Friday, December 30, 2005


the capacity to endure ranks high in the category of life-skills that tend, like the capacity to be generous, to enlarge rather than diminish us.

life (apart from that experienced by our beloved leaders and slebs, of course) is normally hard - it's something that's always come with the territory, whether that's been the early days of trying to stay alive on the savannah or, more recently, having to deal with the anguish of breaking our fingernails on the wheels of our iPods. the hardness is punctuated by moments of lesser hardness - happiness, pleasure, contentment, joy, even - but these are not the norm. the norm is hard. always has been. always will. if it's not hard in the brutal survival sense, in the sense of having to do back-breaking work from dawn to dusk in order to put food on our family's table (the norm, that is, for the greater part of the planet's population) it's hard in the comparative sense - the price 'we' pay for having chosen a competitive rather than a co-operative system as the engine of our socio-economic existence. no matter how hard we try to improve our lot, in whatever sense we might understand 'improvement', we are doomed to failure, since the measure of our success is, by definition, a shifting thing, tied to a vacillating set of indicators as volatile as any trade index, endlessly receding down a road which we are bound to follow, endlessly, fruitlessly, because the promise will only ever be fulfilled tomorrow, when we reach the vanishing point.

endurance is part of the hard, which is why 'we' have developed so many artificial softening strategies: anaesthetic, distraction, denial, inter alia. drugs, normally, play a large part, as do a glorious mishmash of entertainments, some of which, ironically, are about sitting in our reinforced sofas watching others endure things - either in the 'pushing their bodies to the limits of their endurance' sense, or in the 'limiting their self-esteem to the point of enduring maximum humiliation in order to claim their moment of fame' sense.

endurance and patience - nature's beta-blockers.

the one - probably the only - experience that will soften the hard, cushion the crash, compensate for all the endurance, is the unconditional love - if reciprocated - of another human being.

sadly, many humans, especially in England, seem to have to settle for the supposedly unconditional love of an animal - a dog, a cat, a goldfish - when that of a person fails to materialise. this is called transference. (no it's not, you idiot, but it might as well be; if you still give credence to the repressed ravings of the jawless Viennese - no offence, and thanks for the unconscious, siggie - you might as well go the whole hog.) all else - the drink, the drugs, the hobbies, the obsessions, the package holidays, the clubs, the cars, the gadgets, the gizmos, the big macs, the praying (o lordie the praying!), the subscriptions, the flag-waving, the piercings, the yoga, the fan forums - is in some part a substitute for this one significant lack, this hole that cannot be filled, however hard we might try, by anything else.

Monday, December 12, 2005

eeny meeny miny mo

there's a lot to be said for good manners.

people generally respond warmly to 'please' and 'thank you' and to the kind of jokey deference in doorways - after you, no, after you, please, I insist - that actually happens in England, much to the puzzled amusement of the rest of the planet. at the root of politeness, though, is a philosophical view of the world that is prepared to give everyone the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise, and that expects tit for tat when it comes to the diurnal dealings, as in 'do unto others as you would be done by.' there's a distasteful residue of autocratic paternalism in it - a 'gentleman', I recall, is defined by some Victorian novelist (George Eliot, I think) as someone who would never deliberately cause suffering to man, woman, or beast - but anyone who's ever been politely patronised by an English gentleman will admit that, for all his insufferable pomposity, it beats being arbitrarily insulted by an American immigration official for no better reason than that he didn't like the way you looked at him.

sticks and stones.

all mothers recite that mantra as if it were true.

but words are never 'just' words. the word 'freedom', for instance, has been added, with Microsoft's collusion, to the list of words which automatically flag a user's ISP account when typed into a Chinese search-engine. there are, however, some words and phrases that I don't, personally, like.

I don't like the phrase 'spazz out', for instance - as in 'Thom really spazzes out when he's performing Idioteque live' - because I used to have a friend whose child was afflicted with cerebral palsy - a so-called 'spastic' - whose uncontrollable limb movements and garbled speech are the reference for that descriptive phrase. I hate to think that, whenever anyone uses the phrase, 'spazz out', they're passively jeering - however thoughtlessly - at Gabriel's appearance and behaviour. I'm equally disconcerted by the widespread use of 'retard' as a mocking put-down of anyone who manifests stupidity - whether as a hereditary trait, genetic flaw, or social gaff - for much the same reason.

it happens to be the case, despite the fact that difference is the norm, despite the fact that there are far more ways in which we as individuals are different from a random collection of our fellow-humans than ways in which we are similar, that, so long as the smallest crack of distinction appears to distinguish one set of people from another, there's going to emerge a sub-set of people purporting to represent the set that considers itself superior, somehow, to the other, who will jemmy into that crack with all the resources they can muster in order to enlarge it into a chasm.

it begins in the playground with the 'norms' name-calling the 'fatties' and continues into so-called maturity with all the insults accrued historically around the diseased dogs of prejudice and bigotry. so you may insult me by nationality (paki, tinker, frog), sexuality (motherfucker, cocksucker, dyke), race (yid, raghead, sand-monkey) - and by several categories besides that are to communication as toilet-training is to development - something that ought to belong in the late-infant stage of behaviour, along with a fascination with poo and wee and where it comes from, but, alas, as so much else in the retarded (proper use, this time) canon of cultural affect, tends to become embedded way past its expiry date in the absence of grownup guidance.

I particularly dislike the word 'nigger'.

exactly why is difficult to say. my parents had no problem with it. in fact, the only problem they have with it now is that their children chide them for using it. "eeny meeny miny mo, catch a ..." "mum!" in my case (I don't presume to speak for my siblings, although I don't believe either of them would ever use the word) I've come to believe that the word 'nigger' encapsulates, in a single word, the entire weight of historical atrocity that began with the mass enslavement of millions of West African people in the early eighteenth century and their incorporation as wholesale bonded labour into the burgeoning capitalist economies of Europe and North America. I've come to believe that that unforgiveable appropriation by our two cultures - the European and the American - leaves us permanently, and literally, indebted to the descendents of those slaves, since a significant portion of our economic success was established on their unpaid labour. that belief comes from the experience of growing up in the 'sixties, when, to me and to many of my contemporaries, our thoughtless participation in the endemically racist culture to which we subscribed was challenged by the events surrounding the rapidly emerging black civil rights movement. much was achieved, then, through the selfless efforts of a multi-coloured grouping of men and women who dedicated their lives - and, in some cases, gave their lives - to the re-ordering of the social consensus into a more equitable racial distribution.

one of the only two black people I know in this tiny but perfectly formed country town I live in in Somerset is a young man who is a member of a hip-hop group - an incongruous phenomenon here (in the sense that the urban black culture it emerges from and relates to is a good ninety-minute bus ride away - in Bristol - and, en route, you could count the number of black faces you'd encounter on the fingers of one hand) but nevertheless rather a good one, I think. not my thing usually - well, why would it be? - but I have high hopes for them. they're this close to a record deal ... the group consists of seven guys - two black, five white. clearly, between them (they've all grown up together, been to the same schools, shared the same experiences) race is not an issue. the word 'nigger' is employed quite frequently in their lyrics - as it is by a large number of hip-hop artists - almost as a synonym for 'man', as in 'hey, man/nigga, how's it gon' down.'

a 'nigger' was the term by which the slavemasters came to describe their black (niger - Latin - black) cargo - a tool of production whose life was valueless except in so far as it benefited his or her white master. it is an anachronistic term - a shameful reminder of a shameful period in human history. I believe it's actually illegal, now, to use it as a racial insult. and yet we are led to understand that these young blacks are using either 'nigra' or 'nigga' amongst themselves as a term of endearment. so what does this new generation of black artists who claim somehow to have re-cycled it, disinfected, as it were, by art, intend by making it part of the culture of black youth? is there, indeed, intent, or is it just a tragically misguided provocation?

the latter, of course.

the time-honoured course of escape from the black ghetto has been through music and sport - the blues, boxing, basketball. it's obviously racist to deduce from this that blacks are 'naturally' better in these areas - the brute truth is that, for want of any but the remotest hope of success in the more white-dominated professions - has there ever been a black dentist in Surrey, let alone in Alabama? - blacks have had to channel their energies into those fields where success was not colour-dependent. and where are two men more equal than in the boxing ring? slowly, slowly, things have improved. but, in a culture in which a young black guy is still far more likely - by orders of magnitude - to be harassed by the police than his white friends, and where unemployment amongst black youth is still much higher than amongst white, the attractions of musical or sporting success still obtain as strongly as ever.

alas, for every young hip hop artist who manages to secure a contract, there are tens of thousands who are left to live in their dust, where being a 'nigger' - spell it whichever way you like, it still sounds and smells the same - can never be anything other than what it has always been - a powerless victim of a form of semantic oppression that is only further legitimised by its use, however ironically, by the oppressed. it is fundamentally misguided and staggeringly arrogant to think that it can be revived as an equivalent, amongst blacks, to 'mate', or 'dude' without there being a terrible price to pay, in terms of self-esteem, in the larger black community, where its use is only associated with racial insult. hopefully it's one of those tasteless fashion things that will quickly get consigned to the dustbin of history - sooner rather than later, before usage normalises it, because ignorance of history has never been a defence against history's very nasty habit of repeating itself.

I abhor censorship. I believe that the vilest, the most obnoxious opinions imaginable, should be freely accessible - published, broadcast, publicly aired - because I nurse a tenacious belief in the fundamental decency of the majority of people, whose reaction to such opinions is the same: to vilify and condemn them. the British BNP and National Front have been totally marginalised more as a result of grassroots activism and ridicule than any form of official intervention. I wouldn't thank anyone whose well-meaning censorship of the racist's right to free speech prevented me from giving them a verbal horse-whipping. there's not much sport in it, but if there's an 'r' in the month and you can't flush a fox, any young vermin will do, doncha know.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

UK gags paper over Aljazeera memo

Wednesday 23 November 2005, 12:01 Makka Time, 9:01 GMT

"Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper has been ordered to cease publishing further details from an allegedly top secret memo revealing that US President George Bush wanted to bomb Aljazeera."

JOHN PILGER: I'm not at all surprised. I'm sure no one is surprised. I'm sure Al Jazeera isn’t surprised. After all ... the Americans clearly targeted Al Jazeera in Kabul and in Baghdad, killing one Al Jazeera journalist. They had been threatening Al Jazeera. It's part of U.S. policy to target the media. They – during the attack on Serbia in 1999, they targeted the headquarters of Yugoslav Broadcasting. The numbers of journalists who have been killed by American troops is higher than any time in the modern period. The media is terribly important to this whole disaster, and getting Al Jazeera, which has done an extraordinary job of bringing to millions of people, who otherwise would not have been informed about their own part of the world, bringing to them facts and information is very threatening to the United States and to Bush.

(Democracy Now!)

no comment

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

we have ways

as a free-loading carnivore, I've occasionally wondered if I could butcher a large animal. in my careless youth, I used to shoot pigeons and hares and prepare them for the table without overmuch squeam, I've never found gutting fish a problem, and I have been known to wring the occasional chicken’s neck, but I strongly suspect, if push ever came to shove, that I'd wimp out at the prospect of poleaxing a cow and cutting its throat. meat, after all, comes in convenient cellophane-wrapped antiseptic white trays off the coolshelf at Tescos.

how much harder must it be, then, to kill a man.

and how very much harder, by several orders of magnitude, to keep a man alive, but in terrible pain, whilst continuing to apply more pain.

since Terror declared war on us (or was that the other way round?) there has been a silent 180° shift in the western Zeitgeist on the use of torture.

by the late 'nineties, thanks to the persistent lobbying of such organisations as Amnesty International, the process of naming and shaming governments with a track record of human rights abuses was well under way, and in some cases, the act of exposure was instrumental in effecting change - particularly amongst those smaller nations who were looking to boost their economies through trade or tourism tie-ins with us richer.

the very phrase - 'human rights' - had become integrated into the commonly-held perception of proper governance: a turn of the century government without a human rights manifesto was a bad government. we had loudly denounced apartheid in South Africa, and the totalitarian injustices of the USSR, and something profoundly significant had taken place in the collective Western psyche when Nelson Mandela was finally released from Robben Island, and the Berlin Wall came crashing down. by the year 1990 that wafer-thin veneer of civilising behaviours that restrains the worst in men and encourages the best had seemed to have acquired an extra layer.

moral decency, however, is not something that automatically replaces the removal of a culture of injustice and autocracy: so-called natural justice is defined by the system of authority that sustains it and that it, in turn, sustains, and, in the absence of any serious attempts at impartial assistance by the onlooking world, the reinvention of a blemish-free authorial oversight on the future development of these two exemplary recruits to the human-rights-implementing club was always going to be hijacked - either openly, in the case of the Russian mafia, or less openly, in the case of the South African political cadres and élites - by naked greed and corruption, since this is how things work in the so-called free markets.

the phrase 'human rights' continued to be the buzz-word of the next decade or so in the service of the advancement of democracy - flurries of outrage at such perceived atrocities as the Tiananmen Square and Srebrenica massacres - but then something happened, and, almost overnight, human rights were suspended, on the grounds that, because the human rights of 2,000 innocent American citizens had been most horrendously violated, those of all of the citizens of that formerly unmapped but now loudly demonised nation of Terror - upon whom 'we' now were obliged to wage endless war or risk being counted amongst their number - were, by analogy with that brutal Roman trick of decimation, henceforth to be suspended in perpetuity.

so now we inhabit a world in which, although 'human rights' continues to be used as a totemic stick with which to persuade compliance from various erring nations, there is the global understanding that the phrase is tending to the meaningless - that non-American, non-compliant humans have no rights under the pax Americana other than the right to go fuck themselves and die.

inevitably, one of the progressive notions that helped arm the vanguard of those heady days of the 'eighties and early 'nineties - the days of velvet revolutions and truth and reconciliation hearings - that is, the notion that torture was fundamentally wrong, and something that was incompatible with evolved humanity - was one of the first to be displaced in the heady days of post-9/11, when we were subject to a relentless blizzard of information to the effect that the citizens of Terror were utterly unscrupulous in their desire to destroy western civilisation, fanatical to the point of impossible intransigence, scattered into well-organised sleeper cells in every suburb of every town, and cunningly disguised as our next-door neighbours - ordinary students and shopkeepers - although mostly Middle Eastern-looking and Muslim. furthermore, we were told, on the best advice of the 'security forces' (that unsleeping band of invisible heroes upon whose vigilance we depend for our safety) that the definitive defence against these people was offence - to suspend the civil and human rights of all suspects at home, and to search out and destroy the suspected redoubts of their leaders - in Afghanistan and Iraq, for starters - abroad.

and to overlook the faked evidence for justifying this action.

and then to overlook the fact that - in the pulverised rubble that is now Afghanistan and Iraq - those supposed redoubts remain undiscovered and undestroyed.

a more inept strategy is difficult to imagine, unless the whole point of the exercise (aside from the obvious oil-related ones) has been to provoke and inflame the anger and hatred of the radical Muslim world to the point that jihad is multilaterally endorsed and America finally gets the excuse to finish off what Richard the Lionheart botched: The Crusades - The Endgame.

torture, of course, in such a context, is seldom about 'extracting' information: when Guy Fawkes was put on the rack, everyone present already knew the names of his co-conspirators. the reason he had to have all his limbs dislocated (he lasted half-an-hour, to his credit) was to persuade him to formally incriminate them and to sign the confession.

in the heat of an emergency, when one man is absolutely certain that his captive possesses the information which would, with certainty, preserve the lives of a group of innocent people - or the life, indeed, of only one innocent person - there's a strong argument for permitting that man to hurt the other until he releases that information. unfortunately, the historical record on such certainties is tenuous, to say the least. certainly, far more men and women have been tortured to death protesting their (genuine) ignorance of the information demanded than have been able to supply it. equally certainly, millions of men and women have themselves been falsely incriminated by the tortured person's earning a moment's respite from his or her interrogation by agreeing to his interrogator's suggestions about names and places. one of the reasons why so many innocent women were tortured and killed during the sixteenth-and seventeenth century European witch-hunts was that everyone interrogated was assumed to be part of a conspiracy, and was therefore required to supply the names of his or her companions before being allowed to die.

torture, far more frequently, is employed simply as an instrument of repression. as long as the sources of 'intelligence' are secure - that is, classified for the eyes of the authorities alone and exempt from any other form of civil scrutiny or verifiability – the information it purports to supply can be as fictitious as suits the authorial agenda. if a secret police force says there is a terrorist cell operating out of such-and-such a mosque in such-and-such a town, then there is - and if that secret police force is handed the power to identify and arrest the leaders of that cell, then they will - and if they then choose to hold those suspects indefinitely, without trial, in secret locations, in foreign countries, and to subject them to ongoing indignities and abuse - to torture them, in other words - then they can and will do so - with total impunity.

the idea of a secret police system maintaining a climate of low-grade but permanent state-endorsed terror as a tool of social control is a fairly recent emergent on the global political stage - the Spanish Catholic Inquisition, of course, was the model for everything that followed, with Metternich adapting it to a secular model around Congress of Vienna time, and various subtle and not-so-subtle refinements evolving from the Tsarist Okhrana to the Israeli Mossad via the Iranian VEVAK and Pinochet's DINA - but somehow we have been persuaded that it is a good and necessary thing. indeed, the persuasions have been so effective that the fact that George Bush Senior was former head of the CIA attracted little remark, either ironic or stigmatic, and the fact that Vladimir Putin, the current Russian President, was a former career officer in the KGB has been spun as a kind of charismatic footnote - à la James Bond - to his CV. if either man has any sense of historical continuity (let alone irony), they must surely be aware that the most infamous predecessors in their trade were Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Müller, and Adolf Eichmann, joint heads of the Nazi Gestapo. but somehow we have been persuaded that such comparisons are absurd, for the usual historical reasons that terrorists who emerge on the winning side are always redefined as freedom fighters in the winners' versions of history.

however, when an albeit compliant public, forever reluctant to accept extreme constraints, needs somehow to be persuaded that, in certain extreme circumstances, the application of a 10,000 volt current to another human's anatomy for no other purpose than to cause them indescribable suffering (we've already covered the pointlessness of pretending to 'extract' information) is a good and necessary thing, where, in what arena, might this mighty act of persuasion take place? where to look when the Zeitgeist needs a tiny helpful tweak? where else than television?

during the two years subsequent to 9/11, the spectacle of two noble CIA mavericks (one male, the other female) embracing (with the utmost reluctance) the painful (sorry) necessity of using torture in pursuit of their mission to rid the world of evil became the leitmotif of two of the highest-rated TV spy thrillers ever. whether consciously or not (not, most likely - such things are the stuff of a conspiracy theorists wet dream but usually turn out to be coincidences – as long as you believe in coincidences ... but that's another issue) the scriptwriters on 24 and Alias must, between them, assume the lion's share of responsibility for such modification of the collective unconscious as was required, during that dark period, in order to persuade us of the necessity of using real torture in the real world to rid it of real evil.

prior to the screening of these series, torture, when it was employed on-screen, was always the prerogative of the bad guy. its use epitomised the stuff of evil which we were dedicated to overcoming. James Bond will bribe, threaten, and pummel, but would never stoop to cold-blooded torture. however, thanks to a set of gratuitous story-lines that managed both to pay lip service to and then hastily dismiss the small matter of debate about the ethics of its use, both series plunged, with a dismaying rapidity, into a very smorgasbord of torture, with the only difference between the goodies and the baddies being that the goodies did it with stone faces, reluctantly. it became so in-your-face as to be laughable, god help us. and there you have it - already it's normal, routine – there's even torture by the good guys in Lost (written by the same guy, incidentally, as Alias).

this transcends the old chestnut about whether TV violence is responsible for social violence – this is about normalising something which is unacceptable, and about marginalising and trivialising that most important of the civil duties – the obligation to say stop when the authorities exceed their authority. why should the government bother about justifying its illegal behaviour when the TV is doing a perfectly fine job of doing it in its stead?

shame on them, that poxy crew of theatrical reactionaries, shame on Kiefer and Jennifer for taking their tainted shilling and running, and double shame on Jennifer for lending her screen persona to a (real) recruiting commercial for the (real) CIA. but there it is. actors - sweet things - what can you say? they need to feed their families like everyone else. it's just a job, being a torturer actor. great TV, though. wouldn't have missed it for the world. I buy my meat at the supermarket, after all.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Q: what connects the us defence secretary and bird flu?

A: $ $ $
and yet more $

so is anyone remotely surprised?

(thanks to xymphora)

Monday, October 17, 2005

the loyalty card

as fidelity to marriage, so patriotism to nationality - similar applications - different only in scale - of the same notion of 'loyalty' - one of those human behaviours that seems to hover in the misty hinterland between instinct and reason.

easier to consider what they mean by considering their converses: infidelity and treachery. the marriage-partner and the family suffers from the unfaithful spouse : the nation suffers from the traitor.

'suffer' - in both cases - has come to acquire an emotional significance that belies its original, more pragmatic usage - the loss of material integrity that accrues from the breach of the civil contract. 'loyalty' is required of the spouse and the citizen in return for the protections that the states of marriage and citizenship afford - protections from the predations of the unmarried, in the first case, and foreigners, in the other - the two primary perceived threats to the stability of the body politic.

unfortunately, neither the twenty-first century family nor the twenty-first century nation bears much more than a superficial resemblance to the ancestral type which formulated these quaint notions. the idea that marriage vows are sacred has largely been replaced with the idea that they are something akin to the 'I Agree' window you click on whenever you download a new piece of software: a necessary ritual wrapped in a less-then-binding legal document that no-one considers to be more serious than a playground promise made with your fingers crossed behind your back. similarly, the tabloid treacheries of a Guy Fawkes or a Kim Philby are meaningless in a post-Cold-War environment: in a globally internetted age, when you or I can as easily download a hi-res satellite image of any corner of the earth's surface as a pirate copy of The Spy Who Came in From The Cold, the idea of there being any military secrets anymore is purely notional. and anyway, who cares if 'they' can access the plans for 'our' latest hybrid stealth weapon - if they really want it all they have to do is ask - and we'll sell it to them! that's how capitalism - the definitive cultural environment - works. 'they' just have to have the moolah.

in such a world, loyalty is an irrelevance, since the global exchanges of capital (in a system predicated on the strange notion - unique amongst the laws that govern the physical universe - that there are no limits to growth, and that a finite resource - in our case, our planet - can be exploited as if it were infinite) navigate by a set of maps which owe more to the markets than Mercator, wherein the territorial boundaries extend around freshly opening markets (think cigarettes, think cars - think China) with the accommodating elasticity of a well-teased sphincter.

loyalty, instead, has become a tool of compliance, a faithful standby in the creaking armoury of political manipulations, whereby we - the ants who connive in our ant-dom because we are proud to be ants - can be brought to fiscal heel when the markets dip.

we're so used to being loyal that we actually need it - the being-loyal state - and seem not to be able to imagine life without it. why else - what possible other rational explanation can there be for such behaviour - do we devote so much of our time and energy, when we're not actually at war, to its surrogate, our surrogate nation, our 'team', whether that team centres on a ball, a puck, or a shop? (the supermarket, with its creche, its coffee bar, its instant access to everything we need, has, after all, long since displaced the church as the spiritual heart of all western communities.) the great thing about the being-loyal state is that, once you've entered into it, you don't have to ask any more questions - you just go with the flow, man.

never in human history has unquestioning obedience been so painless.

obviously, a nation whose leaders require of its citizens that they connive, unquestioningly, in immoral activities that further the interests of the very very rich at the expense of the very very poor (something that the US administration does as a matter of course but which - the further we advance into a twenty-first century threatened by total immersion in neo-con ideology - our own beloved leaders are doing their damnedest to emulate) is a morally bankrupt nation that has forfeited the right to loyalty. but it is precisely then - precisely now - in its deepest crisis of moral forfeiture, that the loyalty card becomes the ace in the political pack.

'my country - right or wrong' is such a deeply despicable sentiment, the desperate mantra of the desperately loyal, the sine qua non of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Fallujah and the Patriot Act, and yet soon - without a shadow of a doubt - to be adopted into the English canon in the face of the unanimous opposition of the law lords themselves.

the sad thing, of course, is that, underneath all this manipulative flag-saluting rubbish lies deeply buried a sense - gut-sensed in all but the totally de-sensitised - of a parallel universe in which 'loyalty' - like its distant cousin, 'honour' - have a meaning and a utility beyond the cynical - something more appropriate to grownup men and women than to dogs; a meaning circumscribed by the universally experienced discomfort at lying and being lied to, and the pleasure at being trusted and confided in. it is perfectly possible - indeed, it's become commonplace - to exhort loyalty through lies in this universe, but, in that other one, loyalty, having, like respect, been earned, is commanded through no greater coercion than the tacit mutual recognition of its reciprocating benefits, benefits which have evolved far, far beyond the primitive protections described above.

even in this universe, though, there are a lucky few who experience this kind of loyalty - of friends, lovers, and family - as a form of benign social cement. these lucky, lucky few feel no sense of obligation to those who are loyal to them, because that loyalty is freely shared, never interrogated, and certainly never employed either to manipulate or to trade.

far more frequent is the experience of either having to demonstrate one's loyalty to a system one despises - or risk being fired, or worse - or, in the course of being reminded, incidentally, that one's participation as a consumer is the only social criterion that really matters, having one's loyalty bought - literally - by a credit card company, a supermarket, or by one's partner in a pre-nuptial agreement. and bought loyalty - as every deposed dictator can testify - is an ephemeral event, stamp-validated only up to the next coup.

Monday, October 03, 2005

aurora popup removal

I spent the better part of the weekend trying to prise this utter mongrel of a random popup generator out of a friend's pc. the fiendish thing about it is that, regardless of your knowing which programme is running it (NAIL.EXE) it's nigh-impossible to delete because of the way it's been configured to run on the back of another programme that's integral to the system bootup. so, although I think there are some legitimate custom uninstall downloads out there, I also know there are a few (including, not surprisingly, the free uninstall programme that you can get from the originating site) which are just substituting one set of malware for another, so here's how to get rid of it.

(some geek-skills required: how to reveal hidden files, how to modify files in the key registry, and how to reboot in safe mode and run a command prompt)

1. Reboot in Safe Mode with Command Prompt
2. Delete NAIL.EXE from root directory
3. Reboot in Safe Mode (there'll be a message about not being able to find 'Nail.exe' which you can safely ignore, of course)
4. Run regedit.exe
5. Delete all references to the dropper files in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Run
(they'll be obvious as they're the only ones with random filenames like zghhhrt.exe)
6. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\WindowsNT\WINLOGON\ and locate the 'shell' command in the right pane
7. (*EXTREME CAUTION*) Double-click on 'shell' and delete the path and file name after 'Explorer.exe' in the 'Modify' sub-menu. (Do not delete the whole command - if you do you'll have trouble rebooting)
8. Reboot

that's it, basically - there's a whole mass of associated files if you can be bothered finding 'em, and whatever minor problems they might leave you with can be relatively easily dealt with later, but these (above) are the critical ones - they'll do the job.

how Aurora works is by using the Winlogon functions to spawn the shell (the Explorer interface) that appends the executable file to Explorer - thereby making it impossible to delete in any mode that calls Explorer - which includes Safe Mode as well as 'Normal' Mode.

as I said - fiendish.

the guys who wrote it (it first appeared in May this year) made - I'd a thought - the serious mistake of making it available as a direct marketing ploy to all those advertisers who - if you're plagued with it - keep popping up on your desktop, thereby - unusually for virus writers - making themselves easily traceable to those who know how to trace.

so, if you happen to live in New York:

Direct Revenue LLC
107 Grand Street
3rd Floor
New York, NY 10013
V: 646.613.0376
F: 646.613.0386

go say hello.

(and if you don't have those geek skills, don't despair - your first stop for legitimate help should be here)

better still - trade in that heap of eternally vulnerable Microsoft-dependent pc shit for a Mac.

nobody listens.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Aeolian Tor

so I'm up there this afternoon - fairly wild, overcast, gusty - and suddenly I'm aware of this sound coming from behind me, right at the edge of my hearing - kind of ambient weirdness - wild oscillations of pitch and tempo - and I look round - and there's nothing there - no-one, nothing - and I think, that's it, I've finally lost it, I've been living around here too long - I'm hearing the fairies - and I start carefully walking toward what seems to be the source - and I suddenly realise what it is.

they've put up a temporary fence around a newly-turfed area to protect it whilst it beds in - and some of the uprights have small drainage holes drilled in them at the bottom at irregular intervals - and the wind is turning the whole thing into a scratch sound sculpture - a kind of Aeolian harp with pipes instead of strings.

totally entrancing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

the art of two andy's

I found myself saying "I've really no idea what art is" the other day in that clever-dick sort of way that comes complete with the banal rider - "but I know what it does" - thus demonstrating both an infuriatingly smug humility and a rhetorical cowardice. but, apart from the spurious retro-self-flagellation, reflection prompts me to confess that, really, honestly, I have no idea what art is, despite having spent my entire working life, supposedly, 'in the arts.'

I think the problem, now, is the enormity of the gulf between what art has been and what it is presented as and what I - whose relationship with 'it' is tenuous to say the least - think it should be, and that the process of trying to articulate that gulf necessitates an engagement with such an impenetrable cartload of manure - both academic- and media-generated - that my inclination is to just turn away and say what the fuck who cares anyway and get on with doing whatever it is I do.

but if art matters at all, and if we're to continue using the word 'artist' to describe someone who makes art, then it matters what it is, and, somehow, we have to come to some sort of agreement about that, if it's only an agreement to differ.

I know what I used to think: I thought that art - secular western art - the only art I really know much about - was a manifestation of something called 'truth', and that the artist was an elective inheritor of a quasi-sacred trust: I actually visualised a golden thread of 'truth' stretching back to whenever, and the artist as someone whose function was to maintain the integrity of that thread and ensure its survival into the future.

I supported that belief by acknowledging that the root of all art is in the sacred - the pigmented scratchings on rocks and cave walls that testify to the earliest emergences of the conjunction of ritual and worship - and that, whereas secular art can deny its currency in a context of cultural agnosticism, it can no more deny the hermeneutics of that legacy than the individual artist can deny the existence or the original purpose of his or her tailbone.

the artist and the priest, therefore, had become like estranged brothers - estranged without hope of reconciliation, but without hope, either, of ever being liberated from that burden of shared provenance.

bereft of that fraternal bond, however, I regarded the relationship between the modern artist and the scientist as a kind of familial surrogacy - a second-cousinship of sorts - the only difference between them being that the 'truth' the scientist was attempting to illuminate was a physical phenomenon. a scientific experiment was 'verifiable' and, definitively, repeatable, whereas an artistic experiment was always ephemeral, intangible, and unique. certainly, I considered that the artistic and the scientific sensibilities were complementary, of equal value, indeed, that their different approaches to confronting what are essentially the same concerns about reality, meaning, and understanding our place in the cosmos represented something fundamental, something that chimes perenially in our consciousness as the symmetry of opposites, without which there is no balance, no possibility of conclusiveness, no hope of a definitive 'this is this' or 'that is that'.

time and the spider's kiss of reality have somewhat modified that view, not least in the sense that I have come to accept that the continuing use of terms like 'beauty' and 'truth' in that yoked Keatsian sense of the eternal verities being essentially, and simply, 'beautiful' is historically and pragmatically naive, and that even retaining the idea of 'truth' as definitive is to risk tautology - as in 'art is truth revealed through art'. 'truth', furthermore, is as often as not a very ugly beast indeed. which isn't to say that there isn't still a place for art that is beautiful, just as there is for mathematical resolutions that are beautiful, but to admit that there is equally a place for art that reflects that which is ugly - since the reflection, in either case, of truth, is, or should be the predominant concern.

further, I feel that, just as the community of post-Heisenberg science has been obliged to embrace some extremely discomfiting refutations of earlier assumptions about 'reality' - I'm thinking in particular about the ways in which notions like space and time have undergone fundamental revision in step with advancing understandings about quantum behaviours - so that world has been redefined and freshly illuminated in terms of the post-modern artist's displacement of his or her modern precursors.

clearly, art is whatever society agrees it is, and in the absence of a clear, passionate consensus, the tendency in our society has been, historically, to abrogate responsibility on what to agree upon to a small but influential caucus of critics and academics and, latterly, media fuhrers (occupying the space formerly occupied by gallery owners and agents) whose yeasay or naysay will drive the upward or downward inclination of an artist's stock.

what's really complicated the issue in the last fifty years or so has been the escalation of the information wars between the various media feeding the explosively affluent children of all classes as they emerged into the target zone of consumer marketing. whereas, until as recently as fifty years ago, the kind of surplus available to the arts from the sort of person who considered themselves a patron of the arts (in the middle-ranking sense of going to the theatre and concert halls regularly and purchasing the occasional painting) has become more and more the province of the young, and, whereas the amount spent per capita by this new arts patron is probably considerably less than it would have been by the mid-last-century middle classes, the combined purchasing power of this demographic grouping - the sheer weight of numbers, and the wide social spread of the grouping involved, has come to affect the art market very dramatically indeed.

the theatre, the opera, and the concert hall, therefore, is now virtually moribund as an active component in the current cultural scene - those yawning, empty blocks of premium seats in every auditorium are bleak witness to their abandonment to the corporate market's entertainment budget - since these relics of the elite High Arts have little relevance to an arts consumer used to the far more evolved multi-media arenas of live performance and the million-times more engaging narrative canvas of film. the gulf between the two cultures - the popular culture of tabloids, gameshows, the Premier League and the singles charts, and the élite culture of the South Bank - has never been greater, and the ever-increasing pressure on the latter to emulate the tangible successes of the former without alienating either its élite audience or its taxpaying source of subsidy has resulted in its inevitable implosion in a fit of hand-flapping histrionics and embarassing populist gimmicks. if I had a penny for every time I've heard some floppy-haired young theatre or opera director enthusing about how vitally important it was to engage a new audience with their wares, I'd be rolling in clover. the truth is that the theatre, and its cousins the opera and the ballet, have been stone dead for about thirty years, and no-one will admit it.

major cultural shifts are only ever identifiable in retrospect, and, whereas it's clear that - a simplistic summary - the collapse of Soviet communism and the end of the Cold War marked the moment when the push towards American hegemony really began in earnest, it's still far too early - the waters are far too muddied still - to be able to discern what the 'new' culture - the victors culture - is that is replacing the 'old' - that which was aligned with the vanquished. it's heartbreakingly easy, however, to identify one, at least, of the outstanding characteristics of this victorious culture - strutting triumphalism - in the way the bankrupt residue of the Soviet-subsidised high art system has been assimilated by the west: there's been a brisk east-west migration for the last decade or so of highly-trained ice-skaters and ballet dancers, for instance, upping by several orders of magnitude the skills ante in the popular arenas of ice-spectaculars, nightclub revues, and lap-dancing clubs from Las Vegas to Blackpool - at bargain-basement prices.

there are rarely more than a handful of discrete major artists - groundbreakers, as opposed to consolidators - in any given generation, and the Russian filmmaker Andzrej Tarkovsky and his American contemporary and counterpart, the artist and filmmaker Andy Warhol, were two such.

Tarkovsky represents the ultimate flowering of a kind of artistic impulse that has dominated Western consciousness since the Renaissance - the heroic engagement with an intrinsically conservative status quo in order to be perceived as an immortal - to be remembered as one who represented their time in paint, stone, music, or literature. in his case, that engagement necessitated mastering a particularly complicated dance of negotiation with the Soviet cinema's presiding bureaucracy - a monolithic beast dedicated to one purpose - ensuring the political rectitude of its stable of artists. and in common with all the artists of his generation working behind the Iron Curtain, from the Baltic to the Urals, that dance was a dance of stealthy deception - of cloaking meaning in such a convoluted veil of metaphor that any surface test of political correctness must surely fail to find purchase or fault. as a consequence, he brought the vocabulary of cinema closer to music than any previous cinema auteur, and leaves a legacy that summarises the achievement of Soviet artists in particular, and of all artists still working under the umbrella of state-centralised controls. this legacy, however, is one which the victorious culture seems as anxious to forget as the one which generated it.

at the same time as Tarkovsky was enjoying what turned out to be the golden age of Soviet state patronage of the arts, Andy Warhol was enjoying a liberal arts education that straddled both the ideals of social realism (something which Tarkovsky abhorred) and the aspirations of the American Dream in its more infantilised, Shirley Temple-worshipping form. Warhol's stature as a seer who understood the power of the image, the religion of fame, and the narcosis of consumerism is something that has been welded onto his myth as a critical afterthought: in reality he seems to have had no articulate agenda, and, unlike his Russian contemporary, he left practically no commentary or critique on his own work other than the briefest, the most anecdotal and the almost cringingly banal.

both artists, although poles apart in their artistic, intellectual, and metaphysical ideologies, were almost morbidly obsessed with time (Tarkovsky's self-critical memoir - 'Sculpting in Time' - describes his own working process) and, technically, both were heedless about challenging their audiences' boredom threshold: typically, a Tarkovsky tracking shot will pass very slowly over some detail in a landscape, or a painting, or a domestic interior, for as long as ten minutes, and two of Warhol's most infamous films - 'Empire' and 'Sleep' - consist of one static eight-hour shot of a still subject.

the time-period for which Warhol is remembered, however, by everyone, regardless of whether they know anything about pop art, is the fifteen minutes of fame which he predicted would become the universal allotment.

whether or not the one was the 'better' artist than the other is beside the point: both happened to be working at round about the same time in two countries whose horns were locked for the entirety of these two artists' working lives in the most terrifying of nuclear standoffs. after winning that confrontation, the inevitable artistic consequence of the supremacy of a Warhol-world rather than a Tarkovsky-world was the emergence within twenty years of the soap opera, online gaming, and reality TV as the dominant forms of cultural expression. whether it also entailed the inevitable decline of the artist from shamanic gatekeeper to McDonalds clown is still far too early to say.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

no pussyfooting around

we used to call a spade a spade around here once, apparently ...

Monday, September 12, 2005

decisive attitudes

in common with most people I know, I have been trying to bring up my twin sons to understand that violent behaviour is a form of sickness, and that violent people can be helped to change their behaviour.

now, at thirteen, they seem to be developing into quite big, strong fellows - quite capable of humiliating several of my friends foolish enough to challenge them at arm-wrestling (not me, not quite, not yet), and well on their way to being able, as they say, to take care of themselves - and I find myself beginning to wonder if I oughtn't to lighten up a little on an issue which, to them, clearly isn't an issue.

I say this because I'm beginning to have to accept that, thanks in large part to the miserable failures of the dominant culture and its cringing satellites in curbing the excesses of inequality that are now hopelessly endemic in the social structures of the so-called developed world, the notion that might is right is the indisputable norm of political, and therefore social persuasion. Gandhi (shanti, shanti, shanti) would get short shrift if he sat down in front of an advancing platoon of American or Israeli soldiers these days.

from the school playground to the White House, the bully's day is right here, right now - having taken all the advantage he can muster from the well-meaning liberal tolerances which have failed to deter him.

if and when it happens that one of my boys takes on one of the grunting psychopaths that all schools have to tolerate and gives him the kicking of his miserable, un-boundaried, parenting-impoverished life, I doubt if I shall do more than go through the motions of tut-tutting in the head's office at the subsequent enquiry - the same cynical nod at compliance that she herself learnt in the damage-limitation module of schools management, her proficiency in which she has already demonstrated by bringing two boys together in her office - one aged twelve, five foot, a hundred pounds, his persistent tormentor aged fifteen, six-foot, one-eighty pounds - to 'shake hands,' thereby having implemented, on the record, the school's decisive attitude towards such behaviour.

I recall no-one shedding any tears when one particular psycho at my own school was given the 'surprise selection' treatment - ie he, despite having never demonstrated any team aptitude whatsoever, was 'selected' (he had no choice in the matter) for inclusion in a house rugby match, during which fifteen of the school's finest - all perfectly aware of his reputation - legitimately grounded and battered, kicked, choked, elbowed, kneed, and generally mauled him at every opportunity for one of the longest and most painful hours of his violent existence - with a large, knowing crowd having assembled to add humiliation to (superficial) injury.

antisocial behaviour can be modified pacifically, given the will, and sufficient resources to repair and recover the backstory damage that promotes it. I seriously wonder, however, if the will is there, other than at the individual level of those few saints upon whom society seems eternally to rely as moral arbiters. meanwhile, I shan't stand in the way of my own sons meting out such summary discouragement as they might consider appropriate to such malcontents as enjoy beating up kids who are half their size.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

god and muscular dystrophy

why are the fundies so foetus-fixated? what's their holy writ reason for getting so hot under the collar about early womb-life, given that the sacred book compilers had about as much understanding of female biology as a newt has about quantum mechanics? if the foetus has a soul, then it follows that a sperm and an egg have half a soul each, which means that two months of menstruation = one ticket to purgatory and one wank must be equal to several genocides, which means that the entire fundie population is condemned to endlessly unavoidable breaking of the holy rules and life is unutterably hopeless and shameful so why bother?
human life, it seems, is so sacred, at even the protozoic level, when it resembles little else than a tadpole, that it is worth taking a few lives to protect it.
and, when some wonderful piece of technology worthy of our place at the rim of the local galactic cluster at this period in time emerges that makes possible the control of one or two of the more seriously incurable genetic disorders known to our species, what do they do, the fundies? they wail in horror, loudly expressing their preference to continue living in the middle ages, in a condition of fearful superstitious fumbling in the dark, trusting in the enlightenment of the sacred texts.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


every year, during the four weeks between July 23rd and August 22nd, the Earth returns to the same place in its orbit that intersects with the tail of the comet Swift-Tuttle. with the clockwork regularity that duped Newton into thinking he could explain it on the basis of the same mechanical principles, it happens that, on the nights of the twelfth and thirteenth of August, every year, we pass through the densest part of this cloud of cometary material that is spread out in actual space over many millions of kilometres. at a combined relative speed of 132,000 mph, even the tiniest smidgen of dust makes a vivid streak of light - a meteor - as it disintegrates, and the rate of impact of those individual motes which happen exactly to provide a collision vector rises briefly to a peak of around eighty per hour on those two nights.

for want of a conveniently intervening atmosphere these variously sized particles of cosmic sand and gravel would impact the surface of this place we call home with a similarly craterous effect as happens on the Moon and Mars and, indeed, everywhere else except here. this annual meteor shower (or, in some exceptional years, 'storm'), as we call it - this random scattering of these previously sun-scattered cometary tailings across the path of the rotating Earth, and their consequent dissolution into those brief, streaking trails of incandescent gas by atmospheric ablation, helps feed, amongst the few thousand skywatchers such as myself who wait and watch in the silent darkness of our pre-dawn gardens, some deeply primitive appetite for that which no other experience can provide - gets nowhere remotely near providing - something that's best left inarticulated, unless we want to end up talking about mindless surrender to the terrifying scale of our contingency, or something equally prolix and ultimately meaningless.

and it all happens in silence, an eery, dislocating silence that distinguishes it from any other comparable earthly experience. it's what the bad sci-fi filmmakers always shy away from - that these absolutely catastrophic explosive events in space - from stellar explosions to planetoid collisions to these screamingly ferocious, fiery meteors - make no sound. there's just this silent screech of light scratched shockingly against the blackness of the sky for a fraction of a second, barely long enough to register, and hardly ever in direct line of sight, since the odds against one's looking towards exactly that particular arc of sky that the trail is going to occupy at exactly the moment it happens are frustratingly high. seasoned meteor watchers are all too aware of just how big that night sky is, even though we have a rough idea which quadrant to concentrate our gaze on to give us the best chance of a direct sighting. more often than not, it happens just to the side of where the gaze is directed, and, in that fraction of a second that it takes to redirect, it's over.

the darker the sky, of course, the less light pollution, and the more open the horizon, the better the view. I used to live near the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest town, and, on meteor shower nights, would take a sleeping bag out into the field behind the house and just lie down for the best show in the world. and sometimes, gazing up at that immense starfield, orientating myself only to the North Star and the hazy track of the Milky Way, I'd allow myself to succumb to the dizzying temptation to let go completely of the evidence of all of my senses apart from my eyes, and accept that I was no longer looking up, but down, into an infinitely deep bowl of blackness, filled with stars.

Monday, July 25, 2005


it's an old potato, but one worth chewing, now that the d-word trumps all rationality: that democracy has nothing whatsoever to do with moral arbitration. 'democracy' is no more inherently synonymous with 'good' than 'might' is synonymous with 'right' . when the majority in a given constituency decides, by democratic means, that a course of action which is morally compromised is nevertheless necessary, then that course of action becomes, de facto, the right course of action - even if, by all independent criteria, that course of action is wrong - as long as the elected authority endorses that view.

in a sense, this is no more nor less than a reflection of a root behaviour whereby 'we' - that amorphous entity that comprises a large enough grouping to be called a society rather than a family or a tribe - arrive at a collective agreement that such-and-such an abstract concept is one thing rather than another: that this thing, for example, is 'art', whereas this other thing is not, that this thing is 'true', whereas this is not, that this thing is 'good', whereas this is not. there are innumerable forms of marginal behaviour that, depending on the constituency or grouping of the instruments of persuasion, be they religion-, law-, or media-based, will become perceived as either tolerable or intolerable unorthodoxies until or unless the tides of those constituencies change. conversely, there are as many examples of once-commonly enjoyed behaviours which, because of such a tidal shift in the zeitgeist, are now completely marginalised: from public smoking and racial stereotyping to public executions and trashing the environment.

it's all too easy to perpetuate the idea of 'democracy' as being the least bad of the processes by which a government governs - and what two people can agree on what 'democracy' means? - when the governed are being as continuously misled as to the processes by which they are governed as we, the people, the supposed demos whose government supposedly belongs to us, are. even though the failures have been exposed time and time again in all nations which call themselves democracies - from the voting irregularities that install a government to the quasi-legal manipulations and mendacities that sustain it - there continues a tenacious belief that this is, indeed, the least worst form of government, and that there's really no practical alternative if what we want is that most of the people be content with the way things are run most of the time.

a majority is just a majority, and there are many situations where accepting the majority position simply because it is a majority is fundamentally wrong - the so-called 'tyranny of the majority' in a conflict between two diametrically opposed positions, when the supporters of one position outnumber the supporters of the other, when a free vote will automatically favour the more numerically represented. at a national scale this can lead, and has led to criminally repressive, and indeed, genocidal measures being instituted against ethnic or religious minorities under the technically legal guise of democratic transparency (a classic example being the manipulation of the electoral boundaries in the city of Derry, in Northern Ireland, to maintain Protestant control over a Catholic majority).

the likelihood of righting it now that it's so rooted in the global consciousness is zilch, but it's still beholden on those who care about such things to continue considering why democracy is wrong.

Saturday, July 23, 2005


whether it be for cutting the ribbon at a new motorway opening, breaking a bottle over the bows at a new submarine naming, or declaring open a new civic building, a royal is still the celeb of choice, and it's hard not to ask - in these enlightened times - why?

we have a new hospital on the edge of town - rather a nicely designed, airy, single-storey building, small (only 36 beds), with a physiotherapy gym, an x-ray department (proudly sporting four rhino pics in the waiting area, incidentally), and a minor injuries unit - whose official opening, last week, is the major item in all of this week's local papers, for no better reason than that it was opened by the Duchess of Gloucester.

who she?

well, she was born simply Birgitte van Deurs in Odense, Denmark, in June 1947, the daughter of a lawyer. after moving to Cambridge, and a period working in the Danish embassy in London, her life took a fairly dramatic turn when she met and subsequently married HRH Prince Richard of Gloucester, the second eldest son of HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, whose career as an architect had been curtailed by the death of his older brother, thus bringing him first in line to his father's dukedom, and necessitating his taking upon himself the usual royal burdens of representing his cousin, the Queen, at openings and banquets and such. as the grandson of King George V through his son, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, he became, upon the subsequent death of his father in June 1974, nineteenth in line to the succession (he is currently eighteenth).

'a keen motorist', as they say, Prince Richard is president of the Institute of Advanced Motorists. on December 23rd 2004, however, he kind of blew that by getting banned from driving for six months and fined for speeding, this being his fourth similar offence in three years.

for some reason, whenever there's a royal needed around here, we seem to get one of these two - sometimes both. it's not as if they lived nearby - their official residence is at Kensington Palace and their country seat, Barnwell Manor, is in Northamptonshire. maybe they just like it here. anyway, many of the organisations of which the Duchess is Patron have either medical, educational, or welfare connections, and the Duke is interested in things like architecture and conservation, so between them they seem to be able to cover the more pressing local eventualities. this time, though, she did it solo.

as usual, she arrived by helicopter, which provides, I think, a significant clue as to the royals' enduring popularity. whenever Louis XIV put in a personal appearance at one of the masques he staged at Versailles for which his reign was famous, he made sure the designers had constructed for him something spectacular, like a golden chariot surrounded by clouds, that could be made to descend from the flies in appropriate Sun King mode. this self-appropriation of the ancient Greek theatre device of the deus ex machina was certainly intended, at the time, as a deliberate emphasising of the monarch's divine right to rule. and whereas few, now, would go so far as to maintain that the anointment of a modern monarch at his or her coronation was anything other than a symbolic acknowledgement of the constitutional relationship between church and state, there's clearly a tenacious residue of atavistic association at work across a wide swathe of society that still believes, deep down, that these people - these royals - are gods.

they descend from the heavens, and even C-list examples like this one seem to trigger a kind of cowering reflex, their mere presence transforming otherwise intelligent, coherent professionals into tongue-tied morons who happily suffer the ritual self-abasements - the bows, the curtsies, the fixed smiles, the fish-limp handshakes - and, simpering with pleasure, almost fainting with delight at being permitted to touch this person, engage in the kind of discourse that would discredit the intelligence of a braindead axolotol:

so how long have you been a person in a suit?
for as long as I can remember, ma'am.
how wonderful. and is it thrilling?
awfully, ma'am.
how simply splendid. well done.
thank you, ma'am, thank you.

I exaggerate. I have it on trustworthy authority that, as aristocrats go, they're really rather nice, quite intelligent people, these two, and, for no better reason than that she's a Dane and he's an architect, I'm inclined to believe it, being as irrational in my own Danophilia as I am rational about my republicanism.

perhaps that's the point - that the scorn I profess for those sorts of people who defer to rank for no better reason than its representing a form of social nostalgia - a nod at an older, better time, when everyone 'knew their place' - is a missing of the more important point: that even the most ordered, rational society requires its rituals, its traditions, its ways of marking significant events with something slightly more elevated than a three cheers and a communal toast, and that, despite their history of greed, psychotic acquisitiveness, and inbred psychosis, our beloved royals, who, in reality, owe the cringing respect we bestow on them to nothing more tangible than an accident of birth, seem, by virtue of the sheer historic inertia which they embody, uniquely qualified to fulfill this role - and it is, most literally, a role - better than anyone else.


common to a number of the proto-judicial systems that were being codified throughout Europe during the Middle Ages was the concept of weregeld, or 'the value of a man's life' (women, being chattel - either their father's or their husband's property, were valued more directly). so, according to your social rank, if someone injured or killed you, and was found to be guilty of that crime, he had to pay your next of kin his weregeld to forestall the otherwise inevitable vendetta.

as 'blood money', this concept still exists in many older cultures - something which the occupying armies of Iraq, coming from their own highly developed culture of compensation, have quickly adjusted to, discovering that an Iraqi's life comes quite cheap compared with, say,
a rich man's hurt feelings (or, at the median point,
a poor woman's health).

The Questioning of John Rykener, A Male Cross-Dressing Prostitute, 1395

Sunday, July 17, 2005

a demented diatribe on motorphilia

on a badness scale of one to ten, with the late Mother Teresa at one end and the never-late Jeremy Clarkson at the other, cars should register at around nine-point-nine-nine.

virtuousness is always relative, of course, and some cars are badder than others, but between the outright unrepentant Pol Potty evil of the urban SUV and the honk-honk twee naughty of Noddy's Little Red and Yellow Car lie the barest split hairs of real moral distinction. they are an atrociously expensive, time-consuming, planet-despoiling blight, less useful in real terms than the inglenook, and arguably less effective as a status symbol. actually, both as status symbol and as functional object – as a means, that is, of travelling from A to B in the least possible time and with the least amount of stress - they compare very poorly with the yak, which has the decisive advantage of manuring the fields it plods across.

and yet we do love them so. from their cute little 'bleeps' as we unlock them to the hilarious polyphonic wailings of their alarms which the barest kiss of a dawn breeze seems able to trigger. and they do – let’s admit it - save us having to sit next to smelly people on buses or in the tube. plus they are a neat ritual weapon - good for getting our own back on people who’ve cut us up by catching up with them and riding an inch from their tail. oh – let’s be honest – cars are also a really cool real weapon - a finely-tuned lethal weapon - Vorsprung durch Technik – despatching an estimated 1.2 million humans throughout the world annually, according to the recent World Health Organization/World Bank report, ‘The Global Burden of Disease’. this report, incidentally, predicts that road traffic injuries are expected to take third place in the rank order of disease burden by the year 2020.

third place! (‘War’ only manages a paltry eighth.) killer-cars are outranked only by heart disease and – wait for it – Unipolar Major Depression (or terminal moping-about).

so how is it that cars kill people?

well, they don't do it by themselves, that's for sure! (cute giggle.) stationary and inactivated, they're no more dangerous than any other lump of inert matter. so what transforms them, once that ignition key has been turned and they've been eased out into the road, into such dangerous objects? (rhetorical question - I'm not here to insult your intelligence - this isn't a Jeremy Clarkson rant.) whatever it is, these mysterious transformative powers extend to the drivers as well: that person who tried to kill you on the Junction 23 sliproad is more likely than not a model citizen with badges for kindness to strangers and gentleness to babies and animals in real, ie non-motorised life. this inelegant symbiosis of car and driver seems only to require the most basic urges of aggressive competition to be activated. occupation of the driver's seat serves, de facto, as a liberation from the more inconvenient social requirements of restraint and cooperation and, even, the law itself.

so, given that humans operating them with undue care and attention and at ludicrously unsafe speeds are to blame for all this, and that there are legal checks in place to counteract this behaviour, such as speed cameras, what's the problem? why does the carnage continue, and why is it projected to continue, unabated, to such a patently unacceptable level within the next fifteen years?

in a word, because there are very powerful lobbies at work to ensure, not that it does continue, but that if it does it's everybody else's fault - the government, the local council, the police, the tooth fairy - than either the car manufacturers, the oil suppliers, the go-faster-stripe dealers, or anyone else who contributes either directly or indirectly to this lunatic car-loving culture we have come to inhabit. and how is it that the so-called independent motoring organisations (which are about as independent from the road transport lobby as Hallmark is from Christmas) are so successful in diverting the fundamental blame for the continuing motoring massacres from the drivers to the government, the local councils ... etc? because (again this is really rhetorical, but let's risk insulting Jeremy here) their sine qua non is The Happy Motorist, a creature as mythical as The Green Man, who inhabits a world of empty country roads unmarked by anything more threatening than the flickering shadows of the trees he or she drives past (remember all those ludicrous stories about the epilepsy-inducing lines of plane trees on French B-roads to further justify the local authorities' hacking them all down because so many drunks were driving into them) at speeds which he or she deems 'sensible.'

the real world, alas, is this far away from gridlock most of the time, and inhabited, clearly, by more psychopaths than you'd care to shake a stick at (well, maybe not - best not to provoke them too much), who consider themselves so elevated above any laws that they can with impunity flaunt any and all speed restrictions and feel justified in threatening anyone who gets in their way (ie everyone in front of them) with inches-close encounters of the tailgating kind - at speeds which could only be described as 'sensible' by an F-16 pilot.

this insistence by the raving motorphiliac lobby that most drivers are able to recognise what a sensible speed is and will adapt to different road conditions according to the various factors of visibility, weather, and personal skill and experience is just so much specious nonsense - patent nonsense - arrogant nonsense - and potentially (and actually) lethal nonsense. the argument that roads liberated from speed restrictions would somehow be safer roads is just so dumb it's flat earth, and yet this is what the motoring liberationists are seriously trying to propose. in the face of the overwhelming evidence that speed restrictions and their enforcement through speed cameras save lives, they want to lift them because they're an infringement of their civil liberties?! pull the other one! arresting people and holding them without charge or trial on suspicion of their being involved in criminal activity is an infringement of civil liberty. the introduction of an ID card with a chip capable of tracing your movements through a GSP link is an infringement of civil liberty. photographing your driving too fast and fining you for it is not an infringement of civil liberty.

the citizens of Nowhere Land are beholden to no-one, restricted by nothing, and as free to do whatever they fancy as any other citizen of a fantasy community. in the actual world, citizens are obliged to accept certain responsibilities in proportion to the degree of their participation in society. in this world, 'participation' includes the use of the superstructures and infrastructures of the available transportation systems. our reciprocal responsibility, therefore, is to use these in a manner which, at best, gives due consideration to the other users of those systems, and, at least, does them no harm.

using the roads is one of those social events over which we have only very limited control. the act of driving along a road is one of the few truly universal social levellers. roads have to be shared with a random selection of people, many of whom we'd go to considerable lengths to avoid encountering in 'normal' life. this is one of the reasons why so much design emphasis is placed on making the internal environment of a car so comfortably insulated from the external. our cars have become (or have become to be perceived as) armoured mobile extensions of our homes - in many cases, even more comfortable versions of our real homes. for many of us, the most comfortable seat we ever sit in is the driver's seat of our car. and how many of us live in homes that are air-conditioned? and sound-proofed? with tinted windows? and surrounded by cool glowing dials and multiple control surfaces?

such is the ubiquity of this myth of invulnerability that anyone who dares to challenge it is demonised by the motorphiliac mafia (of which Mr Clarkson must be considered at least a don, if not a godfather) as, at best, a killjoy, and at worst as some kind of political subversive. the car is the dominant global fetish, arguably a religious fetish akin to the St Christopher that dangles from the more superstitious rearview mirrors, in the most literal sense that its primary function as an extension of the personality of its driver predicates on a set of superstitions and beliefs that no amount of rational discourse is able to displace. the imagistic juxtaposition of the tangle of blood-stained metal in the latest motorway massacre pics on the news with the slick state of the art persuasions of the car adverts in the commercial break becomes as meaningless as any other in the lexicon of the commodification of everything. there is simply no recognition of a causal relationship between the two. the one doesn't exist in the same world as the other.

there's only one way to break this morbid obsession, and that's by exposing the bottom line.

the cost (in hard cash - the human life factor is clearly non-factorable) of restoring that annual megatonnage of motor-mangled human flesh and bone to something resembling functionality must be absolutely astronomical. in direct, hands-on medical intervention and rehabilitation terms high enough, but then when you add on the loss of skills, productivity, and all those little things that make a working human so valuable to the economy, it must send the gross through the roof. if someone were to calculate the actual figure, add on an underwriters percentage, and then feed it back to the motorist as a percentage of his or her annual insurance premiums, there might be the stirrings of a recognition that, not only is he or she being exposed to the most appalling injuries as a direct result of his or her love affair with the car, but that he or she is paying right royally for the privilege of treating everyone else, even if he or she never gets injured.

my personal pipedream is that sanity finally prevails, the motoring industry concedes that their relationship with the roadkill is no different than that between the arms industry and the battlefield, and cars are begun to be developed that make us feel less, not more secure with the speed at which they can travel. if our Beamers and Mercs were modelled more on Trabbies, made out of corrugated cardboard and coming with a top-limit two bhp engine with no more torque than a salad-spinner, we'd start thinking twice about cutting up those losers trying to overtake that convoy of grannies in electric wheelchairs on the bypass.

sooner rather than later, despite everything the government's ass-licking response to the road users lobby implements to forestall the inevitable, the country is going to lock solid into one endlessly revolving mass of traffic, and long before that happens, we're going to have to learn to drive as if we were connected carriages in a train - once you've managed to join the stream, you stay where you are - because any attempt to overtake will be as impossible as it will be pointless. this is already an all-too recognisable scenario for anyone using, say, the M25 on a regular basis, or using any of the motorway system south of Bristol during a Bank Holiday weekend.

long before then, I hope that they'll stop painting speed cameras a gaudy yellow and publishing maps of where exactly they're located, and institute a guerilla campaign of camouflaging them and moving them about randomly and secretly. and enough of this discreetly flash-photographing offenders and fining them. each camera should be equipped with a metal-piercing harpoon that decelerates the bastards from sixty to zero in 0.4 seconds flat. that'd teach 'em. they could keep the photograph printed on a T-shirt with a choice of two amusing legends: 'I survived 10g in a random airbag test' or 'my other car's in the wash'.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Sebastião Salgado - Antarctica

even at ridiculous postcard size and at a crumbly 72 dpi this photograph is quite overwhelming. imagine a 12 x 16 bromide print! Salgado's always been technically amazing, but this is the sort of nightmare hand-printing job - jagged ice against cloudy sky - that any photographer will reel at (an all-zones job if ever there was one), and if he really did this himself, then all credit to the guy. it's way up there in the Anselm Adams/Edward Weston class, and confirms the rhino law that a great photograph is one part visual skill to 49 parts luck to 50 parts technique: it's all too painfully predictable what a hash a boatload of enthusiasts would have made of this image if they'd all been in the same boat at the same time. it's almost too dramatic - Romantic verging on kitsch - a Piranesi take on Gormenghast - perhaps only appealing to a minority now, of shameless romantics like me. I'm glad he's shifted away from the photojournalism - some of the criticism levelled at him for beautifying poverty was harsh, but, as a lot of it came from the impoverished themselves, perfectly justified.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


change happens - consider the universe
humans are no different from stars or galaxies - only the time-scales are different
the shift from wanting to change to changing is as simple as removing the impediments that we place on the mechanisms of change through the fear of it
take off the brakes, take away the safety nets, and wait - change will happen
but wanting to change is usually about wanting things to get better
and change can also make things worse
this is called risk
without risk - no change, either for the better or for the worse

some changes - possibly the only ones that matter - are single-use, ie they occur out of a most particular set of circumstances which can never be repeated: these circumstances represent an opportunity which, once passed, is irrevocably gone. Shakespeare knew this, as he knew most things to do with the human condition:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,   
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;   
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

(Julius Caesar Act IV Sc.3)

as for individuals, so for societies
my gut-feeling is that we've blown it
big time
but what to do?

Sam Beckett to the rescue (somone else who knew a thing or two about the human condition):

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
(Westward Ho)

Friday, July 08, 2005


what happened in London yesterday was appalling. what happened in New York on 9/11/01 was appalling. what happend in Bali on 10/12/02 was appalling. what happened in Madrid on 3/11/04 was appalling.
the evil citizens of Terror - that amorphous nation with which we are told we are at war - have struck again, and the rhetorical response has been a unilateral reinforcement of the wall of prejudice and fear and hatred that stands between us and them.
one of the most frequently used words in the headshaking lexicon is 'incomprehensible', as if there had never been a historical dialectic, as if there had never been any art, as if we had simply not evolved the capacity, through the intelligence and the imagination, to understand anything which didn't fit the familiar. this is not merely ignorant - it is lethal. just because you and I feel constrained by our upbringing, our education, our sense of morality, even our beliefs, not to retaliate when provoked, not to separate human lives by sect into those with and those without value, not to be willing to surrender our own lives to some greater perceived good, does not automatically bestow the right to ignore the possibility that, underlining these perceived 'evils', is a fundamental disturbance in the global body politic that must - and could - be addressed, providing the means of understanding - the sine qua non of diplomacy - is not continually hamstrung by this kind of semantic censorship. it is possible - nay, easy - to understand and deplore, but to deny understanding as if by so doing we were somehow tainting ourselves with evil is to back ourselves into the same cul de sac of superstition and stupidity that got us all into this mess in the first place.
what happened yesterday in London was appalling. what happened in New York on 9/11 was appalling. what happened in Fallujah in March was appalling.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Glastonbury 2005 - Sunday

Entering the site at mid-day on the third day is like passing through a portal into a Breughel painting - a hyperactive Dionysiac party completely dissociated from real time or place, indeed, from reality in any shape - with added smells. The smells are a mixture of mud, body odour, the cooking smells of a thousand concessions offering every foodstuff imaginable, and the farmyard, because walking around at a wet Glastonbury's not like tromping around in a farmyard where the muck-heap has been overflowing after heavy rain - it is walking around on a farm where the muck-heap has been overflowing, and, with luck, it's just cow muck.

Whatever percentage of 7 million 130,000 is, it's obviously relatively small, so, since the first is the number of online applications there were this year, and the second the number of tickets that were issued - all within three hours of lines opening - the privilege of being offered a ticket for no better or fairer reason than happening to live nearby rather than having to enter that screamingly frustrating online lottery is clearly something akin to being born with a silver spoon in your mouth - hardly your fault, but making you a justifiable target of opprobrium unless you use it, like Paris Hilton, with modesty, discretion, grace, and decorum. So bring on that opprobrium. Easy on the mustard.

The size of the site is something that always overwhelms you, not many people outside the farming community being able to visualise what nine hundred acres actually means. But all distances are increased many-fold by the drag of the mud, the average velocity of the mass of bodies shuffling in your direction (there's absolutely no way of getting anywhere onsite in a hurry) and that of the mass of bodies coming the other way. There's probably a formula to calculate this sort of thing that factors individuals in as if they were molecules in a set of intermingling viscous fluids of varying densities. Anyway, the actual distance, in walking time, between, say, the former New Tent, now respectfully, and to universal approval, renamed the John Peel Stage at one side and the Acoustic Stage at the other, is probably around thirty minutes, with a multitude of intervening possibilities to either get you lost or diverted en route. And besides, as has been endlessly reiterated to anyone who'll listen, Glastonbury is far, far more than a music festival, and if you just wanted the musical experience, the good ole BBC's three-day wall-to-wall radio and TV coverage provides a far more comprehensive (and closer) view of what's going on musically than anything you could hope to experience onsite (although this, the first year without dear departed Peelie, made his loss feel particularly piquant).

So what did I do on Sunday?

  • After having paid £2.50 for a lukewarm café latté somewhere on the main drag, I had a minor grumpy moment and thought, for a festival that's promoting stuff like fair trade and Greenpeace and making poverty history and suchlike worthy farm causes, there's an awful lot of classic capitalist exploitation going on here. I'm also, incidentally, appalled at how much food gets chucked away - enough paper-plates-full of every cuisine known to man discarded in hedges, trampled underfoot, and deposited in overflowing bins to feed a lost tribe. Shame on you all, you pampered wastrels.

  • But then I was an accidental witness to a wedding in the Chapel of Love in the Field of Lost Vagueness - a raucous, joyous event supervised by a jaunty lady vicar in a sea captain's uniform and attended by a chorus of nubile nuns in bra and knickers and coifs - rather like being in a Carry On movie with less suggestion and more delivery - and I got over it.

  • I wandered aimlessly around the fabulous mish mash of neo-hippy art and totally cutting edge environmental showcase that is the Green Fields (my single fave objets being the little hand-painted toy steamboats that chuff around in their plastic bowl powered only by candle-heated teeny-tiny boilers) and had a very encouraging chat with a lady from the British Wind Energy Association saying how, not only has initial local resistance to windfarms almost completely subsided in the face of the reality, but that the UK is now one of only eight countries in the world to have surpassed the 1000 megawatt capacity figure. Embrace the Revolution here.

  • I'm not a main stage kinda guy - don't even get me started on Coldplay - and I wasn't there for the music this year (if I had been, I'd have chosen another day, eg John Peel Stage Friday: M83 - Be Your Own Pet - MIA - cool or what?) but I did happen to come across three bands that I quite enjoyed: Soulwax (Belgian, apparently) on the Other Stage, and Dresden Dolls and Client on the John Peel Stage. On the same stage I tried to like LCD Soundsystem again, wondering if James Murphy's live set would grab me more than his album has, but failed again. I dunno - he's someone I really want to like but can't. So it goes. And I did try to get to Tori's acoustic set, but I mistimed it.

  • Then I sat at the top of the Stone Circle Field looking down on this limbo in the Yeo valley between the Mendips and Pennard Hill that's normally populated by a few hundred cows and pondered the sheer incongruity of it all whilst watching little groups of fellow humans partaking in what seems to have been this year's high of choice - filling balloons with nitrous oxide from little pressure cylinders that look like miniature water bottles, inhaling deep and long from the farting neck, then turning into gurning morons.

  • I Braved The Long Drop (there's a badge I believe) - the infamous toilets built over a bottomless cess pit where a vast flotilla of floaters seethes in the stinking, churning, steaming pool of ordure some fifteen feet below your bum. Every year brings fresh Glastonbury myths regarding some out of his head dipstick jumping into this thing to recover some fumble-lost item - his wallet, his stash, his wits - and never being seen again.

  • I listened to someone in the Leftfield Tent talking more sense about Africa and The Debt in fifteen minutes than the entire church of the latterday pop saints has managed thus far.

  • And I wandered, wondering at the ceaseless wonders, for hours, until, foot-weary, it came time to retrieve my muddy brood, head back to the bus, and home to a hot bath, my dirty wet tent days being as far behind me as my anticipation of further Glastonburies is, hopefully, ahead.

The Ego Strut is something that a depressing number of shameless Pyramid Stage performers took to indulging in this year: this is where they jump down from the stage into the fifty-foot mined (only joking!) no man's land populated by sternly outward-facing security people dividing them from the front row of the crowd and do a prancing preening jig, radio mic in hand, still singing, along the duckboards that've been put behind the chest-high crash-barriers for that purpose; they can, if they choose, remain tantalisingly out of reach of the grasping hands of the faithful whilst they do this, but most choose to bless the lucky few with a touch of the fingertips here and there, as if they were dragging their hands through heads of wheat, and some (Brandon Flowers of the Killers, Felix Buxton of Basement Jaxx) get so carried away by the lerv that they have to be pulled back by the nervous security persons on the point of being literally carried away by the lerv of the fans. It's blatantly god-like (here I am, you mere mortals, drink deep of my immortal presence and weep), the next step on from that pathetic powertrippy superstar gesture of holding out the mic to face the audience so that they can be reassured that we lervs them so much that we knows all the words. Even Shirley Manson of Garbage succumbed to this, although, in her case, it resulted in her acquiring the tackiest accessory of a festival which prides itself on its high level of tacky - a pink plastic sex-doll - which she took back with her when she returned onstage and proceeded to use in a sub-Madonna manner not witnessed often on the Pyramid Stage. (Question: what was he thinking, that guy in the front row who was holding it out to her in the first place? Suspicion: he - and it - was a plant. 'Man masquerades as plant at Glastonbury.' Hardly hot news.) Someone needs to whisper the word 'hubris' in these guys' ears.

And no need, I'm sure, to reiterate the stuff of legend stuff that's already attached itself, like the mud, to the heels of this year's festival as the magic moment for many thousands of people: Brian Wilson's Beach Boys' Greatest Hits set on the Pyramid stage. After the deluge, Brian (they don't call boys Brian anymore, do they?), under blue skies and sun - it had to be - for this dogged survivor of the California surf-rock scene forty years down the track. I just kept thinking of that climactic moment (spoiler alert!) in Anthony Mann's El Cid, the classic 1961 precursor to Kingdom of Heaven, when they lash the dead Charlton Heston upright in the saddle of his horse in order that he might lead his army out of the city gates and on to the final victory charge. Not only can Brian Wilson barely Smile without consciously summoning up the lingering memory of how certain facial muscle groups work - the poor man can barely hold his head upright. He sits full-square centre stage at a keyboard - which he doesn't touch - reciting the lyrics from an autocue, and occasionally moving both arms as if they were being manipulated by some heavenly puppeteer, whilst this rather sinister ageing session group with pot-bellies and thinning hair belts out the numbers around - and despite - him. Brilliant songs, mind. At one point, between numbers, he diverged from the setlist for a moment as some poignant memory of how it was supposed to work seemed to infiltrate his mind, and sang 'row row row the boat' ridiculously high a few times, before waggling his hands in a way which seemed to imply that we do it too - which we dutifully did, all hundred thousand of us, or whatever, until we realised that he seemed almost instantly to have forgotten why he'd done that, and had certainly forgotten that it’s supposed to be a round, and so after a few unison repeats of 'row row row the boat' by the greatest mass choir in musical history the sinisterly smiling session-men struck up the intro to Good Vibrations, we roared our ecstatic recognition, and the moment passed. Excruciatingly embarassing, actually. I had to leave. I tried. God knows, I tried. But I couldn't. Totally hemmed in by the press of bodies, I had to remain. Help. I don't understand. Is it just that everyone knows the words?

In the absence of some global secular initiation rite, Glastonbury has come to represent a pretty fair substitute, and has become one of those defining cultural events that invests each year's attendees with a sort of election. The more rain, the more merit. For us locals, the regular transformation of that parcel of dairy land four miles east of the Tor into a small town with a population larger than our own and all the adjoining villages combined where the most exciting musicians in the world drop by to play for three days once in a while is as definitive as any ritual. It's characteristic that when my kids, who were born here, talk about going to Glastonbury, everyone knows that they're talking about somewhere else that coexists with but is somehow apart from their home turf, somewhere that's a manifestation of the Avalonian magic that comes with the territory here anyway. It's a pragmatic magic, though, and not nearly as fluttery-flakey as some people assume. Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie decided to shit in his own backyard when he came over all punk rocker hessie fit twenty years too late and refused to relinquish the stage for Basement Jaxx, screaming something about wanting to kill all hippies (the title, incidentally, of a song he once wrote) and stuff like that. He was finally escorted off by security, the techs having pulled the plug, to a derisive but forbearing chorus of booing and laughter. He still doesn't get it, I guess. I think this might have been his last Glastonbury.