Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Annual Sex

Overpopulation is the reason why we as a species are out of balance with nature. It's really that simple, and I think we all know why, in our secret, greedy little hearts, that situation has arisen: sex.

Too much sex is killing the environment. No matter that we can use contraceptives, we don't, or at least, not enough of the time to prevent the messy collision of cells that generates another prototype saint or sinner, i.e. fellow human being.

Six billion is five billion too many. It cannot last, and it will not last. However, you can bet your bottom that once wars, famine, mass population movement to escape rising sea-levels and rampaging strains of obscure biological weapons, of which we as yet know nothing, escaping from a Hungarian or perhaps Chinese laboratory, enter the biosphere spreading hitherto untreatable diseases and havoc in whatever landmass they infect, leaving only a few scattered pockets of humanity living in the sad and useless remnants of the promised high-tech future that never was, that the remaining homo sapiens will still be obeying the biological imperative, having sex, and making babies.

I have therefore decided to promote a new paradigm which, if widely adopted, will at least start to mend the appalling exhaustion of the planet which is brought about by there being too many of us: ANNUAL SEX.

Annual Sex as a way of life will return sex to the special place it once enjoyed, a place of precious celebration and rare pleasure. Gone will be the daily exhortations to measure life success by this crude yardstick. Sex sells will no longer be the mantra of the mass market. Sexual rarity will increase value, bring peace to nations, and bring about cohesive societies. Nakedness will be no longer be taboo; gender relations will lose iniquity. Sexual stamina will be rewarded since no limit will be put upon the length of the single, annual sexual act. The entire world will once again love, live and breathe, secure in the knowledge that we are in balance with our environment.

All this will be brought about by genetically modified toothpaste.

Remember: you read it here first.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Fate of Romantics

"The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in '68,
And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark cafe..."


'The Last Time I Saw Richard' by Joni Mitchell

Behind every cynic is a disappointed romantic, is the often quoted adage. In my case, the romantic does not leave when the cynic enters. He lurks behind the sofa, ready to start a revolution with expensive cologne, rich, dark chocolate, and blood-red roses.

Cynicism is born of experience. I am cynical about doctors, and yet, I am romantic about healing.

Being cynical means being safe - I destroy false hope with the machinery of my clever mind. I also prevent myself from seeking help when I need it, which frankly, is just dumb. I know where the dumbness comes from - my childhood. I found it there in a doctor's surgery, being given stupid drugs I didn't need.

Now, though, my own revolution is upon me, the turning around of my sofa. I have managed to avoid confronting the issue of my deeper health whilst moderating my worst excesses in the romantic belief that since I am not that indulgent that much of the time, I should be ok. Actually, I have no idea how well or sick I am, but I am not entirely well. I went to the doctor yesterday. She looked at the strange bruising on my legs and asked me if I had HIV (I don't). She asked me how much alcohol I drink. I felt guilty about that one. She sent me off to hospital on Monday where my blood is being tested for practically everything you can imagine including lipids, diabetes, lymph, liver and kidney function, and a whole heap of extras.

I am making gallows humour remarks to everyone who cares. I am not quite in mortal fear, but I admit to being rattled. If the first doctor hadn't called in the second doctor.. if the doctor hadn't said, "Call me Thursday, and I'll tell you whether you have to come in immediately or not."

"Fuck!" I thought, as I left clutching the referral. And then again, "Shit!"

On the way home, I was pondering about whether this was my hedonistic past catching up with me, when I noticed an old associate of mine from 13 years back riding past on his bike, no lights, in the half-dark. I called, he stopped, we chatted. He used to be a drinker - not now, he's been dry 7 or 8 years, he told me matter of factly. As we caught up, I saw that in his battered face, there was a real spark of survival. I found myself recalling with amusement how he nearly electrocuted me once. He told me that those many years back, I had been a selfish bastard. I knew what he meant, but without any rancour, replied that I wasn't that bad. We chatted more, and told him about my visit to the surgery, and the reasons why, and that I might have a screwed up liver, and that despite my cheery demeanour, I was scared. "The liver can recover," he said, "but you have to let it."

Then he recounted the story of Chay Blythe, the famous yachtsman. He had been told he had Hodgkins Lymphoma and was given four years to live. He was offered "the mustard gas, the chemicals and everything.. but he said, well, if I've only four years to live, I've always wanted to row round the world, it will take me that long to do it. I think I'll do that rather than be crippled by the your medicine. He set off and achieved his goal. Four years later, still not dead, he set off on another mission. 30 years more he lived.."

I am not deeply religious, but I needed that positivity, and I thanked God for it. Bless Simon. Of course there is no mention of this fabulous bravery in any of the search engine references I can find. Apparently Sir Chay is alive and you can book him for a motivational lecture - maybe I should look into it... would certainly give me something to write about. The factual truth in this case is irrelevant - he was giving me clear guidance on my attitude, which I needed. It made me mindful of the wonderful Warren Zevon song, My Shit's Fucked Up which he wrote and recorded with the body failure that killed him.

"Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things."

Winston Churchill

When I was looking for the Joni Mitchell quote, I found this next to it. Neat, Winston, neat, especially from a man who smoked and drank all his life. I had planned to write on the subject of letters this month; instead I will devote Gibson to all things healthy.

Whatever Simon's kindness, optimism, I am about to be presented with facts about my biochemistry which is a fairly daunting prospect. I don't want to end up as the Ivan Noble of Funk. I am going to have to give my system its 50,000 mile service, which could even lead to yoga. Fuck! Better make that kundalini yoga.

First published November 2005.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

You Only Live Twice Again

It is not the physical death of the body, nor mortal fear inspired by religious myth, nor the agony of physical failure that worries me. The death that I fear so much is that which we experience in disappointment, the death of hope.

I did experience hopelessness once or twice as a child, but not as a young adult. Throughout my 20s and halfway through my 30s I remained strong, shrugged off defeats, persisted, came back and enjoyed victories. When things went wrong, I turned up a collar of determined optimism. When the collar didn't work anymore, I changed it to dogged fatalism. My psyche rose intact several times from ashes, smacked into shape by the iron hammer of events, forged in heat, and remained recognisably, cheerfully, pugnaciously mine. Everything would work out, eventually. Until one day, I woke up and everything in my life was in pieces, and what wasn't broken had gone, and with it, my hope.

Despite extreme mental trauma and occasional psychosis, I retained sufficient sanity during this long period of clinical depression to recognise that, since I am not by nature suicidal, I would have to continue life, with or without hope, until my body expired. I had no feelings about this one way or the other. I presumed hope may return, but even this presumption was a message from a past now unavailable for further comment, an abstract, vague, unrelated memory from a version of me that was now dead. I had not yet got around to clearing away the body, there were parts of it rotting everywhere. I could recognise them by the fact that they resembled me as I had been.

Emotionally, I was flatlining, dragging myself from bed to kitchen to bathroom to bed. I kept the TV on, even as I slept, awakening to stare blankly at the screen again without changing channel. I didn't care what I watched, as long as it wasn't music, which disturbed me - it just had to take the final remnant of concentration. When my eyes hurt, then I employed a radio. Talk radio was best, or sport, or world news. I didn't leave the house. I was agoraphobic. I had enough food for a week, ten days, mostly canned, dried. Nothing fresh. I was thinking anxiously about that ten-minute trip to the shop to re-stock for five days, if I was thinking anything at all.

I had a prescription for a low-level SRI from my doctor, but I was scared to take it.

Two months before the crash. It was the Edinburgh Festival, cultural showcase for the world, and I was producing interactive content in a rock club, with art-music acts like The Divine Comedy, and suffering the indignities of a cocaine-addled promoter's bipolar behaviour.

It was a hot August, 1997. My girlfriend was appearing in a cool Edinburgh show, one half of a physical performance duo, which was doing well, eyecatching posters up all around town, decent to good reviews, newspaper coverage, and as I had spent as much time building her career as mine, I was pleased. There was no recognition of this, though, from her work partner, an uptight controlling character who resented my influence, and who created conflict. I felt I had to always avoid the "choose between" syndrome - between work and relationship, between work partner and love partner, between training and sex, between domestic life and touring. Anyhow, for once, we were able to attend the same festival on different gigs, and I had looked forward to it.

About a week into the month-long festival, one night the promoter asked me to go to the front of the stage and video; as soon as I did, I was grabbed left and right by two huge security men, lifted bodily, and carried through the amused crowd to front of house.

Apoplectic, I insisted that I was acting on request of the promoter, and demanded that they find him to verify. He was nowhere to be seen. Turns out he had wanted the material, but had a deal with the band management that nobody would video them, and he was sending me into the pit to see how true it was. The venue manager looked apologetically at me, seeing my disgust, and sensing the truth of my story, as he said in his gentle Scots accent, "Sorry mate I am going to have to ask you to leave." I left, thinking of of throwing bricks through windows, of torching cars, boiling and raging.

I walked home down Princes Street, to the nice flat at the other end of town where we were staying, cursing the puffed-up conceited pimp who had humiliated me on a whim. The kind journalist who was putting me up took me out and poured beer down my neck, consoled me, advised me to let it drop. The next day, I took legal advice. Yes I could sue them. No it probably wasn't worth it. My hope began to leave me, then, although I didn't know it until sometime later.

Having no further work to do, but with more than half a month's tenure remaining in a pleasant flat in a capital city full of beauty and culture, I determined to enjoy myself, but it was not easy. I was harbouring a morbid fear which had come from a dream at the beginning of the month, before we left and came north. I had woken up with a voice in my head, my own voice, but as if spoken to me, not by me. It said, "You haven't got very much longer to live."

I struggled fully awake, shocked at the experience. I had been dreaming, but the dream had disappeared. All I had was the final line, certain and indisputable. "You haven't got very much longer to live." Fuck. I remember jumping out of bed and trying to rationalise, but it was impossible. I had just been told that my number was up. It was a dream, it was only a dream, I told myself. As I waited for the morning kettle to boil, I shivered, as if a ghost had walked over my grave. Later I recounted the tale to several friends, and did my best to laugh it off, but I had never, and still to this day have never experienced anything like it. It was so direct a warning, and however irrationally, I knew that I was kidding myself that it was not meant for me, and I tried hard to suppress the memory.

After the video debacle, as the empty days moved on towards September, although I could not yet see my depression, I realised that physically I was in trouble. I had chronic fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, occasional palpitations. I had finished working for the company I had set up three years previously. I was in a waiting room. I was waiting to see what happened next. I had no idea what it would be. This was a new thing. I felt directionless. I may have drifted for periods in the past, but even that was conscious drifting. In this I had no option.

In Edinburgh, a kind female red-haired GP saw me and told me I had ME, that I needed to relax, stop working immediately, and go see my GP as soon as I got back to London. I looked at her blankly as she talked chirpily about relaxation tapes, sensing her worries about my mental health, thinking, you are very nice, and you are right, but you have no idea how to deal with me, no idea what I am experiencing, none at all. I knew I needed to relax, but it was deeper than that. I needed to let go of the years of holding it together, for myself and those around me.

I went back to the flat and thought about how isolated I was, and the lack of intimacy in my love relationship. Although we were both locked into our work and had been under strain, I thought everything would be fine. I thought our love was strong enough to last. I thought I would get the support I had given. I got nothing except a terse request not to rock the boat.

Thus I found myself alone in a foreign city with no work and no companionship, and I spent time walking around, just anywhere. I found myself up on the castle rock, looking across Edinburgh. I found myself watching an obscure play in a tiny, dirty theatre, surrounded by Spanish students. I found myself at the bus station, looking at destinations. I had some money at least, so I went shopping. I bought, over a period of three weeks, black shoes, black trousers, a white shirt and a black jacket. Funeral attire, I realised later.

The final week dragged to a close, and we were joined by old friends who somewhat distracted me with their family energy and good heartedness. I was feeling tired more than anything now, as my emotions closed up, shut down, and more and more the expectation grew in me that my dream was right. I was witnessing each day as if it was my last, I had abandoned all thoughts of anything future, baffling attempts to draw me into conversation so that I could just wait to see which second on that ticking clock would be my last. We survived the last night, the fireworks, the bonhomie, the drink.

It was Sunday, August 31st, 1997. A bright, sunny morning in Edinburgh. We packed the van, ready to leave. "Diana is dead!" announced S, just back from the shops. Cue general disbelief and mild consternation all round. My head started to spin. "How? When?" I marched to the shops and bought a copy of every newspaper - the first editions with partially-clothed paparazzi pictures of Diana and Dodi on the beach, full of claims that the relationship was destoying the royal family, the second editions, respectful R.I.P. headlines, with all scandal removed. I walked back to the van, slowly, thinking, "You haven't got very much longer to live." It wasn't me. I wasn't meant for me. It was Diana, it was about Diana's death. I felt a wave of euphoria, and I smiled for the first time in three weeks. "You know the best thing about this?" I asked a Scots passer-by, showing him the paper. "It's not me." I caught a bemused grimace back, and decided it was too complicated to explain.

It is amazing how long one can labour under particular illusions, the accuracy of one's perceptions and analysis being chief among them, illusions revealing their clever mechanisms at the moment of downfall, suddenly unmissable mountains appearing as the mists vanish.

As the great tide of grief swept the nation over the following week, it had a soothing effect on me. I felt that somehow I had caught an advance glimpse of this very public death, and interpreted it as my own, and so while all of Britain wept for this stolen icon, I experienced relief, and a resurgence of hope. But, I was still wrong. My lovely partner went to Venezuela, and although she sent me postcards and faxes proclaiming love and loyalty, she left me within a week of her return. And then, die I did, although not physically, or permanently. Just for a while.



Recommended reading:

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Who Says Art Is Powerless?

A giant inflatable dog turd created by the American artist Paul McCarthy was blown from its moorings at a Swiss museum, bringing down a power line and breaking a window before landing in the grounds of a children's home.

The exhibit, entitled Complex Shit, is the size of a house. It has a safety system that is supposed to deflate it in bad weather, but it did not work on this occasion. (Guardian)

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3am Pain In The Neck

It's 3am and the sweaty night has me thrown me awake, with itchy bug eyes and a sore throat. I am not well right now which is a drag as I have a lot to do this week. And yet, what I have to do next clearly is get well. Oh it's only a virus - but then it is a virus, those devilish, evolving, clever-to-the-point-of-indestructible life forms which follow humans to our graves, and half the time put us into them.

The virus wouldn't have got me but for the amount of work I'm doing which is putting a strain on me. Who am I kidding that the one is not connected to the other? I'm staggering around trying to find and take pain killers and drinking water and bizarrely feeling very hungry, even though I ate perfectly well yesterday and it's the middle of the night.

It is those phrases like "pain in the neck" used to describe stress which give it away. My neck is actually very uncomfortable and sore right now. Thank God it's not a real pain in the arse, which would be hemorrhoids.

Gah. Meh. Bah.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Three Fat Ladies, All The Eights

If you live in the east, eight being a good number, today is particularly auspicious and it's no surprise that 8.8.8 has been chosen to kick off the Beijing Olympics.

As a musician I like the date a lot. It's everything from a barnyard stomp to a verse/bridge/chorus and it suits me fine. It's one-two-three-four double stable, a good place to put two teams of horses before they bolt. It's a nice, fat number - eight also phonically sounding "ate" and looking like a "fat lady" as the bingo caller so accurately says.

As for the sports, they can take a running jump. I'm mindful of the 1,000 Tibetan monks locked up for the duration, of the Falun Gong followers buried minus harvested body parts, of the brutality of the state in all its forms.

My own Olympics, the Chav Olympics, to be held in four years in London's east end, should we ever get there, will be known as the Drug Olympics, with athletes sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, sporting shamelessly remodelled bodies and competing beyond human limitation. Included (and I've said this before but it's worth repeating) will be Olympic Darts, Olympic Poker, Olympic Penny-Up-The-Wall. The 100 metre sprint will feature professional strippers who begin decked out in sporting fashion paraphernalia and end sweaty and naked; and the triathlon will be Coughing, Spitting and Swearing.

Now I'm going to lie down for a month.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Couldn't Be Fucking Arsed

Thank fuck for London's freedom, its words, its expressive, peerless language. I've been attempting some life firsts recently, about which I have written little. One of them is to try and establish an honest and potentially meaningful relationship with my work, and another, with my father. Not my step-father, he's fine. No, I'm talking about the old guy whose life I walked into three years ago after over thirty years of absence.

After establishing cordial relations, and witnessing some degree of affection, I thought I'd find out why the fuck he didn't come and find us, his first three children, once the dust of his failed relationship with my mother had settled, so I wrote an email and waited. I haven't got any kind of satisfactory answer, just indications that he doesn't possess the courage to be honest. Suffice to say, it's a tall ask for a 71 year old used to ignoring what he doesn't wish to confront about this past actions, now faced with implacable, articulate me, the non-prodigal son. I'm not bearing any anger, but I do require an answer. I definitely get the feeling that this one could very easily run and run, never to be resolved.

I write this blog for personal freedom's sake, not to entertain or show off. If I did it for any other reason, it would simply be an exercise in crap enhancement. I am sure there are those out there who think that's the case anyway, without me giving them more cause for slaggery.

The fact that I write for a living matters not one jot here. I deal with famous people and so what? About this aspect of my life, I couldn't give a flying trapeze fuck. I care about my family, my girlfriend and her family, my friends, our health, our prospects for a better life.

I'm here to love art and music, sex and food, to make jokes and laugh, to dance, to cavort, to unashamedly steal whatever I need, to gain insight and achieve healing. I care about my work only because I intend to achieve something I can be proud of before I die, and that had better be soon.

So, I don't really care if you see me with my pants down. I don't care if any of us fall over. It doesn't matter that you're a twat, and that I'm a dickhead, because at least that makes us human, which, cursing and error-prone, is just the way we're born.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Minipods Of Funk On DeepBlue FM

During August I am producing a daily (Monday to Friday) lunchtime feature on DeepBlue FM, a holiday season Bournemouth-based radio station. Martyn (The Hat) asked me very nicely, so how could I refuse? It means that instead of sixty or so minutes of podcasting once a month, in August I am producing more than double that in daily bite-sized minipod chunks. If you haven't subscribed, this is a good time to do so.



To celebrate Olympic month, I'm also running a competition on behalf of the Free Tibet Campaign. You could win a night out at a Chinese Restaurant! So mosey on over to Funkpod.co.uk and check that out. Did you notice the comments made by the architect of the Olympic stadium? That's what I'm talking about.



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