Issue #23: March 21st - 27th, 2003
Sister Janice and the Earthlings
The long lost diary of Miss S L Gleaden (part 2)
Sister Janice and The Earthlings
Sister Janice is our new agony aunt. She used to be a nun, but after becoming involved in an accident at her convent involving a papal emissary; the mother superior; the convent dog and a bottle of 'citrus fresh' bleach, she decided it was time to find herself a new career. These days she travels through the galaxies in a converted garden shed.
Write to Sister Janice Slejj care of Friends of the Heroes. She will answer your problems and questions with the insight unique to a disco-loving alternative-gardening defrocked clergy member and cosmic adventurer...
'I never believed something that was so much fun could Save my Soul. Now I'm glad I didn't stay at home and watch the repeat of Crossroads. Sister Janice changed my life.'
Mary is a 47 year-old woman from Cheshire. She is happy, well-adjusted and enjoying her new-found direction in life. Its hard to believe that, just seven days ago, she was a seething morass of self-disgust and moral degradation.
'As the classes continued, I felt my soul begin to luminesce with the Wonder of Existence. Then I went for a crap, and it died off a bit, but I still feel quite nice.'
Joseph is a 48 year-old man from Cheadle. He is happy, well-adjusted and enjoying his new-found direction in life. Its hard to believe that, just seven days ago, he was a slithering, slimy toad-monster of a man whose only redeeming feature was the fact that he stayed away from other people. Sometimes.
IF SISTER JANICE CAN DO IT FOR THEM, SHE CAN DO IT FOR YOU. SHE CAN DO IT FOR ANYBODY. SHE'S VERY CLEVER. OH YES.
Join 'Sister Janice Saves': a course for lost souls NOW. You have nothing to lose. Except money.
To apply for an information pack, send a five pound note, a rare disco record or a pack of rizlas to:
Sister Janice Slejj
The Space Shed
Hello my little Cosmic Dancers,
Coming to Earth wasn't quite the experience I was anticipating. I had spent some time in the outer realms, becoming accustomed to the noise that lay within myself, becoming conversely aware of the healing power of silence and, eventually, getting bloody bored.
I managed to crash-land The Space Shed in a particularly dull part of the North of England. And I can tell you, the people here are exceptionally rude. From the way some of them react, you'd think there was something unusual about a nun (even an alternative-gardening, disco-loving ex-nun and Cosmic Adventurer) approaching them in the street and offering to solve all their problems.
And THOSE are the polite ones. I do wonder, my little gems of generosity, what has occurred to engender the meanness of spirit that one encounters amongst those who deal with the public in the modern era.
All I said was 'I'm just borrowing it for the moment, I'll bring you the money when I've got it'. And they threatened to call the POLICE. Frankly, from a record store named after the Blessed Innocent State of Our Lady of Perpetual Virtue, I expected better. I even told them I needed the goods for religious purposes, for the cause of Recovery of Lost Souls.
There was no need for the security guard to hit me so hard.
Anyway, if any one amongst you is more enlightened, and has an early Grace Jones CD they would like to send me, be assured that it will only be used for the most heavenly of purposes. I know you trust me, my dears. I know that, together, we find the Truth on a weekly basis. And when I say I have a plan, I know your souls will fill with joy at the potential outcomes of this new earthly visitation.
Until then, I'm back in the shed. I've been informed that I'm blocking a drive-thru restaurant, and that if I don't move soon I'll be forcibly evicted. I tell them, hell, I crash landed from SPACE...what do they expect? But that doesn't seem to make a difference. And some creepy clown with red hair and nasty yellow dungarees keeps gawping at me through the window. God, even The Sisterhood Of The Perpetually Sartorially-Challenged could colour co-ordinate better than THAT.
Mind you, with black and white, it isn't much of a challenge.
The classes start next week, my little Pentecosts of Poptasticity. Hopefully, by then, somebody will have enrolled. Until then, its just me, Mary, and Joseph. And I don't interact much with them, chiefly because they don't exist. At least, not right now. Not here, with me. Not saving the universe. Not again.
Its our turn now. We have to save ourselves. Save someone else today. An alternative-gardening; disco-loving ex-nun and Cosmic Adventurer, perhaps.
Take care of yourselves, my children, and Feel the Force. Or, at least, Watch the Wobbles
Happy Spring Equinox (unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case I hope you have a great Autumn Equinox)! For us pagan types, this is one of the eight Sabbats in a yearly cycle, so what’s it all about then?
In solar terms, the sun twice a year manages to rise exactly in the east and set exactly in the west. The night is precisely 12 hours and the day is precisely 12 hours. This is an Equinox. It is also the mid-point of spring, which began at Imbolc and which finishes at Beltain.
In Celtic pagan terms, this is celebrated on March 20th, which, according to my calendar, is also the date when the Equinox actually occurs, though some years it happens on March 21st. It marks the official beginning of spring, the season hinted at during Imbolc. Like all Sabbats, it has been Christianized, this time into St Patrick’s Day – (the serpents which he sent from Eire were the Pagans, so it was seen as fitting that one of their Sabbats became his feast day) ; Easter, (though, depending on when Easter falls, it might be a substitute for Beltane, rather than Spring Equinox) ; Lady Day; and the Feast of the Annunciation of our Blessed Virgin Mary, (i.e. when the Archangel Gabrielle told Mary she was up the duff.)
In fact, goddesses and priestesses getting pregnant is a bit of a theme with this Sabbat. This is the time of the Great Rite, or the coupling of the Young Stag/King with the Goddess of Sovereignty/Queen to ensure the well-being and fertility of the land and also to bind the former to it. This is also a Rite connected with Beltane. As contraception isn’t a common feature of this Rite, then it’s hardly surprising that our female deities end up pregnant, particularly seeing as it’s nine months before Yule, when they are generally giving birth to the young God.
The pregnancy, of course, reflects the major event of spring – that is the rebirth of all the plants, which died in the freeze of autumn and winter; a cursory look around you outside will reveal the really nice aspect of spring – the colours, the warmth, the promise of summer. The earth itself is pregnant with new growth and seedlings.
For a look at some of the customs and traditions worldwide and crossing faiths, I recommend this site: http://www.mythinglinks.org/springequinox2000~Sapling.html I’ve always felt a little bit sorry for the minor Sabbats in that they are… well… minor compared to the Big Events, like Samhain and Beltane. Spring Equinox tends to segue into Beltane, due to the the Christianization of both, in part, and due to them both having bewilderingly similar imagery.
It is Spring Equinox which once bore the name, in Old English, of Ostara. This was in reference to the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and the dawn, Eostre. However, the Christian festival of Easter falls more closely to Beltane. Hence the confusion over when to buy the Easter eggs and don the floral bonnets. In America, where the German immigration was much later in history than in Britain, there is also an emphasis placed on an Easter bunny – this is Osterhare, the ‘familiar’ or associate of Eostre.
So why the egg? The flowers are more likely to be a Beltane addition, come early, while the egg definitely belongs with the Equinox. The egg is hugely symbolic of a womb, of fertility, of life springing (literally!) from a period of concealment in darkness. Looking at nature, there’s an obvious link with the seasons – a period of darkness and cold (winter) followed by a period of steadily lightening of the skies and the renewal of growth. We start to spot a bright, warm thing up there, which memory tells us is the sun!
The eggs in microcosm tell us this story again – remembering decorating the tree at Winter Solstice to remind nature that it once was bright and fertile? Well, the egg’s shell is representative of that barren season, so it gets decorated to provide us and the nature gods with the reminder; then we break the egg and there’s the sun represented in a nice, yellow yolk – nuturing, good for us. Then the Celts took it a step further and used the eggs to make flat pancakes, itself representative of the sun and nutritious (though my Mum has Views on the use of the word nutritious to describe pancakes).
This ‘from the darkness cometh light’ imagery is used in dozens of legends, myths and gospel celebrating Spring Equinox. Persephone returns from her six months in the Otherworld, in Greek mythology; Jesus gets crucified and resurrects in Christian mythology; and in Celtic mythology, the sun-child or the God, born in the depths of winter, has finally come of age and is ready to venture out to court the Maidens, away from the bosum of the Mother and the Crone. It is a victory of light that we are celebrating – the awakening of the Sleeping Lord, if you want the Arthurian link.
Or, in short, at Spring Equinox, we are celebrating the fact that, far from the vague hints of Imbolc, we now have concrete proof that we have survived the harsh times. We have that powerful psychological weapon against ourselves known as hope.
The Long Lost Diary Of Miss S L Gleaden
Some people might argue that the story of the diary of S L Gleaden was more interesting than the story that was contained within. Indeed, there are not many books which have single-handedly travelled the world. And even fewer that have found themselves put to work on a small fishing ship minutes after they have fallen to certain death out of the mouth of the world's second most greedy creature. The diary worked, on the ship, day and night without rest supporting a chair which had its leg unfortunately foreshortened in a freak shark incident on a previous fishing trip.
Splinters from the chair's leg lodged themselves in the gum of the shark, Mr G D Ridgevale , causing him such incredible pain that he stopped his evil ways and took a long hard look at his life. Mr G D Ridgevale now works in a protection agency eating seaweed and protecting the smaller fish from certain doom. His change of career has not only proved that is never too late to change your mind, but has also made the ocean a more peaceful place to live. None of this is of any consolation to the poor chair who would rock terribly if left unsupported. Nor is it any consolation to our poor diary who spent many an uncomfortable mealtime dreading Sundays when the sailors were given 2 helpings of pudding. Fortunately a freak storm liberated the poor book where it floated for some time on a cruel sea.
7 months later the diary washed up on the shores of a small town in the long forgotten county of Cumbria. Locals were impressed by the story contained within, not to mention the book's ability to wash up on the shores of a landlocked town, and after many hours were able to track down the explorer herself and made sure that the book returned to her but not before they had read it from cover to cover of course...
The Cumbrian locals flick to the second page of the book and are confronted by some rather shaky handwriting. It is immediately evident that things have not begun well for Miss S L Gleaden.
THINGS HAVE NOT BEGUN WELL FOR ME!
Not only did the taxi driver turn out to be a bank robbing villain who drove me the wrong way around the one-way system before bundling me out at the wrong terminal of the airport, but I am on the wrong plane! The Captain has announced that will be landing in 30 minutes and there is no doubt about it we will not be landing in Thessalonki.
OK deep breaths. I should try to calm down and explain what has happened. It all began at the check-in desk. I was slightly flustered at the time, having spent half an hour with a bank robbing taxi driver who kept asking me if I had seen the film 'The Silence of the Lambs', inbetween telling me about his amazing collection of 10043 empty matchboxes (what is so amazing about that? Even I have nearly 20000), I'll admit I wasn't really thinking straight. Perhaps I should have been more careful when handing her my passport. Maybe I should have taken a bit notice when the girl behind the check in started to call Miss Jones the name on one of my fake passports. Who would have thought anybody by the name of Jones would be travelling at the same time as me anway? It's an almighty coincidence. And there is a chance that I should have looked at the departure screens a bit more carefully but it was all such a whirl. Now, here I am, on the wrong plane.Unless...It is posslble that I misheard the captain.
The person next to me, is looking a little bit scared. I probably shouldn't talk her very much for the next 26 minutes. I just asked her where we are going it seems this is not a question you should ask on a plane. It also seems I heard the captain correctly. I think I will try to keep a low profile from now on. I don't want to arouse too much suspicion. It isn't strictly legal to use a false passport to board a flight to a foreign country.
I should finish for now dear diary- I have just been told to return my seat to the upright position and secure all my possessions in the seat pocket in front of me, so I suppose there is no doubt about it: we are going to Burma.
To Be Continued
The other day, I was in casual discussion with my cousin about the merits of masturbating with a glove on, when my sister came into the room with a look of utter befuddlement.
"He says use a wedding ring." she shook her head slowly. "He says rub a wedding ring on it and it will go away. What a..." More shaking of head.
By this time we gathered that she wasn't actually offering up her own succinct advice on masturbatory techniques but was, in fact, referring to the troublesome sty just below her daughters eye. As for the 'He' in question, well, it could only be our beloved, yet insanely idiotic, father. As a kid, when I was unfortunately afflicted with a sudden bout of warts, do you know what my father did? He procurred a piece of uncooked rump steak, buried it in the garden overnight, then, in the morning, prior to me being shipped off to school, he rubbed said steak on the offending warts. And before you ask, NO, it didn't work.
Some superstitions are simply downright evil and disturbing. For example, in China, gender preference is still deeply rooted in the old ideals of its feudal society, where it was thought to be essentrial for a mother to give birth to a son in order to carry on the family lineage. Throughout history therefore,Chinese superstition dictates that if a mother killed her baby girl, then the next child to be born would be a boy. However, if the mother had four girls in a row then she was possessed by the devil. As you are....
On a lighter note, did you know it was considered unlucky to marry on a Saturday, and it was unluckier still if the brides surname began with the same initial as the grooms? Moreover, tying shoes to the back of the wedding carriage is thought to bring good luck. This practice has evolved from Tudor times when they indulged in the slightly absurd custom of throwing shoes at the newlywed couple. Aparrently, if you hit them. it bought then good luck. Apparently.
Sport is a veritable cornucopia of superstitions. I mean, where on earth do you begin? There are instrinsic pre-match rituals for both sportsman and spectator, the necessity of which would make a hardline Catholic Priest wince. There are players that HAVE to go onto the pitch last, or who refuse to eat anything other than brocolli before a tournament; there are supporters who must have their spot in the stadium at 2.56 and 31 seconds precisely because that was the time that you arrived at the ground the first game of the season when you won the cup or something. There are those, like yours truly, who refuse to wash particular pieces of clothing if you wore them on the day that your team won. The point about superstitions in sport in particular is that you dare not risk carrying them out religiously for the absolute fear and turmoil within you that, should you lose, you and you alone will be responsible for that loss, regardless of how well you did or didn't play, regardless of the fact that you haven't won all season anyway and you were playing the best team in the country; in short, regardless of any semblance of logic whatsoever. Sportsfolk, I SALUTE YOU!
Whole communities are beset by superstition. In particular, fishing communities to this day live by devout and rigorous rituals. For example, once a fisherman has packed his bag for his next trip to sea, he will not venture forth if even a single item is removed from the bag. In particular fishing communities on the East coast of England, it was considered bad luck if you saw a pig, a PIG, on the way to your ship. If you were unfortunate enough to gaze upon it's pink countenance, then more often than not you refused to go to sea. Fishermen's wives are equally, if not more, committed to matters of superstition. It is considered unlucky, for instance, to wash any clothes on the day the fishermen depart (for fear of washing them away), to wave them goodbye (for fear of a wave sweeping them away), to call out after him once he has set foot outside the door, or even to whistle, as this would cause a storm at sea.
Did you know that a loaf of bread baked on Good Friday and kept until the following year is thought to be a cure for stomach disorders? Neither did I.
Now we all know that the theatre is beset with effeminate luvvies prancing about imploring us to break a leg and whittering on about 'the Scottish Play' and all that malarky, but what I want to know is, if they are so bloody effeminate why is is it considered so unlucky to admit a woman into the theatre on the first night of a performance?
Finally back to my father, my sister, and her daughters sty. If you thought, like me, that rubbing the sty with a wedding ring in the hope of curing it was plainly absurd, how about this 'cure' that I found during the process of researching this article: "To cure a sty, stand at a crossroads and recite. 'sty, sty leave me eye, take the next one coming by'..."
And that worked, did it?
I'm not sure what I'm doing here. I think that's the best way to write about The Clash's 1980 masterpiece, Sandinista!. I generally get the idea that they had no idea what the hell they were doing either. I suppose I should put a disclaimer here and say that this is not a review. I can't review this album. I am obviously biased, besides, who wants a dull review of something like this anyway?
I suppose some background for those unfamiliar would be helpful. The Clash released their seminal London Calling in December of 1979, to much critical acclaim and all that. A brilliant album it is, too, featuring all sorts of ventures into new musical realms such as rockabilly, fused with an even more ska/reggae influence then their previous works had shown. During the summer of 1980, they wrote and recorded a majority of Sandinista! in three weeks in New York, and did some finishing touches in London and Kingston. The album was released as a triple vinyl (for the cost of a single... the band took the losses) in October of 1980. Critics mostly destroyed it, especially in the UK, saying it was just an over-indulgent mess. It didn't sell too hotly either. One critic summed it up nicely: “On London Calling, it seemed the Clash could do anything. On Sandinista!, they tried to do EVERYTHING.”
Now that we have those dull facts out of the way, I'll give you a bit of my background with the record. I had the other Clash albums, and had been putting off getting this one due to the reviews and the general lack of availability. The three songs I knew, I generally weren't too keen on. Plus, London Calling was such an important album for me; I didn't want to sully the Clash's name in my eyes. One day, however, I took the plunge. I picked it up at the local Best Buy, and put it in. I knew the first two tracks, and thought, “okay... ” and then “Junco Pardner” began playing. It is a cover of a traditional reggae tune, and my white, indie rock loving ears just weren't ready for it. Its strange noises and Joe's howling vocal delivery put me off. Okay, skip that.
“Ivan Meets G.I. Joe” starts playing, which sounds like a sped-up Train in Vain with even more blips and bloops running amok. By this time, I had almost given up. But I liked about three tracks on the first disc, so I listened to those and just put it away for a bit. Still... something pulled me back. I couldn't understand what happened. What the hell were they thinking? I think the reviews had gone to my head and I was looking for the excess (something not hard to find on this album). I listened again and again, but never all at one time. It's tough to sit through a 2 and a half hour album, especially one as strange as this seemed.
At about this stage in my life, I was beginning to hit my gig-going stride. I was driving six hours each way to get to Athens, Georgia for random gigs almost every weekend. Twelve hours in a car in a day gives a person plenty of time to become more acquainted with their CD's... and I got very well acquainted with this one. Soon it began to dawn on me... yes, it was a mess, but a beautiful one. The sheer energy and innovation began to make itself more and more known. I began to imagine what it must have been like in 1980 for a young punk, ever-so-slightly growing out of his punk phase with the help of bands such as Gang of Four and even the help of London Calling. You buy the new clash record, three records long, and for the price of a single! You pop it in your record player and you hear... reggae? Dub? Strange repetitive funk bass loops (an early form of hip-hop... but how many knew at the time)? A song reminiscent of a gospel choir? I can imagine the young punk, tossing it away... ”The Clash have gone off their nut! This isn't punk!” But that's just it. It's the most punk thing in the world. Throw your fans a curve-ball and do something so inaccessible they won't want to hear it again. But it would be a shame to throw something like this away. As I told all my friends when I'd play it for them, “this album takes a lotta love!” And it does, and I was eventually more than willing to give it all the love it needs.
This album plays a world scale. Indeed, Joe Strummer even said that nobody in the UK should be able to understand this album (assuming one really can at all). If you listen to their first album, which is basically what life in London was like, it's amazing to hear how far they had come just three albums later. They seemed to have been obsessed with showing people all the music they had fallen in love with over time. The reggae was obvious, but then there's the hip-hop (“Magnificent Seven”, “Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)”), the southern gospel (“the Sound of Sinners”), the rockabilly (“The Leader, Midnight Log”), the island rhythms (“Let's Go Crazy”), the backwards track (“Mensforth Hill”... Nine years before the Stone Roses... suck on that Ian Brown)... the list goes on and on.
If you're reading this now, you're probably beginning to realize I really don't know much about music. I don't. I suppose I should have told you that before. I've been trying to expand my musical horizons the past few years, especially after buying Sandinista!, but it took over my life for a few months... in a way stunting my musical growth. But that's hardly relevant, or is it? I'm not sure. I can tell this rant is going off the rails... which is fitting. You get the feeling listening to the album, especially the last side, that they knew things had gone off the rails. Most of the the last bit of the album is dub versions of other songs on the album, done with a lot of help from Mikey Dread. In one of the dub remixes, “Living in Fame”, you can hear Joe Strummer saying “Fuckin' Hell Mikey”... Fuckin' hell indeed.
The album is filled with odd bits and bobs... the little girl singing “Guns of Brixton”... the strange man appearing from time to time towards the end talking about winding Big Ben, the two kids covering “Career Opportunities” (perhaps passing the Clash ideals to a new generation?). They seem to have just started throwing everything plus the kitchen sing into the recordings, as though letting Mikey Dread out of his cage to run loose wasn't enough. The album moves into sheer insanity... ending with a slow instrumental number and what sounds like some sort of huge explosion. Perhaps that's the song, or the band, or the record, or everything just blowing up. I couldn't think of a more fitting end.
Listening to the album, I find myself in some sort of trance. I usually stop whatever I'm doing, pace around my flat, dance around, flail about, or just lay there listening... soaking it all in, or trying to. Perhaps it doesn't make much sense. Perhaps it is overindulgent crap. There is no doubt that there are several brilliant, classic Clash tunes on here, so is all the rest just filler? I don't know and I don't care. This album has soaked into me like no album before it. I've never spent so much time grappling, cursing, hugging, and eventually loving, anything quite like it before. If I were to lock myself away for a weekend of drugs, alcohol, and general madness, this would be my soundtrack. Jesus, there's just so much to write about. I haven't touched upon song like “Rebel Waltz” or “Something About England” with their echoes of dreamlike rebel pasts, whatever that means. I haven't touched upon the violin-driving Tymon Dogg “Lose This Skin”. There's so much to be said, but it must stop.
I haven't proofread this or anything. I haven't thought about it. I haven't organized it. I've just written it, and I'm not going to read it again. I'm leaving it as it is. It's only right. In “The Sound of Sinners”, Joe Strummer proclaims, “I was looking for that great jazz note that brought down the walls of Jericho”. I think he found something much better. A flawed masterpiece of excess, energy, drugs, and genius.