Saturday, 27 June 2009

Musical Recommendation of The Week:
After The Goldrush - kd lang

Surfin' Saints No, No, No

As I look out at the thunderclouds building in the swampy heat, there’s a song in my heart, it goes like this: Lord, I’m So Happy Not To Be At Glastonbury. Last time I went was in 2007; a rainy year. With only a handful of benches on the whole site, the entire population of this tented city were trudging, trudging through the mud, always trudging, with nowhere to rest. It was exhausting, like being a fleeing refugee rather than a music lover. I can’t even remember what I saw other than trench foot inside my socks. My main memories are of the flags and of a notice board in Journalists’ Tent backstage that had a list of festival facts that went roughly like this: Population: 148,000.
Furthest distant between tents: 8 miles.
Medical Aid Administered: 1,200 [mostly fall injuries: slips/strains]
Tent Robberies: 58
Drug Busts: 156
Noise Complaints: 1
I would like to have listened in on that complaint.

What these statistics cannot convey is how astonishingly benign it is, given its England and the crowds are all somewhere between slightly & phenomenally wasted. This would normally be the perfect equation for an almighty ruck. Yet, it doesn't happen. On the whole, people are kind to each other, especially when we're all drenched and carrying 6lbs of mud on our shoes.
However, I can’t abide listening to all that more-Glast-than-thou stuff people churn out. All those stories of ‘Yeah, after our tent got washed away in a torrent of human ordure, we slept upright in the crook of a tree, then the money got stolen by a Viking biker on acid, so we ate sheep droppings for three days.
Our weed got blown away in a mini tornado, so we smoked grated nutmeg through a bong made from an exhaust pipe.’ Unless you can trump them with a more putrid tale, you've somehow failed to have 'done' Glastonbury.

I would like to say here and now, I've only ever 'done' it in maximum luxury thanks to my friend Carol, the Texan mermaid. Actually, if there is a phrase beyond maximum luxury, it's that. And it's the way to go, believe me.
Perhaps it is this comfort that has clouded my judgement & taken me so long time to realise that I don’t really enjoy Glastonbury, even when it's sunny. I don't like seeing bands from miles away; I can't connect. I might as well be watching it on television
In fact, I've just switched on the tv to see what's going on...oh look there's Neil Young looking like an angry Gandalf - he's has snapped off all the strings from his guitar and is making a truly hideous racket over a cacpophany of feedback...for quite some time, like he's gone stark raving psycho and thinks he's in Slipknot...maybe I missed the artistic build up to this...maybe it's the acme of musical expression...but sounds like a load of horseshit to me.
Here's what I like best about Neil Young: other people singing his songs.
[Checking this out on itunes, I must add that the Boney M, Marie Osmond & Johhny Hates Jazz covers are exceptions to the rule]

Mercifully, the cameras leave Mr Young and his plank spanking madness for a montage of clips making Glastonbury look like fun, uh oh I'm going to turn it off before I lose my head and delude myself that I might enjoy a next time.

Anyway, I have to stay at home - I have a whole garden full of
delicate things that rely on me and as their guardian, my shortcomings are many. I am aware I don’t even really know how to water properly. I fill up the watering can and stand over plants and try to imagine I am a raincloud. I've moved into vegetables this year. I have carrots the width of a hypodermic syringe. Very chic.
I peer at strange little growths wondering if they are weeds or not. Is it a weed due only to my disapproval? Sometimes weeding becomes such philosophical torment I have to lie face down in the daisies and hum.

I was invited to Cornwall for an alternative to Glastonbury weekend, but whisper it softly, I don’t really like Cornwall either.
I can’t get over the feeling that I’m staying in a corridor.
And if there’s a phobia of garden walls which feature wagon wheels, I have it and it finds its full expression in the southern peninsula. Cornwall’s a long way to go to get that passagey feel, especially if you go by train and experience it all the way there. Beyond that and the gruesome recent architecture, it does have some lovely beaches, but crammed ones. The alternative is a hinterland crammed with caravan parks and churches commemorating obscure Celtic saints. Who are these guys? St. Blaise, St. Austell, St.Cuby, St. Erc, St. Winwaloe anyone? No doubt all claiming visions after too much grated nutmeg. In the space of a mile or so there are churches named after St. Endelion
the virgin recluse, St Teath, Endelion’s hardly more outgoing sister and another named after the joker of the pack - their brother St. Nectan, the hermit.
How times change. In the 21st century we observe asthma and alcoholism running in families, while in 6th century Cornwall, beatification was the hereditary strain. What kind of conversations did the parents of such children have about them? ‘Endelion and Teath are helping Nectan moves caves, but it’s young Ogbert who's really worrying me; that boy's turning out to be merely good.’

So, I don’t want to go to Cornwall, no, no, no.
I know, I know, wagon wheels be dammed, Cornwall’s good for surfing and yes, yes I like surfing - it’s not that hard. Or rather, it’s not hard to be quite bad at it and attract people who can annoy on a Glastonburian level, with all that 'gnarly dude, I spilt some port' jargon.

And then there are those who turn it into magnificent, physical poetry. Surfing is a perfect example of man’s intrinsic joyfulness. Given the sight of waves crashing onto a beach, we rush off, find a flat plank, race back, plunge in and gyre and gimble until we are exhausted. It is a watery reminder that life is not after all, just a vale of tears, but for the tiniest span of eternity we have the sweet privilege to exist.
Or as your average surf twerp might say, ‘Cowabunga and amen.’

Meanwhile, from the peace of my toolshed, I am plotting my summer break: a whistle stop tour of the world's pariah states.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Musical Recommendation of the Week:
Leonard Cohen - I'm Your Man

The Cosmic Quest to Reach The Bag Before The End Of Time

As a writer with very unevenly spread payments, my taxable earnings can get rolled back and forth across years like pastry. This was something my old accounts had failed to do, so my new accountant, the heroic Gary, asked me send him my 2008-2009 accounts early, in order to sort out the mess. At the end of March he suggested a delivery date of July 1st.
Even as a child, sitting in front of a plate of cooling Brussels sprouts that I had been commanded to eat, the lesson that avoidance tactics only prolong the agony failed to bed down fully in my brain.
I had three months in which to confront a resistance equal to Vienna besieged by the Turks.

April 15th.
After two weeks, my desk my looks Turner Prize-worthy. The relevant papers are piled up in such a way as to challenge previous assumptions about gravity and forces one to ponder the spatial tensions between order and chaos. I relieve the tension by pressing my index finger into the end of my nose at intermittent periods. I feel sullen about putting everything in order, so that I can fund a government whose members work flat out to avoid the rules they impose upon me.

April 29th.
I decide to get some online pointers, but get sidetracked by a youtube clip of Bruce Lee doing superhuman things with numchucks in a ping-pong match. While distracted a mysterious inkblot appears on my tax return 'advice manual' obscuring what I am meant to provide for Box. 6.1. I then buy a paper and notice the headline 'Space – The Final Frontier?' and am compelled by cosmic forces to read a long article to find out if it is, or not.
It turns out that space is smooth but changing shape to something lumpier – a little bit like a cuttlefish really. Invoices are no competition to the great cuttlefish of the spheres.
Reading the Bible as a child, the only bit of Genesis I that I could take on board as making a bit of sense was, ‘In the beginning was the word’ - that it all started with a sound, probably quite a small, pleasant one. Not a big bang as such, more a melodious hiccup. Maybe this smooth to lumpy cuttlefish change thing is just a syncopated moment in the majestic infinity within which we dwell.

May 10th.
Resolve to file the receipts into categories, but paint my sitting room [well two and a half walls] ointment pink. My son is not pleased.
What was the point of all that yelling I did through his childhood? Everytime he said he hated pink, I would cry ‘every single colour belong to everybody! And that means pink is yours as well, darling.’ [Later I con him into coming to Brokeback Mountain and whisper, ‘It’s ok if you're gay’ through my tears, as he lies facedown on the floor between the seats groaning ‘When is this over?’] After finishing off the second coat of ointment, thoughts and indeed paint-splattered fingers return to my desk. Why are taxes so intensely, stupidly complicated?
Any party that brings in a flat tax has my vote.

May 17th

Arrange biros in the order in which I think they’ll run out. I try to pick off some of the ointment paint splots, but only rip a hole in the middle of the Barclaycard statement
It is the anniversary of Erik Satie’s birth. I put GymnopĂ©dies on and do a bit of wafting.
It’s Taj Mahal’s birthday too, so I put on “Loving In My Baby’s Arms Some additional swaying now. This is not an accounts day, the muse has leapt upon my back, I must take it for a ride.

June 2nd
Gary has sent me an email about some aspect of profit and loss.
What do these people want from me? How can I answer this - that a dip in adverbs has reduced my 2009 forecasts, but an increased demand for subjunctive clauses will improve the half-yearly margins?
march around the room muttering ‘what do these people want from me?' over and over again. I warm to the repetition. First, I do it as Jessica Lang playing Francis Farmer, then as Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight and finally as Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys. I return to my desk feeling rather glorious. I stand on the desk to grab a file from the bookshelf above and manage to break the handle to the cheque stub drawer. I start on the petrol receipts, but it’s sunny, it’s a weekend, we haven’t played Russian Roulette for ages. I drag the children to the park, where we play catch with six hard-boiled eggs and a raw one. Annoyingly, I lose.

June 6th

I throw open my window and many of the chronologically sorted piles I have made are blown onto the floor. Another sleepless night of anxiety about how much I have to yet to do lies ahead.

June 13th
I decide it is best not to get dressed; it will stop me rushing from the house. Before I do anything however, I must watch the Leonard Cohen concert I have recorded. I am struck strongly by how good humoured and gracious he is. He says to the audience, ‘ Thank you so much for coming...gathered here...just this other side of intimacy. I know many of you have undergone financial and geographical inconvenience. We’re honoured to play to for you tonight.’ He makes those other grumpy musical geniuses like Dylan and Van Morrison look like base, charmless fools. Leonard exhilarates; he makes me feel as if I anything is possible – even adding up stationary expenses. It’s an honour to listen to him.
I call Gary. ‘Is it in the bag?’ he asks. ‘It’s in the pipeline on the way to the bag.’ I reply.

June 19th
I gather up the mess, get some paperclips involved - like you might sprinkle
parsley - staple on a list of sums more hopeful than accurate and put it all into one huge envelope.
[left, cuttlefish in a pleasant mood]
I smother it in stamps and post it with a note to Gary that goes, ‘Sorry about the pink paint and the coffee rings, amongst other things. My receipts are not finite, nor is my desk a smooth thing; everything is possessed of intergalactic cuttlefish properties, as I am sure - in your capacity as an accountant - you are all too aware.' [right, same cuttlefish, livid]
Gary has gone all quiet - maybe his window was open too.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Musical Recommendation of The Week:
Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child - Jimmy Scott

He's The Only Hell Mama Ever Raised

Kim Jong-Il of North Korea has named his successor. Having had a series of strokes, the 'Dear Leader' ain't long for this world.
He has decided his best shot at extending the totalitarian Kim rule into a third generation lies in the youngest of his sons. The hope is, presumably, that Kim Jong-Un, 26, will perpetuate the personality cult style created by his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, the 'Great Leader' who wrenched North Korea away from the world into a paranoid, martial state where the population would thrive, if only armaments were edible. North Korea may be a small raddled country, but it is a hornet on the world stage and, while Kim Jong-Il might share a wardrobe with Roy Orbison and hairstylist with Phil Spector, he's in charge of the fifth largest standing army on the planet and an itch for the nuclear.

In a world where primogeniture rules, it is the norm for the eldest son to inherit over his brothers. There are few examples of this being reversed, though Saddam Hussein is a case in point. Prior to his overthrow, he was actively grooming his son
Qusay over the older Uday. Uday, his longtime favourite [right] committed a string of murders and rapes with impunity. He blew it however, when he bludgeoned Saddam’s best-loved food-taster to death in front of appalled guests at an official banquet for Suzanne Mubarak, wife of the Egyptian president. It was one death too far and the younger Qusay, though only marginally less violent, was thereafter considered the more stable pair of hands. Thankfully for the Iraqi people, this particular sociopathic dynasty ended when both brothers died in a shootout during the Iraqi invasion.
In choosing his youngest, the ailing 68-year old dictator is sidelining Kim Jong-Nam who, like Uday, was heir presumptive. While North Korea is a sealed country from which few verifiable details of its ruling family seep,
it is known that a third son is considered too ‘girlish’ and that the chubsome Kim Jong-Nam caused his father huge diplomatic embarrassment when he was detained in Tokyo while traveling on a forged Dominican Republic passport.
He is now thought to be exiled in Macau, so it is not totally unexpected that his father has passed him over. Rumours have been swirling for some time and people guessed a shift when Kim Jong-Un's mother, though dead, got bestowed the rambling title: "The Respected Mother Who Is The Most Faithful and Loyal 'Subject' to The Dear Leader Comrade Supreme Commander"
Only Kim Jong-Un, [above, as a boy] with his love of movies and booze, fierce temper and stubborn character, is a considered a delightful ‘chip off the old block’.
This dynastic decision may have far-reaching consequences. Often, an understandably powerful, destructive energy surrounds
spurned sons from powerful families, this can either be turned inward, but far more dangerously, projected outward....

The story of Kim Jong-Nam, now 38, [left] is that he was born to Song Hie-Rim, who was an early mistress of Kim Jong-Il’s before he was
forced into a political marriage with the daughter of a high-ranking military official. This union was not a success and they soon separated, but nor was the relationship with Song Hie-Rim a happy one. Despite being mother to his heir, she was denied official recognition and after years of estrangement, died in Russia.
Kim Jong-Il’s next mistress was far more successful and did receive official recognition. She became known as First Lady until her death in 2004 and is the mother of the new heir, Kim Jong-Un.
Kim Jong-Nam is the rejected child of the rejected mistress; Kim Jong-Un the favoured child of the favoured mistress –

It is this disparity in treatment that could herald big trouble.

 Consider the background stories in similar vein of two other famous men, both also rejected children of rejected women.
first one is about Sabri Khalil al-Banna.
Born in 1937, he was the son of Hajj Khalil al-Banna, a Jaffa-based fruit merchant who owned thousands of acres of orange groves making him one of Palestine’s richest men.
The al-Bannas lived in a palatial home with stables filled with Arab horses, they owned one of the country’s first swimming pools and moved between holiday homes in Syria, France and other parts of Palestine.  Al-Banna fathered sixteen sons and eight daughters from several wives, and included Sabri, who was born to a sixteen year-old girl from the Alawite sect; one of the family’s maids. This marriage was disapproved of and the young Sabri [left] was scorned by his older brothers and sisters. In 1945, at the age of seven, his father died. His mother, to whom he was very close, was immediately thrown out of the house. Sabri Khalil stayed on in the questionable care of his disdainful siblings until they had to flee an invasion and ended up penniless refugees. As an adult he took up arms, founded 
Fatah and changed his name to Abu Nidal. He went on to oversee attacks in twenty countries that resulted in nearly a thousand deaths and injuries. Until he was killed in 2002, Abu Nidal, was considered one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists. In his obituary he was described as having ‘warped personal drives that pushed him into hideous crime.’

The next story has striking parallels with the Abu Nidal. This is about a child born in Riyadh. His father Muhammed was a
phenomenally successful businessman with close ties to the Saudi royal family. Muhammed had up to fifty-four children by maintaining three long-term wives and reserving the fourth slot for a series of "short-termers" whom he married and divorced in rapid rotation.
His tenth wife, [the sixth to pass through the position of the fourth wife] was an Alawite called Hamida. Even before her only son was born, the other wives had ostracized her. 
They referred to her as "the slave," in reference to her inferior status.  Shortly after the birth Muhammed divorced her and the baby became known by the nickname, "son of the slave." He was rejected by his half-siblings and the label never left him.
 A shy boy, he felt abandoned when his father died in a helicopter crash when he was only ten. 
When he reached adulthood, Osama bin Laden went medieval on the Western World’s ass.

Beyond family dynamics, political and religious factors did much to shape the world view of these 
men, but maybe it is in their early experiences where the wellspring of fury formed and through which everything was subsequently filtered. Seeing as two of the most determined and brutal mass murderers in the past fifty years have both been the rejected children of rejected women - and these men were not inline for the family business let alone a whole country - we must hope that Kim Jong-Nam is happy stuffing his face in Macau and does not have a vengeful nature, for there may after all be some truth in that age-old nursery rhyme:
Monday’s Child; Rather Odd
Tuesday’s Child; Bit Of A Sod
Wednesday’s Child May Run Amok
Thursday’s Child Wont Give A Fuck
Friday’s Child Loves Drugs & Drink
Saturday’s Child Will Never Think
But The Child That Is Born On The Sabbath Day
Will Become A Homicidal Maniac On A Global Scale
If the worst does happen and Kim Jong-Nam somehow pulls a nuclear tantrum, we must draw upon the wise words of Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote,
'There is no reason why good cannot triumph over evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organisation. If there are such things as angels, I hope they are organised along the lines of the Mafia.'

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Musical Recommendation of the Week
Talullah - Jamiroquai

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

MInd The Gap

I consider myself fairly unshockable, but if I thought that meant I could avoid tumbling headlong into the generation gap, I was wrong.
The gap just didn't turn out to be what I had in mind. I certainly never expected to be shocked by my children’s attitude to kissing and the monarchy. I assumed they would be crazy about one and indifferent to the other…. but what do I know?

A long time ago, in her early teens, my daughter said she only liked kissing ‘like in the movies’. She has since celebrated her first anniversary with her boyfriend, so I guessed that things had probably moved on. She & her boyfriend both have tongue studs, so when recently I asked if they clacked together when they kiss – she gave me a withering stare and snapped, ‘No! How many times do I have to tell you? Tongues are out! Snogging is so over, it’s so 90s!’
She went on to say that none of her girlfriends ‘use tongues’– or if they did, ‘only a tiny bit.’ With the tip or something? I have no idea.
When I suggested that actually, it was rather lovely and certainly erotic, she brought the full weight of her teen scorn to bear with whole body squirming and repeated shrieking, ‘No! It’s revolting! Revolting! Revolting!’
Truly baffling.

A quick aside on tongue studs...
I was utterly horrified to find that my little darlin' had pierced her tongue and was now sporting clunky mouth cutlery - but if anyone has ever tried it, it's damn hard to grab a tongue that's not your own.
I think what
teenagers who 'wear' tongue studs are saying is they're a little bit Jack the Lad. What the dental hygienist says about their effect on tooth enamel is that they're a little bit Jack the Hammer. What can you do? If they are rebellious, they'll just find something else. I just have to hope she'll tire of it.
They say that tongues are the fastest healing organ in the body, but if that is true, doesn't the tongue heal around the studs, leaving a blowhole out of which the ex-stud wearer will be extracting strands of spaghetti into old age?

Back to the main thrust.....
I then got onto the subject of the Queen with my son, while he was on 'study' leave revising for this Classical Civilisation exam. He is about to turn seventeen and wanting to buy him a suit, I asked him to give me some pointers. Never once taking his eyes off his Star Wars, The
Force Unleashed X-box game, he issued the following instructions:
‘My motto is –
actually I haven’t got one yet…but while I'm working on it, my on-the-spot-bystander-motto is "Dress to Win." I’ll give you an example. If you’re at an event, which requires a certain smartness & someone hasn’t tried - there’s always one - they're just retarded to be perfectly honest.
It’s so easy to just to make the effort.
If you want to be remembered, dress to impress.
It’s like Achilles, he wanted to be remembered & I embrace that.
He was the greatest badass of all time. Not only was he greatest warrior at Troy, but he was the most handsome and Homer makes a big deal of that.
As for Odysseus, he’s referred to as "God-like" endlessly, so of course he must have nailed it in the the clothes department too - apart from being a midget.
It’s all to do with being sane. To dress well it’s all got to make sense, so if you can’t make sense, it’s because you’re just a little bit insane. Have you got that Blood?’
‘Darling you can’t call people “Blood” it’s embarrassing. You're not from a gang in South Central LA.'
“I don’t call
people Blood – wouldn’t dream of it. Not cool. I only call you Blood.’

‘Because you're my mother and it amuses me; now shall I go on?’
‘If there's more.’
‘There is. Anything by Tom Ford is cool. Fact.
For the weekend think Brad Pitt. He’s got the cool thing tied down - a bit reckless,
a bit playful with his outfits. His hats aren’t great - but with Angelina on his arm it's hard to concentrate on what's on his head.
For weekday clothes think George Clooney. He dresses like a smooth crimina
l, no shininess, it’s all toned down; he looks like he just stepped out of a black tie event to chill for five. He’s saying, “Kids, one day - but not today.”
Put it like this, if he & the Queen rolled the red carpet scene together - that would be sweet.’
‘You like the Queen?’ I said, taken aback that she'd even made it onto his radar.
‘Sure, I like her. She’s pimping 24/7. Even though she’s married to a lame jeb who isn’t even a king, she’s cool, she’s charismatic; she doesn’t take shit from anyone. Face it, she’s just an old German woman, so it’s a miracle she looks like she does. She’s a rocksteady legend. What I’m saying is, it could have been so much worse. When she’s dressed up in her furs and bling, she looks like Snoop Dogg. They could swap clothes and no one would know. Trust.'
And henceforth to be known as Ho Maj LizBeth2.