Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Do MPs deserve a raise?

I dashed off two blogposts on Monday. One exploring my lack of inspiration and one on an independent Korean film I had watched the night before. As a consequence of my complaining that I had been having an uninspiring Summer ideas-wise, I have had a string of suggestions (two is a string, right?) that I feel I must respond to.

Esteemed author and biographer CD Rose contacted me on Twitter to suggest that I should find inspiration from watering his plants. I suspect that this may have little to do with inspiration, it may just be a gentle reminder that I offered to water his plants while he was away in Manchester (he knows that I am notoriously flaky in such matters - I was going to check on them today but ironically I didn't because it was raining - definitely tomorrow). Anyway, can everyone please click on the link above and download his latest short-story to your e-readers so I don't feel quite so guilty about murdering his plants? Thanks folks.

The second suggestion came from a local chef whom I shall call Strongtail. He collared me in the pub to ask what I thought about the recent ten-percent payrise MPs have awarded themselves. 

"I thought you could blog about that," he said. "I thought that would be right up your street."

"I dunno, Strongtail, I did a bit of politics around the Scottish and general elections. But its not a political blog."

"Do you think they deserve a 10% payrise?"

It is a complex issue and it is easy to see why people are indignant. The standard pay for a Member of Parliament is £67,060 Chefs and waiters would be hard pushed to earn that much in three years. Bartending on my current wage, it would take me over five and a half years to earn that much money. But this disparity is not what has annoyed Strongtail. From July MPs' pay is increasing to £74,000. This at a time when the Chancellor has announced that all public sector employees will be limited to a below inflation 1% payrise. What have the politicians done to deserve their massive raise?


It suits the wealthy that there is a link in popular perception between money and hard work. The poor know better than anyone that you have to work hard all the hours of the day to get enough money to enjoy a few luxuries after rent and bills are covered. Those luxuries - a few pints after work, a new pair of trainers, a summer holiday - are earned by those extra shifts worked at Xmas time, by walking to work instead of taking the bus, by being nice to that table of arsehats in the vague hope that they will tip. This link disappears as you move up the payscale. The wealthy have many luxuries and do not have to work at all. They set their money to work for them.

I am fond of Bertrand Russell's observation that there are only two jobs: moving matter round at or close to the surface of the earth and telling other people to do so. The people in the second category tend to get paid more. Those at the top (those who tell people to tell people to move matter around) are often in a position to choose how much they want to pay themselves.

Crazy upside-down world. 

Monday, 20 July 2015

Watching "Like you know it all"

Charlie went to bed early last night as she had a busy day at work today. I had foolishly drunk a cup of coffee in the afternoon. With no chance, therefore, of getting to sleep before about 2am, I decided to watch a film. I tape a lot of films (obviously by 'tape' I mean 'save digitally' or whatever magic way it is done these days) but usually never get round to watching them. After a year or so, I might get politely asked: "Do you need to keep every single Sang-soo Hong film from this film4 retrospective season?" and I will capitulate and delete them, but save one because I want to be the sort of person who is familiar with independent Korean cinema even though I am not.

But last night was my chance, so I scrolled through the planner to find Like you know it all languishing unviewed at the bottom between The Wind that Shakes the Barley and Tyrannosaur (which I may delete as I have since heard it hasn't got a single dinosaur in it) and kicked back on the sofa with a glass of sparkling water.

The film was alright, I suppose, if you like independent Korean cinema then you might well have liked it. Turns out I'm more the sort of person who likes mainstream Korean cinema like OldBoy and The Chaser. If I wanted to watch long sequences exploring the awkwardness of human interaction punctuated by discussions of the importance of freedom in cinema, I could just go to the pub with my friends.  

An interesting feature was that it had a two-act structure. The three-act structure is so embedded in Western cinema that it was quite liberating to have watched a film that took a different approach. Rather than the Set-up, Confrontation and Resolution that we are all used to and expect. Like you know it all had the same central character, Mr Ku, go through two Set-ups (two different cities, no other overlapping characters) neither of which reached a resolution. Mr Ku goes through no recognisable changes, learns no lessons. He starts as as an alcoholic womanising film director beloved of critics but less appealing to a wider audience and, after a series of awkward encounters with old friends and new colleagues in two locations in South Korea, he remains an alcoholic womanising film director beloved of critics but less appealing to a wider audience.

The film was critically acclaimed.  

Inspiration interrupted

I haven't been blogging much this summer. It is hard to create a post that (e.g.) seamlessly unites an anecdote involving spilt tequila with an accurate skewering of Nietzschean Ethics when I have to refresh RightMove obsessively every five minutes in the hope of finding a habitable property to rent that is within a) our pricerange, and b) walking distance of the pub. 

Poetry is out of the question of course, because I can only find the focus I need to write it in times of uninterrupted serenity or complete mental anguish.

Sometimes I find inspiration from a photograph, but I don't seem to have been using my camera (alright, phone - who carries a camera these days?) to capture the slowly unfolding bloom of a Norwich City summer. The only photographs I have taken recently have been of Newspaper articles so that I can text them to people to prove that I was right about something previously disagreed on. Like this article in the Guardian that proved that my home county of Dorset is the Afghanistan of the United Kingdom:

The blurry opium fields of Blandford Forum
A blurred photograph of somebody else's photograph. Is this the level of reportage I have sunk to?

Apparently so.