Archive for March, 2007


‘The problem with American power is not that it is American. The problem is simply the power. It would be dangerous even for an archangel to have so much power.’ Tim Garton Ash.

‘Stop this bullshit now.’ Cindy Sheehan.

Video clip

JJ and Billy the Pill

The future? It begins with the meaning of profanity. In the beginning was the word and the word was profane. Take the term substance abuse, for example. Some Christians no doubt believe that substance abuse is profane: you know, the body is a temple of God?

JJ and Billy the Pill have been awake for days searching for the meaning of profanity. Now they’re down to their last fragments of pills, combing the trash for roaches and skimming the bags for powder residue.

While Billy’s in the john, JJ scrapes together enough powder for a line and surreptitiously ingests it.

‘It’s stage 5 in the countdown to the end of the world,’ he tells Billy on his return.

Billy says:

‘I want to email everyone I know and tell them how much I love them.’

Now, Billy’s not known as ‘the Pill’ for no reason. You see, he’s been a user so long the only people he knows are dealers and connections.

JJ tells him:

‘Are you mad? It’s the end of the world.’

‘Mmm,’ Billy replies, ‘so you think I shoudn’t bother?’

‘Do what you like, man. It’s the end of the world.’

Billy thinks for a moment then says:

‘But what if nothing happens, you know, what if the world doesn’t end and we all wake up tomorrow and everything’s still here?’

‘Yeah?’

‘Well, all those people that I emailed would know how much I love them…’

‘Mmm,’ JJ says, gathering up the rest of the pill fragments and hiding them in an empty Marlboro packet, ‘I guess then we’ll have to start counting down again…’

That’s what I love about substance abuse, the virtuous circularity.

So, it’s been another slow year.

You know that feeling, when you’re the only one (I mean one, get it?) in a crowd to see a single magpie? Man, that’s a f**ker.

One for sorrow…

But why me. I mean, I’m in a crowd, you know? And it’s just me that gets the sorrow-vision?

It’s because I’m an atheist, isn’t it? It’s because I’m not quite black, isn’t it? Because I’m half a Jew?

I’m a f**king gypsy. That’s why. Don’t try to tell me I’m wrong.

I blame it on slow jazz and bottled water. If I believed in God or Rock and Roll I’d have no problem.

But I don’t, so it’s got to be that I listen to too much vacuum-cleaner-bass-jazz and drink too much Evian.

No-one told me it’s a sin.

Last week I go to London. I’m attending this party at the Porchester Rooms, thrown by a very good friend of mine who’s extremely talented, has had a lot of luck and has won this extremely prestigious award.

Anyway, we have a drink back-stage, I tell her I love her dearly and, though I’m dying of a tumour in my heart, she shouldn’t let that ruin her night.

It won’t.

So I leave her and visit the cloakroom, blow my nose. Then I take my place at a table reserved for me up front of the stage. The waiter brings a bottle of something French. I tell him to take it away.

‘Get me a bottle of Tequila and some olives,’ I tell him.

Suddenly I’m surrounded by these very serious, very legit looking guys with press badges. Seems they want to interview me.

‘So, what have you done since **** **** ****?’ asks one.

‘Nothing that would interest you,’ I tell him, thinking naively that now they’ll all go off and leave me alone. I’ve been out of the public eye too long.

‘Did you re-marry, after ****** died?’

The Tequila arrives. I do the salt and lime thing.

‘Yup!’

He pulls out a notebook and starts scribbling. Some of the others take Dictaphones and MP3s out of their breast pockets and place them in the middle of the table.

‘And what happened to that one?’ asks the scribbler.

‘Are you still trying to write comedy?’ asks a Dictaphone guy.

‘They say you’re not funny anymore,’ says a young MP3 guy with a cold-sore on his upper lip.

So, I have a long drink and think I’ll throw in a stock comic cliche line and they’ll know it’s a put-on:

‘My second marriage was broken up by my mother-in-law.’

‘Oh-oh! Mother-in-law jokes,’ says the waiter beneath his breath.

The scribbler scribbles, a couple of the Dictaphone guys adjust volumes, there’s a general surge of activity.

‘That’s funny… mother-in-law jokes. What happened?’ ask the hacks as one voice.

‘Well, let’s see. My mother-in-law broke up our marriage. One day wife number two comes home early from work and finds us in bed together.’

‘What? Your mother-in-law in bed with you?’

‘Yeah, that’s right.”

‘Well, that’s disgusting!’

‘Oh, well, she was horny and she came on to me…’

‘With your mother? Well, that’s psychotic!’

‘Why? It was her mother, not mine.’

Then the lights dim, the band starts up, my friend stumbles on stage and the audience applauds.

A guy closely resembling myself leaves by an alley exit.

Soon it will be summer.

Sugar-coated hegemony

So, what’s the difference between Big Tobacco and Big Government?

In a cynical attempt to lure young smokers and turn them into addicts (thereby enabling them to fulfil their economic roles in the Land of The Free and her dominions) nicotine barons add sugar and sweetners, plum juice, maple syrup and honey to their product. In so doing the smokers’ risk of cancer is increased.

Similarly, imperialist governments feed us with fear, paranoia, bomb-toting bogey-men, religion, etc, so we buy the restrictions of freedom involved in ‘protecting’ us from the ‘enemy’. As a result of their (our) foreign policy, terrorism increases and we move further towards WW3 and ultimate destruction.

So, thinking about a slow death…

So recently I started smoking again and I’m coughing a lot. A long term prognosis?

Cancer!

The Government tells me that I get cancer through smoking and I continue smoking.

Why? Because I’m a good citizen. You know how much tax we pay on a pack of cigarettes in the UK? 80%.

Also, smoking encourages me to be more tolerant. No longer can I point a finger at a drunk or a heroin addict and tell him:

‘What’s the matter with you, man? Aren’t you using your brains? You keep drinking, you keep shooting that shit and it’s ruining your health, your family, your business…’

He’s got a lot of brains. That has nothing to do with it. He’s going to keep drinking or cranking up and I’m going to keep smoking.

As of July 1st smoking will be outlawed in all enclosed public areas and work spaces in England. They already did it in Scotland and Ireland.

People have been talking about the economic consequences: you know, all that lost tax revenue if people stop smoking? That’s not going to happen and the Government knows it.

I’ve been thinking more about what the tobacco companies are going to do. Well, they’re not going to stop selling cigarettes, are they?

I can’t knock them for that, because everything is profit-motivated and a lot of people depend on the tobacco industry for their livelihoods. So what will they do?

Well it won’t be down to them, it’ll be the responsibility of the spin-merchants, the PR people and the advertising agencies, won’t it?

One way out would be to make it cool to have cancer, turn cancer into something desirable, make cancer a status symbol in the community.

They could start with covert, soft-sell advertisements in movies and soap operas, guys talking in two-minute spots, you know:

‘Say, Mike, haven’t seen you in a couple of years. You really look great.’

‘Why shouldn’t I? I’ve got cancer!’

‘Are you kidding me, Mike? Well, that’s terrible.’

‘Terrible the way you see it, not the way I see it. I was making about £15,000 a year as a male nurse. Now since I got cancer, with consolidated benefits and an early pension… I mean, you never see any schlub with cancer, do you? Who has it? Doctors, lawyers, judges, actors, rock stars… What am I, crazy? Are you? No, my friend, it’s… the rich people. They’re keeping it away from us, man, with all those charity drives they have…’

‘Mmm, and it’s really good for you?’

‘Certainly is.’

‘Well, that’s fantastic. How do you get it?’

‘Marlboro lights!’

Run it…

Amy Winehouse: ‘Rehab’ au naturel

This is Amy Winehouse, winner of this years Brit awards, singing her single ‘Rehab’ live, in what looks like someone’s front room.

The single’s great but this is awesome.

By the way, for those of you who don’t know, Amy is the daughter of a Jewish cab-driver from an expensive London suburb called Southgate. ‘Rehab’ is from her second album, Back to Black.

Run it…

John Munro: cool-vids

Some time ago I featured a great short film by John Munro called Oxford Circus. It’s so good I’m featuring it again.

I just love this. Check out the rest of John Munro’s catalogue here.

Girl Alarm

I know the girl in the bar by sight. Our eyes meet and I nod. Her phone rings. An odd ring-tone. Sounds like a klaxon. A car alarm. A smoke alarm. A personality alarm.

I sense that her life is on fire or overheating or being tampered with in some way. So we arrange to meet after the show.

There’s a club in the city called the Candy Box. It’s a place for people who work in the leisure industry. You know, waitresses, bartenders, casino monkeys…

Anyway, I meet her there. The bar is tended by a typist and an insurance salesman. While I wait for the drinks I could dictate War and peace and earn a four year no claims bonus.

Eventually we’re equipped. So we head for an intimate table in a dark booth and start up a little conversation.

‘My father is dying of cancer,’ she tells me, ‘I’m grieving already.’

‘Why?’ I ask insensitively.

‘I’ll tell you why.’ she says.

Then she tells me:

‘With cancer you never stop grieving. Some people say you grieve twice but I don’t think that’s the half of it. I don’t think you ever stop… just go on and on and on… grieving, you know? I’d striven for so long to be like him. Time was what I struggled against. I fought for time. Then I had it. The problem then was that I didn’t have the energy, the passion.’

‘Ah, the passion,’ I counter, meaningfully.

‘The solution is a sure one,’ I continue, ‘but the side consequences might be scary…’

‘Hey, talk to the hand, motherf**ker. If you got it I can carry it. You know what I’ve been through already?’ she says.

So we go back to my house, smoke some weed, snort a couple of Gs of best toot and drink the largest part of a bottle of whiskey (it’s Irish, right. So don’t be a kibitzer and correct the spelling).

Turns out her name’s Penny.

In the morning I tell her:

‘We should have a baby, Penny. We should have a little boy and call him Carlos, after my father. He died of cancer, you know… and with cancer you always grieve twice.’  

George W’s Palace

While Bush’s Government builds what is purported to be the biggest diplomatic outpost on earth, Iraqi families suffer water shortages and power cuts and are forced to wait in line to fuel their cars.

Although $22 billion has been spent, Baghdad’s infrastructure still operates at pre-war levels. Out of 150 planned medical centres only six have been completed.

The failed $147 million programme to train Iraqi security units to protect key oil and power facilities is the subject of a current fraud investigation. Before the war oil production was 2.6 million barrels per day; now it is only 2.18 million.

As an astonishing catalogue of missed deadlines and overspending on civilian building projects is revealed, the bill, so far, for ‘George W’s palace’ stands at $592 million.

To add insult to injury the Kuwaiti contractor employs only foreign workers.

The 104 acre site, protected by a 15ft thick perimeter wall, will comprise 21 buildings, to include luxurious residences for the ambassador and his deputy, six apartments for senior officials, office accommodation for 8,000 staff, a super-sized swimming pool, an olympic class gymnasium, cinemas, tennis courts, US food chain restaurants and a top drawer American Club for evening functions.

And the USA retains ‘no long term ambitions’ here?

Not surprisingly the size of the project is seen by Iraqis as ‘an indication of who actually exercises power in their country’ (and of who will no doubt continue so to do).

Times article

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