Linkblogging for 17/08/09

Migraine today, so I’m putting off the rest of my guide to my blogroll til tomorrow.

Gavin Robinson has a good post on women’s role in warfare through the ages.

Caron quite rightly asks what we’re doing sending people to fight for a regime that allows women who don’t have sex with their husbands to be starved to death.

Eddie Campbell talks about whether ‘cinematic’ comics techniques really are.

Leonard Pierce points out just how far the USA lags behind the rest of the industrialised world in healthcare and income equaity, while Christopher Bird tells you what to do about it and Fred Clark takes on the right-wing faux-indignant people who’ve once again prevented you from having things the rest of the Western world sees as basic essentials.

And Millennium Elephant chips in on the most important issue of the day – whether the UNIT episodes of Doctor Who happened in the 70s or the 80s,

This Week’s Spotify Playlist… And Thank You For The #welovethenhs Response

That last post of mine threw me off my posting stride a bit, because of the sheer weight of response, by email, on Twitter, in the comments here and in the comments to Debi’s repost of it (where our one troll went to hang out – I apologise, Debi, for getting a bit too angry there with someone who is, after all, a fellow human being, albeit one who wants to condemn millions of other fellow human beings to death because she doesn’t like them…).

The response has been, frankly, ludicrous – I was even interviewed by the Wall Street Journal today in my lunch break (I are big media pundit! I am the new Iain Dale or something), which is frankly surreal, given the content of that last post – I would have thought “The NHS isn’t designed to deliberately kill old people” was as uncontroversial a statement as one could make. I wonder what other misconceptions about cherished national institutions I’ll have to try to dispel in international media. Maybe next week I’ll be telling Le Monde that Last Of The Summer Wine isn’t a paedophile ring but a whimsical Yorkshire comedy show…

Anyway, thank you to everyone who retweeted, commented or linked that post of mine, and now I’ll get back to the stuff I *meant* to be posting this week. Tomorrow there’ll be a post on comics and the day after the continuation of my guide to my blogroll, but for now here’s a playlist.

My Mom Is Tor Johnson’s Mom by The Native Shrubs Of The Santa Monica Mountains is a fantastic song that my friend Tilt linked me to last week. For those who don’t know, Tor Johnson was the bald wrestler who appeared in many Ed Wood films, most notably Plan 9 From Outer Space. This song reminds me of my friend Blake Jones, but for a reference other people might get, the closest I can imagine is if The Dukes Of Stratosphear had done a Frank Zappa pastiche…

Think Carefully For Victory by The National Pep is one of two songs by my own band I’m including here (yes, Spotify even has *us* on it now) because I think they genuinely fit. It’s a jangly pop song for which I wrote the music and Tilt the words. The lineup on this one (TNP has a *very* fluid membership) is me on guitars and keyboards, Tilt on vocals and drums, Gavin Robinson on mandolin (which we mixed too low, I think), Laura Denison on one line of vocal and Albert Freeman (of Wilful Missing) on some African instrument I forget the name of Đàn Bầu.

Save The Last Dance For Me by “Ike And” Tina Turner is a Phil Spector-produced, Jack Nitzsche arranged version of the Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman classic. Brian Wilson very obviously ripped off the backing track for this for Heroes & Villains.

Bicarbonate Of Chicken by Ivor Cutler is about ordering bicarbonate of chicken in a restaurant.

Just One Look by Doris Troy is better known, in Britain at least, for a vastly inferior version by the Hollies, but this is the original. This was actually originally a demo, but it was released unchanged and made the US top ten. In the intro, you can definitely hear the influence this record and others like it had on early reggae…

Through The Net by Glenn Tilbrook & The Fluffers is from Pandemonium Ensues, probably Tilbrook’s strongest album since East Side Story. This one’s very Kinksy.

Common People – Live by Pulp is a recording which always brings back memories for me, as I was at the Glastonbury where this was recorded, and saw Pulp quite by chance, having no intention to see them perform (I’d seen them on some late-night Channel 4 thing and dismissed them as crappy electropop based on a couple of minutes, and hadn’t heard this, which was a huge hit single at the time). But it was the most astonishing experience of my life. I’ve seen Pulp and Cocker solo live quite a few times since, and they’ve always been good, but at that gig Cocker was simply the most astonishingly charismatic performer I’ve ever seen, and every moment is etched in my brain fourteen years later. (Christ, fourteen years? That can’t be right, surely? 1995 was only a little while ago…). This recording was originally a b-side to the Mis-Shapes/Sorted For Es & Whizz CD single, but is now a bonus track on the reissued Different Class.

Baby Please Don’t Go by Big Joe Williams is another song that’s usually much better known in a beat-group cover version (the version by Them), but I prefer (just) the original, just vocal, sparse guitar and harmonica.

Beat Head by Candypants is included in this as part of my ongoing campaign to get Lisa Jenio recognised as one of the real greats in rock/pop music. I think this one might be about something naughty…

Hominy Grove by Van Dyke Parks is one of many great songs from Jump!, his album loosely based around the Uncle Remus stories.

Nasty Dan by Johnny Cash is another one from The Johnny Cash Children’s Album. I always liked Cash doing this sort of material at least as much as the dark ‘man in black’ stuff for which he’s better known.

Time Will Carry On by The Wackers is a nice bit of 70s harmony pop that, to me at least, stays just the right side of Bread or America.

I Got You Babe by Tiny Tim is Tiny Tim being both Sonny and Cher, accompanied by his ukulele.

Don’t Smoke In Bed by Peggy Lee is a song that, I’m ashamed to say, I first got to know from k.d. lang’s vastly inferior cover version. I could listen to Peggy Lee sing anything…

And Jaded by The National Pep is another of my collaborations with Tilt (I’d say the writing here is about 55/45 in his favour), and the closest I’ve ever come to realising the sound I hear in my head in a recording studio. It’s a shame that Tilt didn’t find our musical collaboration a particularly happy one, as I think the results were superb, if I do say so myself. On this, Tilt and Laura share the vocals, Tilt does drums, Blake Jones does the theremin and melodica on the tag, my wife Holly adds woodwinds, and I played guitar, all the keyboard parts, and ukulele (and mandolin? I know I had a mandolin in the studio but don’t remember recording a mandolin part, but I *think* I can hear one on one of the choruses). I’m very proud of this one, and I don’t think you’ll hear music like it anywhere else.

(As Tilt says in the comments “Blake Jones is just the BEST – Buy his music, make him rich: and “)

Tomorrow, comics.

An Open Letter To My American Friends About The NHS

I did want today to write something about comics, and I’ve also got a playlist I want to post, but I felt compelled to write this after various news reports over the last couple of days. Unlike most of my writing (to which I retain the rights for various reasons, I’ve decided to license this piece as Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License because I want people to share this by whatever means. I’ve emailed the following to as many of my USian friends as I can think of and have valid email addresses for (and at least a dozen who it turns out I *don’t* have valid email addresses for, if the bounce messages are anything to go by…):

I am writing to you because you are a friend of mine, because of various statements that have been made by American politicians and journalists about Britain’s National Health Service.

I do not like to try to interfere in American politics, because how you run your country is your own business, but your politicians have been lying, and they have been lying about me and my wife and many of our friends and relatives, so I feel an obligation to set the record straight.

Many of your politicians and journalists have been saying things like “Ted Kennedy wouldn’t get treatment for his brain tumour in the UK because of his age” (a Republican senator called Chuck Grassley said that). Sarah Palin said that in the UK babies with Down’s Syndrome would have to go before a ‘death panel’. And so on. I’m sure you’ve all heard many claims like this yourself.

These claims are lies, pure and simple. They’re not ‘opinions’ that people can disagree about, they’re not things that can be debated, they’re not honest mistakes, they’re out-and-out lies.

Many of you will know that I worked for the NHS for about three years. Some of you will also know that Holly, my wife, still does. Do we strike you as people who would work for an organisation that killed people? Your politicians and journalists are accusing us of being knowing accomplices to murder.

According to the CIA World Factbook, British people live on average seven months longer than Americans. Now, that doesn’t say much about either country’s health-care system, especially when you take lifestyle differences into account, but what you *can* tell from that is that we’re not killing our old people – you don’t get a high life expectancy by killing people!

The tiny grain of truth in all of these lies is that in the NHS, an organisation called the National Institute for Clinical Excellence decides what treatments the NHS will and will not pay for. It does this by measuring how much extra healthy life a given treatment will give a patient, and how much it costs – just like your insurance company does. All healthcare systems have a budget – no system can spend an infinite amount of money, after all – so choices have to be made. The difference is, in your system, the choice is made based on whether you can afford to pay for it. Here, the choice is made based on how much you need it. If you’re 77 years old, like Ted Kennedy, and you have a brain tumour, you’ll get treatment so long as there’s a good chance of it working and giving you a few more years of good life. If there isn’t much chance of that, the government won’t pay it, that’s all. Just like your insurance company won’t pay for expensive treatments that won’t help you, neither will the British government.

And no-one is stopped from paying for treatment if it’s not funded by the NHS. People in Britain can still get private health insurance if they want to and can afford it, and can ask for treatments that the NHS don’t provide. Mostly they don’t, because it works for most people.

I know at least one homeless person who has been given treatment for cancer – and he was homeless before the treatments, not because of them – in Britain, if you’re sick you will get treated, no matter how much money you have. And no matter how old you are, or how disabled.

One American news source recently said that Professor Stephen Hawking would be allowed to die over here, because of his illness. In fact Prof. Hawking has lived in the UK all his life and has nothing but praise for his treatment by the NHS. Sarah Palin says people with Down’s Syndrome would be refused treatment – that would be news to the people with Down’s Syndrome I used to work with, many of whom had had heart operations on the NHS.

On average, people in the USA spend twice as much on healthcare as people in Britain – and more than any country in the world. Despite that, according to the World Health Organisation, the USA’s health system is 37th in the world, while the British one is 18th.

There are plenty of faults with the British health care system – and I hope that your legislators learn from them and get you a better system than we have – but it works. We do not kill old people. We do not kill disabled people. If we did, then Holly and I , instead of working for the NHS, would be fighting against it with every ounce of strength we have.

There are arguments that can be made against our system, just as there are arguments for it, and if you agree with those arguments then that’s fine – I have no intention to change your mind here. I am just trying to let you know that I am not an accessory to murder, and that anyone who says I am is a liar.