Tuesday, 31 March 2009

For Eva-Jane: Blood Bank

Well I met you at the blood bank
We were looking at the bags

Wondering if any of the colours

Matched any of the names we knew on the tags
You said "See, look that's yours!

Stacked on top with your brother's

See how they resemble one another

Even in their plastic little covers?"

And I said, I know it well

That secret that you know

But don't know how to tell

It fucks with your honour
And it teases your head

But you know that it's good girl

'Cos its running you with red

Then the snow started falling

We were stuck out in your car

You were rubbing both of my hands

Chewing on a candy bar

You said: "Ain't this just like the present

To be showing up like this."

As a moon waned to crescent

We started to kiss

And I said, I know it well

That secret that we know

That we don't know how to tell

I'm in love with your honour
I'm in love with your cheeks

What's that noise up the stairs babe?

Is that Christmas morning creaks?

And I said, I know it well

I know it well...

Monday, 30 March 2009

Brian Clough

Eva-Jane and I went to see The Damned United at the weekend, a film based on a book which is very loosely based on possibly the greatest English football manager of all time, Mr. Brian Clough OBE.

The film, although terribly flawed and with a bad habit of making things up, thus blurring the fact/fiction of the tale, is a cracker but mainly because Brian Clough was such a legend and a perfect lead character for any biopic.

We went because not only was one of our friends and my acting student in it, playing a Derby County footballer (Roy McFarland to be precise) but because, as a Nottingham lad, Brian Clough is part of my history and heritage. I may be a Manchester United fan due to falling in love with Ron Atkinson during his time managing the club but Nottingham Forest and the sheer genius of Clough are always close to my heart.

I was lucky enough to meet him a few times, as I used to watch Forest reserves play, as well as youth team matches when I could, the tickets were cheap and it beat trying to get my dad to drive us to Manchester every week to see the great United play. He always had time for the fans, a handshake here, an autograph here and some wise words or funny story to tell us wide-eyed boys, that we'd re-tell as we journeyed home on the bus over Trent Bridge and through the Meadows; all trying to do our best Brian Clough impression.

I can't help but feel that we'll never see his like again in football and that when Alex Ferguson eventually retires, the last link to the time of Clough will have come and gone. But until then, Clough lives on in all those that saw his great teams play the beautiful game, the raft of players he has given us that still light up football, mostly as managers now and his son, Nigel, who was a deft footballing talent and the current manager of his dad's old club, Derby bloody County.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Crying at the Coal Face

It can't be easy being naturally gifted?


I wouldn't know, I've got some instinct but much of what I've got was gotten via graft

True, the older I get the better I get

And I am pretty good

But you're young and brilliant

Be proud please

It's not a millstone, or a curse

It's a blessing and a back-up

And no one can take it away from you

Not matter what they say

And as I stroked your hair and gave you a kiss

I felt your tears land on my arm

I held onto you

And did my best

Because, my boy

I love you

And what you've got

And I'll do all I can

To guide you on the path

You've got to walk, on your own

Swatting away the twats

They'll try and distract you

I won't be there

But if you look hard enough

I will...

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Raped and Killed for Being a Lesbian

I read this article some time ago but just wanted to share it, because it's content is so deeply disturbing and I think it deserves a wider audience.

The country in question is South Africa, which, like much of Africa, has a deeply ingrained phallocentric, macho culture; which has not only enabled the wildfire spread of AIDS/HIV but also enabled the oppression and repression of women.

This story perhaps sums up best the backwards attitudes still rife in that fine nation, the idea that lesbianism is somehow a disease, or a fatal flaw, that can be corrected by, in this case, gang rape, genital mutilation and in the peaked frenzy of such acts: death.

It's like the witch trials of Dark Ages Europe and developing America, these women, free in their choice of sexuality, are somehow a slight against the male-centric culture and an attempt is made to cure them of their illness by depraved and violent behaviour, these women are a walking reminder of the eternal weakness of man.

Please read the article in full, it really is heartbreaking to think that as a species we are still riddled with such primitive flaws and obviously, it is not just South Africa and the African continent that has a problem still, the entire world is still blinking through a myopic view when it comes to sexuality.

Speaking of which, I'll leave you with the cartoon below that I stumbled upon whilst Googling for images for this post...

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

I've Just Read The Communist Manifesto...

And it's a bag of shit.

Seriously, how this pamphlet became a document that shaped a large part of the world I've no bloody idea. It just comes across as the most unworkable pile of tosh, revolutionary thinking yes but utterly unworkable.

It closes with the rousing, if slightly off statement, of: "WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!"

With a view no doubt to destroy the bourgeois and then replace them but in the process not become bourgeois and to remain, somehow, stuck as exactly what you were, in some grand denial of the basic tenets of humanity itself, to become revolutionary but not revolt within oneself. To change yet be the same. Good grief, no wonder it all fell on it's arse.

One bit did hit home though, especially in the current climate of faux-socialism and fear of this faux-socialism (which is as odd as having a problem with fake fur but I digress...), when Marx writes in reference to what I paraphrase as liberal do-gooders, humanitarians and philanthropists:
"The Socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeois without a proletariat."
This is the world we live in, of people thinking they can have their cake and eat it, that somehow the capitalistic hegemony we all exist in can happen without the nasty side effects and that somehow, individuals in the framework can be blamed, rather than taking on the Earth shattering news that is the entire framework and structure of modern existence that is, perhaps fatally, flawed.

No one, understandably so, wants to take this massive task on but rather offer populist band-aids for the wounds and hope no one notices as the thing creaks on.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Email of Support Re: Poles Apart Part 2

Mark & Dan

I know we said how good the show was the other night but couldn't’t let it pass without formally recording how much we enjoyed the show. I read the comments on the blog, especially the guy from Taunton and yes, you were expressing some comments about the troubles that the Poles have had to endure but we do need reminding of these issues and if comedy makes us think about the horrors that mankind inflicts upon his fellow beings then so be it, because we do need reminding.

Having been to Poland and seen the horrors left behind we cannot even contemplate what it must have been like and we certainly don’t want to experience that again.

On a lighter note it was a tremendous show and we just hope that you keep on producing such master pieces, both of you are brilliant and you both seem to hit it off so well together, (or is that the hours of practicing?).

It was an excellent evening, well done and we look forward to the next show.



Monday, 23 March 2009

The Perfect Show

Poles Apart is over.

And what a final week it was, from the steepest theatre in Britain at Salisbury, where we played to 160+ punters, through to a quiet night in the arse end of Wales, before ramping it up in style at monster gigs in Warrington (a play of two halves but by Act II it was on fire), Sale (where we ruled like comedy Gods in front of a home crowd) and signing off in Stafford, where a lovely audience gave us a great night to remember Poles Apart by.

Indeed, Mark and I felt it was the perfect show, not one single error from us and not one single technical glitch; add that to a terrific Stafford audience, utterly committed to giving us the love a good audience always does, got the love back a million fold. A perfect way to end what has been a fantastic experience, with a perfect show.

Having said all that, it might not be done just yet...

We had some important people come and see the show in Sale and they liked it a great deal, so Mark is currently in negotiations with regards to doing another tour but of venues in the next level up, not that many of the venues in this tour were pants, it's just that we may have an opportunity to play even bigger theatres and bigger audiences.

I really hope so.

Poles Apart is a play of which I am very proud, funny but educational, political but without alienating the audience, maybe we haven't seen the end of it just yet...

As for me, back to the actor's life of being unemployed, which means the Internet and the Wii will get some hammer over the next few months, until the next job rolls into view. Having said that, I've plenty of teaching to keep me busy and the blessing of not really needing to work due to my Kohler shower commercial being taken out for yet another year.

But you can't help but fear if that is the last time you'll ever be in front of a paying audience as a professional actor...the noise of the Stafford applause is still ringing in my ears and I hope I don't have to wait too long before I earn myself some more.

Monday, 16 March 2009

See A Grown Man Cry

(The above image is of Lewis Thornton Powell, also known as Lewis Payne, one of the conspirators in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. He attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate United States Secretary of State William H. Seward on the same evening that Booth shot Lincoln. Payne was one of four people hanged for the Lincoln assassination conspiracy)

Last Tuesday I was killing time, after seeing a show at my alma mater, my train to Taunton wasn't for ages, so I decided to have a burger and some onion rings at the Fine Burger Company on Finchley Road.

As I tucked in, I was eager to finish reading the utterly exceptional and compelling book, that I mentioned here, entitled "Team of Rivals". It documents the rise and genius of perhaps the greatest US President, Abraham Lincoln but obviously, as the book draws to its inevitable and horrible close, the death of this great man fast approaches.

The book moves with pace as it recounts the events of that fateful night and as the death of Lincoln came and went and the eulogies from those that knew him were documented, I felt the sudden rush of tears to my eyes.

I found myself sobbing, utterly distraught that such a giant amongst humans, indeed perhaps one of the greatest to have ever walked the Earth, had been stolen by such cruel and desperate violence. Even one such as he was not above being taken by humanity's basest instincts and petty madness. The grief felt all encompassing but I had to gather myself, settle the bill and make my way to Paddington.

I'll leave you with my favourite part of the book, which is the moment of Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation:
As the parchment was unrolled before him, he "took a pen, dipped it in ink, moved his had to the place for the signature" but then, his hand trembling, he stopped and put the pen down. "I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper" he said. "If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it." His arm was "stiff and numb" from shaking hands for three hours, however. "If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation," Lincoln said, "all who examine the document hereafter will say, 'He hesitated.' " So the president waited a moment and then took up the pen once more, "slowly and carefully" writing his name.
Now he belongs to the ages...

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Poles Apart: Penultimate Week

We are nearly there, never over, nearly done, indeed, this time next week Poles Apart will be over.

The penultimate week was a game of two halves, busy but conservative audiences in Taunton and Lyme Regis (of all places), things picked up in Bury (where blogger of some repute Flâneur was in full effect), went through the roof in Derby and peaked in Aylesbury with a massive night.

The last two really were big laughs, postive spirit and a genuine feeling of a job very well done, it is those gigs that remind you why you do it and the true joy of live performance, of people in a room having a shared experience.

Before I go and spend some quality time with my beautiful Eva-Jane, I have to share this image I saw in Taunton with you...

Please welcome to Blurred Clarity, Taunton's top wall caresser and light entertainer, Vicki Louise. Her posters may be shit but an evening of her singing demands your dancing shoes, your vocals and the threat of lots of fun to be had.


Monday, 9 March 2009

What Are The Chances?

There is a part of the show in Poles Apart where I get a couple from the audience to join Mark (playing Polish waiter Tomasz) and I on stage. The idea is that the couple will get to experience Polish culture and cuisine in an amusing way and it's always a real highlight of the show; as you never know what will happen.

However, on Saturday, we were in Goole, which is blessed with a great theatre but is one of the shittest places in Britain...anyway, I digress.

Selecting people from the audience is always fraught with danger, in Poles Apart the main aim is to not pick a Polish couple (which is hard as they often make up 25% of our audience) as getting them to experience Poland is pretty pointless, the next aim is then to choose someone who will not say no and the final aim is to pick the winning couple that will take the banter in the good will it is intended and bring the house down.

On Saturday, I managed to pick a mute.

Yes, that's right, I selected someone who was unable to speak and had their voice box removed. What are the fucking chances of that?

In a blind panic and then turned to another couple to come on stage and they point blank refused, in desperation I went for a guy and his wife who I'd already struck up a rapport with and thankfully, they agreed.

What are the odds on me picking a deaf, dumb and blind boy who sure plays a mean pinball, tomorrow?

Friday, 6 March 2009

The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

It's good whilst on tour, with the constant travelling between venues, to have an excellent book to keep you company and I am currently battling through the exceptional "Team of Rivals", which I'm reading because Barack Obama did.

I know that sounds trite but having devoured both of his own texts, any book that carries the stamp of his approval (aside from the Bible, which I've already read) is, for me at least, a must read.

It is a weighty historical tome that attempts to bring light to the rise of Lincoln, his brief time in power and flesh out those that were his rivals and in time, became allies. I'm about half way through it's 900+ pages and it is a marvellous and enlightening book that I cannot recommend enough, both as a biography of greatness but also as a self-help guide to good leadership.

I'll leave you with one of my favourite bits so far, that still speaks volumes today in our divisive times...
Lincoln had nothing but disdain for the discriminatory beliefs of the Know Nothings. "How can any one who abhors the oppression of Negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except Negroes.' When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except Negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.' When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty-to Russia, for instance."

Thursday, 5 March 2009

How to Detect Propaganda

Great little document right here, which offers a brief but powerful guide to the key elements of propaganda, think of it like a 'Propaganda for Dummies' type read.

In a nutshell then...

  1. Name Calling: the application of 'bad names' to opponents with no thorough discussion of what the term implies, to induce fear and hatred and to remove the need to examine evidence and call directly upon the emotions
  2. Glittering Generalities: the use of 'virtue words' that appeal to positive aspects of our nature, such as freedom, honour or the American Way (trademark, all rights reserved). First use name calling to get the victim angry then glittering generalities to make them happy they are angry
  3. Transfer: the device by which the authority or prestige of something respected or loved (the church, the flag, a historical figure) by the victim is transferred over to the agenda of the propagandist
  4. Testimonial: a well known method to make us accept something on the grounds that someone else does; can also be twisted into the counter-testimonial
  5. Plain Folks: utilised by the propagandist to appear as if they are 'just like us' in order to elicit feelings of empathy, understanding and to cloak their real background and origins
  6. Card Stacking: the employment of all the arts of deception; sham, hypocrisy and effrontery in order to stack the cards against the truth. Use of under and over emphasis to issue dodge and insertion of new themes and issues to smokescreen difficult facts
  7. The Band Wagon: the device to make us follow en masse, to be part of the crowd and the alleged majority. The suggestion that 'everyone is doing it' to 'follow the crowd' or to 'not be left behind in the minority'
You've been warned, keep 'em peeled and see just how often these techniques are used to play on our emotions, to manipulate and get us to act without thought, evidence and reflection.


Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Sarah Palin is GOP Front-Runner for 2012, I Can't Decide Whether That's a Good or a Bad Thing

I lied, it's most definitely a bad thing.

CNN reports that Palin is the current 2012 favourite for the Rethugs, Mike Huckabee is close by in second, Mitt Romney third, with Bobby Jindal a long way back in fourth. 10% of those polled have no bloody idea who to pick. Which is fair enough as, thankfully, the right is lacking quality politicians and characters of note.

But how anyone can seriously back someone as empty, thick and myopic as Sarah Palin confounds me and my expectations and beliefs about American people. Yes, I know, these are the same people who propelled Bush Jr. to eight years of power that very nearly destroyed America financially and spiritually but surely they are human and can see the damage he caused?

Why would you back a contender who is a carbon-copy of the idiot-savant we've just got rid of that crippled a great nation? Seriously, I struggle to pin a redeemable feature on Sarah Palin.

What is left when you've stripped away the belief in creationism, far-right Christianity, hatred of gun control, anti-abortion in all cases, thinks stem cell research is against God, anti-sex education, naive bordering on ignorant on foreign policy, no interest in global warming or the extinction of animals, backs drilling in Alaska, cuts taxes as deficits hit the roof, free-market health care (HA HA HA!), pro-death penalty, criminalising all drug use and a loather of rights for immigrants and economic migrants?

On one hand, surely she is so incompetent and extreme that she has no chance of power after four years of Obama but my faith in American's ability to separate the wheat from the chaff is constantly tested.

Here's hoping...

Monday, 2 March 2009

Hard Week, Hard Volume, Hard Newbury

Hard week last week.

We spanned the country in our efforts to perform Poles Apart, from North Devon all the way to Glasgow (via Manchester=475 miles but worth it as Glasgow audiences are cracking), a brief stop off at my new most hated place in the UK: Newbury (via Manchester=390 miles and why Newbury has 4 fucking theatres when no fucker ever comes to see 'owt...) and then a home match (of sorts) at Newark, Nottinghamshire (128 miles).

Hard graft was worth it as, aside from the typical Newbury bullshit, we had a great time, seriously, Newbury is the new Shropshire but the rest of the gigs were not only busy but stormers. I'm going miss being in front of a live audience when this tour is over...

I also got some great news this morning, it turns out that British people are cleverer than I thought they were, as four out of five Britons repudiate creationism. I always knew that us Brits had an edge over Americans with our belief system but it turns out we are more Godless than I thought, which is good news indeed. I thought that our slide towards the worst elements of Americanism meant we would all start becoming Bronze Age, backwards thinkers but thankfully not.

Now all we need to do is convince those people across the river that God needs be kept as far away from politics, education and science as possible...