Blair’s obfuscation – I’m bored…you’re bored…

“I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong,” he told CNN. “I also apologise for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.”

This is from an article in the Guardian about Tony Blair’s interview in the US on the Iraq War.  It’s all disconnected and yet all so obviously connected so completely.

It’s about attitude.  It’s about belief and arrogance and superiority and a sense of hubris.  It all links.

This article, and others, hint at Tony Blair apologising for his role in the Iraq War and the subsequent catastrophe that has engulfed the gulf…not strictly true, yes…I can never resist a literary technique…

But it doesn’t, of course.  Look at the sentence again.  He’s sorry that other people provided him with information that has proven to be inaccurate – not his fault.  He was only acting on the information he had in front of him.  Whilst we can all see this part for the pernicious bullshit that it is, it is the second part of the quotation that really sticks in the craw:

*

“some of the mistakes in the planning” – which ones?  Why are you sorry for these mistakes and not the other mistakes that your admission hints at but does not engage with?  Which mistakes are you happy to stand by?  Are you happy to stand by, for instance, the claim that Iraq could arm missiles with chemical warheads in forty five minutes?  Are you happy to stand by the map the newspapers printed the next day that demonstrated the capability of these missiles and that “our lads” in Cyprus, and their families…and all the ex-part families…and all the holiday makers, let alone the Cypriots, the Greeks and the Turks, were all in danger of being gassed/burned within forty five minutes of the order being given?

We knew that Saddam would indeed gas people.  We had seen him do it…in fact, we had given him the coordinates in the first instance so he could gas Iranian soldiers…then we watched as he gassed his own citizens in Halabja.  See, Saddam was a bastard of the first order!  Except, of course, we’d already been to war over that and we did not deem it sufficient enough to go after “regime change” in 1990.  Then, we smacked him on the wrist and then let him viciously put down the uprising that could have predicated regime change…except it was occurring at a time we did not believe it to be beneficial for us…so we sat back and let the Iraqi army puff its chest up, bully the natives and restore its machismo.

We need these journalists to now pursue Blair and get him to elaborate on this admission: list the mistakes you are apologising for and list the mistakes you are not apologising for.  The fact you have stated you are only apologising for “some” of the mistakes acknowledges that you know there are more.  Explain.

*

“our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime” – this is an interesting one.

In my day job I often have recourse to read a poem by Carol Ann Duffy called Education for Leisure.  It is a startling poem and one that all should read; then pause to reflect on its gloriousness, and then read again. Daily.  One of the things of note about this poem is the shift in personal pronoun.  Throughout the poem, the narrator uses pronouns that refer to the self – me, I, my, etc… Right at the end of the poem, the narrator uses the pronoun “you”.  It shifts the perspective of the poem and it means you, the reader, are either stabbed or being approached for help.  The ambiguity of the line is magic.  Personal pronouns.

“Our”, “Our”, “You”.  Ownership, ownership, blame.  Or, if not blame then certainly distance.  This choice of word speaks volumes about the way Blair perceives himself.  In the very act of confession he distances himself from the heinous act of overthrowing a sovereign state and places the blame for this on “our” shoulders.  “once you removed the regime”  It is a terrible act of doublespeak and one that should see Blair hoist on a rhetorical petard soon, sooner, soonest.  There is no way in this world that Blair would speak the word “we” in that sentence, which is the word that should rightly have been used.  It would have gone some way to mollifying the public and could have a genuine first step on the way to some form of redemption.  In fact the petard should not be one made of rhetoric, it should be one made of courts.  And hence, of prison.

*

The past few blogs of mine have sounded like a teenage whine.  I apologise for this but I feel I have fallen victim to mimicry.  The right have staked their flag in this kind of approach, bitch and moan and whine and whinge and finger point and gainsay.  They state that the second amendment means it’s ok for people to shoot at other people.  They state that the Clintons are guilty of murder and murder and other murder and lying about murder.  They state that Obama is a muslim.  They state that Obama is a socialist.  They state that the definition of poverty can be changed.  They state that withdrawing family tax credit will raise wages.  They state that the free trade agreement will not harm domestic industry.  They state that they are only selling off 49% of the national industries.  They wail and wah at the fact that people point out they are behaving like children.  Like teenagers.  And sometimes we lower ourselves.

The centre right, guided by the lobbyists and the corporates, have a stranglehold on the parliaments of the day.  The dictatorships of the Middle and Far East are being bought/have been bought – or are integral to the corporates anyway.  The people are being marginalised.  Ondi Timoner has said that Russell Brand merely wants our lives to matter.  How awful that this wish has to come from a privileged fop.  How awful that this single valuable statement has to be birthed from the loin of a recently drug addled pretend actor.  How dreadful that a message of equality should come from someone so unequal.  Especially when we have someone in office in the United States of America who should be rallying us to this cause; who should be ensuring that #alllivesmatter; who should be punching the right in the gut with a parliament of reform and action that cherishes the people, works for the people, is led by the people…but he is not.

And I’m bored of it.

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Until You’re Crucified … again

Another gun control thang: Man kills 4yr old with gun.

“Is it silly, no – when a rocket ship explodes – and everybody still wants to fly”.

My default configuration – Prince quote.  So, how about, “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb?”

You get cut up at a junction. You are American.  You are furious.  You cannot believe that someone would be so stupid as to do such a thing.  You drive after them.  You pull out your gun and you shoot them.

You hear a noise down stairs.  You are American.  It’s someone trying to break into your home.  You can’t believe that there could be any possible reason why they are doing this.  You go down stairs to confront them and shoot them with a gun.

You go to the bank and ask them for a loan to help you set up a business mending lawn-mowers.  You are American.  You live in a suburban area and there are LOTS of lawns.  The bank looks at the various collateral impacts of the consequence of a loan to you and they don’t agree a loan is feasible given the current economic climate.  You shoot them with your gun.

You’re walking down the street.  You are American.  A man bumps into you as he passes, unable to rectify the path he’s walking because he’s carrying shopping. There’s rain and some wind about.  He may have apologised but you can’t be sure.  You shoot him with a gun.

You are uneasy about the way in which the government seems to be allowing people to just go about buying houses without any consideration as to whether they are going to add or lessen the quality of the neighbourhood.  You are American.  You shoot the house buyers because you don’t have access to the local government building to shoot them instead.

You’re on a theme-park ride and the enjoyment in no way is in correlation to the hyperbole of the website and brochure you read before you entered the theme-park and rode on the ride.  You are American.  You get your gun and shoot the staff at the theme-park.

The price sticker on the item you brought to the checkout counter to purchase doesn’t tally with the amount the product barcode is bringing up.  You are American.  This is creating a hold up in your day regarding your time and is questioning your integrity as a consumer.  You get your gun, shoot the checkout girl/boy then turn your weapon on any uniform wearing cadaver that passes in front of your sights.

A person comes to your door to ask you a question.  You are American.  You shoot them.

*

It’s only right.  It is absolutely right that we have the wherewithal to protect ourselves.  It’s our right.  It is our second amendment right.  It is the right of ourselves to be able to shoot someone to make sure we are safe.  No matter how safe we were when we shot someone; it is OUR RIGHT.  It is embedded in our constitution.  So fuck off.

The constitution says -“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

“bear” means carry, hold, lug, convey, transport, move, fetch, haul, shift.  No where does “bear’ mean “use”.  That’s the problem.

And here’s the thing.  Carry a gun all you want.  Carry a gun concealed or otherwise…the constitution says you can do that… The constitution does not say you can fire it.

But you do.

Idiotically.

Charmlessly.

Soullessly

Hatefully.

*

David Bowie wrote a song on his gloriously, entertainingly misguided album Earthling called “I’m Afraid of Americans”.  Do you consider that this hideous drum’n’bass exercise in critique may have had some merit?  I’m afraid of America.  I love the place.  I’m shit scared of it, though.  One of my comedy heroes, Rob Newman, has just spoken of his regret at not letting another of his (and my) comedy heroes, Bill Hicks, open for him on tour.  Hicks skewered American idiocy way before Green Day realised it was a topic worth strumming a chord about.  Hicks had American life nailed down way before anyone else of his ilk started to prod and poke in the years after.

We should not be afraid of Americans – but we are.  The moment America considers it a good idea to stop 4 year olds being shot over cars, or 8 year old being shot over access to puppies, will be the moment we can start to embrace American sensibilities in the world again.

Hard Lines.

The last game of rugby I played was just over a year ago.  It still hurts.  I have a corked finger and a back that creaks and groans whenever it is asked to do the things backs get asked to do.  Over the past few weeks rugby players, at the top of their game, have been asked to perform, recuperate and perform again – at the top of their game – with the hopes of nations hanging off them.  Imagine the pressure.  The game I played in was just charity run-about.  It lasted four times ten minute periods.  I was gasping for air way before the first ten minute period was up and, by the time the first break arrived, I was drinking air in in gulps and desperately trying to think in a coherent fashion.  Heaven alone only knows how I would have felt if I’d had to keep going for a full eighty… Heaven alone only knows how I would have reacted if the result actually meant something.

How is this going to go…?

Dad always said “hard lines” when you’d lost.  It really hurts.  I remember – with quite astonishing clarity – the toss for the first test of the Ashes in 2002.  Nasser Hussain won the toss and put Aussie into bat.  We’d lost.  The crushing sense of distraught that swirled around the room I was in…late at night in company of fervent fans, all swept up in the resurgence of English (and Welsh) cricket…and oh my lord what then happened to Simon Jones…I’m actually feeling nauseous typing this…

It is a feeling I cannot describe.

Wales versus Australia in the 1999 world cup… at our place… I could not speak after that one.  Not for an age.  Wales versus England in 2003…3 tries to 1. Doing to us what we’d done to them in 1999 at Wembley!  Oh, that hurt.  Hard lines…

But, you know, there has to be a level of pragmatism you reach as a Welsh rugby fan.  The 70s were an age that will never come again.  Nor the earlier golden ages of Welsh rugby…hang on just one minute… I was in a second hand book shop recently.  In this shop they had Andy Haden’s Autobiography – say no more?  He admits cheating.  He admits planning the cheating move.  Pitiful.  They still turn to him for comment every now and again…The cheat…  – anyway, the point is that the time of Welsh dominance in this sport has gone.  Why?  Well, because it is professional.  Only in New Zealand is this sport an actual National Sport.  In Wales it is nominally the national sport but football always encroaches.  Further, since the inception of professionalism in rugby, Wales have been behind the eight, the nine and the ten ball.  Fewer numbers, too much provincialism, too much harking back to the past.  And now we suffer.

We suffer, not because we are rubbish at the game – far from it.  We suffer because we are so close to being at the top of the pile once again.  During this world cup, Wales have been placed as the second best rugby team in the sport.  That, actually, is laughable.  We didn’t win the 6 Nations, we failed to beat a proper Southern Hemisphere team – the 12-6 against SAfrica, lovely as it was and, naturally adding to that other win over a second string SAfrican team in 1999, (1999… beat SAfrica…beat England… beat France in Paris…if only there was a party song to go with the year 1999 we could be on to something there!) was a win over a tired and second string SAfrican team.  We suffer, I believe, because all that was great about the Welsh game in the 70s is now missing.

Hard lines.  It is what we run.  We pummel.  It wins us more games than not.  It gets us 6 Nations Championships.  It gets us to within five minutes of a significant win.  It won’t get us any further.

This morning I got up and saw we had lost.  I’m not being a fair weather or anything, circumstances mean that this year I do not have Sky.  It means that I haven’t seen any of the Wales games in the world cup.  The English game was fun…sitting in one room watching the game reveal itself via the BBC website whilst my partner sat at the other end of the house doing the same… all in silence… the tension growing… Anyway.  I got up this morning and saw we had lost.  Unusually, I actually had a heartfelt commiseration from a Kiwi mate of mine…  Then I saw how close we had got.  OK.  My mind leapt to Gareth Cooper kicking the ball away against Australia… and James Hook kicking and chasing against Aussie only for the ball to bounce in to touch… or Dusty Hare kicking penalties… Anyway… Liam Williams tackling like JPR and not getting away with it… Anyway… We were minutes away.  My brother reckoned we had been Barnsed.  I wasn’t so sure looking at the reports but then another Kiwi mate came on and told me we were playing 16.  – new joke – An Englishman walks into a bar…turns to the 23 other Englishmen sat there looking forlornly into their pints and says, “Oi, this is what you need to knock the Welsh out of the World Cup – it’s called a whistle.” – Whatever…again we had come up short.  We had come up short the week before against Aussie – funny that.  Why? (I saw a repeat of the game at the pub…A few decisions that made me swear…but then if you score your tries, you take the ref out of the game..)

Warren Gatland has done such a tremendous job.  He has turned this Welsh team into serious contenders on the world stage.  No longer are we a whipping boy.  No longer are we a rollercoaster ride or a one off-so long as we beat the English.  Now we are a consistent challenger for being the best team in the Northern Hemisphere.  Why can’t that translate into wins against SANZAR teams and finals footie at the world cup?  Because we run hard lines.

This world cup may have been a blessing in disguise.  The injuries that beset the Welsh backline have meant Gatland’s net has been cast far to bring in some relief.  Players like Hallam Amos, Tyler Morgan, Gareth Anscombe and Liam Williams are providing the depth that means we can move beyond the Jamie Roberts’ Warrenball tactic and throw some doubt into the minds of the opposition.  Throw into the mix Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams and suddenly we have a backline that can play the way Gatland wants but also has the nous to be able to play want’s in front of them and adapt and adopt – also allowing Gatland to develop as a coach because he has the personnel to now play a more subtle game.  Jamie Roberts has been a terrific servant to Wales.  He may well see these players on his horizon and develop his own game to include a passing game – increasing the resources Gatland can choose from.  The future, on this most lamentable of days, looks rosy.

We have a pack that can compete with any in the game.  When the backline fires, we have a game that can beat any side in the game.  What we don’t have is a brains’ trust that can think themselves and play themselves through any situation in the game.  I believe we’re closer to that now than we have been in a while.  I think we’ll end up looking back on this world cup as a critical step in Welsh rugby’s development.  In the professional age, we will never compete with England for resources and numbers, nor France, nor South Africa.  But, we will compete with them because Wales is rugby and we will always develop world class rugby players.  It is in our hearts.  With the nurturing of the talent we have at the moment, we will have a world beating side.  From there, the sky is the limit…well, with some financial limitations…

It hurts, losing today.  It hurts tremendously.  2011 is a year I’ll always look back on with sadness – if we’d got to the final then we’d’ve won.  This year was a year when the rest of the world knew how to play against us, 2011 was not.  2019…it’s all to play for.  Hard lines, boys, hard lines.

Sign O The Times

So, in ’87, Prince did his town-cryer hear ye and gave a rundown of the headlines of the day: AIDS, drug use, proliferation of gangs, poverty, space race, natural disasters.  It caught the zeitgeist.  How would it go today?

In France asylum seekers are penned up in inhumane conditions as Europe and the western world tries to wash its hands of the maelstrom they’ve help create in the Middle East.

At home there are eleven year old boys and their reasoned response…

Climate change is here creating diaspora and conflict as man tries to wring the last drop of natural resource from the soil.

Poverty is redefined by governments with the intention of rendering the poor rich.

We’re not done with creating more ways in which to hallucinate – we’re not beyond using materials that simply hurt others hooked…a profit’s a profit, eh?

A report in The Independent notes that scientists are considering whether they have seen artificial bodies in orbit around a planet in another galaxy.  Wouldn’t you know it?  The moment we start to really identify the possibilities of other life in the universe is the exact time that we continue to demonstrate we are nothing but an embarrassment to the place.

There was an episode of The Twilight Zone – I believe it was the Twilight Zone…one of the modern incarnations of the show – in which alien life-forms turn up, express their disappointment at the progress on earth and decree that they’ll be back in 24 hours to destroy the planet unless we can sort ourselves out.  The world comes together – plucky humans that we are – and pull an all-nighter at the UN.  Agreement is reached and peace reigns.  The aliens return to see what we’ve done and – here comes the twist (spoiler alert!) – they are outraged at the peace deal, demanding more ruthlessness in the way in which we conduct war – so they blow the place up.  It’s as though governments around the world have taken this as some sort of blueprint and are conducting both domestic and foreign policies accordingly.

The blank looks that Osborne, English (That’s Bill…the Kiwi Osborne) et al give as the families they govern drop below the poverty line are baffling.  Loopholes for mates and chums to exploit are maintained or widened and austerity affects those whose belts are already tight.  I know that it’s a heartstrings moment and areas of the media are exploiting this for all it’s worth but, watching this clip of a Conservative voter taking her party to task is moving.  Unfortunately, the manner in which the opposition parties are operating leaves you throwing your hands up in despair – Jeremy Corbyn is surrounded by people too scared to be an actual Labour MP and stand up for the working class.  The SNP are still running around the Houses of Parliament playing pranks and feigning outrage at the practices of the place, getting ready to further unsettle the union with a secondary drive for Scottish independence.  The Labour Party in New Zealand cannot get to grips with the laissez faire policies of this National Government and are fiddling – well twiddling their fingers – whilst the country starts to burn.  America looks ready for a beautiful bout of infighting as the race to be President overrides the need for a strong American presence in the world – and by strong I mean level-headed, ambitious and driven (like the America of old) rather than the bully-boy and hawk-house production line we’ve seen over the past two decades.  And then there’s the Middle East…oh boy.  On the one hand we have a nation state that beheads people on a weekly basis – there for all to see – and then there’s terrorist group who have taken over most of Iraq and Syria.  Beheading someone and then hanging his body out as a warning… that’s overkill.  And our reaction – well, the story about the driver who decided to try and put out a fire by driving his vehicle over it (a vehicle containing guns and ammunition) is, as is pointed out here, a wonderful metaphor for US/Western foreign policy in the region.

Let’s say the scientists at Penn State are right.  Let’s say there are creatures like us who have launched objects into orbit around their planet.  How could we look them in the eye if they were ever to come and visit?  How could we truly lay out the red carpet, deploy the fanfarer’s brigade and usher them into a banquet of earthly delights knowing that our planet is run in this way?

Prince’s song ends with a rush to parenthood before the apocalypse consumes us all.  It is a sad image – the need to fall in love, to marry, to have a child – to try and have some sort of life before it is engulfed in the horrors the narrator knows is coming.  Why can’t this desire to love, to live and to further life be supported by governments that rule for the majority?  Is it too hopelessly naive for me to write like this?  To know that the illusion of choice we have when it comes to election time is underwritten by a pathway already decided upon by corporates, lobbyists and the owners of 50% of the world’s wealth?  Barack Obama came to power with “yes we can”.  He hasn’t.  He hasn’t been allowed to.  Soon there is a chance that the opposition will be in power and they’ll be running on a “I don’t give a f**k whether you think you can or not…I’ll decide that, ok?”  Orwell wrote, in Nineteen Eight-Four that the future could be imagined by thinking of a “boot stamping on a human face – forever”.  I can’t argue with this.  It certainly feels like we’re getting a kicking…but I also have another image for you.  If you want to imagine the future, imagine your pocket being picked, imagine your face pressed against a barrier, imagine your coins shrinking in size – forever.

Oh Yeah!

Glib.

“Blame the father” – this is what has been suggested by one of the Republican Candidates, Bobby Jindal, after the mass-shooting in Oregon. He took aim at the father of the shooter and claimed that this man had not been a part of the boy’s life and, as such, must take blame for his offspring’s actions in walking on to the campus of the Community College in Roseburg and opening fire on innocent men and women. Ok. Blame the father.

Of course, the Republican candidates need to be a little circumspect here…after all, the father of the Oregon shooter did at least instil in his child an acceptance of the love of the lord. “Are you Christian?” he asked before opening fire. At least the parents managed to instil some religious belief and appreciation in their child. In the godless society that all Republicans fear, this is to be applauded, surely? Maybe only a one handed clap: it’s so confusing: the boy did do the shooting…but he did acknowledge that there is a Christian heaven…but then he shot…but he admits they will be going to heaven… Yes, a one handed clap it is! A one handed clap; or a slap as they are more commonly known.

That seems about right for the Republican Party, a slap across the face of America and an admonishment for merely considering the notion that perhaps a soupçon of change may be the right thing to do to try and reel in the number of and variety of weaponry for sale in a country that normalises shooting as a response to a situation.

What about the parents of the 11 year old boy who shot the 8 year old girl who wouldn’t let him play with her puppies? Are they to blame too? Are they to blame for the mood in a country that devalues warnings and strategies to eliminate gun violence? Are they to blame for the unbelievable reaction in America after each recent mass-shooting…which is to buy more guns? Are they to blame for the manner in which violence is portrayed – hypocritically demonising violence and violent behaviour on the part of the bad guys whilst eulogising and celebrating acts of violence by the good guy? (Who is the good guy? Who gets to make that decision?) And when a good guy tries to suggest that perhaps having less access to certain types of killing device or tries to limit access to amounts of killing device accessories – magazines that can hold over ten bullets, say – why is this good guy made bad? Are the parents to blame for the pervading belief in American society that the right to have weapons and to use weapons aggressively is a normal thing to do?

The Republican Party response to these shootings is becoming stagnant and despicable. When politician turned Fox presenter turned politician Mike Huckabee starts to link the idea of sin into all this, and decries the actions of the shooter as if he originated in some sort of Gomorrah, you have to ask – just how out of step am I with the way people in America think about this issue? Or, they seem to imply that meeting fire with fire is the best way to save the day (Except when you actually are confronted with a man with a gun, eh Ben Carson!). Attack the shooters! Draw your own guns and blaze away…never mind the collateral damage, you were wearing the white Stetson, you were the Ranger, you were the good guy. (Or, oh, Ben Carson, the gift that keeps on giving, you were one of the now armed members of the Jewish faith in 1930s Germany. He’s brilliant.)

I’ve just finished reading One Summer – America 1927, by Bill Bryson. It is, as with all Bill Bryson’s books, stupendous. It gave me one insight into how I differ in the way I think about arming myself than some Americans do. The bomb threat of the Anarchist movement through the 1920s was something I was completely ignorant of. The fact that there was such agitation in the States in the 1920s was a subject I was ignorant of until Mr Bryson illuminated it for me. The random nature of the bombings, the lack of warning, the nastiness of the bombings perhaps segues nicely into an argument that goes – I could potentially be under threat here…I need a weapon to defend myself: especially if you were a lawmaker or a policeman or an aspiring politician or merely politically motivated. Having said that, the indiscriminate nature of the bombing meant that just being in America might mean you get targeted or get caught in a detonation. I can’t think of anything quite so terrifying as walking down a street not knowing whether a bomb may explode near you; or whether opening a parcel may lead to it detonating in your hands. Actually, hang on…I lived in Britain through the 70s and 80s. I can imagine that. Did I feel the need to have a gun during this time? No. Why? Well, I was a kid – and a kid who loved guns! Guns were fun things at the time…I used to love my SLR with proper firing action and stuff like that (Oh, I was an Airfix soldier junkie!) – BUT I was a kid who lived in a country where not having a gun was the norm. I also reckon that those people living in Spain might also have similar experiences and plenty of other areas of the world where organised terrorist groups have been in action. Because it wasn’t the norm to be armed, the need to be armed never occurred to us.

Is it that it’s the norm for America? Perhaps that’s it. It’s the norm and the fact that a way of life is going to change is too much for most to tolerate. Then again, smoking was a way of life too. Apartheid was a way of life. For some, so was opium. Mass killers all. We’ve managed to adapt to these changes with some success – more so for some than others. And there’s the rub. It can be done, America, trust us…we’re your friends. (Perhaps it’s not a way of life thing, perhaps it’s a reluctance to let go of the now? The UK was built on violence and warfare, invasion and revolution, just like the USA. BUT – the UK was fought over with what are now obsolete weapons. Perhaps when lightsabers are the norm, Americans will be happy to give up their guns as antiquated artefacts from a bygone age, much like the broadsword and crossbow of the Norman age. I mean America did give up the horse in the face of the car… Perhaps not.)

Then again, gun ownership is the norm in so many countries. Where are the repeated mass-shootings of Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada? What is missing in these countries that is present in America? I have a couple of ideas, but I don’t think you’re going to like them:

Waning power. America is a waning power in the world. The industrial revolutions of China and India, and developing economies in other areas of the world, and the increasing influence of Islam as against the increasing devolution away from Christian churches are affecting the global balance of power in a negative way for America. The idea of kowtowing to global reaction to these shootings is too much for some to bear…especially those to the right of the political spectrum.

We’re all stars now. Saturation media now means 15 minutes of fame is never far away – I’m ready to be a superhero or a vox-pops or a victim of society and I will have notoriety for eternity. I mean, it worked for Kim…but I don’t have the body for her preferred method…I’ll own a gun…that may be my way to the limelight!

You can’t tell me what to do. This is a pervasive aspect of society that’s global too and I must confess, I have no idea how to change this. All rights, no responsibility. Saturation media and increasing civil irresponsibility and a bullying mentality appear approved of in this day and age. We watch people suffer and fall and laugh. We call it “car-crash TV”. We judge and feel judged. We spit venom at those we disagree with. This is a world where it is a normal reaction for a boy to shoot a girl because she won’t let him join in the game.

They’re just thoughts.

America must be near a turning point. It is a great country, responsible for so much good in the world and I country and people I admire greatly. It is a country that has a problem. It is time for recognition and action. A new country, a new attitude has to be nurtured. A new norm needs birthing. It can’t be a natural reaction for an 11 year old boy to shoot an 8 year old girl because she wouldn’t let him do something he wanted to.

Some of my reaction is glib. Annoying isn’t it?

“Until you’re crucified, I’ll live my life in taxi cabs…”

Prince wrote Baltimore, it’s nice enough. In 1981 Prince released Annie Christian.  He’d already written the song that was required.  Perhaps he overlooked the idea of a re-release.

You know, it’s when you have days like these that you have to take a step back and consider what actually matters.

Otago University threatened with attack.

Victoria University bomb scare.

This blog is not inspired by these threats – although, world, perhaps take note and realise that New Zealand isn’t perhaps the Flight of the Conchords bland, unable to parallel other country’s stupidity as you may think.  I hate the fact that people I know spent their day in fear.

This blog isn’t inspired by this – Oregon Shooting.

It isn’t inspired by this – Sandy Hook shooting.

Nor is it inspired by this – Mass Shooting since Sandy Hook.

It was inspired by this: McKayla Dyer – I’ve chosen a Fox News link for more than just irony.

What has happened in America, a place I have visited and admire and a place that has given me so many heroes, that a reasoned response to not being able to get my way is to shoot someone?  What is it about America, a place that drives the world, that makes its citizens so desperate to be able to have the means to kill someone at their fingertips?  Ok, ok…hey, London… home of knife crime… Ok, ok … I actually can’t think of anywhere else…and, to be frank, have you seen the way in which the British Government has tried to combat knife crime?  This was an 11 year old, though.  So, what I want to know is: what has happened to the American psyche that permeates down to an 11 year old and allows that 11 year old to think it’s ok, after having received a rebuttal that means he is not going to be able to play with puppies, to go and pick up a gun and shoot the person who is denying him the right to play with puppies?  How is that thought process allowed to occur in a developed – you are developed, you have things (check) – non-barbaric society? And by barbaric I mean Imperial Rome under…ooooh, who shall we pick…I know…Sulla..he liked killing people for no reason other than greed either.

Greed – that’s it.  “You can’t tell me what I can do!  I’m an American!”  Greed.  Gluttony.  Swelled with your preposterous notion of needing to hold a gun to defend yourself.  The amendment you keep referring to states – “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” according to the Legal Information Institute website where I copied and pasted it from.  Let’s parse – a Militia usually means a home guard or territorial army kind of organisation – fair enough…every country should be allowed to do that… look at Swiitzerland!… “being necessary to the security of a free State”… do you need everyone to be armed to be free…look around you! Most of us seem to manage pretty well.  Ok…next… “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Right. To me, and I may be someone who doesn’t know how to read English, this seems to say – “We need people to be armed because there’s a real threat to our nationhood and we need people to be armed, organised and ready to deal with this threat.” Fair?  When was this written?  Who were your threats?  Was this a valid fear?  You know all the answers.  Now?  Really?  Who?  Where?  When?  How?  You haven’t been threatened since pretty much after you were created.  You know that, and you have exploited that politically and commercially ever since.  Now you exploit “wording” to allow an 11 year old the opportunity to pick up a gun and shoot an 8 year old because she won’t let him play with her puppies.

Prince – write a song about this?

And nothing happens.  Obama (“Yes we can!”) became a laughing stock and has now become a ghoul because of his repeat appearances at press conferences to announce his despair at another shooting and just how ham-strung he is to actually do anything to prevent another one.  Do we have to wait til the election?  Do we have to wait until the next Democrat is in power?  She has form..albeit with a masculine edge…

When Bill Clinton was in power gun crime fell.  The means and measures he brought into play began to have some positive effect…and please don’t get me wrong…  I live in New Zealand – there are a lot of guns down here for 4 million people… and I’ve fired guns myself…rifles and assault rifles – as someone once said..ASSAULT rifles…NOT DEFENDING MY HOUSE AND THE PEOPLE IN IT rifles.  The thing is, they are weapons and they kill sentient beings if they are hit by the projectiles they propel.  Why do you need this spelling out any further?  Having some controls over who can have them, limiting access to certain types of weapon and perhaps ensuring that all weapons are kept in a secure and adult-friendly environment isn’t such a limit on your 2nd amendment?

Ok the Fox thing… Bill O’Reilly (of Fox News fame) once said of Al Franken that he would “put a bullet right between his head”.  Bill O’Reilly has given normalcy to the idea of using bullets as a way of responding to insults or arguments you do not like.  Bill O’Reilly is an intelligent man – he’s won a Peabody for the love of all the Lord!* – but even he would resort to shooting someone “between the head” in an argument.  If someone as clearly as intelligent as Bill O’Reilly is incapable of being able to hold on to reason and not shoot someone who he disagreed with in an argument “between the head”, then how can other Americans, whether they are working class folks from Levittown or white-collar workers from Westbury, hold on to their reason too?  Right there, in and of itself, is the reason why there needs to be gun control in the United States of America.

This isn’t a joking matter.  I have an 8 year old daughter.  I could not live in a country where, consciously, people would defend the right of an 11 year old to be able to shoot my daughter dead.

*Actually, it was a Polk…just as prestigious as a Peabody…

Real music by real musicians

I’ve heard this refrain a lot.  The one time I completely bought into it was in October 2002.  Hammersmith Apollo.  I remember being overwhelmed with admiration for the musicians on stage that night and a sense of euphoria at hearing a concert so determined to showcase new music, loved music and, at it’s heart, musicianship.  I remember being consumed by the intentions of the show and passion on display that night.  It may have been showmanship – ok, most of it was showmanship – but there was a sense of authenticity and urgency that made my heart pound.  Naturally, as some may have worked out, I am talking about Prince’s One Nite Alone performances from this time.  There was a paradox at the heart of this concert – for me at least – there was Prince’s determination to let the music of his latest album be heard and affirmed (The Rainbow Children) and there was a communal joy at the collection of talent on stage.  This led to a fiery performance and, in my mind, culminated as Prince launched into Strange Relationship and decried the programming of radio stations the world round.  He wanted out of the loop, out of the industry dominated predetermined success and a validation/recognition of talent and diversity.  At the time, I believed there was a sincerity about Prince’s outburst…with hindsight a smidgen of petulance may have been in there too – a recurring theme in Prince’s career.  (God, he is an accomplished showman!)

(as a side-note – and please don’t tell anyone this – this was the one time when I forgave Prince a cover version – he performed Whole Lotta Love that night and I believe I smiled.  Heartily.)

What, though, makes for authenticity in music?  The other stuff I’ve written about The Trendees makes me blush when I think back to the opinions I held as a child.  When I was but a slip of a thing, in my youth, I can remember arguing vehemently against bands that “said something” in their music.  I argued that pop-music was a bouncy, lovely, bubblegum thing that should be swiftly digested, light on the stomach (to allow for all that bouncing, I suppose), listened to, enjoyed but not pondered about.  Being young in the early 80s meant that the influence of my older brothers and their like for never-ending, bizarre prog-rock (albeit my developing appreciation for King Crimson aside) or for rock’n’roll standards (the memory of my brother’s all-day tear-streaked face when Elvis died still haunts me) meant that I hit music with something of a confused palate.  My first heroes were imitators of greatness – Showaddywaddy and Gary Glitter – my first proper hero was Adam Ant, but I came to him at the time of Kings of the Wild Frontier and not during the Dirk Wears White Sox era which I would probably have balked at.  Such naivety.  I could never appreciate Madness, for instance, – what was wrong with me? (It’s alright…I do now).

Pop music does work in all shapes and sizes.  Inner City’s Good Life is spectacular pop, as is Superfly Guy by S’Express – then so is Heartland by The The and Hooverville by The Christians.  They are all sparkling pop songs and each of merit.  Hmmm… I feel criticism coming my way…Inner City, S’Express, pop?  Yeah, to me they are… ok how about Katrina and the Waves, Walking on Sunshine or A-Ha!, The Sun Always Shines On TV?  Perfect pop…and no links… you all know what they sound like!  So again, I ask, what is meritorious?  My youthful self would combust.  Which is real music by real musicians?  Is Kings Adam And more authentic than Dirk Adam?  It is interesting that once he had burst the bubble of the punk persona and became a pop-star that people quickly tired of Adam Ant’s music…meaning that by the time Vive La Rock came around much of his audience had deserted him (Oh, Adam…Live Aid!…What were you thinking!?).  A pity.  They’ve missed out on some cracking music.  Much the same could be said of Prince’s output since the name change farrago of the 90s.  Once he had rendered himself obscure, the audience fell away and much good music has fallen by the wayside…not even on deaf ears.

A by-product of this is where the “real music” part fits back in.  There seems to be two parts to this: firstly real in the sense of having an authentic origin and real as it played from the heart.  Watching my two heroes on stage now I’m really torn.  Adam Ant’s last incarnation Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar In Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter is another paradox – the music still has adventure but the visuals are born of nostalgia – not being able to let go of the success of the past.  It’s infuriating.  Prince is another matter entirely.  What was refreshing in his evolution of the NPG to the stripped down 3rdEyeGirl has now become standard.  And, appreciating the hypocrisy of what I’ve just written about nostalgia – it was fun the first couple of times, but can we now hear Let’s Go Crazy (as this is a song that the world does still need to hear on a regular basis) – can we now hear it at the right speed?  And, the less said about HitNRun the better… Does Like A Mack have heart?  Does its composer really believe in it?  Where is the real music here?

In the middle of this we have one other artist.  Here’s a Kevin Bacon variation – Adam Ant to Prince in one step (no…not Vanity) – Andre Cymone.

Andre Cymone played as part Prince’s band up until 1981.  His close relationship with Prince can be seen in the shared credit he takes in much of Prince’s early work.  Cymone later went on to produce and play on Adam Ant’s album Manners & Physique (a gem so many missed and an album that put me in ridicule because of my appreciation of a ballad! You Can’t Set Rules About Love – a lovely song!) ahem…anyway…what’s wrong with liking a ballad?  Yes, it’s a cheesy ballad…but …enough!

Andre Cymone recently released The Stone, in 2014.  This is an album that wears its heart on its sleeve.  Being born and bred in Minneapolis, Cymone had all the exposure to music that comes with living in the American heartland…albeit the northern, colder, nearer Canada heartland.  The anecdotes that come from Prince about the kinds of music available to kids in the 60s and 70s growing up in Minnesota are many and legend.  Andre Cymone shared those experiences too.  And it can be heard in their music…and it can be heard in his music today.  There is the feel of country, there is the feel of folk, there is the feel of soul, there is the feel of pop in the songs. It is a delight.  You can feel the disappearing absence poured into the work – he’s been away for quite some time.  I enjoy the Anglophile sounds he has allowed to appear on the record, there’s some enchanting use of some by-gone-age, trans-Atlantic noise on here.  It has something to say…what would my youthful self say?  Perhaps it would appreciate this real music from a real musician.

Irony II

Let me elaborate a little…

Actually, I might let some other people do this for me:

Mark Thomas and Mark Thomas again – do watch this one to the end…you’ll be emotional.

And once you’ve had a look here, perhaps have a look at this:

The McLibel Case.

So.  These two asking someone to step down because they are harming the reputation of the brand.  That’s irony.

I mean, I know multi-nationals operate on a different ethical level than most, but it really made me laugh to see them try and distance themselves from Blatter.  Pathetic.

Irony

McDonalds and Coca Cola have asked Sepp Blatter to step down from his position at FIFA.  I believe they fear this man could taint their reputations.

Need I say any more?

Urgency.

Um…yeah.  Yesterday was funny.  I knew I had to keep up the momentum so writing another piece was critical.  It was a bit essay-y though, wasn’t it?

So. Another crack:

(All that’s a little post-modern, hmmm?  All meta… This is now like the tricky second album, but actually the fifth one.)

Right, Mr Williams, what’s on the agenda today?

This and this and this and, ok, this

That’s – TheTrendees/TheMintChicks/AdamandtheAnts/Prince

I know I’ve tread The Trendees path a lot – that’s what friends do – the fact that they are vividly entertaining and make a noise that’s thrilling is both here and there.  There is a driving force behind their creativity at the moment; a momentum of the new.  I very much enjoy the sneer and the parody and the bile and the suburbanism of many of their songs.  (oh no, he’s going to do it again) – It’s quite Baxter (James K, that is).  There is a sweet bitterness in much of the lyrics and the violence of the music embraces this eagerly.

There seems frustration that music is the way out.  These are extraordinary people living in an ordinary place and the exit, an exit, is the pursuit of acknowledgement for creativity.  How often does that happen?  On the other hand, this could just be three blokes pissing about and having some fun.  Underneath it all, you see, is the element of pop – screaming at being submerged under a deluge of distortion, discordance and inconsistent rhythm but still there. And pop is ephemeral.  There is much fun to be had listening to the band as they evolve from June 2014’s output to now.  It’s like hearing an amorphous melange of noise take shape and become meaningful.  It’s like city noise loosing its villainous malevolence and developing soul.  It’s like The Scream, beauty from insecurity, fear and confusion.  This music has urgency.

Having said all that, they’re a difficult group to pin down, The Trendees.  Their one print interview is coy.  I’ve mentioned the word parody above.  There is a delightful truthful insincerity to their words here.  The self deprecation is beautiful.  And, I suppose, it makes me question my intent in writing this piece to start with.  Do they mean it or are they pissing about?

Much like The Mint Chicks F**K The Golden Youth, Dirk Wears White Sox by Adam and the Ants or Dirty Mind by Prince, the initial surge of creativity a musician has at the start of their career is all present and correct in The Trendees’ releases.  And the low-fi-ness of the sound is all present and correct too.  The music demands attention and the musicians have a swagger and strut about themselves that is compelling (see here – scroll down and find Motorcycle (makes loud noise)).  Each of these examples capture their creators at a moment rich with achievement and potential.  These performances announce the arrival of massive talent and there is unbridled pleasure at the possibilities that exist for them.  There is a greed about these musicians.  A fierce determination to be heard and an arresting charisma about them all.  Look into their eyes.  There is urgency.

But do The Trendees mean it?  Always remember, the last popular band to end with a double “ee” in their name were The Monkees.  A contrived TV Frankenstein that escaped and wrote some songs of their own.  They didn’t mean it at first, but then they did.  And became quite sour about it, I seem to remember.  Anyhoo, The Trendees continue to mask their integrity with persona.  And I’m really enjoying it.

And I really hope Abandoned Hospital isn’t.