alasdair gray

In Support Of Alasdair Gray

Just a little note here in support of Alasdair Gray …but not for the reason you might be expecting.
I know he has been under attack for his comments regarding the situation surrounding who runs the arts in Scotland but I don’t want to talk about that.

Rather, I was delighted to see that Alasdair Gray turned down a knighthood (which he was offered by the Brown government, not this one).

It seems that in preference to the company of the aristocracy and their hangers-on, he preferred the company of, to name but a few, Alan Bennett, David Bowie, Francis Crick, Michael Faraday, E.M. Forster, Graham Greene, Thomas Hardy, Stephen Hawking, Peter Higgs, Eric Hobsbawm, Aldous Huxley, L.S. Lowry, Harold Pinter and H.G. Wells.

And that is without even getting into the list of people who have turned down other honours.

Just wanted to say well done Alasdair.

I only recently became aware of this song on the subject as well.

In recognition of a hundred million album sales
In recognition of your popularity
You take your gaudy prize
From people you said you despise
You wear your self-respect upon your bended knee

In spite of all your claims
It looks like youre just the same
As every other clown who likes to put the crown
Before or after their name

In recognition of your service to the working class
In recognition of your party loyalty
You get an ermine robe
And you declare when you are probed
You only took it so the missus would be pleased

In spite of all your claims
It looks like youre just the same
As every other clown who likes to put the crown
Before or after their names

Oh vanity
It gets them one by one
Cat, religion, monarchy
But only in tale, fairly frail

In recognition of your bravery up on the stage
In recognition of your bankability
You get to wait in lines
With soldiers crippled by land mines
And you think its the Yanks that dont get irony

In spite of all your claims
It looks like youre just the same
As every other clown who likes to put the crown
Before or after their name

In spite of all your claims
It looks like youre just the same
As every other clown who likes to put the crown
Before or after their name

Their name
Their name
Their name

Still Confident

cameron-bullingdon-clubI still think the referendum will return a Yes vote in 2014 even though the polls aren’t swinging so quickly.

Looking through the archives here however, I found this quote from the Alasdair Gray book The Fall of Kelvin Walker and I just wondered if the reason the polls haven’t swung around so quickly is partly this…

“Don’t you understand, Kelvin? Haven’t you got the point? All these chairmen and directors and governors and politicians, they’re all confidence tricksters. Nobody but a fool thinks they they’re more virtuous than the rest of us, and you’ve pointed out yourself that they don’t even know more. Then why do they get up there? Because most people are so afraid of running their own lives that they feel frightened when there’s no-one to bully them. So we get a gang of bullies and tricksters ordering us about and getting very well paid for it.

 

The Scottish Independence Podcast 21 – Alan Bissett

25534_largeYesterday, for episode 21 of the Scottish Independence Podcast I spoke with Scottish writer Alan Bissett.

Alan is the author of numerous books and plays but made an entrance onto the political scene, and in particular the debate surrounding the Independence Referendum,  with the publication of his poem Vote Britain, which almost immediately went viral.

Since then he has been speaking at many campaign events as well as writing for websites such as Bella Caledonia and National Collective.

In our conversation we mulled over why Alan supports Indy, how Vote Britain was written and the reaction to it and about the difficulties that expressing things in a way that might be considered too Scottish might bring for a writer or artist. This neatly led us on to the manufactured hullaballoo regarding Alasdair Gray’s comments on the lack of Scots leading Scottish cultural institution and some ideas on James Kelman too.

Furthermore, we talked about Alan entering into some debates on the subject of feminism and how this can be tricky territory for those born with a y chromosome.

Finally, we talked about what Alan has coming up at the Edinburgh festival in the summer.

Hope you enjoy…

As usual, this is the direct download link (right click and save as)

You can listen to the show online at its web page

Or you can subscribe with itunes

Enjoy

Michael Greenwell

CONFIDENCE TRICKSTERS

Been doing a lot of reading lately and a lot of re-reading too.

One that was in the pile was The Fall of Kelvin Walker by Alasdair Gray.

This little passage caught the eye…

“Don’t you understand, Kelvin? Haven’t you got the point? All these chairmen and directors and governors and politicians, they’re all confidence tricksters. Nobody but a fool thinks they they’re more virtuous than the rest of us, and you’ve pointed out yourself that they don’t even know more. Then why do they get up there? Because most people are so afraid of running their own lives that they feel frightened when there’s no-one to bully them. So we get a gang of bullies and tricksters ordering us about and getting very well paid for it.

DUCK RIGHT OFF

“Glasgow is a magnificent city,” said McAlpin. “Why do we hardly ever notice that?” “Because nobody imagines living here,” said Thaw. McAlpin lit a cigarette and said “If you want to explain that I’ll certainly listen.” “Then think of Florence, Paris, London, New York. Nobody visiting them for the first time is a stranger because he’s already visited them in paintings, novels, history books and films. But if a city hasn’t been used by an artist, not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively. What is Glasgow to most of us?  A house, the place we work, a football park or golf course, some pubs and connecting streets. That’s all. No, I’m wrong, there’s also the cinema and library. And when our imagination needs exercise we use these to visit London, Paris, Rome under the Caesars, the American west at the turn of the century, anywhere but here and now. Imaginatively Glasgow exists as a music-hall song and a few bad novels. That’s all we’ve given to the world outside. It’s all we’ve given to ourselves.”

From Lanark, by Alasdair Gray

.

I will come back to the above via somewhere else. For now I want to tell you a story I intuitively liked the first time I heard it. It was told by Stephen Fry on BBC.

He said that the workers in one of the Disney establishments (I think it was Eurodisney or whatever they call it now) were referring to the place in their emails as ‘Mouseschwitz’ in reference to some of the draconian staff policies. They were told to stop it or else (which sort of proves the point) and within minutes were referring to it as ‘Duckhau’.

There MAY be something in the connection. The allegation that Walt Disney had fascist ‘leanings’ has been around for some time. He certainly took strong measures against striking workers and at one time was a guest of Mussolini. He also appeared as a friendly witness during all the McCarthyite business. An animator who worked for him had this to say…

In the immediate years before we entered the War there was a small, but fiercely loyal, I suppose legal, following of the Nazi party . . . There were open meetings, anybody could attend and I wanted to see what was going on myself. On more than one occasion I observed Walt Disney and [Disney’s lawyer] Gunther Lessing there, along with a lot of prominent Nazi-afflicted Hollywood personalities. Disney was going to meetings all the time.

Disney also screened Leni Riefenstahls films after Kristallnacht when hardly any other hollywood people would touch her.  

So I knew this stuff and also know that Disneycorp is hardly a fluffy toy of a company and today I find that…

A Disney cartoon character has been honoured as one of Glasgow’s most famous residents.

The city council has included Scrooge McDuck alongside Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Sir Alex Ferguson on a list of Glasgow’s great and good.

The list itself has many many notable exclusions and should not be taken as a guide of anything at all. Neither Alasdair Gray nor James Kelman are on it and too many others to mention.

Aside from the frankly embarassing crassness of such an act you struggle to understand why people who are intent on changing the image of the city for the better would do this. You would hope they would have thought a bit more about what this represents.

Well what it does represent is the corporatisation of this city that is going on apace, encouraged by local and national government. This is what is supposedly changing the city for the better. It is all part of the Grand Design™ approved by both local and national government to turn Glasgow into a facsimile of every other city in the bloody world if not turn it into a theme park of its former self like so many other places have become.  In other words, the lack of imagination mentioned in the quote above.

Instead of using our own ‘bad novels’ we now seem to have sunk to someone else’s (a possible fascist).

The character in question is a miserly old bastard who had his eyes sparkled by the ‘American Dream’ who then went off to America and became a rich miserly old bastard.

This kind of hanging on to the coat tails of the Hollywood (they also mention Groundskeeper Willy as a Glaswegian) does nothing at all to help the city. Not in the eyes of those who live elsewhere, and more importantly, not in the eyes of the people who live here. Glasgow has its problems like anywhere else, some of them quite severe, but this kind of ‘bit of fun’ adds embarrassment to the list of things to deal with.

Finally, the quote above is not as simple as it may seem. Alasdair Gray, the author of the book, has himself done a lot in remedying the affliction he talks about. It is in one way meant to reflect an amnesia that the city has about itself. The same thing afflicts Scotland as a whole and has historically been partly induced and partly forced by London. A Scotland that forgets itself is easier to keep in the Union.

It is also happening worldwide. Bali by all accounts is now a Bali theme park and all cities and the little vestiges of independence in thought, culture and design are being stripped away to make the world in which the only time that imagination is allowed is when it is being used to speed up the process of destroying itself in marketing departments everywhere.

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