This month: we finally finished a trilogy of bits about our travels in the Czech Republic, Communism as-was and capitalism as-is that we started in 2012; we got angry at how society lionises business and fawns over the richest, as typified by the BBC’s The Apprentice, and how it neglects, belittles and abuses NHS personnel; and we contrasted the way in which modern parents dote almost obsessively on their offspring, while doing, thinking, or, apparently, caring very little about the climate catastrophe that might rob them of a future.
… And, music-wise: funky Nigerian afrobeat from Fela Kuti, and banal ‘50s country and western.
Deck the halls with boughs of holly, it’s Christmas time, and the Bemolution is communicating with you from its fairylit inner sanctum, swimming in tinsel and shovelling grotesque quantities of chocolate log down itself.
We don’t celebrate birthdays (exceptions made for young children or the impressively old), or like ceremony in general, but we officially do quite like Christmas. Not enough to suspend our miserablist current affairs-prodding, of course. But it at least encourages people to squeeze a trickle of festive goodwill to the rest of the species from their neoliberalised granite-hearts, and stop trying to compete each other into the dust long enough to eat their own bodyweight in turkey and Brussels sprouts.
Anyway – to business.
In this month’s Bem Bulletin
1. George Osborne’s Autumn Statement
1 and a bit. … And Sociopaths in power
2. Porn Censorship and the Tyranny of the Vanilla
3. The Life and Times of Gordon Brown
4. Jim Murphy, Neil Findlay, Scottish Labour
5. Obligatory Christmas Commercialisation Whinge Continue reading
Clash of the titans
This month at Bem Towers: we lamented society’s magpie-materialism in the wake of the release of Apple’s iPhone 6; we got annoyed at blatant BBC bias as it stuck to its guns over excluding the Green Party from next year’s leaders’ debates; and in the third and final part of what we might as well call our Pretentious London Trilogy, we finished our politicised amble around the capital in the plutocrat’s den itself, Canary Wharf.
And, on the Bemolutionary turntable this month: wholesome wanky guitar music from the glorious Guitar Trio, in our continuing tribute to dear departed flamenco messiah Paco De Lucia; and squeaky banjo-communist Eugene Chadbourne, with his perennially relevant geopolitical ditty, ‘Dirt’.
In this month’s Bem Bulletin:
1. Welcome to the jungle/first Bem Bulletin
2. The Negative Dialectics of Myleene Klass
3. Julien Blanc, ‘Pickup Artist’
4. Big buildings, wastes of time, wastes of life
1. Welcome to the first Bem Bulletin! In the old, Further Education-related days, the then-embryonic Bemolution put out about two issues of the Bem Bulletin, a rubbish half-satirical newsletter filled with in-jokes written for and read by five people.
Ever on the lookout for ways to avoid having to think of anything original, we’re now nicking the name and sellotaping it to an entirely different concept – namely a new monthly blog feature in which we prod at mainstream news stories we haven’t got the time/mental stamina to cover in customary 1.5k-word shamblo-essay format. On the side, we’re also going recap what we’ve been writing this month and talk about what we’ve got lined up for next. Continue reading
Lieutenant Gruber from the BBC’s ‘Allo ‘Allo
For a while, we talked about something we called half-homophobia. Then we realised that was a rubbish name for it, because it implied there was some kind of more acceptable, sub-homophobic degree of anti-gayness. Which there isn’t. We’ve yet to come up with a better label for it.
What we were trying to describe was an unpleasant phenomenon we’d observed over several years – a strange, private, slightly obsessive aversion to homosexual practices among people who are, outwardly at least, very liberal. The kind of people who are politically all for LGBT equality, gay marriage and the like, but who, if you get them on their own and talk to them openly about it, are a) viscerally repulsed by the thought of, and b) weirdly fixated with gay sex.
Full-fat, unabashed homophobia is still startlingly prevalent, of course. It’s rife throughout the unyieldingly conservative Arab world, in Africa, where homosexuality is illegal in 36 of the continent’s 55 countries, in staunchly Catholic South America, and in Russia, where earlier this year Putin informed visitors arriving for the Sochi Winter Olympics that gay people were welcome, but only if they promised to ‘leave children alone’. And that’s not to let the West off the hook either – as everyone knows, you’ll find some of the most fanatically homophobic people on earth in Uncle Sam’s backyard, and anti-gay prejudice is still very present this side of the pond too. Continue reading
We’re more fixated with sex than ever, it seems, but still in a strange, repressed, unhealthy manner.
Soldier your way through the Political Compass survey, the internet’s go-to ‘what the hell am I politically’ test, and near the end you’re asked to pass judgement on the following statement: ‘These days openness about sex has gone too far’.
Presumably – I have neither the time nor the inclination to spend the necessary hours twiddling with the survey to find out for sure – if you agree, you’re nudged further to the authoritarian right, and if you disagree you join the teeming legions of people who’d be put in camps if the Daily Mail ever took over. Continue reading
Elliot Rodger was both pathetic and terrifying. The strange sub-culture that produced him was certainly the former. He showed that, at its most extreme, it could be the latter, too.
Lethal shootings are dismayingly common in the gun fetishist US, and, as grim as it is to say it, the one perpetrated by Elliot Rodger in Isla Vista, California last month was actually quite mild by American standards. South Korean student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people at Virginia Tech back in 2007. 20 year-old Adam Lanza slew 26, most of them children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut in 2012. Elliot Rodger killed six.
Let’s deal with the morally obvious first. Each one of those six deaths was a calamity. Young, flourishing, entirely blameless human beings were ripped away from everyone that ever cared for and relied on them, and out of the only existences they’d ever have, by a psychopath with a Glock 34. Just because we live in a world where lunatics with guns can kill dozens, wars kill hundreds of thousands and poverty, starvation and preventable disease kills millions, that still doesn’t mean that each and every premature death isn’t incomprehensibly tragic. The death toll might’ve been relatively small. And it could’ve been much higher – police found over 400 rounds of ammunition in Rodger’s crashed BWM coupe, along with three semi-automatic pistols and Elliot himself, dead from a self-inflicted bullet wound. But for us, and a lot of other people on both sides of the pond, it seems, this was one of the most profoundly chilling incidents we’ve ever looked into. Continue reading
Jamil intellectually ambushing ex-porn star Gemma Massey
Last night, a Radio One DJ hosted an intriguing TV programme about porn. Thanks to the internet, it’s proving increasingly inescapable, she said, and young people are being exposed to it at earlier and earlier ages. Earnest Jameela Jamil clearly cared, and wanted to protect vulnerable kids from exploitation and abuse. But in parts, her show demonstrated just the kind of squeamishness that lies behind so many of our unhealthy attitudes towards sex.
The BBC and market research bods ICM have conducted a survey of young people, asking them about their experiences with porn. Over a thousand 16-21 year-olds were interviewed. Just under a quarter claimed they were 12 or under when they first watched online porn. An eyebrow-raising 7.3% claimed they were under ten. And for Aunty, the pollsters, and bookish private school product turned T4 presenter and Radio One It Girl Jameela Jamil, the results were shocking enough to make a telly programme out of them.
BBC Three’s ‘Porn: What’s the harm?’ began with likeable Jamil delivering a monologue about shagging. ‘I’m very liberated about sex and relationships’, she said. With the best will in the world to someone willing to risk ridicule by speaking out about something she genuinely cares about – decrying the over-sexualisation of modern culture presumably not being the savviest career move in the perennially cold shower-requiring world of shit RnB – a lot of what was to come over the next hour suggested she wasn’t. Continue reading
The late Reverend Phelps
News comes wafting over the pond that the Reverend Fred Phelps, authoritarian patriarch of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church (‘the most hated family in America’), has finally kicked the bucket aged 84.
Both Phelps and the Kansan-based cult he moulded over decades are best known for their fanatical hatred of homosexuality, although they also pour bile over Jews, Catholics, liberals, anyone to the left of Glenn Beck, and Barack Obama, who they’ve decided is the Antichrist.
While he could’ve made a lot more money as an anchor on Fox News, Reverend Phelps preferred to spend his time picketing the funerals of people he didn’t like. As evinced by his conduct during a long, hate-fuelled existence in the material realm, Fred Phelps disliked practically everyone – not just individuals who just happened to find members of the same rather than the opposite gender sexually attractive, but people who vocally supported gay rights, people who didn’t vocally condemn gay rights, homophobes who weren’t hard-core enough, and, in a particularly impressive feat of logical gymnastics, American soldiers, because they fought for a government that tolerated people being gay.
Thanks to the late reverend, thousands of grieving families across Midwest America had their loved one’s final journey crashed by placard-wielding zealots chanting ‘GOD HATES FAGS’ – scenes memorably captured on film by shuffling beanpole-cum-awkward documentary-maker Louis Theroux. Continue reading