Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Another Jack Sparrow? Johnny, Johnny, Johnny

I read the other day that Orlando Bloom has decided he won't sign up for the fourth (count 'em) Pirates of the Carribean (I don't know how to spell that), but that Johnny Depp has. So we will be regaled with still more adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow in 2010 or 2011, if any of us are still around.

Hmm. I can't say I'm terrifically excited by that prospect. I loved the first movie; but I was bored to death by the second one. And needless to say when the third one came I stayed at home and probably watched Dead Man again.

All of these big budget Hollywood movies look the same to me anyway. But Johnny Depp had impressed me consistently prior to the first film by choosing movie role after movie role that no mainstream hero would have touched. He'd acted with Brando; he'd associated himself with Jack Kerouac; I think he'd played John Wilmot by that time as well, unless I'm getting my chronology confused. He seemed to be one of us, in other words, a member of the counter-culture (as it can no longer be called with any accuracy) who'd broken through to the mainstream because of his good looks, and was now dedicatedly turning all of its conventions upside down.

And Jack Sparrow, when first seen, was a great comic creation, however predictable everything else in the movie seemed to anyone with a memory longer than a goldfish with learning difficulties. To base a movie hero, and a pirate at that, on Keith Richards was an act of brilliance.

I expected him to use the fame and money he got from the global success of the movie to go onto even bolder things than he'd achieved before it. Instead he did another Pirates. And then another, with as far as I can remember one decent movie in between, though no great role to prove himself as an actor of genuine talent, rather than a gifted and hip mimic. And now we get a fourth Jack Sparrow? The unscrupulous bastards who sell phoney mass-production dreams at huge prices in the Disney stores will be rubbing their hands with glee.

The mistake, of course, was to expect anything from Johnny in the first place. It was our desires, our needs, our fantasies, we were projecting onto him; he was always the man who one day would sell out and become the Steve Martin of the fashionable world. If we want to turn the world on its head we have to do it ourselves, and how many of us have the balls to do that?

Not me, with the well-rehearsed catalogue of deceptions and compromises I take out into the world just to keep a roof over my head.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gordon's Bye-Bye By-Election: Here We Go Again

Yesterday saw the profoundly depressing spectacle of a huge swing to the Conservatives in the Norwich by-election. (Should that be "bye-bye election" since it signals how crushing Labour's defeat next year is likely to be?) The victorious candidate, Chloe Smith, was compared to Margaret Thatcher by a reporter interviewing her and she didn't even bother with the liberal doublespeak David Cameron has been using since he took over the Party to distance himself from that odious oligarch. She just smiled and looked rather flattered.

Blimey. If anybody compared me to Margaret Thatcher I'd probably punch them in the face. But times have changed, and the memory of the average citizen is short. I spoke to a thirty-year-old a few days ago who had no idea who Marlon Brando was. People vote anyway, thanks to capitalism's overwhelming victory over Christianity and socialism, for their own benefit and with little regard for the general well-being of the nation or the world. "There is no such thing as society" remember? Or they identify their own well-being with the world's: if my pockets are bulging, in other words, all must be well. As if money were even close to being the most important consideration when it comes either to personal happiness or national contentment. You might say it helps not being poor; but lucky you if you're not. There has never been a time in this country's history--particularly not under Margaret Thatcher--when one person didn't eat his bread at someone else's expense.

I can't blame the voters of Norwich, however, for turning away from Labour. Not from their own selfish, uninformed, historically amnesiac perspective anyway. Labour are a mess, and their leader is a figure of ridicule. Even when he tries to express passion he looks half-asleep. He is stubborn, arrogant and he's been wearing the clothes of the Conservative Party while talking the language of Labour for so long he doesn't seem to know what he believes anymore. I probably won't be voting Labour at the next election either, whether it helps the Conservative Party get one more seat or not, because I couldn't bring myself to commit an act of such wanton hypocrisy. Labour needs to be defeated so that it can get rid of the last of the New Labour brigade and clean the Cabinet out of all the spineless careerists and yes-men who've attached themselves to that crumbling old project for personal advancement. It needs to sit down dazed and bloodied and figure out what the hell it believes again, instead of stumbling on with its politer version of Thatcherism, which has only widened the gap between rich and poor and destroyed the social fabric of the nation anyway.

It's just a shame it didn't do that when Blair stepped down and there was still time to save Britain from five or ten years of David Cameron.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sway: Some Notes on Rock & Roll In Babylon

Listening to different cds to take to Emily's hippie-themed party tonight. Nothing in white music has surpassed what the Rolling Stones and the Beatles and Bob Dylan and the Velvet Underground did in the late 60s/ early 70s. It has that edge which intelligent music gets when it has gone beyond commercialism, gone beyond the housing estates of your childhood, and the frowns of mayor's wives dunking biscuits at civic functions in little English towns...I haven't heard any gone-beyond white music for a long time now, though there have been some fantastic bands.

At the time of "Sticky Fingers" the Rolling Stones were more radical, more subversive, more musically interesting, than any band other than the Beatles (and you don't count them).Writing and singing about sex and drugs when Nixon and his Silent Majority--with their ironed white underpants--were sending boys to die in a meaningless foreign war was a radical and important thing to do. They were helping blow the lid off the repressed human desires which made Nixon and Agnew and all their followers hate so violently everything that was vaguely different from them.

Of course, it's less valuable as an artistic statement now everybody smokes weed and most people indulge their every sexual whim like children stealing cake. The free pursuit of personal gratification crosses most cultural barriers within the overarching mainstream white-dominated post-Christian world. Racist bedwetters and tattooed pagan mud-worshippers alike take drugs and fuck like tomorrow has been cancelled.

This is how the nasty, abrasive fundamentalism of Christian and Muslim evangelisers has been able to take root in the minds of those who weren't invited to the party. Because to the outsider, it seems like we're living in Babylon, Kali-Yuga--though of course that's an illusion; Buddhists recognise that everything goes in cycles, and if the End is coming then the Beginning must be just around the corner.

Whose was that great condemnatory phrase, mouthed in the Sixties about the Love Generation: "a free-for-all fucking epidemic"?Is that necessarily a bad thing? Sign of irreversible moral decline in the nation-- a greater indulgence in our sexual desires, the separation of sex from materialistic or even animal ideas about survival through territory and possession?No, actually, on an intellectual level, though I would rather not share my lover with anybody else.

The main thing that's wrong with British society now, as far as I can see, is not that people are having too much sex, or that Straight people (as the term was used in the Sixties) are taking as many drugs as the hippies; it's that there's not enough genuine unselfconscious freely-given compassion. (All you need is love, remember?) Too many people seem to think that everybody except them deserves everything they get. That poverty is the sign of a moral deficit in whoever it visits. That all kids are murdering scum. That all kids who aren't murdering scum are obnoxiously privileged. That all foreigners are lazy. That all Muslims are terrorists. And that everybody who knocks on your door wants something it is your job not to give him.

That's the fearful, paranoid, privatised, every-dumb-fuck-for-himself capitalism we've been glorying in since the hippies went South for this longest of winters.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Donovan: Jeez, Thanks For All The Work, Man

I just finished reading "The Hurdy Gurdy Man", Donovan's autobiography, which they've been selling cheap in HMV just lately--presumably because of all the typos some publishing dimwit left in the finished copy.

I'm not sure too many people remember Donovan. But boy would that run counter to the proposition he seems to be advancing in the book, which is basically that he was responsible for damn near everything that happened in the Sixties. He invented Flower Power, he led the Beatles away from formulaic songwriting, he went electric at Newport before Dylan...he even opened the Doors of Perception for a whole generation to walk through.

Shame all we got after he did this sterling work to raise human consciousness was general illteracy, rape and murder in the streets and "Britain's Got Talent", but there you are.