OI! Google…pay your frickin taxes.

In 1986 after a four year in-depth and skilled apprenticeship I qualified as a journeyman printer. A good trade. Respected and financially sound due to the training involved. If you told me then that for the next ten years my wages were going to stay the same while the board of directors and shareholders cut of profits were going to rise astronomically. Also as an extra incentive the board and shareholders aren’t going to pay ANY tax and you the employee are going to be expected to cover the loss…well there would have been a national strike of print workers and we would have knocked such ridiculously unfair conditions back to the turn of the century where they belong. But that is exactly what has happened to your average workers wage and conditions over the past decade. With little resistance.

There are many reasons we’ve submitted to such appalling remuneration for our work. I think one of the biggies is lack of housing and everyone being mortgaged up to the hilt. It’s much more difficult to strike with a mortgage over your head. When Thatcher sold off all the housing stock I’m quite certain that was part of the plan.

This week were told Google would pay 130 million in tax in the UK. It turns out that’s about 3% of profits. So as a self employed person I immediately got on the phone to Inland Revenue to see if I could strike the same deal. 11 years  ago when I first became self employed I used to ring the Revenue and after a few rings get an answer, solve the problem I was having and pay some tax. Today I rang the phone for 25 minutes with no answer. You know why? Because there is no bugger to answer it. The government have slashed jobs in that sector. That’s how serious they are about appropriate taxes being collected.

Today at Prime Ministers question time our glorious leader David “piggy” Cameron was confronted on the issue of Google’s tax avoidance. His answer…”It was the same under the last Labour Government.” What sort of moral justification is that?  It’s like smearing the walls of your house in shit because prior to you moving in a psychopath used to live there and that’s what they did.

Bizarrely this week if you type tax avoidance into Google it takes you to articles about Google’s tax avoidance!

And it never seems to end! I was in Starbucks the other day with my laptop buying something on Amazon and it struck me the only person paying any tax in that particular situation was me.

Here’s some interesting figures and estimates from the UKs financial status of the past year.

120 BILLION LOST through tax avoidance and evasion.

16 Billion PROFIT from unclaimed benefits.

1.2 BILLION LOST to benefit fraud.

Out of these three what do you hear most about. That’s right the benefit fraud. That’s where the government are focusing their recourses. That’s why your wages have stayed the same for 10 years, because of benefit scroungers, absolutely nothing to do with a bunch of elites milking the entire country and your household dry . It’s bullshit of the highest order. However, due to media saturation from press barons who are all tax avoiders themselves…this is where the public thinks the blame lies. We’re at a point now where the public for the sake of their and their children’s futures need to wake up and smell the coffee…and make sure whoever is selling you the coffee is paying for the privilege of doing so.

 

 

Tarantino fan.

So I went to see  The Hateful 8 the  latest Quentin Tarantino film with some friends this weekend. It was good. Not up to his best but perfectly enjoyable. Prior to going I’d read briefly on the web a quote from him saying that the movie “was inspired by his first reactions on seeing John Carpenters The Thing.” That makes sense. He seems to have reimagined the general themes of The Thing as a western. Paranoia, duplicity, one or more of these men are not what they appear to be and of course it stars Kurt Russell.

Most of us have enjoyed his work since he arrived with Reservoir Dogs. Can you still remember how you felt on first seeing it at the cinema? It’s a film that lodges in your head for life.  I’d never seen anything like it before. Scenes playing out that at first didn’t seem to make sense until a later flashback would put them in context. The sharing of vital information with the audience that is held back from the characters in the film. Making everyday dialogue about the mundane sound almost explosive. All techniques he still uses and are now used in much film and TV writing, but I don’t think anyone has managed to use these tricks as effectively as he does.

When Pulp Fiction arrived his reputation was cemented. How many great scenes? The brilliant set up of a mundane chat about hamburgers that causes massive tension when revisited in a later scene.  The horror of Z and the Gimp. And who will ever forget the adrenalin injection? His first critics also arrived around the same time. “But what is the point of it all?”

I remember after seeing the first part of Kill Bill a friend remarked that, “he’s great at taking pretty rubbish source material  from popular culture and making it great.” Which is kind of true but that’s because he actually loves that “rubbish” source material in the first place. Geeks are everywhere now but he was the first to enter mainstream entertainment.

On seeing the latest film another friend remarked that, “yes it was good…but I don’t really get the point of it. What was the message?” I think at times especially among his best stuff such as Revoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and the Kill Bill films there isn’t a message. It’s just pure entertainment for pure entertainments sake. There’s nothing really wrong with that. But in later stuff such as Inglorious Bastards, Django and the latest film he does tackle some unsavoury history. The Holocaust, the American Civil war and in Django in particular he takes a close and at many times disturbing and uncomfortable look at Americas history with slavery. But while doing all this entertainment remains to the fore. He’s been criticised often for this but even a film such as Schindler’s List is still at the end of the day doing the same job. I think that’s his best strength. Yes there’s a moral…but it is only a movie…often a movie about the love of making movies. Few directors manage to get that personal love for the art form up there on the screen and keep it blisteringly entertaining.

I do wish he would let up on that N word. He’s made his point, move on. Where he moves to next looks uncertain. He’s talking of retirement but I can’t really see that lasting. He’s often spoke of how he would love to be allowed to do a Bond film. How awesome would that be. “The name’s Bond…James mother fuckin’ Bond. You got a problem with me being black?”

 

A very, very short play.

I’ve been delighted to be accepted to do a script writing degree at University. As part of my application I had to write a two minute piece of script around the title “Where were you last night?” This is what I came up with.

WHERE WERE YOU LAST NIGHT?

We see an elderly woman Jean sat alone. In the background we hear the noise of a front door opening.

 

JEAN: Is that you Robert?

BRIAN. No Jean it’s me Brian.

JEAN. Brian? Should you not be at your work son?

We hear Brian talking loudly from another room.

BRIAN. Not today. Today’s the day I take you to the pensioners dance.

JEAN. You’re talking me to the dance? But you should be at your work. It’s your father’s job to take me to the dance.

BRIAN. You’ll see him at the dance. He said yesterday he’d get you there. Do you not remember?

JEAN. No son. You know I forget things. I’m just at that age. I’ve not seen your father all day. He’s probably down the bookies. He can spend hours in there deciding on a two pound flutter. I’ll give him what for when I see him at the dance.

BRIAN. I’m sure you will. Would you like a quick cuppa before we head.

JEAN. I’ll come through and make it.

BRIAN. No you sit where you are. I’ll bring it through.

JEAN. Have you seen your father today?

BRIAN Aye I’ve seen him. Just give me a minute and I’ll explain.

JEAN (To herself) Imagine leaving your son to take his mother to a pensioners dance. What an affront. I never know where that bugger is from one day to the next. Bookies and the pub, that’s all that matters to him. I’m not even sure if he came home last night. And at his age…

Brian an elderly man enters carrying a tea tray.

BRIAN. Here you are pet.

JEAN. Who are you?

BRIAN. It’s me pet, your husband Brian.

JEAN. But…but…Brain’s my son. Robert’s my husband.

BRIAN. No pet. It’s the other way around. You get that mixed a bit at the moment. Don’t worry about it; it’s just part of the condition. Things start to come back to you when you see my face. But when I leave the room…I’m sorry I should have come in right away.

JEAN. (Touching Brian’s face and looking directly into his eyes. Beginning to realise. Becoming tearful) Oh…Oh no…Oh I remember now. This is terrible. What must you think of me? What must you think when I don’t even know my own husband. What’s to become of us Brian? This is going to get worse. I’ve got early onset dementia but I’m not stupid. I know where this ends.

BRIAN (Kneeling before her) I’ll be here my love. I’ll always be right here.

JEAN. And who’s going to look after you when I no longer know who you are. This is as bad for you as anybody. How will you cope with that?

BRIAN. I’ll cope just fine pet. That’s just what life has set out for us. Even when you’re confused I’ll know that you’re there.

JEAN. I know…I know. But where were you last night?

BRIAN. I was here pet. I’m always here. Right, do you fancy getting down to the dance. Condition or not we can still cut up the floor better than the rest.

JEAN. Yes. I would enjoy that. (Laughs gently)You’re right. We’ll always be great dancers. One day I’ll be thinking I’m the belle of the ball. So many great dancers will be getting me up on the floor…but all the time it will be you.

 

 

 

 

 

David Bowie. A fan and friends remember.

Last week due to unforeseen circumstance I had to write about Bowie in ways I wasn’t expecting. Out of respect I’ve let that sit for a week…this is the blog I would have liked to initially post…

 I said to myself. A few minutes later the first tears of many that day arrived.

Around 10 minutes after hearing the news of Bowies passing I discovered an email saying I’d been accepted to university for my BA hons in Drama and Script, something I’d wanted to do since childhood (I’m 46 years old at this particular earth moment). My emotions were now properly roller coasting. My mum who’s now 81 and as decent a Christian type as you’ll meet anywhere said, “That’s David Bowie leaving the planet and passing on some of his life to you.” Yes my mum is awesome. Sometimes she IS Ziggy Stardust. Obviously such a lovely statement didn’t help stem the flow of tears on my 3 hour journey home to Newcastle.

The first message I got was from an old school friend Yanthe. She texted direct to say she was “Blubbing like a bairn.” Next a lot of old friends started to message on Facebook, many remarking on how on hearing the news they immediately thought of me. It was nice to have my life long devotion to him recognised. You should understand that by the time I was 13 my bedroom was like a shrine to him with little wallpaper showing due to images and cuttings and posters and lyric sheets of Mr David Bowie. I once read years ago that the only fans more devoted are Elvis fans. I think we may have way outdone them by now. One message from my friend Andrew reminded me of the night I had him laughing uproariously by playing the Laughing Gnome single at the wrong speed of 33 and a third and then how I’d I’m scared him shitless by playing the start to the Diamond Dogs LP in pitch darkness. Happy memories. Young teenage carefree mucking about memories.

Why Bowie? I dunno. You could ask the millions of other devoted fans and I’m sure there will be many stories of him making us feel accepted as outsiders. I think there’s more to it than that. I think beside all the man from outer space perception there was a feeling of him being one of us that stretched way beyond isolated teenage angst. He was anti establishment/ established ideas of what you can and cannot do. Aren’t we all a bit like that?

I’m not saying this for effect but my earliest memory is of Bowie and the Spiders doing the Jean Genie on Top of the Pops. I was 3 years old.  I remember my mum and dad remarking about “the state of him” I remember my older brothers and sisters saying they liked him. My next encounter with him was when I was 5 and Space Oddity was at number 1. He’s got two different eyes. That really stuck in my head. Next up Ashes to Ashes is at number 1. I was 10 and found the video for the song mesmerizing. He’s dressed as a clown, while being chased by a bulldozer and his nan seems to pop up at the end. What a curious man. Ironically the moment I was confirmed as a lifelong fan was exactly the same moment a generation before me had fallen for him. May 1983 was the 1000th edition of Top Of The Pops, by now I was already taking an interest but when I saw that clip of him and the Spiders doing Starman…well that was pretty much it. There cannot possibly be a better song or cooler man in existence.

My favourite memory is less a memory and more a confirmation of higher forces than me pointing out that we are all supposed to be a fan at some point or another. My favourite book on Bowie is Ziggyology by Simon Goddard. The book begins with a quote by Arthur C Clarke and goes on to examine many aspects of history from cosmology to Pythagoras to Gustav Holts The Planets (used as walk on music by The Spiders) and the crossing of artistic, historical and scientific lay lines that all lead to the creation of Ziggy Stardust. In some ways the book is as much about synchronicity as it is about that period in Bowies life. The dictionary definition of synchronicity is… “the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.”

First let me explain my own personal connection to the books author. Prior to publishing Ziggyology Simon wrote the book Mozipedia. a thorough documentation of all things Morrissey and Smiths related. Upon opening Mozipedia  you’ll find on the fist page a preface dedication, “For misery guts of Bonnyrigg.” Where’s Bonnyrigg and who’s Misery guts? Well Bonnyrigg is a small town in the Lothians of Scotland where I grew up and Misery guts is a certain Paul Johnson a school friend of mine who lived just around the corner from me. He and the author have been long time pen pals. He’s as much of an authority on Moz as I am on Dave. We used to listen to both in each others bedrooms. Look at that a book written for each of us…even though Simon doesn’t know me from Adam. But that’s not the great cosmic coincidence. No I have a BETTER one than even that.

I was at Heathrow airport train terminus London, sat on a platform reading Ziggyology. I’d just got to a part describing how Rick Wakeman came to put together the beautiful piano work on Hunk Dory.  I glanced up and there on the platform opposite was Rick Wakeman. Now, knowing the nature of this book I thought no way, you’re willing that to be him stood about 20 feet away.  So with minutes to go before my train arrived I ran across the platforms walkway and up to him. “Excuse me sorry to bother, but you are Rick Wakeman aren’t you?” “Yes.” “Ha! Unbelievable I’m just reading about the wonderful work you did on Hunky Dory.” “Thanks.” “Sorry got to run again my trains coming.”

And that as they say was that. You can make up your own minds from there. The book does finish on a sentiment that I loved upon first reading. After the author makes all his connections and lays out all his evidence he concludes…WE ARE ALL ZIGGY STARDUST.

Couldn’t agree more.  Bye, bye…we love you.

Milk the Cow podcast.The Bowie debate.

Here’s the latest episode of Milk The Cow a fantastic podcast I’m occasionally involved in. I could only appear on the first half as I had to do a gig. In this one we discuss rape culture and the accusations against David Bowie. There’s also a great interview with a junior Doctor discussing their fight/plight and our despicable government.

 

http://www.milkthecowpodcast.com/podcast/2016/1/14/050milk-the-cow-podcastbowie-debateailsa-whitejunior-doctors-strikestudiojohn-scottdale-price