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R. Crumb Shows Us How He Illustrated Genesis

crumb genesis

 

It is widely accepted among scholars that the first few books of the Bible—including, of course, Genesis, with its creation myths and flood story—are a patchwork of several different sources, pieced together by so-called redactors. This “documentary hypothesis” identifies the literary characteristics of each source, and attempts to reconstruct their different theological and political contexts. Primarily refined by German scholars in the late nineteenth century, the theory is very persuasive, but can also seem pretty schematic and dry, robbing the original texts of much of their liveliness, rhetorical power, and ancient strangeness.Another German scholar, Hermann Gunkel, approached Genesis a little differently. “Everyone knows”—write the editors of a scholarly collection on the foundational Biblical text—Gunkel’s “motto”: “Genesis ist eine Sammlung von Sagen”—“Genesis is a collection of popular tales.” Rather than reading the various stories contained within as historical narratives or theological treatises, Gunkel saw them as redacted legends, myths, and folk tales—as ancient literature. “Legends are not lies,” he writes in The Legends of Genesis, “on the contrary, they are a particular form of poetry.”

Such was the approach of cartoonist and illustrator Robert Crumb, who took on illustrating the entire book of Genesis, “a text so great and so strange,” he says, “that it lends itself readily to graphic depictions.” In the short video above, Crumb describes the creation narrative in the ancient Hebrew book as “an archetypal story of our culture, such a strong story with all kinds of metaphorical meaning.” He also talks about his genuine respect and admiration for the stories of Genesis and their origins. “You study ancient Mesopotamian writings,” says Crumb, “and there’s all of these references in the oldest Sumerian legends about the tree of knowledge” and other elements that appear in Genesis, mixed up and redacted: “That’s how folk legends and all that shit evolve over centuries.”

crumb genesis 1

The Biblical book first struck Crumb as “something to satirize,” and his initial approach leans on the irreverent, scatological tropes we know so well in his work. But he instead decided to produce a faithful visual interpretation of the text just as it is, illustrating each chapter, all 50, word for word. The result, writes Colin Smith at Sequart, is “idiosyncratic, tender-hearted and ultimately inspiring.” It is also a critical visual commentary on the text’s central character: Crumb’s God “is regularly, if not exclusively, portrayed as an unambiguously self-obsessed and bloodthirsty despot, terrifying in his demands, terrifying in his brutality.” Arguably, these traits emerge from the stories unaided, yet when we’re told, for example, that “The Lord regretted having made man on Earth and it grieved him in his heart,” Crumb “shows us nothing of regret and grief, but rather a furious old dictator apparently tottering on the edge of madness.”

“It’s not the evil of men that Crumb’s concerned with,” writes Smith, “so much as the psychology of a creature who’d slaughter an entire world.” In that interpretation, he echoes critics of the Bible’s theology since the Enlightenment, from Voltaire to Christopher Hitchens. But he doesn’t shy away from graphic depictions of human brutality, either (witness Cain’s murder of his brother, below). Crumb’s move away from satire and decision to “do it straight,” as he told NPR, came from his sense that the sweeping, violent mythology and “soap opera” relationships already lend themselves “to lurid illustration”—his forté. Originally intending to do just the first couple chapters “as a comic story,” he soon found he had a market for all 50 and “stupidly said, ‘okay, I’ll do it.’” The work—undertaken over four years—proved so exhausting, he says he “earned every penny.”

Illustration-of-Cain-atta-006

Does Crumb himself identify with the religious traditions in Genesis? Raised a Catholic, he left the church at 16: “I have my own little spiritual quest,” Crumb says, “but I don’t associate it with any particular traditional religion. I think that the traditional Western religions all are very problematic in my view.” That said, like many nonreligious people who read and respect religious texts, he knows the Bible well—better, it turned out, than his editor, a self-described expert. “I just illustrate it as it’s written,” said Crumb, “and the contradictions stand.”

When I first illustrated that part, the creation, where there’s basically two different creation stories that do contradict each other, and I sent it to the editor at Norton, the publisher, who told me he was a Bible scholar. And he read it, and he said wait a minute, this doesn’t make sense. This contradicts itself. Can we rewrite this so it makes sense? And I said that’s the way it’s written. He said, that’s the way it’s written? I said, yeah, you’re a Bible scholar. Check it out. 

Crumb invites us all to “check it out“—this collection of archetypal legends that inform so much of our politics and culture, whether the bizarre and costly creation of a fundamentalist “Ark Park” (“dinosaurs and all“), or the Biblical epics of Cecil B. DeMille or Darren Aronofsky, or the poetry of John Milton, or the interpretive illustrations of William Blake. Whether we think of it as history or myth or some patchwork quilt of both, we should read Genesis. R. Crumb’s illustrated version is as good—or better—a way to do so as any other. See more of his illustrations at The Guardian and purchase his illustrated Genesis here.

Related Content:

A Short History of America, According to the Irreverent Comic Satirist Robert Crumb

R. Crumb’s Vibrant, Over-the-Top Album Covers (1968-2004)

R. Crumb Describes How He Dropped LSD in the 60s & Instantly Discovered His Artistic Style

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 

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DREAM TICKET

 

Glow on the Go, Oh Darling! Pop! Fizz! Clink! Power Up!

Falling objects; tripped over a hashtag on my way in,

Oh yes the fun stuff happens, oh yes, oh yes.

Diverted Flight Centre, bring it on, bring it off, all makes and models,

Makes your blood run cold she said, very British.

See it for yourself down at the Art Deco Disco

I mean, seriously? When you got it flaunt it, as they say.

Former Rialto usherette from somewhere else

Ritzy dream ticket Violetta Eureka from Zonal Foundation Inc.,

Not one of your cute Mayfair Ladies (geddit?),

Takes shorthand, Mondrian dress, tres chic – nothing doing.

Hello silky I muttered as Violetta swam into view

It’s like free fall in here, no half measures

Have a good day, yeah?

 

Knockout shape, wow, that dress is really something.

Dumb down smarten up mix and match get the message

Dreaming scream queen and screaming ticket

Exploding all over the place (geddit?) obviously

Closing in like very glitzy ritzy do me favour Cold Sister,

Mondrian dress tres chic nothing doing.

Glow on the Go, Oh Darling! Pop! Fizz! Clink! Power Up!

This is a near-life experience, and you can keep it

Prone to exaggeration, zap your brain it’s easy here

At Alpha Loading Central night moves way out far out

We hear a mysterious ‘ping’ from the deep,

Way down in The Trench; change of destination.

And the bulb’s gone! Shrieked Violetta.

 

Stark reality, see the upside of everything

You like Mondrian? You take it seriously?

I mean seriously? Taboo fantastique what?

That stuff zaps my brain, said Violetta

With a dreamy, oneiric giggle.

It’s The Style, as we call it,

It’s the scaffolding of the world, get a grip.

Get a what? You want a what?

I don’t think so – dream on baby.

Now look it’s really something… even if you’re

Too butch to boogie, too boring to boogaloo, ha ha ha.

Right old knees up do me a favour. Shabby, sleazy,

And I’m too flabbergasted to fandango, I replied.

You’ve got vapour trails in your eyes, she said.

Glow on the Go, Oh Darling! Pop! Fizz! Clink! Power Up!

High fives!

 

News and mags, photocopies, inspire and entertain

Makes it easy! Facial attraction, oooh darling.

Pop! Fizz! Clink!

Before meeting the girls to relax we freeze events

Eyeline, headline, skyline, hemline,

Doors close. What’s hot right now?

Come rain come shine come on Missy Violetta,

Don’t miss your moment in the palace of crystals.

Vamp it up in velvet just because top of the world

Learn the lingo, can be a breeze, High fives! Power up!

 

A C  Evans

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The Rise And Fall of ‘Hippiedilly’ in 1969

ON the Sunday morning of 21 September 1969, a slightly-built Metropolitan Police Chief Inspector convinced some squatters at a large five storey mansion at 144 Piccadilly to lower an improvised wooden drawbridge so doctors could help a seriously ill person inside. The drawbridge came down and Chief Inspector Michael Rowling flung himself bravely across the barricaded opening to establish a bridgehead. Within seconds a police sergeant blew his whistle and shouted: “Come on lads – let’s go in!” A hundred policemen, seemingly from nowhere, charged over the bridge and straight through the front door.

The raiding policemen, with truncheons raised, braved slates, water filled bowls, bricks and one petrol bomb raining down upon them, but just four minutes later a policeman was seen at the top of the mansion raising his truncheon in triumph. Not long after, and to cheers for the thousands of onlookers on the street below, many of whom had been standing there overnight, a Hells Angel’s flag was lowered from the flagpole. As he was being led outside by the police, Dr John screamed at the press and the crowds in the street:

“They conned us! They tricked us!”

The nice round number of exactly one hundred people were taken into custody. There were no serious casualties from either side although many of the occupants complained of being beaten up and badly treated by the Police. The occupation of ‘Hippiedilly’ was over, just three weeks after it had begun.

 

All Homeless Welcome, as long as you're hippies.

All Homeless Welcome, as long as you’re hippies.

 

For these unidentified Hippies home is a mansion in Londons Piccadilly in which they are currently squatting. The only entrance is a makeshift drawbridge on the ground floor which is closed at night to stop anyone getting in.

For these unidentified Hippies home is a mansion in Londons Piccadilly in which they are currently squatting. The only entrance is a makeshift drawbridge on the ground floor which is closed at night to stop anyone getting in.

The anti-hippy scare-mongering of the British press had reached its height in the autumn of 1969 and the papers fell upon the siege at 144 Piccadilly with glee. The Daily Telegraph noted that on the eviction of the squat a hospital governor had vomited, a police-woman became ill, and a policeman refused to allow his dog into the squat, all ‘because of the filth’. Most of the tabloids had sent in undercover reporters into number 144 and the News of the World described the squat as:

Lit only by the dim light of their drugged cigarettes.

While the People had declared under the headline – HIPPIES – DRUGS – THE SORDID TRUTH!

Drug taking, couples making love while others look on, a heavy mob armed with iron bars, filth and stench, foul language, that is the scene inside the hippies’ fortress in London’s Piccadilly. These are not rumours but facts, sordid facts which will shock ordinary decent living people. Drug taking and squalor, sex – and they’ll get no state aid…

144 Piccadilly was once a large five storey Victorian mansion at Hyde Park Corner  and it had originally been squatted by an organised group of young people who called themselves The London Street Commune or sometimes the London Arts Commune. They were led by two people –  a ‘Dr’ John Moffat who according to the Observer dealt with the “Bread, the Fuzz, the Press and the High Court” and Sid Rawle, who handled the facilities, organising plumbers and electricians and food, but wanted, “144 to become a permanent urban guerrilla base for underground activities”.

Bearded David (second name unknown) stands guard armed with a foam filled fire extinguisher in a bid to prevent further would be hippie squatters from moving into the already crowded five storey building.

Bearded David (second name unknown) stands guard armed with a foam filled fire extinguisher in a bid to prevent further would be hippie squatters from moving into the already crowded five storey building.

 

A policeman escorts a top hatted character after the law took over and ended the occupation by hippies of 144 Piccadilly street, London. PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

A policeman escorts a top-hatted character after the law took over and ended the occupation by hippies of 144 Piccadilly, London. 

 

A blackboard bearing a list of items required by squatters calling themselves the London Street Commune, who are occupying an old hotel at 144 Piccadilly

A blackboard bearing a list of items required by squatters calling themselves the London Street Commune, who are occupying an old hotel at 144 Piccadilly

 

Members of the London Street commune, a group of homeless people squatting in an old hotel at 144 Piccadilly

Members of the London Street commune, a group of homeless people squatting in an old hotel at 144 Piccadilly

 

Bearded David (second name unknown) stands guard armed with a foam filled fire extinguisher in a bid to prevent further would be hippie squatters from moving into the already crowded five storey building.

Bearded David (second name unknown) stands guard armed with a foam filled fire extinguisher in a bid to prevent further would be hippie squatters from moving into the already crowded five storey building.

 

Photo by Paul Fenton.

Photo by Paul Fenton.

After the police raid had been completed all the entrances were guarded or safely boarded up. Soon after the infamous developer Ronnie Lyons (the inventor of the modern industrial estate) who owned two large residential blocks on Park Lane made sure it was reported that he had been to the West End Central Police Station to donate £1000 to the Police Benevolent Fund. Lyons said:

I was so thrilled when I heard the news. I feel that these hippies, had no legal or moral right to be in that building. One is very ready to criticise the police when parking and speeding, but when there is a real problem you run to the British bobby and he is pretty good at his job.

Altogether, 73 people, including 11 juveniles, were charged with offences the next day at Bow Street Magistrates Court. They ranged from assaulting and obstructing the police to possessing cannabis. Most of the arrested, however, were relatively leniently dealt with and received conditional discharges, suspended sentences or fines of just £10.

A few days after he had been forcibly removed from the Piccadilly mansion. Sid Rawle was summoned to the Apple offices by John and Yoko and were offered an island off Western Ireland to be used “for the public good.” Despite the publicity only 30 people arrived at Westport in Ireland to be taken by boatmen to the island. A few months later Sid, along with everyone else, decided to leave their new commune as the weather wasn’t exactly conducive to living in canvas tents pitched next to the North Atlantic.

 

Sid Rawles, 1985. PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Sid Rawles in 1985.

 

144 Piccadilly stayed empty for three more years until it was demolished, despite parts of it being listed, in favour of a massive Intercontinental hotel. It was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd, co-author of the influential pre-war book The Modern Flat and architect of the first ever tower block in Britain – The Lawns at Harlow.

If you feel like re-living the siege of 144 Piccadilly, although it’s doubtful you’ll find any hippies, you can stay at the Intercontinental London Park Lane hotel. It had a 63 million pound refit a few years ago, so it’s particularly good value at £389 for the cheapest room.

 

London Park Lane, Hotel Intercontinental, 2013.

London Park Lane, Hotel Intercontinental, 2013.

 

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A Pilgrimage to the Ancient Penis Monastery

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Archives of Radical Philosophy

On a seemingly daily basis, we see attacks against the intellectual culture of the academic humanities, which, since the 1960s, have opened up spaces for leftists to develop critical theories of all kinds. Attacks from supposedly liberal professors and centrist op-ed columnists, from well-funded conservative think tanks and white supremacists on college campus tours. All rail against the evils of feminism, post-modernism, and something called “neo-Marxism” with outsized agitation.

For students and professors, the onslaughts are exhausting, and not only because they have very real, often dangerous, consequences, but because they all attack the same straw men (or “straw people”) and refuse to engage with academic thought on its own terms. Rarely, in the exasperating proliferation of cranky, cherry-picked anti-academia op-eds do we encounter people actually reading and grappling with the ideas of their supposed ideological nemeses.

 

Were non-academic critics to take academic work seriously, they might notice that debates over “political correctness,” “thought policing,” “identity politics,” etc. have been going on for thirty years now, and among left intellectuals themselves. Contrary to what many seem to think, criticism of liberal ideology has not been banned in the academy. It is absolutely the case that the humanities have become increasingly hostile to irresponsible opinions that dehumanize people, like emergency room doctors become hostile to drunk driving. But it does not follow therefore that one cannot disagree with the establishment, as though the University system were still beholden to the Vatican.

Understanding this requires work many people are unwilling to do, either because they’re busy and distracted or, perhaps more often, because they have other, bad faith agendas. Should one decide to survey the philosophical debates on the left, however, an excellent place to start would be Radical Philosophy, which describes itself as a “UK-based journal of socialist and feminist philosophy.” Founded in 1972, in response to “the widely-felt discontent with the sterility of academic philosophy at the time,” the journal was itself an act of protest against the culture of academia.

Radical Philosophy has published essays and interviews with nearly all of the big names in academic philosophy on the left—from Marxists, to post-structuralists, to post-colonialists, to phenomenologists, to critical theorists, to Lacanians, to queer theorists, to radical theologians, to the pragmatist Richard Rorty, who made arguments for national pride and made several critiques of critical theory as an illiberal enterprise. The full range of radical critical theory over the past 45 years appears here, as well as contrarian responses from philosophers on the left.

Rorty was hardly the only one in the journal’s pages to critique certain prominent trends. Sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant launched a 2001 protest against what they called “a strange Newspeak,” or “NewLiberalSpeak” that included words like “globalization,” “governance,” “employability,” “underclass,” “communitarianism,” “multiculturalism” and “their so-called postmodern cousins.” Bourdieu and Wacquant argued that this discourse obscures “the terms ‘capitalism,’ ‘class,’ ‘exploitation,’ ‘domination,’ and ‘inequality,’” as part of a “neoliberal revolution,” that intends to “remake the world by sweeping away the social and economic conquests of a century of social struggles.”

One can also find in the pages of Radical Philosophy philosopher Alain Badiou’s 2005 critique of “democratic materialism,” which he identifies as a “postmodernism” that “recognizes the objective existence of bodies alone. Who would ever speak today, other than to conform to a certain rhetoric? Of the separability of our immortal soul?” Badiou identifies the ideal of maximum tolerance as one that also, paradoxically, “guides us, irresistibly” to war. But he refuses to counter democratic materialism’s maxim that “there are only bodies and languages” with what he calls “its formal opposite… ‘aristocratic idealism.’” Instead, he adds the supplementary phrase, “except that there are truths.”

Badiou’s polemic includes an oblique swipe at Stalinism, a critique Michel Foucault makes in more depth in a 1975 interview, in which he approvingly cites phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty’s “argument against the Communism of the time… that it has destroyed the dialectic of individual and history—and hence the possibility of a humanistic society and individual freedom.” Foucault made a case for this “dialectical relationship” as that “in which the free and open human project consists.” In an interview two years later, he talks of prisons as institutions “no less perfect than school or barracks or hospital” for repressing and transforming individuals.

Foucault’s political philosophy inspired feminist and queer theorist Judith Butler, whose arguments inspired many of today’s gender theorists, and who is deeply concerned with questions of ethics, morality, and social responsibility. Her Adorno Prize Lecture, published in a 2012 issue, took up Theodor Adorno’s challenge of how it is possible to live a good life in bad circumstances (under fascism, for example)—a classical political question that she engages through the work of Orlando Patterson, Hannah Arendt, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Hegel. Her lecture ends with a discussion of the ethical duty to actively resist and protest an intolerable status quo.

You can now read for free all of these essays and hundreds more at the Radical Philosophy archive, either on the site itself or in downloadable PDFs. The journal, run by an ‘Editorial Collective,” still appears three times a year. The most recent issue features an essay by Lars T. Lih on the Russian Revolution through the lens of Thomas Hobbes, a detailed historical account by Nathan Brown of the term “postmodern,” and its inapplicability to the present moment, and an essay by Jamila M.H. Mascat on the problem of Hegelian abstraction.

If nothing else, these essays and many others should upend facile notions of leftist academic philosophy as dominated by “postmodern” denials of truth, morality, freedom, and Enlightenment thought, as doctrinaire Stalinism, or little more than thought policing through dogmatic political correctness. For every argument in the pages of Radical Philosophy that might confirm certain readers’ biases, there are dozens more that will challenge their assumptions, bearing out Foucault’s observation that “philosophy cannot be an endless scrutiny of its own propositions.”

Enter the Radical Philosophy archive here.

 

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Dubbing Is A Must

By ,

 

 

From drone to dubstep, the values and techniques of dub are more present than ever in the music we consume every day. Yet, for many, dub appears an impenetrable genre – the sort of thing we know we should be into, but we don’t quite know where to start with. That’s why we asked David Katz – renowned reggae historian, photographer and more – to write us the Beginner’s Guide to Dub, with quotes from Bunny Lee, Niney the Observer, Glen Brown, Adrian Sherwood, Dennis Alcapone, Roy Cousins and more. We’ve also compiled an accompanying playlist on the last page of this article.


During the last 60 years, Jamaican popular music has rarely stood still, thriving on the innovations of a handful of committed practitioners that continually force the music into new directions. Although it would take time for foreigners to clock the music emanating from this Caribbean island, and even longer for them to comprehend it, there is ample proof that Jamaica has exercised a disproportionate influence on the musical practices of the outside world. And in recent times, dub has proven to be the most influential reggae sub-genre of all.

Without the dub invention pioneered by an elite coterie of Jamaican recording engineers and record producers, rap would never have become the world’s leading form of popular culture; ambient, jungle, house, garage, grime and numerous other types of technologically-driven dance music probably would not have taken off. And there would surely be no such thing as dubstep, currently the focus of youth culture in so many different lands. Yet, who, exactly, is responsible for dub? What purpose did dub serve, and has the form remained static? What, in other words, is dub music all about?

Chris Blackwell once memorably noted that “there are no facts in Jamaica”, since conflicting accounts of who was responsible for what in the island’s incredibly rich music scene continually come into play. Nevertheless, the man most readily identified as the ‘dub inventor’ is none other than King Tubby, the sound system proprietor and electronics technician otherwise known as Osbourne Ruddock, whose tiny front-room studio in the Waterhouse ghetto of western Kingston was a key site of dub creation.

The nickname Tubby did not refer to Ruddock’s waistline. Instead, it stemmed from Tubman, his mother’s maiden name. Though Tubby’s chief occupation involved amplifier repair and the construction and winding of transformers to stabilise the electrical supply of local businesses, music was always a primary fascination, leading him to found the Home Town Hi-Fi sound system as a teenager in 1958. Producer Niney the Observer, who worked closely with Tubby during the 1970s, points out that, although he was crowned ‘King of the Dancehall’ at a neighbourhood event in the early 1960s, his set was initially a small concern affiliated with the tamer uptown music scene, despite its hallmark of technical innovation. “King Tubby used to have a little hi-fi that he played up Red Hills, and there is certain little people follow him—not the rebel people those days. Tubby used to tape songs off the radio, like certain time of night he plug in the radio station and play it back into his sound.”

Producer Glen Brown, another close associate, says Tubby always had an innovative approach to recorded sound. “King Tubby always build some little speaker, and he always have a little Quickly motorbike, so King Tubby build a little thing on the bike—sometimes you’re talking to him, and he’ll record you with it.”

“King Tubby always build some little speaker, and he always have a little Quickly motorbike, so King Tubby build a little thing on the bike—sometimes you’re talking to him, and he’ll record you with it.” – Glen Brown


Toaster Dennis Alcapone says this penchant for constant innovation is what made Tubby’s so sound distinctive. “King Tubby’s was definitely the greatest sound ever to come out of Jamaica. You wouldn’t listen to the other sounds, because they was just bringing out normal voices with normal bass. Duke Reid and Coxsone, their bass was heavy, but Tubby’s bass was just so solid, and then he brought in reverb, which wasn’t introduced to the public before—it was mind-blowing.”

Since the years following World War II, when Jamaicans who went abroad for seasonal farm work encountered black Americans making money at street dances and block parties, sound system culture has defined the Jamaican music scene. With powerful amplifiers and banks of speaker boxes, sound systems provided the rhythm and blues beloved by the black Jamaican masses, forming an affordable alternative to the costly live jazz scene, which catered to the light-skinned upper class and visiting tourists. Exclusivity became a key factor, with shrewd proprietors removing the labels of their most prized records to stop the competition from locating a copy. Then, once Jamaica kick-started its own music industry in the 1950s, exclusive acetates cut with local talent, known first as ‘soft wax’ and later as ‘dub plates,’ became necessary components of every sound system, along with a jive-talking toaster on the microphone, who would spice up the dead airtime between songs. During the late 1960s, these components coalesced in dub, when an incidental moment of studio innovation had drastic repercussions.

According to producer Bunny Lee, the genesis of dub took place in late 1968 at Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle studio, where King Tubby was working as an apprentice to engineer Byron Smith, though Lee ultimately credits Ruddy Redwood, the financially solvent owner of the Spanish Town-based Supreme Ruler of Sound as dub’s initial catalyst. And Lee likes to say that Ruddy’s development was a “mistake”, but the way he describes it, the experimentation seems quite deliberate:

“Ruddy was another wealthy man who can help himself. Him inna racehorses and have him record shop and a big club ’cross Fort Henderson, so when him come ah Duke Reid and Coxsone, them give him any tape him want. One evening them ah cut dub plate, and when them cut, it’s difficult to put in the voice, and Smithy ah go stop it, and Ruddy say, “No, make it run.” When it done, him say it art, and me and Tubby stand up right there, me look ’pon Tubby and Tubby look ’pon me. Saturday night, him drop the singing cut first, and the deejay said, “I’m going to play part two!” and the whole dancehall start to sing the song ’pon the pure rhythm. Him have to play it about ten, fifteen times because it’s something new. I say, “Boy, Tubbs, you see the mistake whe’ Smithy make? A serious thing! The people ah Spanish Town love it! You have to start do something like that.” Tubby just bang onto U Roy, U Roy come in and say, “Part two, another version” on “Too Proud To Beg” with Slim Smith, ah so the name ‘version’ come in. When it start, you hear Slim Smith start to sing and then you hear the voice gone! Then you hear him come in again, and you hear U Roy talk, “Love the life you live and live the life you love, here come the brother Slim Smith again, tell them,” and a man say, “Boy, Tubby have amplifier that can take out the voice and play pure rhythm.” Little did them know that’s how the dub make out. There goes version now, and everybody wants it ’pon them record.”

Thus begins the incredible tale of dub, which has so much resonance in our present time. But when you go digging into the past of Jamaican music, you often find that things happened earlier than expected. Indeed, rhythm tracks had already been used for more than one purpose in Jamaica: in 1965, at Studio One, Roland Alphonso blew the saxophone melody of a song called ‘Rinky Dink’, using the rhythm of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s ‘Hold Down’ with the vocals removed. The following year, the rhythm of the Wailers’ popular ‘Put It On’ was also used for Perry’s ribald ‘Rub And Squeeze,’ and there was a wild harmonica take of the Wailers’ ‘Rudie’ called ‘Green Collie’ too. Studio One founder Clement ‘Sir Coxsone’ Dodd said this was enabled by changes in recording technology, with the two-track Ampex he purchased in 1964 allowing for the technique.

Nevertheless, the standard practice of ‘version’ B-sides being constructed from the customised rhythm tracks of a previous recording clearly follows from the legendary 1968 Treasure Isle session described by Bunny Lee—particularly after Tubby opened a tiny voicing and mixing studio in his front room in 1969, after acquiring an obsolete mixing desk from Byron Lee’s Dynamic Sounds. And the rise of ‘version’ would ultimately pave the way for the experimental contours of dub, in which previously recorded vocal songs would be remixed to emphasise drum and bass, making greater space for deejays to appear on record, particularly after U Roy, the star toaster on King Tubby’s sound system, showed just what could be done with the form.

 

 

Before U Roy, a deejay was just an incidental figure, someone that told a few jokes between songs and made announcements about future dances. But U Roy’s fluid toasting, voiced over Duke Reid’s old rock steady rhythms, brought deejay music to the top-three Jamaican chart positions in 1970—a truly unprecedented feat. U Roy thus turned the deejay into a superstar whose toasts were as important as any singer’s lyrics, prefacing the rap craze in America by the better part of a decade.

Dub began its concerted evolutionary gestation shortly thereafter, once King Tubby, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, and a handful of likeminded peers began exploring the limits of the form, with Perry being the first to delve in wholeheartedly. During the late 1960s, Perry had his greatest successes with instrumental versions, hitting spectacularly with ‘Return Of Django,’ which brought him and his Upsetters band to Britain in 1969. The following year, he began concentrating on Bob Marley and the Wailers, yielding the albums Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution, but continued his forays into the ‘version’ phenomenon through exquisite instrumental B-sides. In 1971, he took things a step further by issuing Soul Revolution II, an entirely instrumental edition of the Wailers’ Soul Revolution set, which allowed listeners to hear the material in an entirely different way; devoid of the singer’s voices, emphasis was now placed entirely on the rhythms of the backing musicians.

Dramatic changes were soon afoot, as mixing engineers began to emphasise drum and bass on the version B-sides, augmented by the application of echo and reverb, as notably heard on the opening lines to Glen Brown’s melodica-led hit ‘Merry Up.’ As Bunny Lee explains, “The drum and bass part, Tubby strike out now, and one of the first drum-and-bass tunes that come out was ‘Merry Up’ with Glen Brown. That reverb, that watery sound at the start, that ah one of the first.”

Tubby was able to make more initial forays into dub because he had his own space in which to work, unlike peers such as Perry, who had to rely on the facility of others, prior to the opening of the Black Ark in late 1973. Other producers heavily involved in dub, such as Niney the Observer, Keith Hudson and Augustus Pablo, never managed to get a studio of their own, which led them to rely on Tubby for the most part (though Niney later worked steadily out of both Joe Gibbs and Channel One). Tubby’s home set-up at 18 Dromilly Avenue was not a recording studio in the conventional sense, nor was Tubby an actual producer in his own right, until he expanded in the late 1980s. His bedroom studio was never large enough for rhythms to be created in full there, but the space was gradually converted into a sound manipulation unit complete with a machine to cut acetates.

“Tubbs is an innovator”, said the late Philip Smart, who was engineer at the studio for much of the mid-1970s. “He didn’t buy his first console, he built it, and that’s what he used until he bought the MCI console from Dynamics, their studio B. It was just that room he had at first. You have a carport, and then the carport is a bedroom and a bathroom, so him turn the bathroom into the voice room and the bedroom into the control room, and he had his repair shop in another little house in the back. His main income was building amplifiers and winding transformers; the music was an addition, because he had the sound and he always wanted to make his own dubs.”

“That reverb, that watery sound at the start, that ah one of the first.” – Bunny Lee


“The home amplifiers like Pioneer, Marantz, it’s them amplifiers him started with”, says singer and producer Roy Cousins, who often recorded at Tubby’s. “He did have about three of them transistor amplifiers, one of them old cutter, and them likkle two-track reel-to-reel that come in a suitcase, him did have one like that him used to put on a stool. Then when Byron Lee decided him going cut stampers, him decided to sell [the equipment in] studio two, which was four-track. It’s through Bunny Lee that Tubby get the mixing desk: Byron wanted cash and everybody just want to leave a deposit, but Tubby go down there with the whole of it.”

Dub gained greater credibility in 1973, when a number of dub albums appeared all at once, each vying for the title of ‘first dub LP.’ Among the most noteworthy were Herman Chin-Loy’s minimalist Aquarius Dub; Lee Perry’s astounding Blackboard Jungle Dub (originally issued as Upsetters 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle), created in collaboration with Tubby; Prince Buster’s The Message Dubwise, mixed at Dynamics by Carlton Lee; Clive Chin’s exquisite Java Java Java Java, mixed by Errol Thompson at Randy’s; Joe Gibbs’ Dub Serial, also mixed by Thompson, and Studio One’s enthralling Dub Store Special, mixed by Clement Dodd.

When we survey the available evidence, Aquarius Dub is the strongest contender for actually being the first, and Chin-Loy says he assembled the disc as a way of giving deejays uninterrupted toasting time on sound systems. But Chin-Loy’s album has few of the effects that would give dub its outstanding difference, being more in the mode of an instrumental ‘version’ LP; Clive Chin points out that Java Java Java Java had more in the way of experimentation, which helped dub attain more solid footing. “Them time there, Tubby try and experiment more fi dub, but me and Errol start dub music”, Chin emphasises. “When I say start it, I’m not saying we going to take credit for any other man that put out a dub album, but we really experiment, because we had the time and the facility to do it. Another man like Phil Pratt or Niney, studio time was so important that you have to run in and run out.” Had Thompson not left Randy’s for Joe Gibbs, dub probably would have enjoyed a further flowering there, and even though Clement Dodd mixed a great series of dub albums at Studio One, the form remained somewhat peripheral to his general output.

As technology advanced, Jamaica’s creative dub mixers began attracting interest overseas: the dubs Lee Perry mixed at the Black Ark were dense tapestries of heavily manipulated rhythm, which brought a contract with Island Records; Errol Thompson left Randy’s to mix sound effects-laden dubs at Joe Gibbs, who landed a deal with WEA; Ernest Hoo-Kim crafted thunderous dubs at Channel One with Sly Dunbar and the Revolutionaries house band, some of which were handled by Virgin. But during the late 1970s, the most important evolutionary happenings continued to take place at King Tubby’s, as apprentice engineers such as Prince Jammy and Scientist mixed captivating masterworks, most notably with the Roots Radics band, as heard on the sublime series of dub albums handled overseas by Trojan and Greensleeves. Scientist had a way of isolating the bass that greatly appealed to overseas listeners, and his use of the electronic test-tone as a percussive instrument was truly exceptional.

 

 

The dub album reached its international pinnacle of popularity during the late 1970s, when Joe Gibbs and the Professionals’ African Dub Chapter 3 (mixed by Errol Thompson) became the rage amongst reefer-smoking college students in Britain for its ringing doorbells, banging gongs and flushing toilets. The championing of reggae and dub by John Lydon, the Clash and their deejay pal Don Letts led to dub techniques being adopted by punk and post-punk acts such as the Ruts, the Slits, Generation X and Killing Joke. Initially, ‘foreign’ dub was made by transplanted Jamaican sound system operators such as Lloyd ‘Bullwackie’ Barnes in New York, plus Ken ‘Fatman’ Gordon and Jah Shaka in London.

Then came a series of highly inspired British dub albums from Guyanese immigrant Neil ‘Mad Professor’ Fraser, and Barbados-born Dennis Bovell, along with Adrian Sherwood, the white English reggae devotee who had distributed Jamaican imports and worked with Prince Fari, prior to the formation of his On-U Sound label, even being responsible for the ground-breaking Cry Tuff Dub Encounter series with Fari. “I did my first-ever dubs when I was like 18 or 19, when I did Creation Rebel, which evolved into a band”, Sherwood recalls. “Then I started working with Fari, making the dub stuff a little more interesting, because I was aware there was a big demand for dub amongst black and white sound system fans. A lot of the white smoky bears were smoking spliffs listening to dub music.” Dub was widening its audience, largely through the efforts of these pioneering figures, its appeal making perfect sense in London’s multicultural environment. Brian Eno caught its influence as well, noting that the Jamaica producers treated the mixing desk as an instrument, and drawing directly on their techniques for his ‘ambient’ releases.

Back home in Jamaica, as the dancehall style took over during the early 1980s, it seemed dub’s death knell was sounded by ‘Sleng Teng,’ Jamaica’s first totally computerised hit. Prince Jammy actually cut an album called Computerised Dub in 1986, yet the digital format was detrimental, being less conducive to dub’s mixing peculiarities than the sound of live instruments captured on analogue equipment. But with such strong demand for dub overseas, and with the cost of home recording gear reducing, it was only natural that a new legion of international mixers would spring up abroad, creating bedroom recording spaces of their own.

“I was aware there was a big demand for dub amongst black and white sound system fans. A lot of the white smoky bears were smoking spliffs listening to dub music.” – Adrian Sherwood


The Disciples
, two white English dub fans making largely digital dub in a suburban bedroom, began crafting their own dubs in the late 1980s, after being inspired by the religious energy at Shaka dances. Alpha and Omega and the Bush Chemists began gaining currency in the 1990s, along with techno-based practitioners such as Zion Train and Dreadzone. Following on from Adrian Sherwood’s experiments with Creation Rebel, dub music began to be made overseas that was not related to a previously-issued vocal recording, changing the purpose, as well as the format, of dub in the process.

Nevertheless, its influence continued gathering steam, as shown when Massive Attack fed directly on the classical Jamaican dub style, roping in Mad Professor for the dub recasting of their Protection album. The Beastie Boys had referenced Lee Perry’s Revolution Dub on their sample-heavy Paul’s Boutique album, and brought further kudos to dub by collaborating with the man on Hello Nasty. The Prodigy transmuted Max Romeo’s Perry-produced ‘Chase The Devil’ for their massive ‘Out Of Space,’ and by the time Kanye West sampled the same tune for Jay Z’s Black Album, it was entirely clear that dub was fully entrenched in the broader popular culture of the western world.


Dubbing Is A Must Playlist

Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Put It On’
Lee Perry & The Soulettes – ‘Run and Squeeze’
Bob Marley & The Wailers – ‘Rudie’
Roy Richards – ‘Green Collie’
The Upsetters – ‘Return of Django’
Glen Brown – ‘Merry Up’
Herman Chin-Loy – Aquarius Dub Side 1
Joe Gibbs & The Professionals – ‘Angolian Chant’
Prince Far I – Cry Tough Dub Encounter Chapter 1


For more information on dub’s evolution, check David Katz’s book Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae, published by Jawbone.

http://www.factmag.com

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Kiss the sky: psychedelic posters of the 60s and 70s

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Eight Miles High

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Oh the hypocrisy…

 

 Paul Kenward, husband of Victoria Atkins MP who is the UK drugs minister. He grows cannabis for a living.

Mr Kenward is managing director of British Sugar which grows cannabis under contract to GW Pharmaceuticals at its 45 acre greenhouse in Wissington, Norfolk.  As confirmed by British Sugar, the cannabis is for production of Epidiolex, GW’s epilepsy medicine which is understood to be 98% cannabidiol (CBD).

British Sugar website

Epidiolex is not yet licensed as a medicine although it is currently with the FDA for US approval and the European Medicines Agency for approval within the EU including the UK.  It’s unclear how the British Sugar operation can be legal as according to the Home Office it only issues licences for research purposes.  Only after the medicine has received a marketing authorisation could it be legally grown for commercial purposes.

This is Mrs Kenward, who prefers to be known by her maiden name of Atkins, in a recorded discussion with Kevin Sabet, America’s most notorious anti-cannabis campaigner who is fighting desperately to see the wave of legalisation in the USA reversed.

Victoria Atkins MP is now a junior Home Office minister with responsibility for drugs policy.  She has spoken out forcefully against any form of legalisation or regulation of cannabis in the UK.  She also rigidly maintains the government’s line that there is ‘no therapeutic value’ in cannabis.  Of course, when it comes to her husband she takes a different view and, of course, she has authority to see licences issued entirely on her own discretion.

Ms Atkins spoke about drugs regulation in Parliament in July 2017:

“We are talking about gun-toting criminals, who think nothing of shooting each other and the people who carry their drugs for them. What on earth does my hon. Friend think their reaction will be to the idea of drugs being regulated? Does he really think that these awful people are suddenly going to become law-abiding citizens?”

Isn’t it is her husband who is exactly the person she is talking about? He seems to be doing just fine as a “law-abiding citizen”.

Together with the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd MP, other cabinet minsters, including prime minister Theresa May, who was the previous Home Secretary, Ms Atkins is running a giant cannabis cartel.  As shown by the International Narcotic Control Board, the UK is in fact the world’s largest producer, stockist and exporter of ‘legal’ medical cannabis.

UK citizens are denied any access to medical cannabis at all, except in the form of another licensed GW product known as Sativex.  However, in practice, Sativex is virtually impossible to obtain.  It is believed that about one million UK citizens use cannabis illegally for medical purposes.

No, this is not a spoof article.  This story is so incredible and outrageous that you really couldn’t make it up.  Yes, the picture of Paul Kenward is photoshopped but all these facts are easily verifiable.

 

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University of the Future

Manifesto for the University of the Future

IMG_6216Summary

Recent decades have seen the comprehensive marketization of our universities. Knowledge has come to be treated as a commodity and education as a sector of the service industry. The principles and metrics of the market have been imposed through increasingly aggressive forms of state regulation. The damage this is doing to our universities is ever more apparent, and already well documented. What we so far lack, however, is an alternative vision for what our universities should be. To provide a focus for resistance and reform, such a vision is urgently needed. In what follows, we present a manifesto for the universities of the future.

The manifesto reaffirms the purpose of universities and calls for a reform of their ethos and organisation. It establishes the four foundational principles on which the universities of the future should be built. These are:

  • Freedom. Academic freedom is not a privilege to enjoy but a task we have always to work at. Freedom entails both risk and responsibility: the risk of relinquishing the comfort of established positions and of pushing out into the unknown; the responsibility of care we owe to our students, to the wider community, and to the environment.
  • Trust. There can be no scholarship without trust. It is the foundation for both academic professionalism and collegiality. It also underpins our relations with students. The structures of the university should seek to foster trust by striving for fairness and consistency, rather than undermining it through practices of surveillance and control.
  • Education. Education is an open-ended process of intellectual growth and discovery. It covers the practices of both research and teaching. Research is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding through practices of curiosity and care. In teaching we immerse students in an educational environment dedicated to this pursuit, and join with them in their endeavours.
  • Community. The university is its people: its scholars, students, staff and alumni. Together they form not just one community but a collection of smaller communities, which may organise themselves in different ways. It is the task of university leaders to nurture this diversity, while remaining committed to the greater community and to its core values of wisdom, tolerance and humanity.

Our universities occupy a unique position in society. No other institutions exists to nurture the conversations, among people of different nations and to design and plan solutions on which our collective futures depend. None is better placed to forge the knowledge, develop the connections and educate the citizens that will help to bring these futures about. Our universities bear a unique responsibility for the planet and for coming generations. We cannot do without them. Only by reaffirming our purpose, principles and ethos can we construct the universities of the future.

THE MANIFESTO

§1. We, scholars, students, staff and alumni of UK Universities, call for fundamental reform of the principles, ethos and organisation of our universities, in order (1) that they can be restored to the community to which they belong and (2) that they can fulfil their civic purpose in a manner appropriate to our times, in the defence of democracy, peaceful coexistence and human flourishing.

§2. We stand at a pivotal moment in the long history of UK Universities, a fork in the path that offers two ways forward. One is to follow the business model of higher education to its logical conclusion, in a competition for students, research funding and ratings that values constant change as an end in itself. The other is to rediscover the civic purpose of the university as a necessary component of the constitution of a democratic society, with the responsibility for educating its citizens and furnishing them with the wisdom and understanding that will enable them to fashion a world fit for future generations to live in.

§3. Under current regimes, universities have committed themselves to a managerial dystopia sculpted by discredited metrics. Not only does this business vision contravene the university’s duty, as a charitable institution, to disseminate knowledge for the public benefit; it also overlooks its primary responsibility for education and scholarship. To take the civic route will require a complete alteration of course. It will mean rebuilding the university from its very foundations. Whether we participate in the community as students, as researchers and teachers, or as administrative or support staff, we are here to promote truth, justice, virtue, liberty and sustainability. The kind of university we want is one in which these principles are both thought and taught.

§4. In our universities we will:

  • Create an environment for free, open-minded and unprejudiced debate, which stands out as a beacon of wisdom, tolerance and humanity.
  • Defend our freedom to undertake research and teaching in the pursuit of truth, against the constraints, both internal and external to the institution, which threaten to curtail it.
  • Restore the trust that underpins both professionalism and collegiality, by removing the conditions of aggressive line and performance management, and of surveillance, which lead to its erosion.
  • Bring together research and teaching as complementary aspects of an education that carries a responsibility of care.
  • Abstain from the egregious language of business that would divide the university between ‘employers’, ‘employees’ and ‘customers’.
  • Restore the governance of the university, and control over its affairs, to the community of scholars, students, staff and alumni to which it rightfully belongs.
  • Ensure that we bequeath a liveable planet to future generations by designing plans for the the survival of the society we serve and, as a consequence, universities themselves.

The university and its purpose

§5. The primary civic purpose of universities, in a democratic society, is to educate future generations of citizens and to forge the knowledge needed to sustain a just and prosperous world. The university is a place where people of integrity, from all nations, gather in order to learn to think, and think deeply, about the nature of things, about the ways we live, about truth and justice, peace and conflict, freedom and responsibility, the distribution of wealth, health and sustainability, beauty and virtue. They learn to weigh these thoughts against the evidence of experience, and to translate them into policy and practice, systems of law and governance, as well as great works of science, literature and art. These things are the foundations of civilised life. Our university will be a place in which they can be incubated and nurtured.

§6. The university is a centre of academic life. The days when the academy was an ivory tower, wherein intellectual pursuits could be enjoyed in isolation from the practical conduct of life, have long gone. Today’s world exists on the edge of climatic and environmental catastrophe. Not only are people and ideas moving and meeting on an unprecedented scale, but the colonial hierarchies of knowledge that propped up the academy in former times have largely imploded. The rise, in their place, of competing economic, political and religious fundamentalisms poses a grave threat to democracy and coexistence and in the longer term to humanity itself. In this increasingly dangerous situation, the academy has a new and pivotal role to play. It is to create and sustain a safe, ecumenical environment of freedom of expression, in which ideas matter, where plans can be made and in which there is room for experiment and dissent, and for open-minded, unprejudiced debate. In our universities we will create such an environment.

§7. Our universities are not businesses. Their goals are academic and extend far beyond the commercial to embrace all facets of society. Universities are here to foster inquiry, not to extract profit. We are motivated in our scholarship not by incentives of financial gain but by the pride we take in our educational and scholarly work. We are driven by a quest for truth and a passion for learning. Our ambition for our universities is not that they should be ranked above others in terms of quantitative indices of performance or productivity, but that it should stand out as a beacons of wisdom, tolerance and humanity. These are our core values. They are moral and ethical, not instrumental, and cannot be measured on any scale. They rest on four pillars. These are freedom, trust, education and community. Below, we spell out what they mean.

 

Freedom

§8. Though we speak of academic freedom, this is not a freedom reserved exclusively for academics. It is not the privilege of a scholarly elite, absolving them of any burden of care. It is neither a form of immunity, nor a refuge. It offers no protection, nor can we hide behind it. On the contrary, academic freedom is a form of exposure. It rests upon a willingness to relinquish the comfort of established positions, to take the risk of pushing out into the unknown, where outcomes are uncertain and destinations yet to be mapped.

§9. Academic freedom is exemplary. In everything they do, academics in our universities seek to live to the fullest extent a freedom that, in a democratic society, is available to every citizen. Thus academic freedom is not distinct from the freedom of the citizen; it is an intensification of that freedom. No more than the freedom of the citizen, is academic freedom handed to us on a plate. It is a task that falls to us, not an unqualified right to which we are entitled, and we have continually to work at it, whether in our teaching, in our research or in our scholarship. We perform freedom, and thereby exemplify it, in our relations with students, with colleagues and with society at large. It is always work in progress; we can never give up on it and assume that it has been achieved. Academic freedom can never be taken for granted.

§10. The freedom we seek in our universities, and wish to defend, is one that confers upon the imagination the right to roam, without fear or favour, unhindered by predetermined aims and objectives. But this right also carries personal, moral and professional responsibilities. We are responsible to our students and to our host communities, and in the widest sense, we are responsible for the direction our societies take. More than any other sector of society, we have the collective expertise, analytical skills and connections required to support and guide others; especially where this requires understanding of uncertainty and perspective. We have to trust that members of our academic community, whatever their rank or status, will exercise their freedom wisely. There can be no freedom without trust. Loss of trust is the greatest enemy of academic freedom since it leads to the replacement of autonomy and self-determination with surveillance and control.

§11. Academic freedom is the life-blood of our universities. It has to be sustained against multiple threats. Unaccountable regimes of management, monitoring and assessment are currently placing severe constraints on what can be researched or taught, on how work should be presented or published, and on intellectual priorities. These constraints are particularly acute for younger scholars, for whom employment and promotion prospects depend upon compliance. Some constraints, of necessity, are imposed from outside our institutions; from government or funding councils over which we have little or no control. By evelating external constraints as internal organising principles, we abdicate our responsibilities to the wider scholarly community to defend the freedom on which the proper conduct of academic life depends. In our university, we will restore the freedom of the academic community to govern itself, above all through the re-empowerment of University Senates.

Trust

§12. Academics are professionals. They joined universities on the strength of their professional accreditation and competence. This professionalism carries with it an expectation of trust. In our universities we will trust academic staff to perform their duties responsibly, with personal and ethical integrity, and in a spirit of service to the community and to the public good. But trust also implies collegiality. Not only do we depend on colleagues to play their part, we also grant them the autonomy to do so. Trust rests on this combination of autonomy and dependency. It is fundamental to scholarship.

§13. As universities we aspire to the highest professional and scholarly standards. We will promote and encourage in one another the attainment of these standards, under the authority of University Senates or other shared governance. We acknowledge the risk that individuals will not always live up to the standards expected of them. In our university we will put transparent protocols in place to deal with mistakes and failures if they occur. We will not however assume that errors are bound to occur unless such protocols are applied, or that their application is a necessary condition for success. We trust that for the most part, they will not be needed. We are confident that in flourishing communities of scholarship, colleagues will look after one another, and that by maintaining collegial commitment, high professional standards will be upheld without the need to have them continually inspected and monitored.

§14. Trust does not arise of its own accord. It has to be nurtured. It is nurtured by openness and honesty, by matching stated intentions with actions, by striving for fairness and consistency, and by learning from mistakes. Trust calls for personal investment, and sometimes entails setting aside immediate advantage for the sake of the community. The individual costs of doing so are more than offset by collective benefits that trust brings to the day-to-day conduct of academic life. Nevertheless, trust that has taken time to build up can quickly be broken down. It is broken down, above all, by the impositions of what is increasingly known as ‘management’.

§15. Many kinds of management have the potential to erode trust, including aggressive outcomes-based ‘line management’ and ‘performance management’. Line management can undermine both professionalism and collegiality when it redirects the responsibility and loyalty of members of staff from the community of colleagues who share a love of their subject and work together in teaching it, to an organisational superior who neither knows the subject nor is accountable to the community. Performance management undermines professionalism in assuming that scholars are not motivated by a desire to advance knowledge in their fields but are responsive only to threats and incentives issued by managers. It undermines collegiality in attaching these threats and incentives to targets that bear no relation to the contribution that individuals make to the communities of scholarship and the wider responsibilities to society that academics hold. Behind coercive line and performance management lies the premise that staff cannot be trusted to perform of their own accord, to the best of their ability. Both are instruments not of support but of control.

§16. The principle of trust applies not only to academic staff. It also applies to students. Students come to our universities because they are eager to join with us in our scholarly endeavours and because we hope they will carry the torch of learning to future generations. We trust that they will do their best, according to their abilities. We are convinced that the legitimate aspirations of students are optimally served by demonstrating, in principle and practice, that learning and scholarship are rewarding in themselves, rather than by defining their education as a regime of testing, geared only to the achievement of measurable results, and implemented through procedures of assessment and verification based on the pretext that students are less than conscientious.

Education

§17. Universities are, by definition, institutions of higher education. By education we mean an open-ended process of intellectual growth and discovery. In our universities, education covers the activities of both research and teaching. These are inseparable; there cannot be one without the other.

§18. Research is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Though boundaries may vary depending upon a scholar’s discipline or philosophy, the call for understanding is the same for all. At its heart, research is an aspiration: it is about trying to get things right, whether empirically, conceptually, ethically or aesthetically. Research suspends prejudice, and turns all certainty into questioning. It means to search and search again. Thus research converts every closure into an opening, and every apparent end-point into a new beginning. It is the guarantor that scholarship can carry on. This is why research is a primary responsibility of the academy.

§19. Under the current framework of evaluation, the meaning of research has been corrupted beyond recognition. It has become a game, in which universities and their academic personnel are players. It no longer has to do with critical scholarship and is instead defined by its products, the values of which are measured by conformity to uniform standards of assessment rather than by any appeal to truth. It entails the collection of ‘data’ and their processing into ‘outputs’ which, in their application, could have measurable ‘impact’. Such a production-line conception may have its place in corporate industry where innovation’s costs are closely linked to value on a monetary scale. In our universities, however, research will be driven by curiosity – by the burning desire to find things out. It will be driven by the desire to care for and share knowledge with multiple branches of society; to interact seamlessly with industry, the arts, legal, government and the public sector to name a few. Most importantly, we aim to use our analytical skills and knowledge to generate plans that match the scale of the environmental challenges we collectively face. A central part of this responsibility will be the education of the next generation of citizens in the intellectual, moral, ethical and practical skills they will need.

§20. In our universities, the nurturing of care and curiosity will be equally true of our teaching. Since research turns all answers into questions, it cannot be taught as if the questions were already answered. Truth is never given in advance; it is rather a horizon of attainment that ever exceeds our reach. It is not therefore available for transmission, as is implied by models that measure teaching and learning by the achievement of predetermined outcomes. There can be no such outcomes, beyond training in skills of so superficial a nature that their transfer can be achieved and assessed through the completion of tick-box exercises. Teaching is not about the transmission of pre-existent knowledge; it is about guiding students in journeys of growth and self-discovery that they necessarily undertake together.

§21. These are often difficult journeys without fixed end-points, in which both teachers and learners participate. It is the job of a teacher to help and inspire students, to stretch their imaginations, to confront uncertainty, not to make things easy for them. A good teacher is exemplary in the conduct of scholarship, a generous guide and companion for students, and a tireless critic of their work. It is in this sense that teaching, in our university, will be research-led. This does not mean that students receive their knowledge at first rather than second hand. It means, rather, that students will be immersed from the start in an educational environment that is dedicated to a critical search for understanding and knowledge.

§22. Generosity, open-endedness and criticality are fundamental to all education, whether in teaching or research. But this is not how education is understood by current regimes of university management. In succumbing to the market-driven rhetoric of teaching and learning with its calculus of milestones and measurable outcomes, and in divorcing research as the production of new knowledge from teaching as its dissemination, universities have badly distorted their educational mission. Learning is increasingly reduced to the smooth and painless acquisition of information, an efficient process that enables students to obtain good grades with minimal effort and leave as satisfied customers. Teachers, then, become little more than facilitators, tasked with assembling the information to be acquired and delivering it in user-friendly form.

§23. In our universities, we will refuse to regard the provision of higher education as a service industry. We will treat our students neither as customers nor as consumers of the ‘experiences’ we provide. Marketing courses, selling experience and inducing satisfaction are not, in themselves, educational objectives. We aim to recruit and retain students with ambitions to study and to learn, whatever their means and background. We will respect these ambitions and will support students in their fulfilment. Our task is to give students the intellectual tools and the critical confidence to address the challenges of the contemporary world, not simply to provide them with a passport for future employment and debt relief. In our universities, policies of teaching and learning will be geared to the proper objectives of education: the search for critical understanding, the promotion of tolerance and the pursuit of justice.

Community

§24. Our universities are its people: its scholars, its students, its staff and its alumni, coming together for the benefit of our local regions and of wider society. Universities all belong to one scholarly community. We are the communities.

§25. Universities are not just great communities; they are also a collection of smaller communities, made up of scholars, students and staff working in different academic disciplines as well as in associated areas of activity. Many of these are called departments or schools. Our universities will strengthen departments by formally recognising their role in the working of the organisation as a whole. We will acknowledge that they may conduct their affairs in different ways, depending on what is appropriate and practicable for their respective fields, and we will respect and nurture this diversity. We will ensure that departments or their equivalents are adequately represented in the constitution of the university, at all levels of inclusion, with elected representatives at every level. At the most inclusive level, universities should be represented and led by their Senates.

§26. We do not pretend that university communities are harmonious places, free from conflict and argument. On the contrary, it is a sign of its vitality that disagreements are openly discussed and debated, rather than hidden behind a veneer of consensus that often serves as a disguise for managerial imposition. In our universities, we will encourage open debate in preference to ‘consultations’ which, in soliciting opinions, admit no space for critical dialogue. However, we will also seek to replenish the reservoir of goodwill that makes it possible for differences to be resolved.

§27. Management harbours an inherent tendency towards verticality and centralisation. In our universities we will counteract both tendencies by instituting decentralised organisational structures in which departments or equivalent units are granted, as far as is practicably feasible, the autonomy to run their own affairs, as trusted professionals and informed colleagues. Time and money saved from supporting and responding to managerial functions will be reinvested in teaching and research.

§28. Communities depend on regular face-to-face interaction. We will ensure that scholars, students and staff in our university have the time, opportunities and congenial physical spaces, including common rooms, to meet and interact. We will accordingly seek to reduce the atomisation that can be driven by the overuse of computers as a substitute for real interaction . IT systems have their uses, and in much of what we do they are indispensable. But overdependence on these systems has pronounced negative effects, inducing isolation, depersonalisation, alienation and even ill-health. It does much to erode the sense of belonging among both staff and students.

§29. More insidiously, corporate IT systems have become instruments of managerial control. In our universities we will not allow the requirements of these systems, or the assumptions that underpin their design, to govern the way we conduct our affairs, to restrict what or how we teach, or to limit the practice of our research. They should work for us, not we for them.

§30. Our universities will need leaders. They will have a genuine vision for universities as beacons of scholarship, and will be committed to the core values of wisdom, tolerance and humanity. Our leaders will be part of, and will identify with, the greater community. They will be chosen by the community, not by undemocratic committees whose members may have little experience of higher education, nor by firms of head-hunters which have their own business interests at heart. They will be accountable to the constitutional organs of the universities, and will be transparently remunerated, like everyone else, at a level commensurate with their experience and responsibility, to be determined by these organs.

§31. As a large and complex organisation committed to the support of academic life, our universities will also need administrators. They include registry officers responsible for the recruitment, admission and support of students, finance officers responsible for budgetary oversight, research officers responsible for the administration of grants and awards, and personnel officers with responsibility for staff recruitment, contractual arrangements and welfare, and for ensuring compliance with employment law. We will embed these administrative functions at appropriate levels of organisation, so that those who perform them can play a full part in the communities they support.

§32. We will additionally ensure that the boundary between scholarly and administrative roles remains permeable. We will expect the majority of scholars to undertake some administrative duties, as they do at present, but we will also encourage those whose primary role is administrative to participate, to some degree, in teaching and/or research. Through this sharing of experience, scholars and administrators will be better able to work together.

§33. Equally important to the effective operation of the university are its librarians and curators, IT specialists, secretarial and office staff, estates officers, porters, cleaners, and a host of others. In our universities, everyone will be positively valued and respected for the work they do, and for their commitment to the community as a whole. We will not, for that reason, classify as ‘non-academic’ those whose contributions lie primarily beyond the fields of scholarship.

§34. Our universities will need leaders, and it will need administrators. It will not need managers. Current regimes of management, having seized executive powers over our institutions, are acting as if each university were its exclusive possession. Having arrogated to itself the role of sole employer, management treats those who work at universities as employees or ‘human resources’, to be used for the regime’s own purposes and subjected to its increasingly arbitrary and authoritarian command. At the same time, the sense of community that scholars, staff and students of universities have forged over the years has been reduced to a market brand, designed to attract potential ‘customers’. But the university communities are not for hire, nor does it rightfully belong to the regime. It belongs to us. They are our universities, and we mean to have them back.

 

We have the opportunity to rebuild our universities. We must seize it now.

(Credit in particular to Tim Ingold and other members of the UoF group who met in Manchester in September 2017; published 10/3/18; updated summary 12/3/18).

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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Memories of 1967 – The Summer of Love

AcceleratorPlus

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Poets of the Embankment and the Poets of Hammersmith

POETS OF THE EMBANKMENT

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Poet-psychogeographer Niall McDevitt takes a walk of discovery along the Thames tracing the 700-year history of poets and poetry in the area.

Elizabethans, Romantics, Decadents and Beats feature prominently.

There are the geniuses of England: Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson; of Europe: Heine, Rimbaud, Verlaine; and America: Melville, Ginsberg, Dylan; as well as a bonus Robbie Burns from Scotland.

McDevitt tells the story of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt and how Geoffrey Chaucer luckily managed to escape death at the hands of the Kentish rebels.

But perhaps the most haunting figure is that of the doomed Ernest Dowson who inspired the title of Wilde’s most famous play.

Meeting Sat 24 March and Sat Mar 31 for 2pm in the churchyard of St Martin in the Fields., Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JJ. £10

The walk will last approx. two hours and will finish in The Olde Cheshire Cheese close to Blackfriars tube.

To book tickets via New River Press: http://www.thenewriverpress.com/events-2/

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Niall McDevitt

THE POETS OF HAMMERSMITH

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Poet-psychogeographer Niall McDevitt takes an epic walk from border to border of Hammersmith Borough through a half century of poetry.

The great poets who’ve lived in Hammersmith include John Milton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Morris and WB Yeats.

There are stories of black magic, drug addiction, riverside rent-boys and double suicide attempts at such sites as ‘The Isis-Urania Temple’ and ‘The Madhouse of Hammersmith’. Other poets in a stellar cast include such modern giants as Dylan Thomas, David Gascoyne, George Barker, Laura Riding, Robert Graves, WH Auden and Ezra Pound.

And there are the popular poets Ian Dury, Shane MacGowan, Joe Strummer, Bob Marley.

Sun Mar 25 and Sun April 1 Meeting at Kensington Olympia Station for 2pm. The walk will last approx. 2 hours and finish at Ravenscourt Park tube.

To book tickets via New River Press http://www.thenewriverpress.com/events-2/2018/3/4/march-4th-the-poets-of-hammersmith-kensington-olympia-station-niall-mcdevitt-london-poetry-walks

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About Niall McDevitt

Niall McDevitt > poet > author of b/w (Waterloo Press, 2010) and Porterloo (International Times, 2012) > urban explorer > radical pedestrian who leads Shakespeare/Blake/Rimbaud /Yeats walks, among others.

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VIENO JAMES : ARTIST OF THE BLACK SUN

By Jennifer Parker

New York-based artist Vieno James exudes a raw sensuality that mirrors the art he makes and the materials he utilizes in his work. Juxtaposing stucco framing against the silks and other fabrics Vieno procured from his travels to Italy, Kuwait, and Egypt, he blurs the line between painting and sculpture. There’s a calmness, physicality, and hint of theater to James’ art, not unlike the artist himself. Aesthetically it can be considered contemporary yet clearly draws from the thousands of years of art that came before him, making it difficult to categorize. In the center of “Long Live Vieno”, you can see subtle nods to Frankenthaler and Rothko. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice the loosely drawn figures set in a classical triadic composition. In the frame, Vieno has carved symbols indicative of Egyptian hieroglyphs and Italian friezes.

“It’s essentially a flattened urn. I made it in response to fights between my sister and me after my father passed away. The central figures are battling within a whirlpool of emotions. The carvings on the side are two versions of my dad’s ghost rising from the grave to ‘heaven’, turning to angels, and then fighting each other across the top register. One grave is marked 64’-2013 and the other 64’- infinity. It’s sort of a conversation about permanence and impermanence after death. His name is the same as me. So I decided to title it after both of us, that way it could live on after I’m gone too.”

I joined the artist in his Chelsea studio to learn more about his art, travels, and vision of the future.

JP What have your travels meant to you and your art?

VJ They have all left their mark on my soul. Kuwait was my first and brief glimpse of the Arabian Gulf. It was lavish, multicultural due to its location between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and diverse in population. Passing judgment on all citizens living would be too broad a stroke to paint, so I say this with caution. I don’t like the way I saw expats and other “second-class” citizens treated by “first class” citizens while there. Like most high-class societies, the infrastructure is built by exploiting humans deemed to be of a lower class by using them for cheap labor. I think this form of classism is a backward way of thinking. The younger generation of Kuwaiti’s and artists I met there felt the same way. They want to see a social and moral shift in their country. From what I’ve seen in the exhibitions while there, they are actively working towards this goal and people are starting to listen. The complete shift in the country will take time, as those with traditional beliefs still hold power. It will happen.

JP how did your use  of textiles become inseperable from your own personal clothing choices and your art?

VJ They resonate with my spirit. I chose them, and they chose me in a sense. The ones I’ve used most recently have come from Khan el-Khalil, Giza, and Mubarakiya. The fabrics I wear I use at times in the creation of my art. There’s a pair of black pants I wear all the time made from a sheet of velvet with rose embossing I bought in Khan el-Khalili. I had them tailored in Ma’adi. I’m using pieces of that same fabrics to line a set of framed drawings in my next body of work “Lone Star. *”

JP How did being robbed at the pyramids and subsequently having to sleep on the fabrics you currently use in your art inform your work?

VJ: HAHAHAHA! “Seriously conned” is a bit more accurate. I intended to visit the pyramids that evening, but I was quickly hustled onto a horse and into a fake tour that led me through the alleys and back streets of Giza only to reach an open desert outside of the compound that houses the Pyramids. I ended up getting into an altercation with the conman when he refused to give my money back. I decided to go to the police instead of fighting. The police said they’d help me track the guy down and had me hop in the back of their patrol van. We drove up and in the compound, to head towards the township. It was an interesting ride. On one hand, I was afraid that I would end up getting in trouble with the cop (Cops there don’t have the best reputation with foreign relations. Also, I don’t speak Arabic, so I was only half sure about what was going on.). On the other hand, I was amazed to see Khufu Pyramid up close with the nightime laser light show working its way across the stones. Anyways, we made our way into town to search. After about thirty minutes and a few stops at police checkpoints, the lieutenant driving receives a call saying that they found the main culprit.  They took me back to their station. At first, I was supposed to choose the culprit from a lineup, but they decided to have me sit with the lieutenant and a few officers in the lobby. About 10 minutes pass and a guy not involved in the crime walks in the station, looks at me, and pulls out a big wad of cash. Everyone asks me how much was stolen, the new guy counts it up and hands me the cash, and they send me on my way. Hahaha. I figure this is what tourists feel like when they get scammed by those people selling fake tickets outside the empire state building.

JP: How did the military presence in Egypt impact you? 

VJ: There was always tension in the air. It felt as if something could go down at any minute.Military turrets hanging from walls with armed soldiers, police checkpoints, even the security guards at the Egyptian Museum had semi-automatic pistols. I was only living in Cairo for a month. I can’t imagine what it was like to live through the past seven years since the Revolution.

JP: How does that influence the current bodies of work you are creating?

VJ: Seeing and touching hieroglyphics at Karnak and Luxor Temple, sneaking into locked tombs in the Valley of the King’s; I was visually and spiritually stimulated. I needed to look at the art of the ancient Egyptians in order to learn how to properly compose a story made from symbols. It especially influenced my piece “L.L.V.”

JP: How does your interest in ancient civilizations and human history inform your work?

VJ: I think that for the past 300,000 years we’ve been trying to solve for X; searching for objectivity in metaphorical truth and metaphors in objective truth observed in the world around us. Sadly, along with the vast journey of mankind, we’ve made huge mistakes that still traumatize us to this day.

JP: Where do you see art/culture going?

VJ: I see art opening up, art becoming more accessible, and the world becoming closer.

JP: What are your motives in art and the world as a whole?

VJ: If it’s attainable, I want to become one of the greatest artist’s of all time. I don’t say this with the intention to have an orgy in my own vanity. I want to add to the art historical conversation of the greats that came before me and the ones that are my contemporaries. I want to find and showcase the harmonies I see in cultures, histories, and people from around the world to effect the present so that hopefully 300 years from now we won’t still be dealing with the arbitrary divisions we currently draw between ourselves with racism, classism, and nationalism. I have a lot of work to do to reach this goal not only in developing my art but also in activism. This journey will take time and experiences I have not gone through yet. It will require having a larger platform to speak from, community projects based around the world, the construction of eco-friendly monuments that express these ideals, and having open dialogues with students at schools around the globe.

I believe this is a vision of the future worth fighting for, and even if I don’t complete my mission, I hope to at least change the world in a positive way during my lifetime. Call it romantic, call it dreaming; I don’t care.  I’m excited to see what we all can do in the next 100 years to make the world a better, more friendly, and exciting place for us and the life forms we share this planet with.

 

 

 

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The day Heathcote didn’t show… (a ‘thank you’ note)

 “A ball is cued from a corner…”

 

(In June, 2015, I sent Heathcote a friend request, via Facebook, with the following message: “I’ve been your friend since performing in AC/DC [in 1980]”. To my surprise, H accepted the request, and sent me a link to Stop the War Coalition. Two days later, I corrected my original message, as the year was 1981, not 1980. I also added, “I popped into the Open Head Press that year”. Below is the tale of that visit (before, during and after), and of Heathcote’s subsequent influence on and in my life.)

Prelude

Towards the end of 1980, I was asked to play the part of Perowne, in Heathcote Williams’ AC/DC. At the time, I was a mature student at the University of Warwick, and the production was part of the Warwick University Drama Society’s programme for term two of the academic year. The director had once worked as a journalist (with Time Out, as I recall), and he’d seen the play, or so I assumed, while in London. A fellow mature student, he enthusiastically ‘sold’ both the play, and the writer to me (a writer I’d never heard of). To further reinforce his advocacy of Heathcote, he lent me a rather tattered copy of a pamphlet edition of H’s poems, which contained – amongst other things – I Will Not Pay Taxes (which made me smile).

As soon as I received Calder Playscript 63, I sat down in the Green Room of the Theatre Studies Department (Theatre Studies was my degree subject), and began to read. To be perfectly honest, I was taken aback, thoroughly confused, and damned scared. What the hell had I agreed to, I wondered? The post-Hippie patois threw me completely, Perowne’s opening speech seemed incomprehensible, and I assumed the final page of ‘text’ was some kind of authorial gag: a hieroglyphic joke at the actor’s expense. However, the director was so insistent, as regards the writer’s genius, I read the piece again… and then again… and then again… and then again. After a couple of hours, I realised that AC/DC was quite extra-ordinary, absolutely unique, and the most ‘vital’ play I’d ever encountered. If anyone had entered the Green Room by the time I’d devoured the script for the fourth or fifth time, they’d have witnessed me, curled up in one of the fake leather, green chairs, with an idiot grin on my face. I felt privileged, and very excited.

Rehearsals began in the January of 1981. They were bloody hard work physically – and trying to remember Heathcote’s peculiarly constructed, densely packed lines was a fucking nightmare. There were a number of altercations between the actor playing Maurice  and other members of the cast, as well as several verbal assaults on the rather timid stage manager. In retrospect, I think the cast member concerned felt he was acting in accordance with the overall thrust of the play, via its attack on the status quo and its power to invisibly control non-conformist behaviour. He was damned determined to challenge anyone and everyone who attempted to impose their agenda on him. However, since psychic capitalism, and not power per se, was the target of Heathcote’s ire, his (the actor’s) tantrums were wide of the mark.     Fortunately, in the end, the sheer effort of staging the production wore everyone down, and the deliberately contentious confrontations stopped.

Two weeks before the opening night, the production manager, another mature student, announced she’d contacted the Open Head Press, via its office in Blenheim Crescent, in London, with a view to meeting the elusive author. I had no idea why she wanted to meet Heathcote, or why she thought it might be especially beneficial to our production. When she asked me to accompany her, I wasn’t too keen, since, in my own mind, I knew what the play was ‘saying’, and I’d already found my own solution to Perowne’s final speech*. However, given it was a potentially interesting trip to the big city, and possibly included a physically intimate mini-liason (given the PM’s unsubtle hints), I agreed to go. Thus it was we made our way to London, heading for a cheap hotel, not far from Portobello Road.

Poor Richard Adams…

The evening before our supposed meeting with the author, I shared an energetic, somewhat uninhibited few hours, accompanied by several bottles of lubricatory red plonk. When morning arrived, the last thing I wanted to do was traipse around to Blenheim Crescent, but the PM was grimly determined. We left the hotel room in a bit of a bloody state, however, since, unbeknown to either of us, her period had begun at some point during the evening. I was a little embarrassed, and rather concerned to straighten the bedding, at least, but was informed that was the cleaner’s job: “She’s paid to do it, after all” – a rather snooty attitude, which pissed me off.

When we finally arrived at the scruffy front door of the Open Head Press building, at about 10.30, I could see that my colleague was underwhelmed, to say the least. As we made our way up the uncarpeted, wooden staircase to the first floor – a staircase dangerously littered with piles of papers and boxes – she said something along the lines of “they could at least have tidied the place up”, almost as if our visit was of the utmost importance. Although her comment made me smile, I was nonetheless beginning to worry about what lay behind the office door. Following her tap-tapping, we were ushered into a ramshackle, tiny space, crammed from floor to ceiling (or so it seemed) with even more piles of papers and boxes, and, perched behind the single desk, back to the window, the figure of Richard Adams, Heathcote’s collaborator on assorted projects, and a gifted graphic designer and illustrator in his own right. When he introduced himself to the PM, I was half-afraid she’d mistake him for the author of Watership Down. Fortunately, she didn’t, and we were asked to make ourselves comfortable on the only two chairs we could find, at the opposite side of Richard’s desk, as we prepared  for Heathcote’s ‘any time soon’ arrival. The walls of the office were covered with posters and magazine covers, all of which (I guessed) were the work of R and H. The one poster, in particular, caught my eye. Set against an image of a nuclear mushroom cloud, were the figures of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Protruding from Reagan’s crotch was a cruise missile, with Thatcher’s opened mouth in close proximity. The poster’s caption read: “If you swallow this, you’ll swallow anything”. I gathered it had been designed for a CND campaign, in the light of American nuclear missiles being sited at Greenham Common. Unfortunately, due to a certain  queasiness – even cowardice – on the part of CND, it was never used. A great pity, I thought, since it made its point with razor-sharp clarity (and it was witty, too). In one corner of the room sat an old-fashioned printing press, and the desk contained a clunky-looking answer-phone and, I think, a typewriter.

As we waited, it seemed fairly obvious (to me, at least), that Richard was ill-prepared for the visit, and, despite his good manners, probably just wanted to get on with whatever work he had to do that particular morning. However, in my colleague’s mind, we were there on a mission, and she was going to wait, irrespective of any awkwardness in the atmosphere. And wait we did. After half an hour of time-filling chit-chat, Richard decided to give Heathcote a ring, via the rather old-fashioned answer phone. When he finally replied, Heathcote sounded tired and disgruntled. Whether he actually knew anything about the visit of two students to the office was a debatable point. However, he promised to do his best to make it in, as soon as possible, and, for the time being, that was that. Utterly oblivious, or so it seemed, to Richard’s discomfiture (and my growing  sense of unease), the PM continued to talk: idle chat, which filled the vacuum with so much hot air. After a further half-hour, we were joined, albeit briefly, by John Michell (I think), the author who brought the study of Astro-Archaeology into the mainstream. Since neither of us knew who he was, we kept quiet, while he and Richard exchanged a few pleasantries. Another thirty minutes or so of aimless, polite talk went by, when – following a particularly noisy ascent of the staircase – the door was thrown open in dramatic style by the obviously drunk and/or stoned figure of the actor, Peter Firth. My knowledge of British actors was limited, to say the least, but the PM almost exploded with excitement. “It’s Peter Firth, it’s Peter Firth!”. It was at this moment I began to realise why she’d wanted to come and meet Heathcote in the first place. In her mind, he was a kind of ‘celebrity’, since, as a published, performed playwright, he was more famous than the  average man in the street. The fact that it was perfectly obvious – via AC/DC (which the PM had watched in rehearsal dozens of times), and by H’s seemingly deliberate low public profile – that he had no wish to be identified as such, and had little truck with such stupidities, seemed to have passed her by completely. And when she asked Peter Firth for his autograph, like a child would a pre-pubescent pop star, my heart sank as I curled up with embarrassment. It was surely time to leave, before further humiliation in front of the real subject of her projected adulation.

As the slurry, cherubic, grinning Peter Firth made his (noisy) descent down the stairs, I suggested that maybe – just maybe – it was time for us to go. But my colleague was having none of it, and she asked Richard to call Heathcote again. I think the look on Richard’s face suggested that that wasn’t such a good idea, and if he’d been anything other than a charming, polite man, he might just have told her to fuck off. But – ‘phone again he did. This time, when Heathcote replied, he sounded rather tetchy – understandably – and simply said he’d be in when he could. In other words, he had no intention whatsoever of playing along with the game initiated by, dragged out by, my extremely insensitive colleague. She finally – finally! – got the point, and we made ready to leave. Given that neither Richard nor Heathcote seemed to know anything about our visit, I began to suspect that the PM had somehow found the address of the Open Head Press (via the publisher, John Calder, perhaps), and simply decided to show up and bluff her way through the entire thing. Or maybe someone else had been in the OHP office, and encouraged the visit, as a bit of a practical joke at Heathcote’s expense, knowing how much he loathed the awful business of celebrity culture? Either way, it was pretty much a waste of everyone’s time and effort, and I felt especially sorry for poor Richard Adams. Even as we left, he remained friendly and helpful, as he handed me a ‘goody bag’ of assorted radical magazines (IT, OZ, Suck, The Fanatic) and posters. “You might enjoy these”, he said, with a conspiratorial grin. He was right. I did.

The tainted air of London…

By the time we arrived back on the streets, it was early afternoon. The tainted air of London stank of alcohol, cigarettes and petrol. I hated the bloody place at the best of times, and my colleague’s pushy behaviour had made me feel rather uncomfortable. I think she was vaguely aware of this, and suggested we might go to a show later that evening, as a way of placating me. Was there anything I fancied? There was: Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist at Wyndham’s Theatre, with the wonderful Belt & Braces Company (under the direction of Gavin Richards). That was quickly agreed upon, which left us several hours to kill. So, we wandered around the vicinity of the Portobello Road, and visited a couple of record shops. I managed to buy  three early Peter Hammill albums, which pleased me, and then we collected the car, and drove into the West End. Following a meal of some description (I forget what), we arrived at the theatre just in time, and had to find our seats in the dark. When the lights came up at the end of Part One (which was everything I hoped it would be), I noticed a familiar-looking head of white hair a couple of rows in front of me. The head in question belonged to a friend of mine from school; a friend by the name of Max, who I’d not seen for several years. In order to gain his attention, I threw a few Maltesers at him, although (obviously) I could have just called out his name, but I was feeling childish. Besides, Max liked Maltesers, so that was fine. We enjoyed a lengthy chat during the interval, and agreed to stay in touch. My take on this particular coincidence was that somehow, Heathcote had waved his magical magic wand, in lieu of turning up that morning, and revealed a gift far more rewarding than a few minutes of his time. A daft conceit on my part, but it put a smile on my face anyway.

At the end of the production, which was a fine example of ‘political theatre’ at its very best, I said goodbye to Max, and then the PM and me headed for the car. She suggested we saw another, late show, and then drove home, or perhaps found a different hotel for the night. Unusually (for me), I declined the implied offer of further fun and frolics for one reason, and one reason only: her high-handed attitude towards the cleaner-cum-chamber maid, re the soiled sheets. My mother earned a few pounds a week cleaning the houses of rich folk in Warwick, and I was well aware of how cross and upset she used to get when she was faced with the most unpleasant of messes; messes she was obliged to clean up, because “she’s paid to do it, after all’. As for seeing another show, I’d had enough of London to last me for at least another year, and just wanted to go back to my flat in Kenilworth. And, to be fair, that’s precisely what my colleague agreed to, without fuss or demur. Thus ended a curious couple of days in the big city. I was relieved, in a way, Heathcote hadn’t showed, since I had nothing to ask him anyway, and I’m sure the PM would have embarrassed herself utterly. It was good to be finally back home, and looking forward to the production. 

Postlude

Prior to AC/DC, I’d played a number of difficult, lengthy parts on stage, but Perowne was the toughest of the lot. Physically draining, and an absolute bugger to learn. However, by the time our run had ended, I realised my brain had been washed, via Heathcote’s mind-cleansing perceptions and visions. Without having to endure the trephining, which Sadie performs on Perowne towards the end of the play, I realised I’d begun to think differently about the way the world and the State worked, and the insidious machinations of the Media, by way of its control and manipulation of all the technological means of communication at its considerable disposal.  

On a more mundane level, the production was successful, in that the Studio Theatre of Warwick University Arts Centre was packed every night, and even the actors from the touring production in the main house (including James Bolam) took to sneaking in for our final half hour, following the curtain on their own show (Shaw’s Arms and the Man). All of which was rather gratifying, of course, but much more important – for me, at least – was the discovery of a provocative, head-spinning, entirely sane, dynamic voice: a genuine free spirit. And once Heathcote was in my system, I knew I was fucked.

From 1981 until the mid-1990’s, I collected everything I could, in book or pamphlet form: The Local Stigmatic, The Speakers, Whale Nation, Sacred Elephant, Autogeddon, Falling for a Dolphin, and so on. I witnessed H’s work, via theatre and television: What the Dickens, Hancock’s Last Half-Hour, The (New) Immortalist, and even a bar-stool monologue, performed by Richard Jobson (barely audible), as part of a Paines Plough Contemporary Writers event. When Heathcote was one of the guests on a late-night Channel 4 discussion programme, concerning whale hunting, I watched the entire three hours, wishing the white hunter would just shut the fuck up, as I marvelled at H’s quiet, dignified responses to this bloodthirsty, macho imbecile. Then there was the witty mockumentary, presented by John Dowie, Every time I cross the Tamar (I get into trouble) – a copy of which I showed to several groups of Theatre students over the course of two or three years, always with the introduction: “This is all about ‘our’ greatest living writer and contrarian – and you’ll have never heard of him”. (Amusingly, when word somehow reached the attention of the college Principal that I was ‘indoctrinating’ my students, via a film celebrating a known Anarchist, I found myself called to his office, in order to explain my reasons. Far from indoctrinating, I told him, I was teaching them (the students) the value of learning to think for themselves. As for the troublesome term, ‘Anarchism’, it simply meant ‘self-governance’. At that point, I was informed I was a round peg in a square hole – which pleased me enormously. I preferred being a circle to a square: circles were somehow never-ending, cyclic, and inextricably connected to the roots of all primal human culture, in the form of shamanic medicine wheels.) In 1991, as part of an Environmentally Aware fortnight, I read (performed) three of Heathcote’s epic poems, and, of course, I also owned a copy of Derek Jarman’s film of The Tempest, with H perfectly cast as Prospero. One way or another, I’d become a Heathcote junkie. If the PM had been interested in meeting the man, I was obsessed with reading the man’s work, and spreading his word.

Between 1996 and 2005, I lost track of life, and was obliged to undergo an extended period of hibernation. When I re-emerged, the world had changed somewhat, and it seemed as if everyone I knew owned a computer, in one form or another. Clearly, I had a lot of catching up to do. However, it wasn’t until late 2011, I noticed, via Facebook, that International Times was available on-line. Naturally enough, I searched for Heathcote’s work, and was rewarded with news of the publication of Forbidden Fruit, a wonderful collection of poems, exploring science and technology. It had occurred to me that, perhaps, as implied by the John Dowie mockumentary, H had stopped writing, and was concentrating instead on sculpture and painting. This was obviously, and mercifully, not the case. I started to ‘follow’ IT, and in June 2015, decided to message Heathcote with a ‘friend’ request. Much to my surprise, he accepted.

A few weeks later, I ordered two of his books from Huxley Scientific Press in Oxford, via Amazon. They arrived within twenty-four hours, so I emailed Eddie Mizzie (from HSP), to express my gratitude for the prompt service. I also attached a poem, It’s a Blast, by way of a ‘thank you’ gift. The following day, Eddie emailed me back, to say that Heathcote had happened to read my piece, and wanted to place it on the IT website – if that was OK with me. After picking myself up off the floor, I confirmed that, yes, of course, it was absolutely OK. And thus, the incomplete line between Heathcote and me finally came full circle. From that point on, until H’s untimely death, we communicated on a fairly regular basis. Without Heathcote’s advocacy, none of my pieces would have seen the light of day, and the fact that he appreciated my work empowered me to spread my creative wings further than I would otherwise have dared. I owed – and owe – the great man an awful lot.

I realise, of course, that the above says more about me, than it says about Heathcote. I never knew him, in the flesh, as a blood and bone creature. On the other hand, I knew him perfectly well, and certainly well enough to feel an enormous sense of personal loss when he died. To be able to paddle in the same waters that Heathcote swam through, is a mighty privilege – enough, at least, to last this man a lifetime. In 1981, he never showed… Except, of course, he did… In a way.  

*My solution to Perowne’s final ‘speech’… In order to return Perowne to “state zero”, Sadie  trephines his scalp, to “correct the mechanism… let in some light”. “It’s a mind-body chakra to get the pineal gland pickin up on cosmic energy of the highest quality…” Once the trephine is removed, “Perowne opens his eyes slowly, raises his head, screams, and then turns and looks around, smiling” –  cunt open to the sun. Obviously, re the hieroglyphs, it was crucial to respond in an appropriate way. By chance (or otherwise), I’d recently read some fragments by Sappho, the 6th/5th century BCE Greek poet, from the Isle of Lesbos. Her voice – sensuous, untainted, alien – seemed to embody the voice I was looking for – so, I contacted a Greek scholar from within the University, and asked her to translate sections of Ode to Aphrodite into the ancient Lesbos dialect. She then wrote them down for me in phonetic English. The fact that I learnt the final speech parrot fashion was beside the point, since I knew exactly what I was saying. As follows:   

Hear anew the voice! O hear and listen!
Come, as in that island dawn thou camest,
Billowing in thy yoked car to Sappho
Forth from thy father’s
Golden house in pity! … I remember:
Fleet and fair thy sparrows drew thee, beating
Fast their wings above the dusky harvests,
Down the pale heavens, lightning anon!
Come again to me! O now! Release me!
End the great pang! And all my heart desireth
Now of fulfillment, fulfill!

 

 

Dafydd Pedr

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Why Socialism?

chalk-drawing-of-albert-einstein

Albert Einstein is the world-famous physicist. This article was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949). It was subsequently published in May 1998 to commemorate the first issue of MR‘s fiftieth year.

The Editors

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: “Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?”

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept “society” means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is “society” which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.

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The Trouble with Wings

 

 

At first

They were just nodules

Protruding from behind his shoulder blades

And after that

The rapid growth of membrane and quill

Was not an unpleasant sensation.

 

But having wings

Can create all kinds of problems:

His wife refused to sleep with him;

He was made suddenly redundant;

Children followed him silently

Through the streets.

 

So he flew

Fishtailing and chandelle

After the wild geese

That drew him with their cadences

As sirens drew sailors towards a promise

They could never keep

Only to return

Hedgehopping

To avoid the guns of frightened farmers

And the cautions of police.

 

Finally, tired and hounded,

He went to a surgeon,

Had his wings removed and burned.

 

Now he’s got a new job

With good prospects for promotion,

Makes love to his wife three times a week

And children no longer regard him with awe

But sometimes

He’ll look up towards the sky

And the flesh

Between his shoulder blades

Will tug and ache.

 

 

Kevin Patrick McCann
Illustration Nick Victor

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THE STUFF THAT DRIFTS ARE MADE OF

                    

 

                                      On a performance of David Bramwell’s Dead Flows the Don,

                 The Horse Hospital, London, Tuesday 13th March 2018, Caught by The River Productions

 

 

As the song forms, the sound is always in tune with the river, its reverberations map closely sound waves in air and on land. Tonight’s performance flows on, collecting myth as it passes, while catching fragments of future along its slow, strange trawl through the past.

David Bramwell’s Dead Flows the Don was first sourced in a Radio 3 documentary in 2017; both an exquisite mapping of the myths and meanings to be found on a time trek down the great river Don, as well as being a perfect excoriation of the struggle that raged between the gods of nature and industry across Sheffield’s trembling borders. Transported between the alternating currents of air and room it achieves an eerie pertinence and a sense of permanence also.  Freed from the commissioners philistinic grip, what began as an exploration of the waters of memory and experience becomes even more mystical, despite being lifted from the realms of audio infused imagination.  Bramwell’s personable voice, flecked with traces of his northern upbringing aligns with the images engendered by a film production team including Daisy Campbell and Simon Wilkinson to make a small scale visual and spoken concerto, enlivened by the beauty of Bramwell’s soundtrack under the guise of his band name, Oddfellow’s Casino. Snatches from their albums Oh, Sealand and The Water Between  Us provide wonderful counter point as semi songs ebb beside and below the sourced black and white images of the neglected river Don, a water source that granted not only Doncaster its name, but which also houses the nomenclature of the mystical goddess of all rivers, Danu, honouring and rippling away from her in time, while still securing her legend, much like Tintagel houses the bearer of excalibur’s ethereal arm.

This special composition of word, sound and image is a homage to Bramwell’s childhood discovery of the forgotten potencies of his foundling land.  Born in Scunthorpe, his family moved to Doncaster in the heat smeared summer of 1976. There is something equally perfect and apposite about the boy David turning to the mystery of the waters in that time of heat and drought and in seeking it he found his own array of answers and mysteriums that not only beguiled the child but led to his current fascination with all things elusive and uncharted.  As broadcaster, writer and musician, Bramwell tackles the abstractions of myth and place alongside their proven depths. He shatters the surface of conventional presentation and perception, loosening all that was real and solid and leasing it unto the drift.  Listening to him, one realises that his life has been one not of monetary privilege but more importantly, of the riches of happenstance, placed and presented by the guiding hands of ancient orders and states. He is a true citizen of both this and an ‘other’, almost unworldly older England, the keeper of unspun glories and forgotten prizes.  And what he reveres so, rewards him. It is there in his dreaming and in the words and music he makes.  ‘There are other lives in the water’, as one of his exquisite, economic and impressionistic lyrics describes, and early on we learn that the rise of Christianity drove the old pagan gods into the rivers.. where they still dwell.  This concept alone is enough to ignite the romance of one’s imagination.  It is, when placed in the spiritual raft Bramwell sets us as attentive audience on, as evocative as the plays of David Rudkin or the tales and stories of Alan Garner.  The performance therefore becomes an uncanny invocation of the river and also a river itself.

The notion of a forgotten and neglected river instantly humanises the Don and affords the piece’s title tragedy’s full value. After consultation with the great Alan Moore as modern culture’s Wizard in Chief, Bramwell learns of the patriarchy of fire and industry when set against the femininity of mythologies and water, the true fuel for any and all forming states. Investigating further he visits his friend Anwen, a witch of Sheffield who reveals the statue of the god Vulcan placed at the tip of a Steeple on Sheffield Town Hall. His grasping of thunderbolts and hammer reflect the battery of all that was natural and fundamental to man in and of the north’s sense of place and identity. A voice sample of an old coal miner reveals how flame’s empowerment killed the area’s true mystical lifeblood, namely the river Don itself, literally stoning it to death in order to create bricked paths and named walkways where shopping plunders the encrusted heart of life’s pulse.

The boy Bramwell finds a broken cup by the side of the river on one of his early bicycle graced expeditions and offers it to the Don as his first act of worship. On returning to the start of the stream as an adult, after his mystical consultations, he finds the same cup, (photographed and documented) as if waiting for him, the key to unlocking an ages old mystery and so he casts it once more into the water as he begins his forty mile pilgrimage from Sheffield to source, charting the progress of the very waters he treasures and in doing so, restoring them. The act of walking becomes active time travel. Primed by the powers of ancient magic and its current practitioners the seeker, informed and supported perhaps by a convenient trio of Campbells (Joseph, Ken, Daisy) allows himself to drift far away from his own concerns and back towards those that affect us all, or rather would, if we only allowed them to.

It is common practise these days to witness self serving recitals of memoir and reflection. Tainted by celebrity we learn nothing of any importance and they serve only to lower us.  Bramwell elevates all he comes into contact with, for as he walks he considers the theories and connections of landscape, an areas’ true populace. We are the stuff that is drifting across it. We are the flotsam. We are the dust in its eye. What Bramwell offers and sees with his thirst for knowledge, is a culture of fire which has had its true colours scorched. Such stretches of water are veins and the connecting heart, long diminished is the founding muscle whose chambers are all myth infused.  We  once had a truly magical land, irrespective of whether it was a matter of fact or fiction, as all that was pagan actively called for it. The characters and the echoes that peopled this magic are now barely name checked. Bramwell in his celebrations deigns to meet them head on.  His day dream can be shared in and around and through music. Thanks to what is played,placed, presented and beautifully paced, we are shown that person and place was once the source of religion.  The gods of water and nature were reflections of all of the lost gods in us.

Bramwell’s life has been formed by a series of visual and sonic echoes.  The synchronicities charted in his seminal memoir The Haunted Moustache exemplify that. Dead Flows the Don reveals an autobiography of the soul, first glimpsed as a young child and unravelled by chance and instinct. The example of a starting image of two water towers, each prisons of flow, grants release.

Dead Flows The Don is a form of visual music, with music. It ebbs, flows and alters. It ascends and reflects.  It drenches us all on dry land as an enraptured crowd showed this evening.  For its full fifty minutes no real imposition was heard.  At one point a glass fell. The concerto kept flowing. It had harnessed the power and the rising wave in all there.

This is art. This was life.  And this is what art should be, always. By invoking the past, it makes futures and yet the tastefulness shown and the mystic also contain comedy. Bramwell’s writing has depth rivering away like soft water, but also has a chattiness to it, a need to belong and enthuse. He never lectures us, just provokes our empathy and subsequent understanding. We want to walk with him and to even live as he’s lived. His mistakes become part of his rewards and achievement.  He is a land and word swimmer, the sounds above air, shapes in shade. But he also completes the bargain of art offered and made for those buying. Share in this you’ll grow richer. You need only to drift. Time is tide.

As he reaches the source of the Don, Bramwell joins with the river. He offers himself to the water and the reeds of the stream are Danu’s. Her hair joins with his as Bramwell fuses with water and water’s story.  He reaches the heart of it, blood and water,  both doing the same; life is fuelled.

In the morning he wakes. From dark shades of the past to new colour. Safe, and regifted, he hungrily walks back to town.  He moves across the pennines and celebrates the new journey. At the first open village he finds a cafe and cave that’s called arse. From the ethereal back to earth, the freedom to drift takes in Crowely; the ultimate drifter, sliding between the diabolic and darkened, differing states of the real.

Back in Sheffield the closed mine is now an adventure style playground. By the neglected riverside there are fig trees, the fruit of the former miner’s spat pips. Where once they chewed to feel sweet amidst the murk they created the first source has blossomed and is kissing time back through the soil.  From the workers’ throats are spat songs, a singing that stremmed from the sad lack of pride in the surroundings that had once held such power.  Subconsciously, they return it to a new and lasting shade of green.  The spoken word becomes song and now the river itself begins singing.  It is a remarkable end to a transcendant performance.  David Bramwell delivers with commitment and poise all we need.

Dead Flows the Don until those the Don lost revive worship.  It is only then that new  waters will start guiding us back through old drifts.

 

 

 

                            

                                                                                 David Erdos 14th March 2018

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HOW IT ALL ENDS

 

I am reading a book about a Pakistani who is coming to terms with himself. He has worked in America and been paid well, but has now come home, post 9/11, having realised how his adopted country treats others.

 

And another novel about Prague, as authority re-asserts control after the Velvet Revolution, the Berlin Wall comes down, and Europe finds itself a different map to navigate by.

 

We are all afraid of the future.

 

I am getting used to being poor.

 

 

© Rupert M Loydell
Illustration Nick Victor

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The Beholder

The Beholder 1983 Chris Sullivan from chris sullivan animation on Vimeo.

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Dj-ing….

Playing tracks by

The Continuous Battle of Order, Tau Cross, The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol, 3AM, Travelling Wave and more.

Ian Robertson (Chromaticism) returns with another epic instalment of Chromaticism’s – ‘Revolutions On The Radio’. Originally broadcast at 9PM UK on Sunday 23rd October 2016, only on Primal Radio www.primalradiolive.com.

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An Interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky

Buy High, Sell Cheap:

By

Still from El Topo, written, directed, scored, and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky.

 

For more than half a century, Alejandro Jodorowsky has been revered as a master of the surreal—a puppeteer of grotesque fantasy and psychedelic excess. In 1962, he became one of the founders of the Panic Movement in Paris; an avant-garde art collective inspired by Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, the group staged extremely violent theatrical “happenings” meant to shock and repel. At the 1968 premiere of Jodorowsky’s first feature-length film, Fando y Lis, a riot broke out. The film was later banned in Mexico for its brutal violence and graphic sexual content. He went on to become a cult figure of American counterculture with his films El topo (1970), The Holy Mountain (1973), and later, Santa sangre (1989). A falling out with his financial backer resulted in the former two films being embargoed for nearly three decades. Their recirculation, along with the 2013 release of the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune and The Dance of Reality—Jodorowsky’s first film after a twenty-three-year hiatus—restored the filmmaker as a figure of mass worship and fascination.

When I encountered Jodorowsky, a wild filmmaker with the mischievous eyes, he seemed more tranquil than I’d expected him to be. I interviewed the now eighty-nine-year-old artist in March of 2015 around the English-language publication of his book Where the Bird Sings Best. The fictionalized autobiography tells the story of his Jewish family’s emigration from Ukraine to Chile and the impact of this history on his own coming-of-age. The book served as the basis for Dance of Reality and his most recent film, Endless Poetry. In both the film and the book, Jodorowsky turns his surrealist wand away from the allegorical figures of his past work toward the members of his own family, spinning them into characters of mythic proportions. They’re over-the-top fairy tales so full of light and sentimentality that they’re almost hard to reconcile with the violent angst of Fando y Lis.

We spoke on Skype in Spanish for more than an hour. I was in New York, he was in Paris. I told him my parents were Soviet Jewish refugees and that questions of inherited memory preoccupy me, too, and we talked of how family stories from our past inform our identity, how we reshape and retell those stories. I worried my questions were too personal—more about his own family history and less about the films that had made him a legend—but he responded ecstatically, his voice often rising to a giddy high-pitched tone, and he laughed constantly.

About an hour into our conversation, Jodorowsky’s wife, Pascale, interrupted to remind him he had to go soon. He asked if there was anything else I needed to know, anything at all. When we ended our conversation, he forgot to hang up the call. I could hear him walk away and exclaim, with childlike joy, “She was a Jew!” I sat and listened to the rustlings of their domesticity. After about ten minutes, they continued into the next room, and I could no longer hear their voices. The house eventually fell silent. 

What follows is a translation of our conversation. 

INTERVIEWER

Your book Where the Bird Sings Best was first published in Spanish in the nineties, is that right?

JODOROWSKY

Yes. It was published during the surge of interest in Latin American folkloric novels like One Hundred Years of Solitude and the novels of Vargas Llosa. But because my novel discusses Jewish ancestry, it has no nationality. Nor was it in the vein of magical realism that was popular at the time. I wrote realistic magic. Where the Bird Sings Best wasnt immediately appreciated, so I put it aside to write other books, like Psychomagic, Metageneologytherapeutic books.

INTERVIEWER

Is this the first time youve dealt with explicitly Jewish themes? Youve used religious iconography in your films, though they come more from Catholicism and other spiritual practices.

JODOROWSKY

Yes. My father hid that he was Jewish. He never signed his full name, Jaime Jodorowsky, just Jaime. He disguised himself as a Russian and never told me that I was Jewish until it became clear to me around the age of thirteen or fourteen, when I started being bullied at school. Chile at that time was split half in favor of the Allies and half in favor of the Nazis. I never had a Jewish education or a Bar Mitzvah, never celebrated the holidays. My father hid all that from me. I always felt an absence of nationality and never had something of my own, a place that belonged to me. So I took it upon myself to write this novel.

INTERVIEWER

Was there a moment that inspired you to explore your Jewishness?

JODOROWSKY

It was part of the process of searching for myself, searching for my identity. My father was an atheist and a Stalinist. He was a businessman who didnt believe in culture. I didnt have any kind of metaphysical aspirin, nothing to calm the anxiety of being mortal. I looked for teachers of all kinds, and finally I found a Zen monka Japanese monk with whom I meditated for five years. I also discovered I had Jewish origins and began to study Kabbalah and the Torah. If you want to know where youre going, you have to know where you come from. I had to return to all of this to understand why my father was the way he was, why my mother was the way she was, both of them trying to survive in a country that didnt want them. I decided to confront who I was.

INTERVIEWER

And having confronted your past, having immersed yourself in your practice of Zen, then tarot and psychomagicwere there specific elements of this Jewish religious or cultural history that resonated with you?

JODOROWSKY

Look, when I was four, my father told me I would die someday and that there never was nor ever could be a God. When I began to explore religion, religious Jews seemed extremely intelligent but with a tremendous mystical madness based exclusively in language and in Kabbalah. That I came from a universe of madmen, of men who were mad with God, thats what drew my attention. When I began to study tarot, I discovered that there are twenty-two Major Arcana cards, like the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Tarot had a lot to do with Kabbalah, with Jewish tradition, but it was a world without the religious insanity.

INTERVIEWER

In the prologue to your book, you write, While all the characters, places, and events in this book are real, the chronological order has been altered. This reality was further transformed and magnified until it achieved the status of myth. Our family tree is the trap that limits our thoughts, emotions, desires, and material life, but it is also the treasure that captures the greater part of our values. Aside from being a novel, this book may, if it is successful, serve as an example that all readers can follow and, if they exercise forgiveness, they too can transform family memory into heroic legend.What has transforming family memory into legend given you? What was this process like?

JODOROWSKY

You begin meditating and you see how far youve come. You see to what degree you love yourself, to what level youve arrived mentally and spiritually. You say to yourself, The best that Ive achieved, everything Ive been able to transcend, my ancestors also could have arrived at this level of transcendence because they, too, were human beings, but they didnt get there. Its all a long story of couples searching for one another, searching for love, searching for security, searching for peace, searching for self-actualization and not finding it. So I have to give all the characters in my family tree the same spiritual level that I myself have been able to attain. For example, in the book, Teresa, my paternal grandmother who became fed up with God, ends up falling in love with an ape-man. She discovers the wonder of falling in love. I give her the love that she never actually had. I free her from this Jewish tradition and I put her in another onein an encounter with a more animalistic reality. I give my family members what they never had. I meditate on what it was exactly that they could have achieved and never did, and I give it to them. I imagine it. The imagining functions as a cure. This artistic process changed my life because I discovered my world. My world has a foundation now. I dont hide being Jewish anymore. Im not ashamed to talk about it now. And yet from the age of thirteen or fifteen, until about forty years later, I never talked about it. Its a very powerful neurosisto not know where one came from and not love what one was. The family tree is what one was. Its important to recognize it head-on and love it.

INTERVIEWER

Is there a difference between using your imagination to fill in your family history and using it in your films, where youre supposedly dealing with fictitious characters?

JODOROWSKY

Each art has its own rules and different forms, nothing more. All art consists of the same contenta human being expressing himself. The difference is only in the form, the content is all the same. All of my work consists of works of initiation. Its the complete opposite of Shakespeare.

INTERVIEWER

How do you mean?

JODOROWSKY

Take Hamlet, for example. Hamlet doesnt change, and at the end, he dies like an idiot. Don Quixote de la Mancha continues being Don Quixote until the end of the book. In these books, theres no development in the characters, no spiritual development. Whats the point of all these classics if a person cannot change? The universe is changing, the universe is expanding. Everything is constantly changing. So when a human being remains unchanged, like a rock, clinging to what he or she is throughout an entire lifetime, its a tragedy. A human being has to be fluid, changing, expanding, developing, and at any given moment, has to ask, Why am I suffering? Why does this bother me? Why am I searching for something? Why do I hate such and such thing? Why cant I forgive and why cant I liberate myself from this? All of my work is that, its the development of a character who slowly but surely expands, self-actualizes, and reaches a higher spiritual level. My characters obtain wisdom. To arrive at such wisdom is to arrive at the joy of living.

INTERVIEWER

Would you agree that the journey toward self-actualization in your work is almost always connected with ones parents? The son in El topo has to bury the photo of his mother before he can become a man. Fando, in Fando y Lis, also has to bury his mother.

JODOROWSKY

Your question makes me laugh. We are born from a father and a motheryour life is formed by a father who has intercourse with your mother, and youre born. Life wants to reproduce itself. Life has, I think, two major motivating principles. One is material and the other spiritual. The material motive is to reproduce, to be immortal. To live as long as the universe by reproducing. And the other motive is to create consciousness. We reproduce in order to create a consciousness. Our mind is a wonder. Its something miraculous, incredible.

INTERVIEWER

Your work often raises the question of what differentiates humans from animals. Why does that interest you?

JODOROWSKY

Humans are animals! Our body is animal. How could animals not be present? But art needs contrasts in order to exist. It requires conflict. Violence exists in my art as part of a process that later produces peace, actualization. Bad art uses violence solely for the sake of distracting the viewer or the reader, which is to say it enacts a violence that gives pleasure. Heroes with pistols in hand, kicking one another, robbing, murdering, rapingthis isnt sacred violence. Even in the Bible, there are scenes that include daughters who sleep with their fathers in order to become impregnated, brothers who kill one another, et cetera. There are terrible things in the Bible, but theyre necessary in order to provide a contrast. If there isnt contrast, there isnt creation.

INTERVIEWER

Has your view of the animalistic aspect of human beings, our ability to do physical harm to one another, changed over time?

JODOROWSKY

I think animals are wonderful! I couldnt live without a cat. My cat is a wonder. I love animals. So the animalistic human, the human as animal, is not an aggressive beastits something wonderful.

INTERVIEWER

Can you pinpoint a particular reason for taking this long to stop creating stories based on archetypes of sons and parents and finally start dealing with your parents and your own story?

JODOROWSKY

I waited until I could forgive them. It took me a long time to forgive them. If your parents havent fulfilled what they were supposed to, you have a right not to love them, not to see them. You have the right to free yourself and have your own life. But even if you live your own life, all of this will remain inside of you. You have to come to terms with what you carry inside of you, make it yours, absorb it. In the film Im making right now, I thank my father for all that he gave me. Everything he gave me is everything he didnt give me. Thanks to him, I was able to discover mysticism, because my father never gave me that. I was able to discover humanity, because my father never gave me humaneness. Thanks to my mother who didnt know how to love me, I finally discovered how to love a woman. It took me seventy years to find the love of my life! If I am born into this body, I have to self-actualize. It has taken me awhile, but Im getting there. Look, Im eighty-six years old and only recently was able to make a film where my father transforms into a hero at the end.

INTERVIEWER

And how does that come about?

JODOROWSKY

Because I forgive him over time, I show him how to become a hero. Its an artistic creation, a very important one for me. And for everyone. Because who doesnt have problems with their parents?

INTERVIEWER

(Laughter)

JODOROWSKY

Who doesnt have them?

INTERVIEWER

(Laughter) Its true. Having created a work of art out of all of this, does it feel like youve reached an end goal, or was this just another part of the healing process?

JODOROWSKY

Look, I was born an artist. I have an imagination, I can do any kind of art. That was my calling. For better or worse, I am an artist. So I create art. The bird sings, but no one teaches it to sing. I make art because it is essential for me.

INTERVIEWER

What was your trajectory as an artist before the publication of this book in English and the release of your two most recent films?

JODOROWSKY

I suffered and I suffered. For my father, all artists were pansies. He was a businessman who taught me two things—God doesnt exist and buy cheap, sell high. So I told myself, Im going to buy high, sell cheap. At around seventeen, I sat down behind an old typewriter and wrote a poem. I immediately became encircled by friends, I became the new Rimbaud. Then I studied Expressionist dance, then puppetry, marionettes, and theater. I discovered I wanted to do pantomime. At twenty-three, I had a large theater company in Chile. Then I went to Paris. In Paris, I studied and wrote pantomimes for Marcel Marceau. I directed Maurice Chevalier. I joined the Surrealists. I studied philosophy at the Sorbonne. I did whatever I wanted. Always creating, moving forward and creating. Then I created the Panic Movement and performed the happening.In Mexico, I revolutionized the theater, directing more than a hundred plays in ten years. And thats that. Ive done a lot. I make comics, too.

INTERVIEWER

What drew you to theater?

JODOROWSKY

Theater is heroic. It disappears. You put on a play and it disappears. Nothing remains. You work while the ecstasy lasts and when it ends, its over. It doesnt enter into history. Only the memory remains for the few people who saw it, nothing more.

INTERVIEWER

How does film compare?

JODOROWSKY

Theater is an urban ritual. Film is a global ritual. Theater is a momentary ritual in the present. Film lasts for a long time. It persists, leaves a trace. Theater happens for a city. Film happens for the planet. The world of theater is limited because of live actors. But film has everything. Its the most complete form of art that exists.

INTERVIEWER

But theyre both dreams. Its all artifice, and we all know it.

JODOROWSKY

Its art! Of course, theater is flesh and bone. And film is light, all light.

INTERVIEWER

In your film Dance of Reality, you chose not to hide the artifice. The actress who plays your mother is clearly wearing a wig, theres dubbing when she sings

JODOROWSKY

All art asks, What is art? And “What is film?” is the theme of all film. I dont want to drive the viewer crazy trying to convince him that this is reality. The viewer isnt watching a reality, he or she is watching a film. Film is unreal. But within that unrealityits like a sculpture. You dont paint a sculpture the color of flesh, you dont make it breathe artificially. Thats what realist film does. Its a plaster sculpture, painted the color of flesh, with artificial breathing. My film is something else.

INTERVIEWER

Do you feel you have a greater ability to control details when you are directing a movie as opposed to when you are writing?

JODOROWSKY

You have a menu of expression in film. But now its a more limited menu because its so expensive. When you create an image, you have to think about how much it coststhats the main limitation in film. Youre forced to become a businessman.

INTERVIEWER

So you dont think the director has that much freedom.

JODOROWSKY

I have freedom as a director because I make cine de autor. But now there are very few filmmakers of that kind because you dont make any money. Film today is a business. Its industrialized.

INTERVIEWER

Endless Poetry is a continuation of Dance of Reality, and we see members of your own family once again playing various roles of other members of your family, yes?

JODOROWSKY

We move from Tocopilla to Santiago. My father had a store in a working-class neighborhood. The film tells the story of how I got out of there, how I wrote my first poem, and how thanks to that poem, I got out of this commercial environment. I lived in front of the train line. Every Saturday, a drunk worker was killed by the train while crossing the tracks. So I wanted to tell the story of how I gradually found myself surrounded by artists, poets, and how I was freed by art.

INTERVIEWER

What is it like seeing your son play the role of your father?

JODOROWSKY

It was very interesting for him and for me. I try to avoid using movie stars in my filmsI try to use people who are not actors so its more realistic. In this film, there is a character who is an old, eighty-five-year-old artist who has a platonic love affair, and I got the great Nobel-nominated, Syrian poet Adonis to play the part. I want the artist that I portray to be a real poet, a real artist. Im looking for reality through film. I have a tarot reader who dances tarot, so I cast the famous dancer Carolyn Carson. I dont like movie stars because they always play the same part. I want viewers to be watching performers who actually are what they are in real life.

INTERVIEWER

You want to depict something more than pure ego.

JODOROWSKY

Exactly, more than ego. Im not interested in showing someones ego on screen.

INTERVIEWER

Has the weight of memory, of your familys past, become lighter for you now that youve made it into art?

JODOROWSKY

It has become something wonderful. The artist transforms into his own artwork. And in the process your perception changes, your relationships

INTERVIEWER

You feel liberated.

JODOROWSKY

I see it in my dreams. I used to have tremendous dreams, with monsters and stuff, nightmares. Now I have the most delightful dreams. They teach me things. I create art, learn, read tarot. I enjoy myself. My dead come back to visit me, I speak with them. Your inner life becomes so pleasant when youve worked on yourself. Its a long process, but its so worth it. You begin discovering sublime feelingslove, generosity. You discover compassion, humanity. All of this exists, but we believe it doesnt exist. And slowly over time you start to discover it. To the point that I cant eat chicken anymore! When a plate of chicken arrives on the table, I feel bad for the chicken. 

INTERVIEWER

You feel yourself one with all beingsanimals, humans 

JODOROWSKY

Yes! The poor little animals we eat make me feel bad. And Pascale, my wife, is much younger than I am. Shes in good health and shes a carnivore. So we have two menus! She eats steak and I eat rice!

INTERVIEWER

But youre happy.

JODOROWSKY

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I want to live as fully as possible. In the morning, I wake up and I say to myself, How wonderful! One more day. Whatever will be will be, but its a wonder to be alive. Its wonderful to grow old on the outside but not on the inside. Its wonderful! Its incredible to be alive. Im going to try to live as long as possible.

INTERVIEWER

Thats fantastic. And maybe youll give us more works of art to enjoy?

JODOROWSKY

Whatever is possible! Whatevers possible, I intend to do it. Your questions were very pleasant.

INTERVIEWER

Perhaps we didnt speak enough about your career.

JODOROWSKY

People want to talk about life, not always the same thing over and over.

INTERVIEWER

You mean youve had enough talk of your films?

JODOROWSKY

Too much. Im tired of all that now.

 

Elianna Kan is an editor, translator, and literary agent who lives in New York and Mexico City. She teaches literary translation at Columbia University. 

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Gateway to Europe

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The Limits of Control – A Spanish Digression

The disused frontier post at Col du Pourtalet in April 2011, 25 years after I might have passed.
(Image: Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

Chernobyl went up and I only knew by chance. Two or three days had already passed. This was urgent headline news. We weren’t just being rained on, but irradiated – though from a later fallout plot[i], not only was I luckier than most of Europe but better off than if I’d been at home.

How much and yet how little the world has changed since 1986. Not that I’d know the latest news now – not if I was trying to travel. Isn’t real travel about disconnection from the familiar? How much harder it must be nowadays. “No mobiles!” Says Issach de Bankole, the self-possessed hitman in Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control (2009) – and getting rid of mobiles would be the first requirement for real travel.

But perhaps most travellers prefer to arrive? Hence the subsidised disaster of air travel. If we had to pay what flight really costs, only a handful of fat cats – conscience naturally burnt-out – could afford it. A mild form of suspended animation, air travel makes everywhere like everywhere else. Who can be blamed for wanting to arrive? After one or other interchangeable coma, at journey’s end, a thin backscene buckles or shines under a dissimilar humidity: hotter and more exotic; colder and bracing . . . and maybe a hire-car will flatter the tourist they’re a traveller? How can this prescription, the all-too-widely beaten tracks, be escaped or subverted? Only by how we look at the world? Is it possible to get by with open-eyed trust, or failing that, with determination? Can we bear to leave the controlling custody of technological connectivity behind?

Re-watching The Limits of Control recently, there was plenty of time to reflect on such questions. Perhaps the Jarmusch film that gives freest rein for speculative or lateral thinking, The Limits of Control, flirts with the idea of travel but often finds itself in ersatz places of the perfect sort to illustrate the tendency towards homogenisation and the fade from reality. Between bland, tourist voids, occasionally a truer life haunts grubbier graffitied streets or explodes from bizarre architecture. And behind it all, is the vast outback of Spain, the mountains and deserts.

But comfort has become our decadence: the call of fluffy towels and hot showers; the standard coffee bars and restaurants; even the naked femme fatales without a sting! Don’t get me wrong, I love the films of Jim Jarmusch. Although they may have become more contrived over the years, (and The Limits of Control’s, Christmas-Special parade of celebrity friends can become irritating), they always contain nuggets of value. Dead Man was the highpoint: a specific yet metaphorical work of genius. Others edge that high and I’m always hoping he’ll scale that altitude again. Yet when any artform exceeds even the high pass, there’s little question that this is, in some part, due to Providence.

Cutting short my euphoric tendencies I must return to the wastelands, the desert scrub, silent and patiently waiting behind The Limits of Control. For several minutes between Madrid and Seville (41 – 46 mins) this passes outside the train by which the tourists are insulated. On second viewing, I felt more favourable towards such languor. It gave peace rather than frustration. A time to reflect such as the visual and aural bombardments of e.g. Godard, rarely grace. For all his insights, Godard is always likely to leave non-French speakers lagging. Godard’s work is ideally suited to DVD – which allows you to watch and analyse at whatever speed you like, and untangle the over-lapping subtitles.

Unforceful and calm, Jarmusch does not pressurize us with overload. The Limits of Control attains a dreamlike pace well-suited to Rimbaud’s sentinel watchwords – gentler in atmosphere than the images they portend: “As I descended into impassable rivers, I no longer felt guided by the ferrymen.” For the ambling pace and whimsy of The Limits of Control – if you become suitably unruffled – can open your inner space . . . And maybe the subsequent paths your thoughts might take, are more influenced by the film than you are aware of?

 

  1. Somewhere in Catalonia, April 1986.

Real travelling too, gives plenty of time to think. Usually in an agonised way. Travelling is rarely a holiday – not in my experience. That first time I crossed Spain by bicycle in April 1986, it was hardly the Spain of Laurie Lee’s Midsummer Morning, yet oxen pulling ploughs were not uncommon. For six or seven weeks over the Pyrenees and across France I remained existentially alone. The physical side of it was unimportant[ii], it was the mental state, the long dark weeks of the soul, during which thunderstorms raked Catalonia and the pass into France was almost blocked with snow . . . In their little glass booth by the lowered stripy barrier, how deadly amused those border guards were by an ancient bike appearing from the drift of light blizzard onto the salt cleared area. That Royal Enfield bicycle was to me a legend, and like many legends it hadn’t long to live – at least not in my sight. Stolen from a bike shed in Exeter 5 months later, padlock chains cut, I never saw it after that. I still hope we might meet again someday. The Exeter police reckoned that when bikes are stolen in bulk, the older ones, renowned for their endurance and solidity, are shipped out to Africa. I suppose a long afterlife in Africa is not a bad fate. At least there, the Royal Enfield would’ve been treated with respect. It probably remains 100% needed.

If Byron published Childe Harold now, or Colin Wilson, The Outsider, I doubt anyone would notice. If ten modern equivalents were published every month, again the result would likely be indifference. They certainly wouldn’t make anyone famous overnight, or if they did, the consequence would end with the fame: surface over meaning, celebrity over depth. Likewise, it seems inevitable that the relevance and power of art will be lost. The Shock of the New[iii] has all been done before and who cares about depth? Reality is Arbitrary, certain speakers in The Limits of Control would have us believe. Also, that life is a handful of dust or dirt, (or radioactive waste). Both might be true of the situation we’re now in. The question is: can we turn it back?

When Bill Murray takes off his toupée and places it on the skull towards the end of The Limits of Control (96.54), the bewigged skull more than suggests Andy Warhol. And as much as this proposition to me sums up “the whimper of Pop Art”, so it also sums up the futility of celebrity, as well as the fear in a handful of dust we are left with. Yet it is also funny. The species of laughter that stops us from crying? The Warhol memento mori may or may not be co-incidence. If I knew Jarmusch, I’d ask him. “Art is what you can get away with.” Warhol reputedly said. Of course, he may have been joking. But I don’t think Jarmusch is teasing us in The Limits of Control. Perhaps he only wants to avoid being embarrassed by his underlying seriousness? Could it be as Philip French suggested in the Guardian[iv], that “we’re watching the revenge of the downtrodden upon globalism and capitalist society”? French’s positive review is quite a contrast to Peter Bradshaw’s[v] – and there’s a lot of truth in both.

Back in 1986, en route to Barcelona on a cheap midnight train, the few passengers unable to afford a couchette were constantly awoken from the stiff, upright seats to which we’d been consigned, by spoilt skiing brats. Banging doors, acting like the world was theirs, these upper-class oiks were interspersed with brusque officials demanding “Billets!” for the umpteenth time. Between officialdom and contempt, sleep was lumpy, nightmarish, impossible. Eventually, it was dawn, and through the vineyards encircling Perpignan, at times the Mediterranean came into sight, looking as weary as I felt. Resigned. Without sparkle. At Cerbere the Enfield was banished to a different train, a goods or parcels “Siguiendo luego” – following later. I wondered if I’d ever see it again.

Missing the coast at Tossa de Mar – principle location of Albert Lewin’s mesmerising 1951 film, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman[vi] – I arrived in a flat state of mind, deprived of my principle companion, disoriented by its loss. Day after day I went to the terminal at Estació de França, and eventually saw my friend in the parcels room: tent and saddlebags loaded on the back; the old dynamo-powered headlight; utterly distinctive. Yet still I could not claim it. Using up vital money stuck in a windowless cupboard in the city, my appalling classical Spanish was worse than useless. I tried to enjoy my unexpected time in tropical gardens and squares, wandering the docks and avenues, inevitably discovering the exceptional Picasso museum, the Sagrada Familia and other buildings of Gaudi. It was all so pleasant, sunny and unlike April in the England I’d left. At that time, I hadn’t seen Antonioni’s The Passenger[vii], and encountered the Port Cable Car by accident without money to ride it. But all this tourist sightseeing, for which I couldn’t summon the mood, began to get me down. Finally, overcome by the rage of sheer exasperation, I pushed past the burly guard on duty outside the parcel’s room, armed with some sort of machine gun, to retrieve my bike. I just didn’t care anymore. It was so obviously mine. I’d proved the fact half a dozen times. Who else in Barcelona could possibly own that battered black machine with its crossbar gear-changer? The piled luggage and saddlebags, rattling bike tools and week-old sandwiches – only faintly blue, that I’d later have no choice but eat . . . it was obvious we were connected. We’d criss-crossed Somerset and Devon, Dartmoor and Cornwall together – hundreds if not thousands of miles. As Flann O’Brien would acknowledge – or at least one of his mad policemen[viii]that Royal Enfield was 29% me and I was 29% it! If I’d believed in molecules, genetic codes and all that irrelevant bilge, I’d have suggested they took samples: Blood and chain oil. Hair and rubber. Skin and flakes of baked enamel. Or tried a fingerprint kit: blown up, magnified – my prints curved round, would surely have matched its tyre treads?

Anyway, not caring for the bullets, I pushed past, and was soon on some older coast road above the container port. They just let me go. Convinced by my rashness perhaps? A mad dog of an Englishman caught in the midday sun.

 

  1.  The Royal Enfield, western edge of Barcelona, April 1986.

First time round, The Limits of Control appeared a clear case of style over content and I might almost have sided with Peter Bradshaw against a “colossally self-indulgent and boring film that only a successful and revered director could make”. On second viewing, I had no expectations and could use its spaces for myself. Is this what a whole genre of art attempts to do: grant you a certain kind of expansive space? The dream which (at 33.55), in another replicated café, Tilda Swinton claims could be film or dream, is clearly a reference to Tarkovsky’s part presentiment of Chernobyl, Stalker (1979)[ix] – an infinitely greater film, that also encourages, as does most subsequent ‘slow cinema’[x], an expansive space. Many of these films cannot help but raise the question (similarly hovering around much lesser and gimmick art like a vulture determined to pick meagre sustenance from bones), of The Emperor’s New Clothes . . . that fracture upon which so much art since the late 19th Century hangs. In some cases, it’s only the tension of doubt that energises the artwork in question, (just as the ‘perfection’ of any worthwhile art, often relies on its imperfections – explaining why so much classical art is simply uninteresting). Equally a lot of trash passes muster by trading on this ambiguity of doubt – employing sleight-of-hand rather than essential paradox. Erupting from internal human flaws via anger or self-disgust, such force occasionally gives rise to its opposite. All these tensions can take you to a metaphorical cliff-edge where you exist, apprehensive but euphoric, ready to fly or fall.

 

  1. The Royal Enfield, near Sitges.

Along older roads west of Barcelona, in a warm haze, I began to recover, perching to eat the old sandwiches on a dramatic coastal overhang before Sitges.

Next day, somewhere after Tarragona, appalled by the chain of Spar shops along the coast, I turned inland. And then the weather changed. I’d left the beaten track and was soon on mountainous roads with a useless map. The weather was going to have a laugh at my expense. Violent thunderstorms between occasional manic bursts of sun alternated as I headed west and north, crossing the Ebro in violent spate, shortening my projected route for lack of funds, increasing the mileage because I no longer trusted the confiscations of trains. I was soaked through and dried out a dozen times before the resolutely higher ground of the Pyrenees brought snow and chilling fog. In the morning, my tent zip was iced shut. The border had only just opened and they were thinking of closing it again. The descent was perilous and freezing. Without snow poles the position of the road would have been unknowable in the white-out. It was just as well it was too cold to ride, since had I tried, I could not have stopped. Living in the North Pennines years later, the easy solution to stopping in snow was to throw yourself into the drifts by the side of the road. There I knew the roads. Here I didn’t. I couldn’t see any crash barriers there might be – in those days the roads seemed mostly to be battlemented – blocks big enough to stop a car, but lovely inviting gaps between. Gaps just right for bikes. Nothing between you and dropping rocky space.

 

  1. Royal Enfield in the Pyrenees.

I used to worry about death a lot. Literally from the age of five. Especially at night. Until recently, this anxiety could persist in an intense form for weeks. I’m not sure when this fear began to fade or whether the change means anything, but it feels positive rather than resigned. Perhaps one part of myself has finally persuaded the others that la muerte will be good? It had bloody better be, you might say – because life definitely isn’t all it’s cracked up to be! There may be a lot of beauty in the world (and love will often make things worthwhile, as James Mason’s Flying Dutchman eventually discovers with Ava Gardner’s Pandora), but injustice, poverty, ill-fortune, poor health… all occur randomly. Few get what they deserve and the leading lights and fires of society are an equally haphazard bunch – the majority of them corrupt, useless, or plain evil.

 

  1. Nothing to overtake or be overtaken by, April 1986

Foreshadowed by the empty house with dustsheets, under one of which Paz de Huerta lies either sleeping, dead or lost in her imagination, The Limits of Control, (Slow Cinema ‘lite’ perhaps – a phrase I hate but will stoop to in humorous rather than essential, paradox), begins to wind down in a Madrid Gallery by Tapies’ Gran llençol[xi] (102:27). Here, the Emperor’s New Clothes, may again give you a space created entirely by context: the contrast of vertical rigid sheet, hung in a site of reverence. If you remain calm, the space is not about the painting itself, which has no intrinsic value. It offers a blank slate. The space comes from what you form in thinking about it; in trying to prise or sympathise meaning from it. This is true of a great deal of art, good and bad. To a greater or lesser degree, the art relies on you.  The very best art exists to inspire us to go beyond it. Ultimately, the art object itself is unimportant; it’s monetary value, totally irrelevant.  Occasionally, even gimmick art can inadvertently launch the imagination due to the sheer paucity of its value. Provided we can engage our mind enough; provided we’re filled with enough detail, some territory beyond is certain to open up. 

 

  1. Royal Enfield crossing the border (actually Somport) [xii]

With my old notebook lost, I couldn’t be sure which winding course through the Pyrenees I took. Few central routes breach the border, and less in 1986, would’ve attempted to stay open through winter. A 100-mile dead end would have been expensive, so it was lucky Col du Pourtalet stayed open – if it was really there I crossed? The image of the abandoned frontier in 2011 does not match my photo of twenty-five years earlier. Dropping the twitching, hanging, yellow servant of Google, Inc., from the sky into a world whose magnetic poles are so unstable, I followed the adjacent border crossings. To the west, virtually unacknowledged, the frontier comes amidst a series forested hairpins. To the east it occurs low in a valley. The way I took was bare and exposed: an obvious watershed.

Press-ganging the parachute-less man again, to advance along the road in sliding bursts – his broken legs aided by skateboard or erratic trolley perhaps – I can’t match the prospects, either to memory or my limited photos. 12 shots to a reel, a reel a week: my camera was as out-of-time as the Enfield. It doesn’t help that the 2012 surveyor traversed the mountains on a bright clear day. At the border in 1986 all the distances were close to whiteout, rock-faces and mountains invisible. There was only snow and mist, and most of all, memory struggles to revive my frozen hands.

The Enfield was better adapted. Oblivious to cold. Careless of lurking vertigo. Nerveless. Not mentally affected at all. It’s brake cables (at some time in its past replacing rods) were thicker and better made than later versions. They would never snap. I remember a place called Triste, a tiny hamlet strung near a lake. There the Enfield juddered to a stop, deliberately it seemed, a piece of stick jammed between wheel and mudguard. This must have been the following day descending into France. The stick was easily removed and for a while, a rare sun blessed the panorama and this Triste or tryst was bittersweet. An old photo has the place name written in biro on the reverse, and I clearly recall the short metal sign itself, yet can find no trace of such a place on any map – as if my imagination made it up. As if the whole episode is a variety of fugue or ellipsis, a parallel world to prevent mental disintegration. A balm, or hope for the future. A link to some alternative life. The idea of this place (and there are others in similar vein – as though my mind is slowly building, unrequested, an entire imaginary map), haunts me as if it were the very centre of a maze. I sense that if I could grasp its reality firmly enough, the true landscape around it would slowly come back to life, replacing the blurred, greyed-out suburb of the comparative nowhere we inhabit. It haunts me as though I did not stay there long enough – and now will never find it or its equivalent again. As though, more than anything else, more than any art, philosophy or religion, it indicates a simple way to break through the entire illusory fabric of this world; of so-called reality, itself.

 

  1. Triste. French side of the Pyrenees. April 1986.

As with Tapies’ in itself pointless, ‘Gran llençol’, one can charitably take Jarmuschs’ film as a meditation and opportunity for lateral thinking. From a certain enjoyable undemanding ambiance of hollowness, in a universe with no centre or edges, the viewer is forced to find themselves – if they still have a self to find. Unfortunately, this possible gift is always likely lost on mainstream audiences.

It seems strange that people, albeit grudgingly, still feel obliged to respect the old classical art that clogs museums, particularly perhaps the marble variety. Obviously, such art can be beautiful (and is ideal for monuments and garden ornaments), but somehow the surface flawlessness of such object d’art for me has become a symbol of Establishment. Even the worst gimmick art is at least kicking obstreperously against this vast world-numbing Establishment – a noisy kid, faced with a pedantic stone figurehead.

With elevation declining, it began to rain. All the way to Mont-de-Marsan and on through the endless Landes forest it rained and rained and rarely stopped. It was around then that Chernobyl went up and I wouldn’t have known but for two French teachers on a cycle with a small class group. Well-equipped, they were making the most of a brief window of sun – the same pause in which I attempted to dry my sleeping bag on a fence beside the road. Kindly they invited me for dinner that evening and we discussed the hubristic folly of nuclear power – a folly still espoused, it’s hard to believe, by over-confident half-wits more than thirty years and far too many permanently serious accidents later.[xiii]

What if in the end, only the imagination is important? That we have grown and evolved physically, only to allow the imagination to advance far enough to give us everything. The remembered riverside at Chiswick in the 1950’s can be more important to my Dad than anything else – and perhaps that’s as it should be. What could be better than the best moments of one’s own past, burnished to a perfect glow, the anxieties of their times evaporated, the frustrations of ambition released? Does this not approach Pascal’s ability to live happily in a room alone?

After death, hopefully we can exist without tiresome bodily and mental restrictions? Such literal escapism may be nonsense, and I do admire and appreciate the attempts to create heaven on earth that various individuals and groups have struggled to bring about. But even my ideal of some anarcho-socialist community of liberty and equality, sustained by workers co-ops and a strong belief in harmless eccentricity, can only be temporary . . . and permanent death is unacceptable! It’s true that underdeveloped personalities might descend via imagination into violence and pornography, high-speed driving and thrill-seeking – all those situations that abound in mainstream cinema. But just think for example, how in dreams, the imagination can create flight and endless movement through time; can create both love and surety, perfect worlds where things are done ideally. Think how dreams can change events and allow us to see the things we should have done; make landscapes perfect and bring back the dead. What possible harm can it do to believe in the eternal extension of the imagination?

By contrast what good does it do the average person to conform to the beliefs of science and the rational world? Most have never been required to understand the things they use: be it the fire, the car or the latest technology. Increasingly, to be such a human of renaissance is impossible. We all must specialise in our own restrained area of truth. It does not matter whether the sun goes around the earth or vice versa: such knowledge is all just junk in the attic, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes – a character more real than his creator!

As town centres and travel have been homogenised, so have the underlying beliefs of society, which like it or not is rationalist and materialistic. For all but the most devout, religions are no longer more than a surface dressing. Instead, obediently, most of us worship science, just as our forebears trailed their controlling and congested illusions. Yet the scientific grid of interlocked, self-fulfilling prophecies, are not built on an unchanging foundation, but rather are entirely subject to the filtered or extended ‘proof’ of our five basic senses. Its whole basis could shift at any given moment. Its certainties are as limited as any, and just as ultimately irrelevant. Its truths are as insubstantial as Paz de Huerta’s transparent raincoat; as conformist as the football kit that provides Issach de Bankole anonymous camouflage of escape, at the close of The Limits of Control.

  1. Royal Enfield on Battlemented Road. Catalonia. April 1986.

So what is there left to believe in, in this world we have poisoned? How is it possible to suspend disbelief?

Apart from a little light housework, science doesn’t do a lot of good. No doubt, while we’re around, it’ll continue to be useful at a superficial level. But even could it have expanded the way its leading practitioners might reasonably have hoped, it would have remained controlled by the corruption of governments and worse, by the grasping of multi-national companies who don’t want their terminal monopolies broken.

There’ll always be hope in people themselves; in idealist political action, in ecological groups and the recent petition organisations – which have found a rare worthwhile validation for the internet. But all these things are rightfully concerned, mostly with avoiding a hell on earth. If, as individuals, we don’t want to be buried in the ruins of dogmas or the constricting coils of scientific schemes, what is there beyond this life to believe in? Such a question might seem old-fashioned, but without something extra to believe beyond the mess we have made, it would be hard to bother at all. Even if it is rational and modern to draw the line at death, such narrow-mindedness is undoubtedly damaging. The greed of believing too much in this life, this now, far from enabling us to strive for some heaven on earth, has only had the opposite effect. The big grab has been bred into us. Grab all you can get NOW. Live the moment, grab it NOW, and stuff the next generation! Sadly, this is where the religion of science has lead us. Like all religions, it’s potential purity was easily corrupted.

For myself, I choose to believe in the freedom and reach of the imagination. This is not escapism. It’s a harder faith to hold than that of material comfort. But I’ve no draconian desire to put my belief into dogmas, whether or not – as a philosophy that disregards race, health, gender, beauty or wealth – it would be better to try. I choose to believe in that beyond which the highest art suggests . . . and where perhaps many of the multitudes of lesser attempts lead by default – by the heat of our contempt, by the sharp ramp, by the necessary leap we’re forced to make to find meaning in them.

For those lumbered with a belief in evolution – the unfortunate path that’s been so lethal to the Earth – imagination could easily be projected as the next stage. The wisest religions have always avoided trying to name or define God, and no human can fully comprehend infinity or eternity. Therefore, that a metaphysical belief in imagination, unlimited by the undermining of physical constraint, suggests solipsism rather than connectivity, need not be a worry. The furthest unfathomable reaches of anything worthwhile, can obviously only be intuited. Science by contrast will always be defined by the essential control it’s forced to pretend; by the limits of mathematical intelligence. As a boy, I loved the universe and the stars, and though the largely monotheist teachings of science tried to destroy that for me – tried to turn it into a vast backyard of depressing emptiness – every time I look out at it now, through the star grids and projecting beyond, I can easily disregard their petty rules. Through imagination, I can get back the magnificence I once felt a part of – back in the days beyond the limits of control.

 

Lawrence  Freiesleben


 

Notes and References (all links accessed between November 15th & December the 7th 2017): 

[i]www.youtube.com/watch?v=MU4_bJT8W3Y     (Radiation fallout over Europe during Chernobyl incident (1986)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sfl5wZw0AME     (Facts About Chernobyl Disaster)  

[ii] Although as I went down from 11 and half to just over 8 stone during the trip, my body might disagree!

[iii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shock_of_the_New 

[iv] www.theguardian.com/film/2009/dec/13/limits-of-control-review       Philip French 

[v] www.theguardian.com/film/2009/dec/11/the-limits-of-control              Peter Bradshaw 

[vi] www.imdb.com/title/tt0043899/ 

[vii] www.imdb.com/title/tt0073580/ 

[viii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Policeman 

[ix] www.imdb.com/title/tt0079944/   

[x] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_cinema 

[xi] Tapies’ collage and painting on canvas: www.museoreinasofia.es/en/collection/artwork/gran-llencol-large-sheet

[xii] After finishing this tract, I discovered from the similarity of this photo of mine, to an image stumbled on by accident, that it must have been the Somport Pass I took – a route since superseded by a controversial tunnel. 

[xiii] Driving along the Cumbrian coast the other day I discovered that, in the manner of Devon and Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, someone or some committee has had the nerve to christen the area, not the polluted or fluorescent coast, the dicey or even just the questionable coast, but “The Energy Coast”! – a cover-up which reminds me of the many aliases conferred upon the Nuclear reprocessing plant at Windscale, or is it Seascale, or Drigg? No, it’s Sellafield! Presumably, Nuclear Power is still considered such a ‘clever’ idea that we won’t drop it until it kills us?

P.S: I’m reliably informed that “The Energy Coast” also refers to off-shore wind turbines and other genuine renewables, so I withdraw at least half of my righteous indignation.

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AS THE HEART ASCENDS



 

                                  A response to I NEED A CHANGE the debut single by That Joe Payne

 

 

Sighs  from the angels descend in suitably unearthly chorus

As the change Joe Payne needs most soothes the listeners soul

With smooth sound. Classic chords unison as the God of song finds

A daughter in the soaring falsetto Payne captures as easily

As those blessed with wings claim the ground.

 

As this prelude gives way to the aims of a loving man’s desperation

The scale of the divine and what’s wasted are given equal weight

In his voice.  The lyric bids goodbye to the world and the ache within

Is all people; boy, girl, man, woman, each with their fears

And spurned choice. This is a song that transports and a singer

 

Whose soul is star travel. ‘I need a change’ in all senses

Is a theme for the found and the lost.  A wavering sound bed

Echoes sleep, turning to dream in dark hours,

As the tearful intention now cleansers, as if calming

The shamed and pain tossed.  But this Payne sounds sweet,

 

Flavouring the song’s river, which undulates now around us

Like the waters  of Lethe taking all. This is the single

That binds everyone who will listen: That Joe Payne

As a siren, who in breaching the dark saves each fall.

It is an experience drawn from the spectacular tastes

Of the classic that now fill our senses in a thoroughly modern

Sound world. In which the debut single becomes a true universal

And the flight clears dark vapours with the flag of the heart

Now unfurled.  ‘Save me the love that you gave me;’

He’s begging; like a boy drowned by thunder singing to all

 

He dreams  of. ‘Break me’, he dares; ‘find reasons to hate me,’

Skin shedding, he supercedes the sad notion

That we the unworthy are not graced by the light

Glimpsed above. The heart then transforms

To become a mouth kissing sweetly, from within the man

 

To the spirit and to the shining skin, that’s soul’s coat.

Against the chill and the change there is still the spark

Of spent fires that rains now as diamonds

Of bright, glistening sound in his throat.

That Joe Payne passion fuels transmission from earth

 

Towards heaven, as this call without genre

Becomes the expression of all the night’s housed.

Breaking through is this song, the first of so many

That will make those who hear them angels of faith

Freed from doubt. Here is a song’s symphony

 

And love’s orchestra effervescent,

As the experiment becomes nature

And this new future and form grace the strange.

This is the heart’s hurtful tones easily moved towards rapture,

As all who have suffered grow greatful and give praise to this:

 

That Joe Payne.

 


cd single available from…..

www.thatjoepayne.com

 

David Erdos  19/3/18

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The Denial of the Right to an Opinion

Britain’s Inexorable Slide into Fascism  

 

In Britain, during this last week, something very nasty made its presence known to the nation. And it was not Putin or Russia. It was a coldly executed, psychologically loaded attempt to silence those who wished to express an opinion, other than the one held by the government.

Those who believe that the notion that Vladimir Putin is responsible for the poisoning of a Russian double agent and his daughter in the town of Salisbury, England, is unproven.

The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, stated outright “There is no alternative to the conclusion that Russia was responsible.” This was an order, not a statement of fact. An order to step in line and not court controversy.

It capped months of hysterical anti Russian rhetoric and vilification, which in more ways than one, strongly echoed the George Bush and Tony Blair tirades of 9/11/2001. Tirades deliberately directed to make Saddam Hussein fit the role of the number one villain of that particular moment of time, as the unquestionable holder of non existent ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ Now Putin is being given the 9/11 treatment.  A chilling reminder that this is a repeat of a direct incitement to war.

But those who control the political course of events so as to achieve their sinister goals, know that people forget. So Theresa May no doubt feels quite secure in proclaiming Putin to be the new Mr Evil, and the undoubted purveyor of this particular version of a weapon of mass destruction.

Quite secure in inciting arguments that the Country should be prepared to go to war with this ‘Russian monster’, all because some obscure Soviet double agent had been poisoned with a nasty organophosphate product on British soil.

And yet, ironically, and in direct contrast to buffoon politicians like Theresa May and Boris Johnson, Vladimir Putin has emerged over the past decade, as the leading statesman on the world stage. A thoughtful, cool head and a genuine diplomat.

But the lather of House of Commons ‘rent a crowd’ fury directed against the Russian President, carried with it a warning that the Russian media outlet ‘Russian Today’ (RT) might be closed down in Britain, because it dared to ask questions that the British media dared not ask.

God forbid that anyone should raise their voice in suggesting that this might be a rather over-the-top  response to an offense not untypical of things that go on in the obscure and shadowy world of secret agents. But someone did – and that someone happened to be the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, who stood up in the House of Commons and challenged the Prime Minister’s opinion on the unsubstantiated facts behind this crime, and the premature pinning of the blame for it on the Russian President.

This entirely sensible challenge drew a howl of dissent from government MPs and even some members of Corbyn’s own opposition party. No, this was, after all, ‘appeasement’ and only the weak and stupid would consider offering any form of olive branch to Mr Evil.

If all this had been part of some TV drama series one could at least have turned off the set. But it wasn’t. It isn’t. And that makes it a blood chilling experience for anyone hoping for some form of rational, measured discussion, to put matters in their proper perspective.

No such human qualities were on display in this witches cauldron of vitriolic accusation and barely hidden call for blood. The British Houses of Parliament.

It sends a shiver down the spine of all sentient human beings when they realize that what is on show is nothing more or nothing less – than the denial of the right to an opinion. That any mortal who dares to ask a logical question is shouted down and accused of working for the devil.

For that was the sentiment of this occasion. And it amply illustrates the pervasive, creeping rise of the fascistic state; everyday more strident, more dictatorial, more authoritarian. An ever more threatening sword held over citizens who have not fallen. Who have refused to be slaves. An ever more sinister clamoring and broadcasting of the vitriol of war.

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are they key components of a democratic constitution. We have seen them both being methodically eaten into – drip, drip, drip, during the last two decades. We are so close to the full scale return of the doctrinaire, totalitarian dictatorship which many once believed had been buried for good under the rubble of two World wars.

But no, not buried at all. It was the German Nobel Prize winning author Thomas Mann, who recalled in the early 1950’s, that what he feared for in the post Hitler era, was “The weak position of Freedom”. His fears have proved ominously correct.

Post World War Two societies in both Europe and America, have failed to recognize and deal with the symptoms of this disease, as it etched its way back into the corridors of power. Until once again exerting a critical influence on daily life.

We should know more about this beast by now. We have failed to absorb the lessons of history. We have witnessed the corrosion of decades of hard won civil liberties in just a handful of years.

We are monitored, surveyed and spied upon via gadgets of the electronic era which most have welcomed with open arms, as the symbol of the age of ‘freedom of communication’.

We have allowed our countries to go to war and destroy other nations on the slimmest – or non existent – fabricated evidence of their ‘threat’ to our nation states.

We have turned our backs one hundred times, on the lies, corruption and criminality of our corporate and government leaders. We have been reduced to spineless, politically correct observers, as our nation’s children are ritually abused and sacrificed to the perverted instincts of the political elite. And so much more. So much more.

It is as if all the demons of hell suddenly found a perfect venue to express their treachery. In and amongst the fabled halls of Westminster. And others will surely point out the same symptoms manifesting in their various countries of origin.

For this is not just a national crises, it is a global pandemic. It must be addressed and dealt with wherever it shows its hideous face. There is no excuse for failing in this task. We have no choice. There can be no excuse for slipping into the pacifistic role of the victim when faced by acts of very real evil.

We cannot turn away from our own souls. We did not come to this planet to hide from the truth.

 

Julian Rose

 

Julian Rose is an international activist, organic farming pioneer and author. He is President of The International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside. Visit his website: www.julianrose.info and find out about Julian’s two widely acclaimed books: Changing Course for Life and In Defense of Life, which can be purchased direct.

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Sudan is Dead

 

 

World’s last male northern white rhino passes away.
Extinction
  knocks on the species’ door.

Every extinct creature is a drop of extra poison in the glass of our existence.

Also the human being will cease to exist when he realizes that he no longer has other eyes in which to be reflected.

Extinction is forever


 

Ogni creatura estinta è una goccia di veleno in più nel bicchiere della nostra esistenza.

Anche l’essere umano cesserà di esistere quando si accorgerà di non aver più altri occhi in cui riflettersi.   

L’estinzione è per sempre

 

Elena Caldera

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A Walk in March

 

It’s a brilliant, coat-opening day,

early cool overcast pulled away

by wind as though snapping

sheets that draped blue sky.

 

I startle a bluebird on the ground

(ground is the best place

to sight a bluebird’s

blue-star fanburst).

 

A bristling two-inch plug of darkness

inches along the path.

Dear God, what is a woolly

bear caterpillar doing out

in northern Wisconsin

on the 27th of March?

 

Often I set them to the side

of traffic, but who will lift

any of us now from the road-

way of what’s approaching,

of our own making?

 

I am afraid that if we watch

them die and do nothing

a part of us will decide

to die too.

 

We die in any case,

but if we do nothing

sadder and sooner.

 

 

Thomas R. Smith
Illustration: Claire Palmer

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Russian Spy Update


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A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

 

 
 
 
,
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Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don’t exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge. Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

John Perry Barlow
Davos, Switzerland

February 8, 1996

 

John Perry Barlow (October 3, 1947 – February 7, 2018) was an American poet and essayist, a cattle rancher, and a cyberlibertarian[1]political activist who had been associated with both the Democratic and Republican parties. He was also a lyricist for the Grateful Dead and a founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

soundfile2https://archive.org/details/ADeclarationOfTheIndependenceOfCyberspace/02-ADeclarationOfTheIndependenceOfCyberspaceft.JohnPerryBarlowByDrazenBosnjak.flac

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RIP Stephen Hawking

The victim should have the right to end his life, if he wants.
But I think it would be a great mistake.
However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at.
While there’s life, there is hope.

Stephen Hawking

(Oxford, 8 January 1942 – Cambridge, 14 March 2018)

Pic: Elena Caldera

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CAIWU Demonstrating At Royal Opera House.

Dear Friend,

As you may know, the Royal Opera House cleaners are under attack. Kier, the cleaners’ employer, has dismissed five CAIWU members in the last few weeks, and a sixth has received a final written warning.

All these actions are for minor mistakes.

It is clear that Kier is attacking our union, and we must defend ourselves. We will not simply accept this situation. We intend to fight back by demonstrating outside the Opera House throughout March, or until the dismissed workers are reinstated. Please join us if you can, just for half an hour on your way home from work, to show your support for your colleagues.

We will be demonstrating at the Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DD on the following dates:

Thurs March 15th: 7.00-7.30pm

Fri March 16th: 6.30-7.00pm

Sat March 17th: 7.00-7.30pm

Sun March 18th: 7.00-7.30pm

Mon March 19th: 7.30-8.00pm

Tues March 20th: 7.00-7.30pm

Weds March 21st: 7.00-7.30pm

Thurs March 22nd: 7.30-8.00pm

Fri March 23rd: 7.00-7.30pm

Sat March 24th: 7.30-8.00pm

Sun March 25th: 2.30-3.00pm

Tues March 27th: 7.00-7.30pm

Weds March 28th: 7.00-7.30pm

Thurs March 29th: 7.00-7.30pm

Sat March 31st: 7.00-7.30pm

Thanks for your support. You might need the same one day. United we are strong.

Compañer@s

Como ya sabrá, los limpiadores y porters de Royal Opera House están siendo atacados. Kier, el empleador de los limpiadores y porters, despidió a cinco miembros de CAIWU en las últimas semanas, y un sexto recibió una advertencia final por escrito.

Todas estas acciones son por pequeños errores.

Está claro que Kier está atacando a nuestra unión, y debemos defendernos. No aceptaremos simplemente esta situación. Tenemos la intención de luchar defendiéndonos fuera de Royal Opera House durante todo marzo o hasta que los trabajadores despedidos sean reintegrados. Únase a nosotros si puede, solo durante media hora en su camino a casa desde el trabajo, para mostrar su apoyo a sus colegas.

Protestaremos en Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, Londres WC2E 9DD en las siguientes fechas:

Jue 15 de marzo: 7.00-7.30 p.m.

Viernes 16 de marzo: 6.30-7.00pm

Sábado 17 de marzo: 7.00-7.30 p.m.

Dom 18 de marzo: 7.00-7.30 p.m.

Lun 19 de marzo: 7.30-8.00pm

Martes 20 de marzo: 7.00-7.30 p.m.

Miércoles 21 de marzo: 7.00-7.30 p.m.

Jue 22 de marzo: 7.30-8.00pm

Viernes 23 de marzo: 7.00-7.30 p.m.

Sábado 24 de marzo: 7.30-8.00pm

Dom 25 de marzo: de 2.30 a 3.00 p.m.

Martes 27 de marzo: 7.00-7.30 p.m.

Miércoles 28 de marzo: 7.00-7.30 p.m.

Jue 29 de marzo: 7.00-7.30 p.m.

Sábado 31 de marzo: 7.00-7.30 p.m.

Gracias por su apoyo. Es posible que necesite el mismo día. Unidos somos fuertes.

 

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Hello Horror

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The Peter Green Story: Man Of The World

 

DVD Review of:

THE PETER GREEN STORY:
MAN OF THE WORLD

A Dougie Dudgeon and Henry Hadaway film

Scanbox Entertainment (WIENERWORLD) www.wienerworld.com

 

Where is Peter Green now?

‘It was an incredibly short run’ says Mick Fleetwood, ‘and yet we’re still talking about it, nearly forty years or so later.’ And he’s correct. Peter Green was with Fleetwood Mac two years and eight months. In the vast cosmic scheme of things, that’s not long. Yet that’s where the kernel of the legend exists. This valuable documentary, directed by Steven Graham for the BBC, thoroughly details that arc of years, across a generous 150-minutes. It takes a bemused Peter Greenbaum wandering back to where it began, all the way to ‘my very first memories’ of Flat 18, Antenor House, off Old Bethnal Green Road E2 6QS, ‘coming across this road here, and then up there’. Shuffling along the pavement, beside black railings and neatly-spaced saplings, indicating up at the white first-floor balcony of his childhood flat. He’s a survivor, who’s been to hell and back. Yet, ‘It’s nice to revisit yourself’ he adds brightly.

Brothers Mike and Len Green take up the story of Peter’s first guitar. Born 29 October 1946, he honed his skills through skiffle and the Blues, his debut single came as a twenty-year-old part of Peter B’s Looners, a four-piece led by Peter Bardens. An organ-led shuffle-instrumental version of Jimmy Soul’s risqué calypso, “If You Wanna Be Happy” c/w “Jodrell Blues” (1966, Columbia DB7862), it makes an inauspicious start for Peter Green, despite the stinging guitar solo on the B-side. Yet, produced by impresario Rik Gunnell, Mick Fleetwood also happens to be there on drums, billed according to his previous group as ‘ex-Bo Street Runners’.

Then Peter was playing with the Bluesbreakers at ‘The Flamingo’. John Mayall explains how ‘Peter in his prime in the sixties was just without equal, he was a force to be reckoned with.’ Replacing Eric Clapton in the line-up was a poison chalice, which he accepted decisively by not replicating what ‘Slowhand’ had done – avoiding playing the hard fast virtuoso style, but taking his Les Paul down other routes. For the ‘A Hard Road’ (Decca, February 1967) album – with drummer Aynsley Dunbar and John McVie on bass, Peter sings lead on “You Don’t Love Me” and his own “The Same Way”, but it’s the haunting instrumental “The Supernatural” that stands out, playing what journalist Keith Altham defines as ‘ethnic Blues’, a spirit that underpins it all. Many years later, after the maelstrom that swept him away, Peter would play “The Supernatural” again, with the Splinter Group. And it still sounds magical.

‘There’s no word for it’ Peter struggles to explain to me, ‘I copy them (the Blues Masters) as best as I can. I’m Jewish. So I’ve got a little trapdoor there. The old Hebrew Testament thing, right back to Moses. It could be worse, couldn’t it?’

Soon Mick Fleetwood replaced the ‘too technical’ Dunbar, and the core of Fleetwood Mac was in place, initially freelancing without Mayall on dates with bluesman Eddie Boyd. Jeremy Spencer gets recruited into Peter Green’s new venture from the Midlands-based Levi Set, following just the exchange of names ‘Elmore James, BB King’. Encouraged by Mike Vernon, their debut album together – issued in February 1968, is a ‘plug-in and play’ exercise according to Mick Fleetwood, cut at the New Bond Street CBS studios with Vernon producing. Apparently the name Fleetwood Mac was Peter’s deliberate legacy to his friends, in anticipation of further adventures – although he could never have imagined how those further adventures were to play out, and he was outraged when Blue Horizon choose to promote the record as ‘Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’. It was preceded by debut single – Jeremy Spencer’s “I Believe My Time Ain’t Long” c/w Peter’s “Rambling Pony” (November 1967, Blue Horizon 3051), followed by the startling classic “Black Magic Woman” (c/w “The Sun Is Shining”, March 1968, Blue Horizon 57-3138). With the song’s background story narrated here by celibate girlfriend Sandra Elsen. It climbs to no.37 in the UK chart, but soon gets taken up as a key recording by Santana.

Blue Horizon had a community feel to it, and as part of the label house band both Peter and Mick sit in on sessions for Duster Bennett’s first LP ‘Smiling Like I’m Happy’ (1968), and Peter helps out on the Brunning Sunflower Blues Band’s ‘Trackside Blues’ (1969). Studio jams and back-up sessions from this phase continue to be released under various guises for a number of years, from ‘Blues Jam At Chess’ (1969) with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, to ‘The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967-1969’ (1999) 6CD box-set with previously-unreleased outtakes, studio talk and alternate takes.

Always a self-deprecating man of fragile sensitivities – the lines ‘I can’t sing, I ain’t pretty and my legs are thin’ reflects Peter’s own sense of bewilderment and lack of self-worth, he was already caught up in destructive contradictions. Always prone to reflective moments, even in the studio recording of the straight-Blues ‘Mr Wonderful’ (August 1968), amid the band’s bawdy excesses. “Rattlesnake Shake” on ‘Then Play On’ (September 1969) is Peter’s ribald commentary on Mick Fleetwood’s masturbation habit. Yet he’s deeply troubled by white-liberal guilt over the band’s accumulating wealth, when contrasted with TV images of the Biafran famine. Seeing real human beings starve to death on-screen, with the same sense of moral outrage that would later power Bob Geldof to kick-start Band Aid. Resolving not only to channel his royalties into charity, but to persuade other members of Fleetwood Mac to do the same. Suggestions not always sympathetically received.

Those anti-materialist tendencies were exacerbated by meeting Jerry Garcia during the band’s first American trip, as well as the Grateful Dead’s chemist LSD-guru Stanley Owsley. Initially suspicious, Jeremy Spencer was the first to sample the new lysergic-acid wonder-drug, then Peter drank laced kool-aid. The textbook version is that he was unaware the drink was spiked. The way he tells it now, with an amused twinkle, he was more than a willing accomplice to the pretence. ‘I didn’t talk to god’ relates Mick Fleetwood, ‘just felt a bit strange’. They play ‘The Warehouse’ in New Orleans with the Dead, all stoned. ‘I did feel a bit… effervescent’ recalls Peter, about LSD. The tour climaxes into acid-horror in the Frisco Gorham Hotel after jamming with the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore. Mick hallucinating every band member as skeletons as they sit around the floor holding hands, phoning Owsley to talk them down, in vain. It was ‘horrible’ concludes Mick.

The continuing John Mayall kudos had Fleetwood Mac rated as the most authentic Blues outfit around, with ‘Mr Wonderful’ rarely straying from the Elmore James blueprint despite a ‘dirtier, gutsier’ horn-section and Christine Perfect (soon to be McVie) on piano, but by 1969 their restless creativity was taking them way beyond such genre restrictions. Blues was the spine, and would continue to be, underpinning diverse new bands and evolutions across the seventies. But it was already becoming porous, flexible, open to positive mutations in the light of new lifestyles. The single “Need Your Love So Bad” (c/w “No Place To Go”, Blue Horizon 57-3157), a cover of Little Willie John’s 1956 original, antagonises purists with sweeping strings offsetting Peter’s raw pleading vocal lines. Yet it climbs to no.31 on the chart, and is successfully reissued a number of times, collected onto the compilation ‘The Pious Bird Of Good Omen’ (August 1969), alongside both sides of the earlier singles, plus two tracks from Eddie Boyd’s ‘7936 South Rhodes’ (Blue Horizon, 1968) album on which the Mac play back-up. A re-jigged version of this album becomes ‘English Rose’ for the US Epic label, with a fright-wig cover-art photo of Mick Fleetwood in drag. He’d already appeared naked but for battered hat and strategically-positioned shrubbery on the ‘Mr Wonderful’ gatefold cover!

Danny Kirwan was brought in (from Boilerhouse) as third guitar in time for what Peter calls the ‘Santo and Johnny’ sound of the next single, “Albatross”. Peter plays his Stratocaster lap-style, plucking the title from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”, months before Procol Harum use the epic poem as the base for their “A Salty Dog”. Although the label was initially dubious, an appearance on the ‘Simon Dee’ TV-show shoves it into the charts, and all the way up to no.1. There were two charts in general use. In ‘Record Mirror’ it was no.1 for the single week 29 January 1969 – but would return on re-issue to no.2 in 1975! In ‘New Musical Express’ it nudges Marmalade’s Beatles-cover “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” from top slot and stays there three weeks until 8 February, when it’s dislodged by Move’s “Blackberry Way”.

Then the achingly-heartfelt “Man Of The World” single was ‘the first cry for help that we heard from Peter Green’ opines Altham, direct-to-camera. ‘Almost like a suicide note’ agrees a pensive Jeremy Spencer. The voice, ‘I’m not saying that I’m a good man, oh, but I would be if I could,’ is painfully autobiographical. Issued through a one-off deal with Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate records, it peaks at no.2 – just below the Beatles “Get Back” (24 May 1969). Although it’s stop-start loud-soft structure makes it impossible to dance to, I recall playing it in a sense of awed wonder to other students at the Hull College Of Technology, frustrated that they can’t see how starkly revelatory it is, the chillingly confessional line ‘I just wish that I had never been born’ is still spine-tingling.

The single also spells goodbye to nurturing producer Mike Vernon. Leading to the Mac’s third studio album, ‘Then Play On’, arriving through a lucrative up-deal with Reprise. A stunning, complex, astonishing, conflicted, beautifully baffling, exquisitely problematic album, unlike anything they’d previously released, and nothing like anything that ever came after, anywhere in the vinyl cosmos. The soft-loud dynamic of their no.1 single “Oh Well” – both sides of which are included, is something of a touchstone, although the fourteen original (and four bonus CD) tracks range much further. The 54-minute playing time allows jamming-space, but Peter’s spiritually charged improvisations are always immaculately interplayed and never self-indulgent. A vital element of the album’s incandescence is its unstable fragility. It was Peter’s ‘last calling card’ according to Fleetwood. With his traumatic state of disintegrating mental health even more scarily explicit on “The Green Manalishi”, which not only reveals ‘the Brian Wilson side of Peter Green’ in its overdub builds, but shows him on the tipping-point of cataclysmic implosion. Jeremy Spencer was equally messed-up and soon to flee, alongside troubled Danny Kirwan’s first album contributions to the Mac canon, this line-up wouldn’t survive a moment longer. Leaving all these doors of potential wide open. This is one of the most breathtakingly mystifying albums of the decade.

Meanwhile, “Oh Well” completes a trilogy of Top Three singles, with Peter playing a Michigan guitar. It reaches no.1 for the single week of 15 November 1969, if only in the ‘New Musical Express’ chart – replacing the Archies cartoon-comical Bubble-Pop “Sugar Sugar”. Now, Peter dismisses the vocal lead-in verses, in preference to the more reflective instrumental passages following the mid-point storm (reminiscent of Love’s “Seven And Seven Is”).

By now there were strange scenes during a German tour involving a Munich cult, ‘weirding out big time’ according to Jeremy Spencer. Precipitating the crash into Peter’s dark years. ‘That was the fork in the road’ according to John McVie. ‘I had an ultimate respect for Peter’ adds Fleetwood wistfully, ‘and we had so much fun.’ Without Peter ‘we were all… lost’ admits Mick. Although soon after, Jeremy quit too – ‘I heard the voice of the lord say ‘go’’ and he went. In the sad burned-out come-down from the hippie loss of innocence there were any number of phony opportunistic cults on hand to offer spiritual solace, and Jeremy was seduced away by the Children Of God religious sect. Loyally, Peter returns to play the rest of the US dates, climaxing in an amazing version of “Black Magic Woman” at the Fillmore East in New York, which Clifford Adams recalls with a sense of wonder.

Now Peter was ‘exorcising the demons within him’ (according to Fleetwood) on an intense instrumental solo album called ‘The End Of The Game’ (Reprise, December 1970). Leading only to further mental collapses. ‘A lot of strange experiences inside my head’ he comments, straining to make sense of it all. Retreating into a kind of Syd Barrett ‘Twilight Zone’ of legendary limbo. As, after a confused directionless period, the rest of Fleetwood Mac hook up with Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham to go mega-global, Peter was sedated in psycho-house mental institutions, undergoing electro-convulsive therapy in a living nightmare, with myths and rumours multiplying. He was working as a hospital porter, or a gravedigger. He threatened his accountant with an air-rifle. He spent time in prison. ‘I was quite happy in prison’ he comments, totally without guile.

Interviewing Peter Green, sitting at a table in his back garden, was both the strangest and most touching experiences of my journalistic career. Afterwards, he shows me his guitar collection, lifting them down from the wall and passing them across to me, asking ‘Do you play?’ And I have to admit, no. Which is the closest I’ve ever got to jamming with a guitar hero.

By turn poignant, candid, always informative, with mesmerising electrifyingly evocative black-and-white clips, this DVD constitutes the definitive story. Noel Gallagher adds respectful comment, across the arc of those forty years.

‘I can outplay Sooty’ says Peter now with typically self-deprecating humour, ‘but that’s it, don’t put Sweep on that xylophone whatever you do.’ He was brought back into playing and recording through the recuperative process of the Splinter Group, with a supportive Nigel Watson – and initially drummer Cozy Powell. His ‘Me And The Devil Blues’ (Snapper 1998, 2001) remains a classic interpretation of the Robert Johnson catalogue, and one of eleven albums taking him from the late nineties into the new millennium. Although some unspecified altercation led to Peter leaving in 2004, he re-emerged in 2009 touring as Peter Green And Friends – around the time this DVD was compiled. ‘Whatever I’m expecting, it never arrives,’ he muses. Then, more brightly ‘It’s nice to revisit yourself.’

So, where is Peter Green now?

 

BY ANDREW DARLINGTON

 

Twitter: @darlingtonandy

Website: www.andrewdarlington.blogspot.com)

 

Bringins Multimedia Ltd 2007

Bonus DVD features:

‘Peter Takes Us Through His Guitar Collection’

‘Clifford Adams Reads Out Peter Green’s Letter From Hawaii’

‘Jeremy Spencer, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie Reminisce About The Old Days’

‘Rick Veto Tells How He Saw Fleetwood Mac For The First Time’

 

 

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19 Great Vintage Photos of Men With Signs

 

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vintagemensigsn

 

“Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.”
— Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time

 

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“I come to a red light, tempted to go through it, then stop once I see a billboard sign that I don’t remember seeing and I look up at it. All it says is ‘Disappear Here’ and even though it’s probably an ad for some resort, it still freaks me out a little and I step on the gas really hard and the car screeches as I leave the light.”
― Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero

 

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Born under a bad sign
Been down since I began to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck, you know I wouldn’t have no luck at all
– Albert King, Born Under A Bad Sign

 

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For more vintage wonderment, follow Robert E. Jackson.

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Leonardo Da Vinci’s To Do List

da vinci todo list

Most people’s to-do lists are, almost by definition, pretty dull, filled with those quotidian little tasks that tend to slip out of our minds. Pick up the laundry. Get that thing for the kid. Buy milk, canned yams and kumquats at the local market.

Leonardo Da Vinci was, however, no ordinary person. And his to-do lists were anything but dull.

Da Vinci would carry around a notebook, where he would write and draw anything that moved him. “It is useful,” Leonardo once wrote, to “constantly observe, note, and consider.” Buried in one of these books, dating back to around the 1490s, is a to-do list. And what a to-do list.

 

NPR’s Robert Krulwich had it directly translated. And while all of the list might not be immediately clear, remember that Da Vinci never intended for it to be read by web surfers 500  years in the future.

[Calculate] the measurement of Milan and Suburbs

[Find] a book that treats of Milan and its churches, which is to be had at the stationer’s on the way to Cordusio

[Discover] the measurement of Corte Vecchio (the courtyard in the duke’s palace).

[Discover] the measurement of the castello (the duke’s palace itself)

Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle.

Get Messer Fazio (a professor of medicine and law in Pavia) to show you about proportion.

Get the Brera Friar (at the Benedictine Monastery to Milan) to show you De Ponderibus (a medieval text on mechanics)

[Talk to] Giannino, the Bombardier, re. the means by which the tower of Ferrara is walled without loopholes (no one really knows what Da Vinci meant by this)

Ask Benedetto Potinari (A Florentine Merchant) by what means they go on ice in Flanders

Draw Milan

Ask Maestro Antonio how mortars are positioned on bastions by day or night.

[Examine] the Crossbow of Mastro Giannetto

Find a master of hydraulics and get him to tell you how to repair a lock, canal and mill in the Lombard manner

[Ask about] the measurement of the sun promised me by Maestro Giovanni Francese

Try to get Vitolone (the medieval author of a text on optics), which is in the Library at Pavia, which deals with the mathematic.

You can just feel Da Vinci’s voracious curiosity and intellectual restlessness. Note how many of the entries are about getting an expert to teach him something, be it mathematics, physics or astronomy. Also who casually lists “draw Milan” as an ambition?

Leonardo da Vinci exhibition

Later to-do lists, dating around 1510, seemed to focus on Da Vinci’s growing fascination with anatomy. In a notebook filled with beautifully rendered drawings of bones and viscera, he rattles off more tasks that need to get done. Things like get a skull, describe the jaw of a crocodile and tongue of a woodpecker, assess a corpse using his finger as a unit of measurement.

On that same page, he lists what he considers to be important qualities of an anatomical draughtsman. A firm command of perspective and a knowledge of the inner workings of the body are key. So is having a strong stomach.

You can see a page of Da Vinci’s notebook above but be warned. Even if you are conversant in 16th century Italian, Da Vinci wrote everything in mirror script.

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Related Content:

Thomas Edison’s Hugely Ambitious “To-Do” List from 1888

Watch Leonardo da Vinci’s Musical Invention, the Viola Organista, Being Played for the Very First Time

The Anatomical Drawings of Renaissance Man, Leonardo da Vinci

An Animated History Of Aviation: From da Vinci’s Sketches to Apollo 11

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

 

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Doubling Down, or Just How Bad Are Ace Doubles, Anyway?

 

The World of Null-A-small Universe Maker-small

Ace Double D-31: The World of Null-A (cover by Stanley Meltzoff)
paired with Universe Maker (cover by Paul Orban)

Just so you know where I stand, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat — I love Ace Doubles (and if you don’t know what an Ace Double is, are you ever in the wrong place. You should immediately go to Slate or HelloGiggles or Shia LaBeouf.com or somewhere, anywhere else or risk irreversible contamination. You’ve been warned.) I’ve loved them ever since the first time I laid eyes on one, in the thrift store that was around the corner from my middle school. The day I pulled the dual volume of A.E. Van Vogt’s The World of Null-A and Universe Maker (D-31) off the dusty shelf, I fell and fell hard; my lunch money never had a chance. I have a lot of reasons for loving these books, some of which have nothing to do with the quality of the writing found between their gaudy covers, and a good thing too, but we’ll get to that. First, though, the looooove.

To begin with, I love them for those aforementioned gaudy covers, and why not? For twenty years, from 1953 to 1973, from D-31 to 93900 (mastering the Doubles numbering system is an arcane science in itself, especially the legendarily convoluted final five-digit series), artists like Ed Emshwiller, Kelly Freas, George Barr, Jack Gaughan, Gray Morrow, Ed Valigursky and many others poured forth a stream of wonderful images that amount to a romp in a candy shop of pulp science fiction props: mutants, ray guns, futuristic metropolises, bug eyed monsters, alien armadas, hostile planets, a-bomb shattered landscapes, femmes in danger, dangerous femmes, space stations, super-submarines, time machines, jut-jawed heroes in bubble-helmeted spacesuits, robots, domed cities… and, of course, spaceships, spaceships, spaceships! What, I ask you, is there not to love about that?

[Click the images for Double-sized versions.]

Agent of the Unknown-small

Ace Double D-150: Agent of the Unknown (cover by Ed Valigursky)

Then there’s the much-mocked but utterly irresistible format (are these books dos-à-dos or tête-bêche? I’ve never been able to keep it straight) in which, according to John Clute and Peter Nicholls’ invaluable Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, “two books are bound together so that they share one spine, but with their texts printed upside-down in respect to each other… such a volume has two front covers and two title pages, which the reader can confirm by turning any example upside-down, when a second front cover will appear, right way up, and a second text, likewise.”

The goofiness of the format is undeniable, but it’s delightfully goofy, giving you two outlandish covers, two sets of breathless blurbs, and two complete books for the price of one. The two books are admittedly short (usually a little over a hundred pages each), but in a world where carelessly reading a single novel can commit you to a lifetime of indentured servitude (I’m talking to you, George R.R. Martin), the very brevity of Ace Doubles is a virtue, as they can be finished in a sitting or two, after which you can get on with your life. The bold red-and-blue spines of the earlier volumes are also a plus, adding eye appeal to any bookcase. (Does any double aficionado actually prefer the later blue-and-white color scheme? If so, I’ve never met one.)

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Ace Double D-237: The Secret Visitors (artist unknown)

Speaking of breathless blurbs, another nifty feature that appeared in many (though not all) doubles is a sort of teaser in the form of a cast of characters that comes right before the title page. From my copy of The Secret Visitors by James White (D-237):

Dr. LOCKHART

His patients were half-animal, half-spaceship!

HEDLEY

He wanted to save a country, but first had to save a world.

CEDRIC

English was his native tongue — seventeenth century English!

KEELER

The FBI had trained him to expect almost anything, except an invisible enemy.

KELLY

Hers was an ideal planet — almost.

JUNIOR

In his hand, a water pistol was a deadly weapon.

After a preview like that, who wouldn’t want to read on? As an added bonus, sometimes these character summaries (like the covers) actually come close to matching up with the text inside.

But mentioning the inside text inevitably leads us (though I’ve been trying my best to avoid it) to the actual stories that appeared in Ace Doubles. In a recent comment thread here at Black Gate, some snarky wise guy cracked that reading an Ace Double is “like playing Russian Roulette with four loaded chambers.” I have it on good authority that the jerk who made that remark owns one hundred and thirty Ace Doubles, and while I… er, he… aw, crap… I can’t claim to have read them all, I have powered my way through an unholy number of them, more than enough to back up such a harsh judgment. I think a rough two-to-one ratio of bad to good is fairly accurate, and honesty demands acknowledging that at their too-frequent worst, these books can be stupefyingly, surreally bad.

Donald Wollheim

Donald Wollheim

The reasons for this are simple: time and money. Ace paid next to nothing for these things. Years later, the editor who oversaw the Doubles, Donald Wollheim, laid out how it worked:

We’d buy your novel as part of an Ace Double, pay you maybe $750 or maybe $500, and you’d get a royalty of 3 to 4 percent. It wasn’t a good deal, but it was the only game in the business… I think I can remember instances where a book came within $2 of earning royalties — and then nothing. It’s ridiculous.

Many Doubles that weren’t originals first appeared in low-rent Ziff-Davis magazines (primarily Amazing) before migrating to Ace, and Amazing was definitely in a different neighborhood than the relatively upscale Galaxy, Analog, or F&SF. The folks that wrote Ace Doubles didn’t carefully craft them to realize a burning vision or advance the art of fiction — they cranked them out to pay the rent. They wrote them fast and dirty and didn’t look back; neither their landlords nor the phone company would permit them that luxury.

The Stars Are Ours-small Sanctuary in the Sky-small The Ship From Outside-small

D-121: The Stars Are Ours! (art by Ed Valigursky), D-471: Sanctuary in the Sky (Basil Gogos), F-237: The Ship From Outside (Ed Valigursky)

These writers were, if you will, hacks (“a writer who works on order: also: a writer who aims solely for commercial success,” according to Merriam-Webster), but that’s not necessarily a condemnation. Successful hacks are able to earn a living in hardscrabble, low-paying genres, so it means that what they lack in literary ambition, they make up in storytelling efficiency and professionalism, resulting in books that may not be original but are at least competent… some of the time, anyway. But the pressures of having to maintain a high rate of production in order to, you know, eat, undoubtedly kept Doubles serfs from writing as well as they could have in more ideal circumstances.

Those Doubles writers who can justifiably reject the “hack” label are major talents whose early work appeared in the format. By the time they were producing their best books they had left Doubles far behind, but that’s no reason to disdain their apprentice labors. Indeed, it’s fun to see these writers trying out the themes and ideas that they will later develop more fully in their better known works.

The World Jones Made-small Vulcan's Hammer-small

D-150: The World Jones Made (cover by Robert Schultz), D-457: Vulcan’s Hammer (cover by Ed Emshwiller)

Be aware though, that the spread is pretty wide even for the great writers who started out in Doubles. For instance, in The World Jones Made (D-150), Philip K. Dick produced a flawed but still very lively and interesting novel that’s worthy of any science fiction reader’s attention; in Vulcan’s Hammer (D-457) he tossed out what is almost universally labeled the worst thing he ever wrote. (Dick’s biographer Lawrence Sutin called it “dreck.”) Both books, light-years apart in quality, earned the same meagre ration of chicken feed Wollheim described. It’s not exactly an incentive to do your best work.

As for lesser known writers (certainly a kinder term than “hacks”), well… that’s where it really gets interesting. “Ziff-Davis welcomes Ernest Hemingway to its stable of writers!” is a headline that never appeared in the trade papers, and the talent level among what might be called the “average” Doubles writer is highly variable, to say the least. That’s what makes reading an Ace Double a gamble, but for those of us who are addicted to them, this very grab bag, leap in the dark, what the hell aspect is one of the things that makes theses books so much fun.

The Earth Gods Are Coming-small The Games of Neith-small

D-453: The Earth Gods Are Coming (art: Ed Valigursky) paired with The Games of Neith (Ed Emshwiller)

But there’s no denying it — Ace Doubles are not for the faint of heart, and any time you crack one open, you figuratively risk blowing your brains out. Among my many fatal encounters, The Earth Gods Are Coming by Kenneth Bulmer (D-453) always comes first to what’s left of my mind. This is an excruciatingly bad book, a dull, incoherent farrago that reads like it was written by the victim of a severe head injury and then hastily translated from the Mayan or Sumerian by someone else who barely knew English. I could easily substitute The Darkness Before Tomorrow by Robert Moore Williams (F-141) or The Light of Lilith by G. McDonald Wallis (F-108) as examples of the trauma that Doubles can inflict.

Sometimes, though, instead of finding yourself dead on the floor after finishing a Double, you are delighted to discover that you’re alive and well and happy after reading a darn good story. For example, Agent of the Unknown by Margaret St. Clair (D-150) takes some familiar devices (artificial planets, galactic conspiracies, mutant supermen) and plays them against the reader’s expectations, resulting in a surprising — and surprisingly moving — story. On the other hand, St. Clair’s The Games of Neith (D-453… the flip side of The Earth Gods Are Coming, in fact… a real winner, that D-453) is a complete mess. Remember — for every click, there are two bangs.

The Darkness Before Tomorrow-small The Light of Lilith-small

F-141: The Darkness Before Tomorrow (art by Ed Emshwiller), F-108: The Light of Lilith (Ed Emshwiller)

A little experience can help a Doubles reader improve those odds a bit, however; you will soon learn which writers are more likely (often much more likely) to produce winners. John Brunner was a master of taking stock science fiction situations and devices and making them seem new and original. I’ve never read anything by him in an Ace Double that wasn’t worthwhile. The same can be said of Andre Norton (who could always be trusted to tell a fast-paced, satisfying story) and A. Bertram Chandler, who published many of his highly enjoyable John Grimes space operas in the doubles format, along with other assorted stories set in his appealing rim worlds milieu.

Andre Norton

Andre Norton

These three writers alone saw a lot of their work appear in Ace Doubles, and when you add early work by people like Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delaney, Ursula LeGuin, Mack Reynolds, Fred Saberhagen, Robert Silverberg, and Gordon Dickson, along with new work and classic reprints by veterans such as Leigh Brackett, Edmond Hamilton, Murray Leinster, Poul Anderson, Jack Vance, and A.E. VanVogt, you have plenty of good reading.

A B Chandler Press Photo

A. Bertram Chandler

Of course, there’s a wide middle ground of books which are neither very good nor very bad. This is where the hacks… er, pros have a chance to show what they can do under the severe limitations of the format, and it’s also where you find out whether Ace Doubles are really your thing. How committed are you to the common material of pulp science fiction? Do you demand that a crew crash-landed on a hostile alien planet go through their paces in graceful, polished prose? Do you want them to display subtle character touches and deep motivations? Must you have pages filled with original problems and surprising solutions? Is airtight plotting a necessity, or does a hole or two (or three) completely kill your enjoyment?

If the answer to any of these is yes, you should probably pass on most of these books. But if your pulse quickens even slightly at the bare fact of a crew crash-landed on an alien planet, if you can gain some measure of enjoyment from a standard situation because of the very fact that it is a standard situation, if you savor the time honored tropes and trappings and devices that go all the way back to the early days of the genre, if you love science fiction as science fiction, for the things, whether well employed or not, that make it distinct from any other genre… well then, you’ve hit the jackpot.

John Brunner

John Brunner

Then make sure you’ve got plenty of shelf space for old paperbacks with red-and-blue or blue-and-white spines. (There are even a few in the D-series with a red-and-black color scheme. I never could figure out what was going on with those.) And as for the dreaded two-to-one ratio, when you consider how fast these books were written and how little money the writers were paid for them (to say nothing of the complete absence of any non-monetary inducements to make them better), the remarkable thing is not that so many are bad, but that so many are good.

King of the Fourth Planet-small

Ace Double D-149: King of the Fourth Planet (art: Ed Emshwiller)

The last Ace Double I read, just a couple of months ago, was King of the Fourth Planet by Robert Moore Williams (F-149). Williams killed me dead with his dreadful The Darkness Before Tomorrow, but when I turned the last page of King of the Fourth Planet, I thought, “Hey! That was pretty good!”

I’d taken a gamble and lived to read another day. It’s that kind of reckless thrill that keeps us Ace Double lovers spinning the cylinder, pulling the trigger, playing the game.


Thomas Parker is a native Southern Californian and a lifelong science fiction, fantasy, and mystery fan. When not corrupting the next generation as a fourth grade teacher, he collects Roger Corman movies, Silver Age comic books, Ace doubles, and despairing looks from his wife. His last article for us was a review of Tuck Everlasting.

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Bob Dylan and Van Morrison Sing Together in Athens, on Historic Hill Overlooking the Acropolis

“Foreign Window” and “One Irish Rover”:

On a summer day in 1989, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan met up in Greece and brought their acoustic guitars to the place in Athens where the ancients believed the muses lived. Philopappos Hill, traditionally known as the Hill of the Muses, rises high above the Athens Basin and has a commanding view of the Acropolis. It was June 29. Dylan had just wrapped up a European tour the night before at Panathinaiko Stadium, and Morrison was traveling with a BBC crew for an Arena documentary that would be broadcast in 1991 as One Irish Rover: Van Morrison in Performances. The two legendary singer-songwriters played several of Morrison’s songs: “Foreign Window” and “One Irish Rover,” above, and “Crazy Love,” below. A fourth song, “And It Stoned Me,” was apparently cut from the film.

“Crazy Love”:

 

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Your Ad Here

Corporations and their woke advertising campaigns will not save us.

Available as a print. You can also support my work on Patreon.

Darren Cullen

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IT IS ALL

 

                    

 

                           By David Erdos

 

 

CHARACTERS:

 

ALEX: 20’- 30’S

AUTEUR: 50’S

MAN IN FRAME: 40’S

 

 

LOCATION:

 

Alex’s room. Present day.

 

 

 

PROPS:

 

 

One chair.

One Notebook, pens.

One Large picture frame – held or freestanding.

One large pile of books, dvds, videos.

 

I

 

A simple room. ALEX sits. His chair is placed central. He writes in a notebook as the lights rise on him. There is a psychedelic looking man in a poster frame on one wall and a pile of books, videos, and dvd’s by the other. The AUTEUR appears  from behind this. He is a much older man, casual clothes but signs of affluence clearly. A faded charisma and a weariness too can be seen.

 

AUTEUR.  My parents were never familiar.

ALEX.  I see..

AUTEUR.  They were always about expectation. You had that then. It was post war. Everything was affected by that. So, you couldn’t just stray. You had to have a renewed sense of purpose. Because of everything else they had gone through. And their parents before. They’d need proof.

ALEX.  Proof?

AUTUER.  That we’d work. That’d we’d try. I started work at 11. I was writing jokes, skits. I’d sell them, to the people at school! It was work. Some of my teachers bought them, after they could see they were funny. It was a good jewish business. I’d do jokes about Hitler..

ALEX.  You mean as an act of revenge?

AUTEUR.  If you like. Although I wasn’t thinking that way, at least not at 11. It took longer to get there. I was must have been 12 or13!

ALEX.  That’s funny.

AUTEUR.  Thank you.

ALEX.  How does it feel now they’ve ended?

AUTEUR.  The jokes? Things feel hollow.

ALEX.  So, what did you put in their place?

 

(Silence.)

 

Do you find that a hard question?

AUTEUR.  I don’t. I loved making movies. I loved the fact that my writing drew people and crowds all those years. And if that’s over, ok, then that can be over. But it doesn’t mean I won’t write them. I can read them to myself. They’ll exist.

ALEX.  So, an audience does’t help?

AUTEUR.  Perhaps it does in a theatre. An audience helps itself, mostly. Often it doesn’t know what it is. Actors say, ‘awful house,’ as if it was a communal act by those watching. When its actually them. Or the writing. The love that you have isn’t served.

ALEX.  And yours was?

AUTEUR. In my way. There’s no way you can say that it wasn’t..with a film you don’t you see them. The same with a book. Its a guess. Love is selfish that way. It doesn’t need people. It doesn’t expect you to love it. Love has belief in itself. That’s what my work is and was, regardless of whether the fucking tree falls in the forest! Love, like me, refutes judgement! Especially from the bitter, the ignorant or the dead!

ALEX.  Ok..

AUTEUR.  Not ok!

ALEX. But you don’t need to get so defensive. This is hardly a trial..

AUTEUR.  But it is! What with the climate right now, you don’t need a judge or a jury. You just need someone revengeful whose career’s on the slide to return. It fits in. We’re all sick. And she used to love being famous. Now, she’s what? Unconsidered. She’s nearly dead and she’s older and lost all her charms. And so to then use a child – who by now is an adult – in order to dredge up old accusations that burn a clean hole through my work! I can’t reject that? Or ignore? Just because someone else has raped women? Or jerks off before them to show his ‘special’ celebration of love? Well, how about my love? My life? The work and things I have given? That’s all superceeded by this publically defined question about whether I in my dotage know or do not know what was right? Well, I do! I write films, books and plays. I understand people. But now, I’m done. I’m rewritten. A life’s work.

ALEX.  She was seven.

AUTEUR. Listen, I loved my daughter.

ALEX.  Yes, but with or without expectation?

AUTEUR.  What?

ALEX.  And were you familiar?

AUTEUR.  What do you mean?

ALEX.  Well, your parents..

AUTEUR.  They’re not the issue. My parents are dead.

ALEX.  So are you.

 

(Silence.)

 

ALEX.  You were always called an auteur. Now there’s something of the amateur to you. Its as if you wanted us to know what you’re doing, so you left these little jokes in your films. New things come to light. That’s how we learn about darkness. We’ve read about these other things written. The scripts you didn’t make.

AUTEUR.  They’re just words.

ALEX. Yes, but you love words.

AUTEUR.  I do.

ALEX.  And you say you love writing..

AUTEUR.  Yes.

ALEX.  And love is truth. So, they’re truthful. So you really do love little girls? Is that how it works? Can words be words and words only? As words don’t work in themselves, they’re connections to what we really feel, aren’t they? Speak! Talk now. Defend. Or else they win. Turn the tables! Sound the horn, sir. Do something, or let those vengeful hordes barrel through. The pen is mightier than the sword, especially if the pen is the penis! This is your chance now! Change something. Its never too late. Age won’t hide. And neither will time. You inspired us. Help us. Here is your chance! Love’s a prison as no two people’s love is the same!

 

(The Auteur just stares at him.)

 

ALEX.  You’re at the gates now. Do you see? But yours, I’m afraid, are not shining. Yours, look; are shaking. That’s what I’ve written. Not even your gates like your place.

 

(The Auteur turns and leaves. Alex stands and looks after. He takes his pad or notebook and starts to write in it, remaining upstage as he does. The Man leaves the frame to take his place in the light. He kicks the chair over. He’s dressed circa 1969; Love’s revolutionary, he’s a poet and wild man, whose erudite passion ranks a great deal higher than most.)

 

II

 

MAN FROM FRAME.  Love is revolution. Its change. Its a reconstitution of senses. Love is a drawing up of the contract between the unwavering heart and the truth. Its the dedication we make to find our way through the darkness. Love is a mind fuck that restores after fucking the means to reclaim states of grace. Love forgives. But that doesn’t mean love is kindly. Priests take confession from the darkest smears God has shat. I’ve worked for and with love all my life. I’ve been dedicated to people. I have written things to return them to the hidden paths and parts lost within. I have staged happenings and set speech on fire. I have created conservationist anthems and mothered the world with the word. But do they listen? They don’t. Love is loss. They’ve sucked absence. And now I’m dead. Nice to meet you. At our very last point of contact I’d hope that you reconsider all that you prize now and value and all that you have hitherfore known to be true. Resist the rape of the brain. Discharge the digital finger. Shit on insincerity’s window and blowback the banal! This is not good enough. Your breath is bound to the planet. The love you convey leads to lifestyle, to the sex your perform and pale vows. Love was the force, epitomised in the sixties. And then quickly, yes, ruined as people do not know how to love. Love was the line but now that line has been broken. Be aware and be warned. The ghosts are ranked up against you. As all of their previous efforts stand wasted because of what you have all wrought against love. Love isn’t a thing you fall for. Its life. Its the thing that connects us. From kundalini to brain stem, from cremaster valve to the crux. Its communism as was. Because people don’t care about people. Love should be sex between strangers. But it rarely is. That’s just sex. Love is loss. Love is death. One falls in love with dead bodies, because when we think of the dead its the bodies that invariably return to our mind. But it isn’t bodies that breach the great divide, ‘the far country.’ Its the love, the spent spirit, that with its currency cancelled is doing all that it can do to connect to all you are now and provide. I’m in the dark, lost to light. As are you as you listen. And out of that dark, sounds of fire. They’re either the flame of love’s action or the final burning down of your heart. You are the dead. The spirits are free to seek answers. You are the question that only the lost to love can resolve.

(The MAN returns to the wall. Alex picks up the chair and sets it back at an angle. He now addresses the chair space as if there were someone else now sitting there.)

 

 

III.

 

ALEX.  My confession is this: I have always loved the wrong people. By which I don’t mean the wrong or what society calls the inappropriate people, but simply those who would kill me and who I should train myself not to love.

Love is a form of murder, perhaps; a small genocide of the spirit. A sweet cancer kissing, dissolving away all you had. What remains in its place are patches of that other person. Like healed scars or smooth lesions, an imprint or blush that strains us. Under that stain we are changed and chained too, I imagine. Accepting that love can contain us or, moving from it, allow us to chance to live on. Love frees us, songs say. Love is the key we all look for. Love is chemical only, as science dictates. But not me. Love is the germ. Love is the ultimate virus. It adapts, rearranges. That’s the real horror and I think, revelation: love to the human is the true alien.

Once, long ago was the star that bloomed like a heart, fit for bursting. Love was a colour as solid and sharp as a stone. This proved too much for one place and so the bloods within spermed the cosmos which was brought into being after this hunger for sense proved too bright. Its there in the wonder of space. Saturn’s sad majesty shows it. Through life stopping cold and God’s distance we all have a need for love’s balm. But there is no-one coming who knows the ways we need to connect us, so the wild shards and the splinters of that first profound bloom provide calm. Planets blush, then decay. Stars flash for reaction. Across the immensity we’re all calling for someone closeby to attone. Then we’ll know why. I know what love is. Love’s a herald. We send our dead to it and they become a small part of the search. We are writing our way to the end, in the hope of change if not answers and all the time trying to make with love’s message a new way to be on this earth. Love is a state and love is a language. None of us can yet speak it. But all of us know what its worth.

To the parents I’ve lost and the woman I loved and still yearn for I have seen where we are now and turned my face to the wall. I can’t go on like this…

I can’t sleep. There’s a need to get to you, across borders. Let the fathomless land crease like paper crumpled into a ball.

 

If I could, I’d leave now, devoid of trains, cars or spacecraft..

 

I would walk the night to learn from you;

 

Will you sister cold winds to my call?

 

My voice in a dream.

 

A shot of the moon.

 

Hands and footsteps.

 

Fragments of a life left to give you.

 

Dignity lost.

 

Love is all.

 

 

 

               

 

 

 

              (He remains as the darkness descends.)

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A Brief Compendium of Crazy Campers

By land or by sea, as big as a suburban house or as small as a tiki hut, nothing beats the charm of a kitschy caravan. We’ve whittled down a fresh compendium of our favourites, and if there’s one trend we’ve noticed amongst the winning lot, it’s that they bring the vacation to you.

A pool slide stuck to your car’s rear end? Check. A a sleeper to slide onto your ’73 Corvette? Done. Personally, we’re torn between the mountain hermit-y “Trailer for Two,” and one of the models that can comfortably house our entire extended family (looking at you, Kamp King Koaches). Have a gander yourself — but we call dibs on the “fold-out living room” model.

Of course, not all “rustic” models have to be bite-sized:

And a special shout-out to this model from the 1920s:

Including this “Douglas Fir Log” Housetruck:

But the 1950s really kicked the caravan lifestyle into gear…

By Mary Frances Knapp, our Californian in Paris & beatnik at heart.
http://www.messynessychic.com/

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Unreleased Star Wars Merchandise Prototypes (1977)

Some claim that movies have become mere advertisements for their own merchandising and that even before a film is released the public has been overwhelmed by a tsunami of branded products, from toys to clothing, watches and perfumes; food and drinks to firearms and trafficked children.

The original Star Wars film was one of the first to capitalise on its merchandising potential by producing desirable, limited-edition toys that children (and their parents) could never afford. Even today, rare items such as the 1:1 scale, functioning Death Star can now reach upwards of £114 billion in auction, even more if it’s still in the original box (batteries bought separately).

Back in 1977, SMS (Scarfolk Medical Supplies Ltd) desperately wanted to get on the Star Wars bandwagon and prepared a pitch for a series of potential tie-in products aimed at sick and other feeble citizens who are a drain on NHS resources. In addition to the product mockups posted above and below, there were also Darth Vader oxygen masks for asthmatics, X-Wing-X-Ray machines, Sith bedpans, and Chewbacca toupees. Even the slogan on the promotional catalogue reads: “Use the Forceps!” 

SMS were also very keen to tap the enormously valuable post-life demographic. For patients who didn’t survive their medical conditions, there were mortuary items such as Greedo body bags, Jedi Embalming Materials and R2-D2 urns, all of which ensured that even after death it was impossible to escape exploitation by a movie brand.

 

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Avoid editing room Ae

 

Bogdan Pushlenghea
Illustration Nick Victor

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The Original Noise Artist:

Hear the Strange Experimental Sounds & Instruments of Italian Futurist, Luigi Russolo (1913)

When you hear the phrase Art of Noise, surely you think of the sample-based avant-garde synth outfit whose instrumental hit “Moments in Love” turned the sound of quiet storm adult contemporary into a hypnagogic chill-out anthem? And when you hear about “noise music,” surely you think of the dramatic post-industrial cacophony of Einstürzende Neubauten or the deconstructed guitar rock of Lightning Bolt?

But long before “noise” became a term of art for rock critics, before the recording industry existed in any recognizably modern form, an Italian futurist painter and composer, Luigi Russolo, invented noise music, launching his creation in 1913 with a manifesto called The Art of Noises.

 

“In antiquity,” he writes (in Robert Filliou’s translation), “life was nothing but silence.” After presenting an almost comically brief history of sound and music coming into the world, Russolo then declares his thesis, in bold:

Noise was really not born before the 19th century, with the advent of machinery. Today noise reigns supreme over human sensibility…. Nowadays musical art aims at the shrillest, strangest and most dissonant amalgams of sound. Thus we are approaching noise-sound. This revolution of music is paralleled by the increasing proliferation of machinery sharing in human labor.

Not quite so radical as one might think, but bear in mind, this is 1913, the year Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” provoked a riot in Paris upon its debut. Russolo took an even more shocking swerve away from tradition. Pythagorean theory had stifled creativity, he alleged, “the Greeks… have limited the domain of music until now…. We must break at all cost from this restrictive circle of pure sounds and conquer the infinite variety of noise-sounds.”

To accomplish his grand objective, the experimental artist created his own series of instruments, the Intonarumori, “acoustic noise generators,” writes Thereminvox, that could “create and control in dynamic and pitch several different types of noises.” Working long before digital samplers and the electronic gadgetry used by industrial and musique concrete composers, Russolo relied on purely mechanical devices, though he did make several recordings as well from 1913 to 1921. (Hear “Risveglio Di Una Città” from 1913 above, and many more original recordings as well as new Intonarumori compositions, at Ubuweb.)

Russolo’s musical contraptions, 27 different varieties, were each named “according to the sound produced: howling, thunder, crackling, crumpling, exploding, gurgling, buzzing, hissing, and so on.” (Stravinsky was apparently an admirer.) You can see reconstructions at the top of the post in a 2012 exhibition at Lisbon’s Museu Coleção Berardo. Many of his own compositions feature string orchestras as well. Russolo introduced his new instrumental music over the course of a few years, debuting an “exploder” in Modena in 1913, staging concerts in Milan, Genoa, and London the following year, and in Paris in 1921.

One 1917 concert apparently provoked explosive violence, an effect Russolo seemed to anticipate and even welcome. The Art of Noise derived its influence from every sound of the industrial world, “and we must not forget the very new noises of Modern Warfare,” he writes, quoting futurist poet Marinetti’s joyful descriptions of the “violence, ferocity, regularity, pendulum game, fatality” of battle. His noise system, which he enumerates in the treatise, also consists of “human voices: shouts, moans, screams, laughter, rattlings, sobs….” It seems that if he didn’t supply these onstage, he was happy for the audience to do so.

After Russolo’s first Art of Noise concert in 1913, Marinetti violently defended the instruments against assaults from those whom the composer called “passé-ists.” Other receptions of the strange new form were more enthusiastically positive. Nonetheless, notes a 1967 “Great Bear Pamphlet” that reprints The Art of Noises, the effects aren’t exactly what Russolo intended: “Listening to the harmonized combined pitches of the bursters, the whistlers, and the gurglers, no one remembered autos, locomotives or running waters; one rather experienced an intense emotion of futurist art, absolutely unforeseen and like nothing but itself.”

Related Content:

Soviet Inventor Léon Theremin Shows Off the Theremin, the Early Electronic Instrument That Could Be Played Without Being Touched (1954)

Meet the “Telharmonium,” the First Synthesizer (and Predecessor to Muzak), Invented in 1897

The History of Electronic Music, 1800-2015: Free Web Project Catalogues the Theremin, Fairlight & Other Instruments That Revolutionized Music

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 

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The Art of Dreams

 

durer-dream-banner

Half our dayes wee passe in the shadowe of the earth, and the brother of death exacteth a third part of our lives.

(Thomas Browne, On Dreams)

…night after night, with calm incuriousness we open the door into that ghostly underworld, and hold insane revels with fantastic spectres, weep burning tears for empty griefs, babble with foolish laughter at witless jests, stain our souls with useless crime, or fly with freezing blood from the grasp of an unnamed dread ; and, with the morning, saunter serenely back from these wild adventures into the warm precincts of the cheerful day, unmoved, unstartled, and forgetting.

(Elizabeth Bisland, Dreams and their Mysteries)

Dreams have long proved a fertile ground for human creativity and expression, and no less so than in the visual arts, giving rise to some of its most arresting images. In addition to the many and varied dreams so important to religion and myth there has emerged, in the last few centuries since the birth of Romanticism, an exploration of the more personal dream-world. Indeed, with its link to the unconscious, the form has perhaps proved the perfect vehicle for those artists looking to surface that which lies submerged – desire, guilt, fear, ambition – to bring to light the truth the waking mind keeps hid.

No doubt, also, artists have been attracted to the challenge of giving form to something so visually intangible as a dream, a challenge taken up in many ways through the centuries. More often than not there appears the sleeping body itself, with the dream element incorporated in a variety of ways. Common is for the dream sequence to appear in a totally separate part of the image, as if projected on the walls of the sleeping mind: often in the midst of that familiar floating cloud, but also as emerging from nearby objects or events of the day (see the Toyokuni image below) . Also common, particularly in the depiction of nightmares, is for the figures of the dream to simply appear as though in the room with the sleeper, often directly upon the body itself (see the Fuseli below). With the advent of photography, and the potential of double exposures, we see also a different way of trying to capture that intangibility of the dream image. With both the Grandville and Redon images featured, and the work of the Surrealists they anticipate, we see a different approach entirely, one which looks past the sleeper to focus solely on the imagery of the dream itself, and in the process perhaps giving a more true impression of the strangeness and otherworldliness which so often characterises the dream experience.

Various, see source for individual image.
Underlying Work: PD Wordlwide | Digital Copy: Various, see source for individual image.
Download: Right click on image or see source for higher res versions
The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli (1781). Perhaps Fuseli’s best known work, it has been copied by other artists, including many engravings such as this one by Thomas Burke – Source.
Dream-land (ca. 1883), an etching by S.J. Ferris after a painting by C.D. Weldon – Source.
El sueño del caballero, or The Knight’s Dream (ca. 1655), by Antonio de Pereda – Source.
The Jockey’s Dream (ca. 1880), published by Currier & Ives – Source.
A Nightmare (19th century), by E. Vavasseur – Source.
Nightmare (1810), by Jean Pierre Simon – Source: Wellcome Library.
Job’s Evil Dreams (1805), by William Blake, from a series of 19 watercolours illustrating the Book of Job that Blake painted in 1805-6 for Thomas Butts – Source.
A Child Dreams of the Passing of Time (17th century), by Boetius Adamsz Bolswert – Source.
The Soldiers Dream of Home (ca. 1861), by unknown artist – Source.
A Dream of Crime & Punishment (1847), by J.J. Grandville. Predating Dostoevsky’s book by some 20 years, it shows “the dream of an assassin overcome by remorse” – Source.
Dream Vision; A Nightmare (1525), by Albrecht Dürer: a watercolour and accompanying text describing an apocalyptic dream Dürer had on the night of 7-8th June 1525. The text reads: In 1525, during the night between Wednesday and Thursday after Whitsuntide, I had this vision in my sleep, and saw how many great waters fell from heaven. The first struck the ground about four miles away from me with such a terrible force, enormous noise and splashing that it drowned the entire countryside. I was so greatly shocked at this that I awoke before the cloudburst. And the ensuing downpour was huge. Some of the waters fell some distance away and some close by. And they came from such a height that they seemed to fall at an equally slow pace. But the very first water that hit the ground so suddenly had fallen at such velocity, and was accompanied by wind and roaring so frightening, that when I awoke my whole body trembled and I could not recover for a long time. When I arose in the morning, I painted the above as I had seen it. May the Lord turn all things to the bestSource.
Yume no ukihashi, or The Bridge of Dreams (1854), by Utagawa Toyokuni – Source.
The Artist’s Dream (1840), by George H. Comegys. The artist, with his head down on a table in his studio, perhaps seeking divine intervention, is having a vision of great artists from the past, such as: Sir Joshua Reynolds, Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian, Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael Michelangelo, and others – Source.
Legend of St Francis: Dream of the Palace (1297 – 1299), by Giotto – Source.
The Orangerie;—or—the Dutch Cupid Reposing After the Fatigues of Planting, depicting William V, Prince of Orange, as a fat, naked Cupid (1796), by James Gillray – Source.
Tatiana Larina’s dream (1891), by Ivan Volkov – Source.
The Orphan’s Dream (19th century), by James Elliott – Source.
Dreaming of Santa Claus (ca. 1897), by William H. Rau – Source.
A Verger’s Dream: Saints Cosmas and Damian Performing a Miraculous Cure by Transplantation of a Leg (ca. 1495), by Masterof Los Balbases, – Source: Wellcome Library.
Tako to ama, or The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife (1814), an erotic ukiyo-e by Hokusai, from the book Kinoe no Komatsu (English: Young Pines), a three-volume book of shunga erotica first published in 1814. For an English translation of the rather racy text see the link to the source – Source.
Jacob’s Dream (late 16th century), by Adam Elsheimer – Source.
The Dream of King Nebuchadnezzar (10th century), Staatsbibliothek Bamberg, Msc. Bibl. 22, fol. 31v – Source.
The Dream of Pilate’s Wife (ca. 1879), by Gustave Doré. According to Matthew 27:19, While Pilate was sitting in the judgment hall, his wife sent him a message: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, because in a dream last night, I suffered much on account of him.” – Source.
‘Emperor Godaigo, dreaming of ghosts in his palace (1890), by Ogata Gekkō – Source.
Dream (1878 – 1882), by Odilon Redon – Source.
Little Nemo comic strip, by Winsor McCay (1906). This particular strip was from a European edition and never printed in the US – Source.

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Niall McDevitt London Poetry Walks

New River Press is very pleased to present the Niall McDevitt London Poetry Walks. McDevitt is an Irish poet based in London with a passion for exploring where poets lived, worked, and died. His research – psychogeographic explorations – have been fine tuned into popular walks tracing the lives of William Blake, Rimbaud and Verlaine, Thomas De Quincey, W.B. Yeats, and many others.

Throughout 2018 he will be giving walks every Saturday and Sunday, focusing on a different poet every month. Information about upcoming walks available below.

MARCH 10TH: THE MODERNISTS OF KENSINGTON, JOURNEY INTO THE VORTEX (HYDE PARK) - SPECIAL GUEST WALK BY ALEXIS THOMPSON

Mar
10

MARCH 10TH: THE MODERNISTS OF KENSINGTON, JOURNEY INTO THE VORTEX (HYDE PARK) – SPECIAL GUEST WALK BY ALEXIS THOMPSON

Looking at Beckett, Yeats, Pound, Woolf Eliot, HD, Lewis and Joyce, Journey into the Vortex promises to explore how the time spent in Kensington shaped the lives and work of these great poets. The walk will meet at the Hudson Bird Memorial Sanctuary in Hyde Park (nearest stations: Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Knightsbridge), beginning at 2pm, and will conclude near Notting Hill Gate station. Tickets are £10, Please click her to purchase. 

MARCH 11TH: THE MODERNISTS OF KENSINGTON, JOURNEY INTO THE VORTEX (HYDE PARK) - SPECIAL GUEST WALK BY ALEXIS THOMPSON

Mar
11

MARCH 11TH: THE MODERNISTS OF KENSINGTON, JOURNEY INTO THE VORTEX (HYDE PARK) – SPECIAL GUEST WALK BY ALEXIS THOMPSON

Looking at Beckett, Yeats, Pound, Woolf Eliot, HD, Lewis and Joyce, Journey into the Vortex promises to explore how the time spent in Kensington shaped the lives and work of these great poets. The walk will meet at the Hudson Bird Memorial Sanctuary in Hyde Park (nearest stations: Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Knightsbridge), beginning at 2pm, and will conclude near Notting Hill Gate station. Tickets are £10, Please click her to purchase. 

MARCH 17TH: THE MODERNISTS OF KENSINGTON, JOURNEY INTO THE VORTEX (HYDE PARK) - SPECIAL GUEST WALK BY ALEXIS THOMPSON

Mar
17

MARCH 17TH: THE MODERNISTS OF KENSINGTON, JOURNEY INTO THE VORTEX (HYDE PARK) – SPECIAL GUEST WALK BY ALEXIS THOMPSON

Looking at Beckett, Yeats, Pound, Woolf Eliot, HD, Lewis and Joyce, Journey into the Vortex promises to explore how the time spent in Kensington shaped the lives and work of these great poets. The walk will meet at the Hudson Bird Memorial Sanctuary in Hyde Park (nearest stations: Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Knightsbridge), beginning at 2pm, and will conclude near Notting Hill Gate station. Tickets are £10, Please click her to purchase. 

MARCH 18TH: THE MODERNISTS OF KENSINGTON, JOURNEY INTO THE VORTEX (HYDE PARK) - SPECIAL GUEST WALK BY ALEXIS THOMPSON

Mar
18

MARCH 18TH: THE MODERNISTS OF KENSINGTON, JOURNEY INTO THE VORTEX (HYDE PARK) – SPECIAL GUEST WALK BY ALEXIS THOMPSON

Looking at Beckett, Yeats, Pound, Woolf Eliot, HD, Lewis and Joyce, Journey into the Vortex promises to explore how the time spent in Kensington shaped the lives and work of these great poets. The walk will meet at the Hudson Bird Memorial Sanctuary in Hyde Park (nearest stations: Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Knightsbridge), beginning at 2pm, and will conclude near Notting Hill Gate station. Tickets are £10, Please click her to purchase. 

MARCH 24TH: POETS OF THE EMBANKMENT WALK (TRAFALGAR SQUARE) - NIALL MCDEVITT LONDON POETRY WALKS

Mar
24

MARCH 24TH: POETS OF THE EMBANKMENT WALK (TRAFALGAR SQUARE) – NIALL MCDEVITT LONDON POETRY WALKS

Poet-psychogeographer Niall McDevitt leads a walk of discovery along the Thames tracing the dazzling history of poets and poetry in the area, including the Elizabethans, the Romantics, the Deacadents and the Beats. Meet at 2pm in the churchyard of St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JJ. The walk will last approx. two hours and will finish in The Olde Cheshire Cheese close to Blackfriars tube. £10 For tickets, please click here.

MARCH 25TH: THE POETS OF HAMMERSMITH (KENSINGTON OLYMPIA STATION) - NIALL MCDEVITT LONDON POETRY WALKS

Mar
25

MARCH 25TH: THE POETS OF HAMMERSMITH (KENSINGTON OLYMPIA STATION) – NIALL MCDEVITT LONDON POETRY WALKS

Poet-psychogeographer Niall McDevitt leads an epic walk from border to border of Hammersmith borough through a half century of poetry. The great poets who’ve lived in Hammersmith include John Milton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Morris, WB Yeats, Shane MacGowan, Dylan Thomas, and many more. Meet at Kensington Olympia Station for 2pm. The walk will last approx. 2 hours and finish at Ravenscourt Park tube. Tickets are £10. Please click here to purchase.

MARCH 31ST: POETS OF THE EMBANKMENT WALK (TRAFALGAR SQUARE) - NIALL MCDEVITT LONDON POETRY WALKS

Mar
31

MARCH 31ST: POETS OF THE EMBANKMENT WALK (TRAFALGAR SQUARE) – NIALL MCDEVITT LONDON POETRY WALKS

Poet-psychogeographer Niall McDevitt leads a walk of discovery along the Thames tracing the dazzling history of poets and poetry in the area, including the Elizabethans, the Romantics, the Deacadents and the Beats. Meet at 2pm in the churchyard of St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JJ. The walk will last approx. two hours and will finish in The Olde Cheshire Cheese close to Blackfriars tube. £10 For tickets, please click here

APRIL 1ST: THE POETS OF HAMMERSMITH (KENSINGTON OLYMPIA STATION) - NIALL MCDEVITT LONDON POETRY WALKS

Apr
1

APRIL 1ST: THE POETS OF HAMMERSMITH (KENSINGTON OLYMPIA STATION) – NIALL MCDEVITT LONDON POETRY WALKS

Poet-psychogeographer Niall McDevitt leads an epic walk from border to border of Hammersmith borough through a half century of poetry. The great poets who’ve lived in Hammersmith include John Milton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Morris, WB Yeats, Shane MacGowan, Dylan Thomas, and many more. Meet at Kensington Olympia Station for 2pm. The walk will last approx. 2 hours and finish at Ravenscourt Park tube. Tickets are £10. Please click here to purchase.

APRIL 7TH: THE SQUARE MILE SHAKESPEARE (BLACKFRIARS STATION) - NIALL MCDEVITT LONDON POETRY WALKS

Apr
7

APRIL 7TH: THE SQUARE MILE SHAKESPEARE (BLACKFRIARS STATION) – NIALL MCDEVITT LONDON POETRY WALKS

Poet-psychogeographer Niall McDevitt commemorates the day of Shakespeare’s birth and death with his much imitated but never equaled walk THE SQUARE MILE SHAKESPEARE.

McDevitt proves that you don’t have to go to Stratford-on-Avon or Bankside to follow the trail of our finest writer. We are taught about the messy London in which he lived, about the Elizabethan and the Jacobean Shakespeare, the cautious, wise, and almost neurotic man beyond the plays, as well as his very specific place within the city’s society during his lifetime.

Under a beautiful marble statue of the First Folio, McDevitt will argue that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, dismissing the Marlowe theory as ‘cobblers’ and the Bacon theory as ‘not kosher’.

Meeting outside Blackfriars Station (north entrance) on Sat 7, Sat 14, Sat 21 and Sat 28 April at 2pm. The walk will last approx. two hours and finish at Barbican. Tickets are £10. Please click here to purchase. 

APRIL 1ST: EMILIA BASSANO LANIER, SHAKESPEARE'S DARK LADY (TOWER HILL) - NIALL MCDEVITT LONDON POETRY WALKS

Apr
8

APRIL 1ST: EMILIA BASSANO LANIER, SHAKESPEARE’S DARK LADY (TOWER HILL) – NIALL MCDEVITT LONDON POETRY WALKS

Poet Niall McDevitt tells the widely known but little appreciated story of Emilia Bassano, Shakespeare’s lifelong muse, and – as Emilia Lanier – the first woman to publish a book of original poetry in England. In the heart of London McDevitt will evoke the world of Emilia and her contemporaries in the Elizabethan Renaissance. He will explore what we know of Lanier’s relationship with Shakespeare, how her influence can be pinpointed from the earliest to the final plays, and how she was ‘discovered’ in the 1970s by the maverick Elizabethan scholar AL Rowse. Meeting outside Tower Hill tube station by the statue of Trajan at 2pm. The walk will last approx. two hours and finish within walking distance of Shoreditch station or Old Street tube. Tickets are £10. Please click here to purchase. 

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Direct Rule: In Peace with Foul Desire

 

A Poem by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, and a translation into Contemporary Politics, from Surrey with the Fringe on Top

 

 

Th’Assyrian king, in peace, with foul desire
And filthy lusts that stain’d his regal heart ;
In war, that should set princely hearts on fire,
Did yield vanquisht for want of martial art.
The dint of swords from kisses seemed strange ;
And harder than his lady’s side, his targe:
From glutton feasts to soldier’s fare, a change;
His helmet, far above a garland’s charge:
Who scarce the name of manhood did retain,
Drenched in sloth and womanish delight.
Feeble of spirit, impatient of pain,
When he had lost his honour, and his right,
(Proud time of wealth, in storms appalled with dread,)
Murder’d himself, to shew some manful deed.

 

Direct Rule: In Peace with Foul Desire

 

In peacetime, no warriors in frillies will defy this decree:

‘These suicidal fairies can’t be trusted to blow things up

and kill people with ‘overwhelming force,’ his spokesman said.

Gender’s stiff agenda. But Trump’s all trump and no guano!

 

Surrey’s Saradanapalus is clearly a ‘sissy’, the sort to say,

I love balloons but nobody knows what makes ’em fly!

As our man says: What’s the point of nuclear weapons

if you can’t use ’em? Kim Jong-un knows how to make them fly.

 

O Filthy lust! Your Russian soaked the couch Obama touched.

Inhuman masculinity is ‘unmanly’ in my book. Books! Who

reads poetry anymore, let alone a trans translation?

 

Feeble and febrile, if he ever faces dishonour, loses his right to govern,

I fear that, out of his wealth in a storm of rage, he’ll rise,

thumb on button, and whoosh us all to show some ‘manful’ deed.

 

 

Robert Sheppard

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Getting Freakadelic.


Tracklist:
Lulu – Love Loves to Love Love
Tom Scott – Today
Shocking Blue – Love Buzz
Rare Earth – (I Know) I’m Losing You
The Temptations – I Can’t Get Next to You
Les Yper Sound – Psyche Rock
The Haunted – Vapeaur Mauve
The French Fries – Danse a la Musique
Junior Parker – Tomorrow Never Knows
Junior Parker – Lady Madonna
Junior Parker – Taxman
Os Mutantes – Panis et Circencis
Rotary Connection – Respect
Muddy Waters – Tom Cat
Jefferson Airplane – Somebody to Love
Them – It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
Freda Payne – Unhooked Generation

 

Steam Stock

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Star Trump

 

 

Donald is in

the chair,

 

in the Captain’s

seat, making it so

 

by his pants

in his pants,

 

he is panting,

‘This is very much

 

the way to go

so make it so.’

 

He chants and

he fills his pants,

 

‘I know words,

I know the best words,

 

to boldly go

so make it so.’

 

Donald is in

his hair like

 

a tribble.

‘It is not fair’,

 

he pants,

‘To make this

 

compare.’

Donald dribbles,

 

‘Something bad

is happening

 

in this space.

Space is a shithole.’

 

Donald grabs

for an idea,

 

a tremendous idea

for winning space,

 

‘There are certain things

men must do

 

to remain men.’

Donald grabs at

 

his pants

her pants.

 

Donald is in

the chair,

 

in the Captain’s

seat, making it so.

 

Mike Ferguson

 

 

 

 

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Spring frost in Afrin: ‘Operation Olive Branch’

 

 

First they came for the trees.

Then they came for the indigenous and the itinerant,

Those reactionaries that stay rooted and will not go away,

And those terrorists that go seeding trouble everywhere.

But first they came for the trees.

 

Yes, they did come for the trees.

Who knows what those Kurds could get up in the forests?

It is well known that trees are friends of fugitives,

After all the only language trees speak is treason!

Of course they had to take the trees, my friend.

 

Why not take the trees,

When we are hungry for grain and thirsty for oil?

Selfishly keeping for their own what is due to the fatherland.

Trees stand in the way of progress and reason,

Everybody knows that about trees.

 

Sure you can have some trees.

We allow you to grow olives and cherries

In Afrin and Kobanê.

Grow them for the national good and be proud,

But do not grow anything besides these trees.

 

Liberation! Abundant trees are sprouting up!

Women and men planting

Shoulder to shoulder, with hope and joy,

To make the land green and ripe and resilient;

With sustaining, soil-embracing, water-retaining trees of liberty.

 

The trees bud and foliate,

Like opening mouths finding their voices again,

Expressing cool green thoughts,

In the heat of the Mesopotamian summer.

As Shakespeare knew, there are tongues in trees. He heard them.

 

 

 

Now ‘Operation Olive Branch’ comes for the trees,

Alongside airstrikes and mass killing,

Beneath the shuddering sky;

They are more than collateral damage,

The cut and bulldozed olive trees.

 

And they come for the waters too,

Enclosing and shackling rivers,

Water has memory longer than the ancient city of Hasankeyf;

Euphrates and Tigris remember humanity’s early cultures,

And will not forget what’s happening to their waters.

They come for the trees of life, our dear sylvan hevals,

Their jagged trunks wrenched and uprooted.

From a cave, sheltering from bombardment, a man cries out:

“We will stay in the Afrin region with the last olive tree;

We will sit under that remaining tree and not leave our homes and lands.”

 

Stephen E. Hunt, 11 March 2018
Illustration Nick Victor

 

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Send Words, Pictures, Music, Films

Culture, Space, Love
& the Invisible Insurrection of
A Million Minds

 

Send poetry, prose, art, films, videos, music etc to this address for publication on International Times:

internationaltimesmag@gmail.com

 

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Community Garden

 

 

I lead my friend along the hoggin path,

show her the last chicory whose leaves

have outgrown any danger of being eaten.

She photographs the newly made beehouse

with its hundreds of holes that wait for tenants.

I teach her how to say nasturtium,

shiver in the thin winter light

that creeps shyly over the ivied wall.

I start to think about the warm office

when she says that close to her home town

officials, dissatisfied with society

retreated to their country palaces

where they expressed their feelings through gardening.

I imagine secret messages spelt in flowers

and lakes dug in significant positions.

I look round at the reeds by the leaf-clogged pond,

the small note of organic carrot fronds.

 

 

Rowan MIddleton

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Opportunity Doorway

The Opportunity Doorway scheme for women was launched in 1976. Here’s an excerpt from the council’s literature:

“Scientific studies conducted by some of the finest minds in the Gentlemen’s Science Club of Great Britain clearly show it’s not your fault that you were born female.

But that doesn’t mean you are entirely blameless for your irresponsible birth. Lazing around the house all day looking after infants and cleaning your husband’s home is all well and good for a few years. But what happens after that, when you have become redundant?

Enter The Opportunity Doorway scheme, which has been designed specifically for you. It won’t dig into your housekeeping allowance and you won’t have to worry about reading anything complicated; however, a head for heights is recommended.”

See also: International Women’s Day 1970, romance novels, birth, sexual reproduction in females and Bastard Lanes for single mothers.

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NME: END OF AN ERA

March 9th marks the end of NME in print

Adios, amigo

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-43319021

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/mar/09/he-tried-to-get-out-of-the-car-at-80mph-the-stories-behind-nmes-greatest-covers

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NME

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The Festival Game

Kickstarter appeal going ‘Live’. £14,999 requested.

More Info: https://1drv.ms/v/s!AmjjqRpYqsEMiwSNq-O2qStlmDpH

by Ethan Harrison

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Poll: Majority Of Evangelicals Would Support Satan If He Ran As Republican Candidate

 

.
.
U.S.—A new LifeWay Research poll confirmed Wednesday that a majority of conservative evangelicals would vote for Satan, the Prince of Darkness, should he run for public office as a Republican candidate.

The poll found that 72% of self-identified evangelicals would vote and even campaign for the prince of fallen angels should he promise to promote Republican policies while in office.

“Most of those we surveyed agreed that they would in fact vote for Satan, as long as he verbally supported pro-life and pro-Second Amendment platform positions,” the head of the research study said. “A majority of respondents ‘strongly agreed’ that it was important for a candidate to pay lip service to the hot-button issues of the religious right, while strongly disagreeing that a candidate’s personal penchant for tempting countless millions of souls into the fires of hell would affect his public policies.”

“Lucifer? Yeah, I’d vote for him, as long as he claims to be a Republican,” one member of a study focus group said. “He’s got some character flaws, sure—who doesn’t—but we’ve got to remember that ensuring we Christians get some fleeting political power is far more important than whether our chosen candidate does a little soul-devouring on the side.”

The poll also looked at related issues, such as the willingness of evangelicals to overlook or minimize major moral failings in human candidates.

“Personal indiscretions, shady business dealings, making blood sacrifices to Azathoth the Daemon Sultan in secret—Christians are now willing to forgive literally everything if it means they’ll have some kind of political clout,” the study head told reporters. “Our findings confirm that conservative Christians are actually more likely to vote for mobsters, cultists, and hellish demon kings than any other demographic.”

At publishing time, study officials had confirmed evangelicals would also be willing to support Sith lords, elder gods, and the evil Dr. Robotnik if they were to run for office as members of the GOP.

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The Counter-Tradition of Carlos Williams

[William Carlos Williams ( 1883-1963) – undated photo in the collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale]

.
.
AG: So that [“Love Letter”}  was like a real serious attempt to get the depths and solemnity of, you know, a love poem by (John) Donne, (and that was taken to be the idea of death and absent lovers and impatience). But it’s all intellectual pride. That’s where I picked up on that the whole notion, the whole.. I think, the whole project of metaphysical poetry of the seventeenth-century of Donne (because I was good at writing that kind of poetry) did involve, (as it shows here), a certain intellectual pride, sort of a sado-masochistic intellectual pride, and also a closet attitude towards the kitchen-sink aspect of reality. So (I had) to really get out of this kind of closet (which was the kind of poetry that Anthony Hecht, Richard Wilbur, William Jay Smith. had learned from John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and older poets of the (19)30’s and (19)40’s, influenced by T.S.Eliot (who was influenced by Donne, Webster, and these metaphysical poets).

To get out of that tradition, I had to start reading William Carlos Williams and start writing about… “I put an apple on the front porch and nobody’s touched it for a month”,  you know  – [“Perfection‘} –  or some..something about “the plums she left in the icebox I ate, forgive me they were delicious”…  in which “the plums that you left in  the icebox and which you probaby were saving for breakfast. I ate, forgive me, they were delicious”  – “I’ have eaten the plums that you left in the icebox which you were probably saving for breakfast. Forgive me they were delicious, so sweet and so cold” – [“This Is Just To Say“]

So this (sic – “Love Letter” ) was written in 1947.   1948, I heard William Carlos Williams read in the Museum of Modern Art ,and realized that the poetry he was writing, and the rhythms  he was writing in, were no different from his actual speech, that he was listened to his speech, and therefore writing from that. Because there is a cadence in that “I have eaten the plums” – ” I have eaten/ the plums/ that you left (that were in)/  the icebox/ (and) which/ you were probably/ saving/ for breakfast./ Forgive me/ they were delicious/, so sweet /and so cold” –  There’s a definite cadence to the Williams, if you hear it, as there is to this iron lock, iron-bound hard stanzaic form of iambic measures that are practiced on.

But, I don’t think I would have been as good at open form American measures if I hadn’t really developed an ear here (because there’s not much difference, when you say -“Let not the sad perplexity/Of absent love unhumor thee”.  is not much different from “who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lone-some farms in grand-father night”. See, there’s a very definite awareness in the cadence “who lit cigar-ettes in bom-bom bom-bom bom-bom badda-da boom..”  – bom-bom-bom bom-bom-bom-bom da da-da da.  It’s just a development of the same ear, through more variability, but it is an ear that’s developed from hearing cadence. If you don’t hear cadence, your poetry lacks music., and it’s just , you know, what you got here? – it may be a picture, maybe some witty remark of a vague washed-laundry-on-the-line nature, but unless it’s got (some).refined mind that’s used to the best in cadences and invested in wit in the ear, then nobody is going to be interested. You know, you’ll be writing poems because you’re supposed  to be writing poems, or something…

So then the next thing I did was  ( Do I have to… I don’t have to explain these things. You get the basic ideas) – was….. oh Marvell’s “..Garden” – an imitation of Marvell’s Garden. This was my move –  another campy poem.

[Audio for  the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately forty-three-and-a-half  minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-eight -and-a-half minutes in]

http://allenginsberg.org

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A Photographer’s Love For 1970s New York

“It was like Stalingrad but with all the besiegers on the inside” – AA Gill

 

Eye Glasses on Opening Night, Xenon NY, June 1978

Eye Glasses on Opening Night, Xenon NY, June 1978

 

AA Gill looked on:

Where politer European cities might have had street mimes, New York has always had the Brechtian street theatre of pavement psychodrama. The city clanked and cracked with the stress of its own fear and anger. It lashed out at the unwary. The streets sagged and steamed with a subterranean fury. The fire escapes rattled like mad monkey cages. There was a metropolitan, decadent hysteria; it was all disco and glitter, big hair and Cuban heels, boys in make-up, eyelashes like nuked cockroaches, Armani suits with padded shoulders and sleeves pushed up to the elbow, hair that needed 20 minutes to get out of the house.

 

Jive Guy on Williamsburg Subway, Brooklyn NY, March 1978

Jive Guy on Williamsburg Subway, Brooklyn NY, March 1978

 

Meryl Meisler was there to take it in. Like all the best New Yorkers, she knew the rules and rolled with them:

“In the 1970s, I lived on 92 St., right off Central Park West. I’ve always been cautious about safety and would not walk or run in the park alone. The first time a flasher showed me his private parts in Central Park was the last time I ran there. Perhaps that was my excuse not to run in general.” – Meryl Meisler

 

Spreading Wings at the COYOTE Hookers Masquerade Ball, NY, February 1977

Spreading Wings at the COYOTE Hookers Masquerade Ball, NY, February 1977

Threesome Dance, GG's Barnum Room NY, December 1978

Threesome Dance, GG’s Barnum Room NY, December 1978

During the New York City blackout of 1977, Meryl Meisler captured this photo of a group of guys hanging out on the hood of a police car in New York City on July 13, 1977.

During the New York City blackout of 1977, Meryl Meisler captured this photo of a group of guys hanging out on the hood of a police car in New York City on July 13, 1977.

Elda (Gentile) Stilletto and Guitarist at CBGB NY, NY April 1978

Elda (Gentile) Stilletto and Guitarist at CBGB
NY, NY
April 1978

Clown Cart at the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus NY, NY April 1977

Clown Cart at the Ringling
Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus
NY, NY
April 1977

Cigarette Case, Studio 54, NY, NY, January 1978

Cigarette Case, Studio 54, NY, NY, January 1978

Two Blondes in a band at CBGB, NY, NY, March 1977

Two Blondes in a band at CBGB, NY, NY, March 1977

Peter Beard Smoking Cigarette at Easter Monday 
Hurrah, NY, NY, March 1979

Peter Beard Smoking Cigarette at Easter Monday 
Hurrah, NY, NY, March 1979

 

Buy Purgatory & Paradise SASSY ’70s Suburbia & The City. Discover more at www.merylmeisler.com.

https://flashbak.com/

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Anarchy Part11: The Great British Parliamentary Oligarchy

Anarchism is basically about questioning everything assumed and everything held sacred.

As I mentioned in the last article, it’s a thought process, a tendency to mental deconstruction and criticism. In this way, anarchy is not a place without government. Anarchy is the state of being: a collection of billions of individuals worldwide all making more or less informed decisions about how to lead their lives. Anarchism is the recognition that every one of them is of equal value and capacity, even if they don’t believe it, act like it, or get treated like it.

And anarchism therefore finds its most accurate – though necessarily begrudging – political opinion in demanding, proclaiming and supporting democracy. Democracy, that is, in its truest sense, rule by all people and not rule by citizens, nor representatives, nor proletariats, nor market leaders. Everyone at the same time, always. And in a strange way these definitions mean we already exist in an anarchic democracy. The problem comes in our inability to make best use of this natural situation. Our tendency to succumb to worldly powers established in generations of past humans that have tried to restrict our total democratic capacity, so they can live more comfortable lives while greater or fewer thousands suffer.

The UK is most influenced by a Parliamentary Oligarchy – to continue with the use of strange and old Greek words. We invest official governmental authority in an assembly of powerful legislators, meant to represent people who do not choose them, but who are asked to vote for them.
Voting barely includes any kind of opinion, and never – in the UK – brings a popular result.

In 2015, the Conservatives formed a government on the “majority” of 37% of a 66% turnout. That’s 11,334,920 people getting representation versus 51,846,855 people in the general population (figures based on the 2011 Census) being given a government they can still be seen to actively and publicly disagree with. In 2010, 17% of the population determined the Conservatives’ dominant role in government, not forgetting that the Lib Dems abandoned their historical allies, promises to the electorate and ideological roots, too.

That’s nationally. Locally, Hastings, 2016 council elections, the highest turnout was in St Helens Ward: 47.2%. And that was the highest turnout of all wards by 6.3%. The Labour candidate got in by a relatively substantial 50.3% in St Helens. In rough terms, this all amounts to 1,000 people out of 4,000 getting what they voted for. 25% being represented.

You can’t call that democracy, so let’s not pretend it is. The only democracy, surprisingly, is in our all agreeing to continue to exist under this strange arrangement. We lack the self-confidence and perhaps even skill for anything else. But this doesn’t mean we can’t improve. Existence is a testament to the powerful or far-reaching nature of evolution, after all.

More on that next time…

 

Merlin Pendragon

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THE CASE FOR UM

Because I have no wish to feed the President’s malignant narcissism, not
to mention unintentionally advertising his brand each time I write or speak
his name, I have decided to refer to him by simply the syllable UM.  Those
two letters stand in about the same proportion to his full name as his
insecure real self must stand in proportion to his overblown ego persona.
He cannot t _ _ _ _ democracy if he is after all only an um.  (Capitals are
optional.)  I already spend more time obsessing over the acronym for The
Really Ugly Mock-President than he deserves, and I’m sure I’m not alone in
this.  Um will be much easier to put out of my mind, to establish um-free
zones of thought.  The best way to defeat um is to shrink him in our minds
as small as he is inside, a colicky red-faced infant in a five-hundred-pound
gorilla suit.  Because in the end even thinking of him plays into his tiny
hands.  I believe that um would like nothing better than to become all we
think about, all of us, all of the time, the center of everyone’s attention,
and we can’t let him have that satisfaction.

 

Thomas R. Smith

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The Weather

 

Mike Ferguson

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Satisfaction

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The Deepest Blues and a Hit of Acid Rock – Memphis (1966-1969)

The [Memphis Country] Blues Festival [was] an occasion unto itself, quite unlike any other. The aging troubadours of the first truly American music converge to unfold the eternal story once again. Their audience, happily disregarding the erosions the years have wrought upon these performers, hears what it needs to hear—especially the echoes of an earlier, rougher, more joyous, simpler era. (Choose your own fantasy of the American South during this century’s opening decades.) Two of the most important blues festivals in recent memory were the Memphis [Country] Blues Festival and the [1969] Ann Arbor Blues Festival…Stanley Booth’s article on the memorable Memphis festival gets inside that event to the meaning of the blues, while Bert Stratton tells what it’s like to be 19, totally inexperienced as a promoter/festival organizer, and suddenly to find a full-scale blues festival growing out of your daydreams.

Even the Birds Were Blue
By Stanley Booth – Rolling Stone – April 10, 1970

At about five o’clock in the afternoon on the second day of the Memphis Country Blues Festival, the old blues artists Fred McDowell and Johnny Woods were huddled together on folding chairs at the front of the stage at the Overton Park Shell, just getting into “Shake ‘Em On Down,” when a gang of men began moving a long series of big black amplifier crates from one side of the rear stage to the other. Hearing the clatter, Woods stopped playing harmonica and cast a worried glance backwards over his shoulder.  “I thought it was a big ole train a-comin’,” he said. The crates were stamped WINTER, because they contained the many amplifiers of Johnny Winter, the Columbia Recording Company’s $300,000 cross-eyed albino Texas electric blues bonus baby, and I mention them because they will serve adequately as a symbol of what nearly killed the Memphis Country Blues Festival in its fourth year.

To understand the Blues Festival, you must know that Fred McDowell, the best living Mississippi bluesman, has been for most of his life a sharecropper, sometimes making a year’s profit (after paying his bowman for rent and equipment) of as much as $30; and that Furry Lewis, who is virtually all that remains of Beale Street, worked for the City of Memphis 43 years, collecting garbage, sweeping the streets, and then retired without a pension. No matter how they could play and sing, they were still just a couple of [black men in the South]. They and others like them had been recorded on labels like Bluebird and Vocalion in the early days of race records; then, with the Depression and the WWII recording ban, they were forgotten. Through the days of the first electric blues bands, the Sun Records era of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, the late Fifties rhythm-and-blues, and the rock revival of the Sixties, the old men whose music provided the foundation for it all were ignored. When they were not ignored, they were exploited.
Just about the only people who ever really cared for the old Delta bluesmen were a few vintage Southern beatniks. Although struggling for their own survival, they recognized a spiritual tie and responsibility and saw to it that the old men worked whenever possible. Charlie Brown, poet, hermit, actor, snake trapper, entrepreneur, was probably the first to hire the old men for public appearances, at the Bitter Lemon and O So coffee houses in Memphis in the early sixties.
The Levitt Shell is an outdoor amphitheater and live music venue in Memphis, TN.

On the scene at about this time was a New Yorker named Bill Barth, one of the strange breed of northern musicologists, like Charters and the Lomaxes, who spend their lives looking for the blues without ever quite finding it. Barth did unearth several lost blues artists, however, and in 1966 he and Charlie Brown produced the first Memphis Country Blues Festival, though it was not called that. It was just the blues show then, and it was rained out, but everyone came back a week later and the show went on, with Bukka White, B.B. King’s cousin and teacher; Nathan Beauregard, who is supposed to be, at 106, the world’s oldest blues singer; Rev. Robert Wilkins, a converted blues man who became one of the finest gospel singers, and Fred McDowell and Furry Lewis.

There were also such white members of the Memphis musical underground as Lee Baker, a guitarist; Sid Selvidge, a country-folk singer; and Jim Dickinson, who is, among other things, a blues singer. The show started late, there were too many acts, most of whom stayed on too long; but the old men of the blues were given respect and more important, applause; and the young musicians who were there showed that they cared enough about the blues to really learn it, not just to ape the lifestyle and the licks. The first Memphis blues show was, in spite of its faults, a fine thing.

Perhaps that is why the second blues show was such a disappointment 1967 was the year of the hippie tidal wave; the world was awash with dope and flowers. Charlie Brown, after a difference of opinion with the Memphis Vice Squad, had gone to Miami. The blues show took place, but somehow things were not the same. The Lee Baker Blues Band had become Funky Down-Home and the Electric Blue Watermelon; Lee/Funky, one of the young musicians who supposedly cared about the blues, played while seated on a motorcycle, wearing a dress, with flowers in his hair. The bizarre atmosphere affected even the old blue men. Generally unaccustomed to playing cold sober, this year several of them became falling-down drunk. A large audience, prompted by enthusiastic reports of the first  concert, came to witness what was, with minimal exceptions, an embarrassment.

A few musicians refused to play the second blues show, because it was such a circus, but by 1968 things had settled down somewhat, and most of them were back. The third blues show, the Funky Down-Home Memorial Concert (Funky was a guest of Uncle Sam at the Federal Narcotics Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky), included newly discovered Mississippi blues man Joe Callicott and attracted a good amount of outside interest. Billboard and AFM paper Musician carried stores; London Records cut an album, of semi-professional quality, on the old blues players.

This attention was generated partly by the cresting popularity of the Stax/Volt and American Studio’s Memphis Sound and partly by a widespread renewal of interest in the blues. Such white halls as the Fillmore had begun to hire B. B, King and his imitators; groups like Canned Heat had blues hits; the Rolling Stones recorded “Prodigal Son,” a song regularly performed at the Memphis blues shows by its author, Rev. Robert Wilkins. Before the next blues show took place, Rev. Wilkins, Furry Lewis, and Bukka White had played the Electric Circus. The old blues had become, on a larger scale than ever before, worthy of exploitation.

As it happens, 1969 marked the 150th birthday of the City of Memphis, if you forget the years when, following a series of yellow fever plagues, the city’s charter was revoked so naturally the Chamber of Commerce made plans for a Sesquicentennial Celebration. Bill Barth, who in his well-meaning but slipshod way had remained the blues show’s prime mover, suggested that the celebration include an expanded version of the blues show, and the city, fairly desperate for good publicity since the death of Martin Luther King Jr., agreed. An office in city hall was made available so that a representative of Barth’s Memphis Country Blues Society and a Chamber of Commerce promotion man could coordinate the event.

Developments soon became impenetrably scrambled, but in outline several basic trends could be discerned. First, while Barth was expecting money from the city for his festival, the city intended to have its own festival and created a philanthropic organization, the W. C. Handy Foundation, to camouflage the show’s Babbit-like Boost Memphis advertising purpose. (Barth’s shows, good or bad, always had one purpose: to earn a little money for the old blues men. All earnings over expenses were split between the musicians. At the 1968 show, each man had received S150, which might equal five years of sharecropper’s wages.) Endowed with $20,000 from the Chamber of Commerce, the city’s man began negotiations to contract such noted blues artists as Louis Armstrong and Marguerite Piazza.

Meanwhile, anticipating money from the city, from nebulous recording deals, and from mysterious “backers,” the Country Blues Society’s man sent contracts to practically everyone who owns a guitar. The Rolling Stones, Taj Mahal, Canned Heat, the Flying Burrito Bros., Johnny Winter, Blind Faith, George Harrison’s protege Jackie Lomax, Jo-Ann Kelly—the list could go on almost forever—were invited to appear for expenses and $50 a day, and a surprising number agreed. National Educational Television made plans to tape an afternoon’s concert for its musical series, Sounds of Summer.


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The Memphis Blues Festival had become a very hip thing to do. 
But as time went on and Barth, who had been on the road with his band, the Insect Trust, returned to Memphis with no money, it became less attractive to most people. The roster changed daily as one act after another remembered pressing obligations elsewhere.
By the Festival weekend, the schedule of events had settled down into its final state of confusion. The city’s First Annual W. C. Handy Memorial Concert was to take place Sunday evening, June 8th, at the Memphis Mid-South Coliseum, a sports-and-entertainment arena, with such staple Memphis acts as Rufus and Carla Thomas, the Bar-Kays, Booker T. and the MG’s, and such outside arts as the World’s Greatest Jazz Band and, inexplicably, Johnny Winter, whom the city’s promo man had picked, together with a couple of token old blues men, from the list of acts contacted by the Blues Society. (The Armstrong-Piazza negotiations had been halted, not by a sudden outbreak of taste and sensibility, but by the fees those performers demanded.) The Fourth Annual Memphis Country Blues Festival would begin Friday night, June 6th, at the Overton Park Shell, with a concert devoted primarily to the old blues artists; Saturday afternoon, National Educational Television would tape a special concert including acts from both the city and Blues Society Festivals; Saturday night, there would be a modern blues show, featuring Johnny Winter, who agreed to perform since he would be in town anyway. The Country Blues Festival would close with a concert of gospel music Sunday morning.
In some of the Blues Festival’s advance publicity, a Friday afternoon concert had been promised. That time was given instead to a rehearsal of the NET concert. The show’s acts, better than twenty of them (lucky that so many had dropped out, or there’d have been fifty), arrived late in the morning at the Shell, an open-air concrete theater, location of many free municipal events, children’s plays, and charity concerts. Over the years, the Memphis blues show regulars have become a kind of family; they greet each other with candid warmth, sometimes, as Furry greeted Funky, old jive to young, “Lee! When you get out?” There were two great white vans full of television equipment behind the Shell, and strange men wearing khaki shorts, blue knit golf shirts, and little yellow canvas hats, waltzing around a forest of cameras and microphones, muttering to each other in alien accents. The musicians tacitly agreed that such was the price of success.
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Spectators were admitted, at a dollar a head, to the Shell’s weathered wooden benches. There were many good things on the program for them to enjoy, but the delays caused by technical difficulties the NET people encountered made waiting under the hot, empty, blue sky for the next thing to happen fairly excruciating. During a particularly long delay, I went to the back of the Shell, heard music across the park, and walked over the road through a formal flower garden to look out over a wide green sweep of playground. Hundreds of kids, all colors, boys and girls together, led by a lady in a blue-and-white Park Commission uni-form, were singing and dancing, whirling in two or three great circles, then in dozens of tiny, tightly spinning ones. It was like wandering into a Brueghel painting.
Overton Park is a green oasis close to the center of Memphis, a city whose beautiful old trees and houses arc fast being destroyed by Progress in the guise of, among other things huge asphalt-paved shopping centers and hundreds of cleverly-named cheap food joints. (Example: Mahalia Jackson’s Glori-Fried Chicken.) On this afternoon in the park, people at the zoo, the art school, the art gallery, the golf course, on the bicycle paths, and the birds, cats, chipmunks and squirrels in the woods were proceeding as usual, oblivious to the expressway, Interstate Route 40, that will soon tear the park in half.
Back at Shell, the NET men were calling it a rehearsal, and the blues show was about to begin. This year’s show was “respectfully dedicated to Joe Callicott’s memory.” The Mississippi singer-guitarist who’d made records in Memphis in the Twenties had made it to only one blues show. He had been “rediscovered” for just one year, during which he had played in New York but had not been recorded. He left behind, the Festival program stated, “only a small portion of the wealth’ of music he knew.”
As if to make up for Joe’s absence, there were some new old faces. Besides the regulars Nathan Beauregard, Fred McDowell, Bukka White, and Rev. Robert Wilkins (Furry Lewis, appalled by the NET rehearsal, had wandered away into the park), the show included McDowell’s neighbor Johnny Woods, Sleepy John Estes and his neighbor, Yank Rachel, and a slide guitar player named Lum Guilin, who sounded like Elmore James, if James had been a better singer. The regular old white boys Baker, Selvidge and Dickinson were there, too, as well as Barth’s outfit, the Insect Trust.
(L to R) Nathan Beauregard, Unidentified Woman,
Marvin Beauregard, and Verlina Woods.

The attention the old blues have received lately seems to have a revivifying effect on the players, even those who have not been directly touched by it. They sounded, on this night, better than ever. Fred McDowell and Johnny Woods Opened the show with a set of blues, breakdowns, shuffles and boogies, many of which were old at the time of the First World War. McDowell, probably the best living bottleneck guitarist, has recorded more than most of the old blues men, but Woods has only recently cut his first tapes. To call Woods’ playing funky is to be guilty of gross understatement; he is the funkiest harmonica player who ever came up from the farm. He sounds like Sonny Boy Williamson. Sonny Terry, Howlin’ Wolf, and a large dying animal, all at once.

It is interesting to know how old much of Woods’ and McDowell’s material is, but you do not have to know its age to enjoy it. One of the pleasanter things about the Memphis blues shows is that none of the old players is presented for his historical value. All of them, even 106-year-old Nathan Beauregard (skeptics grant him a decade less) can still play blues.

And while some of them may at times have had difficulty staying in tune, none of them has ever been so completely and hopelessly out of tune as, say, Big Brother and the Holding Company were at Monterey.
Beauregard, who is blind, was led slowly, across the stage by his nephew, seated, given his guitar (a new Japanese electric), and incredibly, this withered mummy began to play and to sing about a girl who would “call you honey, call you pie.” Nathan Beauregard is, in an odd way, inspiring. During most of the Festival, when he was not playing be sat with his nephew at the rear of the stage, listening to the music, his face like a death mask with its closed eyelids, protruding cheekbones, and slight smile.

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Bukka White, at 59 the youngest of the old blues men, followed Beauregard. When B.B. King first came to Memphis, he lived with his cousin Bukka, whose bottleneck playing motivated B.B. to achieve the sustained ascending tones that in part characterize his style. Bukka vigorously plays a big National Steel Standard and sings, talks and growls magnificently incomprehensible songs. Part song, part reminiscence, part tall-story, Bukka just makes them up out of the sky. Down Beat gave two stars, its highest rating, to a two-volume collection of Bukka’s sky songs on the Arhoolie label.

At the Festival, Bukka received a standing ovation Friday night and every other time he played.
Sleepy John Estes and Yank Rachel, the guitarist and mandolin player who made records in the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, and whose songs have recently been recorded by Taj Mahal, were accompanied in their first Memphis blues show appearance by Jim Dickinson, who is in his twenties, on piano. Such meetings of old and young musicians have provided some of the blues show’s better moments.
They give the young players a chance to learn, of course, but at times they give the old men some surprises. During a lull in the NET rehearsal, Dickinson and Johnny Woods, seated together on a piano bench, had played an impromptu duet on “Shake Yo’ Boogie.” Nathan Beauregard’s nephew, who happens to be a retired gravedigger, watched from behind the piano, and when they finished, spoke to Dickinson, “I haven’t heard no colored man play piano like that in twenty years.” Estes, Rachel and Dickinson went back twenty years and more for a set of country dance hall tunes, with Estes singing lead and Rachel, on electric mandolin, playing brilliant double-time passages with Dickinson.

The surprising thing about Lum Guffin, who was also making his first Memphis blues show appearance, is that no one has recorded him. Though he is supposed to have played on Beak Street in the Twenties, his present style is patterned closely after that of Elmore James. Of the many guitarists working this vein, Griffin has to be among the very best. He is adept at finger-picking, but his slide work is outstanding.

Guffin’s “Dust My Broom” showed him to be superior to James as a singer, and his one Festival appearance on Friday night’s show seemed all too brief.
Booker Washington White in the 1960s

The Insect Trust, Bill Barth’s eight-piece blues rock jazz band (Barth plays blues, the rhythm section plays rock, the horns play jazz), seemed at times neither to know nor to care where they were going, but were almost always fun to listen to, and once in a while were really impressive, especially when Trevor Koehler, a rifle young baritone saxophonist, was featured. Koehler played interesting, energetic, coherent solos, and even when he dipped into the post-Coltrane piggy-noise hag, never lost his sense of humor. The Insect Trust do not exactly play blues, hue they have roots, and besides, it’s Barth’s show. Robert Wilkins made souse very good blues records in the Twenties, but in the Thirties be was “sanctified,” and since then Rev. Wilkins has sung only for the Lord. Its blues show appearances have been consistently excellent, and each has revealed a new development in his music. At the first blues show, Rev. Wilkins played acoustic guitar, accompanied only by his “baby son,” who must be six feet tall, on tambourine. “Big son” joined the next year, on electric bass. Then Rev. Wilkins started playing electric guitar. This year there were two additions: Another, non-family, electric guitarist. and Rev. Wilkins’ niece, whose looks and voice added fuel to the rumor that the Wilkins’ family carries an extra gene which produces attractive, talented gospel artists. Rev. Wilkins’ present group must be regarded as one of the best gospel bands, the equal of the Staple Singers, with better material than the Staples*, much of it original. Their “Soldiers in the Army of the Lord” was one of the highlights of the Festival. Rev. Wilkins says that he does not know who the Rolling Stones are, but he is pleased that they have recorded one of his songs.

Nathan Beauregard

This year marked the return of Lee-Baker/Funky Down-Home, who appeared with his new band, Moloch. Baker’s past lapses of taste have not prevented him from hearing an electric blues guitarist in the very front of the second rank. (In the first rank there are a few black men and no white boys at all). Moloch is a tight, grooving, blues band. They accompanied, oddly enough, Sid &bridge, a singer in the tradition of Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and Roy Acuff, though his roots go back to white country hoots and hollers. No other singer in Selvidge’s field has such a powerfully precise voice, In fact, Selvidge’s singing may be too good for to-day’s taste; you can understand every word lee sings. He does not sacrifice any feeling, however; he has a fine, passion-ate falsetto, and is the best yodeler since Dale Evans.

Moloch’s drummer, Philip Durham, is also a skilled singer, though of a very different order. He shouts and screams the blues; he closed friday night’s show with a blues be wrote, spotlighting his voice and drumming in a long, dramatic coda. People were still on their feet applauding when the stage lights went down.
Friday night’s concert, except for Furry Lewis’ absence, may have been the best at any of the Memphis blues shows. The participants went home to bed, singly and in groups, and arrived early the next day for the NET concert.
They might as well have slept late. The show started one and one-half hours late (more technical difficulties), and the first three acts, Rufus Thomas, the Bar-Kays, and a white club-blues singer named Brenda Patterson, had to repeat their performances because the cameras weren’t working the first time. This was particularly difficult for the Bar-Kays, whose act, with its jumping, shouting, stomping, and hard-down funky playing, leaves them hardly enough energy to stagger off to the stage.
The show’s other acts included all the ones from the previous evening except Lum Guffin, who disappeared, and Rev, Wilkins, who, when presented with a contract by the NET men (still in their golfing outfits), took one look at them, knew that they were not sanctified, and refused to sign- There were also three or four acts front the long list contacted by the Blues Society. John Fahey, a music MA from the ‘University of California and a longtime friend of Barth, was introduced as “a young man who had made the blues into a semi-classical form.” His playing proved it. His performance had all the emotional fire of a children’s concert by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. Fahey has made some good guitar-picking records on the Takoma label, but on stage he sounded twice as old and feeble as Nathan Beauregard.

 

Fahey played forever and was replaced by Jo-Ann Kelly, a pretty blonde girl from England, who did a brilliant impersonation of Charlie Patton. She was accompanied by Backwards Sam Firk, though Festival rumor had it that the man with her was an imposter and not the real Firk. Jo Ann Kelly’s impersonation of an old bluesman is quite accurate, and she must be among the funkier items in England. Bringing her to Memphis, however, was like bringing coals to Newcastle.

While the Blues Society was making contact with the dozens of acts who nearly all decided not to conic, it hired a group of local night-club and recording musicians to serve as house band for the Festival. As things turned out, there was no one for the. house band to accompany, so they played alone, billed as the Soldiers of the Cross. The group does not play together regularly (they happened to have been working on an album with Albert Collins, the Texas bluesman. as the Festival approached), and they did not rehearse before the Festival, but each of them is such a skilled and seasoned professional that their performance was one of the Festival’s best.
Charlie Freeman, the guitarist, was the founder and original lead guitarist of the Bar-Keys. He has recorded with artists as various as Slim Harpo, Brother Jack McDuff, P. F. Sloan, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Both Freeman and the group’s drummer, Maurice Tarrants (“Tarp,” the Georgia outlaw), have been with Jerry Lee Lewis’ road band. Jim Dickinson, who sang with the group. has worked for years in Memphis and Nashville as an engineer. producer, singer and session musician. He has had records on, among other labels, Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, and some national music writers have called him the best living while blues singer. All the group are, as Tarp informed a pretty little Japanese groupie, “old-time Memphis heavies.”
Their first song was an old blues called “Goin’ Down Slow.” The sound balance at the NET rehearsal had been so bad that Dickinson, screaming to make himself heard, developed a very bad case of hoarseness, which fit beautifully with the lyrics of this particular song. “People tell my mother—tell her what bad, bad shape I’m in,” Dickinson sang, and he really did sound as if he were dying. It was a perfect meeting of life and art.
George “Wild Child” Butler in 1968

John D. Loudermilk, a Nashville songwriter (“A Rose and a Baby Ruth”), who happened to be in town, sang a few songs, accompanying himself on guitar and harmonica.  George “Wild Child” Butler, from Montgomery, Alabama, was perhaps the Festival’s most unusual performer. He looks, talks, and behaves just like a blues singer, and might even be a blues singer, except that he is apparently tone deaf. Fred McDowell and Johnny Woods played toward the end of the show. Their set was interrupted briefly by the movement of Johnny Winter’s amplifiers across the stage. Winter himself was, as he had been since the day before, at a Memphis hotel, watching television.

The NET show, which would last two hours on television, had taken more than eight hour’s to tape. But the Memphis blues shows’ atmosphere has always been easygoing. Like an all-day church meeting with dinner on the grounds, and people found ways to amuse themselves during delays in the concert. When nothing was happening, they wandered around, sat under the trees with friends, eating watermelon, drinking gin and tonic from old-fashioned green glass water jugs, turning on in their various ways. There was almost always something interesting to look, sit, young girls revealing startling new areas of skin, a Goodyear blimp which suddenly materialized and just as suddenly vanished, an old beatnik with JAZZ tattooed on his shoulder. Just a good ole down home freak show.
Many of the blues show regulars had feared that all of the selfish outside interests, the overblown and half-assed preparations, the hype, in a word, surrounding this year’s Festival would destroy it altogether. The Memphis blues show was not conceived as a pop festival—-it was started the year before Monterey—and its modest successes had never depended on huge crowds, publicity and superstars. But Friday night’s concert had been excellent, the NET show had been survived, and Sunday’s gospel concert was not really very important.

If Saturday night’s “modern blues” show could escape disaster, the Memphis Country Blues Festival would be called a success. 

But as night fell, the unsavory atmosphere that had hovered like a cloud over this year’s blues show drew near and, before the morning came, drenched the Overton Park Shell. Groups on the make, attracted by the hype, crawled out from under God knows what distant rocks and slithered up to Bill Barth, “We’re the Jefferson Street Jug Band/Crazy Horse/the Permanent Brain Damage,” they said. “We’ve come from five hundred/a thousand/nine million light-years to be on your show. You gotta let US play.”  Barth, assailed by a vision of himself in Ed Sullivan’s clothes, naturally said yes to all of them. The show was not completely bad. An electric blues band from New Orleans called Nectar halted momentarily the downward musical trend. A few of the older musicians played, but no one paid them much attention.

Furry Lewis, who more than any other living man exemplifies Memphis’ musical history, a wonderful musician and entertainer, did two songs in a very subdued manner and then went away.
There were a lot of acts, each more out of place at a blues show than the one before; but it was left to Johnny Winter to provide the great climax of the evening and the Festival.
Like so many people these days, Johnny Winter appears to know and to be able to reproduce every blues lick ever played. Maybe, when be was down in Beaumont fronting Little Johnny and the Jammers, he actually played blues. A cross-eyed albino boy, playing in those sweaty Texas joints — he must have played some blues. But in Memphis, he set up his thirteen mammoth Sunn amplifiers (seven for him, six for his bass player), and though he played for over an hour, one blues lick after another, frequently several at once, he didn’t play any real blues.

By now there must be in the world at least a million guitar virtuosos, but there are very few real blues players. The reason for this is that the blues—not the form, but the blues— demands such dedication. This dedication lies beyond technique; it makes being a blues player something like being a priest. Virtuosity in playing blues licks is like virtuosity in celebrating the Mass, it is empty, it means nothing. Skill is a necessity, but a true blues player’s virtue lies in his acceptance of his life, a life for which he is only partly responsible. Johnny Winter can play rings around Furry Lewis; the comparison is ludicrous. But when Furry Lewis, at Winter’s age, sang, “My mother’s dead, my father just as well to be.” He was singing his life, and that is blues. When Bukka White sings a song he wrote during his years on Parchman Prison Farm, “I wonder how long, till I can change my clothes,” he is celebrating, honestly and humbly. his life. Most of the young guitar virtuosos do not have lives; they have record collections, Of course, they do have lives, if they would look inside and discover them.

But it’s much easier, and certainly more fashionable, to sing someone else’s life, someone else’s blues.
As Johnny Winter blasted away, I sat at the Shell, thinking about all these things, until I felt very depressed. Then I walked away into the park, through the flower garden and down into the playground that will soon become a giant expressway. The birds in the trees, kept up by the noise long past their sleeping time, were making soft fluting complaints. In my mood, there seemed to be some connection between Winter’s amps, the expressway, the blues show and the little birds. but I was too tired to figure it out.
The saga of the 1969 Memphis blues shows ends on an anticlimactic note, A few diehards, mostly old blues show regulars, met at the Shell Sunday morning, had a brief round of gospel singing, then packed up and went home. Luckily, the city’s First Annual W. C. Handy Memorial Concert drew 200 customers Sunday night to the Mid-South Coliseum, which sets 15,000. Luckily, because it appears that success may be a greater threat to the Memphis blues shows than the years of neglect the blues and its artists have suffered. If the grandiose plans for this year’s show had been realized, Friday night’s concert might have been sabotaged like the others.
Still, the recent wave of outside interest in the old Delta blues has not been entirely harmful (a few of the old men have made some money), and it might even have a positive effect, if those interested in the blues cared enough to temper their enthusiasm with understanding. Rock sets, in the interest of belatedly paying some dues, might stage a blues benefit concert in Memphis, for which the city might foot expenses, with the proceeds going to the old men. If the city wanted to do the right thing, it might start a blues archives, with good tapes and historical data on this vitally important music.

That is what might happen. But neither the city of Memphis nor the pop-music industry has ever really cared for old n—er, and their music, and they are not likely to change now. The blues fad may have died away by next year, in which case Memphis will probably have its ordinary neighborhood blues get-together. On the other hand, next year the blues may be bigger than ever. In that case, the old men and the few who kale them and their songs may have even less to look forward to…

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SINGING AN H

                    

                           A One Act Play

                          

                          By David Erdos

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHARACTERS:

 

 

HOYLE,50’S, British

AUSTIN, 30’s, American

SHAIN, 40’s, American

CALEB, 50’s, American

ELLER, 70’s, British

 

SCENE:

 

A non descript room. From beyond, pipes resound, along with a bad generator. A group of men gathered, each wearing similar clothes. Early morning or night, the place seems isolated. The men, captive in it do what they can to resist.

 

AUSTIN.  Its worse than locusts.

HOYLE.  What?

AUSTIN.  That. What is it, a machine?

HOYLE.  Generator. The place is old testament, truly. Most of the lamps are oil.

SHAIN.  Yeah, or steam!

CALEB.  We’re the new Victorians.

SHAIN.  Right. Babylon fell. We’re the ruins.

HOYLE.  They wouldn’t want us ‘impeded’ by comfort. Its not a prison as such, just related.

CALEB.  Its a prison’s cousin!

SHAIN.  That’s right, it is, twice removed!

HOYLE (To Austin:)  You’re new.

CALEB.  He’s not briefed.

SHAIN.  He only got here this morning.

HOYLE.  Its controlled from their side. They want the noise to upset us.

CALEB.  You should try and rise above it.

AUSTIN.  I hate it. So, that’s why its there, its just spite?

SHAIN.  Listen, spite is a powerful thing. Spite has aim. It’s sharp hatred. Spite has direction. Spite has intent. Spite has force.

AUSTIN.  So, they can’t or won’t turn it off?

CALEB.  Sure they can. But then we wouldn’t have any power. Do you want the wilderness, sweetheart, or some sort of semblance to the illusions of home?

SHAIN. He hasn’t spent a full day in here yet. Wait until the radio starts in a minute… Well, I say radio: Static. The top ten of crackle. That’s what they play all night long.

CALEB.  Guantanomo.

SHAIN.  Right.

HOYLE.  Where what they actually play is the Osmonds.

CALEB.  The Osmonds?

HOYLE.  As torture.

SHAIN.  Ah, but at least the Osmonds are pretty..

CALEB.  Donny or Wendell?

SHAIN.  Why should we have to choose?

 

(A scratching static starts from an outside radio through a speaker.)

 

There you go, there it is!

AUSTIN.  What’s the –

CALEB.  Yes, that’s the static. Radio Static! Static FM. The air’s scratched!

SHAIN.  Of course if we were clever, we’d ask them to turn the radio up to full volume. We’d convince them we like it.

AUSTIN.  So there’s no peace at all?

CALEB.  Not on earth.

AUSTIN.  I’m used to clear air.

HOYLE.  Then try to come back as an eagle. Down here we’re all vermin…

SHAIN.  I mean, just look at those sofas..

CALEB.  Just look at the chairs, walls..whatever..

HOYLE.  That’s all in the past. Comfort’s gone.

AUSTIN.  So, this is really happening..

CALEB.  Yes.

AUSTIN.  I never thought they would do this.

SHAIN.  Ah, but did they have any option?

AUSTIN.  Yes, but what did we really do?

HOYLE.  All we could.

 

(ELLER runs in, his state somewhat desperate.)

 

ELLER.  The light in the bog’s broken.

HOYLE.  God blinked.

ELLER.  Is that all you can say to me, Derek? if we don’t have a light in the toilet there’s going to be all manner of mess everywhere.

CALEB.  Then don’t –

HOYLE. ‘Dump.’

SHAIN.  Or eat.

ELLER.  You want me to die?

CALEB (FAUX ENGLISH:)  You’re an arsehole.

SHAIN.  Which is probably why he likes toilets.

HOYLE.  Go in the soil. Feed the world.

ELLER.  Like an animal?

CALEB.  Yeah.

HOYLE.  And you are you an animal, Eller.

ELLER.  I am not!

HOYLE.  What sort of animal are you?

ELLER.  I said I was not!

HOYLE.  But you are. You’re a fat, greasy pig and you are a worm in the water. You’re a bug in the breakfast and a crap covered croc in the bath. We all know what you are. You masturbate in that toilet. That failing lightbulb’s your spotlight..

SHAIN.  Yeah, but it’s the only one he has left!

CALEB.  There’s no art in those pants..

SHAIN.  But he still wants an audience for it!

CALEB. (To Austin🙂 That was his thing..

ELLER.  Screw you, Jimmy!

SHAIN.  He’s not your type!

CALEB.  ..Which remains something that not even I understand.

 

(Silence.)

 

ELLER.  That light is one of the last things we have left..

SHAIN.  Look how he changes the subject..

CALEB.  As if he were ashamed..

SHAIN.  It’s intriguing..to see how very low the low goes.

CALEB.  Or doesn’t go, that’s if the light in the toilet is broken..

SHAIN.  Can he hold it in, though? His evil. Or is the ball bag of poison  currently curdling within set to burst?

CALEB.  Stand back, watch it fly!

SHAIN.  This was our thing. This is STANDUP..

CALEB.  Or persecution..

SHAIN.  Its Eller! And Eller doesn’t count, do you, Ken?

ELLER.  I count as much as you..

SHAIN.  Well, we’d have to look at the figures. Compare the tables over so many years..

ELLER.  I still count!

CALEB.  You don’t, Ken. We count. We’re all counts. You’re historic.

SHAIN.  Although abuse of the system has shelf life..

CALEB.  Yes, but then the system adapts..

SHAIN.  Also true.

 

(Pause.)

 

AUSTIN.  So is this what you do?

HOYLE.  Is what what we do?

AUSTIN.  Pass the water.

SHAIN.  Pass the what, now?

AUSTIN.  The water..

HOYLE.  He means the water within..

SHAIN.  Ah.

HOYLE.  The piss.

AUSTIN.  You take it too.

CALEB.  Yes. And as for Ken, well, he’s English. That’s what they do there. They take it. And come on, lets be honest, its what he likes in the end, isn’t it?

ELLER.  No.

CALEB.  It is too. You’re a real liar, Eller.

HOYLE.  Snake in the grass.

SHAIN.  Old and oily.

CALEB.  Worming his way, leaving trails.

SHAIN.  If we do as you think, then its all connected to reason. We want to find out why we’re in here by measuring ourselves next to him. Ken is all kink. This what makes him feel special. He’s our gimp. We abuse him and so the cycle flows on. Its important, right, Hoyle? To know where we are in the billing.

HOYLE.  I think ranking’s better.

CALEB.  Ranking’s much better!

SHAIN (LAUGHS) Ranking..

CALEB.  Yes, ranking!

SHAIN.  The man’s quite right. Rankers all!

CALEB (TO AUSTIN) You’re new. You don’t know. But this old man is disgusting. He truly is. He’s a villain. And while we are not heroes, this makes him our therapy.

AUSTIN.  You mean you use him..

CALEB.  We do. Just as he once used others. Imprisonment – no, containment – affords you the proper chance to reflect. And so we do. And compare. Comparing my bad to his bad. My appetite to his hunger. My addictions, as such, to his drugs. Do you see how this works? Its why they’ve slammed us together. We’re like stones in a slipstream, each rubbing against, chipping off.

ELLER.  You’re lousy bastards!

SHAIN.  Its true. Its punishment enough being with him. Look at him sweat. Smell the odour. See what he is, under grease. He’s a dirty monkey. Shite’s ape. I know girls and boys who worked for him. You don’t want to know what he did there. And then he was young. The man’s sick.

CALEB.  So when he complains we advise Hoyle not to listen. We steer clear and they see this, the powers that be. They all know. His sins run a mile. His corruption is endless. If he was light we’d be hiding. Instead he’s a trickle, a dark little stain, spilling in.

SHAIN.  Why did you do it, you prick? Why do those sort of things to young people? What’s in it for them? Full disclosure! Because it can’t be your thing! Not at all!

CALEB.  You mean you’ve seen it?

SHAIN.  Sadly. We all see all of our useless weapons. We’re like some old army with Tupperware shields and bent swords. Nothing to do but compare our now wilted triumphs. ‘What he once was..’ It is tragic.

ELLER (To Hoyle🙂  Call someone in! Fix the light!

SHAIN.  Someone? Who?

ELLER.  THEM!

SHAIN.  Them, he says –

ELLER.  Hoyle’s the contact. They –

HOYLE.  No. They don’t attend to me. I’m here as well. I’m no different. They wouldn’t listen. What makes you think they’d hear me?

ELLER.  Because you were the first. They know you.

CALEB.  We could do with that light, if you want the God’s honest, Derek. It affects us all.

HOYLE.  They don’t know me.

SHAIN.  Derek, they do.

HOYLE.  What?

SHAIN.  They know you. Plus, you’re a Sir. They respect you..

HOYLE.  What do you mean!

SHAIN.  They accept you. Or upto a point..

AUSTIN.  I know you.

HOYLE.  What did you say?

AUSTIN.  I know you. I know all about you. We all do. We’re familiar because everyone knows what we do.

CALEB.  Did.

AUSTIN.  Does that matter now? They all think the same things about us..

CALEB. Oh, look, he’s on your side..

AUSTIN. They all believe we’re the one thing and have no actual thought for much else. This is disgrace. That’s my understanding. That’s why we’re here, bound together. This the hell we’ll all share.

 

(Silence.)

 

HOYLE.  You mean its a colony.

ELLER.  Christ!

HOYLE.  Just like Steve McQueen’s lepers.

AUSTIN.  Steve McQueen?

HOYLE.  In Papillon. You’ve not seen it? When he breaks free he’s assisted by a leper’s enclave by the river. They lend him their sailboat, and so for a time, he sails free. The lepers are noble in that. As they decay you revere them. Its a wonderful image and a perfectly good metaphor. The lepers are isolated but strong, with or without any lightbulbs. They have leper prostitutes, even. Its touching and sad; sweet but strange. And so they’ve put us here, stashed away, without whores or light fittings. We have to find ways to be noble, scrabbling around in the dark as we do..

CALEB.  They respected us once. That’s why this isn’t conviction.

AUSTIN.  Then what do you call it?

CALEB.  Its disappointment I think, fair and square.

 

(Silence.)

 

HOYLE.  Eller’s different.

SHAIN.  I know. But he was just a bad actor. You were a Knight and Director. You were a Knight Batchelor.

 

(Pause.)

 

ELLER.  This is all very well but it doesn’t help me with the toilet!

HOYLE.  You make me ashamed to be English..

ELLER.  Oh, so yours doesn’t stink I suppose? Well, your pathos does. Fool! This is a fight for survival. A fight for dignity!

SHAIN.  Ranker!

CALEB.  Coming from you, Derek! Christ!

ELLER.  They dealt with Hoyle first.

HOYLE.  So what?

ELLER.  Its down to him that they got us.

HOYLE.  And what does that mean?

ELLER.  You crumbled and that toppled us all! Dominoes! You were the informer, so scared of your so called position being exposed as the cover for so much disrepute! We’re the worst, all of us, so let’s not make some sort of strained attempt at pretending! We’ve been at the peak of true power and have let acres of crap spiral down! Politicians rape boys. Industrialists dress as Nazis. Actors believe charm’s rewarded with as much self regard as they want! Success has its rates, isn’t that we believe? Cocks as invoice! So don’t stand here and judge me in your orange sweatpants and your sad baseball cap!

 

(Silence.)

 

HOYLE.  You’re worse than piss.

ELLER (Misunderstanding)  And the rest?

HOYLE.  Dig a hole. Dogs. Grow flowers. Crops.

AUSTIN.  What?

HOYLE.  Potatoes. Now you can’t do that in a loo. We have to make something good from the worst kind of position. Don’t you think? To find something..

SHAIN.  Gardeners of crap!

HOYLE.  But its life. From manure, from the soil you grow the new plant, the next flower. Look at me straight. I’m not joking. For the muck and the murk begets hope!

ELLER.  Hope, he says.. mad! DEREK, YOU PUT US IN HERE!

HOYLE.  THEY WERE AFTER ME!

ELLER.  So you named us?

HOYLE.  What, you think that they didn’t know?

ELLER.  Some of them!

HOYLE.  No! They knew all about us! They’ve always known all about us. They just haven’t known how to get us after so long.. We were slick. This is one of our great foundations, you prick.. from the casting couch to the trailer, via the back lot and green room! Do you really believe the years haven’t been coloured by rumour? Well, they have, let me tell you, and the colour is bright, rainbow bright! Its a vast swollen red, like some kind of boil or blood blister! And it popped. It burst, Kenneth! From pussy to pus in one flow! Once fat boy went down, they were on me with names and a stopwatch. I didn’t have to speak. They had pictures.

ELLER.  What was the Detective’s name, Hoyle..Mcarthy?

CALEB.  Eller, shut your pervert’s mouth!

HOYLE.  Get away! I’ll kill you, you hear? GET AWAY FROM ME, ELLER!

SHAIN.  Derek, don’t..

HOYLE.  Get him away from me, Jimmy!

SHAIN.  Calm down. I’ll duke him.

ELLER.  Duke me how?

SHAIN.  Want to see?

ELLER.  You’d hit an old man?

SHAIN.  You’re not a man, you’re a sickness. This is the fight to cure cancer and my fists are both radium!

 

(There is a tussle, of sorts, which is quickly abated.)

 

CALEB.  Let’s watch the noise. They can hear us.

SHAIN.  You lucky pervert..

ELLER (ignoring Shain🙂  Even through that infernal machine?

SHAIN.  Ah; Cocteau.

AUSTIN.  Excuse me?

SHAIN.  Cocteau.

AUSTIN.  I don’t see how the two are related.

CALEB (LAUGHS) My god, he’s stupid, but funny!

AUSTIN.  What did you just say?

CALEB.  I’ll repeat it..

AUSTIN.  Don’t call me stupid!

CALEB.  My dear little Pooh, we’re all stupid..

AUSTIN.  Not me!

CALEB.  Oh, really? Well, they got you in here, didn’t they?

 

(Silence.)

 

SHAIN.  Listen, maybe we should all aim for calm.

AUSTIN. Calm?

CALEB.  Isn’t that a town in Nebraska?

SHAIN.  No. Minnesota. (THINKS) Or is it Wyoming? No, its not. I don’t know.

 

(They almost laugh. Silence. The noises stop.)

CALEB.  They can hear us.

AUSTIN. What?

CALEB.  That’s a sign, see? The silence.

AUSTIN.  Where’s the camera?

CALEB.  It’s in the corner there..look: Red light.

AUSTIN.  Oh.

HOYLE.  I could ask for some seeds. Forget Ken and his lightbulb.

SHAIN.  Come on, be honest. They wouldn’t give us the wind through the trees.

AUSTIN.  Look, its not really my business..

CALEB.  You’re right.

AUSTIN.  But we all know each other. We know who we are –

SHAIN.  Were..

CALEB.  We’re –

HOYLE.  No. No, we are not. None of us are, any longer. What we were. What we have been. And that is why we are here. We’ve struck a bum note and its currently staining the chorus. And what’s more its long and it lingers..

ELLER.  Don’t mention bums. They shat back.

CALEB.  You mean the people we –

HOYLE.  Quite.

CALEB.  I suppose you have to almost admire the effort.

SHAIN.  You do, yes…

HOYLE.  The gumption.

AUSTIN.  I’m sorry, the what?

HOYLE.  English word.

CALEB.  Old world.

HOYLE.  Gold days.

CALEB.  They put us right where they want us.

AUSTIN.  We’re not under the ground..!

SHAIN.  Meaning nothing. This is worse than being dead.

HOYLE.  Yes, it is.

CALEB.  Not when we –

HOYLE.  No.

ELLER.  None of this fixes the toilet.

SHAIN.  There she goes again!

CALEB.  Moron!

ELLER.  I’m talking about a toilet! That’s all. I’m talking about a light in the toilet! It’s not as if I’m even going on about carpet.. Or about a bloody radiator at night. We deserve that at least, don’t we? No? Or am I supposed to thank the stars we’ve got paper? That and food in our bellies. Because if they give us food IT GOES THROUGH! Or shall we not? Shall we starve? Do they want us living here like wild badgers? Or moles, say? Derek, do they? Moles above ground. Buried up? Is that what they want? Was that part of the brief I skipped over? He’s new. Did they tell him? Did they tell you?

AUSTIN.   Me?

ELLER.  Badgers, moles?

HOYLE.  Kenneth..

AUSTIN.  No.

ELLER.  So, we..what? What do we do?

HOYLE.  Use the garden.

ELLER.  It will ruin the flowers.

CALEB.  The piss mingles with dew, Ken. Its fine.

ELLER.  I want to grow beans.

CALEB.  Idiot!

SHAIN.  Beans for the badgers!

ELLER.  Potatoes, too.

HOYLE.  Roughage. All leading him back to the bog.

SHAIN.  He means the can.

CALEB.  Right.

SHAIN.  The john.

CALEB.  I never thought I’d die with the English.

SHAIN.  I don’t mind the English. I only really mind that it’s him.

 

(Pause.)

 

AUSTIN.  We’re not going to die in here..

HOYLE.  No?

AUSTIN.  I was told this is quarantine only.

SHAIN.  And what do they do once they’ve happened? Have you ever seen the films you’ve been in? The quarantined always die. Whether its a dog or on Star Trek.

CALEB.  Or a dog on Star Trek.

SHAIN.  They didn’t have dogs.

CALEB.  Didn’t they? Although, DeForest Kelly..

HOYLE.  Yes, Bones looked like one..

SHAIN.  Bones! Its a nice irony..

HOYLE.  Jimmy..

SHAIN.  It is!

AUSTIN.  Is there laughter..?

CALEB.  What do you mean?

AUSTIN.  Should we laugh?

 

(Pause.)

 

SHAIN.  Should we? Why not?

AUSTIN.  Well, what do they want. That’s the question. What do they want to do with us now we’re in here and what do they want of us? Is this a precursor to..what? Is this a holding cell, Derek?

HOYLE.  Sir Derek.

AUSTIN.  Sorry. Do they want us cowtowed?

CALEB.  Buffalo.

AUSTIN. What?

CALEB.  You said cows..

AUSTIN.  I said cowtowed! I meant abject!

CALEB.  Now, what is that, English? Do you think you’re better than us? You sweaty creep: know your place. Nobody knows what will happen. They could be sending us someone.

SHAIN.  Doctors, or whores? Care to bet?

HOYLE.  Boys.

AUSTIN.  No.

HOYLE.  Last taste.

CALEB.  Big titted women.

SHAIN.  Soldiers.

AUSTIN.  Footballers..

SHAIN.  No, I meant..Soldiers. Soldiers with guns.

AUSTIN.  Oh. I see.

 

(Silence.)

 

HOYLE.  None of us know what they want but it must be good that we’re in here. At least it keeps us away from temptation..

SHAIN.  Temptation, yes.

HOYLE.  And the people.

AUSTIN.  Because of how we’re contagious?

SHAIN.  No. But we won’t abuse us.

HOYLE.  Dear God, no.

CALEB. Jesus, no.

SHAIN.  Can you imagine waking at night and seeing old Eller stuck there, balls out and breathless as he tries humping away on your leg?

ELLER.  I wouldn’t!

SHAIN.  You might!

HOYLE.  We’re not his type.

CALEB.  No.

HOYLE.  We’re lucky.

AUSTIN.  That’s not what it feels like.

HOYLE.  Just consider. We’re lucky.

CALEB.  Lucky but stopped.

SHAIN.  A bummed clock.

 

(The noise resumes.)

 

AUSTIN (TO HOYLE:) I can’t believe you said that. I can’t believe I’m hearing you, Derek.

SHAIN.  Or that again..

HOYLE.  Then I suggest you try. I just said it. Its better in here.

AUSTIN.  Better how?

HOYLE.  Better all round. Better by far. In the long run. Better to try to found our own kingdom and to stick close to its walls and the ground. Better for us to attempt to keep our own counsel. To establish a state that’s directed and dictated by us. None shall pass. We can find purpose here and some of the corrective they’re after. After a certain amount of time there’s no option, other than to try and understand what you are. Can you see yourself? Do you know? Or are you just your own actions? Are you merely your hunger or is there something else lost in you? Are you love? Are you lust? Bitterness, even. Are you revenger or victim. Hero, or –

CALEB.  No, Derek..

HOYLE.  What?

CALEB.  None of us want to be here. Or at least not with Eller. We don’t want to be thought of as he is, or even considered like that. Thats the disappointment for me. Forget how we’ve disappointed. I jerk off before women. Its something I do. I don’t know.

AUSTIN.  Its disgusting.

CALEB.  Says you.

SHAIN.  At least its a nice looking penis. Circumcised.

ELLER.  Ugly.

AUSTIN.  Its an insult to them, what you do.

CALEB.  What?

AUSTIN.  Power.

CALEB.  No.

AUSTIN.  Yes. What do you want as reaction? What are they supposed to do these young women when you do that, read a book? Its about being noticed, Caleb. Its about a form of dominion.

SHAIN.  Says you who blows actors.

AUSTIN.  Only if they agree.

SHAIN.  So you..

AUSTIN.  Twice.

CALEB.  What, a week?

SHAIN.  Rohypnol. Ketamin. Dicks are vitamins for you. B, C or D? Protein.

AUSTIN.  I was starved as a child..

CALEB.  What for?

AUSTIN.  Love.

ELLER.  Cock, he means.

AUSTIN.  No!

SHAIN.  He had his own.

HOYLE.  They’re tails, Austin.

AUSTIN.  What?

HOYLE.  They wag like a dog’s does, and so we chase them, eager and mad, from the front.

SHAIN.  Whereas Caleb..

CALEB.  Girls laughed.

AUSTIN.  So that’s how you justified it?

CALEB.  When I was a kid..

ELLER.  Boo hoo..

CALEB.  Bastard! Shut your mouth Paedophile!

ELLER.  I am not a –

CALEB.  You’re scum! At which point does taste smear sensation? Where does need break all borders? Because that’s why they’ve got us all squirreled here!

ELLER.  Squirrelled..?

SHAIN.  Where we’ve come from, we – well.. none of us thought we would get here.

AUSTIN.  And where is it?

HOYLE.  Somewhere. Its no discernible place. That we know.

SHAIN.  A former quarry.

CALEB.  No rocks. Just a line of trees, at a distance.

SHAIN.  It could be anywhere..

ELLER.  England..

HOYLE.  You should be able to tell by the trees.

CALEB.  They’re too far.

HOYLE.  Somewhere in Europe, I think. What do you think? Smells like Auschwitz. Its not America. Its the climate.

SHAIN.  Unless its –

HOYLE.  What?

SHAIN.  Canada.

HOYLE.  No, its remote.

SHAIN.  I say it again.

HOYLE.  Like New Zealand.

CALEB.  Its a barren land.

ELLER.  Russia?

CALEB.  Could be the moon. And we’re drugged. They’d want us off planet for sure. Why haven’t they shot us? And why are we not in Prison, and just in its cousin?

SHAIN.  Who knows.

HOYLE.  They’re keeping us doused. This is us treading water.

ELLER.  Or else we’re the chickens awaiting the cull.

HOYLE.  We’ve no eggs. There’s nothing here they can take. And I very much doubt that they’d eat us.

CALEB.  Right. Chickens are useful.

AUSTIN.  Then maybe we’re lambs.

SHAIN.  Lambs?

AUSTIN.  Our skins. They want our skins possibly, for some sort of perverts museum. Like the Romans or Saxons. Heads stuck on spears by the gates. We’ll be examples, emblems of yesterday’s sins for the future. We who were once celebrated are held up and damned, ridiculed.

HOYLE.  I can’t believe its that.

AUSTIN.  Why?

HOYLE.  We’re not savages are we?

AUSTIN.  They say we are..

ELLER.  Really? At the end of the day its just sex.

SHAIN.  Shut up, Eller! Sit. Die. Why don’t you go and rot in the corner!

AUSTIN.  To them its not sex. Sex is something else. We’re defilers. We were prized. We took friendship and screwed it up into a ball.

HOYLE.  Its disconcerting, I know. We’re used to our lives having structure. We’re used to our needs being minded and more importantly, met. Now they’re not. We were used, all of us, to things we will not see again. Now its all different. We have to face lack of structure. Lack of purpose too.

CALEB.  Lack of work.

HOYLE.  Was it work, Jimmy?

CALEB.  What?

HOYLE.  Could we say it was, if we’re honest? Or was it more of an exercise, an expansion..

CALEB.  An expansion of what?

HOYLE.  Ego.

CALEB.  Oh. Yes. Probably.

ELLER.  Filming’s hard work! What do you mean? Acting’s working!

HOYLE.  At your level? Really? All you ever did was turn up! You did your thing, your one thing and that’s all that they ever wanted. So, I would say, yes, that’s expansion. You could do what you liked! Power, Ken!

ELLER.  I was popular!

SHAIN.  Yes. And then you abused your position.

AUSTIN.  He took the pop out. Deflation..

ELLER.  Watch what you say..

AUSTIN.  Or? You’re old.

ELLER.  I’m not so old..

AUSTIN.  Old enough.

ELLER.  If it makes you feel better, believe that..

HOYLE.  Kenneth..

ELLER.  Everyone I knew, they all liked me..

AUSTIN.  You mean until they had reason not to.

ELLER.  Everyone that I worked with..

AUSTIN.  Even those boys?

ELLER.  They were young. The young are misshaped. They’re ill-equipped. They’ve no language.

SHAIN.  No, but they have lights and toilets..

ELLER.  Part of what I did or do teaches them.

 

(Silence.)

 

AUSTIN.  Did he really just say that?

ELLER.  The Greeks. It comes from them. Then the Romans. Its legacy and tradition. Template, almost.

AUSTIN.  Template?

ELLER.  Once. The older man, the young boy. The handing over of knowledge.

AUSTIN.  Wrapped around an old penis, as if it needed instructions..

CALEB.  You’re a degenerate, do you know that?

ELLER.  If I didn’t before I do now.

CALEB.  Progress!

HOYLE.  And what we know is this; that none of us here can believe you. None of us accept what you’re saying, particularly because we’re all here. You got found out, chummybum. You got dislodged. Thorns through flowers. A flick of spunk in the whiskey. A toenail inside the cupcake..

ELLER.  Go to hell!

SHAIN.  We’ve arrived!

HOYLE.   You thought you could do anything. None of us thought any different. But fame’s not charm. Don’t you know that? Its the illusion of charm. Charm’s a grace.

ELLER.  Well, I’m sure you could charm the birds from the trees, but they’d be dead as you did so. Don’t deign to judge, or worse, dare me. I’ve shrugged off worse things than you..

SHAIN.  Recently?

 

(Pause.)

 

ELLER.  This is unbearable!

CALEB.  So? They don’t think we deserve any better..

ELLER.  I can still write to people..

AUSTIN.  There aren’t any pens here, or paper..

ELLER.  But surely, there’s –

HOYLE.  Ken: this is it.

 

(Eller slumps in despair.)

 

ELLER.  I don’t know what to do. I pretended to fight in wars for this country..

CALEB.  All actors are loose change. We get spent easily.

 

(A silence. All brood, moving away from each other. The radio is still playing. Static and sharp scrapes of low sound.)

SHAIN.  Its a funny word, rape. An antique word some might call it. The association feels different, something to do with Vikings perhaps, or Brigands. But nevertheless, it goes on, in all of the conquering forces. When the military invade a new country, which is a rape of the land, they go on.

HOYLE.  The women are land. Its women who represent any country.

ELLER.  I never liked women. I think women smell.

AUSTIN.  And you don’t? You’re going to have to die, Ken, you know. You’re going to have to be a sacrifice, Eller. Maybe this is a gameshow. Have you thought that maybe that’s why we’re here? The cameras and the noise – they’re pushing us now past our limits. Until one of us buckles and the rest of us follow suit.

SHAIN.  He may have something there..It makes a lot of sense. They are watching. And entertainment of course was our business. And possibly is.

CALEB.  Could well be.

SHAIN.  Gladiators of love. Even if we all despise Kenneth Eller.

CALEB.  For being a ponce, nonce and trouncing everything left we hold dear.

ELLER (PANICS) If you kill me its murder!

CALEB.  We know! I can’t believe the stuff he comes out with!

ELLER.  Get away from me!

HOYLE.  Grab him by either his sagging balls or sunk soul.

 

(They mock chase him. He shrieks, then trips and stumbles.)

 

SHAIN.  Animal!

 

(Eller whimpers.)

 

CALEB.  So sad..

HOYLE.  But, I’m afraid, also useful. For each of us, he’s a mirror, spluttered and smeared.

AUSTIN.  What’s that smell?

 

(Eller weeps, having wet himself.)

 

SHAIN.  Leave the lightbulb. Ken has just been to the toilet.

CALEB.  Is that what you wanted..is that what you wanted to see, TV land?

HOYLE.  When we can no longer act and there is nothing left we can offer, they’ll just watch us all empty, like a man who is bleeding..

CALEB.  Or wetting himself by the road.

 

(Silence. They wait as Eller slowly recovers. His humiliation is awful as his crying shows. He rises slowly to stand. He unzips his trousers.)

 

ELLER.  Dignity..

HOYLE.   In your crackers. Are you going to stay like that?

ELLER.  Going bed.

 

(Eller leaves. They stand watching after.)

 

CALEB.  We’ll have to kill him. Free him from each huge misery.

(The noises stop.)

 

SHAIN.  Ah. Would you say that was encouragement, Derek?

HOYLE.  Hard to say.

AUSTIN.  It might help us..

CALEB.  What do you mean?

AUSTIN.  To repent.

CALEB.  You’re not serious?

AUSTIN.  Why?

SHAIN. So, what are you saying now, that you’re noble? Or that you have aspirations..You think they’ll have you back, do you?

HOYLE.  Stop..

AUSTIN.  Is that a challenge?

SHAIN.  Perhaps.

AUSTIN.  From a predatory queer..

SHAIN.  Careful, Billy..

AUSTIN.  From a somniatic cocksucker, from a plucker of corks not yet sold? Because you can castigate Ken but I won’t have you giving orders! Because they weren’t antique balls you were playing like so many bells, were they?

HOYLE.  Stop!

AUSTIN. They weren’t windchimes!

HOYLE.  Austin!

CALEB.  Well, look at the noble assassin! What is this, the day of the Jekyl who only now gets to Hyde!

HOYLE.  Gentlemen, please..

SHAIN.  We’re none of us gentlemen, Derek..

HOYLE.  Then we are at least cultured.. cultured and refined..

SHAIN.  Like old malt. But malt bites, old boy. By which I mean whiskey. Malt wounds.

HOYLE.  That’s Pinter.

AUSTIN.  I’m sorry, that’s who?

HOYLE.  Nevermind.

SHAIN.  No, for that he should die! Do you really not know Harold Pinter? This generation, I tell you.. hoist by their own retarded petard and regard! Take your insults young scum and shove them where no-one’s going! We’re getting older, but there’s no-one for you to get close. What you did, what you do, has put your balls in the ice-box. All you have will heal over. Maybe one day they’ll free you when you’re as seedy as Ken. Then you’ll pay. Rent boys. Lowlifes. To blow stale air on your darkness. To do their level best to revive it, that withered stem you’ll half own. Because the best of it will be lost. This will be what happens to us. All we were. All our projects, overshadowed and sunk by our crimes!

AUSTIN.  Crimes?

SHAIN.  I said crimes.

CALEB.  We’re not criminals, Jimmy. We have not been convicted. Only –

SHAIN.  What, quarantined?

HOYLE.  I would have said set apart.

SHAIN.  You’re now in Lulu land, Derek. This is a camp.

AUSTIN. What?

SHAIN.  Its Auschwitz. And we are the jews and we’re wrong.

 

(Pause.)

AUSTIN.  Its too quiet now.

SHAIN.  What? Its only been off for a minute.

AUSTIN.  No, but it feels like there’s something behind it..

CALEB.  Pinter again.

AUSTIN.  Something else.

 

(Pause.)

 

HOYLE.  Go to the window..

SHAIN.  Its dark.

AUSTIN.  But it was light before.

SHAIN.  Is it winter?

HOYLE.  We couldn’t tell. This weird climate.

AUSTIN.  Its like they’ve controlled it..

SHAIN.  What do you mean?

AUSTIN.  Well, the sky.

SHAINWhat..?

CALEB.  Are we out? Are we in? Is this a lot, or what..

HOYLE.  Listen..

SHAIN.  What do you mean?

HOYLE.  Is that..singing?

SHAIN.  Singing from where?

HOYLE.  There! Outside!

 

(They listen. From far off, a strange drone like singing. Discordant, distant. They strain to hear.)

 

CALEB.  What is that, Wolves?

HOYLE.  No.

SHAIN.  Bears?

HOYLE.  Jim.

SHAIN.  Coyotes?

CALEB.  Sasquatch?

AUSTIN.  There’s no Bigfoot. That’s rubbish. Maybe its wind.

SHAIN.  That wind’s sharp.

AUSTIN.  Something’s coming for us!

 

(Unheard, ELLER enters.)

 

HOYLE.  Don’t be absurd..

ELLER.  Maybe Vikings..

CALEB.  We thought you’d gone to bed, pisspants..

ELLER.  Bastard!

 

(Eller stabs Caleb, who falls.)

 

HOYLE. KEN!

SHAIN.  CALEB!

CALEB.  CHRIST!

HOYLE.  Eller, where did you get!

SHAIN.  Jesus!

ELLER.  The knife? Its for grapefruit..

SHAIN.  What?

ELLER.  They said they’d keep me in grapefruit. Its a kind of sedative for me. They knew I wouldn’t take my Viagra, because if you take that and eat grapefruit it gives you a heart attack..

CALEB.  Call an ambulance!

HOYLE.  No, they’ll see! We can’t call anyone, Caleb! You know we can’t!

CALEB.  Show them! Carry me to where they can see..!

HOYLE.  Can you see!

 

(They help him move to where the upper camera can see him.)

 

CALEB.  Punch that old pervert!

 

(Austin punches him.)

 

AUSTIN.  Bastard!

ELLER.  Ponce!

SHAIN.  You’re calling him that? Now that really is poncesence!

HOYLE.  It isn’t a good time to start joking!

 

(Eller laughs.)

CALEB.  I’m bleeding! You’re laughing and I’m –

HOYLE.  Quick! Tear a sheet!

 

(Shain takes a tablecloth and helps Hoyle wrap it around Caleb.)

 

Tourniquet! Turn him!

CALEB.  I’m feeling weak..

HOYLE.  Lay him down!

AUSTIN.  Are they going to help us?

HOYLE.  Who knows..even if someone’s coming.

CALEB.  Are there still –

SHAIN.  What?

CALEB.  Those noises..

HOYLE.  Noises, no..Singing.

SHAIN.  Still?

CALEB.  You’ve wrapped me up. I’m a cake. Now look at all this jam in the middle.. You bastard, Eller…

ELLER.  Its what you deserve, Monster!

CALEB.  Me? I am?

ELLER.  All!

SHAIN.  Christ..

ELLER.  Beasts of the field and the bedroom. Now the long night discloses the true knights’ dark approach.

 

(Silence.)

HOYLE.  There’s nothing we can do but remain. That’s all we have left. That’s our power. If they want to bleach us or blanche us, its the only real thing we have left. If they were to kill us we’d be filed, after being wiped away, then forgotten. But if we remain they can’t stop us. They can’t forget. We’ll be here.

CALEB.  I’m leaking..

AUSTIN.  We’re screwed.

HOYLE.  It isn’t bad. You’re not dying.

CALEB.  Is sex ever..

HOYLE.  Listen!

 

(The singing has grown.)

 

SHAIN.  What is that, the dead?

HOYLE.  No, that’s us.

AUSTIN.  What do you mean?

HOYLE.  That’s our threat, given back to us. It must be some sort of protest. They’ve found out where we are..

AUSTIN. What?

HOYLE.  They’re here.

CALEB.  Cameras, press..

AUSTIN.   At least its what we’re used to..

SHAIN.  What do you think this is, practise?

ELLER.  What’ll they do to us, Derek?

HOYLE.  Worse than we did to them, I imagine.

AUSTIN.  And what can you imagine?

HOYLE.  No, this is about what we did.

CALEB.  I’m getting worse..

AUSTIN.  This is bad..

SHAIN.  We’re going to have to stop baiting Kenneth..

AUSTIN.  Is there sound on that camera? Can they hear that odd singing too?

HOYLE.  We don’t know what it is.

AUSTIN.  Well, it sounds like singing..

HOYLE.  And we can only assume with the cameras..

SHAIN.  So, why aren’t they here?

HOYLE.   I don’t know.

 

(The singing grows.)

 

AUSTIN.  Are they singing words?

SHAIN.  Its just sounds..

AUSTIN.  Sounds off if you ask me..

SHAIN.  Do we go outside?

HOYLE.  No, they’ll see us! They could have guns, knives..

CALEB.  No knives!

HOYLE.  Wrap the sheet tighter..

CALEB.  I’ll die..

SHAIN.  Death, perhaps could be better..

AUSTIN.  So strange to know we’re the villains..

SHAIN.  The baddies always have the best lines.

ELLER.  Well, I don’t know what to say.

HOYLE.  Nobody wants to hear from you, Kenneth.

AUSTIN.  What are they singing?

SHAIN.  It sounds like an H. Jesus H!

 

(The singing builds and is even more discordant. The sound of the pipes and the generator has resumed now..)

 

ELLER.  I’d prefer Chinese water torture!

HOYLE.   And here we all are with dry eyes..

SHAIN.  Jesus!

 

(The sounds build. The men express their discomfort. A cacophony and a chorus – and then all at once the sounds stop.)

 

SHAIN.  Sweet jesus, that’s worse!

CALEB.  I can’t breathe..

HOYLE.  Wrap it tighter!

CALEB.  Derek..

SHAIN.  Such silence..

ELLER.  Maybe they want us all to confess.

AUSTIN.  What?

ELLER.  To confess. How about the rat in our kitchen? The one who has damned us. How about you, Derek?

CALEB.  Can’t breathe..

 

(He gasps..)

 

SHAIN.  He’s passed out!

HOYLE.  Is he –

SHAIN.  No.

HOYLE.  Wrap the sheet tighter. Get a bowl.

AUSTIN.  Is there..

HOYLE.  Water.. Whatever you can. (TO THOSE BEYOND:) Can you hear?

SHAIN.  Derek..

HOYLE.  Can you hear me out there? This is Derek Hoyle.. Will you listen? Can anyone out there hear me? Caleb Holt has been stabbed! We need assistance at once! Can anyone hear me? And if you can, will you listen? This is a sincere appeal, a request! There’s no plot or plan.. Caleb’s stabbed! Can anyone out there hear me? We have no supplies here, just bed sheets.. water and bedsheets.. Is anyone there? Please attend!

ELLER.  They’re going to let him die!

AUSTIN.  They can’t!

HOYLE.  Please.. is anyone out there..

ELLER.  They want blood..

HOYLE.  Ken!

ELLER.  Confession.. they want us reduced!

HOYLE.  Kenneth, please!

ELLER.  Give them something at once if you want to save this cock gobbler..

SHAIN.  Or any of us for that matter..

AUSTIN.  Give them what they want, Derek..

HOYLE.  STOP!!

 

(Silence.)

 

Please! Stop! Just let me think for a moment!

SHAIN.  He’s bleeding fast..

HOYLE.  Get more bedsheets!

ELLER.  Then how will we sleep?

HOYLE.  What do you mean?

ELLER.  Without sheets? How will we sleep, Captain Hoyle? It gets cold at night. We all feel it..

SHAIN.  Derek, he’s bleeding..

HOYLE.  I’M GOING TO BLOODY KILL YOU, ELLER!

 

(Pause.)

 

AUSTIN.  Listen, we should not affront, just defend. We have to pretend we’re alright. Let them turn up their volume. We shouldn’t ask for new lightbulbs. We should ask them to take things away! These sofas.. these chairs, its all been said: there’s no comfort. We’ll crap outside. We’ll do nothing. We’ll sleep on the floor! We’ll go mad! We like it in here! Don’t you see? This is the way we defeat them! This is how we defy them! This is how we all of us here, adjust! It will soften each sting. Punishment turned into pleasure. Afterall, we were actors and aren’t we all still on show?

ELLER.  They’re waiting for us.

SHAIN.  They’re what?

ELLER.  They’re out there now. I can feel them.

SHAIN.  Pervert or psychic. Stir crazy comes after all.

AUSTIN.  Its worse than locusts..

SHAIN.  What?

AUSTIN. That; the revengeful crowd, waiting. Assessing their moment..

ELLER.  A crowd’s like a machine set to kill. Or stun us, at least. They’re out there now, set to stun us. They’re coming in..

SHAIN.  You’ll bend over..

ELLER.  I’ve given up the past. I’m this now. I’ve given into my sins. Once the sin has struck it stays out there. What can you do? You do nothing but lay claim to it. Let them come.

SHAIN.  Boys and girls, one and all. You really are the lowest of creatures.

ELLER.  I have evolved.

SHAIN.  From a butterfly all the way back into gunk.

 

(Silence.)

 

HOYLE.  Listen!

AUSTIN.  What?

HOYLE.  There.. they’re singing something else..

SHAIN.  I can’t hear them..

ELLER.  Only dogs can..

HOYLE.  We’re dogs now, having found this new frequency.

 

(Eller growls..)

 

SHAIN.  Caleb’s –

HOYLE.  Yes.

AUSTIN.  What’s going to happen now, Derek?

HOYLE.  Hopefully, some sort of return to the ocean. Then maybe we can try and start all this all again..

 

(Eller barks.)

 

SHAIN.  He’ll lick his own balls, Eller, now. At least he won’t need any children..

AUSTIN.  Will there be women there..?

SHAIN.  Or Footballers..

AUSTIN.  Do fish have rape?

HOYLE.  Wait and see.

 

 

(A silence. They wait. A wind is growing. It builds. Soon ferocious, it suddenly cuts.

 

                                 End of Play.)

 

David Erdos.
Illustration Nick Victor

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Trampled Under Foot

Trampled Under Foot Old Grey Whistle Test Video from Jack Ernie on Vimeo.

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THE FAR REACHES

 


                       A Play for One person                       

 

By David Erdos

 

 

 

 

This play has been inspired but is not based on what we do or don’t know to be true.

 

 

 

 

ONE.

 

An anonymous Motel Room – Day for night. Curtains drawn, daylight leaking. A bed, a chair and a table. A box like fridge. Bottles, books. X sprawls on the bed. He has gone to seed at age 60. He has a faded charisma, and a slow drawl like drag to his voice. He wears sunglasses. He drinks. He remains still, as if waiting. He clears his throat: silence. Empty oratory. He slumps back, considers. Takes another slurp and then speaks.

 

X.

 

It isn’t what you expected, I know. I’m trying to think of it as a trailer. Or as a set, even. Somewhere in the dustbowl, or beyond the far reaches, somewhere forgotten and out there, such as Jupiter’s yard, Pluto’s bay. A place crowned by space: Bumfuck Idaho or Duluth, Minnesota. Bob Dylansville. Misted. Everything bright. Nothing clear.

 

Would you like a drink? Have a drink. That’s a pretty fine jacket you’re wearing. Brings you right into focus. Your skin’s like paint. Are you Sioux? I knew a Sioux once. Everyone called him Suzie. He never let his soul settle, but he certainly packed away his reserve.

 

There’s an absence of chairs. For that we’ll have to blame the set dresser. This picture’s a true independent, and the budget is small. So, sit here. Would you care to? Feel free. I can always move across to the window. We could make a fine composition, what with all this milky morning light and thick air. It’ll be like a Vermeer painting, sketched in. How are you on the classics? Or with French. Or on painting? Because you’re like a still life peach standing there. This is where its happening. Here! Move away from the door there. Its a bit of a strain now to see you what with this film on my eyes and heat haze.

 

(He waits.)

 

You smell like toast. And you’re thin. I got a little fat in my fifties. But I’m certain we’ll look good together, or balance ourselves. Call me X. As in former, or no. As in what’s been cancelled. The man with no name, or maybe, its orbiting now in dead space.

 

(He listens.)

 

Is that your real name? Means what? They used to call me Skip – I played truant. Then they called me Chase – I was hounded. Then they called me Fox – ran away. Things were pretty tempestuous then. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the play acting. Deny where you came from and you get to pretend night and day. Or the reverse of course. Look, what time is it now? Half past breakfast. I take it you ate. I have biscuits and something still left from last night. Its on the tray over there. I’m still a little drunk. Cold lasagne. Which I’ve discovered to my surprise is delicious, so if you want some, then take some: who wouldn’t want a hunk of cheese laced with meat?

 

I hope in time you relax. You’re actually the first of the season. Now, that’s a joke but I mean it. This month has been dry, dry as dust. I travel incognito right now, but any set of cogs still needs oiling. So, tonight, you’re my fixit. My rescue trunk handyman.

 

You fix shelves? Sure you do. You’ve got a fixing shelves kind of body. I’d bet right now you’d build houses if I gave you the bricks. And strip cars. I used to chase cars sometimes when I was wasting myself in dark alleys. I remember a bug black Mercedes cruising those streets and lost roads. Windows open a slit. You’d see only hands, ears. No faces. You’d hear the cat like purr of the engine and the pull of a zip would echo. Those were the days of my youth when I was as thin as you and as hungry. Cold nights. Stars seemed closer. Like you were out there in space..on the ground.

 

Actually, incognito’s ok, as I get to purposely change my look, or my accent. Often at will. As an actor, I can be Russian or Dutch, as I like. While I was waiting for you I was re-attempting my Scottish. I can do the alphabet for you, or talk about oil rigs, or something. Though it isn’t great. Like my Irish. But tomorrow, they say’s a new day.

 

I keep these glasses on. Are you young? We’d better check that at the outset. The guy that I called set the limits and I don’t want to be gauche. So, you’re…….? Good. Well, that’s ok,then. That’s fine. Because I’m not one of them, I assure you. I have never touched children and teenagers these days – well, they’re men. Or they think they are. And the girls are all solid women. The girls in hot countries and cold countries too are well formed.

 

Arthur C. Clarke. You know him? He went all the way to Sri Lanka. Because it was a place they allowed it. 2001. Maybe more. He’d trawl the beaches for boys, in a sarong, which he’d open. Did Stanley Kubrick know? Jesus. Clark’s small eyes in thick glasses and his jowelly face going down!   Horrible. Christ. There’s no honour in those who’ve been sanctioned. Or those who’ve been sectioned. Or those who’ve been labelled, discarded, or tarred with the same tousled brush.

 

(Silence.)

 

You’d like a beer, then? Please do. Open the fridge. Red Stripe. Budvar.I like the Czech beers. Brown bottles. Alcohol Guards man the world. They’re like these real stand up guys, these dark men, silent and cool, hard and glassy. As you’re drinking your beer they stare at you before meeting your mouth at the hole.

 

Ok,then..Ok. Shall we do something suave with the lighting? Set the scene? Trim the shadows. Focus, adjust, iris in? How are you feeling right now? Would you say you were ready? Alright, well, if you are, then I’m ready. I’m raring to go, wild and free. The light’s sharp. The guard’s up. And this feels like floating..I’m ready now for my close up and my blowjob too, Mr Demille! (HE SMILES) Soon. Anticipate..right? Savour first, age has taught me. And then once you’re older, you tend to forget what you ate. I’m not as young as I was, that’s for sure. How do you feel about sixty? Does it seem too old? You can tell me. I’ve put up with a lot of shit this last year. Fields of it. Bowls. They throw it all back at you once your particular lid has been lifted. If every day brings us sunshine then let it shine through the manholes to show the sweltering sewers beneath. Under us all is a swamp. A steaming pile to walk over. But the shit in us drags us. It hauls us all into place. So, I’ll suck you. You suck me. We’ll gift ourselves worlds of pleasure. In this life of ours, the real treasure is to make each man your brother and to give them something to prize, taste and eat.

 

Grandma sucked eggs. That’s why Grandpa never went near her. Where Grandpa went I won’t tell you, but it had a sort of hen-house attached. He took me once as a boy. I remember the dark made up faces. Purple breasts. Nipples, like buttons of mud in your eye. ‘This is the world, son,’ he said. ‘This is the land we should conquer..’ Bright smiles. Teeth, yellow. Red at the rim of each glass.

I can do anything now. I’ve granted myself worlds of freedom. I suppose they all think I’ve been punished. But now I’ve got the ultimate space to be me. I know I. I am I. I be I. Its pure Beckett. I can finally become all I’ve wanted and all I needed to do to achieve that was to let go of  the work. I can no longer be what I was, or who I was, for that matter. But I’ve still got the money, even if the houses I had can’t be sold. Not right now, anyway. Although there is a curiosity border. Give it a year or three, there’ll be someone who will want to come and actually buy infamy.

This is where he –

Where it –

Where they –

Whatever..

I can’t go back now and live there, so let them now become somewhere else. Some sort of Sex Pestery, or Pervert’s Museum, like Lenny Bruce’s haunt, Hubert’s, where the freaks’ manifesto was written in come and piss everywhere.

 

Shall I put some music on? I like jazz. Or maybe we should play something eerie. To suit this mood and this moment they haven’t found the right music yet. Its not been written. Bryars? Xenakis or Stan Freberg? Zappa, or Eno? Mozart, or Can? Stones or Kinks? Sodomy’s Requiem or the Cocksucking Concerto? There’s even the Beatles track, Golden Showers..I’m joking, of course. But it fits. Music melds. Music heals. Music stores all the senses. Music will bind us from the moment we met until this.

 

Alright, so now you can tell me..be frank: have I finally lost my charisma? Do you think sin has bleached me or is there still a flake of gold left? If you come over here I may even lift up my glasses.. Come and see the true me. I’ve been absent. But now that you’re here you’ll help me and I can be blown back into play..

(He grins and reclines.)

 

I wonder if worms know they’re worms? And if they do, do you think they find themselves as disgusting? I suppose you could say the same thing about spiders, snakes in the grass, slugs and hogs. All of the indescribable things that help to power the planet. Just as we do. As I have. With money and fame and all this. Now they hate me. That’s fuel to reinstate the moral code they’ve forgotten. I’m the example; the slimy shriek slinking at the fear sodden edge of each eye. When you’re alone in your room and its deathly still and slow quiet. You imagine you see the thing, sloping, human eye raised, as it slides. An inseminoid pulp. A giant slug-rat-snail combination. Hauling itself on its haunches to make you want to throw up on your life. I’m a disease now, I find, having been tarred; a once angel, in so much as they worshipped and praised me from afar and up close. Now I’m something obscene; worse than they ever feared or expected. Young men would wake with me on them, my kiss having soiled their sunk bones. Was fame just my shield? Was what I did its own Updike? That famous quote with its eating of celebrity flesh as the cost? It gave me license, I guess. Were you a fan of my movies? Did you see me on stage? I was something. Did we ever meet in a Park, dark and late?

 

Come over here. Feel my heft. I’m going to sweat all across you. Be my sands. Let me stifle. Be my mirage. I’m your pool.

 

(His opens his legs.)

 

I can feel you move now, oozing on me, like spread butter..Stars find their purchase when warm summer skies cover this..

 

(His back arches.)

The sea..such as it is..swells about me..Criss-crossing waves swirl around me, lapping my flesh..saving me..

 

(He tightens.)

 

Uh..Uh..!  Move your hands higher..

Now that one place under..right under there..

Now, your mouth…

Put your mouth there..

The sea. Can you feel it approaching? The waves of night follow, lapping the shore.. bathing me..

Sing to me..

Sing..

Sing me..

I’m coming..

Can you hear it? Its rising! Can you taste my approach? Waves and stars!

 

(He jolts and comes.)

 

Uh! I am dust and come.. I am driftwood! Take me away! Take me further! Part the chosen sea! Storm the world!

 

(The orgasm continues as darkness falls.)

 

TWO.

 

The same. But X is now x and is scattering collected leaves from a bag all across it. There is a stretch of barbed wire, a tin pail, a crate and torn chair. As he scatters, he cleans with a worn out broom. He’s play acting. It takes some moments before he speaks out.

 

x.

 

Is he back yet? You’re clean. Nobody said I’d get dirty. I’ve been trying to feed all the chickens, but its always the same ones that keep pushing their way to the front. Fat bastards. Like you. You’ve been all the way into town. I can smell it. I keep going on at Mom. She won’t let me. Dad wants me at home. You’re just sly. I reckon if I cheated like you, I could have them all crawling after. All the girls. All the college, and the high school, too..most of them. That’s if I had a car, or a friend with a bike. I could do it. I hate you all over. You never have to do any chores.

 

This grass is dry. Look at it. Its dead men’s hair. Dead dogs also. With God’s grits between it; great soupy globs of blown mud.. I’ll get myself out of here soon, get myself away. You won’t see me. Screw this grass. And I’m hungry. Mom said I had to save the last cob for you.

 

Have you see him? He drunk? Aunt Mae said he kissed her. Stole up at night, forced the window and then walked straight through to her room. Said he’d been drinking all night and most of the day placed before it. Said his hands felt like irons, branding her skin. Titties! (GRINS)

 

Did he make you do this? Did he? When? Have you ever been to a cathouse? What’s it like? Did they like you? Or do they turn from you and let you do what you want, anyway? Tom in class says they do, not that he knows what he’s doing. ‘One Tit Tom’ they all call him, on account of his mom being sick.

 

I hate these leaves, hate this yard. I hate this house. I hate Daddy. My back is sore from his ribbing. My legs are bent from his boot. You’re getting out of here soon but I ain’t signing up to no army. I’m aiming higher. The city’s for me. Not all this. I’ll go to school. I’ll speak right. I’ll be stocking wine in dark cellars. I’m all set for people who know how to see and make art. I’m going to have a house full of books where I’m going to be with people who read them. Not like this. This fat silence is where the heavy and dumb slide and die.

 

I can hear the truck. He is back. Because if he is you should tell me.  Its right I know. Look I’ve finished. I can’t do anymore with this crap. Its like I’m raking his head. His hair’s dead leaves. His scalp’s flaking. I hate his skin. He’s mud slitting. He’s nothing but rock, cold and mean.

 

He won’t dream much, I bet. You need some sort of brain to keep dreaming. He’s not mmuch more than some grizzly, lost in the woods, losing hair.

 

Fuck him.

Fuck you.

Fuck Mom, too. Did you do that? She turns from him, so he finds me. I’m as soft as she is, soft and warm.

 

Sometimes I feel his hands in the night, tracing my back with a finger. His eyes are black with a pin-prick, a pin-prick of light, from outside. Moon in his eyes and some of my blood in the river. If I could I’d kill him. If I thought it would help, I’d destroy.

 

You don’t see anything. You’re like a ghost. You’re no brother. If I’m Spring, you’re Summer, wrapped up in itself, like heat’s toy. Spring is still crisp. Spring still has cold in it somewhere. You’re just what’s frying, whereas I’m what’s been frozen, slowly wrenching its way back to life.

 

Ice on me like cake. Ice on me, like icing. But inside the cake’s stale and rotten and the white isn’t ice, the white’s –

 

(Silence.)

 

I don’t want who we are. I don’t want anybody. No-one I know.

Grass is dying.

I don’t want where I’ve come from. I’d have chosen more.

Tell me why.

 

 

(Darkness.)

 

 

 

THREE.

 

The room, as was. Late at night – early morning. X is still in sunglasses and paces the now darkened room. He is on the phone, angered, loud and then censoring his own volume. He checks at the window, before moving off, frantically.

 

X.

 

I’ve been trying to get you all night – the least you could do is talk to me! We bloody came up together, so why am I the only one going down! You owe me, Frank! Oh, you know.. Now that you’re shitting rose petals. Call someone. Help me. Get me on a plane somewhere hot. Or somewhere cold. I don’t care. I’ve been loosening my balls in this shitbox! Its like a fucking coffin with windows, and I am far from being dead, Frank! Real far!

 

Get me on Pinky’s plane..yeah..you know who I mean, I mean Pinky.. Mister P. Call him. Get me on his Airbus of cock, right away…Get me on his big orgy ship because I’m cold and I’m hungry and I’m stuck in the old and the stale. I need some relief. You think I don’t know what they’re saying? Or, about all the shit that’s been written; all of the lies and spiked tales? They’ve got photos they say and a book’s worth of confessions..from people I met once at a party, or passed by in a street! Maids and waiters.. Cops, Chefs..its like a sea of fact out to get me! A hurricane whirl of fiction battering down every door! (HE LISTENS:) Yes! Of course, yes! They force me to read.. and I never once read the critics! But I read them now! They’re all critics! Well, lucky for you, Frankie! Great! And what they don’t know can’t play, not unless someone tell them! That’s right, Frank! Well, listen, when your back’s at the wall, you reach out!

 

You don’t think I would, Frank? I would. So, let me break that illusion. How do I sleep, Frank? I’m up, Frank! I think I’ve been up for a year!

 

How’s your wife, by the way? How does she like her bedroom? You painted it up like she wanted..? Tell me, is it the same size as yours? Or does she need it bigger, maybe.. in order to make her adjustment..further from you and your children.. How are your boys, Frank? All good? Your boys are good..Good.. the boys are good..glad to hear it.. So, what was the ring made from, plastic? And does she sound proof her walls to help drown –

 

Fuck you! Blow me! Oh,no, you did that already..To make me feel better? Because you wouldn’t normally stoop – !

 

(He throws the phone and screams out. And stands there, near frantic. A moment of helplessness strikes him, before he rushes back to the phone.)

 

Are you still there..? Are you.. Oh. Ok. Look, I’m sorry. But you have to accept, Frank… I’m desperate. I don’t know what to do.. Help me. Try.

 

I’m at the waterfront here, but there isn’t any front left, or water. I used to be something. And you’re the only one I can ask, Frank. You know.

 

What?

 

No, I’m frightened..I don’t understand how this happened and maybe they can track me with this… (LISTENS:) Alright, then. One hour. Get me that plane, car. Call Pinky. And then once you’ve done that let him call. No bags. No fuss. All I really need is a shower…

Not the kettle on the wall in this shitcan. Something with tiles, TV, all. The old life. My life. The kind we’ve grown used to. Not this small ruin, this little man shanty town of my own. Please. I implore. I beg. I’m a kitten. Think of me small and fluffy, dirt in my paws, glass in eye. Splinters, Franks. Shards. I’m flecks of glass. I’m sharp pebbles. I’m salt and sand. I’m sand blasted… Yes, I’m a little high! Wouldn’t you?

 

Alright, then. Ok. Ok, Frank. One hour. You won’t forget? I’ll be waiting. I’ll be climbing the walls. I’ll fall..near.

 

(He puts the phone down. Silence. He moves across to the window. He parts the drapes slightly.)

 

The moon’s not my friend. Spies and stars.

 

(He takes the phone, dials. )

 

Yes, this is Mister Thirteen. Need another. Blonde. Around twenty. Big as your arm. Forearm. Nice.

 

(He puts the phone down. He stands, then checks himself in the mirror.)

 

We are as he made us. But sometimes he rushes and those are the times your lose face.

 

(Darkness.)

                                FOUR.

 

Morning. The same. X is eating from a bought in McDonalds. He stuffs his face, binges, as he confronts his next guest.          

 

X.

 

So, you want to be an actor? That’s cool But would you first like some breakfast? Most people want that, and then when the rest has been cleared, they want fame. But fame’s like a wind coming in to save through hot weather; when things get close you look for it but if that wind just keeps blowing then you want some time away, some repose. Its all repose in this place. Its all time away. Its hot shelter. And even if that breeze has stopped blowing then I know what it means or meant to take heed. Acting, too, is a wind. A whirlwind for some. It consumes them. For most its a draft, then a trickle, a dribble of air; for me, storms. For you, too, I’m sure. You’ve got a good face for the camera. Your chin’s slightly lacking, its not as defined – but your eyes! Eyes. Nose. Mouth. Good. Its happening. There’s no worry. The line of your chest. Legs. Your posture,. And now, look at this! Nice big hands. Do you play the piano? I do. I did. Play piano. Also guitar, drums, uke, fiddle.. well, I can make a sound. Saxophone. I’m a talented guy. I also paint watercolours. I write too. Poems, screenplays. Stageplays, too. I direct. Acting, as was. Not much chance of that at the moment. Or in the future, until wounds heal over and all of this fades away, or dies down. Then you do the talk shows. Years pass. Maybe you’ve been to prison. You have that worn look that you cover, but the seediness still seeps through. Too much soap. Too much grease. You get to look like a lizard. And you’re fatter, too. Or you’re thinner and look haunted and lost and grave grey.

 

Perhaps it’ll never die down. Once the sign is up the winds beat it and even if the rains come to steal it, there’ll still be the self same hole in the ground where it stood. Maybe they’ll cover that hole, but they can’t burn the films and the movies. They can burn the books and magazines, maybe, but what about all of the others in there? No, I’ll hang about like a stain, my face still a part of the picture. Pixelate and they’ll ruin, like colouring Chaplin, or making the singer Tom Waits clear his throat.

 

No, I’ll be there. And that’s the way I’ll keep working. I’ll always be playing in someone’s home..on TV.. And I know people. I know. And they know that I know them. And that I know all about them, all of them in the know..

 

Psuedonyms can be fun. Maybe I’ll write all of this as a movie! Or disguise it away in a novel: My life in sin, or in darkness: Down a ladder of cocks, sir, I fell..

 

Talking of ladders..undress. Or let me do at least it for you. Wake up and my face will be on you.. the drugs will probably start working soon. If you come to my room, they’re like dust in the air: the drugs settle. Like the skin on milk. Look, your Pepsi has a layer of white over it. A tincture. A taint. Its a medieval ruse, a love potion. Imagine, this was romantic once, this was classic. This is what they did to feel real. You can be the Princess. I’m the Prince. Or it can be the other way round if you want that. I’m not all that choosey, that’s if you want the God’s honest truth.

 

Ah, but is He? I am. That’s why I’ve cut my restraints and am running. I’m far but free. I broke orbit from the star path of old. I’m in space. The astronaut cord has been cut and now I’m spinning out beyond planets…

My last gulp of air has been frozen and I am newly filled with star-stuff. Black star gas stains my throat and galactic sperm has rebirthed me. I’m swallowing sky. Sucking Saturn. I am wings and warp. I am rim. You know, its pretty wild being me. This is a totally mind blown sensation. Suck me in. Absorb from me. Accompany me now, on my trip. You’re going to be a proper Star Lord in space. You’re going to see God in sharp atoms. You’re going to reach a new understanding about what it really means to be fucked. Shed you skin. Split your heart. I’ll put your cock in my pocket. Give me your shit. Look, I’m silver! Give me your hand. Its a claw! We’re changing now, you and I: the human equation has ended. We are part of space. We’re space phantoms: Ghosts in the glass. Space spice. Spume! Spunk in me. Succumb. Astral storms are now raging. Become like them! Transit to the unset shore has begun!

 

(He stands, having reached some point of renewal. He shakes. Its disturbing. All at once darkness falls.)

 

 

 

FIVE.

 

Evening. The same. A line of light from the offstage bathroom. A cellphone on the bed begins ringing. The sound of a toilet flush, off. X enters and stares. The phone carries on ringing. He looks around, moves towards it. The phone instantly stops. X sighs, moves away. The phone begins ringing. He looks around, paniced. He moves to the phone. The phone stops. Now he frantically starts to check every corner. He is tearing books, papers. The phone begins ringing. His checking goes on..

 

Darkness falls. 

In the darkness, the sound of the phone is quickly replaced by that of a bust bus station. Traffic and chatter. A possible distant plane flies.

 

                                 SIX

 

An ugly light rises. X is dressed in shabby clothes and sits on a toilet in an unkempt cubicle. He is eating cheese from a pack and has a Dictaphone or small tape recorder. He speaks into it, keeping quiet, or as much as he can, anyway.

 

X.

 

Dante had Hell. I had room 317. Dear Diary, I’m writing. Dear Dairy, I hate you, as because of you I got fat. It is September 8th and it has been a year since life ended. I am despised and alone, suicidal, and yet if I give them death they will win.  And they will not win. I’ll find my way back through the orchard of low slung poisoned apples and snakes in the root of each tree.

 

Who can truly know what will be? I am in my mind. Am I evil? I am watching myself, checking factors. If I were a monster would I be aware of what’s monstrous, or see myself simply and only in terms of myself? Can anyone out there discern or distinguish themselves from all others? Or do the people who really think they’re on a higher plane; Manson, Hitler..or the moguls of old and new really know? What do Paedophiles lose? Are rapists just rage and implosion? Are murderers conscientious or simply careful and kept by their sin? Most priests fuck kids: how many kill them? What are the rules of the riot when that first riot ends? Diary, I’ve never felt so alone, so am entertaining the options. Everything’s abstract. Am I peeling like paint? Where’s the –

Wait!

 

(He stops and listens. The sound as someone enters. A man coughs, then pisses. X remains frozen and held, listening. The man takes a while. Coughs, spits; disgusting. X preens. The door opens, closes. He records on.)

 

I ask you, is that normal? Is that what normal people are? Then screw that!

 

To be..or not. Yes, this is my suicide talking. Eden’s snake has already started its eating and at such moments the apple is never going to be the main course. Where does it end, though? To tempt is to torture sensation. Is evil endless? Or once the coming has gone, are you sane?

 

My Daddy beat me. Old tears produced in blood, frozen rivers. This chill fed all senses until there was ice in my nails and my touch. I craved all contact per se in order to soothe and bring comfort. I did not discern. I was impulse. If I wanted to fuck then I fucked. I wanted to pin all men down to the point where all man began to feel grounded. Luckily I was gay, so I fucked them. I gaggled on cock. I groped, kissed. I turned men to clay and worked in my hands, sculpting, moulding, until they were in my control, then forgave them, kissing Dad away in all men. But men are not clay. Men are not fruit for others. I sucked them dry to find nothing but old bits of skin in my guts.

 

Bearing down on a cock is like suppressing the sound of an echo. Expression is swallowed and in the imagined sound chamber you are drawing each reverberation and ripple, each passing wave to a close. In the journey you map there is only the need to keep going. But there is no destination, just so many miles on the road. You are making each stage of your quest the same quest and forging the chain of old legends. Just like the planet standing on turtles: Turtle on turtle and so it all proves: cock on cock. Girls flick a switch, but with men its connection. A jack to a port. It seems different, even if, in truth, it isn’t. Even if it actually is all the same.

 

What did I do? I fucked men.

Not all were conscious. Or willing.

I took advantage. Had power.

I molested, abused.

I was Rome.

I was Britain.

I was Nazi Germany.

Israel.

 

I was Mugabe. And those men were..what? Switzerland?

 

And now its indescribable. Look, I’m talking to you, diary, tell me; Am I wrong? Am I ugly? Am I sick and sin? Am I..shade?

 

Not even literature helps. Maybe I should paint a picture or something,. Do a little dance. Sing. Whatever. Or sit here and let them find me here caked in crap.

 

They’ll take me to trial. They’ll convict. And I’ll go to Prison. Where I’ll be a relatively big cheese, as I’m news now and get to fuck who I want, or get fucked. I’ll have cock but no love. Is that a punishment for me? Or do I need a new way of being, something to feel now, or be?

Acting’s no use. Or not any longer. As has been proved, its just hiding. And now I’m out in the light, in the shade.

They already think they know me, or know what I am, so that’s over. I have to be that. I can no longer be what I made.

Then what should I be? I’ll fuck dogs. Can one go any further? Cats. Birds. What else is there? Can I carve from this shadow, this semblance of shit, a new throne? Who can help me? Not Frank. And not even Pinky. There’s been nothing from there but more silence, which goes to show me that from some past and dark congress, those exiled fast are alone.

 

I should probably brave it. Find light and take off these glasses. Hire a suit and just sit there, filling my face somewhere grand. Do you think they’d throw me out? On what grounds? I have not been convicted. I am not on the run. I’m just hiding, because I chose to disobey their commands!

 

If they didn’t want me, what choice and what option was there? To become what they think, a pariah? A cockroach, a cunt, a conundrum? Someone they don’t want to try and understand, only fear? Or condemn, come to that. So tell me what to do, dearest diary. Nobody loves me. But life is love. And I live. Do you love me? Confirm. You are a white mirror, shining. You are a redrafted heart. You are endless. You are the white and light. Fill me up. I am ready. I’m here. If you are the sword, I’m the silence. You are the storm across oceans and I am the lurk from below.

 

If you want me to say it, it’s shame; shame in deep places…

If I –

 

Enough of this poetry. Fuck it. What does it matter now what I say?

 

When you reach the end, it –

(He stops at the sound of the door, as someone else enters. There are no other noises. X remains still and nonplussed. He listens. He stands. He undoes his trousers. He waits. All is silence.  He pulls his trousers back up.)

 

 

Is someone there?

Is there?

Well?

Well, this cubicle’s busy. Try the burger place if you’re desperate. I’m going to be a while..feeling sick.

Dead sick. Dog sick. Sick in the head. Are you out there?

The red light’s stuck, buddy. There’s work here.. in progress.

There’s an overhaul of my guts going on..

 

Really. So –

 

Shit. I can’t even talk to my diary..! What the fuck is this!

Busy! Did you hear what I said? Busy here!

 

 

(Silence.)

 

 

Are you just going to stand there..? For Chrissakes.. (HE STRAINS) You see, I can’t even hear what you’re saying! And I’m telling you now, I’m not rushing! A man’s gotta do..all the time. So, if you’re saying you’re going to wait, then you will. But you’ll need a good book, or something. Put some music on. Whistle. Just so I know you’re alive.

 

 

It’ll act as a deadline, Ok? But I mean, that’s the best I can give you. Some sort of limit, as we ride on through to the end! Just like Tonto and his chief, the spotless and white lonely ranger..they must have shared stuff together, both shitting around the same pot. Or a distance from it. Cactus. Way out in the prairie. Under the stars like spent lovers, dodging the kicks and the pricks.

 

Cold nights.

Cold stars.

 

With only a horse to give comfort.

 

That, or each other.

 

A man’s right hand man.

 

Under God.

 

There’s some graffiti here. Ha. There always is in these toilets. Phone numbers. Drawings. Little cave painting cocks everywhere. Do you think the guys who do this are gay or is it just part of that secret thing men face upto when they’re separated from women and alone in the dark with a pen? The john’s are confessionals, right? Letting out the full darkened spirit. Releasing dark angels, with cum stained wings, on stale air. You can say anything. Scrawl out your hidden desire. And so the men who come in here are sinning and saving; they’re the imp and the bottle. They’re the lost and the priests all in one..

 

 

Of course, there’s power here too, in all this of male conversation. What do men want? Each other. And for those who can’t face it, there’s the ultimate distraction of girls. They called them broads in New York, or way out west. Watch the movies. And broads they were, so expansive. So hard to maintain or keep hold. So hard to track. While men are singular only. Men are all arrows. The long straight line. The curved short. Its so much simpler with men. Women need understanding. But the language is different and to someone like me; alien. I never listened, or cared. I shared my world. I was happy. I never judged them. Not like now. They judge me.

 

If you’re one of them, say. I can defend any action. I was allowed them, because of the license of fame. Fame is the key to an usettled people. They need their heroes to rise above them.

 

Fame is real. Fame is love. Fames makes you feel like a woman. A very beautiful woman, hoisted on her pedestal. You can do all you will because of your distance from people. You’re looking down at them in the fairground. Welles’ little black dots that keep moving in The Third Man’s famous speech.

 

You’re the third man this week. Does that make you feel special. Now I’m free I’m rapacious. Now I can eat. So I eat.

 

So, is this what I think it is? Is it that? You may want to change your mind if this opens. The door here is romance, but only, of course, if it’s  shut. Once it opens, its me. My face. My future. Crossed, creased, rewritten because of the dirtied lines of my past. So, maybe we can enjoy this. Come on. Tell me a little something about you. We can get to know something somehow about who we both are, or can be. Talk to me. Speak. Once I was liked and respected. I’m civilised, educated. We can talk about films, music, art..

 

Talk to me. Call me X. You’re Y, that’s for certain. We can make this work, baby! If we really want, we can try!

 

So..?

 

If this is a game friend, it’s done, as I really don’t feel like playing. I’ve been fooling myself, if I’m honest, for far too long. No more games.

So, are you’re going to say something? Speak. Because this sure as hell isn’t funny. What are you, police? I’ve doing nothing. I’m just taking a shit. Then a bus. Zeiwataneho’s the place, just like in The Shawshank Redemption. That’s where I’m going to find that ocean of dreams and blue hope.

 

(Silence.)

 

 

Christ alive.. Is this..? (LAUGHS) What are you..Death? You’re not love. Then bugsy, I’m Max Von Sydow. In The Seventh Seal. I’ve got chess here. Yeah. I’ve got a special app on my phone. Which I should probably lose right away. In fact, I’m going to have to give up phones altogether. Give up the century, also, seeing as how it’s seen fit to throw me, or cast me away, far away. Yeah. I’m a man out of time and toilet paper. But I’m not coming out. So who are you? Because it’s not wrong to ask you.. I want to know who you are. It’s only normal, so say.. And that is not just a town in Wyoming. Even if that is a place where I’m heading. The state, not Wyoming. It may not be where I started but its certainly where I want to end up. Somehow. So, say! God knows I’m willing. Does he know? You can tell him.  If you’re something bad from the sky..or the dark. Some sort of demon. So, speak. My legs are dead. You can tell me. I’d like to know. Its the end here. Or feels like the end. This bowl’s cold. This bowl. This seat. This endless water. Which washes out deep below, before its all turned to ashes or small jets of steam, down in Hell…

 

 

Help me out, will you please? You’re a tough crowd. One person. I’m not used to small crowds, I tell you. I used to command, not comply.

 

I’m not a follower..right? Tell me that you understand that. I’m like a leader..in exile. Napoleon maybe. Though, I’m not about to say Jesus Christ. Jesus loved men. The Bible only mentions two women: Madonna, Whore. That’s the template, and convenient, too, to my mind. Surround yourself. Get involved until the closest betrays you with a telling kiss or a story on an old piece of parchment or in a glossy tabloid.

 

What are we doing here, friend? Are you the first or last of the Romans? Or is there a whole gang of you out there, silently filing in, one by one?

Sounds nice. Sounds divine. Like a football team, ready. To take me on and abuse me. A whole black male chorus line. Not that the Romans were black. I like men from all nations. The slaves were black. And the Eunuchs? Well, who gives a fuck about them! (HE LAUGHS) That’s a joke. I’ve never dealt with a eunuch. I’m sure you’d run across some in Frankfurt or some club in old Amsterdam. Ready and wild for the wind. They’re keen on those wide open spaces. Makes them feel at home, all that absence. Those spaces within and between. Dark alleyways. Pods. Cubicles, even. Like this one.

 

Who are you? Have you come to take me away?

 

The jig, boys, is up. I did all I could to a deadline. Set each day: how much was there? How much time to plot and prey did I have?

 

Prey with an e. I guess that’s what it is they’re all writing. But nobody knows about Billy. And Billy and Daddy and me. And Grandpa, and.. Jim, the Mayor of Wyoming. Bumfuck Idaho. Jacob. Ohio at night. New Orleans. Nobody knows and now no-one cares. I’m forgotten. Will they remake the films with Zac Ephron? Or Jesse Eisenberg? Sure they will. I’ll be rewritten. Recast. Replaced. Scrubbed, deleted. I’ll become a slur. Smears will have me. So, what should I do? Grow a beard? A beard might suit me: grey, long. I could look like Walt Whitman! He was gay. No-one bothered. I wonder who Walt tried to fuck? ‘Let me sing A Song of Myself..’ it must have been from ‘Cabaret,’ maybe. Or ‘The Boys in the Band,’ or from Sondheim, thinly disguised. I could try. I could start the beard now. Slide food under the door, pal, I’m staying. Let people come. News and cameras. I’ll stay behind the door. Howard Hughes. Tapering fingernails, claws. ‘Watch him lose it guys! He’s gone crazy!’ A new thing on Netflix; the slow but carefully streamed suicide.

 

Have the other guy had all this? All he seems to do is eat dinner. In a baseball cap and fat joggers. And he’s grown a beard too, so I see. I glimpsed a paper in here. I’ve just wiped my ass on it. I no longer need information. Damned as I am, I’m still free.

 

Come on in, if you’re death. There’s not much room. Do you need much? Perhaps you don’t. There’s no landscape to an open vein or stopped heart. All you need is a breath. Often, not even that. Half a shadow. A shimmer.A shudder. A cold little pulse. A deft look. If it be your will then come in. You’d save me a whole heap of trouble. I could die on this toilet like Elvis, or failing that, Lenny Bruce. Bruce was hounded. I’m not. I am reviled. There’s no movement. They sit in their rooms and judge me and all the while, I escape. I go to Motels, wear thrift store clothes and eat hot dogs.  I change my former rules and my rule book. The sticks and the stones turn to gas. I become a myth. I’m the night, or a small part of it somehow. Another shadow. A ripple seen in the movement of leaves in the dark. A crow shrieks. Locusts whirr. And the eye of the moon is a psycho. It seems to swelter in the coldest night. One world ends. So, you can come in. You can come. I won’t do a damn thing to stop you. I am resigned to accepting what I am doing now and have done. I can survive anything. They can come and cut me to pieces. For what..sex? There’s no murder. What makes one fuck hurt and one heal? I don’t understand it. I can’t. God gave us these bodies… Or did you? You still out there? Is that what death is; our own God? Does he come to each of us at the end, as a kind of Santa Claus for the adults..and spirit us away before judging..? Is that what this is? Come on in!

 

Or are you my last, parting gift; are you one of the hordes? My own angel. Sent down to beguile me and seduce me away from my harm. That and the pain I have caused, which you will paper over with pleasure. I’ll open the door. That sounds perfect. If I open the door stream on in. Flood me. Find me. Whip my skin with bright feathers. Shit on my soul. Suck and save me. Bare me away, free but far…

I mean it! I do. We could follow some of the things written on here. Diagrams and instructions. If these are things you didn’t know, you will soon… We can be experts of sex. Maybe that’s why I mixed my confession. I wanted people to know I was conscious of all of my untidy parts and dark ends. I wanted to show them out there, that there are demons to fight on all levels. Fame can’t displace them. Cash will never bribe them away. We each of us have our need, each has a call to be answered. All fame is scant cover. Its a bulletproof shield, full of holes.

 

I’m waiting, he said. This is my heart. Look, its leaking. They’ll say I stole something when the real truth about us is that everything we have or make is borrowed. Every system. Each way. We should have stayed in the ocean. As soon as we felt the sunlight the truth scorched straight though us and our transparency was exposed.

 

 

(He stands and opens the door. There is nobody out there.)

 

 

Oh, its you.

Unexpected.

So, what’s it going to be…gun, or rose?

 

 

 

 

(Darkness.)

 

 

                              SEVEN.

 

Some sort of holding cell. A lamp, a chair, a small table. A back door is open. X waits, fingers drum. He stands, looks around and then goes to the doorway. He edges it open. Peeks his head out, grows concerned.

 

X.

 

Senor..? Comrade.. Christ.. I wish I could speak this fucked language. Are you there, sir? Where is this? They drugged me and cast me adrift.. yes, they forced me.. onto an odd, rusted sea… Senor, I bobbed like bad fruit in a tepid barrel of water. Drifted here, like spent flotsam, or one of those solo sailing films they now make. Hanks, Redford, Firth. Let each honoured face test survival. And therefore grow more religious, when they’re religions themselves, each of them!

 

Do you agree, sir? Come back. You still have my passport. I need it, sir. You don’t need it. You know who I am, with this face.

 

Is anyone out here who can help..? I still have my rights, sir.. a phonecall. I’ve shown you my bags. Nothing in there. I have someone to call, sir. A friend.

 

I can assure you, Senor, this needn’t be an Embassy issue. I doubt that mine want to see me, or at least, not until.. But I would still like to call. I have certain things to arrange, sir. So if you wouldn’t mind.. is there someone? Its as if there were nothing but carpets and ghosts everywhere..

 

(He comes back in.)

 

Those three might help, albeit not directly. If they’re religions, I’m what – alternative medicine maybe. Once I was white. Now I’m darkened. Back then, I was magic. Whereas all I am now is Voodon’t. There’s a curse on me now. That much is certain. Especially now I’ve crossed borders. I could be an epidemic of one!

 

(He turns to someone else.)

 

Its a good job you’re here. Do you write? You could set this all down for me, somehow. Chart my decline. Map my progress as I try to become something else. I might find sanctuary here. I’m love’s immigrant, seeking shelter. I should wear pink pyjamas. Or a flower in my hair. Or my ass. Lenny Bruce died for this. He died for all of the things I like doing. Now kids kill each other. So its knives and its cocks in a duel.

 

(The sound of passing footsteps. He moves back towards the open door.)

 

Ok.. maybe now there’ll be something… Am I to be refused, or accepted? And where can I go if I’m not?

 

Brazil. Paraguay. We can take the place of those Nazis who infrequently littered the forests with guts and gunbelts from their evil deeds, masked by leaves. They say that Mengele moved to goats. They were fields of bits in his quarter. Farmed by old Corporals and one or two Commandants.  Hiding out. Honing in, the world makes its legends. So, what will we be? Not legends. Nightmares, perhaps. Of the day.

They’re going to have to let me stay. I’ll be good. And everyone likes the films. Many love them. There will always be what I am now and what I once was on the screen. Those things don’t change. Your sin doesn’t strip you of talent. I’m bound to dine again. Just in shadows. Maybe I could have some sort of surgery here…Botox? Tits?

Lift my eyes. Change my nose. Do something bold with my jawline. Straighten my spine. I’ll look taller. I could try and lose weight. Or gain more. I should go vegan, maybe. Scrape out the last of the meat and cheese from the barrel. Jog. Or go drastic…

 

Do you think I could I really do that..change sex?

Do you think I could be a woman, maybe.. Surely I’d know that already.

What do you know? Be honest. How was it for you?

What are you?

 

I’m joking. Its fine. I know that already… But what are they doing? Why are they keeping me? If they keep me waiting too long, they’ll find bits of chrysalis scattered. My new wings are busting, straining against the sticky cage and old cells..

 

Or rather, this cell..this room.. I think I must have been hibernating. All I was before was beginning. But this could well be it; the true me. In African tribes they have codes. They fuck and eat countless children. So, where is the difference? Or is it just Geography? Is that all? It must be. It can.

 

(SHOUTS) BECAUSE I HAVE NOT BEEN CONVICTED! I REPEAT! OR ARRESTED! I have been refused! Nothing more!

But I won’t be coming back, that’s for sure. I will never return. That is certain. There’s black rings framing my eyes and my armpits; I can’t seem to get rid of the smell under there. It was never like that before. So much has changed. I’ve grown darker. Make someone an outcast and an outcast they become right away. Even their body adapts. I can smell it now. I’m decaying. My moral incline, in sinking, is dredging up all manner of murk from the depths. I am now a fat butterfly. The bough will break at my birthing. I will slime and slurp. There’s no flying. I will smother and seep. I’ll not soar. I’ll be like Cronenberg’s Fly, or Laughton’s shit eating hunchback. But quite without pathos. I’ll be separate to all sympathy.

 

But, still…

 

What do you think? Shall I run? If no-one comes.. Like a movie! I never really made a film like that. Now I could get to play Judas Bond! Of course, there’d be no girls for me and no Moneypenny. Just the chase and the darkness and the thing at the end of the pun. That odd, sour taste that needed the pun in the first place. I could be someone out there, with a new and unsavoury world as my guide! What do you think? Is there..? Hey..

 

(He moves to the doorway. It suddenly closes. He stands there, taken aback. Silence. )

 

Oh.

 

(The darkness descends like slow rain.)

 

EIGHT.

 

Another cell like space. The light looks bleached. The room empty. X has a small cloth or flannel to cover his genitals.

 

 

Quarantine’s fun. At the very least, you feel special; singled out for a purpose that anyone on earth understands. I take it you can hear me alright? The sound is passing through the partition? What is it, glass here, or plastic? This mic is so small, also fun. Its like the old days on set, or what they do these days in the theatre. Some of my previous fellows are past it. Very few would believe it, but they get their lines fed through the ear!

 

An appealing actress I knew was doing a pretty big show in London. Do you know the West End of London? Its like Broadway for us, but just small. Although the theatres are huge. Unbelievably so, and quite daunting. And this lady had someone sat in the front, mouthing lines! Can you believe that? Like fish. Like cartoon fish, mouthing, micing. With the voice in her right ear and the lips for that mouth straight out front. I can’t even imagine the scene.. for the other actors. A kind of automation running. And then that slight delay: its inside it that the reality goes, slips away. Suddenly you’re off beat, like a time signature of 13/8 in a pop song. You’re at a remove but you’re still there. I’m in a remove now, sitting here.

 

Can you hear me?

 

You can..? Tap on the glass, I can’t hear you. This little ear piece you’ve given is – Oh, right, I see..there you are…

Yes. Yes, I am.

Is this water fresh? It smells slightly..

Rust, is it? Jesus. What are you trying to do, poison me?

 

I’m in a bubble, a bind. This glass of water’s my window. Silence. Light. Shadow. With the fading of feet, no echoes. The door is open, then closed. No breeze can filter in. There’s no moonlight. We’re in a permanent midnight. The Cicadas stick in the wind. Locusts scream.

 

Its a proper weirdness, a warp. Are you saying now I’m infected? That a moral sickness is something you can stand up and catch..like a germ?

 

I said I was gay. Now I’m game. I said I did something bad. Sought connection. I thought it was honest to try and describe what I did..

 

Did I think they all were?

No..no. I was talking about my own actions!

Well, yes.. when they said that… But this was about me, only me!

Gay is not –

No. Gay is not pederasty. Or ism. Isn’t. And could of course never be.

Well, that would depend on the –

Yes..

No.

Yes..

No, I never supposed it. I –

Yes. That’s why they, yes, of course.. they’ve condemned me..without a trial..

Oh, I see. You mean as well as the actions?

So, I’m like a.. what; Supervillain?

So, do I get a cape, a bent crown?

Because if you’re saying –

Aren’t you?

Because that’s what it sounds like you’re saying!

Well, look at this, what you’re doing! Just look at me sitting here!

 

Am I supposed to clean myself with this rag or simply hide myself from you? What do you want from me? Tell me!

 

You want me to stand? I won’t stand!

 

I won’t be treated like this! I have not been charged! I remind you! There’s nothing on me, but rumour..testimony, yes..nothing real!

 

Well, can language be proved? What one person says can be fiction. Memory. Jesus. I know. I’m an actor. A writer of words. Singer..

 

So?

Yes, they did..

Yes, they have. So why have I not been convicted? Or is this it, this probing? You want me spiked? Barbequed?

Eviscerated? Condemned?

Titus Andronicus me down to blood sausage..bake me in a pie of roast tumour, where the slightest flick of a tongue tastes like ash..

Because I’m already ruined. I’m soiled. This is about society, somehow.. others jerk off before women, betraying their own poetry. Whereas I did what men do who love other men wholly.. sometimes without invitation..so, I’m impolite, maybe..base. But does it warrant this?

Where am I?

What am I an abandoned dog, is that it? What am I to you; a stray monkey? Food for the research now, like rabbits..Are you going to start testing industrial pollutants on me? The scientists are done now with mice, so they’ll test their shit on the captives. Is that it? On the foresworn and rejected..on outcasts like me.. Criminals. That’s what I am now. I see. I misused the gun of desire. Even if we all have one stashed inbetween the porn and the bibles hidden away in locked drawers.

 

(Pause.)

 

Invitation. Lack of.

So, this is about lost decorum?

Rapists have no manners. I was well raised. Finally. I had to do the main work on my own because nobody taught me. I was raised in a swamp with crocs, toads and beetles and my granddaddies hand on my ass.

You’re not sure you believe me? Screw you. And screw everybody. In fact, fuck anybody because everyone deserves to get fucked. Or fuck up. Or fuck. Or get fucked up, lets be honest: is there anyone here among us, or on your side of the glass who does not?

Because you are really fucking with God if you’re a pharmaceutical, baby. Creating death. Playing checkmate with the symptoms and signs that cause that..

 

You know, I can pretty much imagine you all. You’re twisting Mother nature’s tits and she’s crying. She’s on her knees, man. She’s buckled. Now stick your plastic enema in her ass! Stick your test tube in her mouth and get her to suck on it for you..Force her to do your sick bidding.. inveigle her and seduce!

Or do you not call it seduction?

I do. I truly do. Its seduction. When something has you in its thrall, that’s seduction, whether its a snake set to bite you or someone’s desperate face in your lap..

 

I’m a snake now. I’ll bite.

This entire things makes me angry..

 

How dare and who are you to try and do this to me!

 

(He suddenly rails)

 

WHAT THE FUCK WHAT THE FUCK WHAT THE FUCK AND WHO ARE YOU!

HOW DARE YOU! WHO ARE YOU? CHARGE ME OR LET ME GO FREE!

 

I know lawyers far worse.. I know the depraved names and Judges.. I know the perverts, the gimps and the game, all of them! I know the flats and the sharps, the tarts and kinks, whores and holy!

YOU THINK THERE ISN’T COMMUNION OR A NEWSLETTER OF SORTS? WELL, THERE IS!

 

You didn’t know that, did you? Everyone is connected. Let me out and I’ll tell you.. I will.. Do you know about Pinky’s plane? He has a plane full of men. A mile high cock orgy. Flying over our heads. That’s pollution. Or at least to you..isn’t it?

 

Everyone knows. We plot it out quite discreetly. You can’t have any two of us doing it in the same Hotel, ever. Try and keep the districts different..or, if you can’t do that, then the blocks.

 

We do not convene unless called. But there is a connection. A code. Coded signals. Often in films. Things we say. Now imagine the work that entails ahead of a film’s post production! Its release date. Distribution. Just trying to work that out, scene by scene.

No, not all the time. Now and then. Its clever stuff, let me tell you. But those are exceptional moments when something to prize has been found.

I’m almost proud of it, I admit. I don’t mind confessing. The special things, the dark secrets, the vanished truths, holy grails.. all of them, all.. require real effort.. conspiracies even..necessitate energy.

 

I want some more water. This stinks. I want a pink gin, or martini. I want a beer. I want whiskey. I want consideration! At once!

Because I deserve it!

Accuse. If that’s what you want to do. Point your finger. But do something quickly, or else I’ll fucking walk out of here! Naked, too, yes. You think I care? I’ve gone places. These last few months, this new chapter has taken me everywhere!

I was always resourceful. I changed. I cut the dead roots far from me. I grew again, like a flower, I rose like some great and grand butterfly. Despite the weight of the world and all of the sins placed upon me…I moved! I was shadows, shadows at night. Black on black.

 

So, prove something. A film. A pain struck face in a photo. An old tape recording or something on a phone. Some fucked blood.

 

Do you have anything? Because if you don’t, I want trousers. Pants. Shoes. My wallet. A shirt and a coat. Breakfast. Now.

 

I won’t forget this you know. I’m not hidden away on some shoreline. I’m not under a rock. I’m still out here as plain as the nose on my face. There’ll be no more disguise. No baseball cap. No sunglasses. That I can promise. That I can prove to you right away.

 

(He removes the glasses at last.)

 

And now I really am naked. So speak. Or release me. I’m no lab rat chimp. I’m still free.

 

(A silence. He stands.)

 

But, if you like, you can think of the men written on me. This is your point of entry. And here is how I disappear.

 

(He touches his penis. Blackout.)                  

NINE.

 

A neutral space. X has a sheet placed around him. A window is closed but leaks sunlight. X grows in strength as he speaks.

 

X.

 

Where am I now? I won’t say. And all it took was one blowjob. That and a picture. But what do I care? They know worse. The world, I mean. Or does now. It’s seen most of my dirty laundry. Hence the briefs. So, I’m cleansing. I am placing my life in the wash.

 

All borders corrupt and its often the guards who defile them. That one wasn’t even gay, but the kudos of me going down on him proved too great. He could print the photo off and stick it on his DVD covers. Show his friends. Laugh, defile me. Saying, ‘Here’s what they become, famous men!’ Or infamous men. Or men reduced and redacted. ‘They suck on us for our worship until they of course worship us!’

 

I will not get a job. They have severed connections. So, what do I do now? Who to turn to? What do I become? I’m no who. Until I’m forgiven. Or not. This is a new chain of being. But this isn’t tied to a prison. No, this has been tied to the wind. And that western wind can blow cold without anyone you can turn to. With all doors closed, I need comfort. I needed somewhere hot and new to begin.

 

Some will wish me a grave, but this will do, for the moment. Its a rolled out grave that’s now ready for the death of all I was before and have lost. Now I’ve new soil and a surfeit of worms moving through me… Clearing veins. Cleansing. From the shit, a new shower and an entirely new sense of place.

 

I’m talking to you, Dad. At last. I want you to know what has happened. I want you to know how it happened and where it is I’ll end up. I’m coming clean, as I said, after all the subterfuge and psychosis. Which as far as I am concerned is low level. Because let’s be clear about that. I’m not  mad. Maybe you were, the fruit of Grandpa’s poisoned apple. Or maybe it was the times or the movies or the lack of any true happiness. I don’t care anyway. We do as we’re bid through what happens. We exorcise through each other just as we exercise our warped rights.

 

I lay no blame. There’s a light, but very get to see it. There’s also a sound. Dogs can hear it, just as they can smell cancer too. There’s a call, ages old, echoing now through the mountain. An old tune; shrill, constant, stirring in me ancient things.

 

Did you hear it, you beast..when you were a boy and still tender? And did you have the choices and the boredom that comes from success?

No, you did not. I could already answer that question. Funny how you have nothing and me having it all, equals out.

 

There’s no success. There’s no prize. All there is is the prising. As the flesh is worked away from bone’s reason great gobs of the soul just spill out. They seep and litter onto the floor and your feet slip and slide, skidding through them. You lose yourself. You’re bruised from that and so you have no choice: you go on. You can’t rewind on a wound, that much is certain and so you press on. Its like anal – once its begun, you go in. Pull out the plug, its a hole..go further in its connection. The two parts locked together, just like that gobbling down of the skin.

A Blowjob breathes air into the other person. A handjob controls them. The gearstick is grabbed. Engines prime.

 

I had to master all men because of how I’d been mastered. Its not even conditioning. Logic, that’s what it really is in the end. If I was to win, it was never going to happen with women. Mama did nothing. She watched it go on. Turned away. Because of the horror, I know. But that didn’t help me. The child meets the monster. Jonah and the whale become one.

 

Its not even a cycle. Screw that! I know what I wanted. I’d do it better. I’d do with it style and elan!

 

Dad, did you have elan? I even doubt you could spell it! The elan has landed, but only on me, Dad! Just me!

 

God gave me a gift. I had talent. It was the least he could do, giving that. And so I used it, Dad, right? I used talent as transport. And as soon as I could afford it, I got them all on my bus! Sometimes I’d drive through the night, rewriting love’s shape and future.. with pens cocked and ready and a new constitution to find! Here’s to that, Dad! To me! Your ignorance was my lesson! Here’s a light shining for the deaf and dumb and the blind.

 

I have finally found it, my peace. And here it is, my decision.

Dad, you’re dead. Living will be redefined now, by me!

 

 

(Darkness.)

TEN.

 

A small studio. A TV camera positioned. There is a chair and a table and the harshest kind of light shining down. There is subdued noise all around as if others were there at a distance. X enters, suited. He carries a slim plastic folder. His eyes are striking, a touch of mascara, perhaps. There is also something wrong with his face; the signs of disfigurement or infection. Red blotches, swellings. Odd patches are pale. Black decay. Its a shock, certainly. But his manner remains unaffected. In point of fact, he’s proud of it, striding in now, so assured.   

 

X.

 

You’re all keeping your distance, I see. Perhaps you think I’m contagious? Have it how you like. Makes no difference. You know me of old. (HE POINTS SOMEONE OUT.) You I know. How are you? Jon. Jim. Josh? Jon. I remember. You worked on CALL WAITING.. now that show was bad! That’s years back. You had a son. English name. Because your wife came from London..Graham? Nod. Gordon. Oh, Ok Jon. Turn away. But you’re still gripped, all of you. You’re still fascinated. I can tell. I can sense it. I’ve actually grown a little bit psychic. Isolation creates that. You brood on the self, strange winds blow.

 

Ok, so this is my seat. And this is my speech to deliver. Very few swear words. In fact, I’d say none. I have class. So, it will not censoring. And everyone here’s fascinated. Even if they do keep their distance. The leper of sex. You should spray.

 

No water? I see. You’d like me at some disadvantage. No doubt that’s a part of the process.. a part of the way this thing works…

Shamed and disgraced, he’s lost even the style he was known for. The elan, yes? The smugness. The thing that used to make my work O so slick.

 

(SITS) The world watches. Or will. What’s it to be, streamed or broadcast? Uploaded? Or squirreled, kept in some dark little hole on the net.

 

Perhaps you’re indulging me, right? Like the condemned man, unarrested. Which I remain. That won’t happen. I’ve paid for this space. It will run. And besides, they’ll want to see it for sure. Let’s face it, the entire world wants to see it. Or the entire known world. The western. And bits of the east, too, I bet. Why wouldn’t they, right? Everyone loves a bad apple. The bad apple reminds them in some crucial part of the soul or self what sin is.

 

Take a bite TV land. The media is the serpent.

Suck me.

Ironic. Wouldn’t you say?  (HE HALF LAUGHS.)

 

Alright, then.

 

(He spreads his papers out, clears his throat.)

 

Camera rolling?

It is?

You have it on remote?

That’s insulting.

You mean, you really do fear contagion..or can you smell the shit in me through my teeth? Something from the sewers, no doubt, bubbling up from low chambers..all the way up..staining windows, and getting in the way of that lens..

 

Fuck you.

Fuck you all.

In your shabby rooms and your toilets. In your high class dinner parties and your back room tragedies. Fuck you at work and fuck you too in your gardens. May the leaves be glass on you. May the swamp like lawn boil you down… I’m stronger. I know. I know all about you. This is me coming in from far places and reaching through you until there’s nothing left at all of your face.

 

I’m ready. Stand back. I suppose this means I’ll get the full hour. Edit me down and I’ll haunt you. While I’m still alive. All of you.      

 

(He adjusts himself and begins.)

 

Greetings.

 

(He makes a Spock sign.)

 

I have come to a decision my friends. You already know who is talking. Or you know who you think is talking. You know who you think I am, or I was. But I’m afraid I never was, not at all. Because you see, all we ever know are illusions. Some call those marriage. Some call them pain. And some, God. So my decision has come after a long consultation. With both myself and those like me, in the snatches of talk we have shared.

 

We are not going away. We’ll stand proud. We’re a new minority, maybe. Despite the fact that there are millions of us, seemingly everywhere that you go. For many catholics, its priests. For others, it seems, entertainers. School teachers for schoolgirls, and Popstars, too, in the past. And for anyone left it can be family members. Fathers, then uncles. Cousins, as well. Neighbours. All. It isn’t new. Its so old. The Greeks used to praise it. Abuse is survival, just look at the bird or mouse and the cat. Or the dog and the dog. Or the bee and the flower. Or the Politician and public. Or the people of course and the Earth. It is a chain, all of it, and now is the time to be honest. Now is the time to move past things we have come to decide remain right. Now, to be wrong is the very noblest endeavour. Because what seems right is no longer connected to our so called God’s influence. Unless of course, you take in that old testament Santa. The white bearded one flooding the land he had made on a whim. Or asking old Abraham to hold a knife against Isaac. The one who called for believing while he was all of the time testing faith. It isn’t right, is it? Well, just look at Jesus Christ and the temple. He wrenched and ranged. He grew fierce as he pulled at the products of sin. But sin still seeped through. Blood is fuel for sin’s progress. Pornography happens. The pornography I mean, of the soul.

 

I used to be an actor. I saw the casting couch used on women. I saw pretend heroes suck each others cocks in the dark. Sometimes it was mine. Sometimes I did the sucking. And then we would hoist up our bootstraps and walk into the celebrated night with slick grins. It didn’t matter. You loved. Light shone above us. You received entertainment as we received the means to go on. We could do anything and so we did. We kept going. Once you’re known to be rich, all is given. Money as the actual cost of possession soon forgoes currency. Your acceptance of us is there in the buying of products. And that’s how we own you. We become a crucial part of your lives. Throw us out, we’re still there. You have the memory of us. Your good times are our times, the product I’m sad to say, of pretence. Men who love men pretending through glass to love women. And women of course who love women conceding at times, to want men. Its a charade, all of it. So why are you surprised when its over? Do you really think the world is so simple that everything must be as it seems?

 

Look at religion: its smoke, blown at you to confuse you.

Look at politics: its a riddle for which no probable answer is found.

Look at sex: well, you can’t.

Look at love: its a construct.

Look at yourself: You don’t like you. You don’t like anything.

 

Look at the screen: look away. Because that’s what its for. It distracts you. It stops you thinking by reflecting back small ideas. Sex again. Crime. Love without definition. You are not honest because of the ways and means where you hide.

 

We’re what you talk about or have seen. We are the process between you. We are the river and you are just the roots and the plants on the banks. As we flow along, into night, you can only witness our movement. You will see passing ripples and none of the actual changes beneath.

 

My friends, this is the watery world that secretes beneath understanding. The dark ink and oil swirled below us, moving underneath the cool blue.

 

We could do and take what we liked.

Everyone understood that.

We are the water.

All you ever are is the shore.

If you choose to reject us we’ll thrive. We have untold resources. What we have already earned you have paid us and now we have enough to go on. We will invest. We’ll buy stock. We may even become money lenders. Arms, drugs, whatever..properties on your street. These days, you don’t even need the same name. All you need is the money. We’ll be fine. We’re not dying. And now there are no firing squads that we know. We are a community now. We are those who caused disenchantment. The Wizard of Oz was a goblin. A strange little man. We’re erect.

 

I was a famous actor but now I will be an equally famous nightmare. Both I and those like me will rise up through the ranks into myth. The Pied Piper stole kids, raping and killing them in the mountain. Red Riding Hood’s wolf’s a transvestite psychopath cannibal. Humpty Dumpty’s head splits. The beautiful ducks are all racists. Underneath every culture are the stories it does not understand. All of the time all our charms were forms of strategy, really. We’ll do the work but the pleasure will be something entirely ours to define.

 

And so a new party is launched. We are calling ourselves The Far Reaches. We will grasp new horizons and grab hold of you from afar. We will kneed your hearts like bread dough. We will enter your skin like an enzyme. We will never go away. There are others to replace all of us. Perhaps a new race begins. Possibly a new form of human. Evolution’s not upwards, but a revolution perhaps, a soul turn. Spin the bottle and dare. Dream about new positions. Admit the full darkness that is gathering deep in your soul. We’ll be martyrs. You’ll see. We will be the new Templars. But we will not burn in fire, because in fire we’re born. We’ll ascend.

 

And so my friends, here I am, waiting now for the Angel. When he descends I’ll ensnare him and fuck him in the ass and the mouth.

 

When you next kneel in church and open your mouth for the wafer, think about the far reaches kissing you from within. When you bend to your God, or eat your Sabbath meal we’ll be waiting to wipe your mouth and to show you how the future of love can begin.

 

I am not sorry.

I know the result of my actions.

These were the prayers beyond language in this new cathedral of skin.

 

The far reaches await..

Who here is with me?

Forget the world.

Fuck a new one.

Turn the cameras off!

Let’s begin!

 

 

 

(He stands. The light intensifies on him. We hear the sounds of a riot.

 A sudden darkness.

 

                                  End play.)        

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The Neolithic Watershed

 

 

 

Turning off the TV

I join the cat by the fire

To watch the last log burn to an ember.

 

Our cat is benign,

His eyes are closed,

His paws are crossed,

He bathes in the heat.

 

But I am drawn to the irregular flapping of the flames

As images emerge:

A bony wizened finger

The end of which glows like a red hot poker.

The face of a grimacing macaque monkey

With black hollow eyes set deep in its skull.

A white, miniature, fossilised ribcage.

 

Did our ancestors see such visions as well

To inspire what they saw as Hell?

As their children lay safe in their beds

Is this what they watched post-watershed?

 

Roy Hutchins
Illustration Nick Victor

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Screwed

 

the mainstream media,

and liberals in America,

ignorant as babes,

Trump talked of rigged systems throughout the campaign,

intent on bringing him down,

they only again and again, prove his point,

while his followers prepare for battle,

if left to his own devices,

he’d be gone in a week,

if not sooner,

instead,

a crisis in governance brews,

if not a civil war,

and whether liberal or conservative,

then, you all are screwed.

 

 

Doug Polk

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Rest of world ceases activity so BBC can cover snow

As Britain is experiencing the worst snow since last time,the rest of the world has decided to cease all activities and events to let the BBC cover just the snow.

A spokesperson for the rest of the world explained; “there were many important events all over the world on Monday which the BBC covered in depth,we realise that it’s best if we just sit still for a few days so the BBC can send reporters to all four corners of the UK to explain what snow is and the impact it has”.

A BBC news twonk, speaking from the top of a snow plough said; “sharp eyed viewers may have noticed that on Tuesday morning nothing happened except snow in the UK, no wars, no famine and no unpleasantness of any kind”, he continued “we wish to thank the rest of the world for staying in and doing nothing so we can concentrate on spreading panic about the snow.

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Alan Rankle In Conversation With Anna McNay

Alan Rankle is an artist whose work explores social and environmental
issues informed by his interest in the evolution of landscape art. Since
his first exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts London in
1973 while still a student at Goldsmiths College, he has worked
variously in painting, video, photography, architectural intervention
and curating, through a series of international exhibitions and
commissions. Retrospective surveys of his work have been presented at
Gallery Oldham in 2006 and Fondazione Stelline, Milan in 2010. Recent
projects include immersive installations for six suites at the Lowry
Hotel, Manchester in collaboration with the designer Veronica Givone
and AFK Architects, and curating the exhibition Axis: London Milano for
Fabricca del Vapore in Milan.

 

ART BERMONDSEY PROJECT SPACE, LONDON 2016

 

AMc:    Alan, you were trained at Goldsmiths and there was conceptual art going on but, despite that, you remained pretty much faithful to painting.

AR:    I didn’t expect it would take so long to do what I wanted to do in painting. At Goldsmiths there was an emphasis on conceptual art, which was a radical, new position. There were also some tutors who were among the best abstract painters, Basil Beattie and Albert Irvin, and that was mainly what the college was all about at that time. Going to the National Gallery as a young student and seeing, for the first time, the art of the 17th and 18th century was the outstanding influence.

My initial idea was to make artworks using the subject of 17th-century art as a found object in the spirit of Arte Povera and so I was using photography, making installations with projected images, taking for example a slide of a painting by Ruisdael and making it go in and out of focus, on the wall, and things like that. I decided I’d like to learn much more about how these artists worked and to be able to quote them. In fact, there wasn’t a particular moment, but something had stuck in my mind as being relevant. At the Greenwich Theatre on a Sunday afternoon listening to some jazz, there was an avant-garde pianist with a trio and, in the middle of all the improvising, he started quoting Bach, which I recognised, and it occurred to me I would like to be able to do that, you know, to quote these painters from earlier periods and use them in my work – doing it for real. That’s how I got started.

AMc:    You said quoting from the 17th century – there are lot of art historical references in your work…

AR:    Well, it’s changed over the years, but that was the starting point, and in particular the Dutch landscape painters of the 17th century – there’s something remarkable about them that got my attention really early on.

AMc:    But there’s a very contemporary edge to your work as well – there’s sometimes a political comment, or is it a social comment?

AR:    I think it’s impossible to make paintings about the environment without it being political. There have been lots of influential people, John Berger for instance, whose critiques of 18th-century paintings like Gainsborough’s Mr and Mrs Andrews made a fundamental impression.

AMc:    You mentioned before that you see the arts as being a kind of lightning conductor for the zeitgeist and that art-making isn’t something that you can plan. So is it something that you don’t plan in advance at all? Do you know what your painting is going to look like or do you have ideas as to what you’re going to do?

AR:    I have ideas that are really quite unfocused, as if you were writing a film script and you didn’t have any dialogue or locations, but you had a sense of the feeling you want people to have when they watch the film. That’s how it starts. There’s something that I can’t easily put into words – but, in a way, I put it into colours and so I walk around for a few days – maybe a few weeks – and have an idea about an impression that appeared to me as a dark red with a flash in it and I wouldn’t really know what it was about. Then, when I start working, all the figurative elements come into focus. I’ll get ideas and there’ll be a particular place that I’ve seen and want to make a painting about. Yet it comes first as a kind of, it’s not really even a feeling, it’s just like something that hovers in the back of your mind, you know?

AMc:    Do you make sketches at all or do you start directly on to the canvas?

AR:    Well, I used to make a lot of sketches. This goes back to the Goldsmiths question, we weren’t really taught techniques as such – there were some life drawing classes going on but there wasn’t anything that really explained how paintings had been made over the centuries and so I had to try to figure it out. I had a couple of friends who were interested in traditional painting and we had to teach ourselves. There was quite a long period where I was drawing a lot but not exhibiting, just trying to figure things out.

AMc:    Didn’t you spend some time doing painting restoring as well?

AR:    Yes, that was part of the plan always. I realised that art restorers had an informed tradition and I started hanging out with them initially and then getting some work and learning how to do these things. Yes, they were a big influence, I could meet people working for Agnew’s and Sotheby’s and they were grinding pigments and they knew exactly how Rembrandt did something and why it was different to how Rubens did it, it just seemed like a whole other world, and one I needed to understand.

AMc:    Do you think you learnt more from that than from college?

AR:    Well, in that sense, yes – on the subject of painting as an art.

AMc:    Can you tell us a bit about the process of making pictures? I saw an early film that was made of your work by Judith Burrows and you were explaining how you worked and it was really physical – you were using your hands to paint and so on.

AR:    Yes, there was a lot of using hands and fingers and forearms going on.

AMc:    Do you still work like that?

AR:    Yes, and I’m always evolving techniques in different ways. You have to try to expand the vocabulary; to create a language to make the paintings. There’s something that Francis Bacon said, that he was always looking for new ways to put the paint on, and I think that’s quite crucial – it keeps it fresh and it keeps the vitality going as well. It’s important to me that the painting doesn’t just stop on one plane or style. What I’m trying to do is keep on undermining the concept of having a style and letting other unexpected elements in.

AMc:  Recently you’ve added photographs to your work, too..

AR:    Yes. I had some commissions, from an hotelier, to go to foreign cities and make paintings that reflected the city and also the art of the city. I had the idea of making photo-montages as studies from shots of the locations. The first one Serpentine was for a hotel on Hyde Park, a Rankle & Reynolds project actually, and the second one was in Paris where I asked Rebecca Youssefi, my assistant on some projects, to do the photography. So there became a random element where I’m not even aware of what she’s looked at or shot until I see the images – she makes photo-composites, like the sort of thing Surrealist photographers were doing.

If you make an image where you have two or three different layers, you get these unexpected narratives that no one has ever seen before and yet there’s an uncanny feeling that you’re looking at a subliminal reference to the subject. In the case of the Paris and Venice works, you’re getting some very interesting signals about what the city is about. We print the montages on to already painted, textured canvases and then carry on with the painting with the layers of printed imagery embedded into the paint. It’s a modern equivalent of what Warhol and Rauschenberg were doing with silkscreen. I then use this as a basis for overpainting, leaving fragments of the photomontage coming through like pentimenti. It’s a new thing, I’ve never done it before.

AMc:    You’ve done other collaborations though, you said.

AR:    Yes, quite a lot, and I’m very interested in doing that.

AMc:    And do you see that as part of your own practice, or is it separate?

AR:    It’s definitely part of what I do and, in a sense, whoever I have collaborated with, when you look back at it, I’m the common element. I like the way other people’s ideas come at you in a quite random way – it’s completely unexpected and you have to respond to it. I slightly envy musicians who are in articulate ensembles where they’re all improvising together. I’ve always been attracted to that and, yes, through collaborating with other artists on a particular project, you can get close to it.

AMc:    Do you listen to music when you are working?

AR:    A little bit.

AMc:    What kind of music?

AR:    It changes. If I do listen to music, I tend to listen to something that I choose in the morning and then play it all day – obsessively. So, if it’s an album, it could be – one of my favourites – Sibelius or maybe Bob Dylan. I’ll choose one and it gives you a mood; a particular piece of music fills the room and gives you a kind of energy and when it stops I just press the button and play it all over again – which is perhaps not so nice for anyone else in the studio! It’s like creating a tone around you, a sonic environment.

AMc:    I guess it leads to the question that we sort of touched on, but how much of your painting would you say is an instinctive emotional response and how much of it is guided by rational processes?

AR:    I’m not altogether sure how much a rational process comes into it; I can see what you mean and clearly I have to be quite controlled to do certain things. If we consider these paintings we are looking at today, they are all from a similar series so they have things in common, they have a certain look and they were painted to reflect the style of earlier paintings and other periods of art are referenced and I need control to do that. Yet working in this way does come out of being instinctive, and then it goes back to being instinctive quite quickly. There are artists who’ve worked in equally eclectic ways. If you think about the assemblage pieces of Rauschenberg, for instance, he would take a photograph from here or there and put on these silkscreen images and then, instinctively, paint across them. It’s not that different really, he was doing a similar thing there in just jolting you from looking at something in a particular straightforward way and, I think, if I add anything to that way of working, it’s to make it more integrated.

AMc:    When you are not using the photographs, you are painting first, do you paint from photographs? Do you paint outdoors ever or is it all done in the studio?

AR:    I did a lot of painting outdoors and a lot of the locations in these paintings are from particular places that I keep going back to. So this series is called River America – it’s not a title for one painting, it’s a concept. It’s about a place in New York called Sands Point on Long Island. I was just attracted to it, I started drawing there, and I went back a few months later and took photographs and made more drawings. I’ve tended to build up a sketchbook about different places but now, at this stage, I’m painting places from memory. It’s like if someone writes a song and they start playing it in a different way, they’re really playing variations on the memory of the song and I can relate to that.

AMc:    You’ve mentioned that you work in series. Do you work on one series at a time? What defines a series for you?

AR:    Well, it becomes a series later on, you realise that this painting is linked to these others and it hops back and forward through the years. I’ve just started again with the gold paintings, which are here in this exhibition. I began the series Further Tales from the Beach House in 1992 when I rented a modernist beach house, with a 360 degree view on the top floor, about 50 metres from the English Channel, and I wanted to make some paintings that would reference the way the elements were crashing into the cliffs and disgorging landslides, and it occurred to me I could do so using metal leaf. Working with sign writers’ gold leaf, which contains copper, I could paint on it using chemicals that would alter the metal leaf’s surface and release the copper essence as verdigris. The process became a metaphor for the way the wind and the rain and the sea were changing the cliffs. So that was in 1992 but I have just started doing some of those things again, so they are all part of a series but it’s not a logical thing really and I do lots of different things all at the same time.

AMc:    Talking about gold leaf – you’ve said before that you make a painting and it becomes an object of passion…

AR:    Did I say that?

AMc:    You did! [laughs] I was going to ask you to explain what you meant by that but if you don’t…

AR:    I think I know what I meant. Going back to some of the artists who were early influences, I was very keen on Joseph Beuys, Jannis Kounnelis, Yoko Ono and then Gilbert and George came along. They did a very interesting thing to create art from their total physical presence. The idea that artists are catalysts, not only for people’s ideas, but also to show the art within people’s lives, where the art is not just about looking at the drawing on the wall but actually is the wider context. From Beuys saying ‘Everyone is an artist’ and doing very similar things with his performance lectures and then, significantly, leaving iconic traces of his performances – blackboard, felt, fat and so on – as relics of the experience. For me this is where painting comes in. I was thinking about those kind of Tantric objects, you know, from India and Tibet – objects that people used to meditate on, or via – they have a certain tangible quality, a kind of magical quality. They’re objects yet also a form of transport towards other ways that you can see things.

I like the idea that you can make an object, a painting, that’s totemic and that has some energetic power in it. If you can make an artwork that does this, it transforms perception, it’s a catalyst for the way you can just notice things in a different way. In the 1970s, when I was getting ideas like this in my 20s, there was a quite a drug influence on my generation at art school. I have to own up and say these were the days of LSD and reading about ethnic Shamen, the Hopi Indians and Sufi philosophers. So this might have been an influence on how I interpreted Beuys or the Arte Povera artists. All the same, it’s about art as magic, yet rooted in square, straightforward things you can see.

AMc:    At least that’s what you are trying to achieve really to go from there.

AR:    I’d like to, yes. There was an experience I had in the British Museum, there was a sculpture in one of the galleries – I think it’s in the Oriental Gallery Number 2 – of a Bodhisattva; it represents someone who’s going to become a Buddha. It was just the way the sculpted figure was sitting, it was a kind of yogic posture and it just got to me. I looked at it and instinctively began to move – there wasn’t anyone around in the gallery – and I just got into the posture the statue was showing me and the immediate effect was quite electrifying. I realised that by simply assuming that pose, energy can suddenly ripple through your body, and I thought this is real art, you know, who was this artist? Can you get your art to do this? So it’s always the goal that the art transforms things when people look at it.

AMc:    You were talking yoga postures, but you’ve also studied T’ai Chi quite a lot.

AR:    Yes, I was becoming familiar with T’ai Chi at the same time. It came about incidentally, I was trying to find someone who could teach me about Chinese Ch’an and Zen painting and so I just started to fall in with people who were studying Chinese art.

AMc:    And did you like studying with them, the teaching process and what they were doing?

AR:    Yes, enormously. I’d written my thesis at college on the history of Chinese landscape painting and the reason I wanted to find a teacher is that, after three years of being quite academic, I realised that I was ready to really learn something. So yes, that’s how it came about.

AMc:    Actually in China?

AR:    No, I tried to get to China, but you couldn’t easily in those days. I went for an interview at the embassy in London and I was being hopeful, you know, and I was shown into a very big room and there were two chairs, both facing the front by a little table with flowers on it. This guy came in and sat down and looked straight ahead and I was invited to sit and we didn’t really glance at each other. ‘Why do you want to go to China?’ I’m staring at the wall and I said: ‘I’ve been studying Chinese landscape painting and I want to tour around these ancient sites’. The minute I said that I could tell he realised that I didn’t know what I was doing at all. So the interview was over very fast! They weren’t letting anyone in, apart from diplomats. So I’m grateful to my teacher of Chinese art in London, Liu Hsiu Chi, who was massively important to me.

At the same time, I was studying with the art restorers, so it was all study in those days. I was watching some of my friends becoming quite established artists while I was still at the drawing board stage, but it’s what I wanted to do.

AMc:    What about the scale of your work? You are known for doing quite large pieces, commissions in particular.

AR:    Yes, they’ve just come about really. I mean you just sort of say ‘yes’.

AMc:    That’s because you are commissioned to do it that size or because you are particularly keen to do large-scale works?

AR:    For some of the commissions, I rent a temporary space, but this one here is the largest I could have in my painting room and even this size I have to take them through to my friend Oska Lappin’s studio and open these double doors then hoist them down on a rope on to a flat roof. It’s mad. But I would rather like to be able to make canvases the size of this wall – I just need the right room to do it in.

AMc:    What about the title of this show, Pastoral Collateral – where does that come from?

AR:    I wanted to relate ideas about historical, idealised, pastoral landscape in art to the grim reality of the environmental crisis that we are in, which isn’t just an environmental crisis anymore, it’s a totally impregnated social and political crisis heading towards disaster. Considering the historical origins of the genre in relation to my own paintings, I wanted to convey the irony implicit in how the 19th century Romantic movement, with its emphasis on the idyllic natural world of an imaginary past, was sponsored by people who, having made gigantic fortunes out of the Industrial Revolution by building their empires on the slave trade and the criminal use of the Enclosures Acts to force the poor from their traditional peasant homes to work in their factories and mills, also laid the foundations of environmental pollution on a catastrophic scale.

Turner and other artists were commissioned by the kings of the Industrial Revolution to do the Grand Tour to pick up ideas from artists such as Claude Lorrain and Poussin, who were themselves employed to evoke the fantasy of a  golden age, a sort of Narnia in Ancient Greece and Rome, where people talked to animals and fucked gods.

While you can’t look at any period of history without seeing similar scenarios, where the art is created for the tyrants and oppressors, this dichotomy of the landscape of Romance is particularly and acutely about the subject that I’ve been interested and involved in. It’s impossible to work in landscape art without being politically active, and I thought let’s put this right up front. So that’s the title. The superb catalogue essay by Judy Parkinson explores these themes with some panache.

AMc:    So it’s important to you for people to know this sort of back story, if you like?

AR:    Well, it’s been a motivation. I’ve played around on the outskirts of this theme over several exhibitions. I’m trying to stimulate people’s ideas and precipitate a dialogue.

I’d always wanted to relate to landscape painting in the way Francis Bacon transformed portraiture by showing the violent undercurrents in the human condition and using body language to show how both wretched and exultant the inner self can be. Twisting it around in the paint until eventually he’s created something awesome and of singular beauty.

AMc:    Do you think what you’re producing is beautiful? Do you want it to be beautiful?

AR:    I think it might be. I’m not sure. But I like the idea that it’s a catalyst for other people’s ideas and I think that’s beautiful. I can see there’s a quality that links the paintings and that’s my idea, really, of what I like to look at.

AMc:    You talk about people’s ideas, and I’ll open for questions in a minute, but can I ask just one more thing? You mentioned about figurative elements and I just wondered actually – I can’t see any in here, but, for example, take the stag painting next door – is there a particular significance in the piece?

AR:    Yes, there’s a significance. I got the idea from a particular painting in my favourite museum, which is the Musée de la Chasse au Nature in Paris. It’s a museum that used to be dedicated to hunting but now also includes exhibits about the environment. There’s a fantastic collection including this grand painting by an anonymous artist of the 19th century. It’s a painting of a stag crashing into a banqueting hall and flooring the table as it collapses. The antlers are there and the tablecloth, with all the dishes flying everywhere, and the look of terror on this creature’s face. I’ve just lifted it really, I took the image and started drawing it and then copied it in, so far, about six paintings. But I moved the animal from this pantomime situation into the actual landscape. The beast is panicking because it’s running scared and then it’s fallen and doesn’t know what the hell is going on.

When I was making the early stag paintings, Sarah Lloyd was writing a piece for a book to accompany the exhibition and she asked me to explain them. I said: ‘Well, the animal is running and the title is Running from the House, and it’s a metaphor for nature itself being overrun and being hunted’. So that’s where the stag came from and these themes appear and reappear.

AMc:    Does anyone have any questions? Do say ‘yes’!

  1. In terms of your process, you mentioned your interest in themes of Chinese art. Is being conscious in the present important for you in your painting?

AR:    Being conscious in the present is the whole point.

  1. Is it why you paint? Is it your compulsion to paint?

AR:    I think artists feel more when they’re painting – you feel more alive, and you feel more with it. Francesco Clemente once said that if he went more than a couple of days without painting, he’d feel sick, and the minute he’d pick up a pencil and start drawing, he felt more alive and healthy. I think you can increase your perception by drawing. Michael Craig-Martin, one of my tutors, thought of drawing as a way of thinking and so, if you are drawing, something unique happens in the way you perceive – we are talking about observational drawing now, where you are looking at a view or a figure or a tree or whatever, and what happens to your mind when you draw. He thought it was a way of thinking and it makes you more alert. I think it shows you how you can shift your attention from one way of looking at things to another, and I’ve found that really important.

  1. And that’s something else I wanted to ask you actually, about the meditative process and the fact that you were so inspired by sitting in front of a Buddha and doing yoga – do you still practice yoga?

AR:    It wasn’t really quite like that. T’ai Chi is a martial art, you know, and yes, I practise, sure, yes.

AMc:    But we won’t find you in the Oriental Gallery Number 2, striking a pose?

AR:    No.

MB:    It’s great having you here, Alan, having a conversation with Anna, it’s really wonderful – a lovely treat from the gallery’s point of view. I would like to ask you about your next projects. What are you doing in the next six months?

AR:     I’ve been invited to work with an Italian interior designer, Veronica Givone, and we are going to transform six suites – so called VIP suites – at the Lowry Hotel in Manchester. So, if you are a famous footballer or a member of a rock band and you go to Manchester, you’ll get to stay in the rooms that we designed.

BH:    Do you think that the average person who buys your paintings and comes across your paintings actually gets the message that you are trying to put across and how important is it actually that they do?

AR:    Well, they get the message that they get. I mean, that’s it, isn’t it, really? I can’t force it. I’m not going to test them. Some people might get it completely wrong, of course, but if it’s a catalyst for a different way of looking at things, then that’s fine by me. That’s the whole point. I had this idea that there’s art that can be a gateway to a greater freedom in contrast to art as propaganda, which closes down options. It occurred to me, if you draw people’s attention into a point, the way tabloid TV does, or the kind of false political advertising, manipulating public opinion like a corrupt politician, like Goebbels for instance, it’s also drawing people’s consciousness into a point – more and more blinkered; and really great art opens wider possibilities and that’s what I’m trying to do. I think great art is a catalyst for being more aware instead of being led by the nose. If that works then it works. I can’t control what people are going to think, but I hope they will start thinking – that’s the thing.

AMc:    Any other questions?

JB:    I have one. I have known Alan for a long time and I love his colours and he draws you into the picture. Looking at all of the works here, they’ve all got side positioning things and you are drawn through into the distance, which kind of explodes at you, and yet you are always drawn through. There are very beautifully crafted trees in the style of a 17th-century pastoral landscape. You are drawn through to this sky with beautiful colours. I think you had that throughout and yet now, you are still using that, but they are changing and this exhibition is slightly different from the earlier ones but they have that same wonderful technique..

AR:    I guess I’ve been doing things that look a bit alike for quite a time, it’s taken me a lot longer to do what I wanted to do and I thought maybe I should be a bit faster in moving on to some other subject.

JB:    That’s their beauty, they are alike but different and they’re not – they are all different and yet –

AR:    I like to think it’s an ongoing series, I call it Landscape Painting Project and the idea is that I can tie it up and put it in a box one day and move on and do different things. But, at the moment, it’s still relevant; I’m getting a lot of ideas and wanting to follow this route. I’m glad you’ve liked the paintings over the years.

JB:    What would you want to move on to do?

AR:    I’m going to make some whole room installations that use everything from painting directly on the walls, to objects I’ve made, plus projected imagery and sound. It goes back to my roots. I’ve accumulated a lot of objects, some that I’ve made, and found objects that I’ve done something with, and they’ve all gone down to the studio in France to be assembled.

I’m interested in the works of Larry Bell, the conceptual artist from Los Angeles, who, in the 1970s, made plates of glass that drift into mirrors, which I can relate to as landscape interventions, referring to the 18th-century concept of the Claude Glass.

Sculpture that can alter the environment with subtle reflections and refractions of light – that interests me a great deal.

Q:    What’s your starting point when making a painting? Do you start with a drawing or do you actually start with the paint and making shapes?

AR:    I’ve always thought that if you put a drawing on first and it’s wrong then it shows through, but lately these paintings are all about things that are wrong and show through. I like the idea of pentimenti, when you see something that’s already there but slightly covered up, and, by using layers of glazes, I can do that. These paintings are all started with a red imprimatura like they would have used in the Venetian School, where they would make a canvas and colour it in a dark red and draw the shapes of the composition in monochrome shades of dark and light, the idea being that – particularly if you were painting blue, a sky or the robe of the Virgin Mary or something – the blue really stands out because, if it’s on white, it tends to be chalky. So I often start with a red or an ochre background and just start painting.

Q:    Yes, but would you prefer to draw, say, landscape drawings, where you have a basic idea of composition?

AR:     I tend to draw when I’m travelling. I have a lot of pocket sketchbooks and I draw the shapes of canvases and sketch what I’d like to do, then I almost obsessively do repeats of the same image until it becomes just right. It’s quite a commitment to do a large painting like this, and sometimes you have to do a lot of work before you know it’s going to work. So I draw compositions, scribbles really.

AMc:   I have a question relating to this series, these ones here, about the text and when you started adding written lines.

AR:    The text here was suggested to me by a friend, Tom Burke, who has written about my paintings and is also an environmentalist; he’s done some amazing things like helping to found Greenpeace and running The Green Alliance. He was first of all saying we should read a lot more TS Elliot and get ideas from The Wasteland, and then he quoted a fragment of a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘Strange to see all that was once relation now fluttering hither and thither in the breeze’. And the minute he said that, it really struck a chord. The author was writing about a premonition of the First World War and how everything you think is real, that you can rely on and the way you think you know things, can suddenly evaporate completely into chaos. I think that’s a good metaphor for modern times. Politically, environmentally, we are standing on quicksand in every area of life that you can think of. So I’ve been writing the quote on the canvases.

Q:       Of one poem?

AR:    Yes, for a couple of years. Yet the writing, the calligraphy, becomes hidden, There is something magical about the power of writing, isn’t there? I have a quote in mind and, at some point while painting, I feel like writing it on the canvas, and even though it becomes abstracted and it’s sublimated and you can’t properly read it, in a strange way, it still retains the energy of the handwritten word. If you look at the really abstracted types of Oriental calligraphy, you can sense this. Within the different styles of Chinese and Japanese calligraphy, there’s very formal script, and then there’s a more elegant style where the words are there, the characters are there, but it’s also kind of pictographic where the calligrapher tries to give a hint as to the subject in the way that the characters are made, like a concrete poem. Then a third style, the free or grass script, is almost completely abstract, yet for someone who is a real connoisseur, it embodies the essence of the poem or the text within it. If someone can do that, they’re elevated to be a master calligrapher.

MO’R:    Alan, the painting of the deer, is there a direct link with Monarch of the Glen?

AR:    I recall Monarch of the Glen as the kind of art that I’m not so interested in. The apotheosis would be Peter Blake painting a pop version for Paul McCartney – how unreal is that? I did have an experience, though, when I first began the Running from the House paintings. I was in Copenhagen and my friend Bjarne Neilsen came into the studio, took one look, and exploded into laughter – he said ‘You can’t do that here, not in Denmark, it’s only two years ago that everyone threw their antique stag paintings in the skip!’ I’d thought of my take on deer paintings as a comment on how society relates to nature, yet on reflection I should own up. I also had a commission to make an unapologetic, monumental stag painting for Marco Pierre White to hang in a restaurant. So I guess I did my own pop version, just like Peter Blake.

MO’R:    What’s this stag doing for you, the other one next door?

AR:    Well, it’s about everything I’ve said: the chaos and the sense of anxiety in nature… and then, I suppose, it’s about sex… [Laughter] …if I’m really answering the question. It’s a fairly esoteric thing, yet you know that energy flows out of and around your body when you’re highly aroused, and don’t you think there’s often a kind of antler effect that comes out of people at those moments – like a subtle lightning you can see flashing around the person – and it’s like antlers?

MO’R:    Well, the stag was kind of Shamanic in Celtic culture.

AR:    Yes, and also in stories about Herne the hunter and the stag. I think there’s a lot in those myths, these stories go back to very early times. I think they have meanings that are more fundamental than commonly thought. I’m making some works based on the Titian paintings Diana and Actaeon, and The Death of Actaeon where the Greek myth seems overly simplistic to me and just not right.

The idea that there’s a young shepherd, who inadvertently comes upon Diana and her nymphs bathing and so she immediately turns him into a stag and hunts him, kills him and the dogs eat him..  it’s like a cartoon.. I think the myth was originally about deeper things than punishing an accidental voyeur, suggesting symbolic ideas about men and women that come from a much earlier time. I had the mad idea that by painting and drawing this I could  somehow get an insight into the meaning of the myth. So, it’s an ongoing project.

MO’R:    Well, good luck with that!

AR:    Thanks! I’ll try my best.

[Laughter]

AMc:    You couldn’t say more to follow up on that. Thank you, Alan.

 

Audience questioners: Q, Unknown, SM, Serenella Martufi, JB, Judith Burrows,

MO’R, Mark O’Rourke, MB, Michael Barnett, BH, Ben Hamilton

ANNA McNAY

 

Anna McNay is an art writer and editor based in London. She is Assistant Editor at Art Quarterly and contributes regularly to a variety of other print and online art and photography journals and newspapers. She writes catalogue essays, hosts panels and In Conversation events at galleries and art schools. She curates exhibitions, and has judged numerous art prizes, both nationally and internationally. Her areas of special interest include representations of the body, gender and sexuality.

 

@annamcnay

https://sites.google.com/site/annamcnay/

http://art-corpus.blogspot.co.uk

Anna’s website:  https://art-corpus.blogspot.co.uk/

Alan Rankle is represented by Weston Smith Art Management dominic@westonsmith.co.uk

 

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Restraint

Capitalism poses the question of restraint: when and how should a society impose limits on the process of exploiting the environment for its own benefit?

The human endeavor is concerned with improvements in agriculture, communications, health, science, transportation and defenses against the assaults of violent, capricious circumstance. Surely this presents no justification for a consideration of restraint.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries more efficient means of communication and transportation extended the range of exploitation beyond the countries of origin into areas of the planet previously unknown. When ships became capable of traveling greater distances, the discovery of new environments and new means for societal improvement was inevitable. Was it possible at this point to impose restraint? Could a limit be placed on travel distance or on the manner of exploring such environments, or methods of interacting with new forms of human beings?

The variables involved in imposing restraints would have been impossible to calculate and organize into a universal consensus. Competing societies were engaged in their own particular forms of encounters, involving different environments, different needs and different indigenous cultures. No one group could permit limits that jeopardized its cultural wellbeing relative to its competitors. Whereas males were the physical and financial risk takers in these voyages, women benefited equally from the improvements they afforded. Conversely, many indigenous cultures may have been equally anxious to seize on opportunities for means of improvement themselves. Trading for superior technology might enable one culture to gain greater parity with a neighbor. Both exogenous and indigenous cultures were striving to improve their lot, in what way could restraints be applied?

What kind of ethical code would be applicable to all circumstances? How could fairness be applied? Should explorers turn back and leave other cultures undisturbed? Should they stop trying to improve their own living conditions altogether, and agree to proceed no further? In the extreme, should they even level the playing field and revert to the same degree of technological competence as those they encounter? What would they be prepared to give up – better housing, agriculture, clothing, health care? Better protection? How long would such self imposed austerity last? Who would guarantee it stayed that way?

Capitalism’s most recent incarnation is a Western phenomenon, but the dynamic is hardly new or confined to one racial/ethnic group: the Mongols and Muslim Ottomans also encroached on other cultures and exploited them to their own benefit. Those they colonized were also confronted with greater physical force and subjected to the customs and needs of the colonizers. Sometimes the exchange was mutually beneficial, other times it was entirely rapacious and uncompromising.

The most egregious expression of this process is the commodification of the indigenous population itself in the form of enslavement – a human propensity evidenced since the historical record began. The trans-Atlantic slave trade capitalized on a system that had been flourishing for a thousand years during the Ottoman/Arab/Muslim Empires. It would continue to flourish in Muslim countries until the 1960s – one hundred years after it was abolished in the West. Millions of Europeans were enslaved during that time, including citizens of the United States. 1960 is hardly a conclusive cut-off date since the definition of ‘slave’ is questionable. Countless human beings still exist worldwide in the 21st century in conditions of forced servitude without recourse to appeal.

What kind of restraint can be applied in this context?

The “evil corporations” that supposedly capitalize on this system are by no means confined to the ‘West’ yet it is the West that is vilified most – even though many of those who are most outspoken against the West benefit most from it effects. Websites written by Western women are proud to announce that they are now  “the greatest consumers in history” – while at the same time condemning the methods that make it possible.

According to Women’s Consumer strategist Brigitte Brennan:

If the consumer economy had a sex, it would be female.  Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of their buying power and influence.  Influence means that even when a woman isn’t paying for something herself, she is often the influence or veto vote behind someone else’s purchase.”

But according to Worldwatch Institute:

“If the levels of consumption that the most affluent people enjoy today were replicated across even half of the roughly 9 billion people projected to be on the planet in 2050, the impact on our water supply, air quality, forests, climate, biological diversity, and human health would be severe.”

Consumerism is the basis of Capitalism and it is contingent on human and material resources. In addition to the ‘enslavement’ of human beings ‘elsewhere’ in the world, it leads to irrevocable destruction of the environment, ecological instability and above all the need for preemptive political, economic and military measures to assure control of such resources.

Is there now justification for restraint?

Consumerism is shopping.

How much are “the greatest consumers in history” prepared to give up?

 

Malcolm Mc Neill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spycraft

cYberbanX

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Snow

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it
kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug,
you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to
sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

― Lewis CarrollAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland &
Through the Looking-Glass

“The crisp path through the field in this December snow,
in the deep dark, where we trod the buried grass like
ghosts on dry toast.”

― Dylan ThomasQuite Early One Morning: Stories

“As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire
of love with words.”

William Shakespeare

 

 

“For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”

― Wallace Stevens

  

 

“Nothing is as sensual as the first kiss of snow in the winter.”

― Anthony T.Hincks

 

Photos of  Paderno Fanciacorta  &  Iseo Lake:

Maurizio Caldera
(second, third, fourth and fifth pic)

&

Elena Caldera
(first and last pic)

Quotes:
from the web

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3 Poems

Note and Photon

At last I, too, will leap through that black hole—
or maybe limp or crawl
or be carried
or led by some unseen hand,
but finally will fall
through that pinhole
where even light is bent
and twisted into coils
that wind around night.
There deep darkness
nestles a gleaming universe
with all the brightness of a mind,
a single Life, endlessly
weaving its awe inspired tapestry
of light and music, warp and weft.
And I?
A single note of music,
or the last photon of light
that winks where I once was.

 

Contra-Dogmarel

Neither fish nor fowl, it’s dished out
in doctrines and trite truisms
without music or rhythm,
or else it’s straight-up dogma
in doggerel wrapped in rap,
rant or raving, but called “poetry.”

You’ll hear it at every venue
where chic revolutionaries hold services
without having seen a revolution
except on two-week tours through Cuba
where their minders served as blinders
as they viewed the circles of hell
they’ve come to call “heaven.”
When they return, their verses
serve as hymns to the victory
of socialism, battle cries for wars
they’ll never witness.

Cheap words like ads
for last year’s fashions,
doctrines drawn from the leader’s
speeches, interviews and texts,
then barked and growled
in North Beach readings,
waterfalls of rhetoric
oceans without waves,
storms without rain,
sermons without salvation,
but at least inspiring enough
to make me write some
of my own.

 

Once It’s All Lost

Once it’s all lost, everything,
down to the last button and crumb
all tumbling back to earth,
remember the earth.
We were never the gods we thought ourselves to be,
one step beneath the winged angels,
we, always just another creature
recently risen from the wild sea
or the muck or dust.
May that wisdom lost in all our knowledge
then be recalled when all is lost;
may we save the wisdom
that saves us as we fall:
this earth hungrily embraces
even its wayward children,
we who had forgotten
and thought we were lost.


Clifton Ross

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Scientists & physicians send appeal about 5G rollout & health dangers to European Union

 

On September 13, 2017, more than 180 scientists and doctors sent an 11-page Appeal for a moratorium on the roll out of 5G in the European Union.

The reason for the appeal is that “RF/EMF has been proven to be harmful for humans and the environment,” but 5G has not been investigated fully for potential health hazards and environmental impact by INDEPENDENT scientists other than industry scientists, who apparently would rubber stamp 5G similarly as the other generations of telecommunications updates have been.

According to the Appeal, 5G is effective only over short distances and is transmitted poorly through solid materials. Because of that inefficiency in transmission, a tremendous number of antennas or cell towers will be needed to implement 5G service.

One key paragraph jumped out for me:

With “the ever more extensive use of wireless technologies,” nobody can avoid being exposed. Because on top of the increased number of 5G-transmitters (even within housing, shops and in hospitals) according to estimates, ”10 to 20 billion connections” (to refrigerators, washing machines, surveillance cameras, self-driving cars and buses, etc.) will be part of the Internet of Things. All these together can cause a substantial increase in the total, long term RF-EMF exposure to all EU citizens.  [CJF emphasis]

Unfortunate as it is, there are no studies of long-term RF/EMF exposure to humans that I know about or have found in my research.  That deliberate omission seems to be the most incriminating aspect of probable collusion on the part of “consensus science,” which apparently motivates and propels microwave technology, the industry and, in particular, its professional associations that impact microwave ‘policy’ at the United Nations, World Health Organization and its IARC, and the U.S. Federal Communication Commission.

“[N]umerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines,” including  “increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damage, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans. Damage goes well beyond the human race, as there is growing evidence of harmful effects to both plants and animals.”

The Appeal notes:

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2011 concluded that EMFs of frequencies 30 KHz – 300 GHz are possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B). However, new studies like the NTP study mentioned above and several epidemiological investigations, including the latest studies on mobile phone use and brain cancer risks, confirm that RF-EMF radiation is carcinogenic to humans.

The scientists and doctors point out that the Precautionary Principle, adopted by the EU in 2005, states:

When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm.

Unfortunately, in this writer’s opinion, the Precautionary Principle has been negated for all intents and purposes by medicine and science in favor of corporate profiteering, “consensus science” and downright falsified or ‘vintage’ research, plus marketing strategies to promote less-than-accurate facts regarding pharmaceuticals, microwave technology and much of the “smart” meme.

Under “Safety Guidelines,” the Appeal emphasizes how industry is protected, but not human health:

The current ICNIRP “safety guidelines” are obsolete. All proofs of harm mentioned above arise although the radiation is below the ICNIRP “safety guidelines”. Therefore new safety standards are necessary. The reason for the misleadi