A livid sky on london…

I am sick! My whole head is full of lukewarm rotten stuff and my bones feel like they’ve been removed in my sleep and replaced by melted jelly. Despite all this, I have a book to write, so I’ve been pursuing an austerity approach to influenza – work harder! survive on soup! – and now, surprise surprise, everything’s much much worse and bits of me I never even knew I had are burning up. See what I did there?

Anyway, whilst my brain is occupied by post-nasal gunge and statistics about Greece in almost equal measure, here are a few things I’ve been working on lately. A lot, although not entirely, about Those Olympics that are happening. I’m trying to ignore them, but my housemate has to write a book about them, so they’re always on the telly, and the commentary is occasionally diverting. 

London, Underground. Epic essay for The New Inquiry about London under Olympic occupation, in which I spend a whole twelve hours on the London Underground, and meet some new friends. 

The Independent sent me to report on the Beach Volleyball, because major newspapers retain a sense of humour, oh yes. 

The Olympics are one big happy family – just don’t put a foot wrong – for The Independent.

I did a little digging into G4S, and their amusing theme-tune, and their history of violence, and why we’re not allowed to call them mercenaries, also for The Independent.

And finally, a little light but nonetheless important relief:

In defence of Fifty Shades of Grey. Does what it says on the link, with lots of righteous discussion of wanking. 

***

And now I am going to go and slurp down another litre of Penny’s Not At All Patented Cold and Flu Concoction, the ingredients for which are: hot apple juice, honey, lemon, cayenne pepper, cloves and, crucially, *not as much whiskey as I put in yesterday, when I was drunk all over the internet*.

Emergency fundraising: help a Greek journalist!

ETA: We’ve made what we were aiming for and then some, so no more donations are needed – thank you so much to everybody who has been kind enough to pitch in. Much love and solidarity, Laurie and Molly xx
*
As many of you know, Molly Crabapple and I are in Athens, working on interviews and research for our upcoming collaboration, Discordia. We’ve met a lot of very generous, helpful people while we’ve been here, and none more so than our official fixer and occasional translator, Yiannis Babboulias, who is an almost-25-year-old hero journalist and junkie-looking Spider Jerusalem equivalent monstering his way through a pile of financial propaganda as well as anyone here in Greece. We are very fond of him, and whatever this project becomes, it will be better because of his input. 
Last night on the way home from a long day shepherding the pair of us through interviews, Yiannis lost his IPhone, and had to walk back through Exarchia to get it. On the way he ran into the kind of trouble that it’s dangerous for a working journalist in Greece to talk about openly – the sort of trouble that often befalls young students and undocumented migrants walking through the more politically charged areas of Athens at night. As a result of which, this morning Yiannis is shaken, and in a physical state that we can’t really talk about for the same reasons, and still has no phone.
We would really like to fundraise to get Yiannis a new IPhone – he’s as financially precarious as any young person in Greece and as a journalist he can’t really function without one. We can’t afford to buy him one outright, but we will both be contributing. Anything you can donate, however big or small, won’t solve the Eurozone crisis, but it will go a small way towards financing independent journalism in Greece. Anything extra that we raise over the cost of a phone will go towards a plane ticket so that Yiannis can come to the book launch in London in September. Thank you.
Please send any donations, however large or small, via PayPal to molly@mollycrabapple.com; if you prefer not to use PayPal you can email laurie.penny@gmail.com and we’ll sort something out.

Announcing Discordia

Laura Watts at the Chicago #noNATO protests, May 2012, by Molly Crabapple.


Discordia is coming!

We’ve been waiting to announce this for a while. On the 4th of July, the splendid Ms Molly Crabapple and I are going to Greece to do some reporting, meeting up with activists and community organisers on the ground in Athens and elsewhere. Molly is an artist who lives in a loft full of birdcages opposite Zucotti Park; I’m a journalist who lives out of a large red backpack on Molly’s floor. We met during Occupy Wall Street and have spent the past several months experimenting with making things happen together – when I went to cover the protests in Chicago and Montreal this summer, I took pictures on my phone and sent them to Molly, who created art from them. Discordia, however, is the first trip where both of us will be there on the ground. She will make pictures, I will make words, we will try very hard not to get arrested or deported, and all shall be marvellous. Discordia is an experimental art-and-journalism project, taking the Hunter Thompson-Ralph Steadman macho model and twisting it to our own ends, and it’ll be published as an ebook in the Autumn.

Putting this project together has been interesting from the start, as I assumed we’d be staying on the floor of a squat and Molly assumed we’d be in some sort of bougie hotel with taps that actually work, and the process of gradual compromise began there, as did my exhortations that Ms Crabapple wear shoes that are at least vaguely sensible. Right now we’re learning rudimentary Greek, pestering contacts and reading a great deal, and whatever happens while we’re there, we hope to produce something really innovative and worthwhile. Stay tuned!

This is what happens when you stay up all night on quick-turnaround double deadline and find yourself in a cafe at 10am glomming the free wireless, unable to nap. I promised the internet I’d upload this video if it donated $100 to Abortion Support UK, which it did. They’re an amazing organisation doing vital work and you can donate more here.

Auctioning off state violence: G4S and the global security industry.

G4S, the colossal British private security firm with half a million muscular hands for hire around the globe and this seemingly entirely unironic theme-tune, are to provide over 10,000 security guards for the London Olympics. I wrote a little bit about the company and the implications of what they do for this week’s column at The Independent:

“What difference does it make if the men and women in uniform patrolling the world’s streets and prison corridors are employed by nation states or private firms? It makes every difference. A for-profit company is not subject to the same processes of accountability and investigation as an army or police force which is meant, at least in theory, to serve the public. Impartial legality is still worth something as an assumed role of the state – and the notion of a private, for-profit police and security force poisons the very idea.

The state still has a legal monopoly on violence, but it is now prepared to auction that monopoly to anyone with a turnover of billions and a jolly branding strategy. The colossal surveillance and security operation turning London into a temporary fortress this summer is chilling enough without the knowledge that state powers are being outsourced to a company whose theme tune features the line: “The enemy prowls, wanting to attack, but we’re on to the wall, we’ve got your back.”….”  More at The Independent 

A note on praxis: this piece was commissioned after an original research-backed pitch at what, in New York City, was 1.30am, for a 5am hand-in, following a full day’s work. I leapt at the chance to cover this topic even though I was godawfully tired. There’s a lot more to look at as far as G4S is concerned – I hope this offers a useful jumping-off point for some more digging…