In need of a redesign since 2011.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Cardiff student protest

I've just run home to pick up blankets and charge mobile phones, so now seems like a good time to bring you up to speed.

If you follow my twitter feed, you'll likely have seen that I joined a peaceful protest outside Cardiff university at 12 noon today. The protest moved inside the building, and a small portion of us held down a lecture hall while the rest marched around the city centre. The police have acknowledged this as a peaceful protest. No windows broken, no punches thrown, to my knowledge.

While they were gone, discussions began with Cardiff uni security regarding the intended aims of our protest.

On their return, the lecture or "teach-in" began. It was utterly inspirational. I'm going to look up the details shared and pass them along to you.

As things stand now, it's looking like the protesters intend to stay overnight and bring more attention to our cause. I have to head back out as it's going to be a cold night and my friends will need blankets! This is just a placeholder post, I'll update in more detail as soon as I get the chance! As it is, things are very much in progress!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Making it verse

I'm hammering a poem into shape.

Last month, my university started a creative writing open mic night. I performed, and I'm going to say here what I haven't had the courage to say elsewhere: I'm actually really disappointed with how I did.

I hadn't known in advance that it was going to be competitive; I don't think many people did. I've never been a particularly competitive person, but once I knew that's how things were, I accepted it. I've been writing poetry since I was 14 or so, and I thought they were pretty good. What I hadn't thought about, however, is the huge difference between the verse you find in poetry collections, and the incredible passion and power of spoken word poetry.

I didn't expect to win, not once I'd seen Leeum perform. It was obvious to all of us, I think, that he is incredibly experienced at this; an extremely talented performance poet. From the beginning, when he spoke of "the rocks He told me not to throw," I was alert and listening more attentively than in any lecture. Anyway, my writer-crush aside, I didn't expect to win after that.

What sucked, and again this isn't something I'd happily talk about in person, is that I failed to come in the top four. Ben did. Ben, my housemate, came fourth with a poem I had helped him refine. It's a good poem, but Ben's a novelist now and poetry - well, poetry was always my thing. I was jealous. And disappointed. And when he confided in me, on leaving the cafeteria where the event took place, that he was disappointed he hadn't placed higher, I selfishly replied "Shut up, Ben. I can just about pretend that I don't mind not placing, but you have to pretend too." I'm not proud of this side of myself. Lately his success has been highlighting my insecurities, and through no fault of his own I've become a little bitter.

Since then, I've been working on one poem. Just one. Ordinarily I'd write two or three a day in one of my creative phases, but I'm trying so hard to get this one just right that I keep coming back to it and chiselling, refining, reshaping  and rewording it. And next time - on the 25th of November - Leeum's going to be compering, not competing, and I'll hopefully be in with a chance. And Ben - well, if I'm not better than him at something, I'm going to cut his dreads off while he sleeps.

(Just kidding. I would never do that.)


I've been compiling this youtube playlist of my favourite spoken poems. By all means check it out! You might be surprised.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Education is a riot, not a privilege

Yesterday at university, we studied Thomas De Quincey's 1827 paper "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts."

Everything in this world has two handles. Murder, for instance, may be laid hold of by its moral handle (as it generally is in the pulpit and at the Old Bailey), and that, I confess, is its weak side; or it may also be treated aesthetically, as the Germans call it — that is, in relation to good taste.
His point here (whether satirical or serious I am unsure) is that we can ask whether something is beautiful, and we can ask whether something is right, and that they are not the same question. This is quite a tricky concept at first, but if you find it truly impossible to accept the 'beauty of murder,' you probably haven't seen Dexter.

Dexter is a programme about a homicidal sociopath, and yet if you watch a few episodes, that stops being the focus. You start to appreciate his craft; to acknowledge the conscientious planning and the skillful execution. You become, as my housemate terms it, a "murder snob."

We can do that, as humans. We can separate the morality of a thing from the beauty of it. It's similar to Orwell's doublethink, and it's something that I've learned to do happily as part of my Higher Education.

I got home from university to find that HE was the subject of inevitable controversy. A peaceful protest in London had turned - er - less peaceful, as an estimated fifty-two thousand students protested the huge hike in the university fee cap (from the current £3,290 a year to £9,000).

They got angry. Some of them got very angry, and while I was too late to see how it started, I sat on the sofa and watched in amazement as students smashed windows and started fires at Millbank tower, which serves as the HQ for the Conservative party.

Our in-house punk was delighted, and it's not hard to see why. For years I thought that our generation had been placated by endless amusement; that youtube had given us all three-minute attention spans, and that I'd never see people my age care about anything as much as teenagers did in the 80s. They didn't particularly look like punks, as I remarked to Ben. He replied "Some of them are wearing jeggings, Anna. JEGGINGS." His point was that these are normal students. They're not a fringe group who identify themselves with rebellion, they are just normal people. At that moment, they were just normal people who had taken over Tory HQ, but still - normal people.

My heart goes out to the police officers who clearly wanted to be anywhere but there. They have a very tough job to do, and it does them credit (and gives me hope) to see that they responded without undue force. That's what separates us from dystopic fiction. (By the way, now's the perfect time to remind you about Little Brother. I bought a paperback copy and I'm lending it to people obsessively.)

On the one hand, it's destructive and morally wrong. I don't hesitate to say that. I can't imagine how frightening it must have been for the people just doing their jobs in the building. My heart also goes out to the police officers who were injured on the job; and as for the twat who threw a fire-extinguisher from the roof - well, he's incredibly lucky nobody died. On the other hand... I'm part of a generation that cares enough to riot.

There were anarchist flags flying from the roof of Tory HQ yesterday, and while that may not be right, isn't it beautiful?

Recommended pictures:
Spanish journalists were on the scene, and got these incredible photos of the occupied building's lobby.
Funny banners and protest signs reflect the mood.

Friday, 5 November 2010


I am extremely stressed today. I don't usually get angry, but a combination of factors have led to me being ready to snap at someone. I don't want to get snappy, I want to be happy and relaxed. That would be nice.

I've lit candles, I'm burning incense, and the living room is atmospherically lit. I put some reggae on and tried to work out why I'm in such an awful mood.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend of mine about those vague, non-specific but utterly soul-crushing moments of gloom and despondency that seem to come out of nowhere. I talked about how you try to work out when it started, and usually it's one sentence or one look or one event that sets you on a negative path and your mood just gets worse from there. That's what happened today.

I've been having a lot of dreams all focussed around the same theme lately (I won't go into specifics, but suffice it to say that it's broadly superego vs. id). This morning's dream consisted of someone I like berating me for my behaviour; clearly a guilt dream, and one that had me feeling like the Worst Person (tm) for my first few waking moments. This is probably why I'm feeling all cross. Great! So, I understand it... but it still isn't going away.

This is worse than I thought. Send kitties.