20 December 2014

16 December 2014

No Light At The End Of The Tunnel



I Pulled into one of these the other day and never really came out. I am still stuck in a close-out tube with a sore throat and feverish dreams about writing for 'The Wire' and strange family members trying to baptize me in my sleep.

13 December 2014

"CIVILIZATION IS BORING"

If you have not read George Monibot's "Feral" yet. This BBC feature is a great (and very eye-pleasing) summary of his thesis:

BACK TO NATURE

"Civilization is boring. It has many virtues, but it leaves large parts of our minds unstimulated. It uses just a fraction of our mental and physical capacities. To know what comes next has been perhaps the dominant aim of materially-complex societies. Yet, having achieved it, or almost achieved it, we have been rewarded with a new collection of unmet needs. Many of us, I believe, need something that our planned and ordered lives don’t offer."


12 December 2014

Babylon Wales


photo by Keith Morris 1972

There is an interesting history of solidarity between the South Wales Valleys and African Americans, starting with Paul Robeson, through to Angela Davis of the Black Panthers and hopefully through to today. Yet, in reality, I fear class consciousness has been largely washed out since the closing of the coal mines and the deadly rising tide of consumer culture. I Hope I'm wrong.

Above Photo taken from the Babylon Wales blog  that now, unfortunately also seems to be deceased.


As a side note, under surveillance by MI5, the CIA (see recent abhorrent abuses of Human Rights) and the FBI, Paul Robeson had his passport confiscated in 1950 until 1958 whereby he was unable to attend the annual Miners’ Eisteddfod in Porthcawl.

11 December 2014

The Truth of Revolution, Brother



The Truth of Revolution, Brother from This Ain't Rock'n'Roll on Vimeo.

This subject has been tackled before with mixed results but this book project looks very fucking good. Got to get copy.

The Truth of Revolution, Brother

06 December 2014

WANTED: Dead Loved Ones


“If I take death into my life, acknowledge it, and face it squarely, I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life - and only then will I be free to become myself.”
— Martin Heidegger

I am an obituary writer. I am not a member of The Society of Obituary Writers and I have never taken any classes on how to write an obituary. I have no formal qualification or training. Let me ask you, what do you imagine when you think of an obituary writer?  An Edgar Allen Poe wannabe help up in a dingy basement? Perhaps, a bitter old writer comprising a living? For some reason, I used to imagine a woman in her late 60s, educated, with proper manners, perhaps an etiquette instructor of yesteryear. I am not sure why but it seems for most of us, an obituary should follow a certain form. But I never learned this form. I have my own set of questions, I ask of the bereaved and then I insist on meeting the subject wherever possible and I insist on looking into their cold dead eyes.

Truth be told I am a ghost writer. I write farewell letters between you and your dead loved ones, in special code. And further truth be told, it is the same letter every time, someone dies. Your dead husband was not special. His life was no more or no less full than the next person. But I can make it seem that way. Your dead pre-pubescent daughter was not a unique flower about to blossom.  But I can make it seem that way. And when you die you will be nothing out of the ordinary also. The human mind is so held-up in its own ego, it needs to believe in its own eternal 'exceptionality' but we all follow the same trajectory. We are all born so the universe can try and look at itself in the mirror through yet another angle and then we all return to everything again, our lives meaning profoundly little and beautifully everything. But I can make it seem ever-so-special for the benefit of those left behind.

Obituary writing is a very fruitful business because people keep dying and always will. We all die. Unless, Ray Kurzweil has his way and we attain immortality via computer upload. And then I’m done for. My secret profession will cease to be and I will cease to be and so will the universe. This I know.

I am a young man. But I am a grown man. I am twenty-nine. I have been an obituary writer for four years, since the day I accepted my own mortality. My ‘day-job’ is a night job. I work as a security guard for a building in the city-center that houses the head offices for a telecommunications company. Nothing has done more to disconnect us than the advent of mass cell phone and Internet usage. This I know. It’s a wonderfully horrible illusion. I am surprised more people don’t try to burn this building down in frustration for I would let them. Burn it down or ask your neighbour over for tea. Both will take tremendous courage.

In such a world it is easy to not think about death and this is why you need me to do it for you. You are busy writing your life story, constructing your perfect profile, working towards an ideal, and you are avoiding death. They say life is a journey but really it is not. It just is. If there is any destination at all, it is your non-existence and that can be a real brain-fart of a concept. And that is how I make my living. Because, of your inability to think about death, I can live a full and free life.

When someone dies, I think about the work it will provide me and I get a jolt of energy. The stars shine brighter and the wind feels crisper, each and every time. Sometimes, on my work break, I walk around the city. Every person I encounter, I think to myself, they are going to die and I could write their obituary and make a nice little earner. I wonder who will miss them, what they did with their lives, what they did not do, who they matter to, are they alone or not, what they felt their life-calling was and what got in the way of that calling, what they settled for and how I will put a inimitable spin on this from the perspective of their oldest son, or widow, and how well it will read in the Sunday Paper. And I return to work feeling,

really feeling, clearer.

And higher.

I am obituary writer. I think about death frequently. I think about death many times a day. Nearly every waking moment, aside from taking care of my basic needs, eating, shitting and so on, I am thinking about how you and I are going to meet our end. Old age, horrible diseases and accidents. Sometimes, an unknown swordsman will cut off our heads from out of nowhere. Sometimes spontaneous explosions just blow us to infinite pieces. And I think about ironing-out the confusion that leads up to that liberating moment.

So let me write your loved one’s obituary. Let me write yours. It will be easy. I have had lots of practice with an extensive portfolio for you to peruse.

I have your life down to formulaic science but I can make your death read like magnificent poetry.

02 December 2014

27 November 2014

History Is What Is Happening: The Death of Mike Brown and Empathy in ‘post-racial America’

Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images


At work but not working on this Thanksgiving Day 2014, listening to Coltrane’s  ‘Alabama’ and Burroughs’s ‘Thanksgiving Prayer,’ not caffeinated enough, a white immigrant been here some fifteen years. I have been going to bed thinking about ‘post-racial America’ waking up thinking about Ferguson and the death of Mike Brown and with him, Empathy. Spending the day thinking and talking about short-term memory loss, genetically inherited trauma and the over-simplification of ‘discussion’ in this attention span shot-instant response-virtually uncommunicative age. 

It is Thanksgiving and so I am thankful for Ralph Ellison and Malcolm X, not necessarily because I’m trying to be a ‘white ally’ but for an education. It was history and literature that got me through school and the likes of Malcolm X and Ralph Ellison who taught me to really read. I can’t say why the ‘black experience in America’ got me, a white Welsh teenager living in the Persian Gulf, so deep into book-reading, but it did.

In the British education system, the General Certificate of Secondary Education, back when I was fifteen at least, I found the teaching of history to be profound. It was less the subject matter (although that was endlessly fascinating as I just stated) but the way in which you were taught to get to grips with that history. It was less about the dates surrounding the World Wars but Causes and Consequences to those wars. It was less about civil rights than exercising Empathy for all sectors of society that were involved in that struggle. Teach a kid a specific history and they will understand that specific history, teach a kid to teach his or herself how to teach themselves history beyond memorizing dates, places and names and they will forever have the tools to understand where the world has been and where it might be going. 

The high point of my education was a paper I wrote on Empathy. I had to take, perhaps half a dozen representations of American people and how they may have reacted during the Civil Rights era. I cannot remember the specifics but it was something like: a young black girl in the south, a white judge in the North, a white farmer in Alabama, a black man who had fought in World War Two and now lived in Chicago. My job, as a fifteen year old white Welsh expatriate attending a British School in Bahrain, was to attempt to get in each person's head, in an effort to understand why they may have thought the way they did about race relations and how they may have responded during that heated era of struggle. Anyway, my teacher read my paper and said, ‘That’s pretty much perfect. I can’t think of how you could have made that any better. 100%. Well done.’ I was floored. I was always a very mediocre student, barely getting by, barely giving a shit, day dreaming about getting out of school to ride my skateboard. Therefore, I did not take my momentary academic success lightly and yes, I was mighty proud of myself. I now knew how to go about teaching myself and I felt ready for the next step.

That next step was moving to an American Department of Defense school. Of course I was excited about signing up for English but really could not wait to take the next steps in History. I wanted to dive further into Primary and Secondary evidence, cause, consequence, looking into various subjective and objective interpretations from various angles and to tease out my own conclusions and theories. Instead, I was given a one book. One fucking book to cover most of America’s complicated history. One book with one opinion. One side of the story. And it was a very dry book, with tedious prose, lots of dates to remember. I was terrible at remembering dates but at the very least I was sure this didn’t matter. What mattered was how I understood the history, right? And then the tests came. Test after test, week after week mostly about dates and so called ‘facts.’ After spending the last two years of my British education writing analytical papers where I was allowed to posit my own arguments and theories based on the wide selection of primary and secondary evidence I was allowed to research, I felt betrayed. Again, I was disillusioned with school and resumed cruising through at just about a satisfactory level. 

Fuck You, Ms. Houser.

So when I think about reactions to Mike Brown’s death and the subsequent aftermath. When I think about the knee jerk, emotional responses, I think about the how little race relations have really progressed. When I hear terms such as ‘post racial’ and a complete lack of any attempt to really understand where people are coming from, it is a depressing as all hell and I cannot but help blame this country’s lack of understanding of itself. Its failure to teach its people how to investigate its history, their own history.  The result is convenient memory loss, shallow reasoning facilitated by instant (dis)communication, social media and bigoted memes that do nothing to promote meaningful debate and reconciliation.

I don’t expect everyone to condemn Officer Darren Wilson as murderer and I don’t expect everyone to be sympathetic to rioters burning locally owned neighborhood shops but (and I said this about the London riots, which people also lazily dismissed as mindless or opportunistic materialist ‘thuggism’) just try and look at the context that all this is happening in and try, please try, to get in the heads of everyone involved.

The only hope I have in all of this, is that all that hate and perceptions that people have previously held about each other, have boiled to the surface and it is now a bit clearer how people really feel. And even though a lot of this is narrow-minded bigotry and mutual hate and distrust, perhaps it will be cathartic and perhaps people will now be forced to at least start to contextualize current events. Where else can it go?

26 November 2014

Antihero: Destination Unknown

  

I probably would not invite these lads over for a cup of tea but they certainly make me want to spend some time on the old stuntwood. Always have. This is how you do it. No five year hype involved.