Saturday, 31 December 2005

My Top Albums of 2005

This is something of a tradition for me so please bear with me if you hate music...scratch that, if you hate music then you are sub-human scum and have no place here.

2005 has been a very poor year, especially for guitar based tunes, although with the likes of The Artic Monkeys and Plan B on the 2006 horizon it does bode slightly better. Having said that I heard a preview of The Strokes new album and it was a pile of horseshit.

Their was surprisingly few re-issue highlights in 2005 but the one stand out is a truly exceptional record: Pearl by Janis Joplin. It came out all repackaged and with a bonus disc of live wailing and is a must for anyone wishing to hear the greatest white female voice in Rock and Roll.

Before I lay on you my Top Three Albums of 2005 I have some honourary mentions to make, starting with the last addition to my epic CD collection in 2005: 29 by Ryan Adams, where (in a year of quantity over quality) he hits his stride in a beautiful, understated record. He seems to be in his Dylan phase and the longer he stays there the better.

Speaking of a Dylan phase, Bright Eyes and I'm Awake and it's Morning is another acoustic based winner with wicked lyrics and a sense of political urgency; while Tom Vek's We Have Sound plugs in to the thin, mercury noise of mid-period Dylan and throws in some looped beats and interesting sounds to meld a startling piece of original music.

As for the big hitters, Coldplay (X&Y), Franz Ferdinand (You Could Have it so Much Better) and The White Stripes (Get Behind Me Satan) don't disappoint, maintaining high musical standards in their search for uber-band status; although the samey nature of these albums stops them from being truly great releases; they seem to have stayed within their boundaries somewhat.

Two final shout-outs go to the excellent Mitchell Brothers and A Breath Of Fresh Attire, which although far from perfect is a wonderful slice of London life in an accessible Grime/Hip-Hop format and holds perhaps my favourite song of this year: Alone With The TV and the GLC, who have managed to produce a comedy album as funny as the first and the joke isn't even wearing thin yet: SAFE AS FUCK.

So my Top Three Albums of 2005 are (in no particular order):

  • Kano: Home Sweet Home. Takes the best bits of Grime, the best bits of Hip-Hop, the best bits of just about every other pop music genre and makes an album that should have launched him to worldwide stardom and his flow is fast, furious and beautiful. The fact he is still only slightly famous shows how morally bankrupt the music business is.
  • System of a Down: Mezmerize. Clever heavy metal that draws on a bewildering array of influences and world music styles and leaves SOD as the leading light in heavy metal by a royal mile and the lyrics take on the political issues of the US to boot. Metallica could never make a racket like these guys. Pity Hypnotize wasn't as good...
  • Antony and the Johnsons: I Am A Bird Now. The voice of an angel, mixed with some of the most jaw-dropping lyrics and sweeping, epic soundscapes creates the finest album of 2005.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Friday, 30 December 2005

Humanist vs Catastrophic

The Humanist Theatre:
We all really agree.
When we laugh together.
Art must be understood.
Wit greases the message.
The actor is a man/woman not unlike the author.
The production must be clear.
We celebrate our unity.
The critic is already on our side.
The message is important.
The audience is educated and goes home happy or fortified.

The Catastrophic Theatre:
We only sometimes agree.
Laughter conceals fear.
Art is a problem of understanding.
There is no message.
The actor is different in kind.
The audience cannot grasp everything; nor did the author.
We quarrel to love.
The critic must suffer like everyone else.
The play is important.
The audience is divided and goes home disturbed or amazed.

Howard Barker. First published in 'Theatre en Europe', 1989. Reproduced in Arguments for a Theatre, Manchester University Press

Guess which side I'm on?

Thursday, 29 December 2005

A Dog Finds Jesus


Christians are my favourite comedians.

Click here to follow the story of Bones, a Redbone Coonhound, and how he met his best friend Jesus and what his new best friend did for him.

I've decided it's been a while since I committed a crime so I'm publishing a memo below which the UK Government are trying to suppress, with the threat of prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. It details our use of intelligence extracted by torture and legal advice the Foreign Office received on the subject.

I could go to prison for this, so if anyone else wants a copy please feel free to copy it and add it to your website.

Wednesday, 28 December 2005

Our Style is Legendary: The End


I've been writing a play about growing up in Nottingham for some time, the first seeds were sown back in 1999, the idea from way before then and the funding came in 2001 but it kinda ground out to a halt after all that. Loss of faith from others a painful inability by me to spill my blood on the keyboard.

December has been spent trying to finish it thanks to a kind nudge from Keith Hukin at Reform Theatre. Now I have to try and get it put on somewhere, find an agent and email it to my friends to read.

It's been a labour of love, a true story that needs to be told, here is the end of the play...

DANNY

He said God needed him there and that it was his time to go. He said that his time was done on this earth and he was needed by Jesus in his kingdom of eternal peace and it may seem early in his life but God's calling comes to us all at different times and let us be grateful for the time that we he had with him…

MICHAEL

Grafteful? Fuckin’ grateful for what?

DANNY

…And remember all the good times and fond memories and let us cherish the thought of him deep in our hearts and he played his favourite song and it wasn’t even his favourite fuckin’ song. But he's not sitting with the angels in heaven is he? He blew his fuckin’ brains out. He blew his fuckin’ brains out all over the Rec and he did it cuz he was so fuckin’ sad, so fuckin’ sad and empty and angry and broken and lost and everything…

MICHAEL

They don't let his sort into God's kingdom Danny, that’s why the vicar had to lie and keep it all a secret.

DANNY

They’re liars.

MICHAEL

Stone wouldn't want to be in God's kingdom anyway.

DANNY

Cut me up seeing Stone’s mum, seeing her sit there, being so brave while everybody else cracked up around her.

MICHAEL

All those tears rolling down people’s faces, all that noisy crying, it did my head in.

DANNY

That noise she made, when the coffin disappeared behind the curtains, it cut me in half. I stuck my nails into my palms, I bit my tongue.

MICHAEL

This is doing my head in.

DANNY

I was alright until she touched me, until she hugged me and I could feel her shake with the pain.

Tuesday, 27 December 2005

Lubricating the Wheels of Idiocy Again

"They're cowards. Why don't they step up and fight like men?"

Anonymous Special Forces Captain, based in Afgahnistan.

Apparently, he had not considered how he might fight if he had no armour, no radio, an ancient rifle and the sure knowledge that if he 'fought like a man', he would be obliterated in minutes.

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Lubricating the Wheels of Idiocy


Blowback: when your actions lead to unintended consequences.

In 2003 the number of terrorist incidents jumped to their highest number in 20 years, in 2004 that figure tripled, figures for 2005 are on their way. Don't hold your breath. Today's insurgents in Iraq are tomorrow's terrorists? Maybe, parallels with Afghanistan can be drawn but the only comparison many people seem to be making is Vietnam.

I've just finshed reading an interesting essay by Melvin R. Laird, Secretary of Defense under Nixon from 69-73 who orchestrated the US army withdrawl from Vietnam and the empowerment of South Vietnam troops; the kind of thing that Rumsfield hopes to be doing. I'd like to share a few of his thoughts with you, they prove to be quite stimulating on the matter of American foreign policy and it's demand for futile, short-term solutions rather than a long-term investment.

"The resulting legacy [of Vietnam]...has left the United States timourous about war, deeply averse to intervening in even a just cause and dubious of its ability to get out of a war once it is in one. [The Vietnam War] is used as thier bully pulpit to mold an isolationist American foreign policy...Those who wallow in such Vietnam angst would have us be not only reticent to help the rest of the world but ashamed of our ability to do so and doubtful of the value of spreading democracy and of the superirity of freedom itself."

One of his most intriguing statements relates to the politicians role within a time of war: "I cannot speak for the dead or the angry. My voice is that of a policymaker, one who once decided which causes were worth fighting for, how long the fight should last and when it was time to go home." Another on the impact of war reporting on the people back home: "Had the mothers and fathers of US soldiers serving in World War II seen a real-time CNN report of D-day in the style of Saving Private Ryan, they might not have thought Europe was worth saving."

Some food for thought before we gorge ourselves...

Friday, 23 December 2005

New York Observations

It may surprise some of my readers but I love America, not in a flag waving way but in an honest and brutal way, call it tough love, that's why I moan so much about it; I expect only the highest standards.

This trip with Marie was my third time to New York, somethings had changed (like the security levels at just about every tourist attraction, although why it was stricter at an iconic landmark like the Statue of Liberty rather than the more practically damaging Empire State Building I'll never know and can you believe that all you get to do at the Statue is to go to the top of the base? In my dad's day you could go up the arm to the top of the torch if you asked nicely!) somethings remained the same (awful customer service, great food but rubbish chocolate, brilliant beer, very tall buildings).
Although the transit strike slowed us down a little at the end of our holiday, we covered most of what we wanted to see, only missing out on the Lower East Side, East Village, some shops and a few museums we didn't have time for. We even explored the Bronx (brilliant zoo with some lovely monkeys) and Brooklyn!

I'm not going to bore you with an itinerary and needless to say we had an amazing time, New York is so dense with sights and sounds, with famous and important places that you kinda stumble from one wonder to another. Yes, the people are rude and mostly customer service consists of individuals who don't speak English scowling at you as you order food but that's the joy of New York!

Some thoughts...

  • Why are Americans so behind when it comes to mobile phones? Instead of hands-free they just shout into them when they're on speakerphone
  • Why is the New York subway ticket system so rubbish and why are there no staff at stations? And while we're at it, there's no suicide pit if people do decide to jump in
  • Men dress very practically which is good, as in the UK men will insist on wearing as few clothes as they can get away with. In the UK a scarf is an accessory not a nessicity
  • Dogs in coats and jumpers, shops like Trixie and Peanut
  • Coke not only comes in millions of great flavours but it is also in bigger bottles. Awesome
  • Water and bread at every restaurant is just the best thing ever and should be made compulsory in the UK, rather than having to feel like a cheapskate when you ask for tap water
  • Cheap food that tastes awesome
  • The Gramercy Tavern is not only a damn fine restaurant but also gave us muffins to take home for breakfast

Marie and I may think of more but for now that's it.

We miss New York already...

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Brief New York Missive


We are back.

It was great.

I proposed to Marie.

She said yes.

Joy all round and more facts to follow when I have unpacked and had a sleep.

Peace.

Thursday, 15 December 2005

And to New York

So very little time and so much packing to do!

Marie and I are off to New York at an un-Godly hour very soon indeed. We shall be gone for many days and we will have great fun and many surprises shall occur...

See you after I've been New Yorked.

Peace.

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Happy Birthday Marie!


I love you with all my heart, my sweet and perfect angel. I am blessed to have you in my life, I am forever your Daniel.

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

I AM A MASTER OF THE ARTS!

I graduated today from the Central School of Speech and Drama with a Masters Degree.

Does that mean that when I'm unemployed I get more benefit?

Today gave me a chance to dress up in my Dior suit and look smart, wear my new Vivienne Westwood tie and see people who I shared an adventure with and whom I miss a great deal.

I also got to see those individuals that I'm ambivalent about.

I spent a great deal of time talking to a teacher who inspired me and gave me a framework for my rage and anger at the ineffectual manifestations of the majority of theatre and stopped me from re-inventing the wheel. Focusing my attention and powers on a just cause, on stories that need to be told.

He bestowed on me giddying, fine words of praise; he embraced me and clasped my hands with tears welling in his eyes as we shared, shared personal truths.

He may have been drunk. Who cares. Some people may disregard his words as addled prose from a fleeting mind but he is a man who no longer takes himself at all seriously, who sees through the posturing of all consuming intensity and rigteousness and who understands that you do not dilute the strength of your convictions if you deliver them with a smile.
Sir, I salute you. May our paths cross again.

Monday, 12 December 2005

Everyone Carries Around His Own Monsters

Richard Pryor said that, he also said "what the fuck am I doing here" and the motherfucker has at last passed away. Bless him, he was, for me, the greatest stand-up comedian of all time; many of his performances are more like jazzy, theatrical monologues that are as dark as they are funny. His angry nigger style not only cut lose a whole raft of black comedians but also liberated the whole medium of stand-up and raised the bar. No one can touch him but it's good to die trying.

One final quote of his that I love: "I live in racist America and I'm uneducated, yet a lot of people love me and like what I do and I can make a living from it. You can't do much better than that." Indeed you can't you crazy diamond.

Sunday was post less because I was in bed with a hangover after too much port at a great party and then Marie's family came to hang out and then I went to the Prince Edward theatre to see Jon Stewart of The Daily Show fame.

He was reading excerpts from his book and then doing a quick Q&A and being very funny indeed, whilst ripping America and its government to shreds. Needless to say, we the audience lapped it up and I had a fantastic night. But...

I can't help but think he's preaching to the converted and that all of us liberals can satisfy ourselves by thinking we're actually doing something about the situation by going to see his show or watching the tele. I'm bored with all the same Bush jokes, they have to stop and be replaced by coherent policies put together about what the American people want for their future and more importantly the apathy felt towards the political processes of both the US and the UK by it's voters. 99% of us should be voting, not 46%, that's disgusting! We need to win back politics from the politicians and empower ourselves through decision making. But I suppose that's not very funny...

I'll leave you with some Jon Stewart quotes:

"If the events of September 11, 2001, have proven anything, it's that the terrorists can attack us, but they can't take away what makes us American: our freedom, our liberty, our civil rights. No, only Attorney General John Ashcroft can do that."

"We begin tonight with a simple, indisputable fact: as a young man, President George W. Bush benefited from family connections to get a place in the Texas Air National Guard, thus avoiding service in Vietnam. As you would guess, this has led to calls for the resignation of Dan Rather."

Saturday, 10 December 2005

Each Post is a Small Death

Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for literature and his acceptance speech was a blustering attack upon Tony Blair and George Bush (surprise, surprise) which has some wonderful moments but I can't help but get the feeling that Pinter is a little politically naive and firing off in the wrong direction and in some cases totally wrong in his evaluation of the United States.

I wanted to print these excerpts from his full speech earlier but I was in the middle of being called anti-American (again) so I was a little brow-beaten but here are my favourite bits:

"As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true."

"I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.' It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US."

"The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading - as a last resort - all other justifications having failed to justify themselves - as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people."

The best bit is where he pretends to be George Bush, or at least his speech writer:

"God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it."

It's a damn fine speech but one that totally negates the voices of dissent in the US and seems to ride roughshod over the majority of people in America who can't abide the war and the reasons behind it.

You may have noticed a new link, it is the blog of the quite marvellous Mohamed A. Hassan, who is based in Egypt, who will bring his powerful and unique perspective to many of you I hope.

Friday, 9 December 2005

Search Party

To ease the self-induced fug I've been in of late, I decided to go and see some theatre and a show my good friend (and talented actor, we trained together at Central) Pete Phillips is in. The show and his company (with partner Jodie Hawkes) are called Search Party and the venue was the The Space on the Isle of Dogs in London.

From the outset is was clear that this was going to be no ordinary night at the theatre, this was a performance event in two parts with tonight's section reflecting the fact that all the creators were living and working in different parts of the UK; attempting to create a performance together but never in the same place and what we the audience saw tonight was the first time this work has ever existed as a whole.

So in theory it should have been a bloody shambles.

And it was but in a nice way, that not only touched me but left me with much to ponder as my balloon floated up into the cold London air...but more on that later. The premise was that we the audience were at a party and we were supposed to be having fun; enjoying ourselves. Party food, soft drinks, balloons, party poppers and party hats had been laid on for our enjoyment and we were encouraged to get into the swing of things but in rather a dead-pan and cold fashion that made you wonder if it was all about to teeter into an altogether darker celebration.

The structures in place to hold this together were in reality a little flimsy: a series of tragedies, fresh starts and new beginnings but at times this conjured some wonderful, performative set pieces: such as when we sang Happy Birthday or showered the 'Birthday Girl' in confetti for her surprise-party-that-was-never-a-surprise party and the attempted conversation between and angel and a girl on a tin can telephone. The dialogue was excellent, when it wasn't being discarded by the actors and was able to stand above any other noise that was being made. It told tragi-comic tales of Trevor and girls with half-finished tatoos.

It was intriguing that Search Party wanted this performance event to bring artists, work and audience together; via the premise of being lost and having fun and them arriving somewhere but seemed to forget that to do that they much reach out to us, connect with us and truly welcome us; rather than utilising a seemingly cold, sinister and indifferent, slightly arch exterior.

However, it is the end of a play that you usually take away with you and Search Party provided a magical ending. On the back of our chairs were tied helium filled balloons, we were asked to write our names and something we are searching for onto cards attached to the balloons and then actors and audience went outside of the theatre and together, released our wishes into the night sky.

I stared up, watching the multi-coloured balloons disappear into the sky I couldn't help but feel deeply touched.

I wrote that I was looking to forget.

Thursday, 8 December 2005

My Dead Best Friend


Ever since Michael died, aged 16 in 1992 about a year ago today, I've been dragging my past around with me, my dead brother over my shoulder and we're trying to make it back to safety after our mission went so horribly wrong.

And I keep talking to him as if he's still alive but he's been dead forever and sometimes I forget he's dead and I get angry when he doesn't respond to my incessant, stupid chatter. And then I remember. And I still lug his heavy corpse on my back, trying to get him home safe, because that's what best friends do for each other.

13 years now brother

It never gets any easier

I miss you

You were beautiful

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

Kidz

This post was set on its way by Jessica and Plan B, thanks to both.

Between the ages of 12 and 16 I did some terrible things to myself and to other people. I am still haunted by those struggles, still haunted by the ghosts of dead best friends and text messages from people I used to know saying another brother is inside for holding up a supermarket, or another brother has took his life; leaving behind a family; the blues of a life trapped in drugs and violence: a pure fucking fury that puts the gun in your mouth. I'm still haunted by the punishment I administrated to my head: flash backs, panic attacks, everything falls apart now and then.

This is not a complaint. This is my punishment for the crimes I committed.
When you feel you've nothing to lose you can do anything.

One of the ways I tried to pay penance for my past was to work with the hardest, the toughest, the hardest to help young people in Nottingham. Versions of me, scuffed up humans with hard hearts and scarred fists; with habits and issues and no trust and no love for themselves or anyone else. Taking out the punishment meted out to them by railing against the whole fucking world. Attention and love needy little adults, heading on a pre-determined path to failure, a path well trodden, a path some of us fell off, jumped off or died on before it could be fulfilled.

And don't give me that shit that we're in control of our lives and we can be whatever we want to be and if you try hard enough you can reach the stars. Some of us start from a place that's so dark we ain't ever seen the stars, we don't know what control is because no one took the time to teach us and the constant dull ache of failure and rejection has sucked the life out of our hearts; that's why we can do the things we do.

Smashing up someone's body is easy when it means nothing to you, when these extremes are all you can ever feel.

It breaks my heart.

So I did the best I could and I did it for them. Giving all I could, even last sinew strained to help, getting them to trust me, showing them respect, going the extra mile because you have to, because you can never give up; you have to show them you're different from all the other bullshit adults that cross their path full of judgments and lies and vagueness. Put your heart on the line and they'll follow but sometimes they'll stab you in the heart when you're at your most vulnerable. You have to hold the hand that hurt you and show them there's plenty more blood where that came from.

It exhausted me. Even worse I got cynical. I became like every other grown up. I knew my time was over.

When I look back on the years I spent supporting young people, being part of lives changing, I think of all the people who moved on, who went on to realise that the stars are on the ground not up in the air and of those that never could. At least they had someone to hold their hand now and then, someone who believed in them, even if it was for a short while.

Monday, 5 December 2005

You Could Have it so Much Better!

I'm horse from silent screaming

Trying to get through the screen of my PC with feral vitriol

Helpful feral vitriol

Sounds like a fuel, maybe it is?

Environmentally friendly fuel with a tendency to get mad at you if you

Fuck up

Or maybe it's a health drink for fitness fags

I meant so say fitness freaks

I was distracted by all my anger

Hey!

Henry Rollins posted me his latest book today, he'd written in the front:

"Daniel, thanks, Henry Rollins"

Thanks for what? For buying your book? Or being

Inspired

By

Your

Words

(I think he meant thanks for taking the time to read his book).

My friend John van der Put writes such good stuff on his blog but the bastard doesn't want people commenting on what he writes, so when I read it and something cuts me down with its profundity I feel so impotent and restless, like an old man with a tiny, shriveled penis surrounded by young beauties asking to be lusted up.

Here is a picture of John doing a really good impression of a monkey:

That is all.

Saturday, 3 December 2005

I Turn My Insides Out

I break down over the ironing board

What a stupid thing to do

I talk in funny sentences about being

Humiliated

Before the night is over

I'll be silently crying next to you

Wanting your touch

"Why did you tell me that?"

I don't fucking know

Friday, 2 December 2005

Heavy Metal Mouth

My last post drained me.

If you left any comments I've responded best I can but for fear of labouring the point I'll make it clear.

  • We'll always agree on saving starving Africans because that makes us feel good but the solution is military intervention which no one will sign up because there is nothing of worth in Sudan, apart from the people and as we know people are worth shit compared with oil.
  • Why any of you believe the destruction of al-Jazeera is a good thing is beyond me, killing voices of dissent is the act of a fascist.
  • The US will cut and run because it's administration and it's people are too weak to stick it out and do the right thing. They went in there and messed it up (under the false pretense of pre-emptive self-defence, which is in itself is a disgusting concept befitting of a bully not a dignified nation) and won't stick around to fix it.

Having read this story I wonder if they'll let me into New York when Marie and I come visiting on the 16th December? It could lead to an interesting debate with the notoriously self-important and aggressive US immigration staff.

Big Daddy Merk is doing some fund raising for a asylum seeker support group in Oxford by selling off a lovely treat, the story is here and the eBay link is here so bid if you fancy; all the money is going to a very good cause indeed.

Finally here is a caption competition that I want you to contribute to because you're all such funny people.

Thank you and goodnight.