Issue #88 October 8th - 21st, 2004

How To Fight Loneliness
The sun twists and pulls and makes shadows on the pavement. Dew sticks to the grass, hinting at purity, a purity long gone from this bitter soul
By Tom Bickell

Weirdo - The Douglas, Douglas, Isle of Man
A night of sonic exhilaration from the first struck chord, to the dying embers of the final strains of feedback the audience were treated to a full force gale of audioheadfuck, and nobody was disappointed.
By Johnny Mac

The boy as tall as a tree and the journey to the land in the middle of the sea.
I decided to have a look out of the window to see what was going on and I couldn't believe my eyes! The room that we were sat in was in the middle of the sea!
By Belle

President Bush claims that the enemies US troops face in Iraq are 'the exact opposite of Americans'. Are they really? There's a White Man's Burden myth on Iraq that claims our troops are still there to help Iraqis build a democracy.
By Duncan McFarlane



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How To Fight Loneliness

I pick up the loose change. I pull on my trousers. She is still sleeping and I like it that way. I think about going to the fridge, but realise that I can’t even remember where the kitchen is, not sure if I even went into the kitchen last night, this morning, last night- it all blurs into one; another drunken cacophony, a bloodless mish-mash of parts, lifeless bodies tangled in the sullied half-light.

Another day.

I nearly step on her cat. I forgot she had a cat. I forget a lot of things. My memory retention worsens the longer this goes on. I turn the key, me, the expert now, a thief in the night. I slowly pull the door open. I am out.

Out into what?

The sun twists and pulls and makes shadows on the pavement. Dew sticks to the grass, hinting at purity, a purity long gone from this bitter soul.

I was blessed with something. I was blessed with something but I don’t know what. As each day passes, the struggle for meaning becomes easier. Meaning itself becomes a dot on the dot of a dot on the dot. When life loses meaning, when it truly loses all sense of meaning, then it becomes easier, not harder, to carry on. There’s no agony, and sure enough there’s no joy but, I’ll say it again; there’s no agony.

No agony.

No agony.

No curves, no obstacles, no linear notes, no feedback, no evaluation- just a straight line, a monotone mumble. No struggle to get from A to B because A is B. No clutching at straws, no grabbing at meaning, but don’t think I am talking about liberation, an unburdening of the soul- anything but- I have hit rock bottom; I just prefer to stay there.

She lifted me, mad and crazy, wounded but alive, she made me believe I was something, hauled me up to her heaven and had me stay for a while.

These are the things I am trying to forget as I stagger and sprawl this monotone existence. These are the things I am trying to forget as I grab the cheapest, darkest blend off the newsagents shelf, averting the newsagents gaze- she knows me too well, and I know her too well. When we were at school she was the brightest one, the quiet, studious one, the only quiet, studious one. She had it all worked out. Then, prior to entering university, she fell pregnant. ‘Fell’, being the most heartbreakingly appropriate word I can think of. Now she is serving me cheap liquor, another model of wasted potential, and the distance in our eyes paradoxically draws us closer together.

I sit in the park. My stomach capitulates under the whiskey; an incessant burning. Too much of everything but never, ever enough. The dew disappears and the shadows grow heavier. Another glug on the bottle, suffocating meaning. Loneliness has never been this easy.

Tom Bickell

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Weirdo - The Douglas, Douglas, Isle of Man

A gig to launch an E.P, a gig to showcase new songs and blow out the cobwebs from older favourites, a gig to preview the forthcoming, and greatly anticipated Weirdo album, a gig to underline just how good a music scene has evolved from such a small population on the Isle of Man - To say Douglas is a big place would be a lie, to say it is similar in size to a small market town would be more pertinent, but the number of talented, energetic, inspirational and confidently competent musicians per head of population it far outweighs that of any of the big hitters when it comes to geographical rivalry. The music scene here is thriving, and it's not just a bunch of kids jumping around too much and making a lot of noise, there is a great array of distinct talent available, all harnessed by the Manx shoreline. Whether these back yard rock stars feel they have something to rail against I don't know, are they the classic 'outsiders' without a mould and therefore allowed to grow and develop their own naturally individual form and genre? Who knows, and to be honest who cares. It's here, it has balls, and it's ready to fuck with you.

Weirdo collected a stunning line up for tonight's bill, and nobody failed to rise to the occasion. A night of sonic exhilaration from the first struck chord, to the dying embers of the final strains of feedback the audience were treated to a full force gale of audioheadfuck, and nobody was disappointed.

Weirdo eventually take the stage, and pause for the obligatory two minutes whilst bassist Andy Gifted (by far the best dressed man in Douglas tonight) vogues it up for the photo opportunities. This guy is something of an icon, in his own 'I don't really understand it' kind of way. With that over the band, as one launch into new song 'Rothko', the audience, all obviously educated in all things Weirdo surge and sway to the dirty, raw, energy that spews from the stage. The six piece line up, look assured, relaxed, and positively, yet obliviously delighted. The body of the band is the three way guitar battle between Phil, Martin and Dan - the latter's legendary stage fright having seemed to disappeared into the ether with any feelings of self doubt that they could have harboured - this is underpinned by youthfully exuberant, yet wholly accomplished rhythm section Andy (and his cover-girl styling) and the drummer with the most front in popular music - Flood. These brick wall layers are sliced open and left in pieces by delicately forceful vocal razor blades from Marie.

Lead off track from the new record follows, 'Almost Home' - a tension wrung quasi ballad, with perfect salvos of electronica on record, layered over luxurious guitars takes on a whole new feeling live, the electronics are suitably muted, and the guitars more in your face than the quiet life would dictate.

'Rainbows' follows, with old favourite 'Weirdo Love You' hot on its heels, this is greeted, and indeed welcomed like the proverbial prodigal son returning home. Wave upon wave of guitar, drum and vocal sweep over the audience, who are clearly loving what they are hearing.

Two more new songs, 'Bruiser John' and 'Chromex' (the latter available for free download from keep the tempo upbeat, and the intensity compelling. All this coupled with Bass player Andy's exquisite tambourine solo, and funky shapes thrown, combine to make the night unforgettable.

Set closer is 'Better Smile for Fear of Crying', a stunning ten minute hyperbolic rip from their first E.P. (Hey, Hey, We're The Weirdos). It has the audience in raptures, and the band equally so. Broken strings force Dan into a mid song guitar change, so that he can lead the troops in the final assault on our bodies. The band surge as one, the volume sweeps us along and the audience realise just how lucky they are to live in this god forsaken wilderness, far away from the bright lights and the big city, heart breakingly distant from A.& R. men, promoters, and big shot record company executives willing to offer a six figure advance on whatever the N.M.E. deems flavour of the month this week. They realise that they may be outsiders, but that on the inside they are better than anyone else in the world.

A glance along the line as 'Better Smile..' reaches its climax finds Andy hunched on the floor fighting an array of effects pedals in his never ending search for ear splitting bass guitar feedback, Dan elevated to another level, dragging every ounce of strength from six strings and a lump of wood, Martin thrusting and shaking, stamping on effects pedals that are not even there, Phil punching the fuck out of his beloved Rickenbacker 12 string, Marie sending shivers of melody to cut a swathe through the efforts of the rest of them, and then return to be the glue that holds it all together, and finally, Flood belting the living daylights out of a drum kit that should have surely by now given up the ghost. A band as one, six cacophonies combining to make a luscious stream, river, and ocean tide of noise that takes you by the balls and reminds you in no uncertain terms what it is all about. Whilst U2 are telling us how to dismantle an atomic bomb, Weirdo are blowing one up right underneath you.

Fuck the N.M.E, Fuck Radio One, Fuck it all. This is Weirdo, and they are not alt-country.

Johnny Mac



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The boy as tall as a tree and the journey to the land in the middle of the sea.

I was very excited when the girl opened the front door and I saw the boy as tall as a tree standing outside. I was even more excited when I saw he was carrying a big bag because that meant he would be staying with us for a while.

I like the boy who is as tall as a tree. He buys me chewy sticks, and tickles my stomach and makes me very proud because when I go for walks with him I can see all the other dogs look up in amazement because he is so tall and you wouldn't even know he had a head!

I didn't sleep much the night he arrived because I was so excited that the boy as tall as a tree was staying with me and the girl and the next day I woke up early. Too early for the girl in fact who came down stairs looking grumpy:

"Belle! I'm not at work today! Go back to sleep will you?!" she said and frowned at me.

I looked at her and wagged my tail, then walked back to my bed and waited for ages!

After I couldn't stand waiting any longer I called to the girl ever so quietly. She stomped down the stairs and looked at me grumpily . Then she smiled and said "Well I suppose half an hour is better than nothing. I may as well get up now." I wagged my tail and said:

"fooooood!!" and because the girl doesn't always understand what I mean I went and sat by the cupboard where the food is kept.

The girl laughed at me and said:

"not today belle. You'll thank me later I promise you."

I looked at her, and wondered if she had gone mad. Why on earth would I thank her for not letting me have some food?

The boy as tall as a tree came downstairs and I was a little upset to see he was carrying his big bag out to the little house on wheels. I was even more upset when I saw the girl had a big bag too. I needn't have worried though because the next thing I saw was that the girl was putting some of MY things into a bag too! That meant I was coming too, but just to be on the safe side and to make sure they didn't forget, I went to sit by the front door.

We all got into the little house on wheels, the boy as tall as a tree turned the big wheel which made the world move past us very fast. It makes the world move even faster than I run when I see next doors cat which is saying something!

After we had been in the little house on wheels for quite sometime I noticed a familiar smell and got very excited. We were going to the sea side! The girl told me to calm down and "to hold my horses" which is a funny thing to say because I don't have any horses and even if I did I don't think I would be able to hold onto them. They are much bigger than me. That girl isn't half daft sometimes.

Instead of going to the seaside though, me, the girl, and the boy as tall as a tree climbed up a lot of steps into a room full of chairs and not much else. The girl and the boy as tall as a tree sat down. Eventually I sat down too. I have to admit I was little disappointed. This was not as exciting as the seaside. I looked at them and waited for something to happen.

Then the ground began to move. At first I thought I had imagined it and looked around me to see if anything had changed but nothing had.
Then the ground moved again and it became impossible to imagine it ever staying still. I decided to have a look out of the window to see what was going on and I couldn't believe my eyes! The room that we were sat in was in the middle of the sea! I looked at the girl and the boy as tall as a tree in amazement. They both seemed so calm that I almost believed that they knew this would happen when they got up that morning.

Not long after I had made this discovery I noticed a peculiar sensation in my stomach. Then I noticed an even more peculiar sensation. The man opposite us was eating a sandwich and I did not want any of it! I didn't know what was wrong with me but I knew it must be very serious.

Just as I started to wonder if I'd ever eat food again the ground started to move less and less and the peculiar sensation passed. I imagined the girl cooking a chicken and licked my lips then breathed a big sigh of relief.

The girl and the boy as tall as a tree decided to started to walk to the steps that we'd climbed up earlier. I hoped that we weren't going swimming but I wasn't sure where else we could be going. I'd seen nothing but sea for ages and ages now. We didn't need to swim though the strange room with lots of chairs had brought us to a land that floated in the middle of the sea. I wasn't sure what I could expect from such a place but I wasn't about to hang about in the room full of chairs any longer. I rushed down the few remaining steps and started to have a good look around...



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‘BAGHDAD—Insurgents unleashed a pair of powerful car bombs yesterday near the symbol of US authority in Iraq…Three other explosions brought the day’s bombing toll to at least 24 dead and more than 100 wounded.’ – Associated Press 5th October 2004

“We’re dealing with an enemy that has no conscience. Today there was a car bomb near a school. These people are brutal. They’re the exact opposite of Americans. We value life and human dignity; they don’t care about life and human dignity. We believe in freedom; they have an ideology of hate. And they’re tough, but not as tough as America. (Applause.) It’s really important for people to understand you cannot negotiate with these people….we must chase them down all around the world, so we do not have to face them here at home. That’s lesson number one, be relentless and determined, never yield. (Applause.)” President George W. Bush at an ‘Ask President Bush’ in Clive, Iowa 4th October 2004

“Iraqi government and US forces declared yesterday that they had "pacified" the rebel stronghold of Samarra….Of 70 bodies brought into Samarra General Hospital, 23 were children and 18 women, said Abdul-Nasser Hamed Yassin, a hospital administrator. There were also 23 women among the 160 wounded….. Another resident, Mohammed Ali Amin, said: "There were American snipers on rooftops who were shooting people trying to get to their homes. Even at the hospital the Americans arrested injured boys of 15 saying they were insurgents." The Independent newspaper 4th October 2004

“What has to be done in that country is what basically was done in Samarra over the last 48 hours” Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush’s Secretary of State for Defense, 4th October 2004

The current US offensives in Iraq are almost exact replays of the offensive against Falluja earlier this year. In both cases the US military claimed that from 95% of or all of the hundreds of dead were ‘insurgents’. Both then and now Iraqi hospitals have reported that more than half the dead are women and children. Iraqis and British journalists have reported indiscriminate fire on civilians both then and now. The same happened in Najaf at the end of August. American troops are given orders to shoot anyone if they’re nervous. Rumsfeld claims that “what has to be done in that country is what basically was done in Samarra over the last 48 hours”.Which is what was already done in April in Falluja and failed.

The April offensive in Falluja was meant to end the insurgency there and provide ‘security’ and ‘peace’ for elections. Yet now the offensive on Samarra is being presented as practice for yet another assault on Falluja. Why is the same failed piece of butchery being repeated over and over again? As one Iraqi in Samarra put it “they are killing us in order to save us”.

As for the argument that ‘we can’t negotiate with these people’ it is ridiculous. The British and American governments are still allied to the dictators and torturers of Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan among others.

The line goes that Britain’s and America’s enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be negotiated with as they will not negotiate on any basis except the destruction of democracy and the imposition of Islamic laws world-wide. Putin similarly claims he cannot negotiate with the Chechen opposition as they are ‘child killers’ and ‘terrorists’ linked to Al Qa’ida – just as Sharon claims he cannot negotiate with Palestinians for the same reasons.

There are some fanatical terrorists and extremists in each country who will not negotiate but only make attacks and demands – and there is a global Islamic fundamentalist terrorist movement stretching from Chechnya to the Israel/Palestine to Iraq but there is not one case though where there are not other opponents – usually the majority of those resisting occupation – who are willing to negotiate. .

In Iraq the Moqtada Al Sadr has offered to negotiate repeatedly. For example he offered negotiations inApril , in May , and was still offering in August – during which he maintained a ceasefire. Each attempt has been dismissed as ‘manoeuvring’ by the Americans while they continue attacks and refuse to enter any real negotiations , instead issuing repeated demands that Sadr disband his Al Madhi militia and surrender himself for trial. One of the main witnesses for the initial charge against Al Sadr– of ordering the killing of a rival Shi’ite cleric – is a former senior member of Saddam’s notorious Mukhabarat secret police. Despite attempts by the coalition to claim he has ‘no popular support’ a poll in June showed 67% of Iraqis support him – given that the poll was commissioned by the Coalition Provisional Authority the results are unlikely to be skewed in Al Sadr’s favour. Despite all this the Interim government and British and American forces continue to label him a criminal and his militia illegal on the hypocritical grounds that legitimate power cannot come ‘from the barrel of a gun'. Al Sadr is no great democrat – he may even be a would-be theocrat – and his Al Madhi army are often as brutal towards Iraqis as the occupying forces are – but he has support and the longer the occupation continues the more support he will get. Iraqis should have the right to vote for the government they want – whether the British or American governments are happy about that or not. A poll in August showed 70% of Iraqis want a Muslim state. Will killing more of them turn them change this and allow peace and democracy ?

Al Sistani and his supporters are one of the non-violent opposition forces which could also be negotiated with – he managed to prevent all out warfare in Najaf, though in the process many of his supporters died in an unarmed march on Najaf facing attacks from both Iraqi interim government police and Al Sadr’s men. The August poll showed he was the most popular leader in Iraq. Al Sistani is not a supporter of the appointed Interim government – despite coalition attempts to claim he is. His actual position is that the Interim government is ‘unelected’ and therefore ‘lacks legitimacy’ and should be replaced by an elected one – but so far he only backs peaceful protest as a means to do so.

Rumsfeld’s latest plan for elections in Iraq is to allow a vote in January in those provinces of Iraq ‘where the security situation allows it’. This is a very clever method of election rigging indeed – but then the Republicans are past masters at it back home. Only voters in those areas which coalition and interim government forces control or believe will vote the right way will be allowed to vote. No doubt the risk that Al Sadr’s men could intimidate people into voting for him will be brought up – as though American forces and Allawi’s police are beyond such behaviour. To give an example of the ‘democratic’ instincts of Allawi’s interim government his police forces have told journalists to leave areas where coalition forces are making assaults – such as Najaf in late August- because ‘it is too dangerous’. To underline the point they fire warning shots at journalists who don’t take the hint and threaten to kill them.

In Afghanistan ‘democratic elections’ will be just as democratic. The US ambassador is already persuading most of the main potential opposition candidates to stand down to give the American appointed Hamid Karzai (formerly a consultant to Unocal Oil of California on building an oil and gas pipeline through the country) an easier run – in much the same way that Putin’s government routinely bans opposition candidates who want independence or oppose Russia from standing for election in Chechnya. Death threats from Afghan warlords with alliances with the US warn Afghans to vote for Karzai among other candidates. The BBC report that stadiums once used for public executions under Islamic law by the Taliban in Afghanistan are now used for ‘democratic election rallies’.Unfortunately the candidates in question are a mixture of American appointees like Hamid Karzai and warlords with whom the US and Karzai have a tacit alliance and maintain their support by torturing and massacring members of other ethnic groups and factions – like Abdul Rashid Dostum. As in Iraq torture and killing of civilians in Afghanistan by occupation forces , allied warlords and their enemies the Taliban and Hekmatyar is systematic.

Max Hastings, the former editor of the Telegraph newspaper, is one of those who believes we have a ‘duty’ to stay in Iraq as long as it takes to build democracy, peace , security and provide human rights for Iraqis. The trouble is British and American forces aren’t building any of those things. It is hard to see how you can produce peace through endless attacks on entire cities , democracy by force, or provide human rights by employing torture. True there are some Iraqi troops fighting alongside American and British ones but then there were Iraqi troops fighting for Saddam. Does that mean he was a democrat too ? In any case the desertion rate among Iraqi forces is high and they are no more than a fig leaf for American control.

It’s time to give up the white man’s burden myth about Iraq. It wouldn’t be a ‘betrayal’ or ‘as bad as the invasion’ to leave now because what we’re doing to the Iraqis is as bad as anything Saddam ever did – torture, massacre, the lot. Time we pulled out, let Allawi’s shabby little puppet government fall, and let Iraqis decide their own future – you can’t impose democracy through massacre.

So can anyone really believe that the occupiers and the people they fight are really ‘opposites’? Do the occupiers really kill children out of goodness and bravery while anyone who fights against them kills out of hatred and cowardice? Are all the occupations’ opponents really terrorists and anyone they kill an ‘insurgent’?

Maybe the answer lies in a book by the much respected intelligence analyst George Friedman who claims that the Bush administration invaded Iraq in order to frighten the Saudi government into cracking down on Al Qa’ida. This story is laughable in so many ways. The Saudi government - a medieval Islamic style monarchy which employs torture and execution without fair trial – only avoids being overthrown by its own people through its alliance with America. Why would Bush have to invade Iraq to put pressure on them? The mere threat of ending the alliance would be enough. Even if it were true it would show not that the Bush administration are secretly skilled strategists as Friedman claims but that they are brainless wreckers.

Yet many Americans are willing to believe this illogical nonsense – because they prefer it to believing that their President lied to them and is still lying. That’s when you realise that the supporters of Bush and Blair are just as much fundamentalists, just as irrational, just as tied to blind faith over reason and the facts as Al Qa’ida are. Worse than that Bush and Blair have such blind faith in themselves as God’s messengers on earth that they, like Bin Laden, believe their own lies and their own methods to be true and good.

Give peace, democracy and human rights a chance. Once we stop supporting our fanatics and their bloody campaigns support for Al Qa’ida’s bloody campaigns will fall too.

copyright©Duncan McFarlane2004

Duncan McFarlane

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