Friday, 30 October 2009

BLK JKS at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen

Last night was an amazing night, I have just compiled my top 10 gigs of all time and this might just have to sneak in as a notable mention; it was that bloody good!

This was me and Eva-Jane's third BLK JKS gig after seeing them at Cargo, in Stokey and now at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen but this time we had family with us in the shape of Eva-Jane's sister Gina and her husband Stephen, along with Stephen's good friend Victor.

The pressure was on, I didn't want them to disappoint as Stephen is a fan but never seen them live and the rest are all new to the phenomena that is the BLK JKS. Thanks to Eva-Jane's bravery we pushed our way to the front after the supports acts, the highlight of which was the intriguing, if a little limited, Canadian outfit called Japandroids who were fashionably two-piece, loud and thrashed about to good effect but I just can't help but feel I've been here before.

Anyway, there we were at the front and I noticed the exceptionally gifted drummer and star of the BLK JKS live show with all of his showmanship, beaming smile and charisma that is Tshepang Ramoba and I decided, slightly pissed as I was, to shake his hand and wish him well for the show. He gracefully accepted my out stretched hand and we exchanged thumbs-up before he made his way on stage to set-up his kit.

"OH MY GOD, I JUST TOUCHED A BLACK JACK!" I embarrassingly said to Eva-Jane (when Tshepang was well out of ear shot), whose smiled humoured my fanboy idiocy. Normally I never do this you see, I never try and make contact with the artists I admire but my worry is that these guys will rightly become musical Gods and I will kick myself for never saying to them, face to face, how much their music means to me.

Eva-Jane then spotted that lead singer and guitarist Lindani Buthelazi was waiting to go onstage, playing with his phone and with my courage stoked by one successful BLK JKS interaction and full of unusual courage (otherwise know as four pints of Sleemans) I marched over to greet him.

Some background to this: a while back I got an email off Lindani saying thanks for all the support I'd shown and that he dug a short film I'd made and the next gig in London we should say hi.

So I did.

I was a bit overwhelmed because he recognised me, knew my name and made a lovely fuss of me as we shook hands, before he excused himself to have a fag outside with the invite to hang-out after the show.

I have now touched two BLK JKS!

And then, after his quick ciggie, they played and boy did they play...arranged in a wonky line across the stage with drummer Tshepang at one end, stage left with rhythm guitarist and all round lord of the dance that is Mpumi his polar opposite stage right. In between is ominous controlled and connected bassist Molefi next to the drummer, leaving Lindani slightly centre stage.

And then the beautiful noise commenced, as they played only 5 songs in around an hour but instead of merely re-creating them as on the record, the BLK JKS re-imagined them, exploding them and teasing them out into epic, progressive dub rock soundscapes that were a testament to their musicianship, creative chops and intelligence.

It was a wonderful hour of truly amazing music and if you ever get a chance to check them out you must do.

Postscript: After the gig, having been never one to hang around to meet the artist, I was a little unsure as to what to do, so I just kinda stood around near Lindani as he chatted to some eager fans (was I one of them?) and he caught me eye and sidled away from them and shook my hand.

I gave him a quick cuddle, told him how good it was and said farewell. He mentioned that they are back in London, at the Barbican actually but it is on the 28th November, when I'll be performing myself on the other side of London but more on that at a later date.

I'll leave you with some BLK JKS to while away the day with...

Thursday, 29 October 2009

London Gateway Services

On the 2nd of November 2009 the M1 motorway will be 50 years old.

I love the M1. Being from Nottingham (Junction 25) it was the road that connected me with London when I was a child and we were visiting my dad's parents down south. As I got older it was the road I travelled on for my first teenage exploration of the capitol, then the road I traversed as a touring actor and later the road that took me to my then girlfriend.

Then it became the road that I travelled on with Mark in his Volkswagen Transporter, that was packed to the gunnels with my life as I left Nottingham to build a life as an actor down in London town. Anyone who has travelled southbound on the M1 you'll know that the Nissan offices situation right next to the M1 about 9 miles from London have a sign saying: "WELCOME TO LONDON"

I love that sign, especially that day when I came down to live here for the first time and every time I pass it it reminds me that London is the place I call home and that it a led to more than I can could have ever imagined. Here I am, with a beautiful girlfriend, making a living as an actor and owning my own home in London. All done on the back of the grand old M1.

I must confess, I have a soft spot for motorway service areas, that wonderfully British phenomena of over priced food, smelly toilets and an odd bustle of characters that pace the highways of the UK like motorised ghosts.

M1 has many great services: Tibshelf, Trowell, Watford Gap but my personal favourite is London Gateway; the last or first services depending on which way you approach London; people there after getting out of London having a breather, or the last wee stop as you wade your way into the capitol.

Built in 1969 by the old legends of UK service areas Forte, the most amazing thing about it is that the guns on the HMS Belfast, which is some 12.5 miles away and moored on the Thames, are trained on the service station to not only show how powerful her guns are but that service stations are vulnerable to shelling...

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

My New iMac Makes me Want to get Funky!

After saving up for some time Eva-Jane and I decided to splash out and replace our old 6 year old PC, which was beginning to wheeze and struggle with its puny 512k RAM, with a brand new iMac and boy oh boy, is it a funky bit of mother fucking kit that we are just getting to grips with.

So this is the first of many blog posts from the iMAc and it is feeling good on my fingertips.

In fact, I am enjoying myself so much on this computer that I am feeling very funky...that's right....can I get a witness to the funk? Can I call on a witness to get nasty funky with me?


Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome to Blurred Clarity, the Godfather of funk to lay on ya'll some funky ass moves...the one and only MR JAMES BROWN!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Bible Study: A Very Confusing Book Indeed

Bible studies finished last week with humanity prostrating itself before the Bible in awe at how ruddy bloody amazing it all was. This subservience to the text meant that any queries about an odd passage of writing, or laws that were already out of date, could be dismissed with the idea that puny human language had splintered under the divine impact of God’s power. Reading the Bible literally was like looking at just the face but not the heart, seeing a flat land but ignoring the majestic mountains that surround it.

And if that didn’t work, a quick clip round the ear with the command to stop bloody thinking so much and get prostrating yourself before it.

All this interpretation and prostration led to, naturally, some odd interpretations to please God, such as Europe’s first act of communal cooperation as it crawled out of the primordial Dark Age sludge: the First Crusade. Quoting Jesus as literally as you possible could: “anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” the crusaders, in a bizarre act of love for their God, hacked a few thousand Jews and Muslims to pieces.

Jews in the meantime, when not being attacked by eager to please Christians, were struggling with the two concepts of a God: one who walked, talked, sat on a throne, got jealous, angry and changed his mind…often and without much warning; with a god that was timeless, impassable, didn’t care about mundane events (such as prayers and other tedious business), didn’t create the cosmos because the cosmos and God were eternal.

A struggle that anyone who has contemplated the Abrahamic God will be more than familiar with.

Then came Martin Luther and the noble if not controversial idea that has shaped much of our religious landscape: sola scriptura, the idea that scripture alone is the guide to God’s will and in turn that the Bible can be digested alone, without guidance by anyone else. This gave everyone the right to interpret the ancient and complex documents how they saw fit, which in turn led to the vast raft of Christian sects we now have (there are some 20+ main branches of the faith but each of these has many offshoots), this religious liberty is indeed problematic

Sola scriptura is about the reader making annotations in the margins, erasing the traditional divine gloss and making it a living, breathing, personal document. At first, this method spearheaded by Martin Luther was Jesus-centric to an absurd length, famously leading to his ninety-five theses nailed to church doors and the rift with Rome, the word of the Bible versus sacramental tradition: “a simple layman armed with scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it”. Humanity no longer is looks up to the Bible but stands side by side with it, a comrade in life’s battles and a fundamental switch in how the Bible is perceived and used; it is now the tool of the many.

The came John Calvin, who sought a middle ground less fundamental than Martin Luther, one based on the concept that the large swathes of the Bible that didn’t mention Jesus were just as important, a re-connection with the Old Testament. Less edifying stories were seen as steps on a long path and did not have to be explained away with allegory and exegesis. Calvin also pushed the idea that the ever-burgeoning field of study called science was not contrary to religion but an extension of it. And if you seek scientific knowledge, you do not turn to the Bible but to scientific thought.

The world’s galloping modernisation was progressive and empowering but with it came an inbuilt intolerance towards religious extremism, so in 1620 a party of English settlers travelled across the Atlantic. The English puritans, radical Calvinists, were following the exodus mythology in the Bible, finding a mandate in the bible to repress the Native Americans, all the while seeing their exodus as a precursor to the last days…which so far haven’t come of course but more on that in the final edition of Bible Study.

What was established, in what became the United States of America, sums up many of the contradictions of the Bible. A single text that can be interpreted to serve diametrically opposed interests, from African slaves embracing the same exodus narrative of liberation against their Christian owners, who in turn claimed the Bible’s lax attitude towards slaves as justification for their actions. And from this Biblically justified rising up of the slaves against their owners came one of the most distorted Christian cults, the Klu Klux Klan who used the Bible to justify lynching.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Club Romania Drinks are Free...Fun and Sunshine, There's Enough for Everyone

In between acting work, I am doing rather a lot of teaching at the moment, teaching acting that is or the uses of drama or various acting techniques and this week I had the pleasure of visiting a school that made me a good way.

As is the usual policy here, I will not name the school, needless to say it in the Leyton area of London and I was there to offer a morning of drama workshops exploring the idea of peer pressure (not the in the good sense, ie: the epic scale of peer pressure that holds us all together as humans but the school sense of peer pressure: the many forcing the few to do things they don't want to).

Slightly rambunctious at first but soon set to order when I waded in with some tough discipline, the sessions were going very well, with students producing good work using Augusto Boal's classic exercise on repression: 3 people marching and 1 person dancing; with the aim of the 3 to stop the 1 by any means necessary.

All fine and dandy, until that is the final class of the day came in, nothing untoward at first until I asked them to get into groups and then, the usual fuss aside, I noticed one of the groups was chattering in a langauge I did not recognise.

The teacher, who was a real legend after outing himself as gay and fat while we discussed the homophobic tactic of boys making other boys feel less than them by accusing them of being 'a poof', noticed my confusion and simply said...

"This is Club Romania."

It turns out that a lot of Romanians are coming to live in Leyton and that this school has become a favourite to send young Romanians to, as they bond together, strength in numbers I suppose but the teachers labelling of them as "Club Romania" should have felt wrong but in the context of his style and how they behaved, it was entirely appropriate.

Got me thinking about where you draw the line when working with young people. I'm teaching a lot in mainly Muslim schools at the moment and some cultural elements that I witness really annoy me and seem to hold the children back from engaging and learning, especially the female students who are consumed by a performance of piety and shyness and I struggle to balance my own politics with the demands of my work.

Oh well, at least at Club Romania...

"All that's missing is the sea but don't worry, you can suntan!"

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Atlantic Bridge

I was over at the always very good Back Towards T'Locus the other day and its author has been blogging quite often on a disturbing bunch called "The Atlantic Bridge", which is basically a collection of hawkish, voodoo-economics loving conservatives on both sides of the pond, that want to bring back the halcyon days of "strengthening the special relationship exemplified by the Reagan-Thatcher partnership of the 1980s."

Excuse me while I wipe the vomit off of my desk and personal computer...

The home page is enough to have you dry wretching in your seat as the 'special relationship' is talked of in such high falutin language, with phrases like "noble ideals", "sacrifices rewarded" and "together America and Britain have helped re-make much of the world in the image of liberty and democracy."

I mean seriously, what planet does these people live on? A planet where, without any sense of irony, they have a Margaret Thatcher Medal of Freedom and also hold the Margaret Thatcher Lecture Honouring Dr. Henry Kissinger. I'm surprised they don't have the Milton Freidman Cup for the most repressive regime that pushes through awful fiscal policy with extra points for number of dissidents executed...

My mind started to wander as to what this Atlantic Bridge might look like, would it be something blue and perfunctory like this...

Or perhaps it would have a sturdy, old fashoned look so as not to scare people off...

But then I decided that the Atlantic Bridge would be made out of the bones of those who dared to disagree with it and I think that makes for a fitting look...

Monday, 19 October 2009


I was going to continue with my series of Bible Study posts but then I stumbled upon this blog post and as it is connected in theme to my current musings, I thought I'd share it, especially in the current climate in the UK of casual gay bashing that we have seen with the sad loss of Stephen Gately.

You may or may not be familar with the book in the Bible called Leviticus, it is a pretty hardcore collection of laws and rulings that Jews and Chrisitians should abide by, of course most of them are pretty hard to abide by but as is the trend nowadays, some selective reading has enabled people to pick and choose the laws they like. An oft-quoted section is Leviticus 18:22...

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."

And it goes on to add in Leviticus 20:13...

"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Lovely bigoted stuff but then some American idiot went and got  it tattooed on his arm...

Forgetting of course that at Leviticus 19:28 it says:

"Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD."

Looks like someone will be joining all the gays burning in hell...

Friday, 16 October 2009

Bible Study: Humans are too Stupid to Understand the Bible

Augustine of Hippo’s (354-430) Biblical insights brought about a lovely phase in how the good book was treated. Conceit and self-importance were to be thrown off and replaced with an understanding that the whole truth of the Bible and indeed life itself, could never be fully known; that language was inherently defective and it was impossible to express the divine mystery in scripture.

Thus, disputes over the meaning of the Bible were pointless, ridiculous even, as the Bible expressed a truth that was infinite and beyond comprehension of every single person, therefore humanity is drawn together in a humble recognition of its shared ignorance.

For Augustine, the Bible was about love and any quarrelling over the Bible or a set interpretation was like arguing with God’s love, calling God a liar and was seated in pride, not service to God.

Augustine was almost Jewish in his approach to the Bible, seeking exegesis and outing those that used the Bible to spread hate and dissention as illegitimate Christians. All good stuff which eventually led to the lectio divina concept I’ll be turning to next week…

Sounds great right?

Augustine also sowed the seeds of humans as one big humble ignoramus, unable to comprehend the often bizarre and cruel workings of God and deemed best not to trouble their simple minds with such complexities and just prostrate themselves before the jumbled collection of stories and marvel at its wonder.

Any atheist reading this blog post will be familiar with this, as it is often the religious person’s last and desperate attack in any heated debate: “HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY CHALLENGE AND UNDERSTAND GOD’S WORK?!?!”

This attitude to the scriptures, of reverence to the text itself and the idea that any difficult passages can be negated with a meek shrug, was a new phase in the Bible’s development that stemmed from Augustine’s desire to end the arguments over scripture but instead it just enabled those that wished to misuse the text for their own purposes to have a great line to silence any dissenting voice.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Bible Study: The New Testament Has a Really Shit Ending

Much of what we call the New Testament is actually a bunch of letters written by Paul of Tarsus in an effort to answer questions put to him about the proto-Jewish cult he was the leader of and an effort to spread the word of the man he believed to be the Messiah. He had no idea, or indeed intention, that such missives would become scripture.

Paul also began the process of Christians treating the Torah and its accompanying texts as merely a prelude to the main event that is the coming of Jesus, an unfettering of the Jewish cult from its Jewish roots and its slipping into a new sphere, the world of the gentile, a massive captive audience looking for something outside of the exclusive covenant of Judaism.

And by the middle of the second century much of what would become the New Testament was written, Paul’s letters were joined by the Jesus biographies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John but others, such as Thomas and the books of Ebionites and the Nazarenes are lost, along with what historians refer to as Q, the text that covered the teachings of Jesus and a far more detailed account of his trail, torture and death that was the source document used by Matthew and Luke for their writings. Books for the canon came and went, with only a few constants, which makes the current fad for the verbatim and infinitely wish nature of the terribly flawed document that is the Bible seem even more delusional.

Indeed the New Testament canon was not fixed until around the fourth century, quite simply because it took that long for Christianity to fully take shape into a coherent belief system. But by the time it was in place, it was already heavily edited so that many of the prophecies in the Old Testament rang true in the New, an early insight into the complex relationship that Christians would share with the faith that spawned them. A desire to be separate from the mother faith, to disown it but a desire to also have it anoint Jesus as the Messiah; remember that at this time Christianity was a cult that needed verification as a legitimate religion, something it actually got when Constantine converted in 312.

But that doesn’t stop the New Testament coming across as anti-Semitic, which it isn’t really as it was written by Jews, self-loathing Jews but Jews never the less but it does reflect a real disenchantment with Jewish religion and the aforementioned anxiety to reach out to the gentile world meant that much blame was placed on the authors own people, famously of course with Matthew’s words to the Jewish crowd at the death of Jesus:

“His blood be upon us and our children.”

A phrase that has pretty much been the one steady inspiration behind centuries and centuries of pogroms and raging anti-Semitism.

A special mention has to go out to the worst ending to a book that I’ve read in a long time: the Book of Revelation, which is a vile, toxic, bitter and fearful little snuff movie fantasy by John of Patmos, that very nearly never made it into the canon because it is so bad and ill-fitting. Indeed, many people still consider its entry a moot point, while for many it is all the Bible is. It doesn’t surprise me that it was stuck onto the end, like some embarrassing relative you don’t want in the family photo but its position has fooled many modern Christians into thinking it is the final word.

It is most definately not...

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Bible Study: And in The Beginning There Was Exegesis...

For no reason other than I can, I've started re-reading certain bits of the Bible with Karen Armstrong's excellent "The Bible: The Biography" as my companion, as I delve back into the belly of the beast.

It confuses me as to why a literal interpretation of the Bible, such as we are now seeing influence much policy making and public discourse in the USA, is a relatively modern invention, only really dating from the late 19th century. Up until that point, the idea that Genesis, for example, was a de facto guide to the start of life was something only spouted by mentalists. For most of its history the Bible has been understood with the tools of allegory, exegesis, myth making and skilful interpretation. It is the modern age, with all of its reason and science, that has seemingly placed a massive pressure on the text and its readers have turned to dogma and fundamentalism in order to defend it. But more on that in a later blog post…

Let us begin with the Torah, because this is where the Bible began. It is clear to me that this document was supposed to be fluid, supposed to be and indeed still is, a work in progress; an every changing testimony constantly under exegesis. The early Jews always feared that the commuting of their faith to the written word and page would limit it, make it unmovable and dogmatic; the idea of being written in stone held no sway here; such confines were seen as restrictive, the oral tradition held sway with its organic approach that enables it to move and change with the times.

But slowly the Jewish faith took form in the written word and I for one never realised that what we call the Old Testament wasn’t even finished by the time the New Testament was being constructed; their development ran side by side.

And then the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70CE and along with it, the majority of the varying Jewish cults but one of the few cults to survive and then prosper were of course the followers of Jesus and their musings are full of the horror of that destruction.

It’s odd that many of the things ascribed to Jesus are either not in the Bible or are never explicitly mentioned in it, such as Jesus claiming he is the Messiah, which he does not, it is his followers that do much to build the mythology around Jesus. It's also odd that many of the things that Jesus does say are selectively ignored, such as the personal example he and his followers set.

Let us recall the manifesto of Jesus that comes to us from the Bible: to live as devout orthodox Jews (revere the Torah, keep the Sabbath and observe the dietary laws) with no private property but to share goods equally, to endure voluntary poverty with a special remit for care of the poor and a loyalty to the cult over and above family ties. Finally, evil should always be met with non-violence and love.

Where has this religion gone? It is in the Bible but does not seem to be present on this Earth? Indeed the description of the Jesus cult reads like that of some kind of socialist, hippy squat manifesto. It is also fascinating how the Jewish roots of Christ have been subsumed and hidden.

In my next Bible Study blog I’ll be turning my attention to how a bunch of missives by a collection of cultists, who never ever dreamed that their words would become scripture, as they fully expected their Jesus to come back to them in their lifetime, ended up becoming the New Testament.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Le Donk

Me and the good lady Eva-Jane are off out tonight, after some tuna pesto pasta, to catch Shane Meadows' latest movie "Le Donk" which stars the legendary Paddy Considine and promises to be a right laugh; as it follows the adventures of a hapless Nottingham rapper (you heard) and his failing rodie/manager: Le Donk.

It was made in just 5 days and rightly so The Guardian is wondering why Hollywood, for example, can't make more things in a short period of time, considering the quality of this movie.

We'll keep you posted as to how grand it was but in the mean time, check out Le Donk's break dancing video and swoon at the moves...

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Positive Feedback!

I got an email yesterday from the person running the project I've just finished, the one I wrote about in Slippin' and I wanted to share it with you all because it made me proud...


As we suspected most of them did just say ‘good’ on their feedback forms, but you also got the following feedback:

The best teacher I’ve ever seen

Very good at teaching us new things and concentration

Thanks again!"
I feel so chuffed with that I'm going to treat myself to some roast chicken in a white wine sauce with some dauphinoise potatoes.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Things I Find at London Bus Stops Part 17

I don't know what it is with bus stops in London and the ones that are near my gaff but they are becoming a rich source of material for my blog.

There I was, minding my own business in Wood Green, waiting for a bus to take me home when I spied a home made poster sellotaped to the bus shelter...

It warns us that Helen Yemane (pictured) is a devil and a liar, just in case you had forgotten that one of the skills usually attributed to a devil is its ability to lie at the drop of a hat. It then mentions Quicksilver in Wood Green, which is one of those terrible amusement arcades with nasty ceramics in the window, where people go to piss away their dreams, where one can only presume she works; indeed the attached phone number belongs to Quicksilver.

We then have the magic moment that, based on a grainy, badly photocopied image of a slightly startled looking Helen Yemane, someone deigned her sexy and felt compelled to scrawl over the top of the poster.

The mind boggles as to what poor Helen did to offend some one so much that they felt moved to make posters of her and put them up not too far from where she worked. Is it the classic story of a spurned lover (rightly spurned, if they make fucking posters of you and stick them to bus stops) or is she in fact a devil (if not the devil) and a horrible liar?

I've decided that I'm going to visit Helen Yemane this Thursday at Quicksilver and ask her about the devil thing.

I'll keep you posted as to how that goes...

Monday, 5 October 2009

"If it Wasn't for us You'd all be Speaking German!"

When debating some Americans online, especially those that cling onto the right-wing mindset at all costs, as if battening down the hatches against the perfect storm that is reasoned discussion; the aforementioned debate will, at some time or another, descend to them confusing a dissenting voice with the dreaded bigotry that is being anti-American.

"YOU HATE US FOR OUR FREEDOMS!" they cry, which is usually followed by sharp insinuations that you are some kind of liberal, fag, Jew, Commie American-hater who may or may not support such conservative America bete-noires as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. After this, the more idiotic amongst these twats, the true uber-gits will then bring up World War II and make it very clear that us Brits would all be eating Frankfurters, speaking German and goosestepping about the place if it weren't for the brave intervention of the Yanks.

Septicisle over at the ever-excellent Obsolete turned me on to the following image, taken from the Life magazine archive and shares the data from a poll taken of Americans before their entry into WW2. It makes for interesting viewing...

(click on the image to make it bigger)

Thankfully, they backed us regarding who they wanted to win but the other stats make for quite disturbing reading, especially the 29% that were willing to sell goods to both sides.

You see, whenever you encounter a blustering American boosting of their nations involvement in WW2 to justify themselves and their country (after they've successfully constructed the strawman that you hate America and its precious freedoms), you may just have to remind them that Roosevelt dragged the American people kicking and screaming into the war, against popular opinion and after doing a nice piece of hoodwinking at Pearl Harbour.

That and the fact that many had no issue with selling stuff to the Nazis...