Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Free The People


One of the main British newspapers has a very active online careers forum. Always find it interesting to see how so many threads for careers and career changes terminate because of the lack of advice that is geared to practical adult realities of Western European life.

I remember one pissed off unemployed female arts graduate completely lost it with regard to feedback from the resident careers advisor which she regarded as "mumbo jumbo job speak tripe advice". I tended to agree in terms of given analysis of "networking" pathways since 40% of people who work in my current industry are apparently so clinically depressed that they can barely reply to a friendly e-mail these days for months on end.

During another online "Live Question and Answer" some older gentleman threw in the towel following the ubiquitous internship/volunteering recommendations with the adjoiner "I am not in a position to leave my wife, mortgage and children to come to London and work for nothing". Buy this man a pint.

As for advice to budding journalists to "start a blog" let's not go there. However talking of which, I remember in turn seeing a website advertising some School of Journalism in New London which boasted lecturers who allegedly had direct experience from national newspapers and television. This truly must be the equivalent of guitar lessons from Jimmy Page, blowjob advice from Linda Lovelace or art history seminars from Hermann Goering. The website also included a wee cheeky puff from the graduates themselves including one bold claim from a student that she apparently had managed to get one article published within three months of leaving. The risk analysis of that in the modern world of firestorm domestic outgoings needs no qualification.

So therefore Middle England has meekly accepted that younger generations will not have access to buying a house prior to the long overdue death of their bloody miserable parents, that third level education will be restricted to the denizens of the rich and the poor and that somehow positivity alone will pay dividends in finding work in a world without employment.

Stick Apocalypse Pension on top of that cunting stew, ratchet up another few decades of insidious legal tinkerings across the public and private sector of work - whose long-term societal fallout for the United Kingdom will probably make The Blitz look like the Festival of Britain - and looks like the only salvation for this country will be insourcing from the Third World since people here will work longer for less and with one very big fucking smile on their face.

Meanwhile in some other European countries I believe there are existent benefits relating to breast-feeding time that can be taken in lieu by the male partner. And it's not even frigging Scandinavia...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

James Young - "The Real Ireland"


Some typically patronising Hollywood fare dished up yesterday by the American President in the Irish Republic for the poor who never got away.

Reminds me of a scene from James Young's early Seventies Saturday Night TV series on BBC Northern Ireland when Hank and Mary Lou Effincracker arrive in the terraced Terence O'Neill Steet in South Belfast in search of "the real Ireland". They knock on Lily McCondriac's door in search of leprechauns in her yard to be told that the only thing in her yard is the IRA, the UDA and the British Army...and that all the "leprecorns" died swimming to America.

Young is such a unique figure yet sadly almost forgotten now outside the remit of certain older Ulster generations. The owner of the Group Theatre, his one man shows commenced in the mid-to-late Sixties and his albums outsold The Beatles in Northern Ireland. These contained a mixture of comedy songs, sketches, straight stand-up and monologues.

The monologues in particular focus on life, death, poverty and bigotry in industrial Belfast and - although perhaps overly sentimental to the modern ear - are an incredible mixture of bathos, humour and reflection. His timing and ability to invert sectarianism into the ludicrousness it ultimately represents is impeccable.

Even when the Group Theatre closed down in the early Seventies due to the scale of violence he took his one man show seperately to each divided community - while performing the exact same material - right through to his death in his mid-fifties on 5th July 1974 in North Belfast on the way to a friend's funeral.

In the midst of such a testosterone-driven city Young certainly stood out that's for sure. I have an aunt in Australia who can remember him out "shapping" for his "messages" in Donegall Pass in his house slippers and wheeling his wee basket behind him.

Another problem to an extent while listening to Young these days was that he did have a certain statist conception of Northern Ireland in that - albeit unintentionally according to the social norms of the time within a Protestant community considering itself historically "under siege" - Catholics perhaps were construed as still essentially "the other" within his material. It is difficult to avoid this and I say that as a huge admirer of his work.

Nevertheless in the depths of truly terrible times he was one of the rare voices in civic society cautioning reason, rapprochment and the acceptence of a shared identity of sorts.

The BBC series of 1972 and 1973 - which always ended with Young encouraging the Ulster people "Wid yiz stap fightin'" - obviously was produced on a micro-budget and the comedy songs are hideously dated in the main.

However some of his most famous monologues still available on CD have certainly stood the test of time: Why I Am Here, Slum Clearance, We Emigrated, Wee Davy, I Married A Papish, Salute to Belfast, The History Lesson, The Stranger, I Believe In Ulster, The Oul Black Man, The Feud, This Is Us and the final and incredibly moving We're Here For Such A Little Time.

Within the context of the time, Young's comic talent, warmth and humanity allow us glimpses into a lost Ulster society and a now decimated industrial urban culture.

With only two books having considered his career to date - and that including a posthumous overview by his partner Jack Hudson - he is a criminally overlooked albeit minor figure in British and Irish social history.

Monday, May 23, 2011

George Best - The Torch In The Infinite


















The visit of the Queen to Dublin's Garden of Remembrance last week naturally threw up residual and mirrored questions of morality. This by way of the civilian and military victims of Republican terrorism in the relatively recent modern conflict and consideration of what particularly radical Republican legends of yore would have felt about such an historic display of respect in a still-partitioned island.

Either way the endgame choreography has unequivocally reached final closure against the lunatic continuity of a dissident threat on one side and the long threatened civilianization of remaining Loyalist groups on the other - the delay in the latter feature of conflict transformation seems to be completely gauged to keeping one local Northern Ireland security journalist in employment into perpetuity.

Yesterday in turn would have been George Best's 65th birthday. Best, as one of the most individually gifted personalities in global social history and with a charismatic appeal that could only be replicated again on celluloid, unequivocally gave all the people of Ulster something to be proud of in the darkest days of the Troubles when there was NOTHING.

Days of bloodshed, anger, fear, betrayal, suspicion, hatred, mass murder and appallingly parochial political mediocrity. As one poster on a tribute forum to Best once noted, tens of thousands of Northern Ireland people who lived through the Troubles were truly gifted with self-respect within themselves and from outside parties which he alone forged by the man he was in the midst of absolute blanket societal collapse.

You are not missing much down here George but you left us way too soon.