Monday, March 26, 2007

patti smith is officially famous

Patti Smith is one of this year's inductees to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

I've seen footage of induction ceremonies down the years and never been quite sure what it meant. Was it some honour like getting a degree? I'd sort of assumed so, but then again I'd always imagined a literal hall - something like Versailles' Hall of Mirrors but with big pictures of Elvis and Bowie. And maybe some lifesize bronzes like Dublin's mental Phil Lynott statue.

But in the end I'd presumed this was for some reason unlikely, and really it was nominal.

But no! It exists! In Ohio!

Patti wrote a really interesting piece about it for the New York Times. Her poetic prowess is undimmed.

Rock'n'roll. It drew me from my path to a sea of possibilities. It sheltered and shattered me, from the end of childhood through a painful adolescence. I had my first altercation with my father when the Rolling Stones made their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. Rock'n'roll was mine to defend. It strengthened my hand and gave me a sense of tribe as I boarded a bus from south Jersey to freedom in 1967.

Rock'n'roll, at that time, was a fusion of intimacies. Repression bloomed into rapture like raging weeds shooting through cracks in the cement. Our music provided a sense of communal activism. Our artists provoked our ascension into awareness as we ran amok in a frenzied state of grace.

She talks of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith of the MC5

Before he died, in the winter of 1994, he counselled me to continue working. He believed that one day I would be recognised for my efforts and, though I protested, he quietly asked me to accept what was bestowed - gracefully - in his name.

Last night I joined REM, the Ronettes, Van Halen and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On the eve of this event I asked myself many questions. Should an artist working within the revolutionary landscape of rock accept laurels from an institution? Should laurels be offered?

With corporate sponsorship for the Hall Of Fame coming from banks and cola companies, it's a question well worth asking.

She has addressed it outright

I still don't believe in rock 'n' roll awards. I would not accept one from MTV or something. That's kinda disgusting to me. But I try to understand the meaning that this has for people. It means a great deal to the inductees, and I accept it in that spirit.

Really? If other people like it then that undoes the reasons for awards being dubious and makes it good?

When REM were first called 'The Best Band In The World' Stipe didn't succumb to messianic pressure, replying, 'have you seen who else they've said that about?'.

In the case of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, I think my dignity would force me to refuse an award from people who'd decided to honour Bob Seger, Del Shannon and Gene Pitney ahead of me.

And look at some of the others already in there too. Ritchie Valens - three genuine classics in a career lasting a little under a year is amazing for him. But really, three classics makes you get in there ahead of Patti Smith? Out here in reality it barely ranks you above The Members.

Why the huge number of bands like the Supremes, the Shirelles, Martha & The Vandellas and The Ronettes? They were little more than puppets singing over great work written and produced by others.

As the givers of the award are corporate smugsters with no taste, what does it actually mean to be inducted to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame?

The clue's in the name. It's not the Hall of Achievement or the Hall of Talent, but the Hall of Fame. And what's that worth? Mr Ed used to get fanmail by the sackful. Take That got the Brit for Best Single last year.

I note that on the front of Apocalypse Now it says it won two Oscars. Best Cinematography and Best Sound, whoop de doo. By contrast, fucking Chicago swept the Oscars.

Woody Allen has the right idea. When he won Oscars, he didn't turn up to collect them cos he wants nothing to do with the Academy. It's nothing to do with why he makes films nor if those films are any good. They had to send them to him and his mother now keeps them on top of a cupboard.

Prizes tend to go to the kind of stuff that always wins prizes. It's either denoting that the stuff receiving it is safe and smug (or has become such), or else once in a while something genuinely maverick gets an award to show that the award givers are a bit wild after all. Whoah there, the Brits were actually live on TV and had Russell Brand presenting this year. Lock up your daughters.

I have wrestled with these questions and my conscience leads me back to Fred and those like him - the maverick souls who may never be afforded such honours. Thus in his name I will accept with gratitude. Fred Sonic Smith was of the people, and I am none but him: one who has loved rock'n'roll and crawled from the ranks to the stage, to salute history and plant seeds for the erratic magic landscape of the new guard.

My god that’s a fantastic use of language, denoting a keen understanding of the power and potential of popular music. But popular music doesn’t mean popular in the sense of nobody feeling threatened and everyone smiling. It’s there to celebrate intensity, weirdness and independence. A cola-sponsored award from those who prize Bob Seger doesn’t qualify as an honour.

In the end it was my neighbours who put everything in perspective. An approving nod from the old Italian woman who sells me pasta. A high five from the postman. An embrace from the notary and his wife. And a shout from the sanitation man driving down my street: "Hey, Patti, Hall of Fame. One for us."

Patti’s induction ceremony took place in New York earlier this month. REM (with Bill Berry back on drums) did four songs including I Wanna Be Your Dog with Patti and Lenny Kaye. Then at the end there was a mass ensemble of REM, Ronnie Spector, Patti, Eddie Vedder, Keith Richards and a squillion others doing People Have The Power.

The song's a fantastic, rousing anthem from Patti's overlooked 80s album Dream of Life. I love it, and I love the deliberate way she's shoved it forward in her repertoire until everyone out there understands how great it is. When she was doing her first gigs back in 1996, she did it once as a recitation and then later as the full air-punching revolutionary chant.

But check out the actual Youtube footage. For all the force and intelligence and fire of those artists, its a cosy smugathon, all a bit We Are The World. Exactly the sort of thing that we first went to those artists to get away from.

I don't think Patti's integrity is necessarily changed. She, ever the poet, puts her case well, and of course I can't argue with her honouring a promise made to her husband. But I do think she misunderstands the meaning of the award.

One for us? Or are they trying to make us one of them?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

the climate vs the market

I've got a new article published over at U-Know.

It started life as an enraged response to Chris Huhne's performance at a panel debate in London the other week (the working title was 'Chris Huhne: Fuck Off'), but expanded into something that not only takes apart what he said but the beliefs that underpin it and motivate people like him.

He's from the LibDems, he's allowed to propose anything because he'll never get into power. The LibDems squander this position by trying to out-freemarket the others, even when - as with carbon emissions - the market is a proven failure and something fairer and mandatory is clearly needed.

You can tell they know they'll never get into power the way they big up being also-rans. As Jim Bliss noted, in 2005 the LibDem

conference was initially billed as "A Celebration" of the wonderful results achieved by Charles Kennedy's LibDems at the election. 6 months ago.

Look Charles, you came third. OK? Bronze medal. Third fricking place. What's with the celebration? Seriously.... think back to school, and think about the kid who came third in the 500m inter-school backstroke. I was that kid, so I know whereof I speak. That kid does not prance around like an arse with his bronze medal, holding it aloft for all to see. That kid takes the bronze medal, hides it away, broods for a month and decides to give up competitive sports completely and smoke pot and listen to music instead.

OK. So maybe that's a bit specific...

no third party in this country has any cause to celebrate until they are no longer referred to as "the third party"

The new article's called The Climate vs The Market.

Incidentally, bits of my last U-Know piece (the one about green electricity suppliers) are being lifted and slightly remoulded to make posts on Turn Up The Heat. The site was set up by George Monbiot when his book Heat came out. Its main intended function is to demolish climate greenwash. My bit about Npower's already up, and the Scottish & Southern Energy bit will join it shortly.

Monday, March 19, 2007

democracy by force

Interesting to look at the BBC site telling us about how we're in Iraq to bring democracy. Buried in a story about Iraqi prisoners escaping from British jail near Basra is this line

A security source told the agency that the prisoners had been held without charge for the past two years.

The escape was the headline, whereas surely the fact that we're keeping people prisoner for years on end without charge is far more important. A British government that condemns Guantanamo Bay is doing precisely the same thing itself.

Three days later comes another story telling us

Iraqis are still showing resilience, with substantial support for democracy

What would you say was substantial support for democracy in the UK? Say, 95% and above? Would we feel that we 'substantially supported' democracy if most of us didn't want it?

In Iraq support is 43% (and falling). A majority of Iraqis don't want it even if we were delivering it. It's only marginally less in favour of a 'strong leader' appointed 'for life' (34%, and rising).

The same poll shows there is at least one thing a majority of Iraqis support.

The number of Iraqis who approve of attacks on coalition troops has risen from 17% in a similar survey three years ago to 51% now.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

asking for it

I really hate Cosmopolitan and all those other You're Ugly And Wrong magazines.

The perpetuation of knight in shining armour myths, the focus of attention on to every last physical detail of a woman's body and how the reader can improve theirs (message; it needs improving you scuzzy blemished worthless git).

But as if this wasn't enough to undermine womens' self-confidence, there's a full-page advert in this month's (and presumably elsewhere too), placed by the UK government.

Government rape awareness ad

I can't explain how fucking furious this makes me. I wanted to tear the magazine out of the hands of the woman on the train, brandish it and shout at the whole fucking carriage.

Didn't we sort this one out a generation ago? The idea that if she was wearing a short skirt she wasn't necessarily asking to be raped? That maybe women have the right to do what they want and if a man feels unable to control his violent sexual urges then it's him that has the problem?

I have no reason to doubt that one in three rapes happens when the victim has been drinking. But in making that the only statement of the advert they are implying something. That if she had not been drinking it mightn't have happened. That therefore her drinking must take some of the blame. That, as the person who administered the drink, she bears that blame.

Why stop there? When is the Home Office going to follow this one with other pertinent facts?

Most rapes happen when the victim has a vagina.

Most rapes happen when the victim has spoken to a man that day.

Most rapes happen to women who don't lock themselves away in their rooms, scared to go out, scared of anything and everything.

Most rapes happen to women who don't sit in a chastity belt until rescued by a knight on a white charger.

Most rapes, for that matter, happen to women who own socks. But neither the socks, nor their choice to drink, is to blame.

If the victim has been drinking, is it conceivable that the rapist has been drinking too? That alcohol's well-documented unleashing of pent-up aggression in the attacker should be more to blame?

It is the attacker's psychology and behaviour that needs changing here. Fuck a government that implies otherwise and tries to scare women out of enjoying their lives by making them responsible for someone else's intolerable actions.

A woman has a right to drink. She doesn't have to 'know her limits'. She has a right to get absolutely fucking bladdered if she wants to, and to do it without fear of rapists.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

hate my tory

For a very long time - in internet terms - there's been a website called Hot Or Not. People upload pictures of themselves (or people they know), and the (utterly bored but got the internet at work and on an hourly rate) viewer rates the sexual allure of the picture on a scale of 1 to 10. Each vote brings up a new picture. There are adverts on the screen which make the site's owners wealthy. Simple.

Then other ratings sites emerged. Running on the same principles but concerning itself less with your body than with what was recently expelled from it, there was Rate My Poo.

It quickly got sister sites, Rate My Boobies and Rate My Kitten.

Shit, tits and cats, I don't get the link. Except that perhaps most people would like to see endless pictures of at least one of them. Although I'm sure a small but select band would pay handsomely to see pictures involving all three and really, what else is the internet for?

Then came Rate My Boner and Rate My Finger. The latter features some quality bird-flipping, the former got taken down after threats from the US government. Not for anything to do with obscenity. That would've been a difficult and lengthy trial. No, on weird tax regulations about income from the ads.

Notably, they left tits and kittens and whatnot alone. Reminds me of the way the feds got Al Capone, mass murdering gangster thug, on tax evasion.

Anyway, the winning formula has been redeployed. Step on up and click on through to Hate My Tory.

Fuck me, have you seen John Corrie?

Got child skins drying in his attic for sure

And isn't that Steve Coogan with Sebastian Coe?

Knowing you Seb Coe, a-ha!

Jesus, we had Sebastian Coe and Gyles Brandreth as MPs in that runaway train of jackbooted lunacy know known (or, more accurately, dimly remembered when reminded) as The Major Years.

Anyway, the site's shaping up well, although it still needs a few pertinent facts on some of the Tories. Frankly, the fact of them being a Tory gives them all a 10-score for me.

And therein I find the one real problem. I mean, you've just given a 10-score to Iain Duncan-Smith (you remember him, slaphead, leader for a while... no not that one, another one), then up comes someone you hate even more, Zac Fuckin Goldsmith or Oliver 'Puppy Killer' Letwin or Michael 'Prison Works' Howard (you remember him, slaphead, leader for a while... no not that one, another one).

Where can you go from your previous 10-score? We need Nigel Tufnell as webmaster so it can go one harsher.

I shall, of course, be submitting Debi Jones shortly.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

justice at last

Nice to learn this:

Deep Purple's latest album has been withdrawn after the group told fans not to buy it.

Sony BMG made the decision after 61-year-old lead singer Ian Gillan commented on the poor quality of the record.

I hope Gillan will continue to be so honest and soon extend his comments to the poor quality of the rest of Deep Purple's records.

This, if there's any sort of justice in this world, will see Sony BMG withdraw the records and some kind of reparation orders served on Gillan by people who've spent money on them over the years, leaving Gillan destitute and skivvying around using his mullet to scrub the bogs in bowel disorder clinics in order to raise the cash.