This is a page for writing, Writers, those who play, fight love and create with words.
here is Fact here is Fiction
and here is where they blend
delightfully distort each other.
NBT proudly presents Eight very different writers. Scroll down to savor their stories
21st Century Schizoid Fan by MC Sparky
Modern day observations by a leftfield fan of music and art. MC Sparky began an indulgent interest in music in the seventies, first investigating the intricacies of progressive rock but then quickly switching to the darker side of post punk, and fully embracing the electronic explosion of house. His own exploits have included the bright and dark cult outfits “Sparky’s Magic Piano” and “TardisHead” in Johannesbug, South Africa, and he currently resides in Glasgow, Scotland as a critical fan of all modern music, both indie and mainstream.
NB: you can hear trax from Mark's Bands Tardishead, Sparky's Magic Piano on the NBTMusicRadio
21st Century Schizoid Fan – Festival Time!
Each time of year brings its own mood and perhaps even its own purpose. The winter in northern Europe was another harsh soul killer and most people eagerly celebrated the coming of an early spring. Snowdrops appeared, daffodils bloomed, and birds started nesting earlier than usual. The whole of nature seemed to be celebrating as we packed away our thick coats and got out the old Tshirts and shorts.
Now, with the longer days upon us, memories of deep snow and dangerous icy roads dwindle and our thoughts turn to what we can do with our limited free time. Holidays are high on the agenda, but even more immediate activities such as evenings in beer gardens, barbeques with friends, eating al fresco, drives in the country, daytrips to the sea or the mountains all seem more plausible. Where spring was a celebration of new life, summer is more a celebration of living life…and for thousands of musicians and music fans, the epitome of that expression is the Summer Festival.
Whether this be the gargantuan granddaddy of Glastonbury or the local village folk festival, thousands of people take part in one way or another, and for independent music the festivals provide a unique and vibrant platform from which to entertain and amaze, as well as a unique opportunity for reaching new audiences the bands might otherwise never connect with.
So, supposing you read this now and think: “Yeah! Festival!” what are you going to do and where are you going to go? The Glastonbury line up is fantastic, but it is sold out. You may be able to get tickets for T in the Park but most big festival tickets these days are going to hit you a couple of tons even if you can get them. Perhaps you don’t want pay a lot of money for bands you hear on the radio all the time? The good news is that there are plenty smaller festivals out there that you can get to where you won’t have to pay an arm and a leg and where you might just enjoy listening to a few bands you have never heard of before.
Let’s face it, most of us like to play it safe, going for the headline act that we are familiar with, that is in our record collection, or that we have heard on the radio. But we can do this at gigs in our normal place of residence. Anyone who has ever been to any festival will surely remember times when they weren’t watching the band they went to see. The beauty of festivals is that they are holistic experiences. Watching the burning wicker man at Dundrennan, with your blanket wrapped around you, holding a plastic beaker of warm mulled cider is just as powerful a memory as rubbing the rain from weather worn eyes as you struggle to focus on a faraway band through a psychedelic stupor at Worthy Farm; and just as enjoyable!
So, with alternative experience and independent music in mind, I am going to recommend a band called Nukli, playing at Kozmik Ken’s Psychedelic Dream Festival at Bobbie’s Farm near Uffculme in Devon on Saturday 30 July 2011. A mere forty quid will get you a ticket for the full duration of the festival with bands on Friday, Saturday and Sunday inclusive of camping and admitting all children under five for free.
Nukli are self proclaimed “veterans of the golden age of free festivals” and performed in the early eighties at Stonehenge when such festivals provided a free alternative to the burgeoning commercial festivals like Glastonbury. In the words of one band member, “Free festivals were always more than just a bunch of people coming together in a field to watch bands; they were more a gathering of the tribes, a celebration of alternative ideas.” It is perhaps this ethos that encourages them to perform at festivals tending towards trance and psychedelia – Kozmik Ken’s in England and Occultrance near Antwerp in Belgium.
The band describe their own music as psychedelic progrock, citing influences as Gong, Hawkwind, Soft Machine and Screaming Headless Torsos. Listening to some of their tracks I also hear things reminiscent of King Crimson, early Pink Floyd and even Jethro Tull. If you want to get a good sense of what the band are like live, eyeball the video footage of “The Dance of a Thousand Spliffs” on their Myspace page. The intro is a trippy arpeggio floating on a bed of cymbals before an ethereal guitar slides in almost inconspicuously, guided by a light percussive rhythm that paves the way for a melodic bass, combining with the guitar to form almost eastern tones. After a few choruses the middle of the song breaks into a section that sounds almost like early freeform jazz, before returning to the familiar bass melody that brings it all back together again. While you are listening, imagine yourself being there, totally chilled out, maybe even slightly intoxicated, and you will come close the psychedelic experience that I think the band would like to nurture.
The present line up of Kevin Hegan (guitar, vox, mandolin, keys), Mark Huxley (bass guitar, pedals, bvox) and Peter Out (drums, percussion, samples) is currently working on new material, having recorded enough for an album which, in their own words, “for one reason or another we have not managed to put the finishing touches to”. They plan to finish this in the near future and start recording new stuff as well. I hope they do manage this because for a band that has existed for such a long time, their recorded music is, if anything, rather sparse. Only one album, “Time Factory” (Delerium Records, 1977) exists so far, as well as the song “Spiral Dance”, released on Delerium’s compilation “Last Daze of the Underground.” In answer to this, the band collectively say they are all “busy people with complicated lives, and not very good at pushing ourselves” but I think I would also suggest that their main ambition has not been in recording music but in promoting their work through the live festival experience. “Playing live is still the ultimate buzz!” they all agree.
Kozmik Ken’s Psychedelic Dream Festival promises real ales and cider, a bonfire on Saturday night, stunning light shows and an array of bands over three nights culminating with Flutatious as the headline act on Sunday night. Nukli describe it as “the best kind of festival. A festival built on a friendly group of people coming together with one mission – to have a good time. No egos involved. It’ll be like a big private party with loads of good music.” Apparently the idea started as a joke. As Kevin relates: “Someone put a picture of DJ Kozmik Ken asleep in a chair with all these band names coming out of his head and the caption: Kozmik Ken’s Psychedelic Dream Festival. A lot of bands got in touch, saying they were up for it, and it took off from there.”
So, my advice to all music lovers this summer is also make sure you are lovers of life. You can download as many MP3s as you like and own enough gigabytes of music to fill three laptops but there is an enrichment of musical experience that you can gain by visiting a festival that you will never get anywhere else. If you are lucky enough to have a ticket to Glastonbury or T in the Park, you should treasure it. Even if you do not, the television coverage is usually excellent, so you will still be able to see many of the bands that you like; but there is nothing like tramping your way through the festival fields. So book yourself into one of the smaller festivals, put up with tent life for a couple of days, and do your life a favour by scouting the indie music scene away from the armchair comfort of the HD screen.
Kozmik Ken’s Psychedelic Dream Festival, Bobbie’ Farm, Uffculme, Devon, EX15 2AW- Friday 29 July to Sunday 31 July 2011
Shapeshifters v Occultrance Festival, Bosstraat, 9968 Oosteeklo, Belgium – Friday 22 July to Sunday 24 July 2011
“I feel like this should be the last record because a lot of people make three good records and then they don’t make good records any more. I feel like I’ve kind of explained myself and it’s time to do something else.” (James Murphy)
On 7 February 2011, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem announced that the band would split and the last gig entitled “The Long Goodbye” would be played at NYC Madison Square Garden on 2 April 2011. So be it. I will not question Murphy’s intentions or integrity, nor go on about how much this band will be missed, but I believe that LCD Soundsystem is a modern day success story of indie label Electronica that deserves a short accolade.
It was a very exciting moment, my first touch of LCD Soundsystem. I had not heard much other than a DFA Remix of “Dare” by Gorillaz. I remember the name stuck in my head because it reminded me of another paragon of Eighties Electronica – DAF (Deutsch-Amerikanishce Freundschaft). And I was in the mood for hearing something new but electronic – less X Factor, more Xciting!
So there I was, hovering like a kestrel over the small dance section in Virgin Music when I spotted my prey and swooped in, plucking a small Sampler CD from its rack. This was the DFA Holiday Mix of 2005, featuring a few of the artists on that label. Two songs immediately piqued my interest - two songs joined into one musical unit by an electronic bridge and both by a band called LCD Soundsystem.
I remember immediately being immersed in the slow siren sounds and background electronic thudding, the delayed keyboard, the throbbing intro with its bass synth backbone increasing in volume. At that moment for me 21st Century Electronica was reborn. The way “Tribulations” thundered non stop into “Daft Punk is Playing at my House” was manic and compelling. The next week I bought the eponymous double CD debut of the band that I would suggest is the one of the best examples of transatlantic electronic indie success of this century.
I was immediately seduced by the self awareness of the band, evident through the lyrics of “Losing my Edge” (“…but I’m losing my edge to better-looking people with better ideas and more talent…..and they’re actually really, really nice.”) These were no kids with untainted dreams trying to make in impact in a world they didn’t understand. These were musicians, who loved music, who wore their influences on their sleeves, and yet were creating their own hybrid sound, using those influences in something more than a pastiche.
Overall commercial and critical success is testament to this and I remember playing “Yeah (Pretentious Version)” in my car one summer and two young kids in the next car, grooving to the sound like they were out on a club night. It was music for at least two generations, I thought, because sadly, age had pushed me from one to the other. Anyway, I remember thinking I was glad I still had something to share with those younger.
In “Losing my Edge”, James Murphy, vocalist and lead writer for the band, indicates his knowledge of musical coolness, listing several old records in the song protagonist’s record collection and he has on many occasions described his musical influences, with entities such a Bowie, Talking Heads and Velvet Underground being pretty obvious in much of LCD’s music. For a bit of a retro music enthusiast like myself, it is so refreshing to feel these musical sentiments presented in something new. And it is new. The musical production is better than any of those old things I used to like and yet there is a sound I can almost identify.
The second album in 2007, “Sound of Silver” continued in this vein. But by now, word had spread and I was starting to hear LCD being used as backing music for adverts and TV documentaries, while at the same time I was still listening out for new songs. I was obviously not the only one buying into this new electronica. By the way, I should at this point say that I am in no way negating other powerful symbols of Electronica, neither past masters like Daft Punk or Chemical Brothers, nor new kids on the block, Simian Mobile Disco or Swedish House Mafia, but the meteoric rise of LCD Soundsystem remains worthy of a mention in any such collective.
Sound of Silver will probably best be remembered by most for “North American Scum”, itself a further evincing of the self awareness of this group of writers and musicians, but for me it will always be the more melancholy “Someone Great”. I love the slow electronic build up, the dropping of the bass synth like a mountain into a pool of electronic lava, and the blippy melody that cuts in like a stalactite and continues its quirky round until the introduction of Murphy’s vocals, which seem to me both honest and sad – the loss of someone great – who of us have not experienced such an emotion?
It was around this time that I saw the band live. Of course, I had been watching what I could get on YouTube, and apart from the simple but eloquent themes presented in their promotional videos, it was also pretty obvious that this was an electronic band that had a real live presence. It wasn’t just a big screen covering up a bank of keyboards. Everyone was animated. Nancy Whang on vocals and synths was just as riveting as James Murphy on vocals and digital delay cowbell, and there was a wild enthusiasm in the whole platform of musicians on stage.
So I got to see the band at Glasgow’s Barrowland, James Murphy’s self confessed favourite venue in the world, and they were every bit as exciting as I imagined. It was my first major music gig since the smoking ban and you weren’t even allowed to go outside and come back in. Once you were in, you were in, and let me tell you, you were always more than half way in. Even for a Monday night it was cooking!
A few years went by and LCD Soundsystem seemed to be pervasive in all media. By the time “This is Happening” was released in 2010, I am sure that anyone interested in music was familiar with the name. The Spike Jonze video of “Drunk Girls” was such a hoot! Everyone was having such fun. Critical acclaim was not so wide for this album, but I would argue that it is still an album worth having in your MP3 collection of 21st Century Electronica, and if you don’t believe me, have another listen to the essence of pure electronica on “I Can Change” and see if you don’t identify with the line “….love is a murderer, love is a murderer, but if she calls you tonight, everything is alright.”
DFA (originally Death From Above, but changed after Nine Eleven) has posited a musical phenomenon into the world of modern day popular music. Although other bands on the label like Hot Chip and the Juan Maclean have captured the imagination of many and achieved commercial success in their own right, it is LCD Soundsystem that is the flagship of the label, and its decommissioning will not go unnoticed in the world of modern electronica. James, me old shipmate, it has been a most excellent journey!
The Terrifying Tangents of Richard Sutcliffe
short sharp shocks of random reality as experienced by poet/player Richard Sutcliffe aka (the TravelPack Guru)
Two: satellite kids part 1
My parents split up in about 1977 in South London.On days when my Mum was sick I got to travel in to Westminster on my own,and back again after school through Victoria Station.From when I woke up I just ran everywhere,in the house,down Mayford Road,through the crowds legs,past the ticket collector,then through Victoria Station and past the theatres [Evita!] and Westminster Cathedral to school.I had no ticket,maybe it was free for kids or they just knew me,maybe I was too small and fast and no-one saw me it was very busy.That's what it felt like
Definitely nobody talked to me,but there was music at Victoria Station and at the record shop on the street.Walking on the Moon was the best that year,I used to hear it on the big speakers ouitside the shop and try and walk with giant steps like I wsa walking on the moon too.Sultans of Swing sounded good in the station,the sound carries there the high roof all Victorian stone or Edwardian iron whatever it is who knows?Then on the weekends Beatles and Stones on my Dad's headphones in a top floor bedsit in Clapham Junction with the sloping ceiling where you couldn't walk in the corner of the room.This was the music of the city,you either joined it for a minute while passing or else kept it to yourself in a flat.
My Mum remarried when I was 9 or so,we moved South a few miles to suburban Surbiton.The school had grass,for a start,lots of it,swings,a swimming pool,but the kids were different too,pretty girls and their boyfriends,who would challenge you to a fight every time one of 'their' girls came to talk to you,but it wasn't bad,I took a gut shot or a well-aimed fist to the temple and it was over in a few seconds,tried out a few things that looked easy on the tv wrestling but not so good on the playground.A minute later Helen prentice's brother or one of his mates would wander over and flatten whoever had started it,and I might get a smile and batted eyelashes from Helen herself into the bargain,which was more than a good deal.
On weekends all the kids went to the Alpha Estate and played 'war' or 'Brixton riots',had bike races.There were scores of boys running round the estate,practically the whole school lived there,we would drive the grown-ups crazy and if they chased us a mohawked big brother would be called to go and put them in their place.No-one had their own radios,the music was whatever we had heard on Top of the Pops that week,'Lip up fatty','ghost town',Baggy trousers,choruses sung on the playground or the fields.We didn't have strict uniforms,so I wore Adidas football boots [with studs!],corduroy jeans and an unmatching cord jacket,with Arsenal hat and bag,which is a whole other story,this was Fulham territory.
I have a fading memory of us coming out of school before a holiday,it was warm and sunny,probably Easter,me and Adam,boys from the Alpha Estate all around,swinging our shirts over our heads,pale chests exposed as soon as we started singing,shouting ,chanting,just for a minute: HERSHAM BOOOOYS HERSHAM BOOOYS LACE UP BOOTS AND CORDUROOOOYS HERSHAM BOOOOYS HERSHAM BOOOOYS LACE UP BOOTS AND CORDUROOOOOYS
No, I never liked Trash Can Sinatras for a second, but I bought one once. Which brings me to my point. Do I really like Art Pepper? Smack Up is famous, it has Leonard Feather liner notes, but to be fair I wouldn't know it if you played it to me tomorrow. But right now I'm loving it for the third time in a week. Maybe because it takes tunes that are somewhere between Henry Mancini and Glenn Miller and gets all sophisticated with them, but without banging on about it or showing off. It's that effortless style thing they did in 1961 before words like psychedelic and fusion got thrown into the pot. Very grown up,though,maybe that's the thing, you have to listen to Glenn Miller first at least a tiny bit to get the bop stuff, then sort of grow into it. Anyway this is for NBT and it's a bit suspect in a way that Art Pepper isn't unless you're a cop from the 1960s,bye then gotta go before I tell you that music is a journey and I'm lost like Sister Sledge's bizarro twins.
Helge Janssen is a DJ; Artist;Performer;Clothing Designer Residing In Durban Natal South Africa. He has been a leading light of Independent music and arts for over twenty years, and remains an inspiration to those who dare travel the path less taken.
Unpacking Biko within the Uncomfortable Confines of Post Apartheid South Africa Before Lunch.
(A response to the paper produced by biko for a SASO leadership training course in 1971 AND to his ‘White Skin, Black Souls?’ article.)
However, before I begin I want to make mention of the following which was taken from T. Spreelin Macdonald: Steve Biko’s poetics:
“The role of the white liberal in the black man’s history in South Africa is a curious one. Very few black organisations were not under white direction. True to their image, the white liberals always knew what was good for the blacks and told them so. The wonder of it all is that the black people have believed them for so long. (55)”
It is against this background that SASO was born: a black organisation to deal with black issues. Blacks had finally had enough of white interference.
As a dissenting white person, I would not go anywhere NEAR one of these so called ‘white liberal’ organisations. My intuitive gut feeling was always uneasy, disturbed. All I saw was obfuscation. And that could only mean ONE thing: these organisations were set ups. Set-ups to confuse opposition and to subvert resistance. There was NOTHING that I trusted about the apartheid regime. Even my involvement with the End Conscription Campaign which I was ASKED TO JOIN in 1985, was problematic as much as I believed in its importance. I always felt that any ‘white resistance’ movement that was allowed to operate were frames to monitor dissension and to pick out possible subversive trends and militancy in the white population. The small group of whites with whom I associated, had similar misgivings. Fortunately none of us were militant otherwise we would not be around today, that is for sure. However my artistic forays into the streets, theatres and night clubs as the red bull (fear and blindness) and later as the apartheid demon were targeting white, not black consciousness. The fact that I was surrounded with rumour and misinformation - paedophilia and Satanism - is testament to my effectiveness. There were many other 'non aligned' forms of white resistance to apartheid: the punk band Powerage being one such, the Kalahari Surfers, Psychotic Junkanoo, The Gay Marines, The Dynamics, Via Afrika, The Body of Despondent Artists, The Subtropical Fits, Roger Lucy, Mikhail Peppas, the Scratch collective (Henry, Mario, Mary, Jane, Gerry, Anthony) and WHOLE LOT MORE.....
I speak therefore, as a sceptical non aligned white dissenter. Or, if you like, as the last white liberal?
In 1971 apartheid was gathering such oppressive momentum that few would have thought that it could ever be vanquished. While black South Africans were targeted with brutal physical subjugation, white South Africans were targeted psychologically via an intricate system of brainwashing: radio, education, the press, religion, the ever present fear of intimidation. And there were those too - black, white, Indian, coloured - who found themselves a niche within that insane system. This aspect of survival mechanisms under extreme duress that caused human beings to contort their reality in order not to be victimised (quite similar to what had happened in Nazi Germany for example) yet still earn a daily living, has not been fully researched. The point that we cannot all be revolutionaries is acknowledged by the fact that many of these people still hold the same jobs, and some are even lauded in post apartheid South Africa. With the existence of the apartheid ‘death squads’, the Askaris and their network of informers, there was a reign of a terrible and despicable ghostly fear. It is accepted that most whites benefited from that system whether they agreed with it or not. But not all whites. And that statement only refers to the material benefits: the truth is that emotionally and spiritually NO whites benefited. Yet, apartheid was undoubtedly a black struggle for power, for dignity. And most whites never realised that apartheid for them was a struggle for conscience, for spirit. Perhaps it is this that Biko was referring to when he stated:
“It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realise that the only vehicle for change are these people who have lost their personality.”
Yet looking back, the glaring flaw as with all fascist regimes, was that apartheid was unsustainable. It relied on stagnation. It was a white right favoured movement. It simply could not work, and it was all just a matter of time.
And yet, the devastation. The devastation.
It was vitally important during apartheid for black consciousness to extract itself from white man’s thinking and to find its power. Biko obviously played a vital role in this regard and it is through his unrelenting vision that Biko consciousness and the work of the resistance forces that gave focus to Black Power in South Africa.
However, I think it is crucial to bear in mind that the SASO paper was written at a time of great racial stress and disharmony - and of cultural censorship, disinformation, and bannings. Biko’s writings therefore carry so much more weight in that he had to devise his philosophy by honing his intuition, digging deep into his blackness. This enhanced his charismatic appeal and hence his power as a leader. Biko was not militant - he presented a viable model of a possible way forward. Stupidly the apartheid regime felt threatened and Biko paid the highest price. So without wanting to distract from the greatness AND importance of Biko’s work, when seen in today’s light I see Biko’s direction more a ‘right of passage’ than a doctrine.
Biko himself would not have agreed with this as he stated:
“One must immediately dispel the thought that Black Consciousness is merely a methodology or a means towards an end. What Black Consciousness seeks to do is to produce at the output end of the process real black people who do not regard themselves as the appendages to white society. This truth cannot be reserved.”
While I completely agree with this 1971 statement, I need to point out that it carries a contradiction: “to produce at the output end of the process” IS a means towards an end. However, in 2011, I very seldom, and certainly not in the youth, come across black people who see themselves as ‘appendages to white society’. I say this as an educator who taught at the coal face of change - the classroom - for the past 14 years. That meant that I was interacting with 150 learners every day. And, in some cases I was spending more time with them than their parents. These were 'first generation' learners who had access to a real education, unfettered by the indoctrination of the past for the first time in South African history. I relished the privilege of this opportunity as I am not the type of educator that believes in a ‘top down’ approach to education. Sadly as change has swept through the Education System and which has not been implemented correctly, I have witnessed the attitude of that youth recently tip from a respect for education to frustration and a sense of entitlement. Plus the world has changed so radically in the last 40 years. We now have internet, cell phones, FB, Twitter blah blah blah and this needs to be taken cognisance of in terms of information overload that we are experiencing today.
Biko, in this SASO paper, is completely disgruntled with ‘LIBERALS’ - hence I was lead to “White Skin, Black Souls?” (as I researched more information) because here he deals specifically with the ‘white liberal’. The sad thing is that due to the SPIN DOCTORING by the RIGHT WING there has been a determined effort to undermine liberal consciousness and one needs to look deeper into how these mechanisms affected ‘white guilt’ and ‘black racism’. To sew dissension and suspicion has always been a right wing ploy which was never less than two pronged: rumour and mistrust, and if that does not work: physical interference. Simply put: divide and rule.
A lot of the argument that Biko uses in the paper for the SASO leadership course is VERY SIMILAR to the notion of ‘self determination’. This is not foreign to much of the thinking that characterised the rise of black consciousness elsewhere in the world: Fanon, Césaire, DuBois for example. And while this might have been necessary at the time, looking back in today’s perspective, not only is it regressive, it is also out of touch with modern reality. It creates FEAR OF BEING. i.e. it undermines that ‘intuitive’ feeling we instinctively use to gauge our existence and our relationship with our fellow human beings. It causes us to MISTRUST ourselves. To have misgivings about our spontaneity and with whom we find common interests. This is exactly what apartheid did where self determination was nothing short of a rallying cry for the Afrikaner and, via the IFP, for the Zulus. However, if Black Consciousness is to be ‘swallowed up’ by white racism, then ‘self determination’ in accordance with Biko is the only viable option. They exist as polar opposites and in the no longer new South Africa they aid and abet one another across a spectrum of the population that are volatile and undereducated many of whom take this sterile banter literally. Who would have thought that we would have to deal with the likes of Malema and Hoffmeyer in our post apartheid democracy? Much of Biko’s argument had found its fulcrum in the shocking realities of apartheid which was a closed and fearful system of government and an aberration in humanistic terms. Apartheid had a terrible and dark agenda locked into Christian fundamentalism.
Yet it is important to point out we are dealing with TWO WORLDS: the inner world of growth and realisation, and the outer world of our common humanity. Rather than impose our inner world (which is basically our private domain which we may share with family/ancestors etc. and where the imposing of this reality on others seems to be the type of thing fascists do and on which apartheid built an entire system and thereby selectively undermined notions of ‘common humanity’) we should surely be seeking ways to harmonise that inner world with the outer reality.
Biko wrote: “it is only when these two opposites (black and white) have inter played and produced a viable synthesis of ideas and modus vivendi that black and white can live together in harmony without fear of group exploitation.”
This point would further corroborate my view that ‘Biko consciousness’ is a vital ‘rite of passage’ in the maturing process of black power. It is for this reason that I state that Black Consciousness could never be part of a political ideology in a multi party democracy OTHER THAN being a methology or a means towards an end. Otherwise Black Consciousness is in danger of becoming a right wing movement. I am therefore of the opinion that Black Consciousness as Biko knew it, also died the day the entire country went to the polls in 1994. Ostensibly there was now a black government in power. However, I certainly feel a need to question - given the events of post apartheid - to what extent the high moral ground of Black Consciousness was a real consideration of the liberation forces. It seems that the deeper subtleties were lost in the tsunami of post apartheid dash and grab. I see none of this evidenced in the ANC rulers. I see comrades being given jobs, I see Shabir Shaik being pardoned, I see business deals going to friends, I see vested interests, I see expedient twists to moral judgement. Not unlike the previous white oppressors. Would Biko be shaking his head in dismay? And why is it that dictators cling to power well past their sell by date, and never manage to nurture an acceptable successor? Ask Mugabe, or on a more benign level the IFP leader Mr. Buthelezi.
What the last 17 years of democracy has been urging, interfacing with a global PARADIGM shift of consciousness (South Africa being now so interconnected and not a separate entity) is the rapid fast forward track of manifesting the Biko ideal of black/white interaction as a matter of expediency.
However I feel that Biko is historically naive when he states that:
“...nowhere in the world today do we see whites exploiting whites on a scale even remotely similar to what is happening in South Africa.”
It is simplistic to state that whites do not/have not exploited other whites in relation to South Africa. Whites are just as RUTHLESS when it come to controlling other whites - on varying scales of exploitation - even down to the individual where oppression is used to devastating effect - the assassination of Kennedy for example; the beheading of wives because they could not produce sons; Romans and Christians; Hitler and the Jews; America and its suppression of its own people under the blind spot of the ‘American dream’. Anybody with an informed history of Europe would know that whites have exploited each other since time immemorial. So using this argument he states that ‘it is not coincidence that black people are exploited’. YET he states that it is true “that history of weaker nations is shaped by bigger nations”. His neat dismissal of 1971 (at the time) years of Christian domination and devastation bypasses a deeply wrought and fraught history of mankind! And I am not just referring to white history.
‘Whites can only see us from the outside’ is a frustrated statement and reflects Biko’s realisation of a deep flaw in white ethos at that time. Yet it is just as valid today to state that blacks can only see whites from the outside! Or that whites and blacks can only see the Chinese from the outside...etc. etc. Can wives and husbands see each other from the inside? It is important not to mix what is a flaw of human nature/growth/awareness with a political agenda. I might as well take statements from the bible (as so many people do) and try and fit them in to today's world. We have numerous examples of this type of folly: if we cannot remember the past we are bound to repeat it. In this sense we have a history of ‘misinterpretation’ and ‘misrepresentation’ when looking at the wiles of organised religion which has created expedient prejudices and devastated many lives. Its the age old policy of divide and rule emerging in yet another disguise.
What apartheid had bred and which has taken hold of a large section of the Black population with a daunting fervour is the very Christian fundamentalism that intellectual whites and blacks have long since moved away from.
I find many people do not know how to, or are unable to adjust information from the past and to see it in association with the present. It is vitally important to bear this aspect in mind when reading historical content of any nature. I see this as a glaring failure of our Education System which is only concerned with producing people with a piece of paper that is a passport into the job market. The role of culture, and in particular within our multicultural society, is, for the most part, being left to its own devices. Questions surrounding issues such as farm murders, hijackings, rampant crime, rape and homosexuality, remain glaring unresolved conundrums of the modern South Africa.
What has also emerged and which further makes my point is that in some black circles the word ‘black’ seems to be a dirty word! These circles like to refer to themselves as ‘African’. Well I am African too! And the sooner we all see ourselves as AFRICAN the better. This is yet another strange twist of logic that has emerged in the no-longer-new South Africa.
In referring to “White skin, black souls?” it is interesting to note:
1. The white community was/is NOT basically an homogenous community. It never was and I have always maintained that any truly intellectual person (black or white) could not possibly be racist - racism defies logic. Racists are stupid due to the fact that they find it impossible to apply rational logic to thinking processes, particularly when it comes to issues of race. Whites in particular were subjected to a systematic process of brainwashing via a subject referred to as National Christian Education. South African radio was the most painful contribution to our daily lives and I simply refused to listen to it. Sundays were days more holy than holy. Sewing on a Sunday was seen as ‘pricking the eye of God’. Yet whites who, in spite of this systematic onslaught began to realise there was something deeply amiss with this white world in a black country, were being methodologically targeted for not accepting this fallacy of white supremacy! Bizarrely, there are blacks who think whites were stupid if they did NOT succumb to this ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity! Through Christian Education in schools the apartheid regime stifled ‘free thinking’ by banning certain aspects of education from the classroom - discussion of ‘evolution’ for example was forbidden. White and Black (those blacks that had an education) were thus deprived of a ‘questioning’ ethic as part of their education. The harm thus imposed is immeasurable. However, it is understandable that given a black perspective of what apartheid represented, that there would be the view (propagated by the apartheid regime) that the white community was homogenous. Nothing could be further from the truth and the emergence of the End Conscription Campaign is one proof of this. However seeing the white community as homogenous gives Biko the power to penetrate some core issues relating to ‘white domination’ that enables him to unpack some vexing issues. His scepticism of ‘integration’ following a white model of conscious manoeuvrings is without question, but this is so far removed from the current South African reality where racial barriers have been dismantled.
2. It seems that Biko had never met any genuine white people. Given the confines of apartheid and its mechanism of ‘separate development’ one can see via Biko exactly how effective this mechanism was. Also in 1971 there were NO formal structures through which whites could express their resistance to apartheid. At best there was a remote political party which was no where near able to represent them. Whites that resisted apartheid were referred to as ‘traitors’ and ‘kaffirboeties’ and were ‘ostracised’ and culturally isolated. They certainly would never have been allowed to make their way into politics or into any position ‘of authority’. Their path was therefore fraught with terrors (children being victimised at school for example) that escaped black perception. This reality created an oppressive barrier which caused dissenting whites to contort their ‘resistance’ into a form of ‘disinterest’ for fear of these reprisals. This despicable psychological burden has all but been overlooked yet is no less real. However I do not accept those naive statements from whites who claimed that they ‘didn’t know what was going on’ and were thus blithely oblivious to the suffering around them.
3. I have found many so called 'white liberals' to be closet racists in the same way that we have closet homosexuals: they spend most of their lives in denial and do the most amazing contortions of logic to fit the 'idea' into the false reality creating much emotional pain along the way. The homosexual closet is driven by guilt - and the racial closet no less. The use of the term 'white liberal' is therefore misleading and Biko unwittingly plays into the hands of the white right by denigrating what he refers to as 'white liberals'. The true white liberal represents a threat to the white right and therefore any confusion in this regard serves their purpose. And, strangely, this aspect of the closet racist only became much clearer to me POST apartheid. What I find embarrassing, is that many blacks have no problem with white racists, claiming that they know where they stand with them. White racists, thus appearing 'honest' enveigle their way into appearing to be morally acceptable. Mind numbing! I find this a naive and shocking indictment of an inability of those such inclined to understand nuance and subtlety and to see what is not always that evident without having to have it spelled out to them.
Biko though displays a paranoia regarding the manoeuvrings of the 'white liberal' which is understandable, given the prominence with which he encountered such. Yet while the white liberal may have been guilt ridden and driven to 'do things for blacks' the true white liberal was just as irritated by these antics! That this effectively created a false resistance is testament to the white right ability to psychologically manipulate the oppositions agenda. And yet I would have thought that Biko would show far more paranoia regarding the manoeuvrings of the white RIGHT rather than be so vehemently side-tracked with the somewhat politically ineffectual ‘white liberal’. The apartheid masterminds must have been chuckling, if sickly, over this one: creating suspicion and mistrust AND a false decoy!
However, Biko redeems his perspective in the closing paragraph of his insights on ‘white skin, black souls?’ in referring to the 'true liberal' with an insightful analysis!
Biko: “No true liberal should feel any resentment at the growth of black consciousness. Rather, all true liberals should realise that the place for their fight for justice is within their white society. The liberals must realise that they themselves are oppressed if they are true liberals and therefore they must fight for their own freedom and not that of the nebulous “they” with whom they can hardly claim identification. The liberal must apply himself with absolute dedication to the idea of educating his white brothers that the history of the country may have to be rewritten at some stage and that we may live in “a country where colour will not serve to put a man in a box”. The blacks have heard enough of this.”
However he then states that:
“In other words, the Liberal must serve as a lubricating material so that as we change gears in trying to find a better direction for South Africa, there should be no grinding noises of metal against metal but a free and easy flowing movement which will be characteristic of a well-looked-after vehicle.”
I trust here (although I do not sense it) that ‘liberal’ must surely refer to both white and BLACK or does Biko not associate a liberal consciousness with ‘blackness’? Can Blacks not be liberal in just the same manner that ‘they cannot be racist’? It is in this sense that the ANC have not come up to scratch in feeling that they have had to do very little ‘work’ ON THEMSELVES in order to achieve this desired outcome and thus entrenches the sense of entitlement which has emerged amongst many ANC leaders and much of the youth. The black struggle, caught up in fighting for political liberation, was not particularly concerned about the niceties of the deeper import of Black Power. Yet, being thrust so suddenly into transformation meant a middle ground had to be found with expediency. Many right wing black comrades had to be sidelined.
The statement that ‘blacks cannot be racist’ is a call to summon up the power of political sloganeering to galvanise the black community into claiming a confidence of non subjugation. This statement has the disadvantage of ‘irritating’ whites and thus demeans the very power it purports to strengthen. When seeing this statement from a non poetic stance (i.e. the majority) it displays a convenient twist of logic that is in itself racist. This anoints blacks with a sense of entitlement: that whites ‘owe’ them. As such, are intellectual blacks still not measuring themselves against whiteness? I am not trying to be glib about the atrocities of apartheid. But at some point the ANC has got to switch from being a liberation movement into a mature political party that governs all. “Blacks cannot be racist” is as silly as saying blacks cannot drive cars because cars and driving them was invented by whites. In the same way, and being somewhat cynical the striving for homosexuals for the right to marriage (which I thoroughly endorse) also gives them the right to divorce, so common amongst heterosexuals.
Elsewhere Biko wrote:
“Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life,the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time.”
There is no taunt in this statement. Just a clarion call to ‘wake up’.
There is a seething mass of blackness out there. It is invigorating and is the essence of what makes Africa such an exciting continent. I travelled with it daily for three years to and from work in the black taxis. I had interesting conversations. This blackness does not question its authenticity. It is emerging intuitively, finding its own substance without approval very much along the lines of the Biko ideal. This poverty stricken mass has little time to debate the intricacies of Black Consciousness, likewise the burgeoning black middle class who are quite giddy with materialism. There are groups of black intellectuals who are just as dismayed with the strange antics of the ANC. Sadly, and due to ineffective leadership, the impoverished mass is turning more and more to crime as it attempts to take charge of its destiny in the only way that it can. South Africa is in desperate need for real black leaders. They are there. But a leader is not somebody who can shout his mouth off. The new leaders need to be discovered and nurtured with expediency.
Biko was murdered in police detention on 12 September 1977.
I think it is important to end with this quote by Martin Luther King assassinated on 04 April 1968:
“All I'm saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we're caught in an inescapable network of being mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
Quite clearly South Africa still has a long way to go, and there are many areas of our history that need to be debated and brought to light. Getting a greater perspective on Biko is just one of them.
ref: Steve Biko’s Paradise Lost - an extract from ‘Biko Lives!’ by Jackie Shandu
Steve Biko - Rare TV interview
The influences and representations of Biko and Black Consciousness in poetry in apartheid and post apartheid South Africa/Azania - Mphutlane Wa Bafelo
T. Spreelin Macdonald - Steve Biko’s poetics
T. Spreelin Macdonald - The struggle over Biko’s legacy
The Poetics of Anti-colonialism - Robin D.G. Kelly
Words of Wonder, Ravings and Frantic Rambles
FreeWords by Graeme Feltham
1 if music be the germ of DNA
and whens this all be said
and pas on
and pass by and pass me by
and whens all who knew my proclivitiy
for swaaloing 10 cans
to add life
to my parched lungs
and whnes you saidl this and that
fakeing concern for my health
you know so much sugar can't be good
and have you seen what it does
to a two cent coin
mean for the good lords sake boy
get a grip on your health
lose that goddamn grip on your pen
and on your can upon can
like a fuckin babel tower
can pon can of coke
left over night
without my hydroclhoric and that added to my cat
and whens i wonder
i is wonders bout this
whens i said
i hate cars and can nver drive them again
because these thing
theys be ugly
ugly bubble wraps and do i look like a bubble
or naything else needs wrapping
and whens you tried to pseak e speak me out of gettin a nother motard bike
like whnes you pretends
you worried bout my health
thats whens me syastop with the faux concrn
my one leg me stumped whens my knee is
is just a mangled excuse that whens the uglinss of cars
and me no speaking bout
but they be ugly
with four wheels
and thens you doona
bikes be bikes
like me be sederving of them
and thens whens you saysme notta buybike
cos next spill
just one-legged will be me
thens whens i spit on your concrn
it is not a
snf cpnvretn it nrbrt rvrt
Krista Detor: Far Flung Feedback
Krista Detor is a performer out of Bloomington, Indiana, whose album,
Mudshow was released in 2006 to international critical acclaim, garnering an
average of 4+ star reviews, and reaching the #1 spot on the Euro-Americana
Chart. Signed in Europe with Corazong Records, Detor’s follow-up album,
Cover Their Eyes made similar waves in the European musical world having
released at #3 on the chart.
calls it ‘Exquisite,’ Nuvo calls it ‘Brilliant..’ She defies genre, but the quality
of her writing has been compared to the likes of Leonard Cohen, Laura Nyro,
Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell, company she is more than happy to keep.
Signed to Fleming Artists, U.S., she’s rapidly making a name for herself in the
acoustic music world - touring the U.S. and Europe consistently and sharing
stages with Suzanne Vega, Aaron Neville, Joan Armatrading, Loudon
Wainwright, Colin Linden, Luka Bloom, Slaid Cleaves, Eliza Gilkyson, Carrie
Newcomer, Pierce Pettis and John Gorka, among others and travels with her
partner and producer, David Weber.
Far Flung Feedback - Volume 1
Notes from the Road, Summer 2010 – by Krista Detor
The Good News is Iran has banned The Mullet in an attempt to slow the ‘Western Invasion.’
The Bad News is, of course, that Iran has banned the mullet and will now only allow ‘government sanctioned’ haircuts. I think we all know what that means.
That means the mullet will spread like kudzu at a cypress mixer, like the flu at a nursery school, like Sarah Palin’s progeny over the U.S. Reality TV wasteland…
I’m a touring Songwriter. Headlines catch my eye, as do humorous road signs, and, of course, striking haircuts. I’ve just come from the Hillside Festival in Guelph, Ontario Canada – and the off-stage people-watching at music festivals is the stuff the Muse chews up and swallows whole.. but real slow..
Bad news for me came in the way of a festival populated by people covered in rain ponchos, cloaks, tarps, and all manner of plastic… or otherwise hidden by umbrellas, seriously limiting the people-watching and hairdo surprises. Also bad news for me that, at an outdoor festival where I’m a relative unknown (and an American in Canada to boot), I’m in an early afternoon time slot in the rain following a teenaged battle-of-the-bands-winning band.
“Yep. There’s always a pretty good chance of rain, considering it rains every Saturday of this festival every year,” said a smiling official (wearing, incidentally, a utili-kilt under his plastic poncho).
Man… ah, well. What are you going to do? Throw rocks at the clouds? Demand a refund on your Ticket to the Big Time?
Nope. You’ll snap to and realize that, despite the weather, you’re going to end up playing to whoever shows up under tarps or umbrellas, or just Lollapaloozing it up and mud-covered. And that’s what we did. Played like we meant it, because we always mean it, and won a few soaked and straggling fans. And there was a time, not long ago, when I’d have been internally beaten senseless by the perception of lost opportunity.
“Great. I’ll never get back on that mainstage again…” – followed by heavy drinking and much lamenting of the fates and all the things my mother must have done wrong.. But not now. Now, every opportunity plays out how it will. And sometimes you’re the dog and sometimes you’re the bone. Play the hand, I say. Or the fetch, as the case may be.
Later in the night, when the rain had moved on and the full moon was rising, I did an in-the-round set on a smaller stage, led by Stephen Fearing. Andy White, Alex Cuba, Chris Trapper - all names on either the World circuit or Folk circuit I’d seen on festival listings, radio playlists, or handbills – joined me. And we played to a crowd that ate it up. And they were wonderful players and writers, all of them… I looked out at the grinning people, while I played accordion along to a co-write by Fearing & White – and smiled big. How the hell lucky am I? I thought…
How the hell, indeed.
And though the world-wide spread of The Mullet is imminent – In this minute, I’m still smiling big.
Krista's homepage is Here
The Creation of "Israfel's Handglass," the Musical
Kara McGraw, 27-year-old composer and playwright, chats about her inspirations and challenges as she tackles the daunting prospect of composing her first musical.
Simon needs to broach the topic of Audrey and her upcoming visit with his mother. Somehow it was clear to me that they needed to be working on a project together when this happened, and that these physical interactions would alter the course of their conversation and moods in subtle ways. I pictured garden work, but that didn’t really make sense; according to my calculations, it should be December.
When finally the obvious idea struck me, everything fell perfectly into place. Simon and his mother were outside setting up a life-sized nativity scene in their yard. From there, the rest of the dialog naturally flowed. When Simon mentions a friend coming over, his mother’s first questions are if she’s a girl and if she’s Christian. Of course, the conversation goes downhill from there.
The trickiest section to write was in fact at the very end of this scene, when Millie arrives and overhears Simon telling his mother to stop pushing Millie on him. The mother sees Millie approach and Simon does not — so I had to find a realistic way for his mother to fail to warn him in time. It meant I had to establish in his mother a habit of interrupting so that Simon felt forced to talk over his mother to make himself heard. I’m still not sure if the scene works. A lot will depend on the staging.
Dave Shortland’s ‚‘‘My Friend Stan‘‘
A monthly collection of frantic fiction and nutritious non-fiction from the esteemed Dave Shortland:
The title is taken from a Slade Song.
Both the title of this column and the visual may be changed very soon, without warning. Or perhaps, not ever.
An Archive of previous great writing can be found Here
DANCE THIS MESS AROUND
So there was I, lounging lazily in the bath last Saturday morning. This is one of my favourite weekly rituals: alone, disengaged from the world at general. No rushing and definitely no particular place to go: a book in hand and my ipod playing random songs from my 5-Star-Rated PlaylistTM. It’s like a broadcast by the world’s BEST radio station: no ads, definitely no banal chatter and just the greatest music floating by.....
Ah yes, my ipod. I suppose I need to confess to you all at this point that my ipod is a tool of absolute logic, complete organisation and regimented orthodoxy. I’m totally embarrassed by this, but kind of a slave to it too. I think it’s a naked reflection of my true natural self: beauty through order. Things just don’t feel right any other way. For example, I love the idea of ironing because unruly, uninvited and disobedient creases are forever dispatched to oblivion by the simple and consistent application of heat and pressure. Order from anarchy, this is satisfaction at a deep-soul level. The honest victory of negentropy over a cold universe’s heartless natural state of entropy.
I suppose this quest is ultimately a hopeless and thankless task, but it serves to keep me gainfully occupied. And it is this same drive that finds expression through my ipod, of course. Not for me the careless freedom of a random collection of haphazard files. Oh no, sir. Not for me. Each tune requires defined and consistently completed fields. Correctly capitalised and spelt. Accurate album artwork - always from the original album of release, of course, as it would be disrespectful, cheating, spineless and historically inaccurate to just represent the song by the band’s Greatest Hits cover artwork. And each song then needs to be classified and sorted into any number of playlists that help to amplify and contextualise the song’s significance and potential. Hence the 15-Lovers PlaylistTM, the Songs-To-Change-Your-Life PlaylistTM. And, of course, the aforementioned 5-Star-Rated PlaylistTM.
Deep breaths, Stan, deep breaths.
So, where the fuck was I again? Ah yes, in the bath, of a Saturday morning. Relaxing and listening to my ipod. Right....
And then suddenly The (English) Beat’s version of Smokey Robinson’s Tears of a Clown came on. Now, The Beat was a ska band big in the UK at around the same time as Madness was starting out. Both these bands were part of the Two Tone scene, which my Wikipedia reliably informs me was a genre created by fusing elements
of ska, punk, rock and pop. The song the Beat are most well known for is ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’’
If you haven’t heard their cover of Tears of a Clown before, check it out. Immediately. It’s well worth the effort because it’s liquid, insistent, fun, and as infectious as a dose of the clap in a Slovakian bordello. It runs effortlessly like a trained athlete, and yet smokes and wheezes in all the right places too. The key for me is how the ceaselessly energetic rhythm section propels the song forward, but not at the expense of the enormous stabs of horn and sax.....
And so, finally, we come to the whole point: it’s impossible for me to hear this song (or actually absolutely anything else by the Beat or most of early Madness too), and NOT feel like moving and shaking and dancing. No matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing, my toes tap, my head begins to nod in time, my cheeks puff up. I find myself randomly singing "brrrrr" out loud. This is most unusual, because my friends, former band-mates and other intimates will largely attest that I have the natural grace and rhythm of a stale packet of liquorice strips. When I’m really deeply into the music I move like a spastic chicken having cramps on a travelator.
I normally get around this sorry state of affairs at public gatherings and other events where custom dictates that I need to put in an appearance out on the dance floor by performing what I call the Dad-Dance. This is my own creative distillation of every stilted, clichéd, unforgivable dance move your own dad or drunken uncle has ever performed in public, just to embarrass you. You know those moves so well: arms tend to flap aimlessly, then move on into a triumphant boxer’s air-punch or sometimes the mashed potato, knees bend in and out, up and down, bum and stomach out, perspiration begins to flow. By publicly employing the Dad-Dance humorously and obviously post-ironically, I thus avoid actually having to dance properly. Clever, hey?
So you can now understand how the idea of being moved to spontaneous displays of dancing by Tears of a Clown is so foreign, and yet strangely liberating, to me. But that’s just what this music does. And surprisingly, little other music does that for me. I just don’t seem able to connect my emotional experience of a performance with my own external physical expression of that experience. This is probably the reason why I don’t really like clubbing, and why I’ve never understood rave culture. It all feels so terribly English and controlled and repressed of me. And I find this quite disappointing, actually. It’s a little like having an overly well-organised ipod, for Christ’s sake.
Fiction from Martin Smit
Shudder Past The Real
a collection of random moments in the history of a girl.
ONE (Being Born)
I was born slap bang in the middle of the last year of the Punk Wars. Desperate battles fought by artistically thin Soft Boys in silk shirts, their warrior faces composed of hard glitter and blue eye-liner. These style soldiers, out in the cold night air, free from bedsits, hostel rooms and revamped verandahs, spinning their beloved, sacred music with strange and jerky flourishes, dangerous and kind of lonely.
Years later my uncle Charles, a new wave veteran, would sit in our kitchen eating chips and tomato sauce and tell me about the Friday night frontline:
He’d tell how he would practice Irony and shrugs, drinking black coffee and spinning scratchy indie singles, then move on to neon glow gin with tonic as evening crept slyly in.
He would go watch the boy bands in the hotel lounges covering Kraftwerk, their sets artfully mixed, with new disco darling tunes and the latest cold child thoughts transcribed into portable keyboards.
Meanwhile the Rockers, the mortal enemy, with their perms and faded jeans, played stadium chants in the pubs. Already old, these adult popsters, their talent was to take power chord flavoured bubblegum and stretch it thin over sexual innuendo, lyrics poached from tatty workbooks, full of crude line drawings and shifty jokes.
These culture wars though were mostly fought unseen and unheard by the average citizen; my parents for example, (apart from the weirdness of my uncle occasionally penetrating their home), had no idea such passions existed.
Music for them was a Saturday afternoon, Sunday thing. Where until I was ten or so they would pull out their James Last and Rolling Stones LPs and the sound of these strange skirmishes between Easy Listening and Dirty Pop would roll out from the living room.
(After I turned ten, this was all replaced by live sportscasts and some cheerful fellow on the telly teaching us how to cook.)
My uncle was an outsider, something new, but also not really, all he did and all he wore was copied from imported magazines and the covers of expensive strange looking records.
But he was gentle, scaring no one, as he walked through our town in his new romantic get up, he would be met with some scowls or, mostly, quiet laughter (never understanding smiles though).
On the night I was born, he came to the hospital dressed in Persian fairy tale splendor, somehow managing to be erotically masculine while flaunting the dark side of the feminine. His colours of delicate chaos must have been the first glimpses of the ‘’other’’ that I would have seen, How delighted my new soul must have been to see this rich kaleidoscope after the harsh whites and brights of the maternity ward.
When my father told Charles that my name was to be Julianna he nodded and said, ‘’yes that’s good, that sounds right, and do you know what, she will never be Julia, Julie, Jules, no quick fixes for this girl.’’
My name is Julianna. I was born slap bang in the middle of the last year of the Punk Wars. And I have lived, I am living, a dangerous life.
TWO (The Illumination of a Saturday Afternoon)
I was dancing in my folks’ bedroom, in front of their full length mirror, to a song that had just leapt out of my radio, freeing itself from a worthy dull bundle of chatter and advertising sound effects. The song was already pretty old, but I did not know that, I would not know the name of the band till many years later or realize that it was a song before its time, it was a rock song that woke up and invented New Wave several years before the first day-glo suit was worn on MTV, it was white reggae fashioned in a pure pop way by men more famous for mining a strange brew of heavy metal, blues and pastoral folk.
I didn’t care about any of that though, all I knew was that it made me want to jump and jive and dance in a giddy silly way only ten year old girls unwatched by peers or parents can.
Later I learned the name of the song was D’yer Mak’er by Led Zeppelin, and wasn’t even highly rated by most critics. I didn’t care then and I certainly don’t care now, it was fun and it STILL makes me want to dance.
As I giggled and posed in exaggerated elastically PopStar ways I had this feeling of total utter happiness, a clear headed shot of cocaine like clarity and sense of the essence of the tiny seconds I was moving in.
The nausea hit like a slap by an ugly witch from an ancient morality tale, my fingers jerked OUT and hit the radio, hit the off button, hit the plastic and steel hard enough to sting, hit the wonderful noise and shoved it into silence.
I fell backward onto the double bed, and the sounds of the afternoon slipped in to fill the vacuum.
I heard my mother in our kitchen, the clatter clutter of plates and pans, the creak of the cabinet door, the gentle stroking melody of wooden spoon against ceramic bowl, her slightly off key humming.
I heard the TV, the shuffle of soft murmurs, interwoven with short sharp bursts of laughter, the rhythm of carefully thought out one liners.
I heard the growl of a motor cycle far away, energetic, desperate as it waited for the lights to change so it could fling free.
I heard children, were they angry or were they playing at that strange form of innocent war?
I heard the tick-tock of the small clock on the dresser.
I even heard the sunlight swimming in tiny bits of dust, swimming downwards to hit the carpet and start its journey towards the passage.
I heard the queasiness slip over me, sighing slurping, wet. Then it sunk into my skin, flowed from my throat and mouth and throbbing head, down my throat BACKWARDS, yes retreating hateful, into my stomach and
It was gone.
And I saw, as if I was watching a badly recorded webcam capture, a man, a terribly thin man pause his kissing of a beautiful woman’s shoulder, and look towards me.
His surprise turned into a sly smile.
I noticed that they were naked, the woman was beautiful, she glowed, her skin almost golden, the man pale, rotten.
She wanted him though. her hand searched for his, to guide it
He needed to have her, destroy her and he loved that I was there to watch.
I did not watch though, I turned, rolled so damn slow, off the bed to hit the floor, I must have screamed then, because the kitchen noise blinked out, and I vomited, groaned, vomited
It felt like drowning.
I called to my mother to save me. And then she was there.
I accepted the oncoming blur.
Only quick fade in-fadeouts. The sound comes and goes.
In these hallways of echoes, ping pong shiny, I am tempted to dance a cute waltz in my pink pajamas.
In this room of gloomy monster machines I lay quiet, sometimes watched mostly ignored. I try not to move aware how thin my covers are.
How vulnerable, how almost naked, how so little girl I am.
How all is whispers, far away conversation.
I long for my mothers smile (even if it seems distracted, or forced, or that guilt making sad that she is so good at.)
In this world of No Time, even the electric clock on the wall seems defeated as bright lights chatter aimlessly with a sleepy air conditioner. Where mattress turns to steel bar, I tap a conversation of my loneliness, wishing it was over, wishing I was done.
I want to be brave.
In this building made to rescue me there is an uneasy mix of fear and dedication. And when the Doctor comes, that lord of this small kingdom, not every answer he has will bring relief.
The way this one nurse smiles as she brings a glass of water, the feel of her strength as she holds my wrist and hums a silly catch pop song, this soothes me.
I love them, these gentle warriors here to fight the crazy things our bodies do to us.
And so far away like a lone cloud in a dark sky moving grey and fast, I see his face, (that terrible thin man). And strange this, it does NOT scare me, it makes me angry, helps me defeat for now the unholy invaders in my blood. Those tiny ancient fools, those crass complicated germs cannot beat me.
Then sunlight (startling bright) then car ride (the tranquilized throb of the familiar) then home.
Till the next time, I am saved.
Four: Fade In Fade Out
The heat of the day is bright shimmers, easy to ignore when deep in thought. Few sounds intrude as I walk home from school; those sounds are fragments, coming in and out, a dog a car, a child a father.
My thoughts are nothing, everything, perhaps solving that school day’s mathematical problem; perhaps leaping ahead to the next chapter of the book I will read when I get home.
I have walked this path so many times that I do not really see it now, except as subliminal directional pointers, here is where I turn left and cross the field of dry grass, here is where I stop for a few seconds and wait for the lights to change in my favor. Here is where the row of gentle huge trees rule, forever comforting in summer, forever haunted in winter.
The sounds of the girl, the father drift into focus.
She is asking why
Why are the trees so high?
So that they can be the first on earth to catch the rain
Why must they be the first?
Because they own this road, they are kings and kings always get the gifts first
Why not the flowers, they are much prettier than the trees?
(Then a groan, a low sound, an intake of breath, crying.)
I turn and the father has fallen, he still holds the daughter’s hand so he pulls at her, so she kneels.
He is still now.
I run to them, the girl is howling, scared.
Do I lift him up? I cant fucking remember anything about first aid or CPR, even though we learnt it just a few weeks ago, (I was paired with fat Chrissy with the unsmiling face, and then with beautiful John, I spent the time looking anywhere BUT at his face.)
For a second the Thin-Man fades into this day, touches my shoulder, and fades out.
I touch the father’s chest; t shirts feel so personal, I should not be touching his, too personal. I can feel breathing. I THINK. I can feel the heartbeat, I am ALMOST sure.
I turn to tell the girl, not to worry, to not be afraid, to stop crying, but say nothing instead, and leave her crying as I run to the house behind us.
Get halfway there.
Change direction and run, instead, into the small shop squeezed between the entrance to the public swimming pool and another house.
I take in the clitter chatter of the normal world, and shout to the man(woman? I DON’T KNOW) behind the counter.
People run out of the building and across to the fallen father.
I stand there for a long moment staring at a row of tins of baked beans. Jolly Elves sit with big silver spoons on the sides of giant blue dishes, full of beans and lovely brown sauce.
The elves don’t seem to be afraid.
I am aware now that the noise of the day has become rather loud. So I walk out of the shop, ignore the crowd that has gathered and soon, I am opening our gate, the cat who waits for me then usually haughtily ignores me once she is sure I am home, looks up and for a change brushes across my legs.
I wait for the sound of the ambulance. It never comes.
to be continued