Meredith Kercher: What Price Memory?

January 30, 2014

Daily_Mirror_newspaper_front_pageKercher

Later today, January 30th 2014, yet another verdict is due in the murder trials of Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox. Hopefully, if justice is truly done, they will be exonerated once and for all and the Kerchers will finally accept the truth: Meredith Kercher was killed by Rudy Guede, known knife-carrying burglar, when she unwittingly entered her rented flat while he was in the act of robbing it. I have wanted to write this post, have been thinking about it for several years, but quite frankly have felt intimidated by online trolls and been fearful of causing offense. But now, today, it seems important to acknowledge the elephant in the living room and publicly question what drives the Kerchers to continue ignoring the evidentiary facts and persist with unfounded accusations against two innocent people, while displaying zero interest in the one guilty party who can definitively be linked to the crime.

Does intense grief excuse a person from doing horrendous wrong? This is the question I have pondered over and over again since I first began researching the Meredith Kercher murder and subsequent witch hunt against Raffaele Sollecito and Amanda Knox. The guilty person, Rudy Guede, has long been identified and to any sensible and thorough researcher of the evidence, his lone involvement is beyond question. There is no DNA evidence linking Sollecito and Knox to the crime, no motive and neither of their psychological profiles are compatible with violent murder. The original prosecution case of a “sex game gone wrong” (what even is that?) was a fabrication of Prosecutor Mignini, already convicted for similiar misconduct in the infamous “Butcher of Florence” investigation. This is a man who has demonstrated a lurid obsession with ritual-sex murders arising from a fantasy world that is reminiscent of the plot of Kubrick’s last film “Eyes Wide Shut”, only as re-imagined by David Cronenberg. The revised theory, that Knox killed Kercher due to disputes about cleaning, is equally ludicrous and utterly fails to explain how this would involve either Rudy Guede or Raffaele Sollecito.

Despite the 100% lack of evidence against Knox and Sollecito and the 100% existence of same against Rudy Guede, the Kercher family, via the tabloids and in collaboration with Mignini and their publicity-hungry legal team in Italy, have continued to insist that Knox and Sollecito are involved. This sad and wrong-headed obsession of the Kerchers has already cost both innocent youngsters 4 years of their lives, spent in Italian prisons before being acquitted, and now that the acquittal has been overturned on a technicality, they still are prevented from moving on with their lives. It has been particularly impossible for Sollecito, who lives in Italy after all, to rebuild his life and return to the pursuits he had prior to meeting Amanda Knox at a classical music recital in 2005. Neither of them will ever be free of association to a horrific crime, simply because Knox happened to be the victim’s housemate and did not flee Italy, unlike Kercher’s supposedly better friends (British students), but remained there hoping to be of help to the investigation and solace to the Kercher family when they arrived. For this she was rewarded by becoming the chief defendant in a shocking trial while Sollecito, with even more tenuous links to the event, had his fate cruelly lumped in with hers.

Thousands upon thousands of online trolls, particularly those based in the UK, continue to write vicious character assassinations about Knox and Sollecito, even going so far as to access their private Facebook pages and engage in ugly flame wars with both them and their many supporters. I myself have been on the receiving end of bizarrely vicious abuse from fanatical haters, for comments I’ve published here and elsewhere online in support of Raffaele and Amanda. One of these, who may or may not be the Hollywood film producer Don Murphy*, spews venom of a particularly vile hue. (*Paramount Pictures did not respond to my enquiries trying to determine if this prolific online troll is in fact the producer of “Natural Born Killers” or an imposter. The online consensus appears to be that it is actually Murphy, which beggars belief, if true.) The Kerchers could stop all of this hateful libel in an instant but they don’t. In fact, they encourage it with their own persistent accusations.

It is considered in extremely poor taste to criticize the Kerchers. (I am sure I will get some really nasty emails after posting this. I can handle it.) After all, their Meredith was savagely butchered and they have experienced unimaginable loss and suffering, all in the full glare of the public eye. They are considered untouchable due to their status as the victim’s family.

But I am going to criticize them today, as well as analyze their reasons for behaving as they have done.

As proven in cases like the Robin Hood Hills murders and some other wrongful convictions, it is indeed possible for the victim’s family to rise above their own personal pain and seek true justice and not be satisfied with the wrong person(s) being punished. This is a very high moral standard and I realize it may seem like asking a lot. But ask yourself this: if a loved one was killed, would you really be happy that as many people as possible were jailed for the crime, or would you want to be absolutely certain that only the guilty were punished?

I can’t even imagine being in the situation but my claim is that I would aspire to the latter position. I would not want an innocent person to suffer to compound the suffering that had already unfairly occurred.

So Why Can’t the Kerchers Accept the Truth?

John Kercher describes himself, within the first few pages of his sad book about his daughter Meredith’s murder, as a freelance journalist with 30 years experience working for major national news sources, doing features and celebrity interviews.

Odd then, that when I try searching for his by-line, the only “celebrity interviews” I find are a couple of Q&A’s for the website This Is Money, with someone I’ve never heard of called Carol McGiffin (apparently she appeared on Loose Women), and the slightly less obscure singer Jane Macdonald (also of Loose Women “fame”) from late 2008. Mr. Kercher’s by-line does not even appear actually and the Q&As do not even fill a whole newspaper column. I don’t find any other published work, other than in connection with his daughter’s murder, with John Kercher’s name attached. Elsewhere, he has been identified as having worked for the tabloids which is certainly much closer to the truth.

So he was certainly no star reporter but reading between the lines, it’s safe to assume that he was at least on the professional fringes of the lesser newspaper business for some time.

Which explains why when he heard the very first news of a murder in Perugia, before he even knew for sure that the victim was his daughter, John Kercher was on the phone, not to the Home Office, or his daughter’s Italian flatmates, but to what he describes as “the foreign desk of a national newspaper”. He does not name the media outlet, but it stands to reason – given his background and the fact that he does not name it – that it was a tabloid. My guess is that it was either the Daily Mirror or the Daily Mail, both of whom have been at the forefront of the witch-hunt. Their agenda, headlines that sell papers, and his, keep Meredith’s name alive, became fused on that day and have not parted ways since.

I am not the only person to recognize that celebrity seems to be at the heart of the Kerchers’ quest “for justice”. By John Kercher’s own admission, what really bugs him in all of this is the amount of publicity that Knox has received: “It’s all been about Knox” he complained to the Daily Mail (14 April, 2012).

It’s as if he wants someone else to suffer as he has suffered, because Meredith suffered. Why should another pretty young woman, his daughter’s age, get to live the rest of her life when Meredith’s was cut brutally short? Why should the newspapers be fascinated by Amanda when they should be focused on Meredith?

Actually, the reverse is true: the only reason anyone outside of the Kerchers’ immediate circle is even still talking about Meredith is precisely because of Amanda Knox. Without her, without Sollecito, the murder is banal, ordinary, and would have disappeared from the papers years ago.

John Kercher, from his own work experience in the tabloids, knows this. He knows that a story about a girl killed in a botched robbery, while tragic, is sadly nothing special. Newspapers, especially tabloids, thrive on the sensational, the shocking, the unusual. So the Kerchers need Amanda in order to “keep Meredith’s name alive”. Raffaele, practically ignored by them and the prosecution, is merely collateral damage: because he is Amanda’s alibi, necessarily he must be roped into the circle of guilt as well or the case against her falls apart.

I can imagine the warped emotional logic that has driven the Kercher family to persist in their ludicrous belief that three people, not one, killed their Meredith. It comes down to three central points.

1. If lovely Meredith must be killed so cruelly, let it at least be “the crime of the century”; let her have some kind of status in death that would reflect on her specialness as a person. To accept that there was nothing uncommon, nothing unique about her murder is somehow even more demoralizing.

2. The regard for Meredith as someone strong and special nurtures a desire to believe that she could have defended herself from a lone attacker. After all, as Mr. Kercher has somewhat pathetically pointed out, she was really good at judo. But anyone with unclouded reason knows that judo learned in a gym environment is no match for an experienced criminal with a knife. Especially when it’s a contest between a small female and a larger male.

3. Jealousy. If one of the female flatmates had to die that night, why couldn’t it have been one of the others? As Amanda has stated, she might have been at the flat that night as well in which case, she might also have died. Or perhaps together she and Meredith could have resisted Guede? Either way, the very continued existence of Amanda is an affront to the Kercher family. She has come to symbolize the life that goes on despite tragedy. Each year she gains in age represents another milestone that Meredith will never achieve and for this Amanda must be punished.

The Inconvenience of Raffaele

In all of this, as has been noted by other commentators, mention of Raffaele is weirdly lacking. He has been dragged into this and then barely even considered, by either the prosecution or the Kercher family. More than anything else, more than my lengthy perusal of the evidence, more than my sure instinct that Amanda Knox was not capable of committing a murder for which she had no motive, it has been the person of Raffaele Sollecito that has proven to me beyond a shadow of doubt that the prosecution case is totally empty. For all the machinations that have attempted to portray Knox as a she-devil, a pervert, a sociopathic killer, there has never been a single credible explanation for why this gentle and shy young guy, in the throes of first love, would have participated in the murder of his new girlfriend’s flatmate. It just doesn’t make any sense at all psychologically and when taken together with the fact that he would have had to levitate while wearing a full-body latex suit in order to leave no DNA behind, the conclusion of his innocence should be a foregone one.

Since the acquittal was overturned I have had a little correspondence with Raffaele, via Facebook, have read his book and communicated with his friends and found that his integrity and kindness are impossible to question. Throughout it all he has shown incredible strength, honour and compassion. If it were me, I would be filled with hatred for the Kercher family at this point; relatives of a girl I barely knew trying to destroy my life. But Sollecito has never displayed anything of the sort, instead he has reached out to them via the media, expressed his great sorrow for the family and even visited Meredith’s grave. He is a better human than I am.

It is my greatest hope that the verdict due later today will be the right one and that the Kerchers will finally accept the truth: their daughter died for nothing in an unexceptional act of senseless violence and they have been persecuting innocent people for years. I hope that they will finally see how wrong they’ve been and realize that Meredith, if she was half as nice as people say, would want her family to apologize to her friend Amanda, and Amanda’s friend Raffaele for hounding them in her name.

For Meredith Kercher’s memory is not served well by this debacle.

If the wrong verdict comes in then I only hope to high heaven that Raffaele left the country last night.

Quit Blaming the Illuminati for Dire Pop Culture!

August 28, 2013

eye-of-the-pyramid

Perhaps you’re unaware of this trend, dear netizen, but in recent years there has been a marked increase in paranoid pundits on the Web, eager to point out how this or that crap music video is the work of the dreaded and mysterious “Illuminati”. Now you might have thought that fixing the International banking system, causing earthquakes and tsunamis, organizing baby sacrifices in the basement of the Whitehouse and such like might leave evil geniuses little time to futz about with mind-controlling former members of the Mickey Mouse Club, but then you wouldn’t be a “vigilant citizen” as one deluded fool likes to call his (her?) website, which is dedicated to uncovering these nefarious plots.

Yes, it’s not enough that Selena Gomez is simply a boring former child star struggling to find an adult identity, she has to be an automaton controlled by MK Ultra in the eyes of these alarmed folks.

The people who write this stuff see satanic ritual content in even the most innocuous and commonplace images: Vigilant Citizen going so far as to suggest that the butterflies favoured by Miley Cyrus’s previous incarnation, tween sensation Hannah Montana, are rife with occult meaning, foreshadowing as they do her transformation from Wholesome Product to Sleazy Product. Nope, um…they’re just butterflies: beloved by pre-teen girls and manufacturers of sparkly stickers alike. (Actually, I quite like sparkly butterfly stickers myself. Oh no! I’ve been brainwashed by the Illuminati!) And that there transformation from WP to SP, well…clearly you’ve never worked in Hollywood. (I have.) Finally, not to split hairs but any symbolism associated with creeping caterpillars morphing into fluttering butterflies is overwhelmingly positive and not generally understood as a metaphor for corruption.

Speaking of Miss Cyrus, her recent indulgences in epic bad taste (see VMA awards, August 25, 2013, if you must) are evidently laden with proof that she is but an Illuminati puppet, a “sacrificial lamb” according to VC and Youtube commenters of questionable intelligence.

I have been reading this bizarre nonsense for years and finally decided I have to speak out.

People lissen up! I’m only gonna deal with this subject the one time: whether we’re talking the grandma of crap pop videos herself (McDonna) or her even less interesting spawn (Britney) up to and including her slightly more interesting spawn (the Gaga woman), the fact of the matter is THERE IS NOTHING SPOOKY GOING ON, IT’S JUST A BUNCH OF SHIT. OK? Stop watching it maybe?

Here is what I have to say to each and every nutter who wastes their precious time thinking too much about subjects that require little actual thought, i.e. the “meaning” behind mainstream entertainment products:

You need to get a life and stop subjecting all this puerile crap to such intense and laughable over-analysis. This entire warped joke about the “Illuminati” has gotten completely out of hand! Most of the people, probably including you, who throw this word around are totally unaware of the fact that the only reason you even know about it is because of a wildly influential mid- 1970s satirical novel titled, The Illuminatus Trilogy (Roberts Shea and Wilson) which you almost certainly didn’t bother to read.

The point of the book, by the way, was to make a JOKE out of this notion: “what if all the nutters with conspiracy theories turned out to be right?!” It’s an intellectual wheeze about the nature of reality, people’s gullibility, psychedelia, quantum mechanics, JFK and a ton of other stuff that got thrown into the pot, but as usual, some twits with no sense of humour have decided to take it literally and waste their days poring over Kei$ha videos in search of MK Ultra subliminal messaging.

O. M. G. !!

Here’s a clue: the universal archetypes and forces for good / bad continually play themselves out over time, within the entertainment industry and outside of it too. This does not mean that some cackling super-villains (who may or may not shape-shift into enormous reptiles when no one is looking) secretly control the planet which they accomplish by spending their precious time directing pop videos with screamingly obvious “symbolism”: oh wow, a pentagram and some wolves – a sure sign that the Illuminati is behind things!!!

If certain themes suggest themselves to you when wasting your time watching this lame stuff then so what? Besides being a testament to the hodge-podge “throw everything into the soup” style typical of LA video directors, all it means is that certain universal patterns repeat: children grow up and start to have sex: innocence gets experienced; industries lose sight of their original ideals: artists become whores.

But there’s good news too: heroes survive ordeals; thinkers pierce the veil of superstition with intelligence and reason; curiosity inspires individuals to make great discoveries; compassion gives people courage to fight for justice.

It is also worth mentioning that I have noticed that pretty much everyone pushing this Illuminati-MTV rubbish is a born-again Christian with their own agenda. Not sure if that applies to you but either way, I suggest you get your head out of the gutter and stop watching and thinking about all this garbage. You aren’t helping anyone, human, god (or devil), by stoking up insane paranoid nonsense. We all have choices of what to spend our time looking at and listening to and if you choose to spend hours watching the VMA awards then it serves you right if you get sick to your stomach! Read a book instead. (Maybe even the Illuminatus Trilogy to give yourself some perspective.)

Or learn how to play an instrument and make real music with real friends. Above all, just ignore the low-grade doodoo that Hollywood constantly squeezes out.

Or are you already too addicted/obsessed? OOH! Looks like they got you…..

* * *

The actual Illuminati, the historical one founded by Adam Weishaupt in 1776 Bavaria, was dedicated to ending superstition and promoting women’s education. Now isn’t that ironic!

So the real crime here is not the questionable messaging inherent in incorporating teddy bears into a sex-laden skit featuring a former tween sensation but the fact that the desire to shock reigns supreme in the world of pop music.

You know what would truly be shocking?

If someone just got up there and sang a good song straight from the heart.

As if!

Edward Snowden is Not a Narcissist

June 14, 2013
How come I don't look like Ed Snowden...?

How come I don’t look like Ed Snowden…?

Jeffrey Toobin wrote a lame piece for the New Yorker on June 10th (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/06/edward-snowden-nsa-leaker-is-no-hero.html) in which he blasted the whistle-blowing actions of one Edward Snowden, calling him a narcissist. This really pissed me off because as a person with NPD relatives, I could only wish for them to a) be able to hold down the kind of jobs Snowden had and b) to do something so self-sacrificing. It doesn’t help the psychiatric professions one bit when lazy uninformed writers use the names of serious illnesses as put downs and so I posted the following comment to Toobin’s article:

It’s extremely irresponsible to brand someone a “narcissist” as a way of condemning their actions. Narcissism is an actual personality disorder (NPD) that must satisfy specific diagnostic criteria. When it is used merely as a disapproving insult, this is highly insensitive to people who actually have to deal with real NPDs in their family and other close relationships. It also belittles the efforts of those in the mental health professions, who do not brand someone with this label willy nilly. Having watched the Snowden interview and having a long-time personal experience of actual NPDs, I do not perceive him as showing any signs of having this tragic condition whatsoever. Someone like Lance Armstrong would be an example of an NPD in the public eye, as would the vast majority of pop stars. These are people who will cheat, lie, steal, trample on the rights of others in order to gain personal glory; whether or not Jeffrey Toobin agrees with Snowden’s stated motives for whistleblowing, it is abundantly clear that Snowden is not on an egoistic quest to become famous and in fact has now put himself at enormous risk as well as opened himself up to international criticism. NPDs simply don’t do this. Armstrong tried to hang on to his lies right up until the moment when there was just too much evidence for his denials to be credible. That is classic NPD behaviour. In contrast, Snowden’s demeanour is not self-aggrandizing; he is not blowing his own trumpet and is rejecting the title of hero. He was extremely cautious and considered in the way that he leaked his story and carefully chose journalists who would handle the sensitive material in the most responsible fashion. A narcissist would do the opposite. Julian Assange, for example, has numerous classic NPD features, of which his irresponsible sexual conduct is typical as is his refusal to deal with the consequences of his actions. I’m ashamed of the New Yorker for publishing such a cheap analysis. People, especially journalists for major media outlets, need to realize that the names of serious psychiatric conditions are not to be used as adjectives to casually smear the people whose actions they disdain.

A Womb with a View…to CHANGE

October 12, 2012

“I don’t mind not getting to go to school or have a vocation, to develop my talents and abilities and achieve big visionary goals, after all, most of the Western women who get all those things say that nothing beats being a Mum. Guess I should feel lucky to get started so young….”
NOT!

Jessica Valenti, of the Nation, recently wrote a great piece entitled “I’m not a Mom First” in which she intelligently discussed the gender politics implicit in the current trend for re-mythologizing motherhood as the ultimate expression of femaleness.

Today being the UN Day of the Girl, (though many people won’t know as Google didn’t think nearly as important to mention as the birthday of some Japanese animator to take just one example from the random trivialities they choose to celebrate) and there having been several stories in the press lately from the Jimmy Savile and institutionally corrupt BBC culture to the plight of child brides and child mothers, I thought I’d re-post my comment to Valenti’s article here.

If you want to read the Valenti column and mostly disappointing comments first, here is the link:

http://www.thenation.com/blog/170373/im-not-mother-first

My comment:
I think this is a great article and I totally disagree with people like Penny White, below, who think that “individualism sucks”. I am member of one of the most overlooked and ignored of ALL groups of women, regardless of racial or socio-economic identity, we are even villainized as some kind of unnatural traitors against our sex: that is: women who do not now and will not ever have children! Uppity bitches, the lot of us! I have lost count of how many times total strangers have found it appropriate to ask me within the first 2 or 3 exchanges of chit-chat whether or not I have children. This is even before they ask me that other boring stand-by: what do I “do” (?!) and I am guessing this is because I am clearly old enough to have had kids already and getting too old to be thinking of doing so if not. I find it incredibly sad, not to mention irritating, that indeed women still are looked at in terms of their relations to others, rather than in terms of their own INDIVIDUAL identity and goals and achievments and that little “grandmothers, sisters, wives” speech quote above was nauseatingly familiar to me*. (* see Valenti article)

Women with children ARE expected to be “moms first” and lots of women who’ve succeeded in other walks of life, from movie stars to CEOs, are only too happy to push this saccharin p.o.v. in interviews, further perpetuating the idea that woman is not really woman after all, unless she breeds. Men’s role of fatherhood is still accepted as a far lesser one and one that need never interfere with his career goals: whether they be in the military or as a portrait painter, rare is the man who has been prevented from doing what he wants simply because one of his sperm happens to have taken hold somewhere. Widowed men are practically the only ones who end up raising kids alone. (Until they re-marry another child-carer that is!) Absentee fathers are routinely reunited with their curious adult offspring who go on to have rich relationships with them. Whereas women who walk away from motherhood, oops, only after having given birth are still villified. How dare they not just stick it out! Brigitte Bardot went from being a woman created by God, to something suspiciously less than human when she left the kid behind with her ex-husband. Even Aung Sun Suu Kyi, the irreproachable Nobel-prize-winning heroine of Burma, has been much discussed for daring to put an entire country’s destiny ahead of her “duty” to put children and family first.

Does this ever get said of male heros? Not much.

I intend to take full advantage of the fact that for the first time in human history, we are at a point where not only do we NOT need to increase the population, but women are finally being freed of the expectation that their life ought to be a quest for a partner with whom to bring forth the next generation! Well kind of. At least here in the West.

 

But as shocking statistics of child marriage and child pregnancy worldwide continue to demonstrate, the female IS still viewed on a global scale as nothing more than as a biological receptacle. When we women in the West do not uphold the right for females to forego the experience of motherhood and instead to pursue to the fullest their talents and abilities, when we win Oscars, head corporations, go into space or otherwise achieve on an equal footing with men, only to then get out there and say “oh but none of it matters compared to giving birth to little baby here” we are doing a dis-service to all those girls and women around the world who are being told that every day of their lives and being denied opportunities because that belief is entrenched in their institutions of power and religious authority.

How far away that day (when women aren’t measured by their relationship to others) seems, when even I, an independent, self-employed Western female, am constantly expected to justify why I never got married? Why I never had children? As if I really had to have agonized over this decision and must have some really serious, possibly tragic reason. I am always tempted to lapse into a character from a Victorian novel and reply, “Alas, for I am barren!” It would at least shut them up. The truth is, I always knew I wouldn’t have kids.

 

My life has been about my own personal self-development and my work as a creative and a thinker. I believe that artists especially, have to put their art first. Male artists can be serial impregnators like Lucien Freud, and not “fathers” at all, yet still just get on with their art careers.

How many successful female artists do you, Penny White think have 13 (or possibly 16) children? I’m tired of hearing from privileged Western women about how having children makes people “less selfish” (narcissistic actors love to say this in interviews, post-baby production) whereas I find people with children to be amongst some of the most selfish I’ve ever encountered.

Certainly gigantic welfare families like we have here in Britatin are not known for displaying their qualities of contribution to society.

I am dedicating my life to making the world a better place, through my political activism, my music, my writing, my travels and my friendships. Every jerk that ever lived was somebody’s baby once, so I hope everyone who insists that motherhood is the true measure of the woman keeps that in mind.

Clearly some of those women would’ve made the world a better place by not reproducing!

In Russia, a Church is Just Another Government Building

August 19, 2012

Personally I think this style of worship would really bump up the numbers at the church box office.  I’d go!

I’ve been reading, and really enjoying, Spymaster by Oleg Kalugin, former KGB big baddy. So this morning, in the wake of the 2 year “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” sentences handed out to agit-prop activists Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in a bent Russian courtroom, when I came across this passage: “the KGB’s nearly total control of the Russian Orthodox church, both at home and abroad, is one of the most sordid and little known chapters in the history of our organization”, it had extra resonance.

Hmmm, I thought. Didn’t Putin start out in the KGB? And aren’t former KGB still liberally populating every aspect of Russian power politics?

I looked around the Web for articles about the hooliganism verdict that touched upon this aspect of the long-standing collusion between the state and the church (try Pussy Riot + KGB) and to my surprise, found that the only big UK paper explicitly going into it was the Telegraph who is lucky enough to have the excellent Daniel Weiss, of the Henry Jackson Society think tank, on its masthead. I was really surprised that neither the Independent nor the Guardian were carrying this story, with the Independent even going so far as to analyse the situation totally the wrong way round and characterize the verdict as a sign of the church’s power when it is in fact a sign of the church’s corruption in service of Putin’s power!

Here’s the link to the Weiss piece.  Highly recommended.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/michaelweiss/100177054/pussy-riot-hit-putin-where-hes-seldom-hit-his-manipulation-of-russian-orthodoxy/

I then looked into the pre-revolutionary history of the Russian church to see how far back the collaboration between religious and political institutions went.  Sure enough, the church’s history as a tool of the governing authority goes back at least to the time of Peter the Great (early 18th century) who incorporated the church into the administrative structure of an absolutist state, with him at the top.

When I read the Guardian’s rather thin analysis of the situation, as well as those on other sites, I couldn’t help but notice the comments from those people (you’ll know the ones I mean) who can’t resist the opportunity to respond to any undemocratic outrage anywhere in the world by saying something along the lines of, “it’s just as bad in the UK/USA!”  These are really tortured comparisons, to say the least.  It reminds me of a passionately pro-Palestine activist I once knew who tried to convince me that Iraq had better quality of life under Saddam Hussein by insisting that the social restrictions, post-US Invasion “made Saudi Arabia look like Amsterdam”; surely one of the most head-scratchingly-OTT, bad analogies, of all time.  (Don’t even try to work it out. It hurts the mind.)

So I posted the following letter, in an effort to address both topics, and thought I’d re-post here as I know a lot of people, especially friends in the USA who probably haven’t been getting news coverage of this until recently, have been somewhat puzzled about what is behind this case.

*

Why doesn’t the Guardian point out the long-standing collaboration between the Russian Orthodox Church and repressive forces within government? During the Soviet Era, the Church was almost 100% controlled by the KGB. Today’s Russian government is still full of ex-KGB men, like Putin, and so is the Orthodox Church. So-called religious values are being shamelessly exploited for purely political purposes. After all, how can insulting the president be “motivated by religious hatred” simply because the stunt takes place inside a Church? Only if, as some of the more knowledgeable readers on here have already commented, the faux-religious ideology associates political leadership roles with the Godhead. This is indeed the case in Russia, ever since Stalin deliberately appropriated religious iconography for use in his enormous propaganda machine, creating images that baldly equated the leader of the new godless state with a sort of divine super-dad.

Russia is a broken country that has been getting it consistently wrong, when it comes to rule of law and society, for several hundred years at least. For this reason, it’s intellectually wrong to equate this type of show-court verdict with those unfortunate miscarriages of justice that still do occur in Western Europe or the USA. Whereas Russia has spent the last few centuries going from a nearly Arabian-style bloated aristocracy vs. impoverished peasant class society, through a series of harsh communist dictatorships featuring mass imprisonments, concentration camps and a heavy emphasis on espionage, followed by a disastrous entry into global free trade economics that turned into a botched social reformation under the helm of Russia’s new nouveau riche and now a return to the old order in disguise; the UK (and then as an outgrowth of it, the USA) has been developing fairer legal instruments and court processes for centuries. The intellectual traditions of legal justice and a separation of church and state have a long and detailed record of establishment here in the West and however imperfect it may sometimes be in application (and religious fanatics are always getting in there and trying to mess with it), time and again we find that the built-in mechanisms of checks and balances in Western law can frequently be employed to reverse bad decisions when they are made. I would say the UK probably still has the fairest court system in the world. (There are plenty of laws I disagree with, and regularly disregard, but that’s a different subject.) Russia, in stark contrast, did not spend the last few hundred years developing a system of law built on the ideal of finding the best balance between individual liberty and societal protection, with an increasing emphasis on the rights of the individual but rather has a long, long, history of law courts essentially being theatrical devices designed to punish enemies of the ruling powers, be they Tsar, Papa Stalin, or Putin. This is what people need to understand.

***

So friends, at least maybe now, in the wake of this decision, the still well-kept “sordid” secret of KGB infiltration into and control of the Russian church will finally get out there and expose the reality of how much of the former Soviet “apparatchik” is still in its same position of power as under hard-line communism.  The international community ought to suspend recognition of Russia as a democracy at this time. The charade has gone on long enough.  “Former” KGB officers have crossed international borders and carried out assassinations in broad daylight, with the release of a radioactive poison in a public London tea room being just the most outrageous of a number of hits on opponents of Putin as well as oligarchs and enemies from all sides of various internal Russian power struggles.   The country really is being run by something equivalent to the Mob and I just really feel that Russia does not deserve the veneer of respectability as a contemporary democracy that it has attained since the Glasnost era, just because they have voting devices.  There is more to a democracy than that and freedom of speech is one of the non-negotiables.

We have to continue to foil Putin’s PR-driven efforts to present Russia as having transitioned into anything resembling open society. It’s a sham and their status must be downgraded.

Finally, this case is a perfect example of why religious orders must ever be kept out of adjudication proceedings and why legal tenets must forever remain free of adherence to doctrines based in religious texts and ideologies, rather than common sense.  The “crime” of offending this or that person is one that appears to be on the rise in all countries, yes even here in the UK which also has some of the worst (most unfair) libel laws in the world, that favour liars with something to hide.  One of the problems with laws of “causing offense” is that not only do they create a new and ill-defined zone of risk but that this vagueness is actually intentional so that the law may be deployed willy-nilly, and also, perhaps even more nefariously, as a means of putting a pre-emptive curb on people’s exercise of free speech.  Most people will err on the side of extreme caution and muffle their dissenting voice if they think their joke may get them in trouble.

I think it is really awful, for example, that when I recite a satirical poem of mine that shreds on the history of the veil (We’re the Bare Naked Burkas), one of the most common reactions I get it is, “Oh no, but you can’t say that! You’ll get a Fatwa on your head!”  And this is after they’ve wiped away their tears of laughter.  It’s very clear to me that there is no hatred in my poem (one of the refrains is “don’t care who your god is, if you’re sexy, what your race is / but I love all my sisters and I wanna see your faces”), hatred of anything but outmoded systems of gender discrimination against women that is.  Hatred that “cultural sensitivity” is the wimpy excuse that keeps getting trotted out when some dare to complain of seeing Burkas gliding silently down the streets of Western Europe’s fashion capitals in the 21st Century.  Yet it is suggested that I ought to feel it would be reckless of me to perform the piece and that therefore I should what, self-censor in order not to trigger an irrational person to commit an act of violence against me? And so then what?  If I do perform it (I will) and I do get attacked (highly unlikely as I intend to require anybody wanting to hear the poem to be strip searched – hey, ya win some liberties at the cost of others…) then it is my fault, for provoking an imbalanced fanatic?

Similiarly, in the case of the Punk Prayer, the international public is being asked to take a “they brought it on themselves view”, which is only true if you are using the circular logic that public exposure of the unholy alliance between church and state is likely to result in said alliance colluding on a harsh retribution and thereby proving the case against itself.  Perhaps Maria, Ykaterina and Nadezhda optimisticaally hoped they would be released after trial, with time served, under the blaze of international scrutiny. But they must have also known, after all they are activists living in Russia, that there was a strong chance they would have to serve prison sentences.

To everyone that takes issue with the content or style of their action, or doesn’t like the band name (I don’t care for it myself, by the way, and think its ongoing use to collectively refer to 3 individuals has become dehumanizing which is why I make a point of using the women’s names in this piece) or thinks they are idiots for taking this risk or in any other way sanctions the crooked verdict of the court needs to remember this important fact:  these women risked jail to make their point and now their point is being made by them being actually sent to prison for another deuce, having already served 5 months.  No matter how you look at it, I hope that everyone can see that to do so is categorically nothing short of a brave sacrifice.   It’s the kind of thing that is required to make sweeping changes in society.

Yet I’ve read cynical remarks that the band should be happy for the free publicity or that  2 years at the hands of Putin’s jailers is really not so bad of a trade-off due to the modelling prospects of stunningly beautiful Nadezhda upon release.

Please pass this article on, so that the reasons for this protest may be better understood and the verdict more effectively challenged therefore.

Let’s make sure that this pussy is well and truly let out of the bag!

His Beat Will Be Missed

July 13, 2012

Tim Mooney 1958-2012
* photo by Jude Mooney, also pictured.

So the guy with perfect timing died too soon because his heart stopped. What kind of poetic injustice is this?

Tim Mooney, the most musical drummer I’ve had the good fortune to play with so far, has died in the middle of life.

I only heard of it, nearly a month late, due to being in the UK and outta the loop.

Here is a brief remembrance of him.

Tim Mooney was an incredible artist, the title “drummer” is totally inadequate in describing him. He was a musician and a songwriter and could reference absolutely any style, his knowledge of pop, rock, alternative, film soundtrack scores, and underground culture was truly encyclopedic. Yet he was never a show off. He just knew. Tim made everything he did look easy. I have never played with another drummer who could drive the beat from behind like that. How he did it I’ll never know but he could play a slow song with such urgency that you couldn’t believe it when you checked the BPM. Yet could play fast songs that had huge spaces in the beat. How do you do that?

He could play with a fag hanging out of his mouth, slouching on his stool, with a relaxation of someone in a jacuzzi, wrists loose and dangling and just rattle out the most killer rhythm like it was nothing. He invented “the pocket”, had a feel that was totally laid back, yet never sluggish. And the fills! The fills were like something you’d imagine  if Charlie Parker had played drums.

Tim would be embarrassed at the mention of jazz, he never wanted to be considered a “muso” which is why he was probably so low-key about his wide-ranging musical knowledge, but yes, he could’ve been a top jazz drummer if he’d wanted to. He was that tasty good. I always referred to Tim as a musician, never a drummer (no offense to all the musician-drummers out there) because to me, he didn’t play the drums so much as he played music ON the drums. I considered him an equal co-writer on everything we recorded together.

Which brings me to….in addition to the credits given in various music press recognitions of his untimely passing (Toiling Midgets, American Music Club, John Murry)  Tim Mooney was also a key playing/producing and songwriting member of another band, Lil Tiger, never mentioned for the good reason that it is a “lost work” in the library of the late 90s. In addition to the drums and percussion skills that he was widely praised for, in Lil Tiger Tim also played around with other instruments, vintage electronic stuff, weird old keyboards, samplers, and his innate creativity guaranteed that he’d always elicit something interesting from any instrument, even if he wasn’t as virtuosic on it as the drums.  He was also a skilled recording engineer and easy-going to work with in the studio with a dry sense of humour. There were other intangible things about him that were charming too, like the fact that he had a distinctive slouchy way of walking and excellent taste in clothing and accessories but without ever making a big deal about it.

Lil Tiger saw some of Tim Mooney’s, all of our, best work picked up for development and then literally destroyed by music industry shake-ups set in motion by the series of mega-mergers that happened between ’99 and 2001.

I have finally put up the whole unreleased album online (at my anti-label Unowned Artist, available on Bandcamp, link through song below), a task that was begun a while ago and partially completed when I got the awful news, which then spurred me to complete it.  Sadly, I can only put up roughs, because the original tapes were literally erased when us musicians were equally literally locked out of the recording studio due to non-payment by our label which had lost its development deal etcetera and so on. 2 years of all of our lives – poof! The story is there if you go through the digital album and read the notes for each song on there.

It was a truly tragic case of corporate meddling in the affairs of artists and one that seriously derailed my own music career.

But at the end of the day, I’m just really glad I had the pleasure of writing and recording with Tim Mooney.  Except for the fact that he set the bar so high!  I was spoiled for good and now have a hard time understanding why other drummers don’t instantly get it when I ask them to play something like “you know, a Bond theme but … ironic!”

It seems apt to close with one of the Lil Tiger songs, February and the Mayfly, the lyrics of which concern impermanence of even the things that seem most unshakeable.  Tim’s playing is great as ever and on the other 14 tracks as well.  Please do listen and enjoy and remember the legacy of Tim Mooney, musician, songwriter and rhythmatist.

Tim never missed a beat – but his beat will be sorely missed.

Sod The Jubilee Baby

May 31, 2012

Ever since moving back to the UK, after years of being steeped in the rhetoric of the American Revolution – which I rather like – I have been blown away at the failure of many intelligent people to recognize the inherent incompatability between basic (and I mean like, really basic) principles of democracy and a monarchical system of inherited privilege. It is truly amazing and I have even lost friends over differing views on the English royalist question. Yes, you read that right: actual living people who have had real-world friendships with me, enjoyed my company, maybe even been hired by me to do paid creative work, people like that have unhesitatingly decided to insult and dump me as a friend, in loyal preference to people that s/he will never, ever meet, except MAYBE for 5 seconds some day in a public crowd.

I do find that weird.

I have never yet heard a single convincing argument that is not based on some kind of irrational identification with an elusive sense of tradition that is neither quantifiable nor shared by many of her madge’s so-called subjects.  Certainly the piano-player I refer to, obliquely, above could not produce a rational justification for s/his intense loyalty to a bunch of rich strangers who don’t have to testify in court.  In fact, come to think of it, it was right when I offered to ease up on the barbed witticisms (I had been having a bit too much fun, true that) and consider with an open-mind any rationale s/he wanted to lucidly present, that things got really out of hand!

Instead of a calm and devastatingly inarguable articulation of exactly why I should crouch into an odd posture when in the presence of people of a certain genetic grouping imagine this: I received a furious missive that nearly scorched my laptop screen with its ire!   It  somehow managed to invoke an Italian grandmother, some kind of concentration camp experience, Winston Churchill, an unfortunate theft of sentimental jewelry that had taken place in Hackney in 1974, veganism and the importance of banning GMO corn (actually s/he made really good points about that last one that were totally convincing; only I already knew that).

I forgive myself really easily (thanks to Linda Serbu for that awesome life philosophy) and so I don’t really feel all that bad about admitting that I responded by asking s/him why and when s/he had begun dressing like Adam Ant (s/he WAS though! had just changed s/his profile pic ‘n all!) and inviting s/him to demonstrate s/his uber-patriotic fervour by leaving sunny, cheap and well-fed California to see how s/he’d fare in post-modern “Broken Britain”. I told s/him he’d gone soft and wouldn’t last a week in the damp and overpriced mould of London. S/he didn’t take kindly to that and insisted that not living in rainy, overpriced, overcrowded and confused modern Britain was a pulsating wound that would never heal; my earnest efforts to inform s/him of the wonders of transcontinental flight and how indeed, it was still yet possible to exchange the sunny vegan groves of Marin for a bedsit above a condemned kebab shop in Tottenham merely fell on deaf screens.

You get the gist.  So yeah, that was the end of the friendship and I’ll never use the mix s/he did of a song of mine.

It’s crazy how rabid royalists will get when their failure to provide a single solid argument in favour of the monarchy drives them into a sputtering rage of irrational pretzel-logic. The usual unprovable declarations of the millions earned in tourism (great, let’s check that out then – oh, royal secret privilege = total lack of transparency? so you can say anything and not have to show any evidence? your word yer honour?) – let’s just get that out of the way. And don’t forget to subtract the lost revenue from the millions of horrified residents who always flee the country when royal pageantry ensues so as to avoid even-worse-than-usual-English-levels of ineptitude that are sure to extravagantly reign in the public transportation and highways sector.  Surely that’s a few kabillion exiting stage-left?

Non?

NO no no. It’s a crock of shit, and while I’m getting all into it let me just say that every aristo I ever befriended since being here in the UK these past 7.5 years has turned out in the end to totally believe in their own inherent superiority despite, in several cases, displaying few honourable characteristics beyond superficial charm, what Evelyn Waugh’s wonderful queer stutterer in Bridesehead Revisited referred to as “the English disease”.  (Or was that meant to allude to a penchant for caning?)

Whatever.  It’s true and until I meet one who’s given up their title, I will always challenge people from the so-called gentry.  Inherited titles are fundamentally ridiculous.  Even the ones I’ve met who were big campaigners against the war on (some people who use some) drugs were Tories in the end and in the end they just view themselves differently.

After one such friendship revealed the truth of the above, one truth-telling night on mushrooms, I wrote this poem. I’ll be performing it in the street at this weekend’s protests.  I found an updated written version of it after recording it so there are a couple minor discrepancies between the audio and text but I decided to keep the improved text in written form, rather than fix it to match the audio.

Can you feel me?

I’d like to thank Paxus Calta for dubbing me “MC Hazard to the Status Quo” a buncha years ago because it’s become a sort of alter-ego for certain of my more controversial, I suppose, pieces.

The authorship of this work is definitely attributed to MC H2SQ

Monarchy in the UK!

Aristocracy

It’s got no place in a democracy

It’s nothing but hypocrisy

When some are born to reign

Let’s put on our bestest whitest sockses

Get all dressed up and go kill foxes

‘cause that’s what orthodox is

We’ve got traditions to maintain!”

It’s an anachronism

Not like Mr Rotten’s anarchism

Which shed a light upon the schism

The separation of the classes

It’s still as relevant as ever

Our little Johnny seems quite clever

And still the future dreams forever

Of liberation for the masses

My message shouldn’t be a mystery

Let’s help make monarchy history

Because my hands are getting blistery

From hanging tightly to the edge

Meanwhile privilege’s progeny

Are enforcing a homogeny

As they’re chugging Perignon for free

singin’ “We are Family!”

just  like the Sisters Sledge

Yes everybody is a cousin

They’ve got at least a banker’s dozen

And like a bee just can’t help buzzin’

They can’t help sticking with their hive

Just place a call to Lady Anne

She’ll do the jolly best she can

For any blood-related man

To keep the club of blood alive

Once knew a guy and he was posh

But still he hadn’t any dosh

We’d go and grab a bite of nosh

I ‘d pay my way and then the tip

What is the point, I’d say to me,

Of name, land and heredit’ry

If you’re cheap as cheap can be

As cheap as that proverbial chip

He sodomized me once on shrooms

At least he tried in his front rooms

If that was sex then men have wombs

I tell ya boarding schools had warped this lad

Kicked out of school and hooked on smack

He’d left the hive and not looked back

But it’s not hard to pose as slack

When all your tabs are paid by dad

“It’s important to have an emblem of

The things you want to be a semblance of

And note the family resemblance of

The lineage that shaped the past.

You’ll see them in the National Gallery

And in the spirit of equality

We’ve even put them in the part that’s free

So all can see our clan is built to last”

But the little people get forgotten

Just down the mine or pickin’ cotton

Don’t get to keep what they have gotten

Aint no statues of their kin

So if a miner was your great-Grandad

A rendering his visage never had

He never ordered war nor birthed no fad

Til the coal dust did him in

Aristocracy

Got no place in a democracy

Some may call it heterodoxy

When I call it weird and vain

These silly titles are beyond absurd

A princess is like any other bird

Got just two tits but by that single word

Our deference she can obtain

I have a dream like Dr King once said

When people everywhere blue, green and red

Mutts and well-bred, the hungry and well-fed

Will recognise we’re all the same

So let’s not rest ‘til it’s demolished

This silly system is abolished

Until the “honours list” is polished off

Cuz only that will end our shame

I’ll never curtsey and I won’t kowtow

Except to take applause I will not bow

You disagree? OK then, show me how:

You can start by kissing my ass

Me, I prefer a meritocracy

Where talent and hard graft will set you free

To be the ultimate that you can be

Cuz baby,

That’s the true meaning of  Classsss

Fat and Fucked Up in Daly City

April 15, 2012


It was sad to see the old boy. First thing I noticed when he got out o the pick-up truck was he looked like he’d just swallowed John Travolta. My God. He was frankly gigantic and the T-shirt he wore, emblazoned with an exploding kitten’s head, didn’t disguise things much.

They say you can never go home again and I guess what’s meant by that is that things change irrevocably and if you retrace your steps hoping to relive a fond memory on the rebound, well you a big fuckin’ sucka. End of.

Nevertheless, as my pendulum swings between exultation and extreme bad luck so does the sweep of memory’s gaze mean that blurred out bits of detail often will give a person license to raise up a frayed ole banner of yesterday’s hope like it’s the emblem of a new tomorrow.

And so it was having donned such denial-tinted spectacles that I chose to reconsider once again entering the creative lab with two ex-collaborateurs of different but equally doom-laden pedigree, location being the link.

In other words, I went back to San Francisco thinking maybe I could “get the old band back together” to use the ouch-ey words of a hack screenwriter.

Not really, because they were each just one person and not whole bands, but anyway you get the idea.

Yuck and yikes. I left screaming.

One was so far up his own ass-myth of legendariness that he couldn’t even recognize that he was living in a pile of vomit, the other, who was also living in a pile of vomit, was too wasted on opiate derivatives to notice his stench of rotting failure.

I have to admit to also being a little overweight at the time, having just endured a year of sedentary living occasioned by a furiously decaying splinter that was trying hard to rid me of a foot.

I started drinking bottles of wine in the morning, when it was still dark, and going on long walks around sections of outer San Francisco I’d never had a single good goddamn reason to fucking bother with before. Mostly boring.

But one morning, the day I later told old Bats-in-his-Belfry that he was a shameful waste of food and ought to just die as soon as possible, I found the funniest little park in all the world (so far). It’s called the Dorothy Erskine Park and I guess there might be more to it down below than what I saw, but I only found the very toppermost bit of it.

It was literally a steep mound, with trees on top, surrounded by a fence, maybe 200 feet square in terms of area? It was as if the builders and city planners and everybody had gone as far as they could, and there was just this one weird pimple of a protrusion that couldn’t exactly be built on as it was. Somebody would have had to do massive re-shaping on this mound in order to make it flat enough to put foundations down.

Well they didn’t. Instead it was just a “park”. But what kind of park was this?! You couldn’t play ball there, there were no swings. There was nothing but a few trees and a pimple of grass, a sheer bank dropping down to a chicken-wire fence on either side.

But what a view in the early morning! A clear shot over houses and rooftops all the way to a sliver of blue water, from a totally different angle than I was used to.

After walking for miles and miles I sat on the very tip of it watching the sun come up over a part of the Bay that never makes it into the movies. I worked on a song I’d first thought of about 10 years previously: roads in blue / lead straight to you/ across the town/ and up and down / the hills and avenues / like a melancholy tune…

Then I went back to the pretty but gloomy cottage where the junkie snored, his over-fed cat licking grease from his chin.

We had a big fight later that evening. I’d found the syringes in the trash. He pretended not to know what I was on about and screamed at me for making noise while I cleaned his filthy kitchen.

I left the country soon afterwards and started to lose weight immediately.

Sign # 5: A Plea for Christian Bestiality

April 15, 2012

Don’t skip to the bottom and see the sign first – you MUST let me introduce it, PLEASE!

I hold special fondness for a hand-made sign. There’s the trouble that’s gone into it for one thing. Some of the time you see one that’s obviously taken a lot of work and craftsmanship. Impressive. But on the other hand, some rough ones that were clearly the result of great haste are made especially poignant by the very urgency of the scrawl. The placement of the hand-made sign is also going to have a different logic to it than the commercial or regulatory sign and that can be a fun thing to notice.

But what of those certain hand-made signs, a category unto themselves really, the motivation to create which must surely remain forever unresolved?

For example: what probing could ever reveal what possessed the unknown author of the specimen of cardboard-fragment poetry I present below to compose his (or her, I guess) gross ode to shitty pizza? None. And an even greater mystery must surely be why, having captured this odious flight of fancy, its creator felt irresistibly compelled to display it within the glass window of a newspaper dispenser on a San Francisco street corner, like some rare specimen? Thus making it harder for others to remove without effort while maximizing its visibility to all passersby.

Was it a message for a particular person, known to frequent that corner?

Or had the tunnel vision of some self-absorbed artiste led to a magnanimous and egoistic urge to share his proudest stanza of doggerel, by intrusion if necessary?

I hesitated to post this or write about it because it’s so crude and not really funny. Or rather, it is funny, but not in the way it thinks it is. It doesn’t even scan properly and the rhyme isn’t good. It’s funny because it’s not right and then you just go “what the fuck?” And then you laugh.

WHY?

Adios a la Ciudad de Los Angeles

April 13, 2012

If you look closely you can see a tiny Hollywood sign in the distance.

I reckoned I’d do my recollections in reverse as it’s kind of easier to piece together that way.

These pictures are from my last day in Los Angeles when, with a few hours to kill, I went on a 4 hour wander up and down the hills of the Silverlake district. It was an outrageously gorgeous sunny day, February 28th. (I thought the 28th was a good day to fly in a leap year as you essentially get the 29th to recover for free – a day out of time as it were.)

People diss on LA all the time but on my visits there in January and February of this year, I was mainly struck by how beautiful it is. In certain parts. Walking around Silverlake in what would be the dead of Winter in the UK, was like being in a Hawaiian botanical garden.

The abundance of lush, colourful vegetation was mind-blowing. I guess I took it for granted when I lived there!

Check out this enormous fluffy plant. It was taller than I am (about 5’8”).

Or this crazy cacti-cluster, many of which were to be found cascading down the hillsides.

I watched this little green bird (below) for a long time but I never could get a great picture of it. That’s because, as you can see, it kept stuffing its head inside this big pod from which it would yank out some chunks of what looked like cotton wool, which it would then hurl to the ground.

                   Even the junked cars were extremely beautiful.

And at the end of the walk, having only taken what could be spared, I was able to make a lush flower arrangement which I left in my friend’s kitchen by way of thanks. Being completely skint at the time, with barely enough cash to make it to Brighton once my plane landed, it was amazing to be able to produce this for free! I felt bad not being able to afford leaving a bottle of wine or something on the table but my friend really, really, really appreciated it. I think he thanked me about 5 times in different emails so I was well chuffed!

See you tomorrow!


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