Archive for the ‘social media’ Category

I’ve been going back and forth on this one. But last night’s Panorama programme about antisemitism inside the Labour Party tipped the balance.

No, I’m not going to write about that today, neither the programme itself nor the details therein, save for one small reference towards the end of this post; maybe soon, but not today.

Some years ago, I wrote a piece about antisemitism in the UK, and how it’s risen, and how it’s not uncommon – some would aver often – for criticism of Israel (used as a metonym for its government, PM, military, laws, politicians) to ‘cross the line’ into overt antisemitism.

Now, whenever this does happen, whenever antisemitic criticism – not criticism itself, but overtly, blatantly, antisemitic criticism – is highlighted, you can guarantee two responses:

  1. “Oh, you just don’t want any criticism of Israel!”, and
  1. “You’re making up false allegations of antisemitism to prevent any criticism of Israel; you always do that!”

How best to respond?

Bollocks. Oh, ok, yeah, that works.

Unfettered, unmitigated, unreserved… bollocks.

(The second of those responses above is known in the UK, among the Jewish community as ‘The Livingstone Formulation’, since it’s been deployed by Kenneth-of-that-Clan for decades.)

I don’t know how often it has to be said but apparently at least once more is necessary even before I read the comments to this piece: criticising Israel [its government/politicians/polices/military] isn’t per se antisemitic. How could it be? It’s no more inherently anti-Jewish to criticise the actions of a Jewish state than it’s anti-Christian to condemn the UK government – of a still formally Christian country – for the ‘Bedroom tax’, or to criticise its Prime Minister, or to criticise the actions of the UK’s military.

BUT… if that criticism is expressed using the same words, the same lies and/or the same imagery, as has been used for literally centuries to demonise Jews, yeah that’s antisemitic, Israel references or no.

So what do I mean, when I say the ‘same imagery?

Do I mean ‘similar’? Nope, I mean the same. The same hooknosed caricatures of ‘zionists’, the same ‘gorging on blood’ images of Netanyahu (a politician I loathe, not that it should make the slightest difference) that have been used to demean, disparage… demonise Jews via the Blood Libel for centuries.

This entry, and some others in the run going forward, is to address the lie, the flat out lie, that using antisemitic imagery – based upon age old antisemitic tropes – is somehow, magically, not antisemitic if you replace “Jews” with “Zionists” or “Israel”.

Because it is [still] antisemitic if you do that.

Yes. It really is.

You want to criticise Israel? Its government, that government’s policies, its actions, its statements?

Go right ahead; I might even agree with you on the criticisms. I might not, but hey, there’s lots of criticisms on any subject with which I agree… and some I don’t.

Seriously, go right ahead and criticise away. One small thing, though: Just don’t do it antisemitically. It’s not a lot to ask, I believe. Just don’t be antisemitic. Don’t express your criticism, your condemnation, by using the same canards, the same myths, the same fabrications, the same images, used to condemn, excoriate, and falsely disparage Jews for hundreds of years in some cases, longer in others.

Don’t do it using a decades’ old, sometimes centuries’ old, antisemitic trope. Don’t do it with classic antisemitic themes, antisemitic imagery or antisemitic canards.

If you’re going to do that, then, yeah, folks – me among them – are going to justifiably say, “yeah, antisemitism”. Note that: justifiably.

So… in some blog entries over the remainder of this run, this place is going to give examples of antisemitism that – in some cases pre-dating Israel’s existence – criticise Jews and then show exactly the same modern criticism, only with “Jews” clumsily replaced by “Zionists” or “Israel”.

Ok then. Let’s get started.


Let’s start with: Cephalopods

I don’t know what antisemites have against cephalopods; I really don’t. They seem pretty harmless to me, although an octopus’s three hearts do really freak me out, I’ll be honest.

But cephalopods (the octopus, the kraken, the squid) have been used as a symbol of “Jewish power” by antisemites for over a century.

It’s used, I guess, to indicate, both the alleged secret way Jews have supposedly infiltrated everything from any established previously ‘clean’ system – the media, banks, the press, democracy – to a named county, to even a planet. (No, you didn’t misread that. Yes, I said a planet.)

And also, I guess again, that Jews somehow cling on to things?

I dunno.

Logic and facts are not two things antisemites are that fond of, I’ve found.

(Someone I know wondered a while back where all the smart, intelligent antisemites were, because they only came across “fucking idiots” online. I have some sympathy with that view, but I think that, dark humour aside, it’s giving the ‘smart’ ones far too much credit.)

But anyway, take a look at the first set of pictures below.

They’re old, really old, and are explicit in their Jew hatred.



Hitler – yeah, be fair; you knew he’d be along sooner or later – made plain his views on Jewish power, metaphorically using… oh, you guessed.

“If our people and our state become the victim of these bloodthirsty and avaricious Jewish tyrants of nations, the whole earth will sink into the snares of this octopus; if Germany frees herself from this embrace, this greatest of dangers to nations may be regarded as broken for the whole world,”- Mein Kampf

The next pic comes from that time….

(Sometimes they start with an octopus and I dunno, figure a spider is better… or they can’t draw tentacles?

But yeah, a hook nosed, caricature of a Jew. (And of course the spider has links to ‘vermin’ and lots-of-people-are-scared-of, which may form another post in the run.)

But the pics above are just half a dozen of literally thousands, if not tens of thousands, of examples in history.

Oh, let me quickly address one apparent confusion among some:

Two pics:

The one on the left (on top if viewing on mobile) is the Israeli Flag. The one underneath (on the right) is the Star of David I wear around my neck, a 21st birthday present. The former is the symbol of The State of Israel. The latter is a symbol associated with Jews and Judaism back to the days of the Bible. In Hebrew, it’s not called a Star of David, but a Magen David (pronounced Moggain Dovid), a Shield of David, because that’s what was painted on the shields of King David.

The two share a six pointed star. The former has details not on the latter: a white background, a specific colour, stripes above and below.

If you use the magen david without all of the above…? Don’t pretend you’re referencing Israel; you’re not. You’re referencing Jews. And you know it.

Here’s another, more recent, picture.

Recognise anything?

Now, those who use, promote and post the pic would almost certainly – do, in fact – insist it’s aimed at Israel (the AIPAC in the background would ostensibly seem to agree.) And it may well be ‘aimed at Israel’… but it’s not only aimed at Israel. Which is the point.

It’s using age old antisemitic imagery used for centuries to attack Jews as well, and the people who created the image and those who promote it, distribute it, send it around, use it on social media, defend it… they know it means Jews.

But surely they don’t always know?

Let me introduce you to Kayla Bibby who posted the attached on social media.

OK, it’s the facehugger from Alien movies, but it’s just the latest iteration. Hey, look, there’s a Star of David… not on a flag, not with a white background, not with stripes above and below.

Huh. How about that?

But did she know that it means ‘Jews’?

Well, for once we have a concrete answer to the question. The image comes from a far right website which was crystal in its clarity that yes indeed it was about Jews. The article it accompanied described Jews – not zionists not Israelis, but Jews – as “parasitic” and said they were to blame for “financial heists of entire nations”.

Ah, but how was Ms Bibb–

She contacted the site and specifically asked permission to use it.

Ah. Yes, ok then.

Ms Bibby actively sought this image out, requested its use… from a site which specifically said it was about Jews.

(By the way, the Labour Party first said that the image wasn’t antisemitic, and that neither was she, and chose to not even suspend her; they merely issued a “reminder of conduct”. Only after outrage at this decision – and her MP, Louise Ellman, raising it at a parliamentary party meeting – was she eventually, over the original protests of the leadership’s office, suspended.)

If you use those images, any images like them, you don’t get to say they’re not antisemitic. You just don’t. Not without lying. Because those who use it know the images are antisemitic.

That’s why they use them.

Two final points to make today.

So how can I criticise Israel without being antisemitic? Glad you asked. There are loads of good sites out there on the subject; I like this one, as it happens: How to Criticise Israel Without Being Anti-Semitic.

Secondly, and following on from the above, it’s so easy to criticise Israel, and its government, ministers, military, etc., without being antisemitic, that when folks do insist on using antisemitic canards, tropes, and imagery…

…one is forced to conclude that it’s the antisemitism that’s important to them, not the criticism.

More images, a different trope, next week.

But something entirely different, however, tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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Blog post titles are an odd thing. I mean, I ask ‘how are you?’ up there but, let’s be fair, there’s no way for you to respond before I continue, so it’s entirely self-serving and unnecessary.

Welcome to my blog.

As mentioned the other day, I’ve done a few of these countdowns and usually I just leap straight into them, but it’s been over two years since I’ve regularly blogged, so, a reintroduction probably isn’t the worst idea.

OK, so who the hell are you, anyway?
I’m budgie. Hello.

All right, my parents didn’t name me ‘budgie’; they may have been odd in some ways, but they weren’t that odd.

My given name, the name on my passport, is “Lee Barnett”, but I much prefer ‘budgie‘ – you’ll learn why in a moment.

I live in London, very near Abbey Road Studios. Yes, that Abbey Road Studios; Beatles, that album cover, that zebra crossing.

How near? Well, as I tell friends – whenever anything notable happens in London – if the news story doesn’t start with the words ‘Less than half a mile from the world famous…’ it happened nowhere near me.

After growing up in Luton – a great place to come from, but a lousy place to go back to – I’ve spent most of my life living in various parts of London: Ilford, Finchley, a couple of decades in Barnet, four years in Richmond… and now, since early 2017, a couple of miles’ north of Oxford Street, Central London.


I’m divorced, from a very nice lady named Laura, and together we have a son, Phil, who’s now twenty-three. That’s us over there, on the right.

He’s a lovely lad, and I’m incredibly lucky that he’s my son. Of course like any father and son, we share some interests, (comics, comedy, a sense of humour – most of the time), but most decidedly do not share others. I remain entirely puzzled as to his fascination with video games, professional wrestling, and various bands. And he remains utterly mystified by me, on a daily basis.

I’m a writer; there’s more about the writing in a moment, but yeah, that’s how I spend most of my days.

But I used to be an accountant, and in that profession, went from junior auditor, to senior auditor, to audit manager – there were a lot of audits – then grabbed the commercial shilling and ended up as a financial director of a tv channel, one of those you scroll past on your tv’s programme guide. While I rarely discuss specifics, my old profession may come up occasionally over the next few weeks, so… fair to put it out there.

I haven’t been an accountant/financial director for the best part of a decade, though.

A writer friend of mine once introduced me as “This is budgie; he used to be a very good accountant; now he’s a very good writer. The world has enough very good accountants and not enough very good writers’. As compliments go, that’s one I’ll take.

budgie’s perch?
Yeah, suppose I’d better deal with this fairly early on. The blog’s called ‘budgie’s perch’ because it seemed an appropriate title for a blog run by a fella whose nickname is ‘budgie’.

Which doesn’t exactly explain anything, does it?

‘Budgie’ is a nickname I’ve had for – blimey – over thirty-five years, now. Over thirty-five years. I’d ask ‘how the hell did that happen?’ But I can already hear Phil responding ‘that’s the way the calendar works, dad’.

But why ‘budgie‘? Well, the full story’s here, but if you want the ‘long-story-short’ version? What now, sigh, would be called the ‘tl;dr’ version?

I acquired the nickname when I was studying at Manchester Poly, and the name stuck. And though I stopped using it when I left Manchester, it recommenced when I got online in 1995…

And now? Well, far more people know me as – and think of me as – budgie than as Lee. And I much prefer that, to be honest; never particularly liked my ‘first name’, and ‘budgie’ feels more like me these days.

The full detailed story involves – in no particular order – copious amounts of alcohol, freshers, a hypnotist’s evening, and an accountancy lecture.

Yeah.

It’s worth reading.

OK, but budgiehypoth?
For twelve years, over ten British comic book conventions, comics legend Dave Gibbons and I ran a panel entitled hypotheticals. It was fairly popular, and when I was looking for a new URL for this blog, seemed a good concatenation to use.

You can see the logo we used for the panel (over there, to the side) bears a strong resemblance to the icon I use for myself online, and for this blog; Dave designed the original, and he did a ‘budgie’ version as a parting gift when we wound up the panel in 2011.

But, hey, for twelve years, I got to say I wrote scripts for Dave Gibbons. You can’t beat that.

But still… budgie’s perch?
Be grateful; the braindump I use to kickstart the writing muscles every day is named Going Cheep.

writings
Everything from being commissioned comedy for BBC Radio 4, the occasional bit for TV, a few comics stories (including writing an X-Men story) a novel entitled You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly and publishing two collections of very, very short stories in The Fast Fiction Challenge:

Both books are also available via Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. e-Versions (for Kindle, Sony reader, iBooks, etc.) can be obtained – email me and I’ll supply the ebook(s) in either .epub or .mobi version on request… Volume 1 (180 stories) is £4.00, or equivalent in local currency; volume 2 (200 stories) is £5.00

I also wrote three radio shows with Mitch Benn for Radio 4, and helped out with his past few Edinburgh shows.

What else?

  • erm… My alcohol of choice is single malt whiskey, neat: Jura or The Balvenie, or occasionally Glenfiddich. I can’t really afford that regularly, so a decent blended will do; never really got a taste for beer.
  • Oh, I’m Jewish; it’ll probably come up over the next few weeks at some point. I’ve never quite sorted out my relationship with my religion; I’m still figuring that one out, and have been for, oh, 40 years or so. That caveat aired, on most things, I at least try to be rational, I try to be a sceptic, to withhold belief in something until there’s evidence. I don’t always succeed.
  • That said, when it comes to my being Jewish, and given that this blog will comment upon current UK politics, it’s more than possible that Israel might come up in discussion. Just a heads up: if you’re looking to have some fun telling me that Israel has no right to even exist, you might as well quit reading now, and go off and do something we’ll both enjoy a lot more.
  • I’m in my mid-50s, so under the laws of blogging, my physical health will probably come up at some point. Other than my fucked up foot (about more of which here), it’ll likely just the usual health comments, scares and moaning.
  • Hmmm. Health. OK, I’ve had some mental health… ‘issues’, I believe they’re sometimes called. I have no intention right now to go into detail, publicly. That may change as the next eight weeks goes by. Let’s see how scared I am by the prospect.
  • Oh, and since I mentioned fear… I’ve a few phobias. Or do I? Phobias are irrational fears and I happen to think my fear of being stung by wasps or bees is entirely rational. But spiders bigger than teeny tiny in size? Yeah, ok that might be one of the tad irrational ones.

Finally in this list of stuff you didn’t need to know about me: there are things I genuinely regret not doing. Rarely, however, are they The Big Things that people are supposed to regret: lost loves, lost opportunities in life, that one person you passed in the street, never spoke to, but have thought about every day for years…

Mine are less grand. I wish I’d learned to use a slide rule; somehow never got around to it. I wish I’d paid attention during history classes at school, but then I’d have missed the joy in later life of discovering how much fun history can be. I have a mouth organ, purchased by friends of mine after I said I’d like to learn to play. I never have learned to play it, and I really should do something about that.

I think that’s about it for now. Anything else, ask away…

Oh, and see you tomorrow when there’ll be something much less about me and more about… something else.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve used this place, been a long time since I’ve blogged at all, other than the annual A Life In Pictures update, and an equally annual post, commemorating the anniversary of my late brother’s death.

For lots of reasons, oh so many reasons, the past couple of years have been… weird; I’ve moved, lots of things have changed; lots of things haven’t, of course. Though, to be fair, that’s no different than for a lot of people.

It’s definitely been a weird time for almost everyone I know, not limited to politics. More than a few friends have had weird stuff going on in their personal lives, work lives, social lives…

Yeah, it’s been a weird few years.

And yes, it’s not like there’s been a shortage of things about which to blog, but I’ve reserved my outpourings and blathering to Twitter, for the most part.

I haven’t even kept up to date with goingcheep, which is supposed to be my daily (hah!) brain dump, something to kickstart the writing muscles .

Part of the reason I’ve not blogged, I acknowledge, is because I’d have found it impossible to do so without at least commenting upon, and probably forcefully expressing my opinion upon, the shitshow otherwise known as ‘British politics’.

There’s been a… concern, I guess… that if I did that, I’d have to comment on Labour. And that in doing so, I’d end up hurting at best, and destroying at worst, some remaining friendships.

But… I’ve been feeling the itch again, that impossible-to-scratch-any-other-way itch to blog again.

Long time followers of this blog, and of me on Twitter, will know that I’ve previously done some daily countdown blogs over the past few years.

A fifty day countdown to 2014 was the first, and as I type that, I realise that was almost six years ago, and wow, that’s scary.

Then a few months later I did a fifty day countdown to my fiftieth birthday, ending on the day before my birthday, as the day itself was spent celebrating at the Edinburgh Fringe.

A fifty day countdown blog to 2015 followed, then a fifty day countdown – mainly but not exclusively on politics – to the 2015 UK General Election. And then an aborted one counting down to 2016…

A couple of them continued after the countdown completed (with “…plus…” replacing the minus) but I often took a short break after the daily run.

And then came a whopping 75 day countdown to 2017. And I took a break… and never really came back.

You can see where this is going, right?

Well, we’re not quite at fifty days until my fifty-fifth birthday. In fact we’re currently at almost 60 days until my fifty-fifth birthday.

So a fifty-five day countdown seems appropriate. Starting on Sunday.

Why not?

Why not indeed.

So, as of Sunday, we’ll start.

I’ll start writing it, and hopefully, you’ll start reading it. What’ll be in it? To start with, a re-introduction to who I am, for readers old and new. Then, over the next eight weeks, some thoughts on the city in which I live, some personal stuff, some slice of life pieces, some thoughts on current UK and US politics, some new fiction, some old fiction, comic books, comedy, the return of the Saturday Smiles… and probably some thoughts on those for whom 2018 or 2019 was their last year on earth.

So, the usual mishmash, then.

See you on Sunday.

Yes, yes, I know, it’s been a long time since I updated the blog, but only a year since I updated this entry.

And yes it’s almost the close of the year, but it is time once again for the annual mocking and silliness to occur, with the 2017 update to A Life In Pictures.

Now… about the pics you’re going to see below: I’ve already been about as embarrassed at the shots as I’m ever likely to be, but yes, if you feel the need to go “awwww” at the cute pics of me as a youngster, or mock the pictures of me during the decade(s) that fashion forgot, feel free to do so.

Look, the whole thing started in 2004 when there was a meme going around about putting up photos of yourself when you were younger. I did it… and then continued to update it every year with more recent pics. And people who haven’t seen them before get the unfettered joy of joining in the mockery…

So, here they are, bringing the photos up to date, as of December 2017. As always, I’ve removed a couple of shots from previous years, and added some new ones. There aren’t a lot of new pics taken in 2017, but there are additional shots nonetheless. Thanks to some newly discovered photos amd some ‘technical stuff’ (you see, I know all the jargon, me) there are some surprises awaiting below, like some pics from my barmitzvah in 1977…

So, in rough order of age…

Probably the earliest photos I’ve got of me…


3 years old


Three brothers – must be around 1967 or 1968, so I’d be around 3½ years of age?


Aged 4


I’m five, I think, here.


It was 1972, ok? And I was at my brother’s bar mitzvah. I was eight.


My son takes great delight in this shot – I think I was 10 at the time.


Me at age 11


The main ‘man’ – my barmitzvah, August 1977


Three brothers – my barmitzvah, August 1977


Me and my grandmother – my barmitzvah, August 1977


We had a good cake, be fair – my barmitzvah, August 1977


Starting the dancing – my barmitzvah, August 1977


Just after my 15th birthday


August 1980, I’m 16 – yes, that is a curly perm. Shut up.


November 1982 – Freshers’ Fair at Manchester Poly


1983 – me at the PULP office, 2nd year at Manchester Poly.


Age 21, at a work leaving do, having left Manchester Poly a month or so earlier..


1985, at my brother’s wedding… at which I was best man. Yeah, 21 again.


At my dad’s 60th birthday in 1989, aged 25. Blimey, was that really almost thirty years ago?


Three brothers – 1991, I believe


1994 –  A nice one, from Laura’s and my wedding day – aged 30


A low res shot from the wedding that I discovered in the archives…


1996


September 1997, at UKCAC


Me in New York, January 1998, just after we lost Mike


Part of a formal family shot, mid-1999


June 1999 – my spiritual home


August 2000; taken by Phil – he was five years old at the time


October 2001; New York, six weeks after 9/11; visiting Ian


May 2002, Hypotheticals – not a happy Budgie


mid-2002, taken for a WEF World Wide Wednesday


Bristol, 2003. You can see the greying hair now…


July 2004 – working at the office


December 2004 – at my nephew’s bar mitzvah. See? I scrub up nicely occasionally.


Not exactly sure when this was taken but would have been around now…


August 2005 – at Brighton. First picture for ages that I’m genuinely happy with.


September 2005, last picture of the Nissan before I crashed it…


October 2005. Again, a photo taken by Phil…


April 2006, at the flat.


May 2007, Bristol, Saturday night, at around 2 in the morning.


December 2007 – at the office party, with my ‘secret santa’ gift. No, the book.


May 2008 – Phil and me at Comic Expo


May 2008 – Me interviewing Dave Gibbons at Comic Expo


October 2008 – Me and Phil, studio shot for the bar mitzvah


May 2009 – Me and Matt Jones, (pic by Jamais Cascio)


July 2009 – At the BERG 40th Anniversary Apollo 11 drinkup (pic by Matt Jones)


October 2009 – In New York, with my cousin Nikki.


November 2009 – Me and Phil at Ian’s son’s bar mitzvah.


April 2010, in Luton


July 2010, on Mastermind


August 2010, at Laura’s


October 2010, from Phil Tanner’s Photos – Mitch Benn ‘Proud of the BBC’ video shoot) The actual video’s here.


October 2010, again: at MCM


December 2010, after the office party


January 2011, at Tony and Tracy Lee’s wedding.


October 2011.


Yeah, I grew a beard in October, then shaved it off…


Laura took this one in April 2012 – not a bad shot of me, all things considered.

And then I had my hair cut…


No idea why I took this one, but it has me without a beard, anyway… August 2012

Lesson 1 about falling asleep in a friend’s house where children live. Don’t
(November 2012)


Me, at The Leveson Inquiry. The reading of the summary, not giving evidence…



Met up with an old friend, and wandered around Camden with him. A nice afternoon…


Yeah, I broke my foot…

Lost my father in October 2012 – here’s the progress of the shiva beard before trimming it down

And so to 2013…

Well, in March, I did a charity event where I wrote twenty-four stories in twenty-four hours for Comic Relief.


That’s Mitch Benn in the background, writing his comedy album, which he did also within twenty-four hours.

Phil turned up to support us…

And I got progressively more tired, and more silly, as the hours passed…

A small accident with the beard trimmer led me to shave off the beard I’d had for roughly a year…

Most people were glad I grew it back almost immediately

Later in the year, finally managed to get a photo with two of my closest friends. There’s been any number of pictures of two of the three of us, but rarely any shots of all three… until now.

Not the best pic, I have to admit, but rather pleased we managed it at all!

However, another photo was taken that night which continues to amuse me no end.

You don’t think I’m in it? Really? Look to the right. Yes, just there… that blurred shock of grey/white hair? Yeah, afraid so…

Towards the end of the year, there was something new… a mini-me. Or to be precise, I was scanned for a 3D printing of myself. Very strange to see myself post-scanning on a screen…

But that was nothing to seeing the actual result…

Here’s another shot of the 3D model, this one with Mitch (who was similarly scanned.)

In July, managed to catch up with an old friend, at his reading of The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains at the Barbican. I like this photo, entitled Two beards (old friends attached), a lot.

Here’s the difference a haircut, a beard trim and sticking my contact lenses in makes… from September 2014.

Around the same time, I wrote a post on the rising tide of overt anti-semitism in the UK, and that I’d personally faced. I used the following shot to illustrate it. I was very happy with how it turned out.

Now, this blog post, indeed this blog, is pretty much all ages, and I’ve hesitated before sticking this shot up. Not sure I’ll keep it here, but since this is supposed to be a record of me through the years… I shattered the end of my collarbone in a fall in September. A week or so later, the bruising was well and truly showing, so here it is.


This was March 2015. I have no idea where or why.


From late 2015. I think it was me trying out the new phone’s camera. It’s an odd pose, but as the foregoing shots more than amply demonstrate, that’s not a reason to exclude it.

Some time ago, the delightful Clara Benn took a shot which proved I was substantially smaller than Mitch, tiny in fact in comparison. November 2015, she proved it again…


isn’t perspective wonderful?

And so to 2016, and I’m not sure what this pic was for, in July, but it’s an odd one…


Something a bit novel for this year’s blog post; I’ve never been much of a fan of ‘filters’ on pics, whether it’s the ‘pup yourself’ Snapchat type thing, or the Prizma neon type things. But I may be changing my mind. Here’s a selfie I took for submitting with something.


The shot’s fine, as it is. Nothing great about it, nothing horrendous. But in black and white, it’s quite a nice shot, I’d say…


But when it’s thrown through the pencil/shading filter, I really like it. Weird…

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Anyway… Moving on…

Towards the end of the 2016, close friends had a baby, and I got to say hello both in October and November. I’ve never hidden how soppy I am about babies. I suspect these photos prove it.


And this is the shot, at the end of 2016, that convinced me that if I ever do get a hat, it’ll be a Homburg, not a Fedora…


Me and my lad, outside Distraction Club, December 2016

And to bring it smack bang up to date, here’s me, Thursday, after this week’s haircut. Hello!

Mocking may now commence.

One of the joys of having my previous blog archived and searchable (especially since every so often, a rumour does the rounds that Livejournal is shutting down) is that if I’m looking for something specific I wrote in the past, it only takes seconds to find it.

One of the drawbacks, however, is coming across old memes I wrote and either (a) wondering where the hell my mind was when I wrote it, since there’s no way I’d write that now, or (b) being faintly irritated I’m so ‘stuck in my ways’ that lots of answers would be pretty much identical.
Amusing and worrying (for the same reasons as above) though, are the responses from those reading the blog when asked to describe me in one word, or to write a sentence or two about me. Some of the compliments that I remember being genuinely flattered (and sometimes surprised) by are things that, arrogantly I guess, I can still imagine people – though not necessarily the same people – saying about me now. 

Some of them though, honestly? I can’t see being used about me other than in jest, or sarcastically. It could be, of course, that they were used in jest back then, but I don’t remember them being so.

One set of answers in particular that amused and worried me in equal proportion was a set wherein people posted anonymously. Even if I knew – or guessed – who posted the comments back then, there’re literally only a couple that I remember now. Most of the comments below, I genuinely didn’t have a clue who posted them, and to be honest,  there’s not that many folks I’m still in contact with from back then. 

But those quotes about me are, as I say, amusing and worrying:

Quotes like:
– “You look much better now than you did twenty years ago”
– “You seem like a nice chap… but appearances can be deceiving.”
– “You’re an excellent father, and not just to your son.”
– “Sometimes you are like a dog that barks at phantasms and snaps at those who’d reassure you.”
– “You’re one of the kindest people I know.”
– “Sometimes you are a little self-obsessed.”

None of which I think I can dispute that much, but I’m not sure how many people would actually say that now, even anonymously. What amuses me and worries me now of course is wondering what people would say now, if they were anonymously replying to the meme. No worries; not about to run it again, tempting though it might be to do so. 

Time once again for the annual mocking and silliness to occur, with the 2016 update to A Life In Pictures.

Now… about the pics you’re going to see below: I’ve already been about as embarrassed at the shots as I’m ever likely to be, but yes, if you feel the need to go “awwww” at the cute pics of me as a youngster, or mock the pictures of me during the decade(s) that fashion forgot, feel free to do so.

Look, the whole thing started in 2004 when there was a meme going around about putting up photos of yourself when you were younger. I did it… and then continued to update it every year or so for more recent pics…

So, here they are, bringing the photos up to date, as of December 2016. Not a lot of additions this year.But since this has now become a tradition as we approach the end of the year, and I’ve a few more people following me on Twitter and this blog, why not?

Why not indeed…

So, in rough order of age…


Probably the earliest photo I’ve got of me…


3 years old


Aged 4


I’m five, I think, here.


It was 1972, ok? And I was at my brother’s bar mitzvah. I was eight.


Another – newly discovered – shot from Mike’s bar mitzvah. 


My son takes great delight in this shot – I think I was 10 at the time.


Me at age 11


Just after my 15th birthday


August 1980, I’m 16 – yes, that is a curly perm. Shut up.


November 1982 – Freshers’ Fair at Manchester Poly


1983 – me at the PULP office, 2nd year at Manchester Poly.


Age 21, at a work leaving do, having left Manchester Poly a month or so earlier..


1985, at my brother’s wedding… at which I was best man. Yeah, 21 again.


At my dad’s 60th birthday in 1989, aged 25. Blimey, was that really almost thirty years ago?


1994 –  A nice one, from Laura’s and my wedding day – aged 30


A low res shot from the wedding that I discovered in the archives…


1996


September 1997, at UKCAC


Me in New York, January 1998, just after we lost Mike


Part of a formal family shot, mid-1999


June 1999 – my spiritual home


August 2000; taken by Phil – he was five years old at the time


October 2001; New York, six weeks after 9/11; visiting Ian


May 2002, Hypotheticals – not a happy Budgie


mid-2002, taken for a WEF World Wide Wednesday


Bristol, 2003. You can see the greying hair now…


July 2004 – working at the office


December 2004 – at my nephew’s bar mitzvah. See? I scrub up nicely occasionally.


Not exactly sure when this was taken but would have been around now…


August 2005 – at Brighton. First picture for ages that I’m genuinely happy with.


September 2005, last picture of the Nissan before I crashed it…


October 2005. Again, a photo taken by Phil…


April 2006, at the flat.


May 2007, Bristol, Saturday night, at around 2 in the morning.


December 2007 – at the office party, with my ‘secret santa’ gift. No, the book.


May 2008 – Phil and me at Comic Expo


May 2008 – Me interviewing Dave Gibbons at Comic Expo


October 2008 – Me and Phil, studio shot for the bar mitzvah


May 2009 – Me and Matt Jones, (pic by Jamais Cascio)


July 2009 – At the BERG 40th Anniversary Apollo 11 drinkup (pic by Matt Jones)


October 2009 – In New York, with my cousin Nikki.


November 2009 – Me and Phil at Ian’s son’s bar mitzvah.


April 2010, in Luton


July 2010, on Mastermind


August 2010, at Laura’s


October 2010, from Phil Tanner’s Photos – Mitch Benn ‘Proud of the BBC’ video shoot) The actual video’s here.


October 2010, again: at MCM


December 2010, after the office party


January 2011, at Tony and Tracy Lee’s wedding.


October 2011.


Yeah, I grew a beard in October, then shaved it off…


Laura took this one in April 2012 – not a bad shot of me, all things considered.

And then I had my hair cut…


No idea why I took this one, but it has me without a beard, anyway… August 2012

Lesson 1 about falling asleep in a friend’s house where children live. Don’t
(November 2012)


Me, at The Leveson Inquiry. The reading of the summary, not giving evidence…



Met up with an old friend, and wandered around Camden with him. A nice afternoon…


Yeah, I broke my foot…

Lost my father in October 2012 – here’s the progress of the shiva beard before trimming it down

And so to 2013…

Well, in March, I did a charity event where I wrote twenty-four stories in twenty-four hours for Comic Relief.


That’s Mitch Benn in the background, writing his comedy album, which he did also within twenty-four hours.

Phil turned up to support us…

And I got progressively more tired, and more silly, as the hours passed…

A small accident with the beard trimmer led me to shave off the beard I’d had for roughly a year…

Most people were glad I grew it back almost immediately

Later in the year, finally managed to get a photo with two of my closest friends. There’s been any number of pictures of two of the three of us, but rarely any shots of all three… until now.

Not the best pic, I have to admit, but rather pleased we managed it at all!

However, another photo was taken that night which continues to amuse me no end.

You don’t think I’m in it? Really? Look to the right. Yes, just there… that blurred shock of grey/white hair? Yeah, afraid so…

Towards the end of the year, there was something new… a mini-me. Or to be precise, I was scanned for a 3D printing of myself. Very strange to see myself post-scanning on a screen…

But that was nothing to seeing the actual result…

Here’s another shot of the 3D model, this one with Mitch (who was similarly scanned.)

In July, managed to catch up with an old friend, at his reading of The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains at the Barbican. I like this photo, entitled Two beards (old friends attached), a lot.

Here’s the difference a haircut, a beard trim and sticking my contact lenses in makes… from September 2014.

Around the same time, I wrote a post on the rising tide of overt anti-semitism in the UK, and that I’d personally faced. I used the following shot to illustrate it. I was very happy with how it turned out.

Now, this blog post, indeed this blog, is pretty much all ages, and I’ve hesitated before sticking this shot up. Not sure I’ll keep it here, but since this is supposed to be a record of me through the years… I shattered the end of my collarbone in a fall in September. A week or so later, the bruising was well and truly showing, so here it is.

And onto this year.


This was March 2015. I have no idea where or why.


In September, was fortunate enough to catch up with Amanda Palmer after her gig. It had been much, much too long since we’d seen each other. Much and many things were said, but never enough.


From late 2015. I think it was me trying out the new phone’s camera. It’s an odd pose, but as the foregoing shots more than amply demonstrate, that’s not a reason to exclude it. 

Some time ago, the delightful Clara Benn took a shot which proved I was substantially smaller than Mitch, tiny in fact in comparison. November 2015, she proved it again…


isn’t perspective wonderful?

And so to 2016, and I’m not sure what this pic was for, in July, but it’s an odd one…


Something a bit novel for this year’s blog post; I’ve never been much of a fan of ‘filters’ on pics, whether it’s the ‘pup yourself’ Snapchat type thing, or the Prizma neon type things. But I may be changing my mind. Here’s a selfie I took for submitting with something.


The shot’s fine, as it is. Nothing great about it, nothing horrendous. But in black and white, it’s quite a nice shot, I’d say…


But when it’s thrown through the pencil/shading filter, I really like it. Weird…

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Anyway… Moving on…

Towards the end of the year, close friends had a baby, and I got to say hello both in October and November. I’ve never hidden how soppy I am about babies. I suspect these photos prove it.


And this is the shot, last week, that convinced me that if I ever do get a hat, it’ll be a Homburg, not a Fedora…

And, to round off this year’s lot, and to officially mark the moment at which mocking may commence, this is me, as of yesterday, post-haircut:

No, I can’t do it.

I started to write a piece about the final Presidential Debate, and Trump’s behaviour then and later, and… and… and… no. Not today. Oh, I don’t think I’d have any problem writing about it; but I try to keep this place relatively all-ages and I found it impossible to do that. I’ll take another run at it after the weekend. 
Tech.

If you’re reading this, you’re more than likely familiar with Douglas Adams’ rules of tech:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

While I’d argue against both the age limits, and these days limit it to applications and software rather than ‘kit’, I don’t think the sentiment is far off. 

I have an iPhone 6S and an iPad Air, and carry both around with me most of the time. Or to repeat myself, I carry around two computers. 

Because that’s what they are. To misquote a line from an old advert about the Victoria and Albert museum’s café, the smaller device is a phone with quite a nice computer attached.

That’s the thing: as a mobile phone, the 6S is all right, I guess. It does the job, but I so rarely talk on the phone these days (maybe one call a day, if that); it’s primary purpose is of a small computer that allows me to listen to the radio, or music, check social media, read the news, occasionally write on (though I tend to use the bigger device for that). But a mobile phone?

I’ve had an iPhone since 2008 came out and it’s fair to say that once the App Store was created and I began to get used to “everything in the world” (as David Gorman once described the Internet) being on my phone, or at least available to it, the “phone” bit of “iPhone” became less important to me, and to most people.

Before that? I went through loads of mobile phones, about one every year or 18 months; mainly Nokia, with a few Samsung slide-phones, all of which I enjoyed using, although my favourite was still the Nokia 5210, a rubber encased thing that was just sheer fun to use.

The only phone I got that I disliked instantly and in fact returned was something called the O2 Cocoon, genuinely the only ‘bad’ tech I think I’ve ever owned. A horrible, horrible piece of shit that I genuinely cannot understand anyone thinking that it wasn’t a horrible horrible pieve of shit

But it could at least be argued that mobile phones were around before I was 35, and so Douglas’ second rule applies. And iPads are merely computers with a different input method.  

In fact, almost all tech, almost every piece of equipment I can think of… it’s been around in some form or another for a very very long time. Sure it can do more, sure it’s lighter, but… but… but… how far should I take that. Is a motorbike essentially the same as a bicycle? Is a car just a cart without a horse?

As I suggested earlier, it’s in the realm of software and applications that I find myself agreeing with Douglas Adams more and more. 

One could argue that blogging is just an evolution of the diary, and that I – as a child of the 1960s and 1970s – surely kept a diary as a young lad. And one would be utterly, completely wrong. Not about me keeping a diary, but because I did so, I know that a blog is nothing like a diary

With the rare exceptions of politicians and actors who might, in the back of their heads, think they might one day publish it, a diary was never meant to be read by anyone other than the author. If I’d thought that anyone would read my Letts’ Diaries (complete with ‘history of the world’ section), I’d never have written even half of what I wrote in it. There are women now in their 50s -classmates – who would be traumatised to know I had  crushes on them back then, for a start.

(Odd tangential thought: I wonder if people mentioned in diaries of famous people ever see references to themselves and think ‘huh, I never knew they fancied me’.)

When I started work, and was using the newer software the companies had: WordPerfect, Lotus 123 and the rest, I was always mildly amused at the older members of staff who were very happy thank you but they’ll stick with the software they knew. I’m less amused now that I find myself doing the same thing. 
I’ve forced myself to use Pages and Numbers (but still think of them as Apple’s versions of Word and Excel) on the iPad – and on iPhone when I have to – but I still miss the Excel in particular. 

I use WhatsApp and Skype occasionally, mainly – but not exclusively – for people outside the UK. But it’s still text messaging/iMessage for folks inside the UK.

Snapchat? No, really ‘not my thing’. And nor are almost all of the ‘new’ apps that are social media based. And I have no idea whether it’s the ‘new’ or the ‘social’ aspects that put me off. 

  

Looking through the apps I constantly use, with the exception of games that interest me briefly and then I delete them (I can’t remember the last time I found a ‘new’ game that I liked to the point of keeping it on the phone for more than a few weeks), they’re all either research tools or things to make day. to day life easier. Nothing there that’s ‘new’ or ‘exciting’.

Emoji. I’m sure they’re fun and all but… no. I don’t know what most of them mean, and they pop up in tweets and texts too ‘small’ for me to instantly understand them. I can cope with the ‘smiley’ and the occasional acronym – I still instinctively think <s> and <g> not :-) – but then I discovered those when I got online… when I was 31.

When I was 31.

“Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary”

Huh, what do you know? Douglas Adams was right all the time.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.