Issue #79 June 4th - 17th 2004

Morrissey – Live at Manchester Evening News Arena, 22.5.04
Close your eyes, it’s that dark. Tune the radio to a frequency mid-way between two stations and crank up the volume, the noise is that intense.
By Johnny Mac

The beauty in the way that we are living - Installment 12
...and the next morning which was the first of the new month too summer was all over the city. There was a cool breeze and hot sun and tourists and too much sunshine and though I had a hundred things to do I couldn't care less.
By Dimitra Daisy

Time on our Hands
There's plenty more fish in the sea, Mike. Dozens of beautiful women that do not desire to be covered in urine.
By Paul Williamson

El Salvador in Iraq
Some of the Americans and Iraqis now running Iraq have a long history of organising torture and massacre - in some cases going back as far as El Salvador and Chile in the 1980s - and Vietnam in the 70s
By Duncan McFarlane

Book Review: ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’
For someone of my (unspecified) age, from a suburban upbringing, with a record collection stacked full of guitar bands of the 1980’s, and with a university education, ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ reads like a self portrait.
By Johnny Mac

 

 

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Morrissey – Live at Manchester Evening News Arena, 22.5.04

Close your eyes, it’s that dark. Tune the radio to a frequency mid-way between two stations and crank up the volume, the noise is that intense. There is a palpable crackle of electricity in the air, and it’s not from the un-seasonal Manchester heat wave. There is a prolonged wait in this state of limbo, until eventually the main attraction strolls majestically onto the stage. The buzz immediately becomes a roar that spreads from the front rows back through this cavernous venue. Ripping through the darkness 10 foot high letters, reminiscent of those at the Elvis ’68 comeback, edged in scarlet luminescence spell out his name. Morrissey.

A couple of acapella bars of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’, and the band, as one, kick into the opener ‘The First of The Gang to Die’. The place finally gives in under the sheer tension and explodes. It’s the obvious high point of the album he is here to promote, a catchy, sing-along tale of a Hispanic gang members demise that’s sure to have mum’s on the school run singing along to whilst they drop little Johnny and Mary off outside the school gates. The whole of the standing area is moving as one, arms aloft, and 19,001 voices all proclaim “…you have never been in love, until you’ve seen the dawn rise, behind the Home for the Blind…”
Next comes ‘Hairdresser On Fire”, giving us barely even time to draw breath. It’s testament to the obsession of the fans here tonight that an extra ‘b’-side track on a 12” single from 1988 is instantly recognised and transformed into yet another mass sing-along.

“I’m ten parts Crumlin, 10 parts Trafford...” our host informs the masses as they break into current top 3 single ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’. The band appear tight, yet relaxed, the crowd anxious, feverish, ecstatic.

Puzzled faces appear all around as the band, with no introduction, start to play ‘Subway Train’ by little known 70’s glam punks The New York Dolls, only to turn to delight when after the first chorus and amid a rumble of drums, a crash of guitar and a synthesiser swirl, our hero emerges with his early classic ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’. Ironically tonight was already proving this song to be incorrect, everyday is not silent and grey as the lyrics suggest.

“Manchester...” comes the proclamation from the stage, “you have nothing to answer for”.

The set gives little sense of a build up, swaying from up-tempo rockers (The Headmaster Ritual, How Can Anybody Know How I Feel?) to slower, calculated tales of rejection, isolation and mis-understanding (Such A Little Thing.., I Have Forgiven Jesus and I Know It’s Going To Happen Someday). The audience could be forgiven for becoming frustrated, but no, each subsequent number is greeted and applauded as rapturously as the previous one.

The only lull comes towards the end of the set, where Morrissey asks if we would indulge him as he performs a cover from the 80’s. “No, it’s not Britney” he instructs one of the apostles pinned to the front of the stage. Instead it’s a pleasing rendition of Raymonde’s ‘No-One Can Hold a Candle to You’. This is swiftly followed by a dark, menacing ‘Jack the Ripper’ and an uneasy offering of ‘A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours’ which, musically at least could best be described as ‘all over the place’.

Things take a turn for the better however, with an impassioned take of ‘I’m Not Sorry’, one of the more delicate numbers from the new album ‘You Are The Quarry’. This provides a surprising highlight to the evening so far. But more is yet to come, and the venue is shaken to its very foundations with a rip-roaringly powerful ‘Shoplifters of the World, Unite’, with which our hosts depart stage right.

The lights stay down, and the crowd is chanting in unison, almost tribally, the football-esque chant of “Morrissey, Morrissey, Morrissey...” is ringing around the venue and eventually the band re-emerge. “Who me?” he asks coyly, “oh stop it please” he begs. Only he knows what is coming next, the crowd hang on his every word, from every loose note squeezed out by the band and then there it is.

The first two crashing chords of ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” has the arena in raptures. Arms aloft, singing so loud as to be heard above the p.a. system. And if that many people, all chorusing “...and if a double decker bus, crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die. And if a ten ton truck kills the both of us, to die by your side, well the pleasure, the privilege is mine..” doesn’t leave the hairs standing up on the back of your neck then you are seriously deficient in something and I suggest you seek advice, immediately. Morrissey doesn’t bother to sing the eponymous refrain, instead leaving it to his adoring masses to carry the song to its climax. He bids us “goodnight, thank you” and slinks into the darkness. His band play on with the audience now clapping along to the hypnotic beat, this could go on forever. One by one the musicians leave their posts, put down their weapons, salute the crowd and bid their farewells until we are left with just the keyboards drawing the exquisitely beautiful string outro from our hearts.

It finally ends, and we all know that we have just seen something special. The house lights come up and we make our way excitedly into the cool Manchester evening with the sounds of this city’s greatest living poet still ringing in our ears. It will be a long time before this town witnesses a more emotional homecoming, a more welcoming embrace than we have just been held in. A long time indeed.

Johnny Mac

  

 

 

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The beauty in the way that we are living, installment 12


Hard times breed good times

Once upon a time, back in what it seems like the start of my life now, I moved to a small seaside town, somewhere not-quite-halfway and a-little-off-on-the-side between Athens and Thessaloniki. It was pretty but boring and I was lonely, young and scared. And feeling lost above all. I bought a notebook and started writing things down thinking it would help me find myself. And it did, but not before an autumn of sleepless worried nights and a winter of crying over the phone to my mum (at 90 drachmas per minute at that too) and a birthday where my dad announced he was leaving us (which he never did). By the time all this was over though I had bought some records I really liked, gotten a job and fallen in love with my boyfriend, and spring had arrived - and I was happy. For a month or two while this lasted the world shone through lazy mornings when I wrote down list of things spring is made of and tipsy nights when I read Oscar Wilde's fairy tales and decided they weren't exactly my cup of tea and most of all that fair Sunday morning he walked in with the flower I had brought last night in his mouth and a cup of coffee in his hand during the first time I listened to Belle and Sebastian's 'Spring Bean Jean'. I must have had an ecstatic grin on my face or something cause he said "is that what I'll have to listen to if I marry you?"

I was too stunned to reply but he went on to say "well - it's not that bad" with a lovely smile that has stayed with me through the years and brightens up my life every now and then when I recall it.

Hard times breed good times

I remember a night back in early 2000, lying in bed near dawn crying my heart out, scared to death of what lied ahead. I had decided I had to move out of my parent's house but I had nowhere to go and I hated the idea of living on my own. I imagined myself with no one to talk to - silently grey days and nights hunched over my diary, trying to make sense of the world. And yet less that 24 hours later and after having slept four hours, passed a rather hard exam with flying colours and survived yet another pointless but exhausting family talk by concentrating in the Television Personalities record barely audible in the background I had found myself a flatmate and kissed the boy I had been dreaming of for months. I actually walked into the bar while the prospective flatmate was telling the prospective boyfriend, who wanted to go away to make something happen in his life "stay - maybe the woman of your life is will walk in this very minute."

Needless to say I woke up the next morning shaking with joy and fear. One night I had nothing, the next I had won everything - it was too much for me to bear and I was scared it would go all go wrong. Which it did, but not before it turned my world upside down a couple of times and carried me miles away from where I'd been, leaving me breathless and changing my mind about what love is in the process.

Hard times breed good times

I remember a spring spend counting the things I loved slipping away from me, trying to pretend I wasn't counting. By June I was left with nothing to believe in and no one to talk to about it. Days went by and I tried to come up with words to describe the feeling of suffocation that had overcome me, thinking it would make it easier to bear as I dreamed of cool foreign lands and people different from the ones I knew. And then, before the month was over, I met a girl (on the internet) who said she would go to Spain with me because she liked my favourite band as much as I did or maybe even a little more, and my life started all over again, and it was as brilliant as ever and maybe a little more.

Hard times breed good times

Last winter was long and pointless and I didn't know where my life was going -if anywhere- but then I went to Athens for a weekend to see some bands play and a hundred things happened in two days. On Sunday night or rather early Monday morning I walked to my aunt's house through a honeysuckle scented night thinking I was the happiest girl in the world and that and this was something that could last.

Hard times breed good times

I often forget that, though not as much as I used to - isn't growing up great? If April was silent and sulky May was just plain hard: confusing, sad and lonely and scary, and fast and slow in all the wrong ways. I tried to keep count of the days going by in an effort not to let life pass me by. But when the month was nearly over I travelled three hours to spend three days with some crazy people and just before we said goodbye somebody talked about the fight between good and evil and concluded "what comes about has nothing to do with our wants or needs" - and I can't explain why but my heart skipped and I felt a little freer than I had ever had.

I thought new beginnings where supposed to be fun. I didn't get what I expected, but then again I quite like what I got. At least the part of it I can make out, that is.

Hard times breed good times

As we drove back Athens looked pretty and sweet as it always does when I return, and maybe even a little more, and the next morning which was the first of the new month too summer was all over the city. There was a cool breeze and hot sun and tourists and too much sunshine and though I had a hundred things to do I couldn't care less. All I could think of was "holidays!" and how the world looks utterly lovely on them sometimes.

Hard times breed good times
.
.
.

Here's to the summer.

Dimitra Daisy
(More by this author)

 

 

Note: This has always meant to be a retrospective diary -meaning I wrote about things not as they happened but after a while when I had had the time to think them over- about how great the world can be, so I'm allowed to talk about the past month by talking about old times, aren't I?

 

 

 

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Time on our Hands


"I would never shit on a girl."
"Sorry Mike?"
"I'm just saying, I would never shit on a girl."
"What- as in, actually…?"
"Yeah."
"Thanks for putting my mind at rest. How much they paying you?"
"What?"
"To nurse that drink. Come on, get it down, then go fill us both up."
"I would piss on a girl."
"What?"
"I would piss on a girl."
"Mike, you're sick."
"Some girls like that."
"What girls?"
"Just…some. It's a…"
"fetish?"
"Yeah, a fetish. Some girls want, actually beg, to be pissed on."
"I couldn't do it Mike. I'm sorry, people can do what the fuck they like behind closed doors, but you will not get me pissing on a girl."
"What if she was beautiful?"
"Especially if she was beautiful."
"But if she was beautiful and she was really into that whole pissing thing, and she wouldn't let you sleep with her unless you pissed all over her first."
"Well then I wouldn't sleep with her."
"Bullshit."
"There's plenty more fish in the sea, Mike. Dozens of beautiful women that do not desire to be covered in urine."
"So you're telling me you would pass up the chance of sleeping with a beautiful woman purely because you wouldn't piss on her?"
"Mike, listen to yourself. You make it sound like it's the most natural thing in the world, to go around pissing on each other. Like it's a fucking handshake, or a kiss or something."
"It's a natural bodily function."
"Yeah, that may be, but look at it this way, I mean, you don't honestly expect me to replace a good natured handshake with my granddad, say, for a golden fucking shower?"
"Who's talking about your granddad?"
"What I'm saying is, Mike, there's a time and a place for bodily functions. Not a time and a person."
"Your loss."
"I can live with it."
"Here's the thing: I would piss on her, but only in the shower."
"What?"
"That's my get-out clause."
"You've been giving this a lot of thought lately, haven't you?"
"Well, yeah, I mean, should the situation, the scenario, ever arise."
"Has someone asked you to piss on them?"
"What?"
"I said, has someone, a girl, asked you to piss on them?"
"No….no. No. Its just that, I need to know, to be sure in my own head, just in case, I mean, that girl.."
"What girl? The Mexican?"
"The one I really like."
"The Mexican."
"Yeah."
"Has she asked you to piss on her?"
"No, I've not even spoken to her- you know that."
"I thought she might be a fast worker or something. Forget the introductions, come over here and piss on me."
"Its not that, I mean…I have no money and a lot of free time now. Time to think. And this…"
"Pissing."
"Yeah, this…pissing, its just a scenario and, I mean, if she did, if she begged me to piss on her, then I would."
"In the shower."
"Yes. In the shower."
Silence.
"But I wouldn't shit on anyone. Not even her."
"Mike?"
"What."
"We need to find you another job. Quick."
"I'll get the wine."

"You do that. And don't piss in it. Not my thing…"

Paul Williamson
More By This Author

 

 

 

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El Salvador in Iraq


Paul Bremer - the current ‘US Ambassador’ to Iraq, and John Negroponte - the man who will soon replace him were both members of the Reagan administration in the 1980s responsible for organising mass torture and murder in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Chile. Then as now these atrocities were described as ‘counter-terrorism’ – Bremer himself having been a ‘counter-terrorism’ expert. ‘Counter terror’ programmes in Vietnam such as the ‘Phoenix Program’ resulted in the torture and killing of tens of thousands – mainly civilians (1). Negroponte sat on the US National Security Council as officer for Vietnam from 1971 till 1973. Hundreds of thousands were killed – so far only tens of thousands have been killed in Iraq but the total is rising rapidly. British military officers estimate over 90% of the people held by US forces in Iraq are civilians arrested by mistake.

Reagan’s public relations line – like Bush’s – is that he is a ‘straight guy’ – not too bright but trustworthy – unlike his ‘intellectual’ opponents who are shifty. In other words ‘an idiot wouldn’t lie to me’ Well yes they would – and they can also be figure heads for some very devious people indeed. While Bush was claiming that the UN had decided the membership of the new Iraqi Interim Government without American interference UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was revealing the truth. Paul Bremer, Bush’s ‘Ambassador’ had appointed the entire government as the ‘dictator of Iraq’ as Brahimi put it.

Remember the shocking photos of mutilated charred corpses in Fallujah after 4 American private security personnel were killed in their car by the Iraqi resistance? Those were the photos we did see. What we didn’t see had now been revealed by a US marine Sergeant. Every day for months on end, before and since the Fallujah killings, American units at checkpoints in Iraq have been shooting carloads of Iraqi civilians. Often the petrol tank will explode and the charred corpses that remain are kicked out of the car by American troops. Sometimes they stick a cigarette in the mouths of their victims as a joke. Ambulances are fired on too as US officers tell their troops that militants have begun packing them with explosives for use as weapons. The marines began to doubt this as ambulances did not explode when hit.

And the ‘civilian contractors’ being killed in Iraq? Well – some of them are just that. Many though are ‘security personnel’ – in other words mercenaries hired through private firms by the Pentagon and the British MoD. These include former CIA and special forces (like the 4 Blackwater Security personnel killed in Fallujah) , Chilean war criminalsresponsible for torture and murder under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, former terrorists from Northern Ireland, and South African state terrorists guilty of torture and murder during the Apartheid era (2) – in other words all the criminal, terrorist and war criminal scum of the world.

Some of those guilty of torturing Iraqis to death in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere were also ‘civilian contractors’ hired by the Pentagon and CIA – including of CACI International – a firm whose directors include former CIA director James Woolsey – a strong exponent of war on Afghanistan and Iraq. The murders of 22 British and other civilians in Saudi Arabia by Al Qa’ida also raise many questions. According to employees of Vinnell Corp (a firm with close business links via the Carlyle Group to members of both Bush administrations , the Clinton Administration and the Reagan Administration which provides military advisers to train the Saudi Monarchy’s Royal Guard ) top executives at Vinnell Corp were warned in advance about a similar attack in May 2003 but did nothing. The employees also say members of the Saudi Royal Guard are involved in such attacks. All the attackers in the latest killings wore Saudi military uniforms – and three of the four attackers were able to escape despite being completely surrounded. Vinnell Corp have also been given a contract to train the new Iraqi army

The new US appointed Iraqi Prime Minister – Iyad Alawi – is reported in the press to have been an ‘opponent of Saddam’ with ‘links to the CIA and MI6’. What they don’t mention is that Allawi and his ‘Iraqi National Accord’ are terrorists who, with the aid of the CIA, carried out bombing campaigns against civilians in Baghdad in 1994 hitting cinemas, newspaper offices and mosques.

Will any of these people ever face justice? Well you can be sure that Bush and Blair don’t want them to. The latest Anglo-American draft UN Security Council Resolution on Iraq grants British and American forces in Iraq immunity from prosecution. They’ve also tucked in a paragraph extending immunity from prosecution for oil companies and their subsidiaries (such as Halliburton and its ‘services’ - including ‘security’ - arm Kellog, Brown and Root) which was granted in resolution 1483 in November 2003.

These are the same firms making a fortune from systematically overcharging for contracts given to them by the Bush administration for ‘reconstruction in Iraq’.


However they should take note that one of their friends and former accomplices – General Pinochet – has had his immunity from prosecution withdrawn by a Chilean court. There may not always be an American backed regime in Iraq – and when it goes national and international court cases may yet be brought against the torturers and murderers – and those who ordered them may yet face justice. Bush, Blair, Bremer, Allawi, Negroponte, Rice and Rumsfeld are not guaranteed to evade responsibility for all the blood on their hands.

Hopefully this will be before they can carry out their plans to re-introduce conscription and start a Third World War with China.


Offline Sources –
(1) = Marilyn B. Young (1991), The Vietnam Wars , HarperCollins, New York , 1991 , pages 144-146 , 212-213,265
(2) = BBC Radio 4 , 30 May 2004

 

 

Duncan McFarlane
(More by this author)

 

 

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‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ – Andrew Collins.
~ Paperback, available 1st July, 2004 (Ebury Press).

For someone of my (unspecified) age, from a suburban upbringing, with a record collection stacked full of guitar bands of the 1980’s, and with a university education, ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ reads like a self portrait. In the same way that it’s predecessor ‘Where Did It All Go Right?’ was an anthology of not only Andrew Collins’ childhood, but mine also; the authors latest tome tells of the highs and lows, the ups and downs, the disasters and the glories of those first three years spent away from home in the bosom of Higher Education. In the same way that Nick Hornby was surely documenting my passion for popular music when he penned ‘High Fidelity’ and that he was without doubt thinking of me when ‘Fever Pitch’ was initially spewed forth; then Andrew Collins, according to this book was leading exactly the same life as myself, just a few hundred miles away. We read the same books, listened to the same music, felt the same way about ourselves, acted in the same manner whilst surreptitiously downing those first few under-age pints, we had the same illusions and dis-illusions with our forays into relationships and most importantly we both learned our lessons the hard way. Perhaps the only thing that I don’t have in common with the author is that I haven’t had cause to visit the ‘Special Clinic’ after a late night clinch with a girl of dubious origin.

With this in mind the text reads like a comfortable pair of slippers, I find myself chuckling along where appropriate, and filling up with deep seated, yet still burning, embarrassment when he reminds me of my many misdemeanours. Nevertheless, it’s totally unputdownable (if that is at all a real word). Collins provides us with a witty, concise view of the world through the eyes of a provincial lad setting up a youthful home in the capital city. If it were a work of fiction we would marvel at the insights herein, but it isn’t, it’s autobiographical – and with that it’s reassuringly comforting to know that there are people other than myself who made those awkward, difficult, nervous, adolescent steps into the real world on their own. Not everything went right, but then it never does. Perhaps the most important lesson that we learn in those formative years is that things won’t always go to plan, and indeed, sometimes, our plans are crap.

We find detailed, a catalogue of stumbling, often shambolic, occasionally illicit, sometimes illegal, and more often than not alcoholic liaisons with the opposite sex that provided the foundations for how we behave in later life, in real relationships. No longer engaging in teenage dalliances that fail to pass muster, the writer finds himself endlessly falling in love, but being terrified by the implications of this. As a result his life becomes a litany of “near do’s”, as his Nan would say.

This coupled with his political awakening makes for a typical young student’s diary. After the initial realisation that politics actually exist, Andrew Collins is suddenly all consumed by the scene. Demonstrations, marches, petitions and protests all become key features. Unfortunately never amounting to much more than shouting slogans and having heated debates in pubs, the sentiments are recognised.

Within a text littered with stolen lyrics (many of which I spotted – but I can’t help wondering which ones I missed), we slowly begin to realise the obvious. With every new stage in our lives we are filled with self belief, confidence and sheer bloody mindedness. It’s only when these eras pass and we move on that we recognise the foolish mistakes of our youth. However, for those who believe that our first 18 years are our formative years then think again, those precious three University years, where we are almost out there in the real world on our own can teach us a hell of a lot. I’m already looking forward to his next instalments ‘Andrew Collins – My Thirty-Somethings’, and ‘My Mid-Life Crisis’.

Thus, ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ invades your bookshelves and settles in like a long lost friend. Initially you’re not sure how long you’d like them to stay, but after a few drinks and a few hours reminiscing you never want them to leave. For those of us who can identify with the central character there is a sensation of realism, the feeling of an autobiography. For those with no connection, empathy or familiarity with the setting then you’ll just find it a bloody good read.

Johnny Mac

 

 

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