Archive for July, 2015

How The Benefit Lies Begin: Claimants Offered Cash And Fame To Say They Don’t Want Jobs

July 22, 2015

I’m afraid I’ve been away from the usual blogs for too long, following my disgust at the Tory victory. I’m reblogging this for all of you who haven’t seen it, as it shows just how mendacious the media is in trying to smear all benefit claimants as idle scroungers.

the void

ally-einsteinThe above pic comes from the facebook page of Alley Einstein, the so-called journalist behind yesterday’s appalling Sunday Mirror attack on an elderly woman’s wedding.

It is hard to imagine anything more vile than finding people in poverty and bribing them say they don’t want a job just so you can smear them as a scounger in the media.  But that’s exactly what some freelance journalists are up to.  Do not fucking talk to them.  And do not talk to Alley Epstein.  The money will run out and it will fuck up your claim.

ally-einstein2

Join me on facebook or follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

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Cult SF/ Fantasy Artist Roger Dean Talks about his Art

July 22, 2015

I found this short video with Roger Dean over on the 70s Sci Fi Art tumblr page. Dean’s an illustrator, who has been producing literally fantastic work since the 1970s. He’s best known for his album covers for the ’70s prog rock band Yes, and the floating islands, which have become a kind of artistic signature.

The video was produced for an exhibition of his work on a cruise ship. As the 70s Sci Fi Art page notes, however, it’s treated as a kind of mini-documentary. Despite being only just over five minutes long, it’s full of insights. Dean describes how he came to England from Hong Kong in the late 1950s, his first work for Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club (Nice!) and how he came to design the logo for Yes.

He also gives advice about where he gets his ideas for aspiring artists: read, fill your head with great images, and don’t get too anxious about your work. Care about it, but don’t worry. Worry is the enemy of creativity.

Ramsey on Slave Labour at American Homeless Shelters

July 22, 2015

I’ve reblogged a lot of material from Johnny Void and other bloggers, who are rightly sharply critical of the Salvation Army over here because of their use of unpaid workfare labour in their charity shops. Yesterday, an American commenter posted their observations on the similar exploitation of the homeless by the homeless shelters and charities in America. Ramsey signed themselves ‘a slave in America’, and after reading the post it’s very easy to understand why. Here it is.

If you are homeless you are discriminated against in the homeless shelters. They make you work 30+ hours for nothing so you are stuck there working for them. It’s like slave labor either stay and work for them have no time or money to be able to find gainful employment or live on the streets and sleep on the sidewalks, ditches or even under dumpsters. They seem to be able to bypass all federal and state labor laws with no consciences. They say they are non- profit yet they take portions of ssi payments, receive grants, and own resale shops that they get merchandise for for free. We wonder why America is the shape it is. This a nation wide problem the missions are a drain on the tax payer through grants and keeping homeless as slave labor. The homeless are then a drain on the taxpayer through food stamps and not being able to obtain gainful employment and pay fair share of taxes due to lack of job. It’s simple if your homeless you are stuck as slave labor or stay on the streets and get no work due to your inability to shower, shave, and sleep properly. This will never change until the congress or president put forth a bill abolishing this discrimination against the homeless and makes the missions stop slave labor and pay minimum wage as everyone else who has individuals doing manual labor. As soon as this happens then the sooner our homeless problem goes away as far as those homeless that are addicts a random drug test at there expense from there earnings at the facility will weed them out. Thank you! Sincerely, A slave in America.

From this, it’s pretty clear that Ramsey’s speaking from personal experience. And it’s an experience shared by countless others on both sides of the Atlantic. I’ve got a feeling it was Bill Clinton, who actually made workfare widespread in America after the idea was floated by the Republicans under Reagan. I also have the impression that it was George ‘Dubya’ Bush, who effectively turned the Sally Ann and other charities in America into outsourced government service providers, thus turning voluntary work and formal charities into the profitable ‘third sector’ through the use of forced labour mandated under the workfare schemes.

These schemes were championed by the Tories way back in 1982 under Thatcher, and have now been firmly put in place by Cameron and his fellow parasites and profiteers. One of the hack on the I newspaper ran an article the other week criticising the government for forcing charities to abandon any criticism of the government and its policies, in order to turn them into front-line service providers. Of course, she’s right, as poverty in this country has been caused, or at least, vastly exacerbated by the government’s policies.

The use of workfare should be abandoned immediately, and voluntary work should be kept voluntary, not foisted on people through ‘work coaches’ and private firms seeking to expand their income stream and get yet more lucrative government contracts through the exploitation of the poor and the unemployed. Johnny Void in particular has links to a number of organisations and groups protesting about this, so go to his website for further details on what you can do there.

Giger’s Dune Sandworm

July 19, 2015

I found this extremely cool concept painting of a Dune sandworm by H.-R. Giger over at the 70s Scifi Art tumblr page.

Giger Dune Sandworm

Giger, who died last year, is best known for his work on Ridley Scott’s Alien, and for designing the creature, ‘Sil’, for Species. He was, however, one of the concept artist, along with Chris Foss and Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, who worked on the designs for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s film version of Dune in the 1970s. That never got made, as the film’s backers dropped it at the last minute. Jodorowsky himself and his co-workers have said it’s because, in Hollywood the producers want to be far more involved than simply just putting up the money for the film. They backed out simply because they didn’t know who Jodorowsky was, or quite understand what he was doing.

The other reason was probably the sheer cost of the film itself. Jodorowsky himself has said that he hired Salvador Dali the play the Galactic Emperor (!). Dali demanded a million dollars, and stated that he would only play the Emperor for half an hour. Astonishingly, Jodorowsky agreed, and the contract was duly signed. Standing in for Dali in the rest of the movie would be a robot.

Giger’s own designs for Dune have been published, and are on-line, as are Foss’. His plans for the Baron’s spacecraft, the Galactic Emperor and his palace, and for spice freighters and attacking pirate ships have been published in the album of his work, 21st Century Foss, by Paper Tiger.

After Jodorowsky’s version collapsed, Ridley Scott was hired about a decade or so later to make the 1980’s version. It’s for his, later version of the film that Giger made the above design for the worm. Unfortunately, Scott’s brother died, causing him to abandon the project. As a result, it was then passed on to David Lynch.

Lynch’s film has been critically panned, and the received opinion of it is negative. It’s widely held to be a notoriously bad movie. I have to say that I like it, and I think it’s actually a good film. It’s main problem is that it tries to compress Herbert’s lengthy and complex novel into a single movie. It really needs to be split into about three, as the Dune 2000 miniseries did, and Peter Jackson with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Even as it is, I think Lynch’s version still holds up and is massively underappreciated.

As for Scott, he went on to make Bladerunner, which is now justly recognised as one of the great SF film classics. And despite the failure of Jodorowsky’s film version, Jodorowsky and Moebius managed to use the material they had produced for it in their SF comics. The film’s look and concept designs are even credited with influencing later, successful SF movies like Bladerunner and Alien.

Two years ago a documentary on the making of Jodorowsky’s Dune came out. I’ve looked for it on the shelves in HMV and elsewhere, but I’m afraid I haven’t been able to find it this side of the Atlantic on DVD. It is, however, on the net.

Here’s the trailer:

jodorowsky states that he wanted to produce the effect of taking LSD without having people take the drug. Looking at the designs created for the movie by Giger, Moebius and Foss, and Jodorowsky’s own, unique take on the material, it would have been an awesome and truly mind-blowing experience.

Which is what good SF does. C.S. Lewis, the fantasy novelist and Christian apologist, was a strong fan of Science Fiction at a time when it was regarded, in the words of Brian Aldiss, as ‘worse than pornography’ by the literary elite. He wrote three SF books himself, strongly informed by his own Christian convictions: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra/ Voyage to Venus and That Hideous Strength. He declared that ‘Science Fiction is the only true mind-expanding drug’.

He’s absolutely right, and it’s a tragedy that too many people have got ensnared by chemicals, rather than picking up a good paperback.

Young Turks on Fox New’s Attacks on Homeless Black People in New York

July 19, 2015

Okay, it’s been some time since I posted anything up here. As I’ve said, this is partly because I’ve been depressed by the Tory victory at the election, and partly simply because I’ve been caught up doing other stuff. However, time waits for no man and the sheer pressure of events calls on me to start commenting again.

This is another piece from the American internet news programme, The Young Turks. In it, John Iadarola and Anna Kasparian comment on another squalid piece from Fox News. In this piece, Bill O’Reilly, one of Fox’s main anchors and a notorious liar, talks to their journalist Jesse Watters about the increasing numbers of homeless people sleeping rough in New York’s Penn Station.

Watters interviews travellers using the station about seeing homeless people seeking shelter in the station. These people are mostly sympathetic to the rough sleepers. Including a Black child, who says they feel upset seeing people, who don’t have enough money for food and can’t afford a home of their own. It’s a sweet piece of simple, innocent compassion and pity. Unfortunately, as the programme goes on, it most certainly ain’t shared by Watters or his fellow perp, O’Reilly.

The rail passengers interviewed are nearly all White. The homeless people Watters and O’Reilly shows are all Black. As The Turks point out, this seems to be quite deliberate. It’s to paint homelessness as essentially a Black problem. They also show those with some kind of government income, like a stipend, and drug problems. You can hear Fox News almost shouting at you ‘Look! It’s their own fault. They’ve got money! They’re on drugs! They could get their act together, but they just don’t want to. It’s their fault, not that of the system!’

The answer to that one is the old Bill Hick’s line about coming to New York and being surprised by the sheer numbers of the homeless. ‘Now, what makes you think our system doesn’t work.’

Iadorola and Kasparian point out that you don’t know why one man has a government stipend. It could be because he’s a military vet. In which case, it’s probably no surprise he’s got problems that have led to him being homeless. As for drug use, they point out that people turn to drugs for escape, and so it points to there being a larger problem in their lives, rather than simply addiction being the result of personal choice.

Then Watters comes to the real point of his investigation. He doesn’t have any interest or sympathy with the homeless themselves. He’s just annoyed that White people see them. He states that it’s against the law for them to be sleeping in the station, and asks why they aren’t in the homeless shelters. The Turks point out that one reason is that the homeless shelters may not be safe.

They may well be right. This was certainly a very urgent problem two and half decades ago in the 1990s when New York began to suffer the massive increase in homelessness that has ultimately led to this situation. The city started closing down and moving people out of its homeless shelters and into private institutions due to the crime and personal violence that was breaking out in the municipal shelters.

Finally, there’s a party political angle in this nasty piece of biased reporting. Watters and O’Reilly seem to be covering the story in order to get at New York’s mayor de Blasio. But as they point out, it isn’t de Blasio’s problem. The rise in homelessness began long before, in 1991. New York’s population as a whole grew by 16 per cent from 1991 onwards, but the number of homeless people tripled.

They also point out a solution to the problem that Watters does not mention: building homes for the homeless. Arizona was faced with putting up their homeless in ER Rooms. This cost the state $16,000 dollars per person, while building a house for them only cost $11,000. So they built homes for them as that was by far the most cost effective strategy.

But not, it seems for anywhere else in America, or for the Tories over here. They’ve decided that homes should only be for the very rich, and everyone else should go back to living with their parents, or in cellars and basements, like they did in the 19th century before the Victorians started slum clearances and building improved homes for the poor.

As for homelessness being a Black problem, clearly, it ain’t. There’s a large number of hidden homeless in New York, including university graduates and young people staying on friends’ floors after failing to find places of their own after graduation. It may well be the case that a larger proportion of homeless people are Black, because of the economic deprivation and lack of opportunities for Black Americans in general. But the problem isn’t going to be unique to them.

It suits, however, Fox’s racist attitude towards the issue to present it as such. There’s a viciously racist streak running right through Fox News, reflecting the same bias in the Republican party. This sees Blacks very much in the same racist terms as previous centuries – morally weaker than Whites, and strongly inclined to criminality. Hence, many of their viewers would be inclined to shrug the problem off if it’s presented as a condition from which only Blacks suffer, or bring about on themselves. They’re not going to show the White poor or homeless, because that would destroy the illusion they’re so carefully trying to create. And they definitely aren’t going to show any White folks, who lost their jobs or businesses under Dubya.

Here’s the show:

I’ve reblogged this because, although it is an American programme commenting on American issues, it’s acutely relevant to what’s happening over here.

This includes both the despicable attitudes to homelessness, and the real danger of what will happen to responsible news reporting if the government get their way and privatise the Beeb.

One of the major issues in American homelessness is how it’s ceased to be a political issue, despite the fact that it’s increased since the 1990s. Back then it was very much a pressing issue, yet after Bill Clinton won the presidency it dropped from public consciousness. My guess is that it’s partly because the homeless became such an obvious presence in American streets. They were swept away from city cores to more marginal parts of the urban landscape.

Pretty much the way the government and local authorities are doing their best to clear Britain’s homeless out of town, and away from the eyes of the public. Go and see Johnny Void’s Blog for his very detailed and passionate coverage of this and the issue of homelessness in general.

It’s also important because Fox News could very much be the future of British broadcasting, if the Tories have their way. Fox is part owned by Murdoch, who has consistently attacked the BBC, largely because it’s the biggest impediment to him acquiring a commanding monopoly over British broadcasting. As for ITV, the formerly independent broadcasting companies swallowed each other up, one by one in the 1980’s and ’90s, and the network itself seems to have been bought, or come under the control of American companies.

The Tories this week made another attack on the BBC and the licence fee in what looks very much like a very partisan attack to see it sold off to their private backers, including multinational donors like Murdoch.

If that happens, then not only will far more of our television consist of American imports, but there’s a real threat that even the semblance of political impartiality now presented by British broadcasters could disappear. Murdoch claims his wretched propaganda outlet is, in the words of its slogan, ‘fair and balanced reporting’. Like so much of his channel’s content, it’s a lie. So much so, that Fox were incensed when, of all the news broadcasters, they were not given an interview with Obama on the grounds that they were ‘a hostile political advocacy group’. Which is exactly right – the network blatantly supports and has donated extensively to the Repugs. They just don’t want people to know it. And especially not when it becomes a major political embarrassment.

As for the BBC, it’s certainly not free of political bias by any means. I’ve covered before the way Nick Robinson, the Macclesfield Goebbels, flagrantly altered the reporting of his questions to Alex Salmond during the Scots Referendum debate. This was to give the impression that Salmond hadn’t answered his question, when in fact he’d given a fairly detailed rebuttal to Robinson’s objection.

And that isn’t the only case of the Corporation’s bias. Academic media watchdogs have found it to be consistently biased against Labour. It has also repeatedly either ignored, or deliberately under-reported, protests against austerity, including one held right on its very own doorstep. Even as it is, it’s far better than Fox News and the avowedly Right-wing media that would replace it.