A Dutch band, speaking German and singing in English. The singer is a tunesmith and the first non-pregnant female-singer of the night. I resolve to see this lot back in Scotland if the chance comes along.

Back in town the next day, local municipal buildings are presenting exhibitions on the 25th anniversary of re-unification. As much of the east has died in the past quarter century, here's hoping that a move to the left can see the old towns and cities rejuvenated. There's a lot of the socialist past that's worth reclaiming.

Peace. Likes.

Can't we remember without the hypocrisy of glorifying our martial present?

Here's a wee tune by a working-class guy from Peebles called Eric Bogle.

And I can't help but wonder oh Willy McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause
Did you really believe that this war would end wars
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing and dying it was all done in vain
Oh Willy McBride it all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again

Friday, October 24, 2014

Banned from the Mòd

Well, not banned. But Na Seudan Ura were given a stern dressing down for daring to put a dreaded 'modern' slant on their Gaelic folk music. Apparently one of the 'judges' for the 'Royal' National Mod managed to remove his or her head from their nether region just long enough to look down their nose at the group of teenagers and chastise them for their 'lounge jazz'.

It does nothing to dispel views of Scottish/ Gaelic speakers as old-fashioned and dour Presbyterians of the 'no sex as it might lead to dancing' mould.

It also does little to present Gaelic as a living modern tongue.

An Comann Gaidhealach, who have organised the National Mod for more than a century, have presided over the death of the language over much of the Scottish mainland. In 1892 when the first Mod was held, Gaelic was still spoken by local families and communities in places such as Caithness, East Sutherland, Easter Ross, Inverness-shire, Strathspey, Perthshire, Stirlingshire, Arran, the Angus glens and on Lomondside. Despite the pomp and pageantry and despite the Royal patronage, An Comann Gaidhealach did little or nothing to make a stand for Gaelic and to protect it in those communities. Comparisons with similar societies in other small nations are like chalk and cheese.

Cultural and political can be merged but not if you're too feart to offend the Royals and the lairds. Not if you're still doffing your cap and mustering a few words of gratitude to those, and their kind, who happily saw our glens emptied of people with the remaining men used as cannonfodder and any remnant 'native-speaking' children punished for that crime.

Sadly, in Scottish Gaelic culture, the world-views and words of long-dead poets and a vanished society hold more value than a vibrant and forward looking future.

Meanwhile, in the Basque Country, the local punks have a new CD out. The good news for An Comann Gaidhealach is that it isn't lounge-jazz. The bad news is....

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Let's do it. Vote Yes.

Watch and share. We know what a no-vote looks like, we're living it already. Some are doing fine but tens of thousands are mired in poverty. Can't we use our wealth more wisely?

Nach dèan sinn nas fheàrr na th'againn ceartair? Bi misneachail agus thoir sùil air adhart. Saor Alba. Thoir air ais an cumhachd.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Its twins! Royal babies to take power!

We are privileged to reveal that the Royal Baby is not one but two! They are very premature but in a panic to avert Scotch independence, Princes David and Nigel will be installed on the Downing Street throne. Though young, Downing Street PR gurus with help from Gordon Brown, have advocated a 'back to basics' approach to the coronation. Brown is said to have alluded to the sorry tale of the Maid of Norway who became Queen of Scots at the age of seven.

The previous heir to the London throne, Prince Boris, is thought to be considering a reality TV show which he would co-host with the reputed anti-Semite, George Galloway.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Scotsman censors itself...


Was alerted to an amusing story of Johann Lamont's woes today in Govan. However, the link to the negative 'off the no-message' story in the Scotsman was... not there. Instead, would be voyeurs got this:

So, the Scotsman is now censoring its own stories?! Fortunately, some evil hackers swiftly organised by Alex Salmond himself on behalf of Yes Scotland's IT squadron were able to access an archived copy. Archived after 3 hours? Wonder why....? After all, it was billed as a 'top story'.

Whose ass is on the line for this one then - the author or the sub-editor? Even worse, they let slip that working-class Govan, home of The Rangers no less, is now an 'SNP heartland'. Expect a call from Darling sometime soon.
SCOTTISH Labour leader Johann Lamont got the wrong No vote today when she took to the SNP heartland -- and was met with closed doors.
The MSP for Glasgow Pollok made a ‘behind enemy lines’ visit to Govan, in deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon’s Govan constituency, to argue the pro-Union case with voters.
But despite an army of Labour supporters knocking doors, only three residents engaged in conversation with her - while several even came outside to return the leaflets pushed through their letter boxes.
The weak response from SNP voters got worse when a pensioner refused to even discuss with Lamont how she would be voting on the 18th.
But Lamont later insisted it had been a successful exercise and not a waste of her time.
She said: “I’m very positive about the response that we got. It’s reflected the response that we’ve got across the country in Labour areas.
“Labour people are committing to vote No whilst the SNP’s supporters are committing to vote No as well, because they recognise they can get the benefits of devolution.”
But she claimed she did not see the local residents only come outside to give back the Labour leaflets.
She said: “Well I didn’t see that.
“Everywhere you go you’re going to have some people who are not going to be happy to see you, but right across the country I’m getting a very warm response on the doors because people know that for us this is not about what our party is saying, it’s what’s in the best interest of the people of Scotland.”
The Scottish Labour leader also said she was not concerned about an increasing number of women Labour voters apparently moving towards independence.
She said: “It’s not what I’m finding on the doors. I think particularly women are recognising that actually you wouldn’t put your family’s future at risk.
“They’d be expected to deal with a £6 billion black hole from day one and we know that’s a real problem and women recognise that.”
Source here.
Headline image from this excellent blog.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Jim Murphy over eggs his pudding

Tocasaid is only too pleased to join the chorus of disapproval at the disgusting and mindless violence that befell Jim Murphy yesterday in a Fife town. We trust that Police Scotland are throwing all resources behind identifying the man that catapulted Murphy's sorry tour into the headlines.

It is indeed shocking that Murphy used a microphone to bellow over an old-age pensioner who challenged him on Gordon Brown's lies on the NHS.

It is indeed shocking that one of his Labour colleagues told a woman recovering from cancer to 'get a job'.

It is indeed shocking that in places, Labour councillors wearing their council name tags were wheeled out to provide an audience.

It is shocking that many think Murphy has engineered this stunt to take people's attention away from the paucity of his arguments and that after supporting the Iraq War and the Tories' Welfare Cap that people now think of him as a 'Red Tory'.

Delivery for Mr Murphy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Patronising Lady and Scary Man

Sad stuff from Better Together

Better Together are currently the Hibs of Scottish politics. Apologies to all the good indy-supporting and long suffering Hibees out there but the new season is going as swimmingly for Hibs as BT's ad campaigns are.

First of all, the latest in a seemingly long line of 'ordinary voters' turns out to be Airdrie's female Fuhrer and now their bland unthinking but obedient housewife takes the portrayal of women back to the 50s. Farage and Godfrey must be loving it.

This came after Alistair Darling's implosion at the hands of an all conquering Alex Salmond in the 2nd televised indy debate. I almost felt sorry for him until I remembered his words of doom - apparently about the '79 devo referendum.

The responses to #PatronisingBTLady have been hilarious showing where the real creativity of this campaign lies. Having come across one or two BT stalls and met Jim Murphy on his Meltdown Tour, I can honestly say that the Better Together 'activists' come across as 'odd'. All orange corduroys and Jack Wills shirts.

If you want a woman speaking her mind on the referendum then I challenge you to find better than Elaine C Smith. Hard to believe that this is from a year ago but it's worth sharing again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jim Murphy's ordinary followers hit the capital


Jim Murphy is a thoroughly unpleasant individual.

I'm convinced that he is the thin, more conservative version of George Galloway. Neither like being challenged and will blow and bellow any naysayers aside. Bullies.

Galloway-Wilson roadshow
On the other hand, whereas Galloway rarely has anyone accompanying him to hog the limelight - other than maybe Brian 'poison dwarf' Wilson making a cameo appearance - Murphy has a small cadre of weird looking drones in suits to beef up the numbers. These followers seem to have a dual purpose - they can act as 'grassroots' listeners in the PR photos but also Jim can rope them in to laugh at anyone who questions him.

Myself and a friend got wind that he was gonna do his 'soapbox' thing 'opposite' a certain pub on the seafront in Edinburgh West. We're both left of centre and can both remember meeting Mr Murphy on anti-racist marches in Glasgow some time ago - back when Murphy was an NUS high-heid-yin hoping for a cushy career in the Labour Party.

My friend is a member of UNISON and hails from a Glasgow scheme. Indeed, he admitted to having been a member of the Labour Party Young Socialists some 30 years ago. Both of us are public servants and are seeing our pensions eroded and pay frozen. We also don't like it that Better Together see fit to use sectarian BNP supporters who one day tweet that 'Catholics should hang from lamposts' while the next appearing on televised Better Together propaganda posing as 'ordinary voters'.

Things are slow to get going but at half an hour later than the scheduled time there are around ten BT automatons gathered. There is no 'juice crate' or megaphone. Instead, Jim and his weird looking band set up camp in a local beer garden. Two shiny drones in BT jackets take to the esplanade for all of 3 minutes to hand out leaflets. No-one seems interested so we engage the drones in conversation and are invited across 'for a chat' in the beer garden where Jim is holding court with a pint in hand. Farage?

Where is William Hague Jim Murphy?
One lady is stating that the NHS is "100% devolved". I add that maybe the running of it is up to us but the financing certainly isn't. Something that Labour-affiliated UNISON seem to agree with.

I raise the Yvonne Hama issue. Murphy asks 'Did that sway you into voting Yes or were you Yes beforehand?' I say it doesn't matter - you shouldn't use racist sectarian nutters in your publicity. 'If you were Yes beforehand then it isn't an issue' he retorts.

Better Together's grassroots - kept hidden today

During the conversation, another friend who's working on a documentary about the referendum texts to ask where Murphy is going next. Reasonable request, no? However, this is where things get really weird.

"It's all online" says one of the drones. 'No it isn't, my friend has tried. Can you tell me just now though?'

"Stick to the issues" says a posh professional PR guy in a suit who wears a 'No Thanks' badge.

Eh? We're confused. 'We aren't arguing, only saying that a friend would like to interview Mr Murphy for his documentary. He's a Swedish film-maker...'

"Shut up and listen!" says the posh suit.

'Er... where will you be next...?"

Murphy steps in, guffawing and egging on his Mormon-esque mates to shout us down. An elderly posh couple - they look like something from Condé Nast Boat Owner mag - step forward. They old guy approaches me in an aggressive manner, finger wagging, "Why don't you just shut up and stop shouting over Jim" he says like an angry father.

I persist. 'Listen. There's a chance for you air your views in a documentary...'

Jim and Posh Suit raise their voices. 'OK these guys obviously aren't interested in the real issues. let's all move over to another table'.

At this point, we open our jackets to show off our bulging belts of explosives as Murphy seems to expect. "Saor Alba!" we cry as we detonate ourselves sending Yessers and BT loons alike into space...

No. You can't join the club.

Actually, we just left.

It's sad when a discussion with an MP leads to said MP and entourage putting their fingers in their ears and yelling 'nah nah nah....!'

We were struck by a number of things...
  • my friend said that they were the poshest Labour guys he'd ever met
  • none of them looked 'ordinary' - they were like pseudo-religious politico hobbyists
  • Jim Murphy doesn't like being challenged as has been evidenced in his '100 Days of Sodom' tour
  • Murphy has the desperate air of a man who sees his seat on the gravy train evaporating
  • they made no attempt to persuade us to vote 'no'
The future must be ours.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A season like no other kicks off

Though I still think of it as Division One, the new Scottish Championship is where it's at this year. The Club Formerly Known as Glasgow Rangers having emerged from its pet cemetery made short work of winning Scotland's third tier to gain promotion. Hearts having being handed a 15-point penalty on top of having Gary Locke as manager were always likely to go down.

Hibs though, like they have done so often in recent years, took the word misery and made it their own. Big style. Hard as it may be to remember, but a year ago Pat '5-1' Fenlon took the Abbeyhill club to new depths with a 9-0 aggregate loss to mighty Malmo. In stepped Tory Butcher who took a bad thing and made it worse. Hibs saw the cliff of relegation some distance away and raced headlong towards it. The final flourish of woe against Hamilton in front of a home crowd attracting gasps of amazement and guffaws of laughter from supporters of wee clubs around Scotland.

Hibs to their credit, played well against The Rangers last week in the minor Challenge Cup that these wee teams have to compete for despite losing to a badly organised Neu-Ibrox XI.

The farce known as 'The Rangers' will be the focus for most us - even for us supporters of The Other Teams. Their woes have multiplied though mostly off the field at this point. Their dire display against Hibs though to the backdrop of a near empty Ibrox will surely boil over into more rage should they lose to Hearts' youngsters on Sunday. It appears that Rangers 2.0 have lost more than £70m in two years. How?! The Rangers debacle is too complex and labyrinthine to enter into here, so I'll leave that to others.

Scotland's other establishment club, Celtic, have not played well either. After finally overcoming the part-time footballers/ fishermen of Iceland, they were royally humped by Legia Warsaw. Fortunately for Scotland's Walmart of Football, Legia were found guilty of some minor infringement of the rules and Celtic were awarded the exact scoreline they needed to progress. This, is the second time in a few years that their embarrassment on the pitch in Europe has been salved by Europe's footballing high-heid yins.
O Connor - a diet of coke and pizza.

In other worlds, Leigh Griffiths continues to revert to form with rumours that he'll be back at Hibs in the not to distant future. Surely, they wouldn't take him back? One of Hibs' other troubled children, Garry Jos... O Connor is now funding his habit plodding the turf for... Selkirk.

I have no predictions but do hope that... The Rangers are forced to spend another year in the lower leagues and that's if they survive financially at all. Hearts could beat them to the title but I'd imagine their youngsters to be too inconsistent. Hibs, currently with about 13 players to their name but with a new manager are bound to improve on last season's misery. I wouldn't put money on it though.

In the SPL, I'd love Aberdeen or Dundee Utd to take the title. On current showing, Celtic are... shit. But, money talks. Especially to the SFA.

Oh... and Lambie is out for a Yes vote.