Issue #58 - Noverber 28th - December 4th
Sister Janice and The Ceremony
Say it loud, I'm p!o!p! and proud #2:
The day we caught the train... (not really a ballboy review)
The Anti-War Movement , Political Strategy , The Media and The Intelligence Services
Sister Janice and The Ceremony
Sister Janice is Friends Of The Heroes' Cosmic-Adventuring Advice-Dispenser. We used to call her an agony aunt, but these days she's too grand for that sort of thing.. 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...
Hello there my little starlets of scrumptiousness,
So...here's where I left you.... I'm on Pluto, and I'm about to perform a wedding.
The marriage will be for Roger, my space-travelling companion. His bride? Well, all I know at this point is that she calls herself xffrxrovvv and they met on some seedy planet somewhere in Orion's belt. I suspect she's a dancing girl, because they tend to populate that planet, and I've heard some not entirely savoury things about what they get up to there. I have only briefly seen Roger since I inadvertently left him there, and he has since written me a note asking me to get him off this planet, and out of the wedding.
At the time, this puzzled me. Later, I thought I might have discovered the reason...
'You make sun come close, across space. You make us warm, make things grow, change the air.'
'I.....I can't do th-'
'You make everything different, and new. And then we don't eat friend's brain'.
And, kids, this is the point where I really start to panic.
So, I've tried praying, but figure we probably don't have time to wait for divine intervention.
But there seems little point, the church is directly in front of us.
But right now I'm not in the mood to admire architecture. I'm fiddling with my crucifix, and I'm considering that I can probably blag my way through the service, but that re-configuring the solar system will take a little bit more practice, and I'm looking down at the cross in my hand, and thinking how much I preferred my neon green one that I went and swapped with some dodgy bloke round the back of a space-bar for a bag of rather strange-tasting mushrooms... when what feels like a Plan comes to mind.
I fumble in the pocket of my habit...yes, they're still there. I'd kept them, for a special occasion, see... I was going to take them with Roger when I found him again, sitting on a Beta Centaurian moon, gazing at the cosmic dust as it made beautiful swirling shapes. Or on my own, when I found a decent party - one or the other.
Foolproof. More or less. Give or take the odd complication.
Anyway, that's my plan, as I take a deep breath, try and think of something clever to say, and hold my crucifix aloft as I enter the giant vagina.
A deep breath.... Just blag it, Janice..
They're all staring at me. Some human guy in a suit stands at the centre of the building. He is holding what looks suspiciously like an egg. Everyone is watching him, except the guy at the door, who turns to me, shoots the evils and says 'Just sit down, and shut up. We'll tell you when we want you'.
Again, I find myself in the unusual position of doing what I'm told.
I can dimly see Roger, if I stand on a pew and stare over thousands of heads. He's wearing a....surely not...yes.... he's wearing....nothing.
And, forward steps my travelling companion. The suit passes him the egg, and he takes it into his hands, and embraces it - all the time, he's shooting looks around him, as if he expects someone to turn up and get him out of this. I find myself following those looks, hoping for that person to appear. Then I realise that person is me.
Slowly, solemly, he begins to speak:
'I shall chant the call of my forefathers, the ancient wizards of Maancheztar Pikadilli, the litany of the rebirth of the sun and the re-ordering of the galactic spiral.'
What the fuck is he on about?
'Getcha GETCHA ya ya DA da
Now, I'm starting to wonder if I've taken the mushrooms without realising it
'MOCHA CHOCOLATA YA YA
He stops, and, for a second, the congregation is silent. Then, as one, they turn to face me.
A poke in the ribs from The Yeti:
So I step forward, smiling at the crowd, making my way towards the happy couple and planning the best way to handle this situation. And I'm thinking there really isn't going to be any way my plan will work, and I'm considering the mushrooms in my pocket. And..
I'm eating them.
So...two weeks later... We're sat - me, and Roger, and xffrxrovvv - and we're staring at the sun as it sets over the seas of Vrplx2OOjeofil. And we're waiting for the six moons to drift serenely into the sky, in a perfect geometrical arc. I'm thinking how, for a moment, it looked as if I'd seen my last sunset, and I'm turning to them as they sit, awkwardly, next to one another, trying to avoid making eye-contact and perhaps wondering, as I am, how the hell we all managed to get here. Together. Alive.
I'll tell you the rest of the story next week, my little Lunar-beams of loveliness, for now, I need to be quiet, and reflect that life is, sometimes, just a little peculiar.
And, finally, reflect that I wish I'd never bought those bloody 'mushrooms' from that little blue guy in a dodgy space-bar. And that I wish I'd stopped him stroking his 'chin'. And that you really shouldn't buy things you don't understand from people who are busily manipulating peculiar parts of their anatomy.
But that's next week's story, my dears. Until then, be happy.
I would say 'be careful', but where's the fun in that?
Say it loud, I'm p!o!p! and proud #2: On a dark and wet London street, life as a Belle and Sebastian fan and the Strange Fruit Festival
Indiepop is an international affair.
I didn't just realise that, though it would have been fitting if I had.
Then I would have been able to tell you it all happened last Friday in London. More specifically, in a restaurant in Shepherd's Bush which serves mostly Portuguese chicken, where I sat for three quarters or so trying to concentrate on my food - and failing. Rachel laughed at me as I stared out of the window, spotting people from Sweden that I know from bands and people from Scotland that I know from mailing lists and getting more and more excited as time went by. The dark and wet street that happens to be between Shepherd’s Bush tube stop and the Bush Hall suddenly seemed like the most interesting place, ever.
The 2nd Strange Fruit Festival
And when a little later I bumped on the Pipas Girl (Lupe) on my way out of the toilet, well, that convinced Shepherd’s Bush is a magical place. Or at least that it was for that night. See, earlier on the same day I had fallen asleep with the last Pipas record playing, and ever since that moment 'Golden Square' had been stuck in my head - and suddenly there I was, standing in front of the girl who sings on it. And, see, where I come from such a thing would almost never happen, because it's too far away from most of the things I like, so I felt like I was in a different dimension - even though I remembered that all it had taken to get there were a few buses, trains and a plane, and I had always thought of dimension-skipping to be harder than that. You might find that silly, but I'm only an excitable young girl with an overactive imagination and a fondness for travelling, so bear with me.
Like all stories, this too could start in at least a dozen different ways but I have decided to start it with an overnight train journey, not only because it sounds exciting but also because it was when I first listened to your mixtape. This might seem irrelevant but it is not, because two hours into said journey and halfway down the second side I fell in love with the Lucksmiths. And it was all because you had put 'Under the Rotunda' after a long series of songs that sounded more or less the same to my sleepy, untrained ears. I will never forget the moment I heard Tali launch into 'It's already Friday, and soon it will be Friday night' for what might not have been the actual first time, but certainly was the first one to make a difference. It was one of those moments when a song seems like the most perfect thing ever and like it has only ever existed for you.
It was also the reason behind me spending a big part of last Friday evening wishing I got to hear it live. And when I did - and it might have been the place's new-found magic or maybe just that it was a Friday - my heart jumped and I smiled at the perfect circle of the story I've just told you.
But things would never have happened this way if you hadn't made me that mixtape (which you called 'a tape for a Belle and Sebastian fan') if we weren't going to meet for the first time on the day of a Belle and Sebastian gig - and we could have well never got to meet at all even though we live in the same country, if it hadn't been from the boy from the Philippines who introduced us to each other and I only met him in a Belle and Sebastian chatroom anyway...
And yes - my life does revolve around Belle and Sebastian, but you know I'm trying to change this. That - and not the fact that I had booked my flights already when Belle and Sebastian announced their tour dates, no – is the reason why I decided to fly to London for the Strange Fruit Festival instead of some Belle and Sebastian concert or other. It was a tough decision and I’m trying not to regret it. Here’s a list of the reasons why. (You can also call it a list of the bands I managed not to miss.)
I missed all of Wednesday (19/11/03)(so I have nothing to say on My private life, Mika Bomb, Fonda 500 and Clearlake) and most of Thursday (20/11/03) (so I have nothing to say on Jens Lekman, Printed Circuit and Freezepop), but I do have something to say about Baxendale – and that is that they were a lot better than I thought they would be! Now that wasn’t very hard seeing as I thought they would be horrible, but I was wrong. I had disregarded the fact that the bloke can sing very well indeed, and that this would be quite enough to make the performance warm, sweet and touching, even though I am not particularly fond of the sort of songs they write and play and I like Fosca better. Oh, and they sound much better than they look! Still, they changed my mind about themselves enough to say I’d go see them again if I got the chance and that’s quite a feat.
Momus wore a pirate’s eye-cover and sang quite sweetly, too. His set was a nice and pleasant something to be around, even though I harboured no hope of him playing one of the three or so songs of his I happen to be familiar with. I left half an hour before it was over to catch the last train home, so for all I know he might have done. I would probably go and see him again too, though I wouldn’t try too hard to make it happen.
Early on on Friday (21/11/03), Thomas Truax was an interesting something to look at. He used all sorts of weird instruments (the most impressive of which was one that required him to put the left side of his face into a huge horn that looked like it had once belonged to phonograph) and walked around and in and out of the room a fair bit, even asking people to sing with him. However, he sounded mostly like a young, but, alas, less inspired Tom Waits with a dark, Nick Cave-ian streak (which as you know is enough to put me off) and the stories he told were of no interest to me.
I don’t remember much about Vermont except that the last songs they played were very good for dancing indeed. It kind of made me wish I hadn’t wandered off for the most part of their set, and I should be finding out more about them soon.
Free Loan Investments were adorable. They couldn’t have been anything else, either – they can’t help it. I thought they were adorable even though they were made a little too much noise for my liking, even though they shouted a little too loud and this overshadowed all the wonderfully pop subtleties in their songs – even though they stood no chance of playing any of my real favourites (‘The city under lights’ or ‘We made it to second base’ or ‘Stand by your teddy bear’) but ‘Ronan Keating’.
But really, I would have loved them no matter what they did, except if they did it really badly, which of course they didn’t. They did really well. As Amanda shouted her way from one punk-pop gem about teenage love to the next people danced and clapped and smiled, and their new songs were brilliant too - especially the last one, called ‘Everyone can dance’. I somehow find the title very touching.
And I would have had the time of my life if only it hadn’t been for a voice in the back of my head saying ‘this is all very great but soon it will be over and you will be back in Athens too far way from it all’.
I spent most part of Schwervon!’s set staring into space, trying to make said voice shut up and thinking ‘wow, I’ve just seen Free Loan Investments’ so I’m afraid I don’t know anything about them either. They sounded American and as you know this is a bad thing in my book. I must have been staring into space for longer than I thought though because before I realised it it was time to start thinking ‘wow, I’m just going to see the Lucksmiths’. And then it happened.
The next thing I remember is Tali singing it’s already Friday and a roomful of people starting to bounce and sing along with smiles on their faces and me thinking the world is not such a bad place after all. During the next hour or so I realised two things – one, that I know the words to most Lucksmiths songs without knowing it, and two, that I like them even more than I thought I did, which is a whole lot. They played a few exciting old songs at first (‘T-shirt weather’ and ‘The year of driving languorously’ and ‘The great dividing range’! What more could one ask for!) until they got everyone happy and then they did a few more, not-that-less-exciting-after-all new ones (like ‘Midweek midmorning’ which is brilliant, and ‘Camera shy’) before they said goodnight with ‘Tomorrow vs yesterday’ which sounded sadder and sweeter than I remembered it to be.
And then it was late and time to disappear – go take trains and buses and get wet...
...until it was Saturday (22/11/03) and time to come back. Which we did, but not soon enough even though we tried, because the Strange Fruit people cheated and Action Biker went on stage a little earlier than 7 pm, thus causing me to miss ‘Heartbreak’! I was gutted by that fact and there are rumours that want me walking around afterwards, looking at the floor and mumbling things like ‘all the way from Greece’ and ‘my favourite song’ and ‘goodness knows when I’ll see her again’.
On retrospect, I would have been better off concentrating on more positive aspects of her performance. Its loveliness, for example, or its charm – with Sarah on her own on stage singing along to a recorded instrumental version of her songs, you’d think it would be boring, but it wasn’t. I’m not sure what made the difference, maybe the fact that the girl can sing, or the ease with which she danced on her own on the empty stage among all sorts of instruments belonging to Bearsuit as if no one was watching, but anyway – something must have done, because the songs you said sound silly the first one hundred times suddenly made sense and I fell for them. Especially the last one (‘Farrah’) with the line ‘somedays I wonder, what are you doing, what are you wearing, what would you say if I would meet you again, what would you do’. I have a thing for last songs, it seems.
Bearsuit were yet another band that I thought I’d hate. And guess what? I fell in love with them. I wonder how I could ever have disliked them – they look so sweet, smile so brightly and most of all they’re loads of fun! They make the most charming songs out of all sorts of noise and nonsense and they seem to be enjoying themselves immensely in the process and soon I was caught up in it, finding every little thing they did perfect – the addition of a trumpet here, a bit of screaming there -, standing wide-eyed to the greatness of it all. I knew none of their songs, which only worked in their favour, as it prevented me of thinking ‘oh no’ whenever a new song started. Stand-outs would include ‘Tiny Barnes’ and ‘Rodent Disco’.
It all went a bit downhill after that – Airport Girl compared to Bearsuit, Airport Girl seemed like a ordinary, normally structured band with a guitarist, a bass player, a keyboard player and drummer, where people don’t scream their hearts out, don’t sing nonsense phrases and seem to prefer playing their instruments to using them to make curious noises. Now a lot of people would find that a damn good thing, but not me – I just found it fairly boring. This impression was reinforced by the fact that their sound is guitar-orientated, English, with longish, slowish songs, not my sort of thing at all.
That said, however, I discovered I have a hard time disliking music that has affected my life in some way or other, or, at least, indiepop that has affected my life in some way or other, and to make up for finding Airport Girl’s set boring, I had “Striking out on your own" on my mind for half of Monday morning.
Just as the Spearmint set started, I wandered off just to bump into a friend I haven’t seen for a year and a half... Naturally I have not much to say about them either. Except maybe that they seemed to make some people quite excited and happy. When they left the stage, I squeezed my way back to the front and waiting for Ballboy to come on and play something exciting.
Which, indeed, was what they did. They opened with a slightly too rock version of ‘Avant garde music’, followed by a slightly too rock but quite exciting nonetheless version of “Donald in the bushes with a bag of glue", and there isn’t much point in me going on, is there? Ballboy are just a bit too rock for my liking, but it was a good set, exciting and heart-warming; and there was a feeling in the air and on people’s faces as they gathered expectantly round the stage, that that was what everyone had been waiting for the whole time.
And the last song - well, the last song was one of the best things I’ve seen in my life. It was past 11 pm, and we weren’t allowed to make any more noise but Ballboy wanted to play all night, so Paul Strange Fruit made a speech about this being their last gig, asking us to shout ‘tossers!’ three times and then to keep quiet, so we could all hear Gordon sing once he had he switched off the amps and mic. Then, Gordon walked to the front of the stage to sing an acoustic ‘Dumper truck racing’ to an audience that was holding its breath.
On the opposite side of the stage from me, the Strange Fruit People were crying. I stared in deep awe at both them and Gordon and I wanted to cry too because it was that sort of moment, that sort of a song. A song about being together, making your dreams come true and how the future will triumph over the past.
And one day everything will be all right, forever.
Love and London,
The day we caught the train...
I sometimes get a bit embarrassed about my life.
Its more than just going to see the band. It's the experience. The journey, the things you do while you are there, the random people you meet, the friends you make on the way. Its getting all excited to hear the music you love played live…
But having said that, if I remember rightly, this was never my idea. I'm not saying I didn't agree it of course.
It all started while I was sitting on Carlisle station with a beep.
Are we going to the strange fruit festival?!!! *
Three excliamation marks. She was suggesting she made the long trip from Greece to go to London. I was already excited.
I don't know. Are we? Who's on?
I awaited the reply casually. A train came. The phone went out of range. Finally the answer came:
Free Loan Investments…
I was mildly interested.
I started to think about how long it would take me to travel to London, and where my dog would be staying.
I turned to face the window as a big smile crossed my face before replying.
At that stage I had very little idea regarding the fine details of the trip. I had no idea that it would involve a demonstration through central London. Or that it would involve meeting two rather crude French men who were mortified to learn that my friend who can speak French had heard and understood every word of the conversation in which they had bragged about their sexual exploits. But even at that early stage of planning, if I had thought about it really hard I could have probably predicted that a few hours before the concert I would be standing somewhere near the front talking jibberish to anyone who cared to listen.
So lets fast forward a few months…
I like this part of concerts though. I like the anticipation and the excitement. It gives me time to realise that this won't simply be the same as switching on a CD. It makes me feel like a kid again. Or rather it makes me feel that I don't have to be a grown up for a while. I can loose myself in the here and now.
Before I knew it I found myself swept up in the excitement of the crowd as the band appeared on stage. "I'm not going to talk much tonight because we have 23 songs written on the setlist" said lead singer, Gordon McIntyre. This was met by loud cheers and puzzled looks as the audience tried to work out how this would be possible. The band began by defiantly telling the infamous record shop girl and anyone else how much they valued their opinions.
My mind swirled as the band raced through one song to another. Getting caught up in each.Image rushed though my head as I was swiftly taken from one world to the next, looking around myself wondering what other people were thinking, wondering what each song meant to them. Songs about space, love, cyclists, and big fat bigotted bastards rolled into one. Laughter and smiles mixed with tears and heartache. It was beautiful.
The concert ended with "leave the earth..."(song number 11-not bad for an hour long slot) and was dedicated to keyboard player Katie Griffiths who was playing live for the last time with the band. If she is reading, and being a woman of good taste I'm sure that she will be, I'd like to wish her all the best.
The emotion didn't end there though because it wasn't only Katie who was leaving that night. In fact we had just reached the end of the last ever strangefruit concert. Ever.
*please note the punctuations and correct spellings in our text messages. Yes we are members of the mobile phone generation. But this does not mean we will let our language skills slip-Actually in my case predictive text is a bonus and I tend to spell more correctly in text messages)
The Anti-War Movement , Political Strategy , The Media and The Intelligence Services
The Stop The War Coalition in the UK has been a great success in mobilising people to demonstrate.
The demonstration against Bush and the occupation of Iraq on the 20th of November in London was the largest week-day demonstration in the UK in living memory with estimates of numbers ranging between 70,000 and 200,000. There are still parties affiliated to the coalition who have not learnt the reasons for its effectiveness though and who are in danger of weakening rather than strengthening the movement.
Parties like the Socialist Workers' Party , the Communist Party of Great Britain and , to a lesser extent , the Scottish Socialist Party are still obsessed with the party as a vehicle for change. They see themselves as providing the long term alternatives to 'New Labour' but unfortunately all of them tend to end up confusing the supposed importance of the party with what is most important - actually achieving some of the aims it was established to bring about.
At the London march on the 20th of November marchers, most of whom had turned up to march against Bush, Blair and the occupation of Iraq, were forced to stand as a captive audience for around 40 minutes and listen to Socialist Workers' Party and other speakers' corner speakers pontificate about 'socialism' , 'revolution' and 'storming the BBC'.
Now while I and many others present believe in democratic socialism (and not Blair's fake version of it) there are many people who are anti-war yet not socialists - most liberals and even many Conservatives oppose the occupation of Iraq and despise Bush.
The most effective way of achieving political aims is to take each aim individually and build a coalition of all those who want to achieve it, irrespective of their ideologies or motives for wishing to achieve it. It is not tactically clever to alienate potential members of such a coalition by trying to link it to other issues.
I have no problem with people having different beliefs from me. If they wish to believe in 'revolution' and talk about it they should be free to - but in doing so at anti-war marches they merely damage the cause they claim to be marching for in a selfish and self-defeating attempt to further their own wider agenda and proselytise for their own party. Talk of revolution and storming the BBC plays straight into the hands of Bush and Blairs' attempt to portray the anti-war movement as a minority of extremists.
Even more idiotic were the tiny minority of protesters who claimed that past marches 'hadn't worked' so they would have to be violent this time since it was supposedly 'the only language Bush understands'. The whole aim of the anti-war movement is to highlight the fact that using violence (e.g. military action) as a response to violence (e.g. terrorism) merely results in innocent people being killed or injured and a cycle of violence spiralling out of control. The only way to defeat Bush and Blair is to undermine them politically to the extent that they lose elections - that can only be done peacefully and won't happen till new elections are held (probably next year on both sides of the Atlantic).
The simple fact is that the wider the range of issues you attempt to build a coalition on the smaller that coalition and its support will be. Narrow it down to one single issue at a time - for instance ending the occupation of Iraq and bringing our troops home - and you will create maximum support and the most powerful possible coalition to achieve that aim. As each aim is achieved it is possible to move onto the next - for instance ending the occupation of Afghanistan. The Stop The War Coalition have largely operated on this maxim but many of its member parties have not and they need to realise that by pushing their entire agenda at once they are going to fail to achieve any of their aims at all - and are also in danger of being almost as intolerant of other opinions as the control freaks heading 'New Labour'. Nor can the leadership of the main parties be defeated by using their own methods - only by building links on each issue at a time across the back-bench MPs and ordinary members of all parties - and people who are members of no party.
Listening to other peoples' opinions and discussing with them is an effective method of both persuasion and of clarifying your own position. Dogmatic repetition of your own point of view and scorn for those who disagree is a recipe for failure.
Overall though the Stop The War Coalition is a great success and it's time again to turn to what the common enemy has been up to.
There was much debate in Parliament and the media over whether Bush and Blair had misrepresented information provided to them by the intelligence services on Iraq's supposed 'weapons of mass destruction'. It transpires that in fact British military and intelligence officers as well as Ministry of Defence officials were commissioned by Clinton , Bush and Blair in 'Operation Rockingham' since at least 1998. The aim of the operation was to prevent the majority of the evidence - which showed Iraq had no WMDs - from ever reaching the press or the public and to manufacture false stories - like the 'mobile chemical weapons lab' story which Dr David Kelly exposed as nonsense - as a propaganda campaign to promote war on Iraq . The late Dr David Kelly was one of those to reveal the full role of Operation Rockingham shortly before his death. The implication is that the debate over whether Blair and Bush distorted the evidence is irrelevant - large parts of the intelligence services were commissioned by them to do exactly that and are as guilty as they are. It also raises questions over the causes of Dr Kelly's suicide or death.
Another eye-opener is the accounting scandal at the Hollinger International media group and the proposal by the Carlyle Group to bail Hollinger out. Hollinger's Chief Executive was the hard right media magnate Conrad Black who was forced to resign recently when Enron-style accounting fiddles which involved millions being siphoned off by Black and other senior executives were revealed. Other members of the Hollinger Board of Directors include former Bush administration member Richard Perle and the notorious Henry Kissinger.
One newspaper owned by Hollinger is the Daily Telegraph. One of the speakers at the main rally in Trafalgar Square in the London march on the 20th was George Galloway MP - who was expelled from the Labour Party for making statements opposing the Iraq war by a kangaroo court appointed by Tony Blair. The Telegraph newspaper ran stories during the invasion and occupation claiming it had evidence that Galloway had accepted large sums of money from Saddam's regime. The Christian Science Monitor , which made similar claims , has since been forced by legal action to drop the claim which was based onforged documents. The main evidence consisted of supposed Iraqi files which miraculously survived a fire in a building in Baghdad which destroyed everything else in the rooms involved. A Telegraph journalist found these after a tip-off from British intelligence.
The Telegraph will soon be forced to retract its claims just as the Monitor has.
The Carlyle Group - which is now proposing to buy a stake in Hollinger International to prevent the Telegraph and other papers in the group going bankrupt or being bought out by rival groups - is a very shady firm
Call me a conspiracy theorist all you like - there's enough evidence here to make it much more than theory. Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the Saddam-Al Qa'ida link - now that was a conspiracy theory - and if you don't believe me ask the CIA who are adamant that there was never any solid evidence of such a connection.
(1) = Wall Street Journal 27th Sep 2001 Bin Laden Family Is Tied To U.S. Group