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Showing posts from 2006

Scarlett's Reward On The Day They Hang Saddam

On the day Saddam Hussein was executed, we also received news of the New Year's Honours list-- a quaint little British tradition in which a range of titles are bestowed on people who have served their country well in the previous year, from Knighthoods, OBEs, CBEs, to the peculiarly named Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, which is given to people in the diplomatic service.

And can you guess who got that one this year, though it's not being widely reported? John Scarlett, current head of MI6, previously on the government's Joint Intelligence Committee. Who's he? The obliging fellow who, in the so-called "sexing-up" affair, agreed to the last-minute changes in the dossier Tony Blair presented to the nation to make his case for the invasion of Iraq. Fears had been expressed that the dossier, as it stood--replete with facts and other such inconveniences--would not make a convincing case for war. But by the time they'd finished rewrit…

AMERICAN TUNES AND ENGLISH INSTRUMENTS

Saddam is dead. This will hardly have escaped your attention if you've had the television on in the last few hours, especially in England, where BBC 1 has featured nothing else. They've even been kind enough to show, repeatedly, footage of the former dictator being led to the gallows.

Am I the only one who finds that distasteful?

Am I the only one who finds the execution reprehensible?

To be fair, I am against the death penalty anyway. A mass murderer has no moral right to live, as far as I can tell, but I have no moral right to kill him. I am not a good enough man. But this one comes as a result of an illegal invasion and occupation by the world's last superpower and its bullying cronies. The British Government--in an act of backsliding even George Bush wouldn't stoop to--has distanced itself from the execution, saying it doesn't support the use of capital punishment in Iraq or anywhere else, and that Saddam's death was the decision of the Iraqi Government, but u…

GEORGE BUSH SHARES HIS WISDOM ON IRAQ

*"You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror." - Interview with CBS News.

*"I think - tide turning - see, as I remember - I was raised in the desert, but tides kind of - it's easy to see a tide turn - did I say those words?" – Response when asked if the tide was turning in Iraq.

*"The point now is how do we work together to achieve important goals. And one such goal is a democracy in Germany."

*"I can look you in the eye and tell you I feel I've tried to solve the problem diplomatically to the max, and would have committed troops both in Afghanistan and Iraq knowing what I know today."

yes, all of these quotes are genuine. still feel the world is in safe hands?

Don't Look Back

It has come. That time of the year when, whether you understand the impulse or not, you find yourself reviewing the successes and failures of the last twelve months and making resolutions for the next twelve.
Well, the archives of SUFFOLK PUNCH catalogue my successes and failures with more accuracy than any end-of-year backward-looking essay could, as the posts (those I haven't deleted in shame or embarrassment), were written at the time, as the successes and failures were actually occurring. So if you're really interested, and I can't imagine why you would be, all the evidence is there.
Looking back is pointless. But we do it. The past rapidly becomes a kind of mystery, a vanishing dream, and the present is no less of a puzzle. How did you become this peculiar creature that you are? Was it this moment that shaped you? or another? Did those other worlds you live in really exist?
Can we not just step back, for a moment, and put right what we did wrong? Can't we say that wo…

Stray Thoughts On Iraq & The Execution Of Saddam

Can anybody think of another British Prime Minister who participated in the illegal invasion and occupation of another country and then had the deposed leader of the country executed?

Tony Blair. Isn't he against capital punishment?

I would not weep for the soul of Saddam. He is clearly a nasty piece of work, and--I would think--a little bit mad. But does he deserve to be alive?
Do I?


Saddam is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. No debate there. Ergo, crimes against humanity.
How many innocent people have died as a result of the invasion of Iraq?

The hand that signed the paper that launched the invasion--who put the owner of the hand in power?
I was one of the many.
Iraq is on my conscience too.

He was no friend of Bin Laden. He didn't have WMDs.
Why were we there, exactly?

Don't misunderstand me. I fear Islam as much as the next man. I fear any philosophy that takes away my right to think, and feel, and express the contents of my head, without fear of persecu…

Why Do You Write?

It's the question that is always asked of the author in the room. Jack Kerouac answered it by saying he wrote because he was bored. Charles Bukowski refused to answer it.
Me?
I write because I have nothing better to do.
I write because I am immensely vain and like the sound of my own voice, even in silence on the page or computer screen.
I write because I don't know how to say these things in conversation.
I write because I want to be told how clever and talented I am.
I write because I believe telling one's own truth liberates everybody.
That's all. If I get a reputation or a career out of it, fine. But I'm too lazy and undisciplined to seek them actively.

A Zenbo at Christmas

Christmas!
When I was a kid, or more specifically when I was a teenager, I used to hate the way older people would try to attach some seasonal significance to everything they did at this time of year--you know, everything was a christmas kiss, or a christmas hug, or a christmas drink, or a christmas nap. I could see even then the pathos of our attempts to match our mood to traditional expectations of the season.
I think a lot of the sadness that people feel at Christmas arises from the chasm that exists between their own emotional state and their sense of what they should be feeling. Their physical situation and their sense of what they should be doing. Someone who is alone for the other 364 days of the year (or however many there are these days), suddenly feels utterly bereft because they are alone on December 25th, and they don't think they should be. Someone else feels empty, scooped out of any emotion, but thinks they should be feeling love for their family, or the presence of a…

James Brown

BBC news is reporting that James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, has died. There's no more information yet.
What a loss. Since Elvis, they haven't come any bigger than him.

Blue Fred's Christmas Speech

Happy Freaking Christmas, esteemed readers. May you all get the sort of December 25th you deserve! (as you surely will.)

Now, how about we work extra hard in '07 to end the Occupation of Iraq, and head off at the pass any other war George Bush might want to start in his bull-headed campaign to make the world safe for extremist Christianity?

Then maybe we'll have the dubious privilege of labouring through another Christmas next year.

Peace.
"Take it easy, but take it."

----------Blue Fred.

Christmas Eve

Want to feel the Christmas spirit? There's a beautiful seasonal poem over at Ralph Murre's blog (http://caparem.blogspot.com ) that might get you in the mood. I wish I could write with that kind of grace and maturity!

I'm off to London for the day on a work-related mission. Getting a bus half way and then training into the smoke. I'd rather go all the way on the train, but it seems the great iron horse won't be passing through little Northampton on Christmas Eve. Well, I can't blame the rail company. I wouldn't be passing through Northampton if I had the choice either. I'd be staying at home, drinking too much, taking a cold back country walk, lying in front of the television getting depressed etc. etc.--all the things I like to do best.
When I get to London I probably won't stay long. In fact, I may just do the deed I have to do, then turn around and come home again. It's what I did last year when I was in the same situation. I always intend to m…

December 23rd High Street Christmas Snapshot

So this is Christmas. And what have you done?

A lot of shopping this morning, discovering in the process one great use for mobile phones. When you're lost in a Christmas crowd and you can't find your companion, you can pull out your mobile and locate them immediately. If they have one hand not laden with shopping bags and are able to answer it. I wonder what they did in the Seventies. Of course, I was around in the Seventies, but as I recall we always spent the 23rd of December at home in those days, lamenting the fact that it wasn't yet December 24th, because that at least was only a day away from Christmas.

Would the crowds in the shops have been so tumultuous then? I don't know. I doubt anything could have equalled the heaving press of humanity I encountered in Northampton this morning. I am normally quite happy to mooch around the shops for an hour or two, but today it really got on my nerves. Every shop I went into had queues at the tills twenty deep. And I couldn&#…

The Gays Are The Last Acceptable Target

Okay, I don't think I have too many English readers--something about S.P. doesn't chime with the limeys--but did anybody see that story about the police interviewing a Christian couple who had made public statements about homosexuality being morally wrong? I believe it was in Lancashire somewhere. Now, I'm not one to side with the police unnecessarily, but the real lunacy in this case was not the fact that they interviewed the couple, but that they have now been forced to apologise to them and pay damages.

Are you f***ing kidding me???? It may say in the Bible that homosexuality is an abomination. I believe it also says you shouldn't part your hair in the middle, or wear ringlets at the side of your face. But the same Christians who complain bitterly every day that they are a persecuted minority in this country and that Tony Blair only cares about Muslims (how do they work that one out?), will tell anyone prepared to listen--or too polite to tell them to piss off--that…

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice has arrived. Hooray!
Wossit mean, I hear those of you recently arrived either to Earth or consciousness?
It means the days will start getting longer from this point on, and the nights shorter.
Which means in a few short months it will be warm again. (Thank God for that, currently it's debilitatingly cold.) It means there will be daffodils, and lambs. And then pub gardens in the evening. Girls in vest tops. It means (adult note here) electricity and gas bills will become affordable. It means things will get better.
And isn't that all anybody really needs to know in life?

I am broke and desperately missing the love I once had. I've tried to distract myself with other women--been trying all summer--but it isn't working. Ho well. Sometimes you just have to deal with things head on, and not duck the issue. Love hurts, as Gram Parsons and a whole lot of other people would say. I do not want to leave the Lookout and have to face the possibility of sharing a house w…

BEARD

The shaven face is corporate. Don't be fooled. But the corporate world has many faces. It might be that of your boss at work. But equally it might be the face of a handsome young footballer staring at you from a billboard as you travel into town. Or somebody on a television ad who looks cooler than you, who has beautiful women kissing his bare-baby cheeks (rewarding him for his conformity). Those images aren't real. That's MOVIE, as Charles Bukowski says. Those guys are getting paid millions by big companies to represent that life to you. However much they wrap it up in rock and roll imagery, or imagery which at least seems to have nothing to do with rich old farts in big houses who wouldn't piss on a pauper like you if you were on fire, it's still the fake world of control, suppression, homogeneity. Industry has wanted to stamp out your right to be a free-thinking person with an individual identity and separate hopes and dreams since way before the days of Henry F…

42nd birthday poem (all right still)

Image
it's my birthday today.
i'm 42 years old. same age
elvis presley was
when he bit the carpet.
and i look much older.
my woman's gone.
i'm spending
the day alone.
soon i will have
to leave this house i love
and i can't afford to--
the cost of renting
is astronomical these days.
all in all, the outlook's
pretty bleak as the
pale sun climbs the trees into the winter sky
this morning.
so why is it
i feel this goofy hope?
perhaps because
i have no choice at last.

Clint and Bob, Still Causing a Fuss

Two old heroes of mine have been in the news this week.

Clint Eastwood, who is releasing two new films about the invasion of Iwo Jima in Japan in World War Two--the first movie from the American perspective and the second from the Japanese point of view. The critics are saying that Clint has risen to new heights with these films; some are even calling them masterpieces--and he's nominated for a Best Director Golden Globe for both of them. Way to go, old boy. Clint was always a little better than the average even during his "Hamburger Hill" and "Dead Pool" days, though it was a lot harder to see his good qualities in those (thankfully) far away times. And how interesting that someone associated so closely with the Right--albeit not the dumb-ass Right of George Bush--is making movies that express ambivalence about the glories of war and America's purpose in the world. If that don't tell you we're in changing times, then nothing does.

The other old hero …

You Gotta Move

My landlord came around tonight and told me that the people who own the Lookout want to sell it. Well, ain't that just great news to hear five days before your birthday! He says he has advised the owners not to put the house on the market before the Spring, but since the Estate Agents want to come around and value the place straight away, I'm not taking anything for granted. Gonna have to start looking for somewhere else tomorrow.

Which is fine. I've lived in the Lookout for three years, and though I've had some great times here, the really good times were a long time ago, when you-know-who was still with me and our love was young and insane. I've had some fun since she was last here, sometime last April or March, but it's not really been the same. So if she's not going to warm the chair at my computer table anymore, maybe the time is ripe for packing the saddlebags and moving it along.

But moving's no fun. It's stressful trying to organise it, plan i…

Whisky Gaps

I have interruptions in my memory which I refer to as "whisky gaps." So many things fall through them these days. So why can't I lose the memory of our love?

Iraq: Who's Really to Blame?

On the anti- side of the Iraq debate we compromise ourselves sometimes by appearing not to have a grasp of the complexities of the situation over there--it isn't another Vietnam, people. And too often, because we are either ducking the complexities or we really don't understand them, we seem to be blaming our own side (if, as human beings, we can have a side) for everything. Other than as a result of their own paranoid monomania, it's the main reason why those on the side of Bush and Blair think we're a bunch of stinking radicals who want to overthrow the government and set up a kingdom of radical Islam.

Personally I would rather Church and State were separated whatever the church. George Bush proves how dangerous a politician can be if he thinks God is talking to him. I don't want a Christian government (though I'd be more in sympathy with it), and I don't want an Islamic government. Nor do I want anarchy. I may be inviting accusations that I've turned …

Beards For Peace

Image
That's right. It's the new peace campaign that every man wants to be a part of! Wish you could do something about the disaster in Iraq? Want to keep the pressure up on the Bush and Blair governments to bring our troops home? Grow a beard! It's a symbolic gesture to show your individualism, your independence, and your brotherhood with the innocent Muslims being slaughtered in the streets of Iraq every day. (No, it's not British and U.S. troops doing most of the killing, not now, but it's a situation we created and then failed to control; and even the British Army has admitted that our presence there "exacerbates security problems," or whatever the phrase was.)
The anti-war/ anti-Occupation lobby has made huge progress on both sides of the Atlantic--maybe more in America than here. But if we turn the heat down on our respective governments now the Occupation could go on for years, and how many more Iraqis--how many more British and American troops for that …

a little poem for yer

Picking up my journal a while ago, I realised I didn't know the date, so quickly scribbled off this little poem.

time blurring.
days and years all sliding into one.
tonight with heartburn
listening to arthur 'big boy' crudup 1950s blues
thinking of the railway club:
drunken teenage nights listening to rock 'n' roll,
avoiding the fistfights in the lobby.
electric blues riffs and cars passing through the steady rain
heading for the shortest day december 21st,
when spring starts inching back
to light the evenings--.

Adios, Pig

So Pinochet is dead. Shame.

Doctors say he died with his family at his bedside. That's more than the thousands murdered in his name got to enjoy when they breathed their last.

Margaret Thatcher must be bereft to have lost another of her dear old friends.

An Explanation

I hope people understand that when I'm knocking Christianity I'm not knocking Christ. It seems highly doubtful to me that the two are synonymous.

**NEWSFLASH!** SANTA IS REALLY THE DEVIL

Here's one for you. I heard from a Christian I know that Christmas cards depicting Santa aren't acceptable because Santa is an obvious misspelling of Satan. The Devil isn't as clever with his disguises as we thought, boys and girls!

I pointed out to the person that you couldn't get the letters of his surname to spell anything sinister, unless SLUAC worries you, but apparently that is not the point. The laughing rotund white-bearded gift giver who comes down your chimney on Christmas Eve will be the Devil, and the Santa/ Satan thing proves it. Gives a whole new meaning to, "You better watch out/ You better think twice," or whatever the song says.

The Spirit of Christmas

That sense of something special in the air hasn't gone away today, and I was expecting it to. But I can't explain what it is; it defies analysis. Once you get into conceptualising anything, anyway, you go off into your own mind and lose your connection to whatever it is that's out there: Zen people have been telling us that for centuries. MU!

All I can say is that to me it's like some sort of electrical charge hanging everywhere that somehow carries all our collective hopes for ourselves and our loved ones, all our secret dreams and delights, all the things about us that are good and open and giving rather than sad, cynical and lost. There's an intimation of the love and tenderness of all the generations that have come before us in the air as well. Step anywhere and it's like the dead are close enough to touch. I could feel it walking around the Disney Store in Northampton today, with kids running around everywhere and Kermit the Frog singing something from one …

Christmas: Damn, I Think I've Figured It Out!

I'll tell you something I've figured out today. Christmas is the big chance everybody gets each year to put all their past screw-ups behind them and figure out how to be a better man or woman in the coming year. Jesus died on the cross to prove the resurrection, right? To show that with faith and selfless love you can have a new life. Now, I'm no theologian, but it seems to me that message can apply to you whether you believe in Heaven or not.

As for the consumer orgy that Christmas has become--which I and a million others have defamed as murderous to the traditional spirit of the season--well, yeah. But put on Sinatra singing "O Come All Ye Faithful" or Elvis blues hollering through "Santa Claus Is Back In Town"...feel the cold nipping your fingers...and tell me honestly that there still isn't something about Christmas, some kind of strange magic in the air that isn't there the rest of the year. I don't know if it's Christian or Hindu or…

IRAQ DREAMS

i.
slime. my world is mud and slime.
crawling thru barbed wire on my belly
frightened as a rat.

ii.
slung out of an alleyway: a dustbin!
bomb! the crowds scream and en
masse rush out of the way.
my mind races: to that parked car?
what's in the car???!!
if i follow them, the car will blow.
i press my back into a doorway.
"i'm scared," i tell my dark friend.
fear defines me like a name.

Which Side Are You On?

It amazes me that so many people don't belong to trade unions in this country (or anywhere.)
Seems almost willfully perverse to me. Or the height of naivete. One day it will be you hearing the Man's footsteps behind you. And you are not the Man, though you might wear cheap imitations of his clothing. He will squash you like a bug when you stop putting money in his pocket.
Here's a suggestion. If you don't agree with trade unions, give up the benefits you've got because the unions fought for them. Like a livable wage. Like paid annual leave. It's a bit hypocritical to enjoy the fruits of the labours of people you disdain, after all, don't you think?

Ronald Baatz Publishes New Book

Concrete Meat Press of Knighton, Leicester have published a chapbook by my favourite American poet Ronald Baatz. It's called "On The Back Porch" and it's very good indeed. 50 short poems (but not the haiku one usually associates with Ronald), about love and loss and death, all told in that funny/lyrical/ sad/ surreal/ orientally-influenced style that makes the Baatz ouevre so compelling and distinctive. He's American poetry's best kept secret, thanks in part to his own desire to remain beneath the literary radar; and if you haven't encountered him yet, you are missing something. Take it from one who knows.
No price is quoted for the book. Contact the publisher for more information via their website: http://www.concretemeatpress.co.uk .Oh, and tell 'em you were referred by a poet friend of Ronald's who has a chapbook of his own he'd like to place with some congenial Press.

The Meaning of Life

Watching the children coming out of Wilby school tonight--remembering me running home from school in Little Harrowden 35 years ago--exhausted after spending the day working at a job that does nothing for me except pay my bills, I thought: What a shit stick we're handing the younger generation! What is there waiting for them except the ritual of wasting their best days going to and from meaningless jobs, enduring insufferable company, being put down by people who deserve to be hit with a shovel but you can't because in the absurdist hierarchy of the workplace they've somehow risen to the top? What is waiting for those delightful, free-living, tousle-headed kids except the gradual diminution of their will and their energy, their joy, in shops and warehouses and offices performing, ritualistically, over and over and over again, totally pointless tasks just so they can earn enough money to survive to continue performing the pointless tasks?
All of which is true. Capitalist soci…

Monday Morning Notebook Observations

wind sweeps
the overgrown
december
garden bushes

a full yellow moon
over the woollaston
secondhand car garage

a black man
with a long-handled
comb in his hair
adjusts his
baggy trousers
in the mirror
by the basins
in the bus station
lavatory
at 7 a.m.

from my journal, yesterday

Poetry Readings

I don't think I've mentioned it here yet, but it bears repeating even if I have. Come January I will be reading poetry at the Labour Club in Northampton, first Wednesday of the month (whatever date that turns out to be).It's just me, a few loose leaves of poetry, a microphone and an audience of (I hope) appreciative listeners. Anybody who's in the area should come along. Hear this s**t read out loud by the man responsible for it (and pelt him with oranges).

My hope is to turn the performances into a regular thing. Maybe one day if I combine performances with a little freelance writing, I can even quit the money job. Today I've been discussing another gig with a Northampton event organiser, so it's not beyond the absolute, outer realms of possibility that a few more might come along, and on a regular basis.

We shall see. I have to get past the first gig first, and not die a huge and horrible death. After that we can talk of glory.

Oh, the point of this entry was to…

It Was Cold As Hell Tonight But The Women Were Lovely

i'm sprouting beard hair
like an unkempt bush,
growing my grey tresses
down my neck again
and roaming towns at night
in a big warm military coat.
sitting in bus stations
reading knackered paperbacks.
a girl i care for says, "you
look like a bag of shit
bruce. why don't you shave?"
i am happier
than i have been in months.

Rosa Who?

Something great on the BBC website yesterday. They have an "on this day in history" feature, which is always interesting if you have a curiosity, as I do, about politics and world affairs generally. But yesterday it said something like: "On this day in 1955 a black woman in Alabama USA refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. Her action helped to begin the Civil Rights movement in America." So, she didn't have a name? She still hadn't done enough to be identified as an individual person rather than a representative of her race? Try Rosa Parks, dummies.

Oh, before you race off with the impression I'm being politically correct, a glance at other events from the same day in history on the site shows that everybody else DOES get a specific name. A black friend tells me that the woman in the picture isn't even Rosa Parks! We've come a long way, kiddies, but there are miles to go before we sleep.

Martin Hodder On Elvis

I've been following your utterings on the web thingy and at last I've spotted some comments with which I wholeheartedly agree. "Listen to Elvis as though you're hearing him for the first time," you suggest. Well done!

As someone who DID hear Elvis from the absolute beginning, on Radio Luxembourg, I can assure you that the impact was profound, and very much more so than was the case with any of his contemporaries. I can't remember precisely how it affected me, but it was obvious from the very start that the songs of Elvis Presley (as he was referred to then, of course) were in a class entirely of their own.

I remember when the film Jailhouse Rock finally made it to Ipswich. I hadn't long known Mum then, and of course we both wanted to see it. I couldn't go, because the week it was on I was working a shift (I was a police cadet then) that didn't finish until 10pm, and there was nothing I could do about it. So she went on her own, and I dashed from the…

Silly Accident #2

There's a line in "Howl" about throwing your watch away to cast your ballot for eternity and then having alarm clocks fall on your head every day. This is my life at the moment. I made fun of Ruth a while ago for being accident prone and since then I have had two accidents so ridiculous they wouldn't have been out of place in a Laurel & Hardy film. So either I am being punished for mocking her or my brain tumour is beginning to make itself felt.

Last time, as regular readers know, I fell down the stairs in a Northampton bar (and I wasn't drinking, wiseass.) Today, I was picking something up behind a mechanical gate as it opened and stepping aside quickly so as not to get pinned between the gate and the wall, I fell over, catching my leg on an outjutting piece of gate iron, ripping my trousers and doing something queasily unpleasant to my knee as I sprawled to the ground. And twenty feet away there was a beautiful woman watching--just the audience you don't…

Vicky Stuart And Joe Woolley: Proving Northampton Is Really The Capital Of England

While we're on the subject of music, which we usually are, try these two Northampton-based musicians: Vicky Stuart (http://www.myspace.com/vickystuartsingersongwriter), and Joe Woolley (http://www.myspace.com/joewoolley ). (No, I'm not working for bloody Rupert Murdoch, it just happens that musicians and poets are flocking to MySpace in large numbers, and that's where you'll find the internet home of these folks.)

I don't know too much about Vicky, though I like her voice and the few songs she's posted. I know Joe and have seen him play, albeit in his own living room. He's a great guitar player who's been listening to the best folk, jazz and blues for a thousand years--despite being somewhere in his twenties--and absorbing everything he's heard into a distinctive, and impressive, style. He also sounds more English than Syd Barrett when he sings. If there's any justice in the world, which of course there isn't, he will inherit a small kingdom …

The Elvis Presley for Martian Ears Game

Have you ever tried forgetting everything you think you know, and everything you remember, about Elvis Presley and listening to the music as if you've no idea who he is and it's the first time you've ever heard him play? You really should. When you do, he's fantastic.

They called him the King of Rock 'n' Roll for a good reason, kids. No one ever even came close.

New Novel By Wred Fright Excerpted On His Site

The first chapter of Wred Fright's new novel "The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus" has been posted for your reading enjoyment at Wred's MySpace site (http://www.myspace.com/wredfright ). You owe it to yourself to go and read it, particularly if you're as bored as I am by the literature coming out of mainstream publishing houses these days. This book'll never make Richard & Judy's reading list. Why? Because it's funny, inventive and if chapter one is anything to go by, terrifically well-written.
Cut it out, Wred. Don't you know how passe those qualities are?

Stray Shots, Late

I have absolutely nothing to offer anyone. Not even a particularly sharp mind anymore: I have noticed a steady diminishing of my brain power in the last couple of years--memory loss, declining concentration, a fairly constant feeling of woolly tiredness...I haven't penetrated to the root of an idea or felt a mastery of any subject for so long now, the likelihood of there having been days when I could do that has all the credibility of an improbable rumour.


This I am absolutely sure of: that the spread of evangelical Christianity is a poison which eventually will contaminate the world, first by discrediting Jesus' beautiful message--which it already has done with most reasonable people--so that people who might have believed will be made to suffer spiritual crisis and alienation, and then by enslaving society with its ugly, intolerant, right-wing political agenda.

Never Blog On A Cold Sunday Morning

Never blog on a cold Sunday morning when it's still dark outside and you have woken up alone with a twelve-hour shift ahead of you.

All night there were dreams of frustration and failure. All night the tap dripped into the saucepan in the sink downstairs, waking you with its insistent rhythm. And now the idea returns yet again that you are not with the woman you love, she is drifting further and further out to the peripheries of your life. And whose fault is that? Great work, poet.

It was always meant to be her, you and her, in a nice house together, out in the country somewhere. Everything you have done since, with other women, has been an effort to put you into that scene--but it just has the ring of compromise now. That retreat, that idyll, has no meaning without the one it was meant for.

Like I said, never blog on a cold Sunday morning. The noise and distractions of the day will wind up obscuring these truths even from you, and then you'll feel such a fool for sharing them.

I Got My Next Month's Pay Slip Yesterday

I realised something this morning, comparing my present situation to that of a friend who's in trouble: it is a miraculous thing just to have enough money to take care of your needs for the coming month. Having enough cash--unless something terrible happens-- to feed, clothe and heat your body for the next four weeks is a hell of an achievement, and something a person can be proud of. Yes, there is the longer view, and you do have to give some consideration, at least, to the future; but rest a little while in the glow of what you've done so far. Some people don't even know where their next cup of tea is gonna come from.

The Age of the New Pilgrim Fathers is Coming: Look Out, Beatniks

Someone I know said the person they would most like to meet is Jesus Christ, so that they could find out what He actually said. Me too. Half the time when I hear Christian people talking about themselves and society I can imagine Jesus leaning down out of Heaven and saying Don't associate me with that crowd!

There was a reverend on the radio this morning saying that Christians were now a persecuted minority in England. A minority, maybe, but persecuted? Really?? "This is a Christian country!" they will say, which sort of undermines the argument that they are in a minority, and harks back dangerously to an England that existed before multi-culturalism--was that the true England, people?. "We're a Christian country and yet we can't wear crosses at work! But try telling a Muslim they can't wear blah blah blah."

It seems to me that Christianity has staged a phenomenal comeback in the last few years--and thanks, largely, to the arrival of large numbers of …

Omens

I fell on my arse tonight. I was coming down the stairs in Lloyds Bar and my feet, wet from the torrential rain outside, slipped and sent me sailing. I landed heavily on my backside in front of the evening drinkers at the tables near the stairs, jarring my back and wrists, hurting my thumb too somehow. And when I got up and attempted to navigate the rest of the stairs I fell again. It had been a bad afternoon all around. I'd walked three miles in the wrong direction trying to find the house she lived in and the rain came down with such vengeance the streets were soon running with pools of dirty water. By the time I actually found her street and got her (via text) to answer her door I was so cold I had those shivers that travel right to your bones and won't stop however many layers of clothing you put on to make yourself warm.
Even before I fell on my arse I should have seen the omens and realised what a rotten date it was going to be.

What The Devil Is Christmas Anyway?

Am I the only person in the world who doesn't get Christmas?
What's it for?
Wasn't it supposed to be a Christian festival many moons ago?
If it's not that anymore, what is it?
You say Happy Christmas, but if it is just another day in the calender and no longer represents anything, isn't that the same as saying Happy Tuesday?
If Christmas is just what it appears to be, some kind of celebration, what is it a celebration of? Capitalism?
I'm supposed to show you I care about you by buying you the new Pirates of the Carribean dvd? What does the gift I get you demonstrate other than my buying power? And how do I acquire the buying power I have? by being resolutely good all year? (see previous post--you can call me an old leftie if you want, but it seems to me that the higher your buying power, the more a) morally compromised or b) plain evil, you are likely to be.)
I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be clever here, but I really don't understand what Christmas is about…

Wake Up

Okay. We've been through the clever post-socialist age where we allowed ourselves to believe that "there is no society," and collective effort drags everybody down collectively, and in our meritocratic system anyone can rise to the top if they put their shoulder to the wheel and work hard etc. etc. etc. We've allowed ourselves to believe that wealth "trickles down" and if the captains of industry are liberated to forge ahead without any restrictions, everybody down to the lowliest office gopher or floor sweeper will eventually get a goodly share of the pie. We've been through that, and though I resisted it and decried it at every step of the way, it was probably a worthwhile experiment. Probably. But you know what? Enough is enough. There's too much injustice now. Too many bosses firing too many employees without so much as a twitch of their conscience (unless they're the worst sort of boss, the liberal jerk-off who gets a kick out of the power …

I Can't Write A Happy Poem For S***

I've never really solved the problem of how to write good poems about happy things. For example: I had a lovely afternoon with two friends on Saturday--drinking, talking, eating, watching the sun set over Northampton town centre--but could I write about it afterwards? No. I tried three or four poems and they all came out as superficial, smug, lacking in impact. But if I'd gone to meet them and we'd argued, or somebody at the next table had stabbed her boyfriend in the eye with a capuccino spoon, I'd have produced a killer short poem by now.

Why is that? Does it speak of the received wisdom we have in the post-existentialist age about what is and isn't intellectually serious? (Comedies very rarely win movie awards, after all.) Or am I just a poet with a limited range? Any other writers out there struggle to give the good things in their life the same treatment as the bad in their lyric strains?

Beauty

A friend wrote to me the other day saying "poets have the gift of seeing beauty everywhere, even in ugliness." Well, that's not how we tend to think of it these days, but terminology aside, it's true. What else is happening--I mean other than the perception of some kind of beauty--when you're sitting by the window in a bar and it's starting to get dark outside, and you cast your eye over all the people packing the tables in the fading light--some beautiful, some ugly, some smiling or staring keenly at a lover across the table, some chattering, some lost in their own thoughts or looking like they wish they were dead--and you see them all, all at once, and there's something about the tableau of everybody seen in that moment in their various lives that you know you're going to have to put down on paper, or on the computer screen, when you get home? What is happening there other than a perception of a kind of beauty?

Waynespeare

Anybody see Wayne Rooney's performance for Manchester United in their 2-1 win over Sheffield United yesterday? Explain to me how that doesn't qualify as poetry.

06

As we drive through the minor roads looking for the way to Minehead, the radio plays "What's that coming over the hill? Is it a monster?" You turn the volume up, and everybody starts to shout the words. The driver jerks the wheel to make the car zig-zag in the road. You raise you arms and move your body round, dancing in the passenger seat.
To our left the grey sea glitters in the morning light, then disappears behind a sudden bulge of Southern land as we reach a crossroads and the speed we're going forces an unexpected turn.

Walking

Walking up a hill everybody else is walking down, heading into a cold-silver winter sunset.

Fat Kid

That boy has to beat his sister when they race home after school. To everybody in his own class he's just the fat kid.

Company Man

If there's anything more spineless and despicable than a company man, I haven't seen as much of life as I'd thought. And I've seen a great deal of life, friends.

I'm packing my rucksack and heading out for the back country.

The Third Reich Is Alive And Well

Believe me, I have seen it in operation today.

I hope I am never so far up my own arse that the sight of a terrified girl doesn't make me want to run home and question everything I have ever believed.

Workplace Narcs

If that's as far as your grand ambition goes, do it for free--for the goose bumps it gives you to be so righteous, for the sanctity of those lofty values you're protecting. Don't do it for money. That's ugly. That's "taking the king's shilling," as the Irish used to say.

Night Rain Sketches

Behind me the booming voice of a student high on beer and the nearness of a beautiful girl. In front of me the road, chrome and paint of cars illuminated in yellow street lights, wipers raking across the wide front windows of the night bus, sweeping off the rain.

It's a poem of sense and movement--stepping off the bus onto the pavement, yellow leaves pasted to the tarmac by the rain, flipping my hood up over my head as I turn into the wind and start walking, heading for my home.

Party Kids

That gang of kids behind me on the bus, just out of a birthday party, full of beer and party food--won't be long before most of them go through their front doors quiet and alone, leaving their joy outside with a sense of stabbing hurt.

One Muhammad For Ten Of You Mothers Any Day

The newspapers today have photographs of my childhood hero Muhammad Ali arriving somewhere or other supporting himself with a zimmer frame. At least one paper attaches the word "sad" to Muhammad in the headline.

NO! You can't describe anybody's waning years as sad when they have lived their lives as gloriously as Muhammad Ali. He did more in a few short years than the rest of us achieve in decades, and he still glows like an immortal.

Muhammad said once that if he'd been a dustman he would have been the greatest dustman in the world. It just happened that he was a boxer. He had achieved his greatness because of will, pride, integrity. And his message to the world--to the black world particularly, but also to the rest of us--was that by finding the aforementioned qualities in yourself, you became master of your own fate.

Which, in the words of another Ali admirer Hunter S. Thompson, is "very high thinking."

But that's not really why I love Muhammad. I lo…

Remember, Ladies And Gentlemen

Democrats need to avoid ugly triumphalism after their trouncing of the Republicans in the mid-term elections in the U.S. Remember, ladies and gentlemen, this victory was won because of the dead in Iraq. Is it appropriate to raise the flag of victory over the most tragic battlefield in thirty years of war?

CONGRATULATIONS AMERICA

Early reports suggest that right-thinking people have done a good job at the polls. The House of Representatives has now gone to Democratic control. As I write this, we're still waiting for results from the other House.

Well, two Houses would be great, and it would help tie the hands of that malevolent dimwit George Bush (and by extension his masters), but losing the House of Representatives alone weakens his position. It's harder for any political leader to drive through his extremist policies--and make no mistake, Bush IS an extremist--if he has to convince a chamber full of men and women predisposed to oppose him.

Now the Democrats have to do something with the trust that has been placed in them by the American voters. Influence the Republicans to change direction in Iraq (and with Afghanistan, and Iran, and North Korea--and whoever else they are turning their guns on this week.) Stand up against any more of the macho posturing and expansionism that has made the world such a …

LISTEN, AMERICA

Go out and vote today!

Tomorrow it may be illegal!

and next week the world may go up in flames.

You think it's not that serious? Wake up and smell the oil burning.

Pick Up The Tempo

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"THE COMPLETE ATLANTIC SESSIONS "
by Willie Nelson
(Atlantic/ Rhino R2 73383)

Ah! There's a world of forgotten brilliance in these 3 cds! They're reissues of albums Willie released in 1973/ '74 just as he was transforming himself into the artist we know today. Cutting loose from Nashville, growing a beard and long hair, creating a style and a sound that would get rednecks and hippies into the same concert halls at a time when American society was polarised enough to make that kind of thinking revolutionary.

So why are these albums so brilliant? Maybe you have to know where country music was, or where Willie was. Maybe you have to know where the world was. Or maybe you just need to have a certain sort of mind. But across the three albums--Phases & Stages, Shotgun Willie and Live at the Texas Opry House--you get an attitude that is simultaneously rock and country, hip and redneck, cosmopolitan and out of the deep woods, with spins on country tradition that extend …

Abandoned By Auntie (Part 2)

Readers are reminded that part two of my phenomenal essay "Abandoned By Auntie" has been published today by the ULA at http://www.literaryrevolution.com . Go read. Enlighten your bad selves.

"I Don't Believe It!"

Whoa, who's that who snuck in and wrote yesterday's "Saturday Ruminations"? The 45-year-old alcoholic Kerouac temporarily resurrected? Or Victor Meldrew?

We all have a bit of the Victor Meldrew in us, my boys, and as we get older the portion increases. But all the person I have woken up as this morning (you can never step in the same human twice) would change about yesterday's post is the language--though I'm not going to. The language is too aggressive. It uses too many of the buzz words of the right wing hatemongers.

I do believe that education has let young people down, and I also believe that as more emphasis is placed on vocational training in schools and colleges, the further let down the young people will be: education should be designed to create a rounded man or woman who can be trained to work once he or she is ready.

And I also believe that boundaries need to be set. This doesn't sit comfortably with my well-rooted libertarian streak--and I know A…

Saturday Ruminations

50% of older people smile at everything. Even walking down the street alone, they're smiling. It's as if they're hearing divine music played on angelic violins (which at their age they may be.) Either that or age has just addled their brains. The other 50% of old people smile at nothing. If they're well fed, they're cross. If the sun is shining, they're cross. If the rain has stopped and there's a beautiful rainbow arcing over the horizon, they scowl. If their granddaughter is giggling in their lap, they look sour and annoyed.
I wonder which type of older person I will be, if a miracle happens and I get that far? Though I think I know. I'm already bitter and twisted, and I'm only 41.

************** ************** **********************

Why do groups of young people standing outside late-opening corner shops look so threatening? Because you know that walking past them you'll have to run a gauntlet of abuse and mockery, at the least. And we read …

Fox Hunting Returns Today. Let's Help The Police Police It

Today is the first day of the nex fox hunting season in the U.K.

Remember, that "sport" that the Government banned?

Except they didn't. In a typical Tony Blair tightrope walk designed not to displease his conservative friends while appeasing the rest of us, hunting with hounds was banned. The hunt as a unit could still ride out and the hounds could go with them; they just aren't allowed to hunt the fox with the hounds anymore. At least, that's how I understand it.

However it works exactly, the law is ridiculous, and easily flouted out in the back country--particularly with a police force that has neither the resources, nor (I would guess) the will to monitor what's happening. And I hear the law is being flouted, although on my side of the discussion exaggerations are as much of an occupational risk as they are with the idiot red jackets who warned that hound packs would be destroyed if the law was passed.

But hey, to employ my famed journalistic objectivity for a…

Too Much Ordinary (2)

Am I suggesting, in the post "Too Much Ordinary", that mainstream people are smaller, in the sense of philosophical grandeur, than those of us who are either on the fringes of the mainstream or completely underground?

Seems to be that position is unsustainable, on some levels (does anyone else argue with themselves like this?) I don't know that I have anything in my head or in my heart that's BIGGER than those people, even if they do read the Daily Mail, listen to Pussycat Dolls, have nothing to say on anything that Alf Garnett couldn't have said more eloquently 40 years ago. They still love, probably more freely and with more maturity than I do, and love is really the only thing that matters on a high philosophical level, given that human civilisation has been characterised by hatred and destruction and alienation since it all began, and remembering that we all live in the long shadow of the grave.

Maybe what I should have said, or would have said if I hadn't …

Country

You wonder what the country's got that the town hasn't got?

Ah, I wish I could show you that tractor I saw last night rolling over a field of knotty grass towards a bleeding orange sunset.

Too Much Ordinary

I spent some time tonight discussing the question of artistic purity with Tim. Whether the guitar players and writers who make a living that is at least related to their craft are more committed and less corrupted than those of us who don't. Well, I tried to make it living on the dole in my dad's house (rent free), and I failed. I spent most of my time lying in my room watching clouds pass over the rooves across the street, or hanging out in coffee shops in Wellingborough having fantasies about the waitresses.

I would still prefer not to work. Not at what I do now, anyway. But a writer is a writer if he writes. The issue is whether or not you are able to maintain your independent mind, your sense of yourself as a creative person. Which is hard when you have to become some grinning corporate cardboard cut-out, assuming (to get your wage), values you don't have or are actually violently opposed to. But if you can do it, if you can preserve your mind, it doesn't matter how…

What If?

What if, ultimately, it's just you? What if, when all the rationalisations are done, you're just a no good, self-obsessed, immature, misanthropistic twat, and everything that's fallen apart in your life is your own fault? What if?

No, it couldn't be. Could it?

My Essay Published By The ULA

I have part one of a new essay called ABANDONED BY AUNTIE published on the main website of the Underground Literary Alliance (http://www.literaryrevolution.com ) today. I don't normally brag about my publications here, but for some reason I'm particularly proud of this one. Go over and have a look. And while you're there, check out the links to members own sites. The ULA has a roster of some of the best new writers in America.

God Interview

I once read a magazine that did an interview with God. The first question they asked Him was, "What's Bob Dylan really like?"

I Saw This

I saw this note tucked under a car's windscreen wiper just down the road from me this morning as I walked down the hill to the supermarket:

THANKS FOR PARKING SO CLOSE. NEXT TIME LEAVE A FUCKING TIN OPENER SO I CAN GET MY CAR OUT.

Brilliant. Except the car was completely on its own on the hillside, sharing space only with loads of sheets of newspaper blowing around on the grass and into the empty road.

NB I don't think I'll be asterisking swear words anymore. Either I will use them, or I won't. The idea was to stop kids from happening on words they shouldn't see, but very few children would be foxed by the machiavellian substitution of an asterisk between the 'f' and the 'ck' in 'fuck'. And as I recall, I knew all those words by the time I was 5 or 6 years old. I also knew there were places where it was okay to say them, and other places where you might earn a smack for the same. Children aren't as stupid as they look, you know.

Hang On, You Want Even MORE Power?

The news reports today that the British police have asked for "sweeping new powers" to deal with large scale protests. On their shopping list is a request for covering the face and flag burning to be made illegal. Oh, and the nature of the slogans protestors put on their placards (though how you would police the latter, since it would always be a matter of judgement, I don't know.)

This is what has been happening, subtly (if you're not paying full attention), since those planes went into the twin towers in 2001. Government and other enforcers of authority have been using Terror (or "TAIR" as George Bush pronounces it), as an excuse for furthering a right wing political agenda that existed before the Terror and is an extension of their own misanthropic temperament.

The BBC are presenting this story with images of protests by Muslims earlier in the year about the cartoons of the Prophet, but the laws would have applied, equally, to the demonstrations against th…

God And Yours Truly

I went past a church in Wellingborough today. One of those modern ones with funky names: The First Assembly of the Church of Pentecostal Witnesses of God's Revelation of Heavenly Truth--something like that. Lord how they make you long for an ancient church spire with dusty brickwork and a weathervane turning slowly in the breeze.

But anyway. Passing it I reflected on my attempt to embrace Christianity this summer, and I thought: was that really such a wrong turn for me? can the memory of it all be erased and written off as a prolonged moment of madness attributable to depression and close proximity with a powerful Christian woman?

Well, no, I don't think it can. I was attracted to the idea of God a long time before I met her, and now that she's out of my life I still long to discover (but not yet), that there's a Heaven presided over by an omnipotent but loving Father, and that when I get there I'll see my mother again (and maybe Pascale Ogier.) It's an incredibl…

Where I've Been

It's been an unusually long time since I posted anything here--well, by my standards anyway: most bloggers are away from the keyboard for a few days between posts.

I've actually been doing some interesting things. Had a trip to London on Thursday and that produced an essay I'm still working on called AMONG THE SAVAGES OF HACKNEY.

I've also been working on, and finally producing, a new Beat-related page to take the place of THE BEAT. I was having so many problems posting over there: sometimes I would write a long post and lose it the moment I pressed "publish." Which is a waste of my time and creatively maddening. So THE BEAT has come to Blogger under the new name WHOLLY COMMUNION and features, today, the continuation of my campaign to get Nicosia's MEMORY BABE back into print. Find the site at http://whollycommunion.blogspot.com

In the last few days I've also been having conversations with my friends at the Underground Literary Alliance (see link on the …

listening to ragas with mohammed

my pakistani friend says
"in my country, this
music is for old people."

he likes something
with a pop inflection
those western beats,
they must be overlaid.

i say, "george harrison
established, ragas are
for tripping to.
smoke one and listen."

he demurs. that boyish
grin the women
seem to like so much.

he leaning west, me
(i?) leaning somewhat
to the east
yet both of us
archetypal products
of countries we
could never truly leave.

he says, "i feel
like people think
i am a terrorist
when i go into
a pub alone."

his face saddens
for a moment,
then he manufactures
a smile from
the memory of ages

while the raga
builds and builds.

The Northampton Scene

I used to wonder, with a modesty that is typical of me, whether I was the only one doing anything creative in Northamptonshire. Then I picked away at the surface of Northampton life and found out that there were loads of creative people doing loads of interesting things. And as is usually the case, most of the good things being created were coming from the young.

Marvellous

I've been reading Andrew Marvell today. Took him with me when I went to work in the darkness this morning and read him on the bus home. Verbose little buggers, the poets in Marvell's day. Their poems never stop. But unlike somewhat later but equally effusive poets like Keats, Marvell doesn't really have much of philosophical or poetical interest to say. The poems are like elegant newspapers. I can't recall a single idea or image from anything I read today that caught my eye.

But it's a pleasant enough confection, still, and artful in its own pedestrian way.

The History Boys

I saw the Alan Bennett movie "The History Boys" the other day. I was a big fan of his "Madness of King George", but I didn't like this one so much. It was intelligent enough, with wonderful dialogue--at least when the teachers were talking--but sooooo sentimental in its portrayal of the boys. They weren't like that in English schools in 1983. I know, I was at school only two years before. It's a very middle-aged hang-up to look back wistfully at youth as a time for young lions roaring with innocence and beauty. As I remember we were uniniteresting, unintelligent, overly-competitive malevolent little shits. And we would have bottled any teacher who tried to grope us on a motorcycle. But maybe that was particular to my school.

I didn't like all the singing either. I know the film came from a stage play, but the falseness of its original form kept intruding on the reality of the cinematic presentation and reminding you that you weren't looking in on…

The Old Man And The Doll

So there he is. A private old man being strangled by grief. A naive man, perhaps, having been closed off from the world by his creative gift: he'd stopped mixing with other people to any extent that might be enlightening or instructive for him around the time when men his age are usually just starting to learn life's hard lessons. He is a sitting target.

And here she comes. Not necessarily cold and calculating, but definitely determined, a survivor, whose victories have been earned with her looks and the charm she has a knack for projecting. She has to maintain the image of herself as doll-like because that is what has seen her through. She knows this on some level and it makes her angry, angry at the misrepresentation of her true soul. But she has to force the anger down because anger doesn't belong in the doll.

Does she know what is real and what is the doll? Is the real itself a doll? She subsumes her doubt in the belief in higher causes.

Here is the ultimate opportunity f…

Shotgun Willie Campaign To Stop The Slaughter Of Horses

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American readers might want to go to http://www.myspace.com/willie nelson to see how they can participate in a campaign the godfather of hip is promoting to stop the slaughter of American horses for consumption abroad. As a vegetarian I find the distinction between slaughter abroad and at home slightly erroneous (much as I love you, Willie), and I don't quite get why it's okay to eat cows but not horses, but while holding onto your own beliefs, you take any steps towards the furtherance of your cause, however faltering, as highly welcome, don't you? Willie, along with Kinky Friedman, Kris Kristofferson, John Corbett, Edward Asner and all the other signatories to the open letter of protest about the slaughter, reproduced at the MySpace site, are to be congratulated for taking a moral stand. At least a little bit of the killing might stop as a result of their efforts. above picture courtesy of willie nelson dot com.

Your Way

Captain Pike has an illusion and you have reality. May you find your way as pleasant.

(Line just heard on Star Trek.)

Confessional Blogs

Have you ever found yourself discussing celebrities quoted (as Mel Gibson was) saying offensive or silly things and thought, My God, if everything I said was recorded and held up for public scrutiny I'd look like the biggest racist, sexist, lying, pyschotic hypocrite in the world?

Then don't write a confessional blog, children (perhaps you've reached that wise conclusion without me.)

Someone said a poem is a graph of the mind moving. So's a confessional blog. The problem is that every movement of your mind is recorded, however stupid it might be, however much you might pass through that to a position that contradicts it completely.

Which is the same progression made by everybody's mind. But for most people the twists and turns and little nuances of each transformation are lost. All they are left with is the overarching memory of an event based on whatever mental orientation they have at the moment they consider it.

That's a much more comfortable position to be in,…

Paedos Beware! There May Be A Democrat Near You

I read in The Independent today that the Republican Party in America are running an unofficial smear campaign against Democrats with big leads in the run-up to the mid-term elections on November 7th, accusing several of them, bizarrely, of encouraging paedophilia in many and tenuous ways. What?! Yes. Paedophilia. And how are they encouraging it? By going on marches attended by paedos. Or by endorsing civil liberties organisations who have defended the right of NAMBLA (National American Man Boy Love Association), to talk complete bollocks in a democratic society (did you know kindly old owl-like Allen Ginsberg was in NAMBLA by the way?)

This is a hopeful sign for America. It is such an act of impotent desperation on the part of the Republicans to adopt these disreputable, sleazy tactics to defeat their (slightly) more liberal counterparts, it demonstrates beyond any doubt that the cause has been lost: these crazed evangelical dunces have lost the puritanical new white world they were tr…