Monday, 19 February 2007

raging at capitalist jokers

Raging at capitalist jokers

Ok, before I start this rant I have to assure you folks that I am not a socialist. I think socialism is not an answer, and I have never agreed with the idea that it was all Stalin’s fault, as if it was such a rip roaring success under Mao.
But that doesn’t mean I am a capitalist and recently an annoying trend has been happening in the world of capitalist advertising that I feel compelled to comment upon.
It all began last year when I was happily reading ‘The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas’ (great that, really touching and funny, particularly when she says ‘and we all thought the futurists were very dull’) when a booming voice from the television announced to me that ‘car is a car is a car’.
As I am sure you are aware, what it should be is:

Rose is a rose is a rose is a roseLoveliness extreme.Extra gaiters,Loveliness extreme.Sweetest ice-cream.Pages ages page ages page ages.

It is one of the loveliest modernist poems really. Really it is! It is about love, and nature, and how things are and how things are seen and how things seem.
What it isn’t about is FAST CARS!!!!
After I had recovered my initial anger at the blatant misuse and misrepresentation of Stein’s work, I started to ponder what the purpose of rewriting the poem was. Was it to try and associate the car with great art, classic works, making the car seem great and classic in its association with literary masterpiece? Trying to make a product great by association is nothing new, that is surely the purpose of celebrity endorsement, and careful choice of background music (Devendra! Joanna! Why the sell-out to Orange!!??)
But to actually take someone’s art and twist it to new purpose was something that I had not heard before.
I began to wonder whether a further interpretation could be that this is a big joke on people who actually care about art and the meaning behind it. Stein was a radical lesbian proponent of the modernist movement. Her influence helped create Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Djuna Barnes, HD and all the right on women who lived in 1920s Paris, and a good few of the men too. By appropriating her work in to advertising, it is condensing her radical achievements in to the confines of how it can be used to sell a product. It is reductive.
But the amount I was pissed off at cars raping Stein, was nothing against the anger I felt at egg credit cards! Egg credit cards!
First of all, I found the whole egg concept of gay guinea pigs pretty offensive, not to say weird. But my real problem lies in what they have done to Barbara Kruger.

(there should be photo here of 'your body is a battle ground' but i couldn't get it to work, stupid computers)

Egg credit cars have taken a Barbara Kruger illustration and reworked it so that the text is about credit cards! Fucking credit cards! Barbara Kruger as an artist attacks the establishment, exposes it for what lies beneath, speaks the truth fro women, for the oppressed, and makes powerful bold statements in strong angry colours that make you sit up and notice and think. I bet she doesn’t even have a credit card.
Anyway. Enough of the explanations. What really matters is the reason behind all this advertising appropriation.
It seems to me that the makers of these ads, and the companies that engage them, want to neutralize the radical to make it weak and impotent. Take the Kruger advert. The idea of the female body being a battleground is dangerous and frightening in its honesty. Turn it in to an attractive rate for your credit card to go and buy the items that make the female body in to that battle ground – the statement is twisted to become meaningless. A poem about creation becomes a slogan about status symbols. It is similar to the trend of beauty product adverts to use feminist slogans ‘take control’ ‘feel liberated’ to sell products that, as Wolf suggests, continue to repress women. Their idea of taking control of your life and your body loses its power when applied to your ‘sagging skin’.
It is all a big joke I feel. Like, the people who use this in their adverts are laughing at every attempt to subvert, radicalize or be honest. Try as hard as you like, they say, we’ll still twist your work to the benefit of our product. All explosive art and politics therefore becomes centralized, softened and rendered as putty in the hands of exploitative industry. They take what is important and render it meaningless, and therefore put an abrupt stop to statements of change. And they laugh and laugh and laugh. It is the continuing destruction of beautiful and radical art in to sound and vision bites that twists and denigrates their meaning. As it continues, the radical becomes central and the industry takes away its credit as a statement, making it an afterthought of a society that becomes more concerned with immediate comfort than the change that great art can bring to people.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

this month i am enjoying...

things that are making me happy in february have been....

discovering 'spaced'
simon amstell presenting 'never mind the buzzcocks'
listening to the new Joanna Newsom album and realising more and more about it on each listen
Josephine Foster
rediscovering Jane Austen
deciding Mary Shelley is my role model because she may be the coolest lady of all time. check out her family! she heard kubla khan before it was published. she wrote frankenstein (thanks for the lend jay) which invented post apocalyptic sci fi with a conscience, and she eloped with shelley who was pretty.
j dilla's the shining even though i can't get it
shackleton and the rest of hench
she's the one by james brown
bob and earl's harlem shuffle
lauryn hill's the sweetest thing
the sample on ghostface's 'whip me with a strap' and generally that album is sweet
vicki anderson - what a soul sistah
spank rock
listening to jay scratch, then apologise, then get up and scratch some more,
still stone riddim's catch me. still!
wevie stonder
reading bass clef's blog and listening to bass clef's songs
my veg box
missing my friends and realising that missing them is loving them

there is a lot of stuff to love this month.

Master Chaynjis and Kid Carpet at the Cube

Master Chaynjis/Kid Carpet, The Cube, 17th February

Been quite a musical week for me, what with Devlin and Darko of Spank Rock on Thursday, then le Surge at Hermanos on Friday, and finally last night off to the Cube to see Master Chaynjis launch their EP ‘Only Death can save us’.
I know I have a giggle at the Cube every now and then, but I do love that place, I have a strong emotional attachment to it, and I think in some ways that adds something to my enjoyment of the bands I see there – except that AWFUL one where they were sitting under the stage, I shudder at the memory, I do!
The Master Chaynjis are obvious film buffs, and used this to create the atmosphere of the evening. The staff were dressed as old skool ushers giving out popcorn and choc ices (!) and the evening opened with the beginning of fifties B movie ‘The Siren who fell to earth’. I was enjoying all the wide eyed stares as the siren discovers her new body on earth, when the soundtrack began to be overlaid with the beginnings of the set and the band made their entrance -Sarah on violin and glockenspiel, Ben on double bass (bow fiddle? Someone please explain Jack Lemmon as Daphne to me!) and Sam as lead vocals and guitar.
Sam’s voice is difficult to describe in words, and I want to say that he reminded me of a black woman, but not in the way that Anthony and the Johnsons do, and that does sound a bit trite in ways that I don’t want it to. It is very deep and soulful, with a lift to it that is almost spiritual and really sweeps you in to the music. This mixes well with Sarah’s and Ben’s harmonising, puts an extra weight behind his lead vocal to give the sound of the singing an extra level. His voice is really breathtakingly beautiful, and so unlikely. Sarah sings sweetly, with a jazzy breathiness that complements Sam. Meanwhile, Ben’s double bass works with the jazziness of Sarah’s voice and puts the oomph in to the songs.
So musically it was all gorgeous. And the lyrics and the beauty of the songs blew me away. I’m going to digress for a moment so bear with me. As a writer I feel that honesty is my strongest point, and I find that people enjoy that aspect of my stories, that they feel real, and can be understood through their honesty. This is how I felt about the band’s music. Or maybe a little like I was the object of ‘Killing me softly’. So much of the lyrics seemed to be speaking right to me, and I felt almost in tears through much of the set. I felt that lyrically, the band tackled painful and intense modes, without resorting to overdone images, ridiculous metaphors or cliché. Instead, they presented feelings and emotions as honestly as you can, and in this simplicity lies the power it had to move. I was particularly struck by the line in ‘The bear with a glint in his eye’: ‘his paws touch your feet and you don’t mind’ – with a man watching the girl he loves being with another man, the beauty in that line is that it doesn’t become overdone, the reference to the boorishness and nastiness of the rival is encompassed in passing phrase. I also really loved ‘On the way from your house’, again for its honesty and simplicity. They explain experiences that we have all been through and emotions that we have all felt, thinking of anything other than what you should, because the thoughts are too painful. A lot of things were coming home to me. It is the moments that you get in songs like these which are most moving, moments that are understated and so powerful in their quietness.
The band showed a promising variety in their music as well. There were the slow numbers which were painfully beautiful, but an obvious folk and country influence came in to play also. Near the beginning of the set was the up-tempo ‘Jacqueline Denbigh’ (I hope that is right?) which resembled the patterning of an old country ballad, telling the tale of what happened to Jackie, that was part Victoriana, part Johnny Cash. Lovely! Plus they kept up the great fifites visuals which complemented well the songs that they used them against.
As performers they were such good fun to watch. They exuded a real love and warmth for what they were doing, making jokes with the audience and explaining funny anecdotes about the songs, setting them apart from the all too ubiquitous take ourselves too seriously crowd. Their ease made the evening so much more fun, and really had an effect on the audience’s reactions to the song, as they took you from one emotional extreme to the other.
The “intermission” featured a musical saw played by a man who had walked out of the twenties. Which always makes me happy! He made the saw play sweeping sounds over a stringed background to great effect, felt like I was in ‘Cabaret’ which is a good place to be.
Next up was Kid Carpet. Can’t believe this was the first time I was seeing him, having heard so much about him, and he was worth the hype. He was like an explosion of electronica energy onto the stage, and played the audience as well as he did his sampler, making them laugh and dance in their seats. He has such a good use of sampling and looping, the songs seem really organic and he is right on beat. Mixed with his baby synth (I think that is right, was hard to see) and his unique vocal stylings the whole effect is really really fun. What is interesting however is underneath all the hyperactivity his lyrics contain a pretty serious message, be it about mainstream culture, class or the Olympics. Plus I have never heard someone put so much life and feeling in to the words ‘boob job’ before! A particular highlight was when he got out his toy guitar and with its customised samples, and when he played the invisible guitar. I’m such a sucker for people picking the weirdest samples and making use of odd objects as instruments, so I really enjoyed his sound. And although innovative, he is a completely unpretentious performer, something which can be quite rare in electronic music sometimes! He is so wicked to watch, he exudes a joy of the music and of performing that gets the audience swept up with him. It doesn’t even matter if he makes a mistake, because the crowd are behind his every move. And like Master Chaynjis, he uses simple but poignant lyrics with energised and complex music to astounding effect.
And I can’t say much more than that.

thoughts in winter

hmm, not so sure about this one. i like a couple of the lines though, so hey, might as well share it with you folks.

You clink your can against my mug in a cheering motion, as I look at you slightly sceptically. I’m aiming for the thirty six year old in a black dress with pearls, the kind of look that makes me look worldly wise and all knowing.
‘I’m trying to escape life,’ you laugh.
And I laugh back, but I feel like I am semi mocking. I don’t think you can escape it.

It didn’t bother me at first. I arrived in the city from the mountains, and in the beginning, in the beginning, the town seemed an escape. It didn’t take long though. It was the grey that did it. It seemed to be entrenched in the very sky. As you breathed in the air, you felt the grey seeping into you skin.
‘That’s how it happens,’ I would think, looking at the colourlessness of the faces looking through me. ‘You breathe in this air, and it turns into your very pores.’ It was terrifying to me. Each night in front of the mirror, I’d look carefully, obsessively, at the reflection that faced me, searching for the starting points of that deathly greyness.
Up in the mountains, there you can breathe.
The city leaves me feeling bruised. I’m not strong enough for this place, I think. It is too big for me.
But I didn’t mind it at first, that thought plays on my head, like a drumbeat. I didn’t mind I didn’t mind. Why does it bother me now, then?

I remember you holding my head in your hands and telling me I was beautiful, and for the first time I believed the words, for the first time they were real to me. And now, now when your hands are gone and you no longer say it, I look in the mirror to see me no longer beautiful, no longer believable. I lie on the bed and close my eyes and I think, at least I can sleep. I sleep like I’m dead.

I pour myself a glass of wine to try and warm my body up. If I’m warm maybe I’ll hurt less. Everything seems hard these days. I walk through the city and I can’t concentrate on my feet, I can’t concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other because it is too hard. So I decide to sit in here and drink a glass of wine. It is easier than going on to the street and having to face the faces of the people who surround me, and who look at me funny when I forget that I’m crying again, because crying is such a natural state for my face nowadays that I don’t see the tears anymore.

Surely that ain’t right.

I try and think back as to what it was like when I first arrived in the city. I moved into this flat and tried to accustom myself to the cold.
The cold here, it is different. Up in the hills, I know it is colder. But there, it is a frostiness that freshens you, when you breathe in the air it hits your lungs like a canon, filling you up with dizziness like when you have that hit of tobacco after you haven’t smoked for a long time. It brings goose pimples on your skin as you bury your nose in the wool around your neck and giggle at the headiness that the air forces into your head.
But in the city, as I huddle around the source of heat in my room, it is the dampness that seeps into my bones and gets under my skin. My hair feels like it is never dry. After one too many glasses of wine a warmth plays around my chest as my feet try and wriggle to warm themselves up a bit. I start to wonder that if I stare hard at the walls, if I look carefully enough, then I’ll be able to see the patches growing on the walls; see the yellow turning darker as the wetness in the air turns the patterned wallpaper more and more hideous.
It didn’t bother me at first. I didn’t mind.
I light another cigarette, hoping the illusion of fire at the end of my hands will warm them up.
All I can think is
My body is being torn apart and I can’t stop it anymore. They take with all their demands and I want to push it away, but I’m not strong enough. Like in a dream I push my hand forward to hit back, and it falls listlessly in a terrifying slow motion. So I don’t fight back anymore and I give myself up to what I hope you promise me. My hair starts to fall into your fingers and I give it to you freely, before you tie it around my throat and tell me you don’t want it. On my knees my head pulls up and something someone tries to take something from the blankness of my face to keep for themselves, and I give it up gladly, hoping you’ll find out and wish you had it too.
Fingers touch and grab and my body lies open to anyone who thinks they can take from it, and all I want is you, even if you means tearing me to pieces because if you do it, at least it saves me from the other fingers.

Monday, 12 February 2007

my feminism is my best friend

Feminist frustrations

This year hasn’t been going that great for me so far. A lot of shit has been hitting the fan, and when that happens I find I spend time considering a LOT of things and one of them has been where my feminism comes from.
Of course, it probably may also have something to do with all the Kathy Acker and Susan Faludi I’ve been reading.
For as long as I can remember, apart from the weird time when I thought girls wore pink and boys wore blue (a stage which highly perplexed my lesbian mother), I have been a feminist and I have never been ashamed of it. I guess the unusual nature of my upbringing encouraged this. Not everyone has a lesbian mother, and I was surrounded in my formative years by the big community of lesbian friends that she and her girlfriend had, and who all looked out for me and my bro too. I suppose being surrounded by women, and strong successful women, at such an early age meant that I never questioned that women couldn’t do what they liked, be it socially, academically, or sexually. As I grew older, I held tight on to this belief, and as I watched my mum succeed from housewife to owning her own business, I never flinched from the iron hard belief that my self, my body and my mind as a woman meant I should be able to and could do what I wanted.
Until I realised that I couldn’t.
At an early age I started to read feminist theory, mainly novels such as ‘A Woman’ by Sibilla Alermo, and Women’s Press books borrowed from the gay “commune” house of my mum’s friends, Maya Angelou and Plath, and then on to Greer and Wolf. Slowly I was learning through these books and through my own every day experiences that women weren’t equal to men. Even if, as I was constantly being told, we did have equal rights legally, socially I was surrounded by prejudice for women. I was constantly being told single mothers were unfit benefit fraudsters. I was, and am, surrounded by what Wolf called beauty pornography, from the big titted big haired mid nineties iconography, to the size 00 girls we see today. As a teenager I (not yet being aware of Bust and other zines) was stuck reading magazines that told me to devote my time and money to change myself to get a boyfriend, something which as a bisexual, wasn’t top of my list. I was in school where boys naturally had more attention paid to them, not through deliberation of the teachers, just because in our culture, boys do get more attention paid to them. What, with the combination of my own experiences as a young girl growing up with so-called equal rights, and the information I was mining from the local library and borrowed books of friends, the need and importance of feminism became huge to me.
We are living in a world where women risk having acid thrown in their faces if they don’t wear a burkha. We live in a world where the rape conviction rate is less than 5%, and people say women are asking for it if drunk in a short skirt. Where sentencing for domestic violence is being reduced from prison to anger management classes. Where abortion is so under threat in America that it looks like it will be banned even if the woman was raped or in danger of her life. As it stands anyway, abortion is so hard to obtain in many states, with often only one clinic available, and that one hard to get to past the campaigners. Where even here in the UK a Tory member thought it perfectly ok to propose a bill last year banning abortion under any circumstances. In the states, Viagra can be got free on health plans, the pill can not. Here, young girls still find it tricky to stand up for their bodies enough to demand condoms. In the developing world, it is women who are hardest hit by poverty. In many “developed” countries, it is women who are hardest hit by poverty. Women still have to face propaganda every day that negatively reflects their bodies, their work status, their marital status, how they behave as mothers and daughters and wives and girlfriends.
All of this is why I’m a feminist. This and because I am sick of being pinched and flashed, sick of being forced to feel afraid on the streets, sick of being afraid that my actions might force me to be judged, sick of being judged, sick of being called names and sick of not being able to say no and sick of not being able to say yes, sick of sexual double standards.
But more and more I find myself surrounded by women who refuse to say that they are feminists. From Kelis and Gwen Stefani coyly skirting around the word, to some of my best girl friends. But when you ask them whether they think women deserve all the injustices that were listed above, they say no, and when you ask them if they think women have equality, they say no. I have not met one woman who thinks women are asking to be raped, that women shouldn’t have legal access to abortion on her terms, who thinks women aren’t suffering from poverty or exclusion or sexism, be it on a global or personal scale. This in my mind, makes all these women feminists. I don’t think I’ve met a woman who doesn’t resent VAT on tampons.
Feminism is about freedom; of choice; freedom of behaviour; freedom to have access to whatever you need, be it water, food or medical care. Choice to have children or not, choice to be married, to work, to study, to walk down the street without a veil or without lipstick. It isn’t about the cartoon of chopping off men’s cocks whilst wearing dungarees. Although, it is about wearing dungarees if you want to. It is allowing women to do and achieve what they want.
Until this happens, we still need feminism.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Shackleton/Highroad review

Shackleton/Highroad (Rooted/Cosies 10th February)

I’m writing this from my desk at work where I am required to keep my beady eye on students stupid enough to squander their Sundays in the library, and trust me, the day after any Cosies evening, work is not where you want to be. Particularly if you have just been burgled. Although I got off scot free, none of my stuff being taken, I still don’t relish the idea of some stranger poking round my house whilst I am sleeping with dubstep ringing through my dreaming brain.
But enough! On with the review…it’ll be as patchy as ever I’m afraid, I just always end up a bit drunken when I hit that basement’s dance floor.
The night opened with Shackleton doing an in store gig at Rooted. I don’t know who came up with Rooted in store gig idea, but my god, it is a good one. I saw Bass Clef play there a few months ago for the last Highroad, and it is such a lovely shop and a really excellent opportunity to get a sample of the artist – good for listeners and for sales too I guess.
The set opened with minimal dubstep sounds, a cool and steady bass that was so LOUD the ceiling of the shop started to crumble and a big lump hit one boy on the nose. (I was one of only two girls – weird). Shackleton creates a central pattern in the bass and seems to build his tune around it in a way that is subtly effective. In particular one of the tracks showed this off masterfully. The bass seemed to come from another world, really dirty, really distorted, exploding over the track in a repeated pattern, then switching tone or speed slightly to completely move the mood and tune on. You couldn’t help getting lost in it. As the set progressed, the slower beats speeded up, and he presented a much choppier sound. There was a greater use of more African/Indian drum samples which I think is really important in dubstep, a real appreciation of the roots of the music. Plus it just sounds wicked, it brings in another layer. The beats became more broken and chopped up, building into a real frenetic and cacophonic energy. All of it pointed to real understanding of the background to music, looking at where it came from and where it is now. Or maybe he just wanted chopped beats because it sounds really really good.
I think Shackleton is pretty masterful at good layering, and I am such a sucker for that. His tracks really get that slow build up, starting with minimal sounds to build and build into being really big tunes. Although he is a dubstep artist (artist?) his sound isn’t confined, you can see the influence of techno and Asian sounds in there too, which is what makes his music so interesting.
Anyway, quick pop back home to change and eat, and off I went to Cosies dressed as a Spanish peasant. I arrived to find Rooted’s Chris on the decks, playing some fucking awesome reggae tunes. It was exactly what I needed, Turbulence’s Notorious is just beautiful, mixing in to Jennifer Lara’s Queen in my Empire from Rhythm and Sounds, shouldn’t work said Chris, but it does. Nothing like a bit of reggae to start (or end for that matter) an evening. Peverelist then stepped up to the decks to play some deeper, dubbier sounds, dropping lovely track by Gatekeeper/Myst, putting a more dubstep vibe back into proceedings. The dance floor was quickly filling up, and was rammed by the time Rob Smith began to play. Say what you like, the man is a Bristol legend and always a pleasure to see and hear. He continued what seemed like the evolution of the music that evening, keeping the dark dub beats but with a bit more hecticness, trippier sounds. I’ve said it before, dubstep to me is all in the progression of how it has come out of different influences, different movements and brought together by this love for music, so a good night is one that shows off this to the best ability, and Highroad nailed it.
But then I had to go home because I was drunk and so I can’t finish this review…..

Friday, 9 February 2007

me nad my gals

my mum took this out of the crooked rib issue she showed to her work colleagues in case they thought i was schizophrenic. lovely! i think it is a funny story, but who am i to say?

Me and my gals…

Don’t worry, be happy.
Smile, it might never happen.
All these illusive phrases. None of them allusive to me.
It’s funny the way it goes. I leave a building miserable, and then a good song electronically hits my ears and I am cheered once more. Chipper. Then a run in with a car and it is misery me.
I get told I seem nervous.
‘More than I’ve seen you for years.’
I wonder. I ask my mum, she says no, but she doesn’t like to notice these things.
Thoughts chase into my head to fuel a panic. PANIC! Rationality gets into a fight with her.
‘Fuck of!’ she says. ‘Smile, ’coz it might never happen.’
‘No, you fuck off!’ PANIC replies. ‘It has happened you fool.’

But Rationality knows that PANIC is lying, because nothing has actually happened. But today I’m believing her, because it sure feels like something has.
Such days aren’t good. Because I know that Rationality is whispering ‘silly you. Nothing that bad today, just bad sleep and work.’ And yet and yet, can’t shake the itch in my back saying ‘Oh lordy, like that isn’t enough! On top of everything anyway!’
But what is everything anyway? That’s the question I want to know the answer to. Because it can’t be like this forever, for all.
It seems that even when I’m not angry any longer or sad about happenings any longer, when things have been relegated to the BIG BLACK BOX called boldly “PAST” residues remain and I think think think about it. They find me as I sort jeans and smile at rich women, shouting ‘what about this and what about that’, as PANIC tells Rationality to get the hell away, so I can’t concentrate on the numbers in the till and the lines in my mouth, until I dizzy fall.
But I never really fall down. That’s the difference between me, and crazy people. Oh yes. And Rationality praises the stoicism behind my glazed eyes.
‘Puh,’ puffs PANIC. ‘Don’t see what’s so praiseworthy about glassy pretence.’
‘Fuck off’ says Rationality.
‘You fuck off,’ replies PANIC.
‘You fuck off,’ I say, under my breath, but loud enough for a customer to hear. ‘Sorry,’ I smile sweet. ‘Talking to myself.’
She laughs that it is ‘the first sign of madness.’
‘So’s spending all that money on shit,’ I think. And looking for hair on your palms.

People are stupid about madness.
‘I used to close my eyes when I walked down the street,’ a friend pronounced airily, as proof she was, as she preferred to call it, “mad”. Well honey, I used to think yellow was an evil colour, but I wasn’t mad, just a kid. And talking to yourself isn’t mad.
It’s a stupid word anyway. Too glamorous for what it is. A word for depressed artists. Zelda Fitzgerald would never have said she was ‘mentally diseased.’
But back to PANIC and Rationality.
‘You’re so immature,’ taunts Rationality. ‘You know it isn’t real.’
Today I am on PANIC’s side. She seems to be getting it in the neck.
‘I’m immature!’ she shouts back. ‘You think you’re so great, but you’re cold, a cold hearted bitch!’
Hmm, that was a bit harsh. Now I don’t know who to listen to.
‘That’ll be one hundred and forty nine pounds fifty,’ I say politely, meanwhile telling them to hush, I need to concentrate.
‘Oh take a pill,’ replies Rationality.
I giggle. How eighties.
‘Maybe that’s the problem,’ PANIC shouts. ‘You making us take pills.’
Uh oh.
‘You know it’s for the best,’ she replies haughtily. ‘You must be sensible about these things. Stop with your paranoid unrealities.’
I’m getting more than a little pissed off with Rationality saying that nothing in my head is real, and I tell her so.
‘You never listen to me,’ she sulks. ‘Always taking PANIC’s side.’
‘Maybe because I talk more sense,’ she retorts proudly.
Jeesssuuus. Keeping these girls happy is harder than trying to work out the answers.
‘Sorry,’ they mumble, humble.
I don’t really mind. But it can be distracting. We need answers!
Rationality hasn’t learnt her lesson.
‘There are no answers because it isn’t real,’ she pronounces loftily.
‘Bollocks,’ PANIC comes back in, in equally proud tones. ‘If something feels real, then of course it is real.’
But what is or isn’t real? And why?
‘What you’re feeling,’ sighs Rationality. She always sighs when she thinks I haven’t been paying attention.
I sigh back. ‘I don’t know.’
THAT wasn’t a good answer, because now she thinks she’s right.
‘Of course you don’t know!’ she cries, triumphant. ‘How can you know a chemical imbalance!’
‘Oh fuck off,’ me and PANIC chorus.
She sulks again.
Listening to the girls has done no good whatsoever. So I begin to ignore.
Maybe Rationality is right. This whirring and spinning in the tern feather grey of my brain does suggest chemicals unbalancing. But then again, they are thoughts, and thoughts are something. They have to be something. Dizzying speeds of photos of moments, speeded up films and dialogues and monologues and noise noise noise never drowning quiet.
Oh dear. How teenage angsty of me.

the problem of like

i wrote this in the marks and spencers changing room i worked in in the summer of 2005

The problem of like

I think about you but fear this thought. I think so hard on how I want you to like me and that maybe if I read the books I know you read then you will know that I like you. And despite this weakness I revolt from thinking of liking. For liking in the past leads to hating and crying. Liking leads to someone lying beside me in my bed and them leaving us both empty, and I return to tears. So I say o to liking people anymore, for if I don’t like then I won’t have to find out that they don’t like and then I am equal. So I claim pride and independence and that not being by myself is pointless. Then you turn up and land in my head, and I become a blur reading books you like in the hope you’ll like me too.
I think of people who have hurt me because I liked and that I can’t bear for you to turn into one of those because I like you too much to risk you turning into an object of the opposite. I don’t want you to change. When I think of how the last spat of liking ended, it seems easiest to just avoid what may be inevitable. But the liking in my head sings possibly maybe. I think of the boys and girls past and realise I don’t want you to fuck me around. And I realise I don’t want to fuck you around. And I realise therein lies the problem.

i can make you happy

This story was written in the winter spring of 2004. i was living in dalston at the time, in a house with no windows, and a lot of wine drinking.
ok, this was probably the unhappiest i had been in a long time. a lot of shit was hitting the fan, and one day i got my a5 niceday ringbound pad and wrote it all down. everything came flooding out, everything that i was feeling about myself, about my relationships and about observations i was making about relationships around me. this was the result.
it took me a long time to show people.i was pretty scared of people reading it, because it gave me such a strong reaction, and it still does. anyway, i sent it to a magazine and they published it, and as life got merrier i was able to show more and more people.
it is generally everyone's favourite these days, and mine as well.
so, there's the background. below is the story.

I can make you happy
Siân Norris:

The bus is making me feel sick. Everyone is playing a game of musical chairs that they haven’t told me about. Every time it jolts to a stop, everyone seems to get up to swap seats, and I’m just left sitting here. The man behind me is talking about the weather.
This is the most awful bus journey. It is worse than the one with the woman talking to me about her boyfriend who used to beat her up, or the one where the man tried to kiss me and I had to push him away hard.
It jolts again to a stop and it is my turn to leave the game. I walk fast down the street, it’s dark, and each time my foot hits the pavement I jump that it is someone else’s. My whole life I have been afraid of the no one behind me on the street.
My key sticks in the lock, but I battle it open. The living room is crowded with lived in mess. There’s drinking, but I go to bed instead.

My body slides down, sinking into the valleyed mattress. The covers are heavy, but I’m not warm. I daydream about a mattress that I don’t sink into. That doesn’t collapse along with me. My room isn’t dark, but it’s peaceful. The water pipes gurgling remind me of my childhood. Being afraid of the witch that lived in the boiler cupboard.
Next door, I can hear my housemate having sex. She has thoughtfully turned the music up, but all it does is emphasise the fact that there is another noise to cover.
The mattress is swallowing me. My back is melting into it in a sticky mess and I can’t unglue myself. My legs have stopped working. I grab the top of my left thigh to see if it is still there. I think maybe it is. I imagine my hand is yours. Whichever one of you.
My fingernails are dirty.
It’s disgusting. I know I should clean them, but you can pretend they’re not.

Sometimes, when it starts to go this way, when it gets to feeling that my bones collapse; I can feel every filament in my body. I can feel my brain moving against my skull, it is creaking, and when I move my eyes, I can sense the scraping of them against the sockets. I feel it in my neck. I can see every little pore in my lungs open up. I can track the blood rushing to all the drought-ridden places in my body, I can hear it squealing. I can feel the cells’ pain when they split and break and crack into two parts. I can feel a tension under my breastplate every time my heart remembers to try and convulse.
It makes me wonder what my body looks like to an outsider. How it feels to the hands that grab it and to the tongues that smear it. What it is in my body that inspires such strength in another, that triggers that burst of love and steals that loss of control, and what it is in my body that defies all that, so the hands scuttle away like little crabs.
Slut body.
Sick body.
My body.
It belongs to all of you.

It isn’t that no one cares. It is that no one cares enough. And the hands that grab and touch, and the lips that grab and touch, push me away and I fall back on the mattress that swallows me up. Gulp.
Lying in bed, my body shrinks to the size of a pin. My legs retract and my head and my arms are pulled in and I lie there, a pin. I’ll prick your prick your prick pricks me.
But it’s changing. Now my body crumples in on itself, and I crinkle and crack and all that’s left is a piece of dirty newspaper, with two hands kneading it, and I can see my mouth in its folds. Or is it more than two?
The hands pull the paper flat, and suddenly I’m white and clean and smooth and plain. I lie there still and blank, and you can write me, as you will.

You draw me a face of the wide eyes of your ex, while You and You put on the big lips of the girl you’re in love with, and of course there’s You who paints on the cute smiling cheeks of the girl that You are in love with still, whilst You let me keep my nose, to remind you that it is me you’re using, but You lengthen my hair and give it a new shade to suit a generic fantasy. Then I’m ready for all of you. And I lie here for you all, I’m hidden, I’m curled under my flat stomach and I love you all and I love you all and I think yes this is it this is it this time surely one of you will stay. But then you collapse on my breasts and then you rumple my hair fondly and then you stand up. My eyes behind her wide eyes are blinded. You lift the white sheet with its attractive additions and go back to who they really belonged to all along. You leave me my nose and my flat stomach.

Anytime you want me to, I can make you happy.
There’s nothing I won’t do, just to make you happy.

And you all know it.
And you all know it.

So you can leave me with the safe knowledge that I won’t.
So you can go back to the real wide eyes and the real big lips and the real cute cheeks and the original better, bigger, brighter mix of parts, and know that you can always come back. Lay a clean sheet over the crushed blood and bone on my dark dark dirty sheets and re-draw me to make you happy.

It’s good to be here.
It’s some kind of bliss.

But you know and I know that my bed isn’t enough. You are all frightened to admit it, but I know that you all know. So although I lie here in wait, it is no surprise to me when you don’t come back.
I lie here in wait for the next time you need attention and flattery.
And for you, I lie in wait for the next time you argue with her and need some comfort.
Whilst you know I lie in wait for you for when you want to feel good about yourself and your power over me.

The longer I wait, the more changes you all need to make to the paper. Soon you must close your eyes when you come; to make sure you don’t catch sight of my real face behind what you paint over it and I fake it oh and I fake it ah and I fake it don’t stop and I fake it that’s right and I fake it harder and I fake it faster and I fake it yes!

Anytime you want me to, I can make you happy.
There’s nothing I won’t do, just to make you happy.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

untitled (the lady of the moutain and the lake)


The lady lived between the mountain and the lake.
This is important. The three were inseparable of each other.
It was a small house, with a pointed roof. The point of this roof was framed by the towering pinnacle of the mountain behind it. The two echoed each other in shape, and reminded of the infinite battling with the small. The mountain was verdant in greenery, pines grew there that seemed like tufts of grass against the slopes, and like endless spiralling stairs to the heavens when held up against the pointed roof house. From the distance, perhaps if you look at the mountain from across the lake, where the road and the railway circumvent them both, there seems to be no gap between the trees. It appears to be one massive coating of soft moss, with some parts raised above the other. Yet, when you enter the falling forest, falling in the way the trees tumbled down the hill towards the pull of the great mass of the earth, you would see that the trees stand independent of each other, and beneath your feet are great swathes of needle covered earth, held in a darkness by the protecting shadows of the wavering branches. From inside the forest, the outside is invisible, and you are held within a world independent of any other. The lake and the road and the railway and all the places that they lead to are vanished in the great scope around you, and you forget everything else. You enter an isolated planet of its own. It may seem a blissful thing, but it is easy to be lost. Seduced by the trees and the earth and the space between, you lose track of how each tree looks like each other tree, one maybe marked by a low hanging branch or a sprouting fungus, but nevertheless, the same. The unnatural darkness brought to your eyes and deeper senses makes you forget the dark that slowly blankets the world outside the forest and beyond the mountain, and soon you will be lost.
Follow the striving skywards of the trees, and the woods stop abruptly. Not that this offers you a return to the world, for once out of the covered land; you hit the rocks placed so high on the earth, that once more it becomes oblivious to you. From the stony grounds you can survey it, but it continues without your presence. You stand elevated and watch it carry on without you. It gives you a sense of time. It gives you a sense of dead.
The mountain isn’t always a bad thing. It turns you god-like, surveying what has been created, unobserved, uncared for. But for most it is frightening. Not many make it that far. Even less reach the pinnacle of the mountain, where you have to push through the snow and the cloud, where the earth beneath you lies vanished and you could forget where you stood. On a clear day, perhaps you see the pointed roof, but mostly it is white mist wherever you turn. Climbers hoping to find a view of the world to provide them with their vision, to offer them a perspective of meaning are disappointed. All that you find at the mountaintop is confusion, a blindness where you lose the hand in front of your face. They flee from the meaning they seek.

The lady doesn’t mind the mountain. One day, in her youth, she scaled its height, saw what she knew she would see, and took it as a truth. Coming back down, she paid some money down for the house with the pointed roof from one of the terrified who was sick in reason by the silence of the trees and the lapping of the lake, and settled herself there. One day, she reasoned, she would head back up there, but for now she enjoyed living in its gaze.

There were two mountains. One that pointed proudly to the sky into which it vanished, the other lying prone beneath it, sinking into the earth’s belly, covered by the lake. There are probably more than two, how many mountains reflected in fish eyes, in puddles formed around the shores and rocks, in broken glass floating on its surface. The lake and the mountain(s) were akin to one another. The lake reflected the mountain and the sky, so that to one looking at its surface, no other thing existed on the earth. As the world vanished when you entered the mountain, so it did when you saw the lake. Everything became reduced to these two elements of space, and all surrounding was abandoned in its favour. So the lake scared people as much as the mountain did. People came to admire what they hoped was a sight of natural beauty – outstanding natural beauty the guidebooks say – but what they found was a promise of emptiness and a resounding sense of confusion and fear.

The lady liked the lake though. She looked past the emptiness of it, the thing that uneasily struck so many of its casual observers, and instead appreciated the fish it offered up to her, and the way she could gauge the weather merely by looking to see if its surface was blue and smooth, or grey and speckled. She had known for many years that water was a female element, and therefore was unlikely to hurt her. We all climbed out of the water once upon a time, she would say to herself, and it does no harm to be reminded by it, that one day we may have to crawl back.

The lady lived alone in the house with the pointed roof, bar a goat from which she got milk, and chickens from which she got eggs, and the cat from whom she got good company. It was no bad thing to live alone, she felt, especially as she had no fear of her surroundings.
The lady owned three books, the Bible, the Complete Works of Shakespeare and the Complete Works of Dickens. She required nothing more; for she felt that in those three leather bound volumes she could find poetry, history, philosophy and good tales. She had read the whole Bible now, even the chapters on begetting, even Revelations. But she had a real fondness for the psalms, and would often recite them to herself as she cooked her dinner or boiled water for tea. The cat’s particular favourite was always ‘as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death’, and the lady would chuckle: ‘that’s what they think here is chuck’. She had learnt the term from her Shakespeare. Meanwhile the goat always gave good milk in tune to ‘the Lord is my shepherd.’ In the evenings she would wind up her record player and listen to ancient recordings of thirties dance bands and read slowly over whichever play or verse or novel was taking her fancy at that moment, smoking tobacco from a tin that never seemed empty.

Sometimes the lady would welcome visitors into the house with the pointed roof. They were more often than not solitary, tourists put off by the emptiness of the surroundings looking for a warming coffee, or transient men and women, turning off the road in search of a nearby place where they could stay for a while. In earlier times, she would share her tobacco and milk followed by her bed. They would hold her in a half suppressed need to feel the sensual human contact that they felt the surroundings so completely wiped out, whilst she would enjoy a sensation often forgotten but always pleasing. Still, her need was much more relaxed than the recipient, for she understood enough to appreciate the warm nurture of the mountain and the water from whence we all originally came, and as she got older, less and less shared what lay under her blankets. Sometimes a familiar face would return and she would smile warmly in recognition. They would sit down together and she would tell them of a new verse discovered, or how she had noticed a new cadence of sound in one of her old recordings. They would try and tell her about the news of the world beyond the mountain and the lake, and although she would smile and nod in feigned attention, this conversation would remain outside her hearing. The lady knew that there was really no world outside of the shadow of the mountain and its double in the lake. Still, she remembered enough about the fragility of egos to maintain a seemed interest, whilst inside she contemplated whether she would find salmon in the lake this season, when the berries would ripen, or why one of her hens wasn’t laying much this week. The world mattered not. What was important was the creation in which she resided. But her visitors gave her pleasure, and as the evening would wear on, they would sit in a contented togetherness, no less happy for its impossibility at lasting. When they left, she never felt sad. She knew if it mattered, they would return and find her.
And so the world continued.

The lady knew that time passed. She could see it in the behaviour of the lake and the changing colours that passed across the mountain. She could feel it in the need for more or less blankets, where the moon lay in the sky, and how much hair or fur graced the back of her goat and cat. She saw the growing of grey pepper in her hair, in the stopping and starting and ultimate stopping of blood, in the lines that grew life on her face. She heard it by the whistles of trains that carried the other world away from the lake. It didn’t bother her. The mountain and the trees and the lake had survived time as long as they had, so she knew they would let her know when it was ready for the world to stop. She carried on milking and fishing and gathering, accepting gifts of honey and wine from her visitors, and sitting with her cat and one of her three books.

One day the lady stroked her cat and pulled on her warm coat to milk the goat and collect the eggs. She put them in the kitchen, and tied the laces of her best boots. She closed the door of the pointed roof house and headed towards the mountain. Its pathways opened up to her and beckoned her into it, enfolding her faithful presence into its rich fertile breast and she nodded in appreciation. She lost herself in the needled earth of the forest floor that made everything beyond it vanish into oblivion, her feet stroked the rocks that offered her the view of her own world and graciously accepted the enveloping mist that shut all else out.

One day the lady stroked her cat and pulled on her warm coat to milk the goat and collect the eggs. She put them in the kitchen, and tied the laces of her best boots. She closed the door of the pointed roof house and went down to the lake. She untied the small boat she used for fishing and let herself drift. The lake held her close in the mothering oceania from where life came.

There are many stories about which path the lady actually took. She seemed to be found twice. But that is immaterial.

Visitors are always grateful to find in the intensity of the frightening landscape, which is so far away from any world that they recognise, the house with the pointed roof. Here they can help themselves to eggs and milk and tobacco, enjoy the company of a rather aloof, by now rather feral cat, and read some of the most admired literature around. They don’t question its presence, for they feel to ask anything of where they have found themselves would only provoke answers that they don’t need to hear. It is the only place between the mountain, the lake and the seemingly far distant road that makes anything around them feel at all safe.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Friendly Fires gig

Friendly Fires, Proud galleries, Camden

After the nightmare of January I decided it was time to get my arse back up to London and see what the Friendly Fires were up to since switching from the rockier sound of First Day Back. After getting annihilatingly drunken at the Sexy Bitch gig at the Croft (I was planning a review but was so drunk, all I remember was it was GREAT!) and stumbling still half cut onto the National Express bus I made it to Sussex way (former home of drummer Jack) to get ready for the evening’s shenanigans.
After catching up with old faces – was great to see John Prancehall, it has been too long; we headed down to the Proud Galleries. My god, this was a perfect reminder of why I left London for Bristol’s calmer climes, the place was heaving with coked up posers, and I have just gotten way too used to Cosies, but it was cool, because they all had come to see the show, and what a show it was!
Ed is such a natural front man. He kind of has this lovely mix of being very involved with the music and his performance, whilst still completely interacting with the audience. It is a semi introspective, semi extrovert thing he has going on, which I am failing to put into words. I guess it was best summed up by the moments when he turns his back to the crowd and sings to the skies, whilst the audience are completely held in his thrall. Suffice to say, he has them hooked. His voice soars over the instruments, moving from deep dark sounds to ecstatic singing that rises with the tempo of the drums and guitars.
It has been a while since First Day Back switched to Friendly Fires, and the music has grown with the boys. There’s a lovely use of electronic and keyboard samples to complement the drums and guitar and bass, I guess in a kind of nu rave fashion, although nervous about using such terms. Jack’s drumming brings huge power to the songs, he goes for it flat out, and as you watch him play you can’t help but get caught up with him in his enthusiasm and the way he helps frame and build up each track. Both him and Ed on guitars sing along to Ed at the front, bringing a harmony to the songs that not only adds depth to the music, but also just gives the whole band this happy attitude, where the audience can really feel the love the guys have for music, it is like they can’t help but sing along, and neither can the crowd. Sounds a bit hippy, but there you go. The tunes are catchy whilst still being intelligent.
One of the most exciting things about the gig was the sheer variety of instruments brought in to the mix, and this was also the biggest move away from the more traditional sounds of First Day Back. I also really feel that it is innovations like this that make Friendly Fires stand out more than a lot of new bands around today who stick to the basic guitar drum bass vocal format. I guess that this comes a lot from the musical influences of electronica and techno that Jack djs, where greater experimentation with samples and different, more unusual sounds is more prevalent. Not only was there the gorgeous use of electronic sampling mentioned before hand, but maracas, cowbells (I love cowbells! Kind of irrational, but there is something about them….) wooden blocks and my personal favourite – a dust buster! This was used to huge effect to build up great cacophonies of distortion that were pretty mind-blowing, using it against the guitar strings and amping it up – wicked!
The thing is, it isn’t just that the music is great, which it undoubtedly is. The boys are polished and the performance is really tight, and as I have explained, they are catchy whilst innovative. But they have this certain extra thing which I can only attempt to explain by how they absolutely seem to love the music. This combines with a real empathy and understanding between them that can only come from having played together for a long time and having a real appreciation of music beyond the style that they play themselves. The audience cannot but help get caught up in thier enthusiasm, which in turn makes it impossible for them not to enjoy it as much as the Fires do.
Check their site :