Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Friday, 30 October 2020

No Love Lost

Japan, The Associates and Joy Division were the first groups that felt were MY groups.  I couldn't afford to buy loads of vinyl, so I collected The Associates and Japan's stuff on tape- borrowing albums from the local library, but buying all of JD's available stuff. This decision was as much to do with the emotions generated as it was financial. The Associates and Japan had, of course, weight. Their stuff was symphonic poetry... Beauty. But jesus kruschev, man, JD had weight in every chord, word, syllable, and record sleeve. They were art, politics, the working class voice of post industrial, crumbling Britain in many ways. To me.

And Curtis spoke of the inner self like no one else I had heard, as a young teenager. This stuff spoke of - and to- the world.

In a lot of ways, I was seen as a bit wild, out of control, when I was a teenager. I worked 9-5...but disapeared from mainstream life in my room with my records and tapes, and at times, when I needed some kind of way out of here, from Friday evening to Sunday night, physically, and mentally to pubs, clubs, couches, strange beds, floors and other unsuitable places that were not mine.  But I really believed the world should change. I just had no clue how that could be done, and I had a load of baggage I had to wade through before I could think beyond myself. Alcohol really helped me escape my shit, as did other stuff (I had a love hate relationship with alcohol, that sometimes turned to total hate, and I went for bursts without it... Sometimes, replacing it with other addictions like exercise or mary jane). But music really was my drug- an addiction that has never left . And like alcohol and other drugs, it really took me on emotional and physical trips - and like my need for  alcohol to help me escape and be my much more confident alterego, I thought music like Joy Division, shouting to the world, would change it. I really did. Music was my movement. My political rally. My branch meeting.

Unknown Pleasures and Closer, although definately late Joy Division, are very different beasts. I'm not going to review them here. And I'm not sure I ever will, because to do so, would seem like exposing the deepest secrets of my family, or something. My relationship with these albums is so personal, I've never played them when my wife is around. They are mine.

When I was young I couldn't get bootlegs, or back catalogues of Joy Division, in their previous guise of Warsaw. These things were rare, and never in record shops in Banbridge or Belfast. But, I heard this track eventually, in the mid eighties.

I have never heard a decent cover of JD... And I don't think I ever will hear one that will make me think I'll play it instead of the original. Well, until someone posted this earlier, in a JD Facebook group. I've never heard of The Distillers, and have thus far listened to two tracks. This one and another filmed at Reading in 2004, when I was too busy detoxing (eventually) and being dad to an eight year old. For all I know, they were the most famous band in the world. 

Anyone want to recommend me any other Distillers tracks? Because this is a decent cover I'll play more than once (I have already) with the energy of the original, done slightly differently. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Fact Division

George Michael on Closer: 

I've seen this footage before. It was posted earlier in a Joy Division group I'm in and one guy (it had to be a guy- it really is such a male comment!) criticised George Michael for not knowing the names of the tracks. 

 As a fan of Joy Division, pretty much from when the album Closer came out, I've got to admit... The names of the songs werent something i learned for years (nor the names of the band members) I pretty much went by how music made me feel. That's how I got into JD, and New Order (and every other band or piece of music or artist I have ever listened to- there are some bands /albums I've had for forty years i couldnt name tracks from! ). I've never been a kind of "tick box collector, filing clerk, nerdy knowledge lister" fan to be honest. Re live stuff, for example, I only own three live recordings on vinyl by JD I bought way back when, and have only played two of them once each (two Peel sessions and the live track on the original Still album). I don't need to feel close to the band or singer, beyond how they recorded, produced, wrote and presented the song. And owning stuff, regardless of fandom, really isnt a competition I'm in. 

My only interest, sometimes, beyond the music for years, was the feelings, politics, (and to some degree) the personal circumstances that led to a certain track, or album being created. Stats have never been my thing in any way, only those that measure inequality and unfairness. 

 When George Michael was alive, I wasnt in to his stuff, though being of a certain age, Wham's Club Tropicana used to lift my spirits thinking about my '80's summer holidays - my fortnight break from the drudgery of my factory job in Northern Ireland. I wish I'd payed more attention to him, as it wasnt until after his death I learned about his support for working class causes, anti-Thatcherism and amazing charity donations... What a kind spirit. 

And it wasnt until then that I paid attention to this track, which has become one of my all time favourites... Praying For Time:  HERE 

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Comics, Scifi and the Dredd-iverse

I read comics. And there are some brilliant ones out there. Its been good to see some of them getting the Netflix treatment (some, like The Umbrella Academy actually come out better; some like The Boys not just as good - having said that, The Boys, although a, slightly different animal than the comics, is ok). 

At present I have a good wee selection of comics on order in Forbidden Planet Glasgow of a few different genre… my absolute favourite is the Descender/Ascender series, which is good scifi with a twist of magic in the Ascender series. I have totally invested in the characters ..  Some of it has been genuinely moving. 


Since lockdown, rather than buy it through Forbidden Planet, I ordered @2000ad, and its sister monthly, The Megazine. I really enjoy good scifi, and good characters whose characteristics drive good story. Recently, though I've become annoyed that nearly every 2000ad story  has some magical or psychic or ghostly element. Don't get me wrong, some of this has its place. But nowadays it seems to have become the driving force for most narratives in what was a scifi comic. It really isn't that interesting to me, when a story can just change because of some magical power or ghostly intervention - especially when it becomes the norm.

Perhaps Scream/Misty comic should come out monthly for people who enjoy this stuff and pull 2000ad back to scifi? Scream and Misty were dedicated to these kind of stories. And you knew what you were getting when you bought them . And the fact that this was the case meant writers really did have to be on point to make their stories interesting. 

Lazy, Harry Potter-ite storytelling? A sign of our post millennial writing talent? 

It kind of reminds me a bit of like watching Power Rangers when my son was wee. "Lets make the monsters bigger at the end." or in this case, "no one will expect an Ichabod /Dredd crossover, and they especially wont expect Dredd turning into an evil being. Will he turn back into a good fascist?"  "Let's bring Judge Death back…" 

As for bringing the old Action comic character Hookjaw into the comic, and suggesting some sort of mystical connection… am I the only person not that excited? 

I really feel good scifi writers are missing something, when Dredd world is moving closer to our reality, with a dying USA and what that has meant globally; the lunacy induced in our politics here in europe with the death throes of whats left of the British empire; the global rise of populism and proto fascism; the pandemic; BLM and the re-examination of the roots of racism, the rebellions of 1968 etc. Introducing a new monster, creepier ghostly death thing, psi battles in peoples heads, really are boring (for me).

Anyone got good recommendations of scifi graphic novels/other comics? Ill stick with 2000 AD for now… There are some good series that I know, that will return (The Out being the most recent good scifi). And The Megazine is mostly great.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Generation Division

Joy Division teeshirts have become the new fitbaw taps. Everyone has one. They are now second only to Ramones taps.

Its annoying in some ways. One being I have had Joy Division tee's since the early eighties (and I own two at the mo).

What should be a middle aged person smuggly  wearing an obscure cultural reference has made me look like mutton dressed as lamb.

This cultural appropriation of the youth is hurting old people. Stop this tragedy now. I'll be forced into feckin' polo shirts, jumpers and chinos by the youth deciding early eighties alternative music is a fashion statement.

Thing is, when this trend dies, I'll look like I'm wearing my sons castoffs.

<reaches for the comfort of an Echo and the Bunnymen tap>

Crusty fun

I was listening to R4 in the car earlier today. A comedian, Zoe Lyons, was reminiscing about her childhood in Ireland. The programme was great... actually about her applying for an Irish passport in order to stay in the EU...

There was one part of these reminisces that struck a chord. I grew up in the outskirts of a mid Ulster town (Banbridge). Our back garden led in to a field that was used by a local rugby team, cows, occasionally horses, an annual grass tracking motorbike race and an occasional pipe bands competition. In fact, there were quite a lot of fields, with animals, near to us.

A few days ago, I told one of the Primary classes I teach about an aspect of my childhood I dont think I've ever described before. And this comedian, much to my hilarity and disbelief, used the same descriptions of games she used to play and of the thing she used to play with. Remember, we had limited telly, and no computer games in the seventies. 

That "toy," or immersive experience, required a good pair of wellies, which all children owned when I was wee, and cow shit. Aye.
We used to poke shit with sticks and occasionally jump in it to splash. The best shit was the crusty stuff, rather than totally fresh (described by me, and this comedian, as "meringue like"). Crusty shit meant you could jump on it, and it would splash out, quite far, and you would not get your wellies covered. In fact, what impressed us, was who could get a good pile of shit to project the furthest. Older shit that was just crust, could be flung like a frisbee. Frisbees must have been invented, if not in Irish fields, in a field of cows somewhere in the world.

How funny, that just a few days after having an inner city Glaswegian primary class laughing their heads off at this, someone else recalled this activity in the same way. Two of us were paid this week after describing shit activity neither of us were aware seems to have been a "thing" for Irish children. Are these activities (shit poking, shit stomping, and flinging shit) all one activity, or are they definately three distinct activities? Perhaps people exist who carried out just one of these activities, rather than all three. All sorts of questions, are racing through my head. 

Childhood was amazing, insanitary and none of us died of shit activities.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Boxing Matches...

A facebook friend has been talking about labels other political folk place on him. Its been something I've been thinking about (also in the context of how people... And in particular men, obsess, or have almost /quasi religious experiences of things that become obsessions).
I've always been obsessed with fairness. And I've been obsessed with how people decide on dogma/systemic beliefs/groups to join. Like many, my obsession for a better world became almost religious... A kind of Saul Damascus Paul thing, where rather than travel the roads of Asia Minor to preach, I sold papers, organised political activity, debated and organised political campaigns and campaigning groups.

I've always understood that society needs to change - we need a fair world both economically and democratically. And until I was in my thirties, I felt the way to help achieve this was through uniting with others to campaign. I didnt join political parties until I was in my thirties (and because of the fervent religious sectarianism I saw growing up in Northern Ireland, I studiously avoided joining any of the multitude of tail chasing dogmatic socialist parties and groupings-even though I agreed with much of what they aspired to). 

Its odd. People love placing others safely into boxes labelled good and bad, in a comparison with the box they have situated themselves.

After leaving the Scottish Socialist Party, which I had joined because of its original left unity (a recruitment call of "if you agree with 80% of what we say, join and lets discuss that other 20%," helped), and its foundational and essential shared compromises, I realised just how little I had in common with the dogmatic socialist groups and groupings which had made up just less than 50% of the membership up until 2007 (but a huge part of the internal power structure). After 2007, although mostly (not entirely) the SSP was nationally directed by people from one particular group, a multitude of local branches such as the one I was organiser for (Campsie Socialists), were vibrant, multi factional and none, lively debating chambers and locally active units - left alone really, by the small group at "the top."
Friction came when there were moves to reunite the dogmatic, and at times rancid groups (through Rise - even though those who were "in charge"  of this were at pains to say Rise was a unity of individuals joining, the fact was that at the top were people whose politics were forged in the sectarian furnace of splits and dogma and their activities at that time reflected their origins). What became obvious was that the real activity and vitality of the SSP came from the branches, after the leaderships began to impose their new idea of order on these active and effective branches.

The mass exodus (hundreds of activists) from the ssp and the absolute failure of Rise circa late 2015/16 has left many of us (a good few hundred activists) without weekly debating chambers, and made, redundant the politenesses that let dogmatic shite go unchallenged outside these meetings.

On leaving, I found many more left folk without a political home, or are in one they call "temporary," for one reason or another. I've played with doing just that too, but always talk myself out of it. At present, I feel, my pro Scottish Independence activism can be played out outside party structures, as can my pro sustainability, anti war, anti nuke, anti capitalist views. 

So... Yip, I've been accused/placed in boxes of all sorts,  from left anarchist, through to liberal. I myself would say I'm an anti fascist, antiwar, anti nuke, I suppose, "revolutionary" socialist, "realist" (materialist), red/green and a democrat. Actually, I could list many titles. I think though, I understand that the world is massively complex; human relationships, and the needs and desires of people, who club together to realise these things will inevitably lead to disagreements. One of the things, we need to learn and teach is finding ways through disagreement... And how to socialise power.

What do you identify as, how do others see you, and what views have you been accused of having/which boxes have you been placed in by others ? 

I could go on... But box and label me quick.