Songs in the key of life

I got to do something I almost never get to do last night. I was fortunate enough to play in a 12 piece big band ( I’m not sure if 12 constitutes ‘big’ but fuck it). It was in a field in Kent with 11 people only 1 of whom I’d met before. We had free food and a free bar and for the most part the sun was shining. As I said I don’t get to play with this many musicians on a gig that often but when I do I absolutely love it. As a guitarist it’s a joy not to be told to cover: the brass parts, the backing vocals, piano parts, string lines whilst at the same time fending off some pissed bloke who wants to get up and play Wonderwall with us.

festivalgirl

I want to say how much fun it was and how much I enjoyed it. But that doesn’t do it justice. The truth is; it was pant wettingly, ball bouncingly, head bangin riot, arse shakingly good fun. It was like having your arse tickled with a feather. We grooved, we rocked, we jazzed and there was even a rap. Any mistakes were quickly picked up or were brushed under the rug, no one noticed because we were cooking. There were no egos and no prima donnas. We were all there for the collective good. Making the songs sound great and making sure everyone left happy and a little sad that it was over.

With 12 in the band it meant that we all had to work less. That’s right, LESS. I didn’t have to worry about anything other than the guitar parts, as there was a piano and 3 part horn section. I didn’t have to worry about filling out the space. I just concentrated on sitting in the groove. The same also applied to the piano player. With 4 vocalists I didn’t have to worry about backing vocals, plus the singers as individuals didn’t have to worry about their voices getting tired. With a percussionist along for the ride this freed the drummer up to sit back and hold the groove down, which he did impeccably. The icing on the proverbial cake…trombone, sax and trumpet. Sprinkling musical magic everywhere we went.

It was a beautiful evening. 12 people coming together, unrehearsed, for the common good. We had jazz musicians who had studied in some of London’s finest schools playing next to musicians who couldn’t read a lick of music and who referred to musical parts as ‘the bit that goes doo de dee da da bat bat bum’. We had players that had toured the world with big name artists trading licks with people who still practice with the remnants of their children’s breakfast on their unwashed tee shirt. We were of different backgrounds. We were of different sexual orientation. But we were there playing for the song, not the individual. It is a testament to what can be achieved when like minded, focused and dedicated  people come together with a single goal in mind. And it was fantastic.  It’s a shame large factions of the world don’t adopt these principles. We have psychotic sociopaths vying for power and control at the expense of the rest of us. Carving us up into fractions, continuously pointing out our differences and forcing us to focus on our differences rather than our similarities. As part of my daily recovery from addiction, I meditate. It’s not something I profess to doing well or daily for that matter. But when I do I try to picture myself sitting crossed legged on the Moon, looking back at the earth. Watching it spin so elegantly. Gazing at the vast oceans. Watching the thunder storms in South America, the deserts of North Africa and the seemingly invariable rain in the U.K. One thing I don’t see…Borders. Flags. Countries divided by religion or race. Cities divided by sports team. Towns divided by popular talent shows. Because those divisions only exist if we let them. We and we alone have the power to eradicate them. Does that mean we should be held accountable?

I often get tarnished with ‘Left wing dreamer’ brush. I have a belief that the world could be a better place if we all put our differences aside and worked together for the common good. The trouble is we all have a different opinion of what ‘Good’ is. It’s subjective. I get tired of writing it; us coming together. I want to find something less trite, something more inspiring….but when it boils down to it that phrase sums up what I’d like to see. Less murder, less poverty, less war, more education, more love. And that’s good

Maybe you think I am a dreamer. Maybe you think that we can’t come together. Maybe you think that our division runs too deep and we will forever be a race split. But it’s out there, it is possible, I’ve seen it. It happened to me last night.

 

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Sun, Sea and TV

We don’t have a TV. At least not in the capacity that most do. We have a physical TV but no TV licence (It’s NOT a legal requirement) We use our TV to stream/download shows or watch DVDs. One of the downsides to this is missing shows as they’re being broadcast, a slight upset if you wanted to watch the world cup or any other sporting event. However this is nothing compared to one of the benefits.

Adverts. When we watch TV we don’t have any adverts. Or at least not in the capacity that you would if you were watching scheduled programming. Youtube has adverts but most can be skipped after 5 seconds. It’s television bliss not to have a show interrupted by nonsensical garbage. And we would NEVER go back.

However this all changes when we visit my parents house on the coast. Especially on a rainy Sunday like today. We somehow gravitate towards the idiot box like a bug to an electric bug zapper, completely unaware of our impending doom. Kids cartoons are usually the first port of call, especially if our 2yr old has anything to say on the subject. Every 10/15 minutes we interrupted with a barrage of kids toys, shoes, theme parks and other TV shows. 30 second sound and visual clips with loud and enticing music. A loud announcer demanding that we ‘Just get it’ or ‘Buy now’ or even being as bold as to say ‘You’ll go crazy for……’

ObeyCOMSUME

When it boils down to it today’s adverts are nothing more than orders. Orders that must be carried out, whatever the cost. Fortunately the cost is usually discounted or there’s nothing to pay for 18months with zero down. Where it is all the more apparent is the TV licensing adverts. Back in the 80’s the ads were persuasive. Encouraging you to buy a licence so as you don’t miss out on some of the quality (sic) programming. But today the tactics are far more Orwellian. ‘We know where you are and we’re coming to get you and we’re going to fine you £1000’ As I said it’s not a legal requirement to own a TV licence if you own a TV. It’s not a criminal offence which means it’s only enforceable by the BBC, a private company. Further more it is written into our constitution (UK) that no man shall be fined without first being found guilty. If you don’t let them in (BBC) they can’t gather evidence to find you guilty. It requires your cooperation. But I digress…

We are bombarded with adverts everyday. Whether it’s on TV, radio, magazine or even on the streets.  BUY! CONSUME! SPEND!

We are being convinced that all of this consumption will make us happier, sexier and well adjusted. I can only talk about myself but I’ve never been happier and more adjusted since ditching the TV… I can’t say it’s done much for my sex appeal though. When we’re down on south coast of England gathered around the TV I can literally feel the depression and anxiety creep into me when those poxy adverts kick in.

I don’t mean to badmouth TV. There is a world information and enjoyment located inside the black box. From history to science and from comedy to drama. It’s just those adverts. Too many fucking adverts. I’m thankful I don’t live in the USA. Roughly four advert breaks per 30mins. It’s too much. But America is the capitol of consumerism.

We need to do more to escape from these invasive arse holes, I’ll let you decide on what you need to do.

I’ll leave you with a few words of one of the 21st century’s great artists, until next time….

 

“People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs”

– Banksy

Use your Illusion

Creating an illusion isn’t that difficult. In most cases there is usually only one sleight or misdirection needed or maybe some clever maths. The performance hinges on the observer being guided along by the illusionist who brings the participant to a nice soft landing culminating in a ‘Ta-da’

Two-faced man optical illusion

Learning card tricks has been something of a small obsession of mine for the last few months and the one thing all the tricks have in common (At least the one’s I’ve been learning) is the simplicity of them. I find myself asking ‘Is that all it is? surely no-one will fall for that’ But they do, time and time again, so long as I remember the steps which at my level isn’t too difficult.

Peeking behind the curtain, lifting the veil or just having the capacity to question exposes tricks for what they are. Much like bullshit.

To unveil bullshit you only need to dig, just a little. Take, for example, the apparent ace up the sleeve of the UKIP…Immigration.

For the past 5 years or so UKIP have been beating their chests over this subject and they have vowed to put a stop to immigration. Well not really. They’ll cap it to 50,000.

In 2012 Britain let in around 510,000 people. Wow a cap from 510,000 to 50,000. That’s a big cap. But that’s no quite the whole story. UKIP have said they’ll cap net immigration to 50,000 but that’s not including student visas or work permits. Students comprise of about 280,000 and work permits 150,000. Which leaves 80,000. A cap of 30,000 people. To put that into perspective that’s the equivalent of closing our borders for 3 weeks. Wow.

Since 2005 immigration in the UK has fallen and continues to fall. But peoples notion is that there are hoards of immigrants living rent free in this country like kings. It couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve also heard mumblings around the water cooler that the reason people come to the UK is because we’re a soft touch and we don’t have strict enough immigration laws. So let’s clear a few things up.

Immigrants make up only 7% of the 5.5 million people claiming benefits.
From 2003-09 just 11% had been allocated social housing.
Nearly 20% of immigrants own their property whilst the rest rent privately.

The UK population of immigrants is roughly 9%. When you compare that to USA (13%) Australia (24%) Germany (13%) We’re hardly overrun.

Work permits are granted via a tier system with highly skilled workers getting preferential treatment. Much like Australia and USA.

But a burning question I have is:
‘What do people who vote UKIP think will happen if they ever got in to power?’

Do they assume that anyone not born here will be rounded up and sent back to their country of origin?

What about people who have British parents but were born abroad? Like my cousins.
What about people who emigrated here, had kids and got married? (To a British citizen) Like my wife.
What if a pregnant British couple go on holiday to Australia and the baby arrives prematurely. Is the baby allowed back into the UK?

If you are concerned about migrants taking British jobs then the news that immigration is on the decline and has been for nearly ten years should come as a great relief to you. If you think I’m making it all up then I invite you to check the stats for yourself. In fact I urge you to. Because nobody should be making uninformed decisions.

However I’m sure that the slightly more xenophobic of you would argue that a 9% migrant population is still too high and would like to see it brought down to 0%. I now invite you to peruse your football team of choice and tell me how many British players were fielded on their last game. I loosely follow Arsenal and their squad is made up of 22% British. But I’m sure that’s totally different, right?

UKIP have tapped into something. They do recognise that people are angry at the rising cost of living, cuts to services, politicians not keeping their promises but they bring no new ideas or solutions. They bring plenty of overinflated statements which have no real substance and don’t really mean anything though…

‘Taking Britain back’ or ‘Returning power to England’

Easy to understand and digest, requires little thought and aren’t too many big words. The way propaganda should be.

Or perhaps you feel that politics ‘Isn’t for me’ or ‘I’m not really politically minded’ Neither am I and the truth is I was just as lazy as the 2 thirds of the country that didn’t vote this May. Only in the last few years have I taken a modicum of interest in politics because only by engaging can we ever hope to have our voice heard. And if you still think it’s a waste of time you should at least turn up and protest by spoiling your ballot. Voting UKIP as a protest vote is nothing more than an act of buffoonery on an epic scale. If you voted UKIP because you genuinely believe in their policies then you can roll this blog up nice and tight and push into your bottom. I’m happy to live in a country where you can vote, even if it is for a xenophobic group of arseholes.

Like many people of my generation, both my Grandfathers fought in WW2 (RAF and Merchant Navy) against the rise of fascism, xenophobia and outright nastiness; but now it seems a great many of us are ready to elect the same ilk back into office. How quickly we forget the lessons of the past.

I ultimately believe that the so called rise of UKIP will be its downfall. The more prominent the party the more the spotlight of scrutiny will shine upon it. The curtain can’t be kept closed forever, especially when it’s hiding this much bullshit.

 

 

Arizona is sinking

Arizona’s legislature has passed a bill stating that businesses can refuse service, as long as they assert their religious beliefs, to homosexuals. I reallydon’t know where to begin. I could say that the LGBT movement has come so far in the last twenty years, helping to secure rights for gay couples. I could say that over the last decade we have encouraged young gay people to come out, trying to make them feel comfortable in their own skin and not fear the intolerant or ignorant. Or I could go down the old classic of, one step forward and two steps back. While all of the above are intrinsically true, what really upsets me about this bill being passed is, yet again, that religious belief is held higher than basic human rights. Especially in a country that has it written into its constitution that there is a separation between church and state, the only country in the world I might add.

Rainbow_flag_and_blue_skies

Yet a bill has been passed that would enable any business to refuse service to homosexuals based solely on religious belief. This does nothing but strengthen a divide between homosexuals and hetrosexuals. A divide that is slowly being broken down by the wonderful work of the LGBT movement and all that support it.

Imagine, if you will, if a bill were to be passed that allowed restaurants not to serve black customers, or a shop that refused to serve women or a theatre that refused entry to disabled people based on the company’s religious beliefs. Well, it just wouldn’t happen. Would it? I would hope not, least of all in a democratic republic. This is bill is no different. It’s ignorant, unfair and downright fucking ridiculous. Gay, lesbian, transgender, transexuals, straight, white, black, people with tattoos, christians, jews, muslims and disabled people should all have exactly the same rights. We are all one race and we need learn to co-exist if we are to rise and grow.

I for one am sick and tired of the religious and the faithful having it their way. I’m tired of being asked to respect peoples beliefs and that I should be careful that I don’t offend them. Well what about homosexuals or other minorities, who’s being careful not to offend them? certainly not the people who wrote this bill. This will give people and businesses carte blanche to exert their ignorance and racism under the guise of religion….again. I’m also tired of schools being asked to give equal time to, so called, intelligent design. But that’s an article for another day.

If coming in to contact with people that happen to be gay disgusts you so much then there is an option. STAY THE FUCK AT HOME! Stay inside and don’t come out. Gay people have every right to shop, drink, eat and shit in the same places as you and if it upsets you that much YOU should keep yourself in private. Because being gay is as natural as being straight. It is observable in almost every species and it’s not going away. But the most ironic piece about this whole bill is this… The religious right in the USA are asserting that they don’t won’t to come in contact with homosexuals, or at least limit their encounters, because of their beliefs. Yet there is almost nothing written in the new testament about homosexuality. There are those two passages from Leviticus, but do you really want to start  quoting the old testament? And the overall message that Jesus tried to convey was one of love and acceptance. As my wife always says.. If these people actually met Jesus they’d shit themselves.

Although the bill has been passed by the legislatures it still needs to be signed by governor Jan Brewer (R) so that it becomes state law. If she does there is no doubt in the my mind that the courts will smack the shit out of this law and send it back to rock that it festered from and the people that wrote this law know it… But I guess the politicians and law makers in Arizona wanted to make their feeling about the LGBT movement as clear as they could.

There is only one way we will grow as a species. It’s been said before but it can’t be said enough….It’s love. It’s acceptance of everyone. From the overly camp, fabulous homosexuals to the whiskey drinking card players. From the two mothers raising sons to the shy intellectuals. We are all one species. We are no better or worse than anyone else…we are equal, we are brothers and sisters.

As one of my favourite bands said

“Love boat captain, take the reins and steer us towards the clear”

The liberation of everyone

On the 5th May, 1980, two teams of Britain’s Special air Service (SAS) conducted a raid on the Iranian Embassy, in London. Their mission was to rescue 20 hostages, held at gun point by 6 terrorists. The assault lasted 17 minutes and of the six terrorists only one survived. Nineteen of the twenty hostages were liberated. The vision of men in black overalls, abseiling down buildings, wearing gas masks and armed with an MP5 is the first image I have when I think of the SAS. The Iranian embassy siege catapulted the SAS into the spotlight after operating in the shadows since its conception in the deserts of north Africa in 1941.

SAS

The six terrorists entered the Iranian embassy through the front door, drew their weapons and so began the siege. Maybe if there had been better security the terrorists wouldn’t have even made it through the front door… Or maybe not.

“It’s for security reasons” said the large gentlemen, preventing the lift doors from closing
“But why?” I asked
“For security. You have to take your hood down”

I begrudgingly obliged and removed my hood. I was then told if I did it again I would be reported.

I understand the need for security, to give people the illusion of safety, but what I don’t understand is this obsession with not being allowed to wear a hood. If it was a ski mask or a balaclava  or a gas mask I’d understand… But a hood? Hoods don’t even cover your face, they don’t even obscure it. Look at someone who’s wearing a hood, you can see their face, all of it.

For the last few weeks I’ve walked into college wearing my hood up. Why? Because it’s against the rules. I have been experimenting in a little civil disobedience. Not a lot, just a little. Like dipping your toe into the water to see if your happy to jump in. For the last four weeks I was asked by several members of security to take my hood down. I disobeyed and continued towards my class without any repercussions. Now, I am fully aware that I’m being a dick when I do this… but as I said it’s an experiment. This week the same thing happened and as I was waiting for the lift I was accosted by a man who I assume was the head security man. We had an exchange of words and I was told, categorically, that if I didn’t remove my hood he would throw me out, “fair enough, but you still haven’t answered my question”

“It’s the college rules and for security”
Ahhh the rules… thank heavens for the rules. Without the rules we’d be left with only our common sense and intelligence. I know these people are just doing their jobs, but if history shows us anything, it is that people had their rights and liberties taken away by people who were just doing their job.

G4S security staff

Now, I’m sure most of you are thinking that if I were to commit some random act of violence then my actions would have been recorded on the college’s CCTV; and if I was wearing a hood then they might not be able to make a positive ID. And you could well be right; but, If I was wearing dark glasses, a baseball cap, one of those silly caps that golfers wear or in fact almost any other piece of headgear it probably would have obscured my face much more than a hood; and all of which are allowed on campus. If you also take into account that CCTV is questionable, at best, at stoping/lowering crime; and convictions arising directly from CCTV footage is again, not great. So I’m left asking myself what’s wrong with wearing a hood?

There is also another question: should we obey, just because we’re told? I personally feel that if we as human beings want to retain our freedoms the answer should be a resounding  NO! I have no problem complying with a request, so long as it’s not shrouded in bullshit and smeared with fear. However, I feel we should always question any such request, especially if it’s coming form a private security guard, and if your answer is along the lines of ‘It’s for security purposes’ I feel that’s not a good enough answer. I know this is not North Korea and we still enjoy a great deal many freedoms. But when can the comparisons between the UK and N.Korea be brought up? When there’s less of a gap? Fuck that! We don’t live in N.Korea or West Germany (as it was) or Russia or China, places that I deem to be police states, and I’m thankful for that. I don’t want this country heading down that road and to me, I feel it is.

There was a bill that made its way to the house of lords (Thankfully it was rejected). The bill proposed, in brief, that anyone as young as 10 found to be annoying or could be seen to possibly cause annoyance, could be arrested. Faced with a hefty fine and/or jail time. Just think about that. Anyone being annoying could be arrested. Chewing too loudly in a restaurant, walking too slowly on the path, poor pronunciation of the English language, peaceful protest, not taking your hood down in a public building, humming out of tune; the list is endless. In theory you could be arrested for doing anything. It just has to fall under the vague guideline of ‘Annoyance’

I must have shared the petition to have this bill blocked around to my friends on Facebook and Twitter a dozen times and only a handful of people signed it. Maybe that’s down to Facebook’s filtering system or maybe people are far too happy and prosperous with their toys and gadgets that they just don’t want to upset the apple cart, rock the boat…or they plain don’t give a shit. I knew in advance who’d sign it and I knew who wouldn’t. They’re the people we need to reach.

We all need to stand up and make sure that our freedoms remain in tact, even if that means you just sign an online petition. You don’t have to tie yourself to a gate, burn your underwear and not wash for a week. We just need to get more involved. Because one day your front door might be kicked in and a dozen men in black overalls and gas masks might come crashing in… all in the name of security.

“Evil is only allowed to bloom when good men stand idle”

Oh, I also stole a packet of chewing gum from a shop because the lady at the till was rude to me. About my hood…