Jonny Nexus

Writing, life, politics

Category: Life (page 1 of 14)

General life related posts.

You Think 2016 Was Bad?

As a writer, I spend a lot of time thinking on plots of novels, and so it’s only natural that when I think about events occurring on our world, I try to imagine how they would develop were they events of fiction rather than reality.

People talk about 2016 as being the year from hell, but the thing is, most of the bad things about 2016 were the taken of decisions to do something bad, with the something bad itself having not yet occurred.

In other words, if 2016 were fiction, it wouldn’t be a stand-alone novel, but would instead be one of those slightly frustrating first books of a trilogy where lots of plot lines are initiated but nothing ever gets finished – and you then have to wait a year for the next book.

And that leads onto a second thought: if 2016 were merely the first book of a trilogy – what’s going to happen in the next two books.

Well with thanks to my friend Ian McDonald for the crucial plot development at the end, here goes…

2016: The Unfolding (Book I of the End Years Trilogy)

2016 begins in a world still struggling to extract itself from the Great Recession of 2008, and racked by wars triggered by climate change and ill-advised imperialist interventions.

In Europe, the European Union is under assault from the forces of left and right, while in the United States dark populist forces are gathering.

As mainland Europe struggles to cope with the refugees pouring out of a war-torn Middle East, the disastrous result of a recklessly called referendum plunges the United Kingdom into political and constitutional chaos. Meanwhile, the American presidential election produces a stunning shock of unprecedented proportions as a racist and misogynistic narcissist utterly unsuited to the role is elected on a tidal wave of neo-fascist populism.

2017: The Unravelling (Book II of the End Years Trilogy)

2017 begins with the results of the American election turning from tragedy to farce as the president-elect is revealed to be a Russian intelligence asset whose election was largely due to the Kremlin’s intervention. Meanwhile in Britain, the phony period of fudge and bluff comes to an end as the process to leave the European Union is begun.

As the world economy spirals further into the chaos triggered by Brexit and the nationalistic protectionism of the American president, Russian president Vladimir Putin invades the Baltic states. Shorn of effective leadership, and betrayed by the United States at the moment of invasion, NATO disintegrates.

Alongside this, and goaded by the United States’ ascendant right-wing, an increasingly belligerent Israel attempts to increase the pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As the Western World attempts to celebrate an uneasy Christmas, a drunk American president engaged in a late night Twitter argument with the president of Iran orders a nuclear strike on Tehran. Following a rehearsed script written several months previously by Pentagon lawyers, and deploying pre-written letters signed by certain departmental heads, the Air Force officer carrying the “nuclear football” announces that by issuing such an order the president is clearly incapacitated as defined by the twenty-fifth amendment, and as such, presidential authority will now lie with the vice-president.

2018: The Unleashing (Book III of the End Years Trilogy)

2018 starts with the United States engulfed in a full blown constitutional crisis, with a still-tweeting president claiming to have been the victim of a military coup and the Joint Chiefs of Staff claiming to be following the now legitimate commander-in-chief, the former vice-president.

Both the military and civilian authorities are split as to the legality of the Joint Chiefs interpretation of the 25th amendment. A majority of state governors declare allegiance to the former president, with several calling up their state national guards. The regular military itself fractures into uselessness. Within weeks constitutional crisis has given way to a limited, but still bloody, civil war, with fire fights breaking out in Washington DC between different factions.

The American economy, paralysed, enters a death spiral; the world economy follows. Vladimir Putin meanwhile, follows his move into the Baltic states with an invasion of Poland and a declaration of a new Russian Empire, with himself as emperor.

With the world on the brink of an all out war, only one leader remains with the moral and political authority to hold the centre: German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Gathering together the remains of NATO, she forges a new alliance. While her forces meet and defeat the Russian invasion, triggering a democratic uprising in Moscow, a Canadian led force allied with the anti-Presidential forces occupies Washington DC in the last hours of 2018.

When the sun rises on New Year’s Day 2019, it is on a new world, in a new era.

Film Review: Suicide Squad

IMG_1357.PNGDirector: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Stars: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie

Shit, epically so.

David Cameron Might Just Have Saved The UK

The most important news from yesterday, other than the referendum result, was David Cameron’s decision to not immediately trigger Article 50, but instead leave that decision to his successor to take, in October at the earliest. Had he triggered it yesterday, as he’d said during the campaign he would, he would have committed the UK to a hard and full Brexit within two years.

As a result, three further options have opened up: a soft, though still full Brexit taking longer than two years; a partial, Norwegian style, Brexit; or some sort of supposed renegotiation that concludes with the UK remaining an EU member.

This is huge. I’d think this will eventually be seen as the most crucial decision taken by him during his entire political career. I’m mystified as to why it wasn’t the lead item in every news piece.

It’s About Identity, Not Democracy

Brexit supporters often attack the EU for its supposed lack of democracy, saying things like: “What about that President of the Commission? We didn’t elect him!”

I’ve heard this time and time again, and I’ve only just realised that I’ve misunderstood it every time. Pro-Europeans such as myself hear it as:

We didn’t elect him!

And each time we hear that, we point out that we did elect him. And then we patiently, and as it turns out pointlessly, explain the particular electoral mechanism involved. (Essentially, the people of Europe elect MEPs belonging to various factions, and then the leader of the faction that wins the most seats gets to be a sort of “European Prime Minister”).

But what they actually meant was this:

We didn’t elect him!

…where “we” refers not to the people of Europe, but the people of the United Kingdom. It’s just like when a Scottish Nationalist complains that: “We didn’t elect David Cameron!”

He or she is not complaining about the system by which David Cameron was elected PM (a First Past the Post election to a UK parliament, followed by a ” virtual election” among the MPs to select a PM from amongst their number). He or she is not advocating an arguably more democratic system, where the PM is elected by a direct presidential style election. In fact, since such an election would arguably give the British PM more power over Scotland, that would probably be the last thing our Scottish Nationalist would want.

His complaint is not in the “elect” part of his sentence, but in the “we”. He doesn’t like the fact that since English voters outnumber Scottish voters by about 10 to 1, essentially, Scottish voters have only a minor say in who rules them. When he says that “we” didn’t elect David Cameron, he means the people of Scotland. His problem is not that the UK is undemocratic. He just doesn’t want what he identifies as his country, Scotland, to be ruled by the English.

The EU is actually quite democratic, and where it isn’t democratic, that’s usually to preserve the rights of individual member countries (the national veto, for example). It’s not about democracy. It’s about identity. Are you happy to elect leaders as part of a European election, accepting that sometimes you won’t get who you voted for?

Which basically comes down to: do you feel European?

 

 

The River

Before moving here, I’ve only ever visited Hebden Bridge in the summer. The Hebden Water river I saw was a gentle stream, a few inches of water tumbling gently over its rocky bed, frequently braiding into rivulets that left much of the channel free of water. When people talked about the town being vulnerable to flooding, I couldn’t believe it. That! That tiny stream can cause flooding! Hell, I thought, I’ve pissed stronger streams than that.

But then came the devastating Boxing Day floods. I wasn’t here for those, but the river I see now is an angry beast, filling its channel to the very brim. This is no gentle stream; this is the sort of foaming torrent Kevin Keegan and his perm might have been found kayaking up in the mid-1970s, accompanied by a bevy of fellow sporting personalities, somewhere between the cycle race and the gym test.

Each morning, when I take the dog for her morning walk, I look at the river, and hope that today it won’t rain, and the river might get a little less angry.

Hebden1

Ducks swimming over a flooded riverside platform, that leads to a set of submerged steps

A Belated Announcement of a Geographical Nature

I have news, that news being that I’m not in Brighton anymore, but am in fact… well actually I’m currently in a hotel room in Mumbai on a trip with the day job, which is why I’ve found myself with the time to type this announcement, an announcement I’m making a shockingly bad fist of.

Let me start again.

We have moved, last week, from Brighton, to Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire. In some ways this is a big move. I now find myself, a Southerner, in a sort of internal exile in my own country, adrift among a people who think engaging a complete stranger in conversation is a reasonable thing to do. In other ways, this isn’t such a big move. Brighton is an arty, cultural, cosmopolitan place famous for being a haven to gay people, and those who follow alternative lifestyles. Hebden Bridge, while smaller, is also an arty, cultural, cosmopolitan place famous for being a haven to gay people (Lesbian capital of Europe, apparently!), and those who follow alternative lifestyles. So we’ve exchanged one vegan enclave for another, albeit one with cleaner air and different, if not better views.

If you’re wondering why we’ve made the move, the capsule summary is that we’ve moved to West Yorkshire to be near my wife’s family, but have moved to Hebden Bridge specifically because we were looking for somewhere vegan friendly.

It’s a little battered still from the appalling floods that hit the whole area on Boxing Day, but it’s getting back on its feet, and we’d like to think that by moving here, and spending our money here, we’re helping just a little bit with that.

We’re really enjoying being here (or there, given that for me, now, here is the aforementioned hotel room in Mumbai) and I’m looking forward to building a new life here, for myself, and my family. If any of you are in the area, please drop me a line, especially if you’re into board gaming or roleplaying, two hobbies that I’d like to get back into.

And for no particularly reason, here’s a couple of pictures I’ve taken of the town.

Hebden1

Ducks swimming over a spot where two days earlier, we’d been standing

(The river is still pretty swollen, and on this particular morning, it had risen back up a bit).

Hebden2

A very steep footpath, with the town centre beyond

Feedback Of The Nicest Kind

Yesterday, a reader tweeted to say that she’d enjoyed If Pigs Could Fly, and hoped there would be a sequel.

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I RTed that with a replying comment and was really happy to then find the Dublin 2019 Worldcon bid account RTing that to its followers:

IMG_0675.PNG

And to complete my day, the Irish Discworld Convention account (this was the con where the book was launched) tweeted this:

IMG_0672.PNG

As a writer of sometimes fluctuating confidence, this sort of thing is awesome. Thank you all.

I Know I’m Biased, But…

So I was playing Lego Duplo with the little one the other day and I made her a twin-jet, medium bomber, as you do.

IMG_0479

She was very happy with it, and was playing “flying” with it, and then she picked up a discarded piece of assembly from a previous build, and announced that she was going to add it to the plane.

IMG_0480

Now nonsensical as this was, I’m always very concerned to not ever make her feel stupid, so I said something like, “Oh that’s a really good idea!” as she did it. And then I looked at what she’d done. And I realised.

IMG_0481

She’d only gone and built the bloody AWACS version! How clever is that?

IDWCon 2015: Sunday Morning Progress Report

BrokenMoons-SmIt’s day three now of the Irish Discworld Convention 2015, and I’m sitting in the Plaza of Broken Moons (a.k.a. the lobby) typing this. For those of you who don’t know, IDWCon (as it’s typically referred to) is an Irish version of the International Discworld convention held in the UK. Since it’s held on those years that the biennial international version isn’t held, it provides a handy home for those UK based Pratchett fans who basically want to go to a Discworld convention every year. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that while I’m seeing lots of new faces, I’m seeing lots of familiar ones, also.
MeOnStandI’ve got a stand here, in the dealers area (a.k.a. Sator Square), where I’ve been setting not only my new book, If Pigs Could Fly, but the previous one, Game Night, as well, both of which I’m publishing under my own imprint, Wild Jester Press. I’m opposite the rather nice guys from Waterstones Cork, who are selling a whole range of Terry Pratchett’s books as well as other Discworld related books. And I’m next to the equally nice guys from the Discworld Emporium.

Sales so far are going pretty well, certainly better than I’d feared in the run up to the event. (I should stress that there was no-reason for me to fear bad sales. It’s simply that while merely writing a book is essentially to offer your hopes, fears and dreams up for public examination, to then attempt to sell that book is basically to take those hopes, fears and dreams and package them up in form that’s practically designed to allow easy and convenient crushing.)

Assuming sales hold up today, it looks like I will sell out all the stock I bought. (Anyone reading this who’s at the convention – you have been warned! Come to Sator Square and talk to me!)SatorSquare

I’m selling them at €7 a book, or €10 for two, the latter figure chosen partly to avoid the requirement to give out change, something that’s difficult to acquire when you’re not from the Eurozone. But the two for not much more than one offer has turned out to be a really good thing. It’s much easier to sell books when you have more then one and can thus do this kind of multi-offer. It allows you to keep the price up on a single book, something which I think is important to make it clear that this is a quality work that you have pride in, whilst still offering a deep discount to purchasers.

Turned to the wider convention, I’m really enjoying myself, except of course for one unfortunate incident in the bar last night that was clearly in no-way the fault of either the convention organisers, the hotel, or the convention itself. I refer, of course, to England’s rather crushing defeat in the Rugby World Cup at the hands of Australia. Personally, I’m now falling back on the three sixteenths of my ancestry that’s Irish. Come on you boys in… it’s green, right? (And would a chorus of “No surrender to the ECB” be appropriate?)

The hotel is a lovely base for a convention. The staff are lovely, and as for location, okay, it’s in a business park next to an airport, but given that at conventions you never leave the hotel, that doesn’t matter, and it’s awesomely convenient for people who – like me – flew in. It is literally five to ten minutes walk away from the airport terminal. And if you’re worried about aircraft noise, don’t be. Cork airport isn’t Heathrow. (I know. I was born and raised next to Heathrow.)

I’ll leave you with some pictures. Firstly, the lobby, from above, slightly gloomy due to it being an early morning picture on a not terribly good phone camera:

TheLobby

The convention map on the back of the programme guide:

Map

The Opening Ceremony from Friday night, in Pseudopolis Yard.

OpeningCeremony

The breakfast I had yesterday morning (an answer to a question you haven’t actually asked, that question being “What does a vegan eat for breakfast?”, with the answer being, well in a good, decent hotel, this!).

Breakfast

And finally, the most… “special” feature of the hotel. This is a feature that has been the subject of quite a good deal of discussion, because it just doesn’t fit in. While the rest of the hotel is pretty much a restrained “vanilla corporate”, this is… different. So far, I’m come up with two theories:

  1. The architects gave this bit of hotel to the new trainee, and he/she basically went for it, in a big way.
  2. Someone was leaving, and put this in as a prank, and it wasn’t discovered until the plans were just about to be signed off, and it was too late to changed.

Ladies, gentlemen, searchbots, I give you [drumroll] … the toilets:

TheToilets

On Cows Milk At A Vegan Event

First off, a statement. I do not consider being a vegan to being in any way comparable to being a member of an discriminated against group, be that persons who are non-white, female, gay or bisexual, trans-gendered, or members of a minority religion. However, for someone such as myself who by virtual of being a white, middle-class, male, cis-gendered heterosexual, ticks every single privilege box going, I think that being a vegan might perhaps in some partial way simulate what it might feel like to be a member of a discriminated against group. Not for real. Just for pretend. A simulation.

That said, I’ll then launch into a second statement that might sound rude, exclusionary, and frankly arseholish:

I sometimes wish that vegetarians wouldn’t turn up at what’s supposed to be a vegan event, like the one I’ve just been to. Although to be fair to them, in this case, it seemed very badly described. (Then again, the people organising it, when speaking, repeatedly referred to it as a vegan event, so I wonder if the “mis-description” was inserted in by the person who wrote the program). Here’s how it was (ambiguously) described:

NoWhey

(I should say, it was still a great event, I really enjoyed it, and I’m very thankful to the two women who organised it for putting it on).

The thing is, I’m not a vegetarian, and I don’t feel I have a huge amount in common with them. I live in a non-vegan world, where I constantly have to moderate what I say, and bite my tongue. When people ask why I don’t drink milk, I have to simply say that it’s “because I’m a vegan”, rather than give the truthful answer that lies behind that, because if I did, I’d upset people. I can’t even really give that truthful answer here, because while this is my own personal blog, it’s still a non-vegan space. It’s still me writing as a vegan in a non-vegan world. (If you really want to know, I’ve attached it as an appendix to this post).

It would be nice, just once, to go to a place where I don’t have to bite my tongue for fear of upsetting someone. But as soon as vegetarians turn up, I have to, because it’s now back to being a non-vegan space.

Vegans tell anecdotes about the times they want to a wedding or restaurant and there was literally nothing for them to eat, and they literally went hungry. We cry that all we’re asking for is for there to be just one thing on the menu that we could eat. Just one and we’re happy. Overjoyed even. Hell, put two items on the menu and you risk rendering us catatonically indecisive, so unused are we to coping with choice.

Meanwhile, one of the vegetarians at this event just told an anecdote about going to a restaurant for a wedding dinner in the US where the punchline of the anecdote was that there was only one vegetarian option on the menu.

As you can imagine, I did somewhat fail to feel his pain.

Yeah, sure there’s a place for outreach, and bigger tents, and evangelism, and inclusiveness, and all that… But sometimes you just want to be among your own kind, you know? Where you can talk about the things that you have in common, and the things that uniquely affect you, without having to bite your tongue for fear of upsetting “the others”.

I’ve been trying to think of an anecdote about this, and the best I can come up with is (again, veganism is only a simulation of discrimination!):

Irish people living in the UK have certainly faced serious, historical discrimination in the past, and quite possibly to some extent still do. But if I was organising an event for BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic) attendees at a UK convention, and an Irish person turned up, I think I’d be a bit, “Mate, really?”

And if he responded to our anecdotes about the serious and damaging discrimination we’d faced for being BAME with an anecdote about discrimination he’d faced for being Irish that was, by comparison to our experiences, quite minor…

Well I think I’d fail to share his pain.

So to go back to the “simulation” I referred to at the start of this point, when some white people get upset about things like the National Black Police Association, I’d like to think that just maybe I get it.

When you live in a world where you’re always the “other”, sometimes, just for once, just for a while, you just want to be among your own kind.

(Oh and by the way, the title refers to the fact that we ended up having cows milk bought to this supposedly vegan event by the hotel. If we’d all been vegans we could just have told them to take it away. But when a bunch of the attendees are vegetarian, that would have seemed a bit rude.)

* * * * *

The truthful answer…

Cows are mammals, and as with any mammal, they only make milk if they give birth to a child. So to get milk from a cow you have to make the cow pregnant, and when the resulting calf comes out male it’s surplus to requirements and is thus often taken straight away and killed (if not killed it will be raised for beef and then killed after several months). I’ve heard stories of cows that cry for eight days straight after their calf is taken away. I cannot see the moral principle in refusing to eat beef, but being okay with baby calves living a life that in its entirety consists of: be born, be immediately taken away from your mother and taken to a slaughter house, have brains blown out. It’s a life that spans less than 24 hours, which will entirely be spent, thirsty, hungry, scared and lonely. It seems to me that the life of a male dairy calf is about as shit, miserable, and pointless as a life is possible to be. It makes a mayfly’s life seem possibly purposeful, and every single time I think of what we do to cows and their calves it brings me to the verge of tears. That’s why I don’t drink milk. It’s not because “I’m a vegan.” It’s because I cry when I think of baby cows getting their brains blown out in slaughterhouses.

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