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Politics & Current Affairs

Bad Medicine

Screenshot_20200327-091517_FacebookClapping for the NHS on our street was… interesting. I was thinking of my daughter and her fella, NHS nurses, risking their lives to save others. While choking on the rage and contempt induced by Tory-voting neighbours having the brass neck to join in. These people are morally and materially responsible for the NHS sagging on its knees and my daughter, Lorna, and her partner, Ben, facing increased danger, stress and exhaustion. If any of them were struck down Lorna and Ben would give them 100%. Because they’ve got humanity to spare. Me? Take a wild guess…

Next week, stay the hell inside.

And then there was the Prime Minister. A Conservative Prime Minister. Clapping on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street. On the same day that his government had rejected an opportunity to quickly procure desperately needed ventilators. Because it didn’t fit with their anti-E.U. dogma and denied one of their nom-dom backers the opportunity to make a few quid. An act of brazen and shameless hypocrisy, breathtaking even by the standards of the Conservative Party. These are the people who cheered and jeered and celebrated when nurses were denied a pay rise; whose previous leader, Theresa May, sneered at a desperate nurse “There is no magic money-tree.” Well, as we’ve seen, when it comes to helping the rich there is a veritable orchard at the back of 10 Downing Street. The money is there. It’s always there. The only thing required is the moral will to spend it for the benefit of us all. NHS staff, however, can wear bin-bags and risk death in lieu of the correct PPE. It makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it?

And then there are the sanctimonious fools who tell us that we shouldn’t make the NHS political. The NHS is political and always will be because it is the battlefield on which two radically opposed ideologies fight. The Tories despise the NHS; they hate it. They voted against its creation every step of the way and it’s why they’ve sliced-and-diced and privatised and underfunded it at every opportunity since. Because it is an affront to everything that is fundamental to the Tory party; that everything, even our very lives, should only ever be an opportunity for someone to make a profit.

It was created and should be defended ferociously for the simple moral truth that the right to be alive should not be allocated according to the depth of people’s pockets. It’s the most meaningless and stupid thing to say it shouldn’t be politicised. Yes, the Tories would love that, wouldn’t they? To reduce the NHS to purely a question of affordability; to strip it of its totemic power as a signpost to an entirely different way for humanity to organise itself; common ownership based on the needs of the many, not the profit of a few.

Sadly, England is stuffed with spiteful and terminally stupid forelock-tuggers. People who, consistently at every opportunity, prefer to bite the hand that feeds them but lick the boots that kick them. If Boris Johnson wrapped COVID-19 in a Union Jack, England’s bootlickers would slurp it up off a toilet seat in Wuhan fishmarket faster than they’d vote for taxing their beloved masters properly to fund the NHS.

So clap all you like, Tory stooges. Indulge in your insincere virtue-signalling and your shallow and meaningless public displays but let’s leave the last word to Ben, a community nurse from Nottingham: “Appreciate the applause but if we could all vote for a political party that properly funds the NHS that would be an even better show of appreciation…”

 

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Politics & Current Affairs

Sinking To the Occasion

So after a weekend featuring morons cramming seaside resorts to bursting point, pub-bores breaking the pub ban & selfish dullards filling National Trust sites like tourists on a Bank Holiday [breathes] BoJo is spaffing ink and paper to “ask” 1.5 million at-risk citizens to “as far as possible stay at home.” Meanwhile, a WHO bod has pointed out the infections in the UK are doubling every three days. He and his arrogant, privileged chums told us we had no need of experts. They’ve spent years sneering at ‘liberal’ academics and ‘left-wing’ scientists in every area from climate change to economics and guess what? We now have an arrogant sneering populace who pay no heed to experts and think they know best. They say we get the government we deserve. Well, Johnson and his Eton Rifles are finding out the hard way they’ve got the electorate they deserve.

This cowardly, criminally-negligent bungler is simply not capable of doing the job. Even if he wanted to. And the blustering bullshit/sulky resentment combo he exudes tells us he doesn’t.

This isn’t what he signed up for, you see. It was supposed to be a doss. A laugh. Like everything else in his contemptible, irresponsible & entitled life. Leave the wonks and the Civil Service to do the graft; tip a few quid to his pals in the City; rip-off the poor a bit more and then retire to the Lords. To ride another gravy-train free from accountability &andresponsibility.

He’s staggering to witness. Almost incomprehensible. Even for a Tory PM. He genuinely doesn’t give a damn how many die. And the narcissistic bungler doesn’t even have the humanity to fake it.

Mind you, I suppose if we’re all dead we really will have left the E.U. In the most decisive manner possible.

Pity you didn’t pick the other bloke and his fully-funded-fully-staffed-magic-moneytree NHS, eh?

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Politics & Current Affairs

Bootlicker Ballad

Don’t go to pubs (the posh boys drink elsewhere anyway) but keep the schools open because the peasants can’t miss work just to care for the apprentice-peasants. Gotta keep on keepin’ on for The Man, right?

And you actually voted for this filth. Because the burning need to see your demented hatred of foreigners assume institutional expression was more important than saving the NHS.

Stabbing in the dark here but I reckon when you end up looking at the world over the top of an oxygen mask – if you’re lucky – from a hospital bed – if you can find one – you won’t be too fussed what colour the hands that wipe your arse are.

Have you any idea at all of the complexity, the logistics, the sheer amount of zeros tacked onto the end of the number required to incinerate Iraq?

The zeros tacked onto the number required to bail out the banks?

Whatever it was, and it can barely be counted or measured, such was its almost infinite nature, they did it. They did it in a heartbeat. But the people you voted for consider your kids, your parents, your grandparents just so much disposable detritus. Where’s your bail-out?

My desires now couldn’t be more modest. Couldn’t be any more reduced. I have abandoned any expectation, even the wildest dream, of humanity realising its revolutionary potential & acting in concord as we lift each other toward the stars. I’d settle, in an instant, right now, for you to just stop licking the boots that kick us. Just that.

I could go on for hours & I probably will but I’d sooner put some joy back into this…

 

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Politics & Current Affairs

Rip It Up

The most far-right cabinet in our lifetime. Climate-change deniers, racists, homophobes, misogynists, religious bigots, fundamentalists and sabre-rattling Empire nostalgists.

A clown-car stuffed with demented nut-jobs intent on slicing and dicing the NHS and handing it over to that Mussolini tribute act in the White House; deregulating still further the tattered remnants of our employment rights and making the obscenely rich even richer still.

The only thing more sickening than them are the utter morons with barely tuppence half-penny to rub together who vote for them. Working-class people happy to vote for the people who despise them and see more disabled people bullied to death, more kids plunged into poverty and hunger; racist dunces unmoved by the deporting of our own citizens; just as long as they get their fill of anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner hatred.

Working-class people cheering for Boris Johnson (who proposes to fund the pay rise for his ruling-class mates by hiking up their national insurance contributions), their stupidity is breath-taking. But their lack of self-respect is incomprehensible. Johnson despises we peasants. He’s laughing at you while you fawn over him. I’d rather eat my own colon than have such little dignity and self-respect.
Pitiful.

“Ah but that Corbyn…” blah blah blah. “He hates the country.” Sadly, right now, England deserves hatred. This mean-spirited, semi-feudal, inward-looking, racist backwater; full of creatures suffering from chronic soldier fetish, obsessed with a dead Empire and absolutely deluded in their belief that hating foreigners and sneering at Europe will, somehow, magically, lead to sunlit uplands, a new Jerusalem; a demented belief that a bunch of decadent toffs, who stand to make fortunes from the disaster-capitalism spawned by a no-deal Brexit are, somehow, on the side of the working-class.

England, your England, is a sociopathic child, a dunce toddler, fed lies by its patrician overlords who will destroy the futures of your children and grandchildren, while the parents wave union flags spouting hysterical garbage about two world wars and one world cup.

The birth right of generations sold for the insane pleasure of misplaced, hate-filled, toxic nationalism. Utterly contemptible.

And the upside? Perhaps the break-up of the historical cockpit of imperialism and, finally, a united Ireland. The end of the jingoistic and reactionary United Kingdom. The destruction of this Septic Isle where the gammon hordes bray about democracy, sovereignty and the will of the people – ho ho ho – while fawning and simpering before their unelected and unaccountable monarch. All brought to ruin by the most racist, colonial-minded and white supremacist Prime Minister since Winston Churchill.

Beautiful, wonderful irony. No less delicious in its bitterness.

Come on, kids; rip it up and start again. Your futures depend on it.

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Culture Music

The Magic Flute: Opera North

Nottingham Theatre Royal
There’s a school of thought that a decent Die Zauberflöte stands or falls on the strength (or lack thereof) of Papageno. Personally, I’ve always found the character capable of being immensely irritating and the mystifying preference of some to ham it up only intensifies my annoyance. Tonight’s culprit – Irish tenor, Gavin Ring – costumed as a bizarre combo of an extra from Mrs. Brown’s Boys and Vivien from The Young Ones, should’ve seen me bolting for the bar well before the end of Act 1. That I stayed was a testament to the overall excellence of one of the best Opera North productions I’ve ever seen. And, to be entirely fair, to Mr. Ring who, despite the shudderingly ridiculous costume, delivered a performance of warmth and charm.

Capture

The Magic Flute is one of only two operas, three at a push, that I can stand in English translation and while Schikeneder might have wept oceans at the liberties taken with his libretto, Opera North delivered a superb production.

The sets, FX and costumes held up well against anything on offer at Covent Garden this season and the pacing was perfect.

Musically, the company rarely fails to deliver, and this production was no exception. Many highlights but, for me, the Three Ladies were outstanding.

The poniards, hoodwinks, cabletows and regular steps (and a ‘Festive Board’ I kid you not!) provided nudge-nudge-wink-wink enjoyment for any Freemasons in the audience but the honours went to soprano Samantha Hays. Her Queen of The Night – unusually, all intense vulnerability and stricken pathos – was mesmerising and commanded the audience’s sympathy. Well, mine at least…

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Music

Office Soundtrack: Search For The New Land

Morgan’s commercial success with The Sidewinder means that this date, recorded before but released immediately afterwards, is too often overlooked.

Morgan is in expansive and relaxed form and perfectly in sync with a flawless rhythm section comprising Billy Higgins and Reggie Workman.

By now, the world knew he could tear it up plenty, when the mood took him. But here, he mostly eschews the incendiary feats of virtuosity and, instead, swings and swaggers with a lyrical gusto. Almost reminiscent of the great Harry James.

Where most musicians induce tension via harmonic means, Higgins and Workman ramp it up by stretching the rubato to snapping point. Most obviously on Mr. Kenyatta, arguably the stand-out cut against seriously stiff competition.

No filler, all killer and one of Morgan’s greatest sessions.

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Music

Office Soundtrack: The Colour Of Spring

Japan and David Sylvian blew my mind. I used to listen to Obscure Alternatives, an album I disliked intensely, just so I could then play Gentlemen Take Polaroids and sit and wonder how the fuck they got from there to here. With just the stepping stone of Quiet Life between the two.

Bowie, at least in any serious way, was still a year or two down the line for me. Bryan Ferry, too. And Lou Reed and Eno as well. Maybe if I’d arrived at Japan and Sylvian chronologically they wouldn’t have seemed so other worldly. Who knows? Who cares…

But all my retrospection had been duly done by the time this came my way and still it hammered me. Like something from the great architect of the musical universe himself. It was something that shattered expectations, conventions and understandings.

And even the music itself, eerie & aching with all the yearning of one soul reaching out towards the rest of us, was still less than the sum of its parts. Not since Miles Davis did a musician understand the power of absence like Mark Hollis; the devastating impact of emptiness and the transforming force of the note unwritten; the note unplayed; the note unheard but always felt. But it had to be that way. Those big, haunting spaces made room for all the humanity he crammed in.

R.I.P. Mark Hollis. The world just got that little bit darker.

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Music

Office Soundtrack: Hush!

I bought this purely for Child’s Play. A spirited & infectious freewheeling work-out with Byrd and Coles; both of whom are clearly having a high old time.

The Duke himself, however, always passed me by. No doubting his lyrical feel & melodic sensibility (still less his skill as an arranger) but his improvs too often erred on the side of caution and in a time and place crammed with so much incendiary talent his minor status was pretty much assured.

This, though, is a delight and offers more than just the Byrd/Coles showcase. The short format suits Pearson perfectly and, the irritating fade-out on Angel Eyes aside, represents one of his most enjoyable sessions.

Conventional? Yes. Predictable, even. But a tight, compact session fizzing with energy and high on melody.

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Politics & Current Affairs

White Trash Bonfire Night

grenfell-tower-group-burns-model-on-bonfire

A gang of guffawing racists burn a cardboard replica of the Grenfell Tower, complete with nudge-nudge-wink-wink brown cardboard victims. Recently, too, a woman bludgeoned and battered by a dozen-strong mob for the crime of speaking Spanish. Muslim women on public transport with niqabs and hijabs ripped from them; spat upon, punched, beaten. Christ, Katie Hopkins even published demands in a national tabloid calling fellow human beings “cockroaches” and urging naval guns to mow down drowning immigrants. And didn’t get prosecuted. This is where we’re at – race-hate and literal incitement to commit a crime against humanity and no criminal conviction ensues.

All enabled by the ‘hostile environment’ and decades of utter hate, lies and poison about immigrants, refugees, Muslims, foreigners and the poor. Meanwhile, the real residents of Grenfell Tower – a place where class and race really do intersect – either burned to death or are still homeless while their arsonists remain free and at large. In government and the institutions of the state. While faking outrage at their white-trash bonfire tribute act.

Object to this, though, and the racist mob pile on calling you a ‘snowflake.’ While bigots without a shred of basic, human decency whine about their free speech. As if their freedom to hate, to bully, to intimidate should provoke no consequences. As if anyone objecting isn’t entitled to use their free speech in a vain attempt to stem the rising tide of inhumanity swamping cruel Britannia.

Foam-flecked proto-fascists get all misty-eyed about a piece of cloth, as long as it’s red, white and blue. They’ll swallow lumps in their throats while growing positively tumescent at the sight of a Brit soldier with a gun but empathy? Compassion? Genuine humanity for a non-white human being? Someone poor and desperate? Vulnerable? Terrified?
Not.
A.
Bloody.
Chance.

They contemptuously dismiss the outcry as ‘moral outrage’ while furiously triggering at a footballer, an  Irish footballer, no less, refusing to wear a poppy. Snowflakes, indeed…

We need more moral outrage about the institutionalised hate of non-white, non-British human beings and the forgotten and despised on working-class estates all over the UK. And we need absolutely none about poppies, flags and nations.

Categories
Music

Office Soundtrack: The Black Parade

This is a brave, imaginative and superbly-executed piece of work. The young band deciding, in the middle of the digital, disposable, attention-wrecking noughties, to release a concept album inspired by the great dinosaur rock acts of yore. The listener, therefore, will find a deliberate and brilliantly-wrought homage to Queen, Pink Floyd, ELO, Yes and others.

Turbo-charged 70s stadium rock via post-911 armageddon emo and a nutty vaudeville workout  sounds an unlikely, if not horrifying, amalgam. Yet its genius is not merely the audacious musical alchemy that the band deploy to stunning effect; it’s the humanity. And it rises, defiantly, from the cracks, between the charred and cancer-ravaged corpses that litter the album, like spring flowers defiantly in bloom; it’s the powerful and distinctive voice of a young band at their peak that really scores. All the Emo stereotyping and scorn heaped upon the band’s collective head count for nought in the face of one of the very best albums of the last thirty years.

Gerard Way, far too frequently maligned as a self-indulgent, self-pitying emo poster-boy, turns in a career-defining performance and the lyrics, all bitter asides, witty irony and biting cynicism, nestle snugly with moments of real heart, real beauty and an empathy that moves.

Once described as The Dark Side of The Moon for the Tim Burton generation, The Black Parade is angry and celebratory, tender and bitter and very special indeed. The listener will wade through death before the epiphany arrives; this album is life. And it is beauty unbound.

Haters gonna hate, of course, but listen without prejudice, my friends. The Black Parade deserves nothing less. And so do you.