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Posts from the ‘Chewing the Fat’ Category

Don’t Pause the Film

Today would have been my parent’s 64th wedding anniversary and once a year around this time, I share a photograph, which I have taken, not in sadness but celebration.

Just short footnote in the annuals of life where a child can recognise the luck they have had in life. I’m acutely aware that not all children have had the foundations of good parents. My heart truly goes out to them, but as important as it to recognise the failings in our world. We should also acknowledge and honour when things just simply go right. It is now 4 years since my Mum and 3 years since my Dad passed away.

Yes, I miss my parents every single day. Still, I don’t allow this to overcast what lovely people they were individually and collectively as parents. Things were often never perfect, and I did not get the opportunity to carry out those plans in later life for them, as I’d planned in my head. Time, you see it is a bugger. Its the one resource we often take for granted and is in short supply for everybody.

If life is a film.
Don’t pause it.
Don’t try to rewind it.
Live it.
Embrace every frame as if it is the last before the credits.
And remember you don’t get the opportunity to write those credits.

Bone Machine

Released in 1992, Bone Machine was the 10th Studio album from Tom Waits.  Back in the early 90s music mags regularly featured a free cassette tape, which contained a selection of tracks from the recently released albums. This was my introduction to bone machine. A cassette, which included the track The Earth Died Screaming. Unlike CD’s or streaming devices, the cassette format made skipping between tracks a bit of an art form, especially when driving.

The effect of being pinned in your car, having to endure all types of music, you would not usually select with limited ability to skip tracks certainly helps educate your taste. By the way, the album cover was taken by Jesse Dylan, Sir Bob’s son.

Bizarre Love Triangle

Leveson Inquiry

Love Triangle: Leveson Inquiry*

Our addiction to celebrity extinguishes another star, and the well-oiled cogs of fabricated grief immediately started to turn. Sympathies have been expressed. Role model status bestowed, conspiracies now conspire, and countless posting of soft-filter photographs on social media accounts have been shared. The newspaper trolls who hounded and vilified while in life are now immersed in their obnoxious expressions in death.  It’s the remorse we cannot manipulate. Its to be discovered in that briefest of moments when we find ourselves at our most vulnerable. The fleeting second we all have between consciousness and sleep. Where genuine self-reflection happens as we lay naked with only our thoughts to determine if we are to enjoy a peaceful night or insomnia.

A place where over-edited selfies have no value, and we cannot hide behind the virtual wall cocooning our fear of reality.  A reality, to be drip-fed on short term/zero-hour contracts in a get rich quick or die trying competition. A world where the excesses and those who harbour greed float to the surface and pollute all empathy. Where a docile mass are steered away from questioning power and seeking accountability over those who hold it. 

To become a consumer with default choices, low expectations and subserviently programmed to the whims of the market. A market where anger is depleted, isolated and suppressed through a matrix of automated complaints systems. Where any notion of rebellion is distilled, branded, repackaged and monetised.

Haplessly we proceed to consume the chase of celebrity. We enjoy the hunt and even after the kill we dig over the carcass seeking every morsel, every detail, that will offer an explanation. After all, they “had it all” the lifestyle, the beautify and no less the fame. Its everything we clamour for from behind our mobile phones and all along, we could hear those muffled screams. Still, we decided to ignore the cry of, “I’m a celebrity get me out of here.”

(*Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press was cancelled by the Conservative Government.)

Big Wheels Keep On Turning: Part 1

Big wheels keep on turning. There is no bigger truth. Those feeling depressed and dispirited by the current state of politics in the U.K. should remember what goes around, ultimately comes around. Many look back with rose filtered glasses to the Conservative-Thatcher decade of the 80s. The decade when the barking dog of unfettered greed was unleashed. Forty years on are there parallels between now and then? Then I was a young man growing up in the North East of England. The heartland of Labour’s so-called red wall, which lazy political commentators get so excited about from their studios in London or garbling hyper-nonsense from the steps of Downing Street.

Right-wing, working-class patriotism has always been a reality behind the ‘red wall’ as it no doubt exists behind the ‘blue-wall’ of Christchurch.

Now and then the Tories manage to select a leader from their most elite ranks, who by birthright attain the Tory crown and their spin doctors, advisors and supporters then mould a persona and finance their chosen one’s adventures behind the red wall.

Back in the 80s, it was Thatcher, and now it’s good old Jolly Johnson who enjoys nothing more than driving dumpster trucks, sharing a jar with his flat-capped buddies down the local and sticking it up those pesky foreigners across the channel.

The late 1970s/1980s in the U.K. were much more than punk, disco, padded shoulders, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Filofaxes, house brick mobile phones and the birth of “loads of money.” For many, it was often a fucking bleak and violent place to exist.

Poverty rates rocketed as the gap between rich and poor escalated beyond anything previously experienced in our modern history.  The Brixton Uprising, followed by civil unrest in Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham.

Blair Peach who campaigned against the rise of fascism was killed by a member of the infamous Special Petrol Group (SPG) within the Met. Police, who were less trusted than a South American paramilitary hit squad. The SPG seemed to operate with impunity under cover of the stop and search law, which permitted a police officer to stop, search and potentially arrest people on suspicion of them being in breach of section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824.

Clause 28: Played on the ignorance, prejudice and fear often felt towards the gay community. As the world mobilised against the apartheid regime of South Africa, Thatcher welcomed its leaders to this country, as friends. Extremist’s in the Conservative Party, including Thatcher’s husband Denis, who happened to have business interests in the racist state, openly applauded denunciations of the ANC as a terrorist organisation at the Conservative Party Conference. Other delegates called for the hanging of the ANC leader Nelson Mandela.  March 1990 and again, towns and cities were subjected to violent riots. This time against the poll tax, introduced by the Conservative government of the day. Then in 2011, under the watch of the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron rioting broke out in London, Birmingham and other cities in the U.K.

The script may change, it may be tailored, dressed up, spun and efficiently targeted through Fakebook ads, but be in no doubt whatsoever the book remains the same.

The Johnson administration is now feeling its way, pushing against barriers it may feel are sensitive, to test the waters and judge the strength of push back they receive. The deportations of Jamaicans by the Johnson administration is straight from the Trump textbook, which is to agitate discontent between communities. Stirring up the pot to see what happens, forming the narrative, and drip-feeding messages to a targeted audience.

Johnson is merely a complicit puppet in the reactionary and populist politics, funded by billionaires and oligarchs whose only interest is to destabilise any sense of oversight or accountability by any government i.e. their war on the EU. Unfettered greed will ultimately consume itself, but in the meantime, a lot of poison is going to be injected into our social fabric, which will take time to rinse out.

When I look back at the 80s, put them into context today, and reflect on what I believe is coming over the next five years. The depth of the damage, in my opinion, will be determined by the level of resistance our young people give to it. Until then, Johnson will continue to push.

My hope is that it does not result in violence, as it did in the 80s, 90s, and 2011, but given the track record of the Conservatives I don’t think they care that much, to be honest. To them, it will only be collateral damage.

Taste a little Sweetwater

Sweetwater, one of those bands from the 1960s who through a set of circumstances beyond their control never seemed to receive the credit or recognition they so much deserve. Initially conceived as a regular house band playing the coffee shops in and around their native California the band quickly became the regular support for The Doors and The Animals in the late 60s. They charted in the US with a cover of Motherless Child a song most associated with Paul Robeson. Their 1968 first and self-titled album in my humble opinion is a little gem of the original psychedelic era that is often overlooked.

Many a pop quiz pundit will know that Sweetwater were booked to open the original Woodstock in 1969 but due to the numbers attending and the related traffic jams, they were unable to get to the stage on time. Then later that year lead singer Nansi Nevins was badly injured in a car accident, which hindered the progression of the band.

My favourite track from their self titled album is My Crystal Spider while the lyrics to What’s Wrong, (video below), seems more pertinent today than back in 1969.  If you’ve not heard the album and you are partial to a little 60s psychedelia then welcome aboard and take a trip.

Day After The Night Before

The remains of the party poppers are to be swept away, unfinished drinks to be cleared up, and the nostalgic memories of the night before have already started to fade as a cocktail of hangover remedies are downed. A collective sigh from the madness of the past 4 years is in the vague hope a sense of normality can be restored, but this morning feels the same as the day before. A realisation that the same chasm, which existed before, exists today, and we continue to dance around the fire that has consumed us.

We are in mourning, confused, seeking to re-establish a sense of something that we cannot speak of because they have tethered our vocabulary, our right to free speech and expression.

They’ of course have a multitude of manifestations depending upon our personal circumstances and not worthy of repeating here, but they have turned us into self-imposed victims. It’s always somebody else’s fault and somebody else is to blame. As we now stand alone, accountability now firmly sits with us. That pothole in the road, the waiting list to see a doctor, the zero hour contract, the shape of bananas.

This morning we stand to puff our chest out against the wind, alone, but in reality, the past 4 years have been a symptom, not the cause and the celebrations last night are not the cure.

Working for Nothing

If you love music & respect those, who make it. You need to keep an eye on what the UK government is doing, or more precisely not doing to implement EU copyright law. Copyright is the legal right that allows an artist to protect how their original work is used. Article 13, (now 17) of the EU Copyright Directive requires online platforms to stop copyrighted material getting onto their platforms.

Most agree the Directive is far from perfect, but it starts to push in the right direction by realising artists need protection in the digital world of user-generated content. Surely, it’s in the consumer’s interest we ensure artists, including musicians, filmmakers and illustrators receive fair remuneration for the work they produce, and we go on to enjoy regardless the platform we receive their creative endeavours be it digital, radio, cinema, TV or gallery?

There is a BBC link here, which provides useful background information, but for now, this is my take on the situation after reading several items across a number of news outlets, including the Musician Union.

Smoke and Mirrors

During 2019 The UK Government was one of the key supporters of the Directive, which was not surprising given the importance of the ‘cultural industries’ to our domestic economy. But In January 2020 the UK Government announced it will not be implementing the Directive. In the duplicitous world of politics, it’s not difficult to discover the short gap between what governments say and what they actually do. Still, even Flipper the Dolphin would be impressed by Boris Johnson’s flip-flop.

What had changed in such a short period of time? The only significant event to have taken in this period is, of course, the general election in the UK that Johnson’s Conservative’s won. It is easy to come to the conclusion that Johnson was saying one thing to one audience before the election with a plan to deliver after the election.

Most if not all the big on-line platforms who are reliant on user-generated content are very much against the copyright law not only because it places a greater onus on them to police their own platforms, but they are unlikely to be keen on the prospect of diverting revenue away from themselves towards deserving artists who make the content that drives people to use their platform.

The tech companies are nothing more than 21st-century monopolies interested in maintaining their market share and profits. The two largest streaming services have over 75 million tracks on their platforms giving them a disproportionate hold on the market. Think of tech companies as empty supermarkets and the artist is the producer, delivery driver and shelf-stacker who is then paid on a sales only basis.

The core business model for these tech companies is to reduce their costs, maximise their revenues and push risk and cost on to the producer of content they need (ie the artist). The tech companies want to spoon-feed you a diatribe of commercials and they certainly do want an informed customer base. This explains why the tech companies have fuelled campaigns against the proposed Directive by dumbing down the debate around the narrative “the meme ban” it is not.

Little Man Lost

The power social media and hosting platforms hold over politicians is the same the print barons had. Johnson will do as he is told be in no doubt.

Johnson now claims that it was “a classic EU law to help the rich and powerful” and “a good example of how we can take back control”. This is just claptrap and what is simply happening here is Johnson is supporting the interest of big business over those of individual artists working, against the odds, to create content we want to enjoy.

Johnson, like Trump, has used these tech companies and their platforms to great effect and it’s not in either parties interest to threaten their self-interests. The power, which the social media and hosting platforms hold over politicians is similar to the power the print barons held over politicians in recent history. Be in no doubt, at the end of the day Johnson will do as he is told.

What Remains

I’ve always had a curiosity with empty houses, mainly when derelict. It’s a fascination I’ve had since childhood and one that inevitably catches up with me when exploring the South West countryside. On these unplanned explorations, I often come across empty farm buildings. As I step across the doorway, there is frequently a feeling of intrusion given I often come across personal items of little value. An old tie is hanging in a cupboard recess or rusting oil lamp. Each piece is holding its own short story. A reflection of past lives, including my own.

In my birth town of Stockton on tees, there was an old dog racing track (Belle Vue Park) in the neighbourhood, opened in 1946 and the track closed around 1974. Sitting in the grounds of the stadium was a grand old house with a large garage. It was only a matter of time, of course, after the place closed down, that we found a way into the stadium, under the less than secure fencing to explore the grounds.

Racing our bikes around the stadium where the electric course hare would zoom around the inside of the track as the dogs frantically chased in pursuit. Finding our way in the house, and offices and discovering the antiquated telecom and public address system. Singing the lastest Slade single over the public address system, taking turns to shout a swear word, which would attract the attention of the local neighbourhood and the soon to arrive police car.

Belle Vue Park is long gone, like the guys who would give us 3 pence for looking after their vehicles when visiting the races. Now, what stands there are rows of two-story blocks of flats, all neatly paraded with their inhabitants enjoying TV dinners in the company of the ghosts of past memories.

 

Chinese Metal

This is boring. Literally boring stuff, but like all boring stuff, it tends to be important.

The London Metal Exchange (LME)10 Finsbury Square London, EC2A 1AJ is the world centre for the trading of industrial metals from lead to gold. In 2018 the LME traded $15.7 trillion and 4.1 billion tonnes of what they call ‘lots’ of metals across the globe.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEx) bought the 135-year-old LME for an estimated £1.4bn in 2012. The HKEx now promotes itself as one of the biggest market operations in the world and the leader in “China Connectivity.”

HKEx itself was created in 2000 and formed through the merger of The Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the Hong Kong Futures Exchange and the Hong Kong Securities Clearing Company. The merger was designed to increase China’s competitiveness in the global market.

The sale of the LME raised a few eyebrows at the time with the Financial Times reporting (June 2012), “The sale would also deliver a windfall to the banks and brokers who own the LME. At £1.4bn, JPMorgan would receive £151m for its shares, Goldman Sachs would get £132m and the Bagri family, owners of Metdist, would receive £130m.” In the same article, the paper also suggested the Chief Executive of the LME was inline for a bonus of around £10m.

Seven years on following the sale of LME to the HEKx it is widely accepted that the deal has not realised its ambition of building a commodities bridge between the West and China. But as HKEX chief executive Charles Li says, “All you need to think about is if this is the right asset for us. The rest is detail. You don’t worry if the price is right.”

Roll on to December 2019, Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union has already fired a shot across the UK’s PM Johnson’s bow by warning that Brussels is ready to cut off the City of London’s post-Brexit market access unless the UK stays closely aligned with EU rules after it leaves the EU.

In an interview with the Financial Times (December 2019) Dombrovskis is quoted as saying, “Brussels was willing to grant the UK access through a system of “equivalence” decisions that are already used by banks and brokers in other countries such as Singapore and the US. The EU would be especially vigilant in checking that British rules for ensuring financial stability and protecting consumers remained aligned to the EU’s own standards and would act decisively in the event of any lapses.  Access will depend on Britain not starting to engage in some kind of deregulation.”

Meanwhile, as China maintains one alarming eye on the streets of Honk Kong while accusing ‘foreign interests’ of stirring up the disturbances, the other will be watching the negotiations between the UK and EU. Playing safe The London Metal Exchange has an office on the 7th Floor, MYP Centre, 9 Battery Road, Singapore, although it’s not as if they do not already have one foot in the negotiations.

Earth Suite: Assassin of Sound

The photograph, design & layout work for the album Earth Suite by Assassin of Sound, along with a link to the album and the various draft ideas produced for the project.

 

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