Labour must refute charges of anti-Semitism

Misuse of anti-Semitism 2Is it anti-Semitic to accuse rich bankers of living off the backs of the poor? Or to condemn the Israeli government for its treatment of the Palestinians, or indeed the Lebanese? I don’t think so, and one reason I support the Labour Party is for its robust condemnation of these things. However it is anti-Semitic to suggest those bankers are necessarily Jewish, or that the activities of the Israeli government are necessarily endorsed by all Jews, and I find it disturbing that the Labour party seems unable to distance itself from such views.

There is a long history of anti-Semitism in British politics, both on the left and on the right, but it has no place in the modern world, and no relevance to the central message of Jeremy Corbyn’s new Labour Party. And yet, for some reason, Corbyn seems unwilling to shrug it off with any real conviction. Continue reading

Brexit madness (2)

You can learn an awful lot about Brexit from chlorinated chicken.

The term itself refers to the process of dipping fresh chicken carcasses into water containing chlorine dioxide just prior to packaging in an effort to kill off any potentially dangerous organisms such as E. coli or Salmonella that might be present. It is a process that is legal in the United States, but not permitted within the European Union where farmers are allowed to wash raw meat in precious little other than fresh water. For this reason it is not permissible to import fresh chicken from the US into the EU. Continue reading

Dealing with prostitution

Massage_Parlor_at_Night_Spa_La_Sirene

I have just read Catherine Bennett’s piece in the Guardian (If paying for sex is wrong in Haiti, why do we still tolerate it in the UK?) in which she uses the recent Oxfam scandal to berate those who call for the legalisation of prostitution in the UK, and in particular Amnesty International for what she calls its “pimps’ charter”. Catherine certainly has a way with words, but I do think that in the process she is simplifying and misrepresenting a range of carefully considered views on a highly complex subject.

Of course I agree with Catherine that coercion, extortion, drug addiction, rape and slavery are wrong, and that we should do what we can to prevent such crimes and bring their perpetrators to justice. However from that point on I suspect our views would differ in two important respects. Continue reading

Hiveword Novel Organizer

hivewordSome writers seem able to bash out a novel unaided, holding all the pieces in their head as they write their way through every plot twist to a satisfying and consistent climax. For the rest of us there are a plenty of tools that can offer a helping hand, ranging from hastily scribbled notes stuck on a convenient wall to more sophisticated solutions such as Power Structure, StoryWeaver or Scrivener. Having tried a number of these, I find myself increasingly drawn to Hiveword.

Hiveword Novel Organizer, to give its full title, is an on-line database for recording and displaying the structural elements of your story, namely its Characters, Settings, Items (such as magic rings or significant documents), Plotlines and Scene progression. The details of these elements are recorded on forms and can be displayed in Lists. Continue reading

The Fabula and the Syuzhet

Fabula versus Sujet in Memento

The distinction between the ‘fabula’ and the ‘syuzhet’ as it applies to storytelling was first made by members of the Russian Formalism school of literary criticism, popular during the 1910s and 1920s. The ‘fabula’ refers to the chronological order in which the events of a story take place: the timeline, in other words. The ‘syuzhet’ refers to the sequence in which the author chooses to relate those events, which we could describe as the storyline or the plot. In the film Citizen Kane, for example, the fabula is the story of Kane’s life, from birth to death. The syuzhet, on the other hand, starts with Kane’s death and continues as the story of a journalist investigating Kane’s life, interspersed with a series of flashbacks. By using this device the screenplay introduces a degree of mystery and tension that would otherwise be absent. Continue reading

Mourning the dead

What happened in Manchester on 22 May is of course a tragedy and an atrocity. However, as I take in the images of the dead children and their grieving relatives, the memorials, the news items, the interviews, the debate and the double-page spreads, I can’t help but think of those countless other children who have been killed in their schools and hospitals and homes by the bombs of the West and its allies in countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Palestine. They too had hopes and dreams; they too have parents, friends, neighbours and relatives who grieve and feel anger and despair. I did not see their pictures, and I do not know their hopes and dreams, but are their lives worth any less than ours? Is their grief or their anger and despair any less valid than ours? Of course not, and if that is the appearance we give, then we should be ashamed.

Brexit madness (1)

BrexitWe should by now be well accustomed to the capacity of our politicians to spout endless bullshit, and of our news services to take such bullshit seriously. However seldom has that bullshit seemed more endless and pointless than in the current Brexit ‘debate’.

For example, as I write, so-called Brexiteers are crowing over the fact that the British economy seems to be booming, despite the woeful predictions of the Remoaners. This is to ignore the fact that we have a least two years to go before we do actually Brexit, and no idea of what that will actually involve, rendering any judgement at this stage utterly meaningless. Instead, what our economy is currently experiencing is the reaction of the world to the inevitable uncertainty that surrounds our decision to do so. Continue reading

Flash fiction

Just published: a couple of flash fiction pieces that I wrote back in 2014 while member of a writing group. To read them click on the ‘Writing’ menu option above, or on one of the links below:

Pretty straightforward, in which a mobile phone conversation is overheard.

Sam’s story, in which a young man describes his world.

Word as a writing machine

Word for novelists

An uncluttered Word (click image for a larger version)

Microsoft Word is the world’s most popular word processor and has become a standard in the book industry. However it is criticised by novelists for being too complicated, and for lacking the facilities of something like Scrivener which is designed specifically for creative writing. Thankfully Word is highly adaptable, and can be customised to give you just the features you need. It also has some advantages over Scrivener, in that it’s display adapts better to smaller devices such as tablets, and it saves your document as a single file which means it works better with cloud services such as Dropbox.

Here are some steps you can take to give yourself a relatively uncluttered screen, and add some features that are particularly useful. These instructions refer to Word 2010, but should work with later versions as well: Continue reading

Listening to the homeless

Photo by Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons

Photo by Albert Bridge (Creative Commons licence)

At around 11pm a few nights back I was walking through the centre of Bath when I encountered a woman and her dog sitting on a blanket next to a hat containing some small change. I did what I usually do when I encounter such people, which is acknowledge them and walk on, reminding myself that I can’t give money to every beggar I pass, and I do regularly donate to charities that work with the homeless.

However this time, having walked on a few yards, I stopped and returned. I had just come from a party where I had been talking to some extremely wealthy people, and I am not exactly hard up myself. Life works out nicely for some of us and not so well for others, but when all’s said and done, we’re in it together. I dropped a couple of pounds into her hat and apologised for my rudeness. No, she said, Don’t apologise – it’s nice to just get a smile. And so I listened to her story. Continue reading