Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Ring a Ring o' Roses

After last night's Gruta 77 concert farce I submitted a comment on The Posies' MySpace page. My comment was:

"What the fuck happened in Madrid last night? I've seen you guys twice before and felt very let down by last night. Struck me as a lack of respect to all the people who'd paid money to stand around in a packed, smoky venue - and for what?"

I got a reply a couple of hours later. It said:

"Hey there. This Jon's wife, Michelle. I handle the Posies page when they are on the road.
I spoke to Jon last eve after the show. He explained that the paperwork they had had a different start time than what was advertised on the tickets. So they thought they were only running a few minutes behind schedule when they showed up. Imagine the surprise when it turns out people had been told it was starting hours earlier! He said they felt really terrible about it.
The guys are very professional. I've been watching them play shows for the last 12 years and have never heard of anything like this happening before. They don't have internet access right now, but when they do I will make sure you get a proper response from one of them. I know they are just as dissapointed that it turned out that way. Jon sounded really bummed about it last night. They love Spain. It is one of their favorite places to play. It was simply a really unfortunate administrative error. I'm so sorry for the inconvienence.


Which is nice.

On The Posies MySpace page, comments are regulated. This means that all comments have to be approved by the artist - or the artist's wife in this case - before publication. My comment was not approved but another comment was. It says:

"OK, you were very late last night in Madrid, but the show was grrreat!!"

Now what does this tell you?

Maybe they don't like swearing and never actually wrote a song called Everyone's a fucking liar!

Taking the piss

My wife and I went to see - and I use the term in the broadest of possible senses - The Posies last night in Gruta 77. Jon Auer is a member of the band and we literally saw him.

The evening started well enough - my new band Deadman played the miniset we're going to perform tonight to a small group of spouses, friends and girlfriends. They all seemed to really like it and it makes me feel confident about the future of the band.

Things went downhill from there.

Gruta 77 was sold out for The Posies, who played in a much bigger venue last time I saw them in Madrid (Sala Heineken). There was even a queue of people at the ticket office, waiting for it to sell tickets they didn't have. Looking back on it, maybe all those people had some kind of weird future sight and knew something we didn't at the time.

The doors had opened at 2130 and, after our short performance in the rehearsal rooms upstairs, we went in at 2210 or so. It was packed and smoky but we managed to get drinks from the bar and find a place near the back, in the middle where we had a good view of the stage.

And we started to wait.

And we waited.

And we waited.

And the DJs ran out of stuff they'd prepared to warm the crowd up and just put on the whole of Dolittle. Twice.

It was now 2250

People were starting to get very pissed off when the DJ started speaking over the PA. He explained that the band had disappeared - they'd not gone to the restaurant that had been reserved for them and had gone somewhere else. He apologised, all the time stressing the fact that the delay had nothing to do with the sala. He also said they were on their way back and would be playing soon.

So we waited.

And we waited.

And we waited.

At 2345 the DJ piped up again, telling us that one of the guitarists had arrived and that he said the others were on their way. The crowd were now very pissed off and when Jon Auer came onto the stage to try and placate us and say they'd be playing in 10 minutes tops he got booed off. Gruta 77 offered us our money back and as we had to work today we took it and went home.

I think it's a complete lack of respect towards all the people who'd paid their hard earned cash - €18 a pop - to leave them hot and uncomfortable for over 2 hours without any explanation or any justified reason. Jon Auer tried to say they thought they had to be there at 2300 - but by then it was already 2345 so I don't know where that argument was either coming from or going.

The Posies go on about how much they love Spain but they certainly haven't shown any respect towards all the Spanish people who went to their gig last night.

2130 doors. 2230 band. I could accept some delay, if there was a good reason for it (none of your Guns 'n' Roses style delays, you hear). 2300 would be fine if they'd had a car crash or something. But no. These guys went to fucking dinner. Probably had a few beers. Maybe thought they had to be there a bit later. Probably thought, oh fuck them, they can wait. They're our fans. We're fucking rock 'n' roll stars. We can do what we fucking want.

When we left at 2350 there was a queue at the ticket office - people waiting to get their money back from the overworked girl in the office. It was quite a long queue - about the same as the queue waiting to buy non-existent tickets when we'd arrived.

I hate queues, and I'm quite impatient sometimes, so what did I do? I rehearse at Gruta 77 so I went to the side door of the office and got my money back straight away, thus avoiding having to queue. See, I'm a fucking rock 'n' star too, and I can take the piss in my own little way.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Hurdy gurdy man

Steve Hillage. This guy really is incredible.

Not only is he an amazing guitarist whose solo work and the stuff he did with 70s psychedelic gods Gong still sounds great to this day, he is also at the forefront of underground dance with System 7, a band he started in the 1990s and which continues today.

Hillage played with The Orb after hearing them mixing his album Rainbow Dome Musick (an ambient piece created for the 1979 Festival for Mind-Body-Spirit, dedicated "to the universal spirit of New Age synthesis", which played continuously in a rainbow dome) in one of their DJ sets and going over to say something along the lines of "hey, that's me, that is!"

But that's not all. Hillage is also heavily involved in world beat music. After producing the 1, 2, 3 Soleils show - and album - with Faudel, Khaled and Rachid Taha he went on to work as co-writer, producer and guitarist with algerian punk-rai star Taha.

Here he's covering Donovan somewhere in Germany.

Monday, 22 October 2007

"I am a cunt"

Whenever I see people with Oriental characters on their t-shirts I always wonder if they've been duped - told that the t-shirt says peace and love in Chinese when really it says I am a cunt.

So it came as no surprise when I read about a guy from Watford who'd been proudly showing off a tattoo he'd had for 26 years thinking it said his name in Chinese. It actually said Coca-Cola.

What a plonker!

Vince Mattingley had asked staff at his favourite restaurant to write his name in Chinese symbols.

But the waiter, who was obviously a bit of a wag, drew the symbols for Coca-Cola. Vince obligingly went off and had that etched onto his chest for life. The spaz. I'd have definitely got a second opinion on that one.

I'm actually quite surprised it took him 26 years to discover the ruse. And that's only because when he recently travelled to Thailand a barman asked him why he had Coca-Cola written on his chest.

Vince said: "I thought it was a joke then I found out that's what it said. The restaurant staff must have had a good laugh about it."

Of course, the expression once bitten, twice shy doesn't apply to Vince and he now plans to get another Oriental tattoo to cover up first one.

"I'm going to go with something Japanese this time."

Maybe this time they really will tattoo I am a cunt on the twat.

In a similar but entirely unrelated story from the UK press, a teenager who thought she had mum tattooed on her back in Chinese letters was horrified to find it really said friend from hell.


How the fuck she could have believed that I don't know. Friend from hell has one or two more letters in it than mum, I'm sure. Even in Chinese!

Apparently Charlene Williams only found out something was wrong when a passing Chinese woman shouted at her: "Evil, evil, very bad."

Her dad had smelled a rat as well. Says our Charlene: "He joked it said chicken chow mein. It was worse than that." No shit.

At least Charlene's not tempting fate another time - she's now covered the insult with a leaf design tattoo.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Method writing

In all the books I've seen giving advice on how to write fiction, experts always bang on about how you should write what you know. A Mexican guy I read about the other day has taken this advice a little too literally.

Jose Luis Calva, an aspiring horror novelist, has been arrested after police discovered his girlfriend's torso in his closet, a leg in the refrigerator and bones in a cereal box.

Nearby they found the draft of a novel titled Cannibalistic Instincts.

Flesh found on a plate and frying pan in Calva's apartment corresponded to parts missing from the corpse of his 32-year-old Alejandra Galeana.

It certainly sounds like a case of writing what you know, though Calva claims he only boiled some of his girlfriend's flesh but that he hadn't eaten it.

One witness said Calva was fascinated by witchcraft and explicit and sadistic literature. No shit.

A surviving girlfriend - who was no doubt glad she got out sooner rather than later - told police that Calva was initially charming, winning her trust with poetry. But he soon turned jealous, controlling and obsessive, and once attempted suicide.

Calva was arrested last week but tried to escape when police came for him by swinging down balconies from his upper-floor apartment. Unsurprisingly he fell and is currently being treated in hospital.

I guess that'll give him an escape scene to write in one of his future action novels.

Thursday, 11 October 2007


Childish giggle of the day from Somehow I'd lost touch with this site but my wife reminded me of it on the phone today. I quickly dived back in and it had me howling with infantile glee once more. So thank you, my love, and than you

Tears of a clown

The Beat covering Smokey Robinson and the Miracles with a song that was co-written by Stevie Wonder. A fantastic bit of ska dance that my old band The Plant She Killed also managed a fairly decent cover of. This song actually remained in our repertoire for quite a lot longer than many other covers we did.

Now if there's a smile on my face,
It's only there tryin' to fool the public,
But when it comes down to foolin' you;
Now honey, that's quite a different subject.

But don't let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression.
Really I'm sad.
Oh, sadder than sad.
You're gone and I'm hurtin' so bad.
Like a clown I pretend to be glad.

Now there's some sad things known to man,
Bbut ain't too much sadder than
The tears of a clown
When there's no one around.

Oh yea, baby....

Now if I appear to be carefree,
It's only to camouflage my sadness.
In order to shield my pride I try
To cover this hurt with a show of gladness.

But don't let my show convince you
That I've been happy since you
Decided to go.
Oh, I need you so.
I'm hurt and I want you to know
But for others I put on a show.

There's some sad things known to man,
But ain't too much sadder than
The tears of a clown
When there's no one around.

Just like Pagliacci did,
I try to keep my suface hid.
Smiling in the public eye
But in my lonely room I cry
The tears of a clown
When there's no one around.

Oh yea baby,

Now if there's a smile on my face
Don't let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression.
Don't let this smile I wear
Make you think that I don't care

Really I'm sad
Hurtin' so bad......

Monday, 8 October 2007

Niños de mamá?

Today I'm going to write a short novel and I'm sure I won't cover everything that this topic deserves. This one will definitely exceed the word count for web-written stuff.

But here goes.

Italy's economy minister has sparked an uproar by offering tax breaks to so-called bamboccioni (big babies) if they let go of their mother's apron strings and leave home.

According to Reuters, over a third of Italian men over the age of 30 live at home with their parents. This phenomenon is blamed on sky-high flat rents and bleak job prospects as much as a liking for mamma's cooking and clothes washing prowess.

Economy Minister Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa offered to come to the rescue with a €1,000 tax break for 20- and 30-something Italians who rent.ç

€1,000. Now there's something!

It was Padoa-Schioppa himself who used the term bamboccioni, which evokes images of clumsy, overgrown male babies. It sounds pretty condescending to me and has unsurprisingly caused a bit of an uproar in Italy.

The comment was immediately condemned by politicians from all shades of the political spectrum. They asked: Can young Italians be blamed for a sputtering economy and high rents?

"This absurd gaffe shows how he's probably not clear how precarious is the situation afflicting an entire generation - the first generation that has to deal with social conditions worse than those of its parents," said Francesco Caruso, a communist from Romano Prodi's coalition.

Rome mayor Walter Veltroni said the comment was an 'unhappy quip' and that problems facing Italy's youth were the country's biggest challenge.

Isabella Bertolini of the Forza Italia party said Prodi should reprimand his minister for the "offensive epithet."

Right now in Italy there is a broader debate going on over the country's increasingly geriatric society where the best jobs are often occupied by those over 50, thus squeezing out the young and ambitious.

Many Italians do not graduate until their late 20s and end up in poorly paid internships or with short-term contracts.

A sharp rise in the cost of living since the introduction of the euro has not helped, and even a €1,000 tax break will not be enough to help young Italians stand on their own feet, said Guglielmo Epifani, who heads a major Italian union.

"Renting an apartment 30 years ago cost a quarter of the salary of a worker," writer Aldo Nove who has penned a book called "My Name is Roberta, I'm 40 years old and earn 250 euros a month," told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

"Today, it costs more than the salary of a young apprentice. What else is there to say?"

In many ways you could substitute Italy with Spain and this story would still ring true. Lots of people live with their parents until well into their thrties, good jobs are hard to come by for well qualified university graduates, and those that do find jobs find themselves earning next to nothing compared to their middle aged bosses who are raking it in and do no work.

House prices have also sky-rocketed in the past decade and lots of young professions have found that without the help of their parents - who probably own two or three houses themselves, one in the city and another family home or two in the pueblo or playa - there's no way they can afford to buy anything decent themselves.

The €1,000 euros they're offering as a tax break in Italy seems quite significant to me as the mil euristas in Spain are basically the generation that earns one thousand euros a month. I kid ye not. If you earn more than that then you're in a well paid job.

This what El País has to say about them: "Pertenecen a la generación más preparada de la historia de España. Rondan la treintena, son universitarios y saben idiomas. Pero los bajos sueldos, la sobreabundancia de titulados y los cambios sociales les han impedido llegar a donde pensaban llegar. Comparten piso; no tienen coche, ni casa, ni hijos y ya se han dado cuenta de que el futuro no estaba donde creían."

Sad, isn't it?

Between us my wife and I earn what would be considered in Spain to be small fortune yet we can't afford to buy a decent house in an area we'd like to live.

How do people manage it?

They must all be bankrolled by their parents or some other rich relative, otherwise it just doesn't make sense. And you can't ask anyone about this - nobody is going to tell you that the house isn't entirely theirs, that el suegro has paid for part of it. It's a question of face.

Then again, I'm not sure I really help the situation, being a foreigner working in a multinational company in Spain. Many of my foreign colleagues and I are taking away the Spanish people's jobs - and we earn higher salaries than they do in Spanish companies for the privilege.

You could say we're more qualified, or we have certain advantages like speaking English. But you could also say that there are enough jobs in our more industrialised, lower unemployment countries and we should be sent back there post haste. Would that be racism or plain economic nationalism?

It certainly reminds me of Enoch Powell and his rivers of blood.

If you ask me the whole situation in Spain and Italy is completely unsustainable and sometime during this generation it's all going to go pear-shaped somewhere. Tits up. I'm not sure how that will manifest itself but it won't be nice for anyone involved.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Arnold Judas Rimmer

Writing the story below reminded me of an exchange from Red Dwarf. The crew have landed on a world populated by wax droids who've broken their programming and are fighting a war. It's the nazis and the rest of the world's evil against a bunch of philosophers, artists and scientists - which includes Gandhi, Einstein, Marilyn Monroe and Oliver Hardy. Rimmer becomes a Full Metal Jacket Sergeant Major, putting his troops through their paces, with a "Don't eyeball me, Gandhi!" and to St. Francis: "There's only two types from Assisi; steers and queers. Which are you, boy?"

Lister: Rimmer, what's going on out there? Is that Mahatma Gandhi? What's he doing practising hand-to-hand combat with a nun?
Rimmer: That's not a nun, Listy. That's Lieutenant Colonel Mother Theresa.

Absolute genius!

The spirit of Gandhi

2 October was Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday in India to mark the birthday of the father of the nation. It is one of a very small number of holidays observed in all states and union territories.

The holiday, also called the International Day of Non-Violence, sees prayer services and tributes all over India, especially at Raj Ghat, Gandhi's memorial in New Delhi where he was cremated.

On this day, due to Gandhi's abstinence, alcohol cannot be bought anywhere in India.

So, the day before Gandhi Jayanti most Indians go out and stock up on the stuff so they have something to drink on their day off.

In the spirit of Gandhi, India's shopkeepers duly double the price of all the Kingfisher beer they sell.

Well, I guess it's a form on non-cooperation.

In the Political Compass self quiz I was quite proud to find myself sitting right next to Gandhi on the axis, firmly in the area of left libertarianism.

I don't think I'd have survived his fasting, vegetarianism and abhorrence of alcohol though. So, whilst wanting to celebrate his legacy and the many things he achieved through non-violence, I'd be in the queue with the rest of the country buying double-priced Kingfisher to toast the spirit of Gandhi.

Monday, 1 October 2007


Cronos, Mantas and Abaddon - inventors of black metal. When these guys speak it sounds like Biffa Bacon, when they sing it's more like Beelzebub.

And I love Cronos' bass.

God in the dock

There are a lot of things - most of them incredibly dumb - that can only happen in America and last week I read about another one of them.

God sued over pestilence and terror, the headline screamed.

The story originally came from the Associated Press and reported that a court in Nebraska is being asked to cast judgement on the ultimate judge - God himself. Fantastic, I thought, but only in America could something like this happen.

State lawmaker Ernie Chambers filed a lawsuit, which also claims that God uses a number of aliases, against the Almighty for causing "fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues" and other alliterative catastrophes.

These are actually quite clever alliterations and that made me think he must be taking the piss!

Even more brilliant are the claims that because God is onmipotent then this gives Douglas County District Court jurisdiction in the suit. Similarly, God's omniscience eliminates the need to issue a formal notice of the lawsuit, which is handy, and reminds me a little of the babel-fish-and-God-disappearing-in-a-puff-of-logic sequence from The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Chambers vs God asks the court for a "permanent injunction ordering defendant (God) to cease certain harmful activities and the making of terrorist threats."

Of course, this whole thing is a publicity stunt by the authorities to draw attention to the fact that in the US a lot of frivolous lawsuits are served.

Is it a case of if you can't beat 'em, join 'em? I think was I right earlier and he's just taking the piss.

Thank god for that!