The Rarest Thing: an Insightful Nirvana Article at 28 Years’ Distance

https://www.inquirer.com/news/kurt-cobain-nirvana-heroin-courtney-love-death-suicide-anniversary-20220405.html

I haven’t posted about Nirvana much in quite a long while. Essentially, being consumed by the topic on a daily basis, long into each night after work, left me quite ’emptied’. I’d spent hundreds of hours manipulating spreadsheets of data to provide answers or, at least, suggest thoughts about questions I had about the band’s career. After about half-a-decade, I was done.

One other factor was that, after that kind of prolonged focus, I needed to move on mentally – there are new challenges, new topics. I found myself seeing articles and realising it was increasingly rare they were spinning my head or turning my mind. It’s precisely the reason I never post on Cobain-related anniversaries – I’ve never felt my voice was so special that the world needed one more generic remembrance or space-filling anniversary post…

…The above piece by Abraham Gutman made me glad I never completely relinquished my attention.

It succinctly summarizes Cobain’s life and how a privatized healthcare system fails to intervene with the appropriate treatments that could save lives. Even a cold heart just focused on economic dollars and cents should be able to recognize the vast wastage involved in leaving people either unable to function, or meaning that families lose a care-giver and wage-earner.

Gutman also provides a good summary of his argument on Twitter in extended form:

Beth B’s Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over Comes to U.K. Cinema

Finally! Britain at last gets a chance to absorb Beth B’s fascinating film on the life and work of Lydia Lunch. 28th October, I’m off to The Barbican in London, for the U.K. premiere showing – and because I’m curious to hear Lydia speak herself in the Q&A portion.

Music is a conversation between kids and their parents. Each generation bounces between reacting to, making peace with, ignoring, or stepping beyond the sound of their forebearers, embracing the wholly new or remaking what is past to create something they can call their own – sometimes the gap can be as vast as a conversation between a young adult and a never-met great-grandparent, sometimes as small as a reaction against the taste of an elder sibling in an effort to define teenager self. A small number of people then step so entirely outside of the past that they become the figures future generations need to reckon with. Lydia Lunch is one of those figure who – through force of will – have made themselves timeless and their creative works an unsettled source of creative intrigue to be revisited because it avoids easy conclusions.

https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2021/event/docn-roll-lydia-lunch-the-war-is-never-over-screentalk

Beth B’s films have, over the years, grappled with the legacy of relationships, power, what those who have been wounded are compelled to do in order to lift the burdens placed upon them. From outside in the land of the uninjured, the actions of the damaged can feel incomprehensible and confusing when, with empathy, there’s a sense to be discerned. It doesn’t fit into the glib language of wellness and healing either, what is broken can’t simply be fixed and just because it offends or discomforts those with lesser problems doesn’t mean it should be glossed over or replastered to give a smooth impression.

The image of ‘scales of justice’ weighing elements against one another to come to a single decision is such a ridiculous, overused, and ultimately harmful concept. Often things simply don’t connect. The good doesn’t balance out the bad, the two simply co-exist separately even when we’re referring to a single body. Your charitable donations, good deeds, and humanity doesn’t cancel out your venality, selfishness, brutality and greed – credit and criticism are due in equal measure and there’s no need to tidily merge the two. Watching Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over, what I was struck by initially was the way in which New York City mirrored the psychic state of so many who found themselves in the arts scene there. Yes, the city was dangerous and damaged and gave little succor to polite society – but it was also vibrant and energetic and imaginative too.

Beth B’s film reflects both those sides simultaneously, the ways in which both these sides co-exist within Lunch’s work across multiple forms of art over several decades. The film also refuses to demystify Lunch’s creative drive, it isn’t a crib-sheet or quick note – there’s no easy way into such a sprawling catalogue of music, spoken word, literature, theatre, film. The film exists as its own artwork with Lunch at the centre exploding outward in all directions and giving you, as the viewer, a sense of her spirit and concerns…But no tell-all striptease or over-simple revelation.

What I appreciated most about the film was its humanity, the kindness at its heart, the possibility of defending the weak against the strong without letting anyone off their bullshit.

I’m hugely looking forward to the showing at the Barbican in London on 28th October – featuring a Q&A with Lydia Lunch herself – and heavily recommend getting over to see it on the big screen at any of the nine U.K. showings.

https://www.docnrollfestival.com/films/lydia-lunch-the-war-is-never-over/

Dave Foster: A Formative Nirvana Moment

Who was handling drums the first time the name Nirvana appeared on a show flyer?

Who was drumming the first time Nirvana played a show in Seattle?

Who was the guy on drums when Jonathan Poneman and Bruce Pavitt of Sub Pop decided they were worth a single?

Dave Foster was drummer for Nirvana during these key moments. A tight three-four months in 1988 saw the band make the jump from the obscurity of Grays Harbor County and gigs around Tacoma and Olympia, to the biggest city in the north-west right at the moment when it entered its ‘Rock City’ moment in the spotlight.

People forget that there were a lot of talented bands circling the Sub Pop label at that time, there’s a tendency to genuflect before ‘unique genius’ rather than recognising that a constellation of circumstances have to come together in order for anyone to get a shot. In Nirvana’s case, being friends with Melvins got them elevated levels of attention; Melvins friendship with Jack Endino got them recording time; Endino’s friendship with Sub Pop got them label notice; Ryan Aigner driving the band around so they could make shows outside of their home area got them into Seattle; the U.K. music press deciding to make ‘a thing’ of Seattle brought attention and opportunity to town; Novoselic’s talent as a bassist and entertainer (as well as his height!) drew notice; Cobain’s talent as a song-writer, vocalist, guitar player and performer (and how closely he fit the long blonde hair/blue eyes mode of American idols) made a difference…

…But the other factor at work in that moment was having a really powerful, reliably heavy and accurate drummer in the form of Dave Foster present. It’s noticeable that Cobain, in his Journals, specifically acknowledged how good a drummer he thought Foster was. It’s rare, in his private notes and unsent letters, for Cobain to note someone’s qualities. He was usually too busy gently skewering people.

I’m always intrigued by the early phases of a band. Once a band is famous, their sound has usually solidified into a known quantity, the line-up becomes relatively sacrosanct, there’s maximum attention and minimum mystery. The early days, however, are where there are the crucial left turns, the doors left unopened, the possibilities abandoned. The drummers in Nirvana certainly intrigue! For starters, there’s Bob McFadden, the gentleman Novoselic and Cobain start practicing with in earnest in autumn 1986 but who leaves after a handful of practices:

An Interview with Bob McFadden: Nirvana’s First Drummer

Then there’s Aaron Burckhard who comes on board – likely in late ’86 – and allows the band to really solidify, get a proper set-list worked up, is with them for their first radio session (which becomes an early demo tape), works on the material that winds up becoming the January ’88 studio demo – the groundwork to becoming a full-time working band. Of course, in that spell, Nirvana still aren’t playing regularly or consistently.

Then there’s the deeply valuable guest spot from Dale Crover who vouches for them in order to get them into Reciprocal. He also gives Cobain and Novoselic a sense of what they could do if they had a dependable presence on drums. That’s where Foster’s skills really come into play. Quite a few of the songs – ‘Big Cheese’, ‘Mr. Moustache’, ‘Sifting’, ‘Blew’ – that would mark the Bleach-era of Nirvana seem to be created with Foster drumming and they definitely fit the ‘Sub Pop sound’ more than Nirvana’s more difficult early songs (‘Blandest’ also seems to arise in this period.

Of course, it’s not surprising Foster’s contributions are unacknowledged. Firstly, there’s only the one known live recording from his time on drums – a real gap not yet filled by anyone coming forward with tapes. Next, he was gone before Nirvana wound up in a studio so the majority of people have never heard his work with the band. Third, disparaging remarks, highlighting youthful indiscretions, appeared in the book Come As You Are mar the perception of his efforts. And, of course, Foster has never been willing to stand up and speak about his time in the band – in his absence it’s not really surprising little there’s little to say. By contrast, Aaron Burckhard has made a concerted effort to connect with fans, give interviews, ensure he’s acknowledged within the Nirvana story. Maybe it’s time for Foster to tell his tale in one form or another?

The Music of Kevin Drumm Matches the Moment

https://kevindrumm.bandcamp.com/music

One of the lyrics that floats through my head quite often is “what happened to us? We were the kings of the back of the bus and now it’s just massage music in your house,” from Steven James Adams’ song ‘Kings Of The Back Of The Bus’ (Old Magic, FortunaPop). There’s more functional sound than ever flooding the world. Muzak infiltrated our ears and minds initially as the wallpaper against which we shopped, wreathed in over-hyped and poorly measured claims about altering our purchasing decisions. Now, it’s increasingly invited into our homes as generic accompaniment for exercise, yoga, meditation, a myriad other activities. Sound voids disconnected from the act of listening as an active engagement with creative art. Mindfulness, a worthy endeavour for those requiring a little stillness, has become a trojan horse for the robotisation of sound production which is the desired end goal of firms like Spotify who benefit if they can cut out payment to record companies or artists (from an already low benchmark).

It’s a shame given this extended COVID moment, with it’s alternating surges of distorting noise/stress/tension matched by the stripping away of distractions and interjections, is a great time to experience music capable of mirroring one’s mental state. That’s what I find in the work of Kevin Drumm.

https://kevindrumm.bandcamp.com/album/suspension-massive-swarms-of-jellyfish

Recently I’ve been aiming to invest $2-3 dollars a couple times a month in Drumm’s 152 release-deep back catalogue on Bandcamp. His recent monthly missives in particular are all falling in a 20-30 minute zone which feels like the perfect release from day-to-day concern, without requiring a vast ‘stepping away’ from work or life.

What I love about the work is that, when I’m tense, I can let thoughts go and follow the small sounds and intricate detail within a piece like ‘By Way Of No’ (released in March 2021):

https://kevindrumm.bandcamp.com/album/by-way-of-no

Likewise, when I’m chilled out, the music can stoke energy and power, I whip the volume up and it consumes the room with this gargantuan weight. Either way, it rewards this diversion from the day, the deep listening reveals layers and choices and slalom rides orchestrated and designed by the artist. It’s ambient music without the wishy-washy emptiness of so much mindful muzak, that supports a unique independent artistic path rather than corporate sound production.

I’ve been intrigued by Kevin Drumm some 20 years now. I admire the decision to devote himself to a particular approach to sound, one that is so malleable and flexible, that can manifest in so many ways (how about the classic ‘Sheer Hellish Miasma’ for heaviness…?) and has been pursued to the nth degree. An artist of stunning power and whether you’re a noisenik or a meditator, a metalhead or a contemplator of healing crystals, there’s a sound you can live within whether the desire is to go up, or down.

https://kevindrumm.bandcamp.com/album/sheer-hellish-miasma

Zvuki and “Musicians for Belarus”

https://www.zvuki.ru/R/P/81338/

The Russian language music publication Zvuki is inviting musicians to support the ongoing struggles in Belarus with their statements of support and videos.

If you would like to support the campaign, or would like to share this with artists and musicians you believe would be interested, please do so. I’ve included below the statement provided by Editor-in-Chief/Publisher at Zvuki, Sonya Sokolova as she says it far more articulately than I:

Hello there, Sonya Sokolova, Zvuki.ru editor-in-chief is here!

I am reaching out to ask if you would consider participating in a media campaign that we run together with our fellow musicians from all over the world.

The campaign is aimed to support the people of Belarus in their battle against the dictator regime and to inform the society that has taken a consistently tough stance against human rights violations and aggressive response to peaceful protest, what horrible things are happening in Belarus.

History is now in the making in a country of 9.4 million people located in the center of Europe. You surely know that, following Alexander Lukashenko’s illegitimate election win, police forces violently suppress protests. When people stood up to defend their vote in a blatantly rigged presidential election on 9 August 2020, the authorities responded with a wave of unprecedented violence, leaving at least five dead, hundreds wounded and more than 30,000 detained – all likely an undercount as the government terrorizes citizens and hides the true scale of the oppression. I would very much welcome that you participate in the campaign of support, organized by Zvuki and the YouTube channel World Online Festival.

We already have Blitz Union from the Czech Republic, James Kennedy from the UK, Esma from Italy, Faith No More from California, MD & Healers from NY – and hundreds of others.

How to participate: please record a horizontal (!) video with a couple of encouraging phrases and attach a video with any song (live or a pre-recorded music video). Feel free sending me the link on exchange platforms like Google Drive to sonya@zvuki.ru


Thank you for your time and consideration! Cheers, Sonya Sokolova Zvuki.ru Publisher

Not My 2020 Recommendations

Sometimes I get asked by music magazines and websites to contribute to ‘best of’ lists and I always have to decline. It’s nothing personal about the format, it’s just that the majority of what I watch, read or listen to each year is rarely new or from that year. I’m usually ploughing deeper into some specific furrow of my own, delving back into stuff I might have missed or that might fill out an existing collection or interest, serving my tendency to fixate on an artist or writer for a time until I feel I have a grip on their work. It makes me feel that fixating on “new in X year”, I’d be consciously ignoring all the “not from this year” stuff that I’ve really been enjoying in favour of a false new-new-new.

So, with that in mind, I just thought I’d list ‘stuff’ that I found interesting or entertaining in 2020 regardless of when or where it came from. I’m doing so while listening to My Cat Is An Alien who – with their release of The World That IS And IS NOT – remain consistently excellent.

Urusei Yatsura have released a load of quality Bandcamp material in 2020 including a much required second compilation of their b-sides and rarities:

https://www.popmatters.com/urusei-yatsura-can-you-spell-2646921459.html

Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree’s Names Of North End Women was a delight from start to finish:

Dais Records provided a couple of highlights in their excellent remastering of Coil’s Musick To Play In The Dark Vol. 1. It’s great to see a reissue where the polishing applied allowed me to hear more than I ever had before in a record I’ve been obsessively listening to for two decades. Drew McDowell’s Agalma managed to always tug at my ear and keep me listening deeply. The three-disc The Doctrine Of Maybeness release by Aural Rage (aka Danny Hyde) is still keeping me exploring.

My finest record store score of the year was acquiring Volume I and II of Vinyl On Demand’s Viva Negativa! tributes to The New Blockaders. That provoked quite a bit of renewed listening: VLZ Produkt’s Live At The Rammel Club, Opal Tapes’ Live At Cafe Oto, 4iB Records’ TNB+K2 release and so forth. Vittore Baroni also kindly sent me the Enrico Piva Anticlima box-set, a real labour of love and stunning tribute to a deceased friend. Meanwhile I drank deep of Étant Donnés – including the film work of Marc Hurtado – culminating in the Marc Hurtado/Pascal Comelade Larme Secrete album:

Anything else great? Yep! Lingua Ignota, Jagath, the Jimi Hendrix Live In Maui compilation, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop CD box-set, Dead Neanderthals album Polaris, The Stooges Live At Goose Lake and the box-set You Think You’re Bad Man?, I was really surprised by the Cathedra Time Was Away compilation, Alcest’s Spiritual Instinct, Trunk Records’ Christmas mix CD (I buy these every year – they’re consistently great), Rico Nasty’s new album Nightmare Vacation is awesome, the song ‘Trollz’ by Nicki Minaj (who I think is the finest hip hop artist of the past decade bar none – https://www.popmatters.com/nicki-minaj-greatest-rapper-decade-2645966150.html) and Megan The Stallion/Cardi B’s turn on ‘WAP’ was great too.

TV-wise, I keep watching the works of Nigel Kneale (I’m looking forward to watching Beasts, which I received at Christmas), a fixation which started when I found the whole of The Stone Tape on YouTube:

Penda’s Fen shows its age but was also intriguing, as was the reissue of the 1989 TV production of The Woman In Black. Lockdown led to strange fixations: watching ALL the Halloween movies, ALL the Nightmare On Elm Street films (which hold up really well), every episode of Family Guy, all of Tarantino’s movies…I don’t have particularly sophisticated taste it must be said.

Book-wise, the only thing I particularly miss about living in London was the underground and buses (on which I spent a couple hours at least each day without fail) was a perfect environment for uninterrupted reading. Being home, I find it hard to not get distracted by book work, my actual job, by life in general. I’ve been delighted by Timeless Editions’ new book The Universe Is A Haunted House: Coil Through Their Art And Archives:

I spent quite a bit of time on music reading: Reed’s Assimilate, Hegarty’s Noise/Music, Micro Bionic and Unofficial Release by Thomas Bey William Bailey, Fight Your Own War about power electronics, John Lydon’s I Could Be Wrong I Could Be Right…And my fiction reading remained centred around Adam L.G. Nevill’s excellent horror work. I’m still enjoying PanzerWrecks volumes on World War 2 panzers as well.

The Stooges Still Rule

A month back I did a big three-part piece summarising the known rarities recorded by The Stooges 1969-1974. In a gloriously timely moment, I learnt around the same time that there was a new five-disc compilation coming out from Cherry Red Records bringing together a bunch of the key live recordings from the band’s final six months. I took the chance to review it here for PopMatters:

https://www.popmatters.com/iggy-pop-stooges-road-tapes-2648939016.html

Meanwhile, if you want to dig deeper, take a look at ‘Rounding Up The Rarities’:

The Stooges: Rounding Up The Rarities Part One

The Stooges: Rounding Up The Rarities Part Two

The Stooges: Round Up The Rarities Part Three

They’re all pretty long n’ detailed so probably only for Stooges fanatics (who likely know most of it!)

I’m just hoping that Cherry Red are going to get involved pulling together all the other outtakes and demos that were put out on various labels in the 80s and 90s. There’s been a lot of re-releasing gone on but it’d be good to see a quality label curate them properly because even I’m not game to go down the rabbit hole into the mass of random compilations out there.

Basic rule: for The Stooges, if you want to go beyond the three main albums (all of which can be readily found with a wide array of outtakes and alternate versions), start with the Easy Action label’s Heavy Liquid box-set, then that label’s live compilations and this new one from Cherry Red. After that, some of the newer represses are decent summaries but I think I’ll wait in hope that some get a grip on the scruff of the neck of The Stooges.

In terms of the best stuff that didn’t wind up on The Stooges’ albums…The material they were touring at the time of their 1971 breakup all sounds enticing but can only be heard in noisy live iterations on the You Don’t Want My Name You Want My Action box-set. After that, you’re into the Raw Power-era: start with ‘Gimme Some Skin’ and ‘I’m Sick Of You’ – then head into the early ’73 rehearsals for ‘Head On’, ‘Open Up And Bleed’ and ‘Emotional Problems (AKA Wild Love, or My Girl Hates My Heroin)’.

The Long Threads of QAnon Conspiracies

As a fan of outsider musicians, fringe music scenes, and alternative cultures, I’ve always been fascinated by mainstream responses to ‘the weird’. In essence, a majority of people are trying really hard to fit in and avoid standing out: it means, when young, they don’t get bullied or abused, and it’s the easiest path to avoid loneliness or the weight of criticism or self-criticism. Most people just want to hide. The model is instilled that the way to avoid such consequences is to present someone else as the target. There’s also guilt and shame involved in suppressing oneself, knowing one isn’t brave enough to fully be oneself – again, it’s easier to send that anger out into the world rather than living with it directed inward. That can happen in small ways, the gentle (and unfounded) claim that to attempt something different is to be ostentatious, or a poseur, or in some way antisocial. It can also swell up into baroque fantasies that promote someone or something as a literal enemy because its easier than looking in the mirror.

The 80s were full of such incidents. The Judas Priest ‘subliminal messaging’ and Ozzy Osbourne ‘Suicide Solution’ court cases were absurd events rooted in the grief of families after the suicide of loved ones. In each case they tried to claim that a band had persuaded their children to kill themselves. Ludicrous stuff: there were no backmasked subliminal messages revealed when an album was played backward, the lyrics of ‘Suicide Solution’ tackle the negative consequences of alcoholism and were quoted incorrectly by the plaintiffs…In the end, families simply couldn’t accept their loved ones’ actions or the more complex realities of mental health. Then there was the even more extreme case of radical musician Genesis P-Orridge. The Channel 4 investigative series, Dispatches, claimed to have video evidence of P-Orridge and his associates in the pseudo cult Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth abusing children and sparked a raid by the Obscene Publications Squad. P-Orridge wound up having to leave the U.K. permanently despite Channel 4 being embarrassed to learn that the video in question was an art piece Channel 4 itself helped fund in the early 80s that didn’t show anything like what was described – they withdrew their allegations. There’d already been the 1987-1990 police investigation, Operation Spanner, where various men involved in private BDSM practices and body piercing were investigated, arrested and charged for what were entirely consensual activities. As is typical when it involves the liberties and freedoms of people outside the mainstream, the court ruled that it didn’t matter that all the people involved had consented, the need to punish deviance took priority.

The backdrop to all these cases was an increasingly hysterical belief in Satanic Cult sex abuse which wound up diverting resources away from the support and protection of actual victims of abuse. The idea that there was this mysterious group of ‘outsiders’ mutilating, abusing, even cannibalising and murdering children led to police investigations in multiple countries…And not a word of it was true. You saw echoes of the same ‘projection’ in 1999 when Marilyn Manson and fantasias about ‘trenchcoat mafia’ bullied weirdos were blamed for the Columbine High School massacre rather than looking at how easily two kids with major mental health issues, who blended in easily, acquired major league weaponry.

More precisely, what it pointed to was very broad awareness that child abuse was indeed a significant issue inside churches and other acceptable and respected institutions of mainstream society. What had happened was that people were unwilling to confront the political, economic, and social power wielded by their own institutions. They were also unwilling to look inward and confront the problems rife in the mainstream – to do so would have required them to take responsibility. In retrospect, everyone claims to have spotted that Jimmy Savile, Britain’s most famous serial rapist and pedophile was odd, what they ignore was that the reason he got away with it was because he WASN’T odd, he was a friend of the establishment, closely connected to the Royal Family and to senior politicians, a buddy of local police leaders – incredibly normal and conservative and so acceptably normal that he was a TV institution for decades. Instead, it was far easier to present popular entertainers, those of different sexual preferences, the marginalised and the excluded as weirdos and culprits rather than looking at what happens when ‘the normal’ acquire power. As ever, the marginalised are more likely to be victims but that didn’t matter. They served a purpose in allowing people to maintain their own illusions of purity and to evade questioning those who had succeeded within the conformist model of society.

Now, here we are 30 years later, faced with QAnon – it’s a virtual reprise of the 80s Satanic Cult panic. The basic claim of QAnon, underpinning bland virtue statements about “stopping child abuse”, is that the Democrat Party in the U.S. and global elites everywhere are Satan-worshipping pedophiles and that President Trump is engaged in a secret war against them. Bleugh.

The elements are pretty obviously rooted in a refusal to take responsibility for failings on the U.S. right. First is the idea that a mythical and hidden ‘other’ is out to get people’s children. The identification of the Democrat Party with people of colour and other minorities makes it overtly racist, homophobic, and ridiculous. It incorporates homophobic illusions about men going with young boys, ignoring that the majority of sexual abuse is heterosexual, familial, and rarely conducted by strangers. It also rests on anti-Semitic cliches about Jews running the world (Zionist Occupied Government) – again, pushing responsibility for society’s failings onto someone else.

There’s a refusal to take seriously the proven criminality and corruption of President Trump or his associates – something demonstrated in court over and over again in recent years. Instead, it’s his enemies who are the criminals, the worst kinds of criminals, and – as required – one can project that idea onto all parts of government, the entire justice system, the law enforcement system. Anyone and everyone who has been a part of investigating and prosecuting the repeated crimes of the current U.S. leadership is part of the ‘deep state’ and not just that, they’re f***ing kids. For QAnon believers, accepting that they were part of electing a criminal/criminal enabler to office would require self-evaluation and critique, so it’s easier to believe the worst of those who point it out.

Finally, it’s a matter of fact that Donald Trump was friends with, or associated with, any/all of U.S. high society’s key providers of young/borderline female flesh for social or sexual occasions. The reports of voyeurism, groping, unwanted touching, outright assault, payment for sex in relation to President Trump has been substantial…So, QAnon projects all of that onto his opponents. It’s no longer him who is the sexual predator with appalling views and approaches to women, there’s a bizarre oneupmanship involved in making it his enemies who are secretly in league with Satan and feasting on children – QAnon means that even if someone accepts, or doesn’t completely dismiss, allegations against Trump, they still get to claim his opponents are worse.

While British defenders of Prince Andrew make absurd claims about him being in a Pizza Express in Woking (where no one recalls seeing him and there’s no record of his visit), hands being photoshopped into pictures, deny the record of him being seen with a sex trafficking victim, ignore the bizarre sight of him meeting a convicted sex offender in a park like they’re Mafia members avoided bugged rooms…At least they engage with the evidence however dimly. In the case of QAnon, no evidence is required. If one is unwilling to believe that one has been part of electing a criminal pervert to office, or if one desires absolution, then the only answer is that all his sins, and one’s own, can be flung over the fence onto ‘the other,’ the outsider who threatens you by making you face and take responsibility.

It’s comical, in a way, that so many people would rather believe in a secret level to the world – one that would require impractical and absurd levels of complicity – rather than just accepting the overt and obvious. It’s visible in the invention of ‘antifa’ as another all-purpose bogeyman, at the same time as ignoring the minimal amount of violence that has occurred during the Black Lives Matters protests; while ignoring the shootings, intimidation, kidnap/murder plots, attempts to spark police responses by provocateurs… The only way to justify one side’s violence is to claim the other side started it, or were much much worse than evidence suggests they were. It’s why, in the U.K., the right stabbed and bludgeoned a politician to death – but then hark to the Baader-Meinhof gang of the 70s to claim political murder is a left wing thing (answer, it’s common to extremists of all shades, it’s just more common currently among those on the right including Islamic conservatives). The same is happening in the U.S. where right-wing violence is the most prevalent current, but honestly examining and evicting such lunatics comes hard when ‘they’re our terrorists.’

Making ‘the other’ into the threat to society and civilisation, one that can be manipulated to fit any scenario or personal inclination also allows a substantial number of people to ignore the extent to which the Republican Party has decided to overtly aim for a one party/one race/one religion South African Apartheid type system. Gerrymandering to try to compress undesirable votes, crippling the U.S. postal service, removing voting facilities from minority areas, fake dropboxes for votes, removing people from voting rolls, maintaining barriers to voting, adding ID requirements that will prevent people voting in order to tackle non-existent fake voting, encouraging one’s own side to vote more than once, reducing counting periods or stopping activities that would allow counting/organization to start before election day, court challenges to complicate and undermine faith in the system, stacking the courts to try to influence the result…it’s all a vast attempt to prevent people truly having their – already small – say in the running of the country. It’s justified by claiming the other side are the enemy of the country, even while one goes ahead and tries to damage the underpinning mechanisms of democracy. You don’t need conspiracy theories because it’s all so overt and obvious.

What we’ve seen in past years via the Panama Papers, Operation Yewtree, investigations into the U.K. housing market, the ongoing knowledge that the sex/drug industries are based alongside our key financial centres for obvious reasons (it’s where the rich people who can afford it are) is that there are massive public, overt, legal, and acceptable careers to be made hiding the money and socially unattractive activities of people with wealth. I’ve sat in expensive restaurants watching the gentleman dining with their ‘nieces’. It’s easier to believe in mystical Satanic cults and the complicity of ‘enemies’ rather than recognising what goes on publicly day by day.

None of this will go away regardless of tomorrow’s outcome. Every few decades we’ll see a major new myth take hold to avoid having to tarnish those identified most powerfully with ‘normal’ whether that’s the Republican candidate for government, or priests in local churches.

In Memory And In Hope Of Healing

A new song (and video) by Elizabeth S with a second vocal by Martyn Bates of Eyeless In Gaza – dedicated to the memory of Jules, the very dearly and truly loved partner of someone I respect who is suffering and enduring her loss.

The death of one’s loved ones is a paradox: we will all – every one of us – experience it…But the experience is entirely unique and private to the individual. I despise the words ‘I know how you feel’ or any equivalent of it because it’s a self-obsessed impossibility, we can only listen to the small part of grief that someone can transition into words and it turns out our language is brutally inadequate to the task. When faced with someone’s loss, all I believe we can offer is to listen, give signs that they are cared for and loved and that their loss matters, and to give presence.

We’re so used to filling everything with our own talking and broadcast, that ‘being there’ for someone in need is underestimated and underrated when really it is the only thing we can give to someone when they hurt. Don’t fill their pain with your words, just be there physically or down a phone line or in any medium…Adding human warmth and love makes a void less cold.

With every hope and best wish to Barry who is enduring such heavy loss.