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October 31, 2006

State your peace (cheers for voting for me for union council! success)

So it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, it’s a good sign it means I’ve been busy at uni making the most of it. So I’m going to try and give a swift and exhaustive account of some of the cool shit that I’ve made part of my sphere of experience, if you’ll excuse the poncey phraseology.

The No2ID comedy event was a total ball. I had such a great time, it was also cool to catch up with childhood buddies Jermaine and Shenin and have a swift drink in a wicked bar next to the Empire. I also had a lock in with a bunch of the comedians which we pretty fun indeed.

Just before the gig I went to Devon with Alan for a couple of days. It was lovely to catch up with all the rellies and to get a last taste of summery Devon for the year. We really raced back for this comedy gig, although we saw a record number of crashes on the road back.

Term began and as usual was total banter. There have been a lot of nice parties (Jake, Spatz and Rob’s house, Spohie’s 21st, Kim’s monster party etc) and there’s plenty more to come. As usual we hit the ground running on the work front. I went to a wicked screening of Double Indemnity which also had a talk about Raymond Chandler. I also went to a talk about identity in French and German cinema although it was a bit lame and boring but it filled time before meeting Becky & Cags to go The Magic Numbers in Birmingham (wicked secret gig swung our way by the wonderful James Howard).

I’ve been doing my bit at WTV outputting my filmed version of To the End of the World on the website (also it is often screened on repeat on the Union screens). I’ve been holding meetings for my film and fiction which are pretty productive so far, there’s some cool fresh blood and lots of good material for output. I’m sorting out a home edit suite so I can start hacking up the 6 odd hours of Schoolgirl Nightmare footage and then film the bits I need to fill the gaps. I want to get our first year projects online just to show off basically. I filmed ex-CLS’er Nickesh in a great production of Dr Faustus so I’ve now got to get someone to edit it, I think the newbie who filmed it with me was quite keen on doing some, I reckon it’d be a good idea also to divide the edit between 2 people as 2 hours is a long stint to sit though especially if you’ve already seen the play.

I went to see a Rapid Eye Movement free event which was basically a showcase for local filmmaking at the arts centre, there were only 3 of us there, 4 once I texted Becky to come along. We saw a really good short starring Ray Winstone and Shaun Parkes so that was a nice highlight of the day (Tuesday the 10th of oct).

Module wise: I love writing for performance but it is hard, we’ve got a great writer in residence who cuts to the point and sometimes the bone. M.Armstrong and I were thinking of directing one of his plays for One World Week, which could be banter.
Aesthetics is a bit of a joke, it’s got good films and ideas but the lectures are poor. The seminars are better the seminar tutor is good at judging our level and working to that.
Culture Identity Text is a reasonably interesting module but it’s a bit dry.
Special Topic is a joy. So far we’ve just been watching excellent Renoir films and the Viper who runs the module is a legend and I always feel like I’m learning a lot. I did the first presentation on Boudu saved from drowning and it went well, he said that he was amazed I did as much work/research as I did during a week but that my presentation style was a bit poor, too much info too fast and not totally clear, but I’m glad others will have learned from my not major mistakes and it is really good to get some straight up feedback on presentations like that.

I wrote an article for my student newspaper on NO2ID which they unceremoniously butchered to make way for a page of advertising without a word of by your leave. The complete text will follow below. Fred is up for a Guardian Student Media award for best columnist, I hope he wins.

I’ve been to an art gallery opening which was good, I was also involved in a debate on the student radio station. I’d like to do more so long as they have good topics and debaters.

I caught the first 2 episodes of Torchwood which were pretty cool. I’m reserving judgement but the set up is good and it’s full of inventive ideas but it seems a bit too shiny and has too many helicopter shots of Cardiff.

I’m part of the Arts Centre’s student publicity team, we stage stunts to let people know what’s going on there, we had a social, with free wine and we went to see Watership Down which was an amazing piece of physical theatre. The next day I did an hour of advertising for it going around the union and jumping around the piazza demonstrating the kickboxing in the show and explaing how cool the student discount and psychic bunny was.

On Thursday we went to the Union to see Drum and Bass outfit pendulum. It was a pretty good night with nice bass to groove on and everyone there being up for a good night. But although we had bought tickets the queue to get in was a shambles. It became a huge bundle at one point and we were diverted under some steps that was well crampt. Also a fire alarm went off half way through the set so we all went out side and waited to come back in. Apart from that it was cool and nice to see what there were doing with the union these days; they did deck it out very prettily.

The other day I got a drastic haircut. I think I wouldn’t be happy about the length if it wasn’t such a good cut and one which everyone has said suits me.

I built a full scale cybersuit to accompany my cyber voice changer helmet, it’s all the bomb. I want a mannequin now so I can stand him in front of my door as a guard.

I’m going to be doing publicity design and costume building for a student devised production: “Clockheart boy” assuming their submission goes to plan.
Ben and Spatz are working on a music video project filming in week 6 in Birmingham to accompany a portishead track which all in all is pretty exciting. I designed some posters to advertise the auditions which were well attended so I assume I’m pretty good at this publicity design.

Mary-Kate Puddle from halls in the first year wants me to star in her adaptation of the comic book 100 bullets over xmas methinks. I think my new haircut might preclude me from the film, it seems like it’s not long enough anymore.

It’s great being in a new bigger room and having Becky live only around the corner. It’s been really fun and I love the people I live with so much, we’ve had plenty of banter on top of the usual uni stuff, seeing movies, the art gallery opening, eating together, playing house of the dead and soul calibur.

Here’s the No2ID article I wrote in full:

“If you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to hide.
I like ID cards, they allow me to get served in bars easier.
The Government says it will help stop terrorism, even if there’s a slim chance it will help prevent attack it will be worth it.
Other countries have ID cards why shouldn’t we?”

These are nonsense arguments, and if you don’t think so I implore you to look at some of the facts… in your own time, because I’m going to try and avoid patronising you; instead I’m going to engage in the cathartic act of vomiting my disgust onto the page and pose some of the many questions that puzzle me on a daily basis.

In a world so full of causes I asked myself this summer what would be the best campaign to get involved with. In the end I decided; why decide? Instead I should stand up for as many of the things I believe in as I could. I’m not trying to be all high and mighty; I just had a lot of spare time. I joined several organisations that represented my views on war, arms trade, ocean conservation and nuclear proliferation, I flyered, marched, wrote to my MP, joined mass lone protests against the London “No Protest Zone” but I went a step further with one campaign, by helping out in the central office of NO2ID. So why did I do this?
Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of the Identity Cards Bill (now law) from a very basic (i.e. my) perspective:
Pros: some bureaucrats’ lives will be easier
Cons: it will make me feel icky.
That’s right; my only objection is to this scheme is a woolly, vague distrust and perhaps a certain amount of paranoia. But you know what they say; “it’s not paranoia if they’re really after you”. But with the introduction of the National Identity Register (NIR) they are. Yes the big feck off THEY! The Party, The Man and yes it’s him again, he’s taken a break from running the thoroughly distracting freakshow and coercing outspoken Scottish MP’s into pretending to be cats, and he’s gracing us with is presence; Big Brother. I know all too well how distracting he is, why oh why do they put that show on when I should be revising!!
Am I wrong to place a substantial portion of the blame on the media for leading us astray? Why is it that many people I talk to about this issue have no idea that this legislation, which has been passed in parliament, even exists, let alone that it constitutes a massive shift in the relationship between the citizen and the state? Is it simply political apathy on the part of the general public or have we been sung a sweet lullaby by the press so that we might sleepwalk into a terrifying technocratic future? I guess as with a lot of legislation the problem is one of dryness. For viewing figures perhaps this is just too dry an issue, no blood or other bodily fluids, it’s quite cerebral and yet my reaction is a gut one.
Usually when faced with the arguments for the ID cards that I cited above I simply quote some figures about the cost and cite how it could be better spent (education, scraping top-up fees, free healthcare for the elderly like they have north of the border etc). I use this tactic because most people I’m trying to convince to oppose this New Labour scheme are more or less middle class (like myself) and the only way to reach their minds is via their wallets (look for instance at the debate about cheap flight carbon offsetting). Usually I mention that the cards are likely to cost them around £93 for a combined passport and ID card package with an additional cost of around £200 per taxpayer, and that there is no ceiling on spending on this project, and that currently £95,000 pounds is being spent PER DAY on setting up the scheme, totalling a whopping £46.4 million by the end of May this year, and that is just ‘planning’ not even to mention the impact of arbitrary penalties that will make speed cameras seem trivial by comparison. When I’ve told them this I’m usually out of breath and haven’t got the energy to explain half of the other issues pertaining to the idiocy of this legislation. I don’t think I even have enough space to do that in this article. So I’m going to return to the feeling icky thing.
£46.4 million pounds on planning and yet no one really knows what’s going on? What are the legions of consultants (at a cost to us of around 100,000 pounds a day) doing? What are the press officers getting paid for if they’re not writing press releases? Is the Home Office changing the proposed system (watering it down to come in on budget for instance) and if so why not let us know and if not why don’t they explain in more detail how the scheme will work? (Which might at least enable others to judge whether the costings are realistic)? Paranoia kicks in, I get my free hit of adrenalin and I go on the hunt for malevolent designs. I look to the past for a precedent and I find a book called “IBM and the Holocaust” detailing how IBM’s primitive punch card identity system was used by the Nazis to computerise mass exterminations, funnily enough IBM are on a list of possible consultants for the system, but that’s all in the past.
I find malevolent designs closer to home; I’m in a pub and I get ID’ed. Not unusual you might think? Well I’ve been drinking in pubs since I was 14 I’m currently 6”3 and I never get ID’ed. Then I discover that pubs are being encouraged by the government to ID people who look under 21. Not to get all granddad on you but ‘in my day’ if you could recite a fake date of birth with a straight face you were in. I don’t want to glamorise underage drinking or trivialise alcohol abuse but the way I see it is that the timing of this isn’t based on new public safety concerns as much as it’s based on getting us used to the idea of carrying ID with us at all times. Ok weak argument you may say. Ok prepare to feel icky with me:
Kids are being finger printed in schools. Kids! Ok so it’s part of an empowerment scheme to get kids to be their own librarians, but what was ever wrong with a helpful librarian, face to face and a library card? The real issue here is that parent’s permission wasn’t sought. I’m purely pissed off about this because they didn’t have the balls to try it out on us first. What would have happened if we, with the capacity for informed decision making, were asked on masse to have our fingerprints taken in order to access library services? In a few years time these kids will be in our position and it will be simply commonplace for them. Am I being an old fogey before my time or is this actually compulsion by the backdoor and the manufacture of consent?
Part of being paranoid is seeing connections where they don’t exist; fair enough but to me all of this seems connected and part of a larger sinister picture. Is the change in pub protocol more connected to war on terrorism than to later opening hours? Has the issue of Muslim veils worn in public (sparked by ex Home Secretary Jack Straw) got more to do with problematic photo ID than to initiating an important debate about integration? Perhaps these links are a little tenuous but there are some that strike me as less so, for example the fact that America is introducing biometric ID concurrently with us and the fact that our foreign policies are so aligned. But it really it comes down to a question of trust. I’m more than happy to entrust my personal details to my GP but do I want to hand over all my details to a government who provides no solid evidence that the scheme will deliver on its aims or be value for money? Moreover can we trust the Home Office, probably this government’s most incompetent department, who this year wrongly labelled 1,500 people criminals in CRB checks and refused to apologise even though their mistake cost people jobs and university places, who have had previously presided over costly failed databases? Do we trust ultimate executive power to the likes of John Reid, the man who asked Muslim families to grass on their children if they showed signs of extremism? These cards will be an excuse for further racism as proving you are British becomes more and more important in everyday life; already we know that the statistically police carry out stop and search in a racist manner rather than on a basis of “intelligent profiling”. Dianne Abbot, my Labour MP, is against the cards on the grounds that they will increase racial tensions, and only last week were we told that universities are being asked to keep an eye on ‘Asian looking’ students. Why would we want to hand over such power to the same people who refused to listen to the rightful concerns of war protesters who knew that invading Iraq would only bring chaos & instability to the region and make us less safe at home. Should we give this power to the idiots who can’t tell the difference between an innocent, unarmed Brazilian and an imminent threat, who can’t tell the difference between a health and safety accident and a cold blooded, point-blank murder? Should we give this power to a government who said in their manifesto that the scheme would be voluntary and yet U-turn on that promise to slowly introduce nation wide compulsion?
Only 16 years ago a political protest over an unfair poll tax turned into a violent clash between the people and the police. Labour MP Terry Fields was jailed for 60 days for his refusal to pay. Will Labour now force us back to civil disobedience to get our rightful concerns heard? Now if you want to protest outside parliament you have to apply to the police for a licence, something which had been a right for hundreds of years. This law was widely known as an attack on an individual protester; Brian Haw, proved by the fact that no one could argue that a licence from the police could stop a terrorist attack. Aren’t these draconian policies a similar exploitation of our fears; distracting us from the lack of positive policies that take into account the real wants and needs of a population? How many more rights will be striped from us by tiny little, unnoticed bills of parliament, and what new ways will individuals be stepped over? There are hundreds of problems with the scheme that I haven’t been able to get into, but it still basically boils down to the fact that I for one don’t want iris scanning and finger printing to become the responsibility of all the future children of this land, nor do I want their right to exist to be appropriated by politicians and bureaucrats; that would be a very icky inheritance for the little blighters and they’ve already got climate change, a climate of racism and a whole gang of nuclear material to deal with.

To learn more and to take action:
www.no2id.org
www.renewforfreedom.org
www.writetothem.com
www.youthagainstid.org
www.identitycards.gov.uk


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