The Big Four-Oh

Jyoti In The Snow
Me in the snow. I can’t believe I was ever this little.

Today, I am 40 years old! Happy Birthday to meeeee!

Yesterday, I finished off the last bits of text to go with the artwork for a 7″ being released by Swedish label Heavenly Pop Hits. I’m also finishing off the artwork for my new album which is coming out on Ninthwave later this year. So, I’m quite happy and productive.

But turning forty inevitably makes you question what you’ve achieved so far. Here’s a brief life-audit:

Although I’ve written around 250+ songs in the past 24 years, I’ve only released three albums and a handful of singles. I wish I’d managed to record and release more – it’s been six years since my last album which is a hell of a long time. Moving house a lot certainly stymies my creative flow.

On the music side, I’m going to try harder to get what I write out there. I guess I’m lucky in that songwriting is never a problem for me: it’s finding avenues for release and ways to perform live that are the problems. On the plus side, I’ve sold around one million records and had a number one in eight countries. So, compared to the average musician, I’ve done pretty well.

Last year I played live again, after a gap of eleven years. It was tremendous fun so I’m doing it again this year. Sweden seems to be my musical spiritual home – the Brit music scene is of little interest to me and vice versa. And Derby… well, let me be diplomatic and say that the Derby music scene isn’t very indiepop friendly. Experimental music / fingertapping yes, simple pop, no. Gothenburg becomes daily more attractive to me as a city to live and work in…

So that’s my work life covered. I’m not going to make you feel icky by delving into my personal life online but I think it’s not too soppy to say I’m happily married to a beautiful woman who’s far more intelligent than me.

Now, how about my health? Well, I could really do with weighing around ten to fifteen stone less than I do. I can achieve this by either chopping my legs off or finally gaining control of my lifelong obesity. It’s been a long struggle: I was first put on a diet when I was eight years old. Thirty-two years of dieting! I won’t say it hasn’t had any result, I’m sure I’d be far fatter if I didn’t exercise and diet as I do. But it can be very dull cutting out sugar, fat, sweets, fizzy drinks and anything tasty. For a food-lover like me, it can make life pretty grey. Inevitably, I break and eat everything lardy within reach. And then balloon and then have to diet again. Gah!

On the other hand, I don’t smoke or drink or wreck my neurochemistry wth drugs so I’m better off than the average person there. 🙂

Now, the wanky goals bit…

By the time I’m fifty, I’d like to:

Release at least five more albums. I don’t think one album every two years is an un-realistic target?
Play live in more countries. As well as Scandinavia, I wouldn’t mind playing in other bits of Europe. I’d love to play in the US but there’s no way I’m submitting to their current Big Brother ID registration procedures.
Record/produce some gorgeous bands. I’d love to have a go at recording some of the Scandi indie bands I’ve heard and played with. They really carry the torch of simple pop music at the minute, Brit indie is going through a bizarre Chas & Dave-with-guitars phase. I hope that right royal barrel of cockney monkeys goes away soon.
Publish a book of naked lady photographs. I love photography, I love naked ladies! What could be a better combination?
Play in someone else’s band. Either synths or guitar bass. I’d like to turn up and just play, no worries about anything but the moment. Plus, it’d be fun to play in musical areas that my own stuff doesn’t cover.
Write a science fiction novel. This one is the most diffcult goals since I currently don’t write fiction at all. But I’ve loved and read SF for the last 32 years so it’s not as if I’d be leaping into something totally alien. Geddit?

Hmmm… only two of those goals are not related to what I currently do. So I’ve either chosen the right profession or I’m very un-adventurous. 🙂

And now, some birthday facts:

I have now been alive for 1,261,440,000 seconds (and counting). Sounds a lot but I’m only 0.04 of a millennium old. A baby!

I’ve probably spent around 116,800 hours of my life asleep. Around 13 and a bit years. But I sleep less than average so let’s make that 11 years. Still a lot of shuteye.

40 year = 14,600 days. Which means, having two hot meals a day, I’ve had 29,200 hot dinners. A lot more than you, me laddy!

And that’s the end of the facts since I can’t be arsed to do any more maths.

I guess the strange thing about turning forty is that it seems so old. I don’t feel forty, I feel not much different to when I was thirty. Or even twenty, although I’m a much happier, less crazy person than I was then. Those decades have flown by. In fact, I remember turning ten years old, in ’76, and imagining the decades ahead. I think it was then that I worked out I’d be thirty-four in the year 2000 and that seemed incredibly old back then.

I also remember turning twenty. I’d been songwriting and playing gigs for four years by then and I desperately wanted to be a professional musician. That’s something I’ve known, something I’ve wanted for the last twenty-eight years. My wife says that I’m lucky in that respect, that some people never have such a clear idea of what they want to be. To which I reply, ‘you have to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you going to make a dream come true?’ 🙂

I shall draw this protracted navel-gazing session to a close by saying that it feels fine being forty. More than that, it feels good. I don’t think I’m going to have a mid-life crisis but if you do see me whizzing past you in a Ferrari, blasting out Sonic Youth and wearing ridiculously teenage clothes, cut an old bloke some slack and give me a wave and a smile!

In Memory Of Ted Grant

Ted Grant
L-R: Arthur Deane, Jimmy Deane and Ted Grant, mid-1950s

Ted Grant died last week, aged 93. Read the Guardian obituary by clicking here.

It’s impossible for me to say how great an impact Grant has had on my life. And, as a good ex-Marxist, I’m very suspicious of any historical analysis which places too much emphasis on the actions or character of one person. History is generally the sum of social and economic changes, rather than the actions of charismatic individuals. By which I mean that, yes, history was changed by people like Lenin or Hitler but only because the social conditions for that change had already coalesced.

With the above paragraph taken as a caveat, let me repeat my favourite ever opening sentence from a non-fictional work:

The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.
(Source: Leon Trotsky, The Transitional Programme)

In that one sentence, you have the key to every vanguardist variant of socialism. Yes, the social pre-conditions for revolution must exist but if there is no leadership, no mass working class party with a clear theoretical analysis, the revolution will fail. Or, more likely, it will be strangled at birth by the invading armies of capitalist countries.

So, leadership is crucial. In Ted Grant, British Trotskyism found its greatest leader. From his arrival here in 1934 until suffering a stroke at the age of 90, Grant was a full-time revolutionary. He wrote and talked and demonstrated. He fought British Nazis in the Battle of Cable Street. He was the theoretical powerhouse behind the strongest British socialist movement of the 20th century. All of this and more you can find detailed in the obit at the start of this piece.

On a more personal level, I don’t know who I’d be today without Ted Grant. I’ve already rambled about some of that here. But it’s hard to pick one’s life apart, to try and work out the exact balance of influences and accidents, serendipity versus cogent planning.

What I do know is that the organisation that Ted Grant lead took me in and taught me how to think critically. It gave me the intellectual tools with which to analyse the world around me, not in the pointless, bourgeois way beloved by philosophers and armchair socialists but as a guide to changing it. The Militant made me ask why people were starving and yet surplus food was being dumped in the sea. Why big business polluted our environment and yet individuals had to pay for their water to be cleaned. Why was manufacturing shoddy goods profitable? And, of course, the first question: where does profit come from?

Although I’m not a Marxist now, in the revolutionary sense at least, the theory that I learned from Grant’s tendency two decades ago still illuminates my life. Whether it’s Israel’s shelling of Lebanon or the rise of reality TV, I don’t find the world around me an opaque mystery, I find it a fascinating puzzle. And I know that I have the tools to at least attempt a solution. I got that fearlessness directly from the Militant, in exactly the same way as most people leave conventional school / Uni confused, apolitical and intellectually stultified. Perfect consumers!

Ted Grant, educator, dreamer and revolutionary, I’ll miss you.

That’s A Photocopier

Mascot Fight

Mascot Fight are extremely on their way to becoming my favourite band from Derby. The why? Well, every year, they seem to release a song that’s made out of pollen and pink bonbons. Last year it was the hieronymous ‘Thinking In French,’ a song as pulchritudinous as it was deliquescent.

I wrote about that song on July 16th, 2005. Now, on July 28th, 2006, I’m writing about another Mascot Fight summer smash. ‘That’s A Photocopier’ works on many levels for me. It’s slightly Housemartins, more Brilliant Corners via ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’ and a lot shiny, shiny C86 indiepop.

Would you like to hear a clip? Okay, have a listen to a slight sliver of summer by clicking here. The full song will be on the Stressed 3 CD.

Well, I’m off to have a lie down now and wait for next summer’s Mascot Fight pop magic. Wake me when the sky’s gone all hurty.

Israelis Murder UN Officials

Israel Murders UN Officials
(No it hasn’t.)

UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon contacted Israeli troops 10 times before an Israeli bomb killed four of them, an initial UN report says.

The post was hit by a precision-guided missile after six hours of shelling, diplomats familiar with the probe say.

The UN report says each time the UN contacted Israeli forces, they were assured the firing would stop.

A senior Irish soldier working for the UN forces had warned the Israelis six times that their bombardment was endangering the lives of UN staff, Ireland’s foreign ministry said.

Had Israel responded to the requests, “rather than deliberately ignoring them”, the observers would still be alive, a diplomat familiar with the report said.
(Source: BBC News)

As Alternet points out, this isn’t the first time this has happened:

It is reminiscent of the trouble his [Kofi Annan] predecessor Boutros Boutros-Ghali got himself into last time the Israelis tried shock and awe on Lebanon back in 1996, when he failed to suppress a report that said pretty much the same thing about the IDF shelling of the U.N. post in Qana, which macerated some 106 Lebanese civilians to death.
(Source: Alternet)

I waited a day before commenting on this story. I wanted to see how it would be handled by the mass media. Surely the deliberate shelling and murder of four UN observers by the IDF would cause an outrage?

Nope.

There’s been a lot of muttering. As if the Israeli Defence Force are delinquent teenagers who accidentally broke a window while scrumping for apples in their neighbour’s orchard. A kind of collective tsk-ing: “Ah well, it was a slight over-reaction. They’re just too eager, that’s all!”

As I always do, I’m going to ask you to perform a thought experiment…

Imagine North Korea had started shelling South Korea last week because two of its soldiers were abducted by South Korean militias. Imagine that in the shelling, 423 South Koreans had been killed and vast swathes of city had been levelled.

What do you think Bush and Blair would be saying then? Would they be defending North Korea’s right to shell a non-aggressor country, based on the actions of a terrorist minority? Would the US wag its fingers and talk about “disproportionate response” while shipping the NKs more weaponry with which to bombard innocent people?

Ten times.

The UN officials asked for the shelling to stop ten times. And then the Israelis murdered them. And then continued to shell the murder site to impede any chance of a rescue / investigation.

The fact that the current Israeli escapade is even being talking about as legitimate in any way whatsoever shows the tremendous double standards of our world. I can imagine no other country acting so barbarously and still being given the protection, friendship and weapons of the US.

Of the attack, Kofi Annan said:

“This coordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long-established and clearly marked U.N. post at Khiyam occurred despite personal assurances given to me by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that U.N. positions would be spared Israeli fire. Furthermore, Gen. Alain Pellegrino, the U.N. force commander in southern Lebanon, had been in repeated contact with Israeli officers throughout the day on Tuesday, stressing the need to protect that particular U.N. position from attack.”
(Source: Alternet)

There’s a lot of anger behind that precise summary.

Fry And Laurie

Fry And Laurie

I got the above DVD this morning and it’s ace. But it also made me rather sad at the heinous state of current Brit comedy. What I love about this series is that it’s silly, stupid, satirical and very, very funny. The kid stupid humour of hacked books written by Ted Cunterblast, the oleaginously obsequious barber, Executive Breakfast bars… it’s all marvellous. Where else would you get lines like this?

“Sir has cast me as the mouse in his ever-popular cat drama.”

There’s also a lot of bite in the writing, the kind of political anger that’s totally absent from contemporary British comedy. We don’t have that kind of writing now, we make do with people donning hilarious moustaches and disappearing into endless spirals of “ironic” retro references.

I’m just watching Hugh Laurie singing his America song and you’d never get that kind of criticism of US jingoism now. It’s simply off the comedy menu, along with businessmen, privatisation and celebrity arseholes. Perhaps it’s because we now accept those things as beyond criticism. We don’t see how stupid they are any more. Thatcher won.

There’s also some beautiful poetry that pops up, like:

“She told you about the Bay City Rollers and you were in love with her till the following Wednesday.”

And the best refutation of postmodernism I’ve ever heard:

“Hold the newsreader’s nose squarely, waiter, or friendly milk will countermand my trousers.”

Buy a copy and treat yourself to some fine, hand-carved comedy. From the best goddamn Leisure Centre in Uttoxeter!

EDIT!
I’m now watching a sketch of theirs where they have the ridiculous scene of a capitalist wanting to turn a church into a shopping centre. Ludicrous, eh? Anyway, I’m off to St. Werburghs to buy a corn plaster and a copy of Razzle.

Let’s Kiss Our Arses Goodbye, Pt. 2

Goodbyeeee!

Paul Sellars wrote:

>Jyoti Mishra wrote:
>In completely un-related news, I’ve just about got my fallout >bunker finished… I haven’t felt this apocalyptic since the ’80s…

It is slightly terrifying, I grant you.

Are you assuming that the US is allowing Israel a free hand in the hope of provoking Iran to intervene, thereby providing a pre-text for an attack?

It’s difficult to see how else to read it.

I got the above email this morning. I had hoped Paul would have a different, more positive perspective. Ah well… paranoid lefties think alike, I guess.

Let’s see…

The US lets Israel bludgeon Lebanon illegally, it even speeds up the sale of weapons to help in the slaughter. They know this will stoke anti-Western and anti-Israel feeling hugely in the region. Iran snaps and attacks Israel, then the US has the perfect excuse to attack Iran: the defence of Israel.

The War On Terror continues, both sides have hundreds of thousands of fresh new recruits, willing to murder for their side. And the US gets to engage in another of its necessary wars to further its goal of global military supremacy.

And those of us caught in the crossfire? We get to watch our loved ones blown up by suicide bombers from one side and US munitions from the other.

Better make the most of every day…

Dying For A Coke

Killer Coke

Activists pushing investors to drop shares of Coca Cola stock scored a victory Tuesday when a segment of the nation’s largest pension fund divested from the beverage giant.

Activists had been putting pressure on the educators’ retirement fund TIAA-CREF to drop Coke stock from its Choice Account, a fund set up to cater to socially conscious investors.

Groups like Stop Killer Coke and the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood had hoped to send a message to Coca Cola over the beverage company’s marketing to children and its alleged human-rights and environmental abuses abroad.

Workers for Coca Cola Colombia say the company has teamed up with paramilitaries there in an attempt to stem union power through kidnappings, tortured and even murder of labor organizers there. Coke has denied the allegations.

In India, communities near Coke plants have seen their water dry up as the company pumps millions of gallons to make its beverages. The communities have also suffered the destruction of their farmland from lack of water and pollution from the bottling plants.
(Source: The New Standard)

This is a good day for the Stop Killer Coke campaign and a bad day for multinational murderers, Coca Cola. How do you like ’em apples, Jack White, you wheezing anus?

Another Anniversary

Anniversary of Jean Charles de Menezes Murder by Police

One year after the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, his relatives and friends have gathered at the south London Tube station where he was killed.

A hot and humid Saturday at Stockwell Tube station was the backdrop for an intensely emotional display of grief, one year on from the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes.

The presence of Abul Koyair and his brother Mohammed Abdul Kahar – who was shot and wounded by police at his east London home last month – served as a reminder of the case’s wider importance.

The Forest Gate pair, along with Mr Menezes, have become rallying points for critics of the government’s perceived heavy-handedness in the so-called war on terror.
(Source: BBC News)

A year gone by and still no justice for de Menezes.