The difficulty in achieving decorum whilst dancing on a grave

May 8, 2011

You don’t have to be the Dalai Lama
to dislike the way that Barack Obama
announced the demise of Bin Laden, Osama
cheerfully chirpy like Bananarama
the suddenly smarmy once-charming Obama.

It’s starting to look like a well-scripted drama
The acting’s not great but what’s real is the trauma…

…Imagine the life of an opium farmer
In a world that needs morphine to keep patient’s calmer
But what about Big Bucks for bully Big Pharma?
Whose suiticals strengthen their financial armour
By making in labs from here to Yokohama
What’s wild in the land of the “desert llama”

If you don’t believe me then go ask your Mama
It just isn’t nice, maybe even bad karma
As clueless as taunting a well-known self-harmer
To celebrate death like you’re havin’ a Pajama
Party – It’s sick! Not to be an alarmer
But never trust no one especially a charmer…

Angry Mob by Peter Clarke, available at Deviant Art


Isobel Reilly, 15, Latest Innocent Victim Of The Prohibition

April 26, 2011

MDMA aka Ecstasy - a specific molecule

MDMA aka Ecstasy - a specific molecule

People in the UK who are interested in the issue of prohibition reform will have been as disheartened as I to read today’s depressingly familiar headlines in which responsibility for an alcohol-fuelled party misadventure is laid firmly at the feet of a controlled substance; thereby fanning the flames of fear and lending support to the so-called war on drugs.

For those who’ve not heard about it, I link below to one of the most inflammatory reports (in the Daily Mail), but see also the Daily Telegraph. In brief, some younger teenagers (14-15) had an unsupervised party at which alcohol and unspecified drugs were consumed, some altercations took place and in the morning a young female party guest was dead. The father of the precocious 14-year old party hostess was promptly arrested for child abandonment and drug possession, as rumour has it that the stash was his, and headlines are confidently and deliberately implying a causal link between so-called “ecstasy” and the death.

Although I was able to get in on the online discussion at the Telegraph, the Mail, which contained the most inaccurate and unsubstantiated reports of all, disallowed commentary on the piece and had an exculpatory disclaimer at the bottom which explained that

“Sorry we are unable to accept comments for legal reasons.”

I don’t actually know if I’ve ever seen that on an online newspaper site before!

Either you can add comments or you can’t, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you why, other than that they’ve stopped taking comments on a particular story that’s no longer fresh or has reached capacity. I cannot imagine any legitimate reason for this caveat, other than that the Mail is aware that they already have made spurious and possibly illegal allegations themselves, and cannot therefore provide a forum for that to be publicly challenged.

If I were Ecstasy, I’d sue!

Below is the headline and below that the link and then below that, most of my letter to the Mail. I invite all concerned with correcting misinformation to weigh in on the topic with letters to the Mail, the Telegraph, the Guardian and any other news outlet carrying the story.

“Friends Post Touching Tribute Video Online For 15-Year-Old Girl Who Died After Taking Ecstasy At A Party At Academic’s Home”

Read more:

Dear Mail

Regarding the recent story on the tragic death of young Isobel Reilly, attributed to Arthur Martin, Tamara Cohen and Lucy Collins (please forward this response to them individually as well):

I think it is extremely irresponsible of them and the Mail to publish a headline that asserts affirmatively and definitively that the girl died because of ecstasy when there has been no post-mortem, the cause of death has not been established, and it has not even been verified that MDMA (a specific molecule) was found at the scene!

That is utterly outrageous license with the truth and I can pretty much guarantee that when a toxicology report is done, the truth will turn out to be far more complicated. By then, most people won’t be reading the story. The damage of your mis-informative headline will already have been done.

All that is presently known is that a teenager died at a drunken party that got out of hand. It was rumoured that an array of substances, including ecstasy, were present. Quite frankly, I’d be surprised if those kids were able to get a hold of any genuine MDMA – I certainly can’t, so God knows what it was that they were calling that!

Either way, in almost every such case of which I’m aware the actual cause of death in so-called ecstasy fatalities is because of a toxic cocktail of substances, the worst culprit amongst which is ALWAYS alcohol.

Remember the two drunk guys who had about a million drugs in their systems and died a few months ago? You know, the “mephedrone deaths” – only they weren’t! No matter, let’s ban mephedrone anyway! If people would just stick to getting wasted on alcohol and not keep mixing it with all this weird crap, I guess we wouldn’t have this problem, is that what you’re saying?

Or, there are cases of water-poisoning, again due to ignorance of the dry mouth sensations that can occur when you’re rolling. It would be almost impossible to die if one took the correct dosage of MDMA by itself, without other drugs or alcohol in the system or over-hydrating or having some underlying physiological abnormality. Maybe a brick could fall on you from a great height, but otherwise- pretty darn safe.

Yet every time some ignorant kid dies, because of their ignorance which is a direct result of the prohibition, hysterical stories like the one the Mail published try to whip things up in a frenzy and get people all scared about how dangerous this drug is. The statistics show that despite tragic deaths like that of the sadly uninformed Miss Reilly, it is really not very dangerous at all. This is the truth James Nutt was fired for telling, but you cannot lie with the statistics and it is still the truth. Instead of using this terrible incident as another weak excuse to villainize a substance that in fact has many beneficial uses, the Mail should recognize the true story here and scoop it!

Can’t you see it? It’s staring you in the face!

Let me help you: the story is that we need to move away from drug prohibition and towards decriminalization, dispersal of non-biased, non-religiously motivated information; ergo: harm reduction.

Isobel Reilly might not be dead today if MDMA were not illegal and if there were not a culture of fear around telling the truth about drugs. Who knows what precious time was lost as fear of the police delayed calling for help, a common story in such cases?

Isobel Reilly would almost certainly not be dead today if she had not consumed a fatal combination of ALCOHOL mixed with a variety of other substances, one of which may turn out to be MDMA. Not to be crass but I could wager a stake that this will be the result of the post mortem. If the girl had nothing in her system but for an average dose of MDMA and died anyway, I will eat my copy of PIHKAL.

So why don’t you get the real story? Every medication at the pharmacy says “do not take with alcohol”. It is the same for drugs such as MDMA, Ketamine, etcetera. But because some drugs are illegal, they don’t come with advice about how to use them safely. I am incredibly frustrated at mainstream media’s refusal to take an intelligent look at the real issues that surround the “war on some people who use some drugs”, as Charlotte Walsh of the Drug Equality Alliance wittily and correctly terms it.

Come on you guys! Arthur, Tamara, Lucy…not to be cheezy but…have you never smoked a spliff and been inspired by Bob Marley, taken a pill and discovered what dancing really is, eaten some mushrooms at a festival and had a magical night beneath the stars? If not, what is wrong with you? In a non-prohibition culture, in which people were afforded more choices of how to play with and enjoy their own inner landscape, I think you’d find a drop-off in alcoholism, cigarette smoking, violence and cocaine.

The whole personal computer revolution was dreamed up by a bunch of acid heads in California. Guess we should’ve just locked Steve Jobs in a cold, dark, cell and thrown away the key, eh? No I-pod for you Arthur, Tamara and Lucy!

The best music and art has been made by people who have experienced altered states. Would the world be a better place if Carl Sagan, the most brilliant astronomer of the last century, had spent his life in prison because of his love of a good joint? Should we jail all the movie stars, poets, chefs, sailors, teachers, dancers, therapists, and so on who like to get high rather than drunk? And make the world a better place? Oh really?

So when may I expect the Mail to start telling the truth about this?

Isobel Reilly isn’t dead because MDMA is a dangerous and righteously banned substance. She is dead because of an alcohol-addicted, pharmaceutical company-controlled, culture of prohibition towards other mind and mood altering substances; and the ignorance of toxicity hazards that such a culture fosters.

The truth is, right now, no-one knows the exact physical reason why Miss Reilly didn’t make it. But I can tell you without any hesitation whatsoever that it is NOT because MDMA is poisonous nor does her devastatingly premature death justify its present absurd status as a banned substance.

I will be following this case and urge others to do so too. I will update this page with any response from the Daily Mail or its writers.

Dante dans le metro mono

April 11, 2011


January 10, 2011

A friend lent me a DVD of “The Invention of Lying” yesterday and I watched it last night.

Beyond confirming that I really, really don’t like Ricky Gervais, and ignoring the filmmakers’ evident confusion about the difference between “not telling a lie” and “saying whatever the hell comes into your head”, glossing over the breathtaking unoriginality of the last-minute-objection-at-the-wedding climax, and even going so far as to let them off the hook altogether for the cheap-sounding musical score, the film mainly irked me for another all-too-familiar reason, suggested in the title of this piece.

Can anyone out there remember any film ever made in which the storyline focuses on a physically unattractive female winning over the gorgeous alpha-male, purely by means of her wit and self-deprecating charm?

I didn’t think so.

(And before you say “Strictly Ballroom”, let’s not forget that the clumsy and pockmarked female love interest is transformed by that film’s end into, if not exactly the equivalent of beautiful dancer Paul Mercurio, at least a reasonably attractive young woman who no longer bumps into things. She’s definitely not fat and her dress sense improves considerably whilst she also manages to lose the bottle-bottom specs, get her hair sorted, and cure herself of acne.)

Yet how many Hollywood films feature EXACTLY this dynamic, but of course going the other way around? About ten a minute.

What really makes me sick about this particular narrative arc is that whereas the beautiful females are meant to be able to look beneath the surface and see the loveable dude beneath the double-chin and sagging gut, the loveable dude’s quest to win over the beautiful woman is never questioned. So who exactly is the superficial one?

There was a funny moment, one of the only ones, in “The Invention of Lying” in which hapless Ricky professes his feelings for genetically perfect Jennifer Garner; telling her that she is the sweetest, most caring person he’s ever known. This is apparently based on the fact that while she’s reluctantly enduring a dinner date with him, his Mum starts dying and gorgeous Jen goes along to the hospital rather than taking a cab home.

Um, I believe that to be normal human behaviour and not indicative of any great wellspring of compassion in the heart of what can only be a saint.

Ricky’s rhapsody about Jennifer’s shining spirit is a “laugh-out-loud moment” (to use the parlance of tabloid reviewers) not because of any jokes in the script (in fact this is supposed to be one of the film’s many tedious “heartfelt ‘n serious” bits), but because her character, up to this point, has not exhibited a single one of the numerous lovely and eternal qualities which Ricky fabricates that she possesses, but has in fact consistently demonstrated nothing but extreme shallowness, outrageous vanity, and harshly judgmental attitudes towards pretty much everyone. She’s basically a stuck-up airhead cunt. But she sure is pretty! Really, really, really, really pretty!

Isn’t that what Ricky’s character honestly meant: you’re a complete fucking bitch without a single thought in your brain, but I still want to stick my penis in you because fat schmucks like myself never get to bone hot women? (Except in crap movies like this which then make us movie stars so we can hopefully graduate to boning hot women in real life.)

Yup. That’s what he meant. Three guesses who wrote the script.

“Knocked Up”, yes I did see it, no I can’t remember why, worked this same angle. Gorgeous blonde (Elizabeth Heigl) gets drunk and shags stoner loser (Seth Rogan, who’s based his entire career on the “fat slob scores hot chick” thing) resulting in accidental pregnancy. Forgetting that it’s no longer the 1950s and that she’s nowhere near the end of natural fertility, she feels compelled to bear the offspring of her repulsive and embarrassing one-night stand, and during the pregnancy “gets to know him.” Once that’s accomplished, she cannot possibly resist the REAL PERSON hiding behind those sweaty armpits, and lo and behold, TRUE LOVE happens. So she had to overcome her prejudices about below-average looks and he had to overcome…uh….? I think he smokes less weed and has a job by the end, maybe that’s the trade-off.

I recently saw another terrible film, about a bunch of suburban schmos who think they’re bikers, called “Wild Hogs” (OK, I was mildly depressed and watching a lot of TV after Xmas. Shuddup). This cinematic masterpiece featured the beyond-unlikely romantic pairing of Marisa Tomei – wasted in a practically silent supporting role – and William H. Macy. I wondered what could’ve happened to former Oscar-winner Ms Tomei’s career for her to have even considered accepting a part which forced her to squeeze every possible iota of meaning and subtext out of great lines like “Hi!” But besides that, there was absolutely no explanation for why this extremely pretty and fit young woman who owned her own adorable restaurant, would have the slightest interest in the Macy character, who in addition to being a clumsy and socially awkward geek twice her age, sports a face like the ruins of Pompeii: you can just about work out what everything once was, but it’s definitely not in the right place and there seem to be bits missing.

This kind of shit is so standard now, that the hack writers of “Wild Hogs” didn’t even bother to justify the improbable chemistry but just assumed the audience would find it plausible that this exceptionally attractive and together gal was instantly smitten by Macy’s repertoire of endearing antics, which were mainly a heart-melting tendency to walk into walls and being irresistibly incapable of either completing a sentence or looking anyone in the eye. That is, until a 5 minute dance lesson with a, frankly, enormous John Travolta (har har har geddit) results in shriveled Macy unleashing a previously undiscovered talent for world-class partnering. Hot chick in the bag and confidence restored, all he has to do now is overcome 40 members of the pussiest biker gang in the galaxy, which he dispatches with ease and it’s vroom vroom into the sunset!

It’s true that in “Shallow Hal” this sick-making convention was supposedly toyed with, but in fact it reinforced it. I mean, we’re supposed to find it funny that fat Jack Black is unknowingly attracted to a fat girl but not funny that Gwyneth Paltrow should be attracted to fat Jack. No, that’s just her seeing his inner essence shine through.

So why exactly is it that beautiful women are supposed to stop being shallow and stop limiting sexy contact to guys as hot as they are, while ugly dudes are considered “aspirational” for daring to ask out the office hottie? How come ugly dudes aren’t ever asked to look beyond the surface and maybe check out whether the pimply frump with B.O. lurking behind the water cooler doesn’t in fact have some well-hidden but fine qualities? Perhaps she can fart the Star-spangled Banner? Tee hee. Maybe the slightly-over-the-hill woman with the bad perm and irritating giggle who works the till at the local video store is actually in possession of a wicked sense of humour and does this funny dance thing that gets everyone in hysterics, if you just give her half a chance to overcome her crippling shyness?

Movies never seem to ask those questions.

What really pisses me off about this Hollywood obsession with unattractive nerd men pairing up with female winners of the beauty lottery, is that it has bled out into real life. The combination of those movies and the ubiquity of hyper-surreal porn (in which the women are also invariably better-looking than the cocksmen) has resulted in a population of males that all think they deserve to be with women who look like models, whilst taking zero effort in their own appearance and rejecting as unworthy women who are in fact far more superficially desirable than they will ever be.

Some years ago, I lived in the house of a guy who was funny, intelligent, original, kind, generous, overweight, balding-with-long-back-and-sides and bespectacled, and who dressed exclusively in knee-length shorts, flip flops and T-shirts emblazoned with the logos of software companies. He was searching desperately for his mate and I remember hooking him up one time with a female friend close to his own age who was funny, intelligent, original, kind, generous, slender, a bit wrinkly around the eyes, in recovery from crack addiction, and with a great wardrobe of stylish attire.

After we’d all gone out together and then he and I returned back to the house we shared, he actually wouldn’t speak to me for a while. He was seriously offended that I thought he and my female friend were on the same level in the desirability stakes. In fact, I can assure you that she has a far easier time picking up guys than he does picking up girls, but nonetheless he told me she was “damaged goods” and went back to drooling over the recently-single goddess of the local music scene, who was blonde, fit, 20 years younger than him and with a line of suitors that spanned the Golden Gate Bridge.

My tongue loosened by MDMA one evening I tried to talk to him about this.

Has it ever occurred to you, I asked him, that Lucinda Goddamn Beautiful (to give her a pseudonym) might spend a lot of time, energy and money on the following things: exercising, eating correctly, having hair, nails and skin professionally serviced, buying on-trend and flattering clothing?

You are attracted to her at least partially (mostly) because of these things – because of the way she makes herself look, I continued. It’s true that she had good raw material to begin with, but I guarantee you that she, like most other women, then maximized on her natural attributes in order to make the best of them.

Therefore, do you not think it likely that she – like you – might possibly be interested in a mate who is also fit, well-groomed and nicely dressed? Don’t you think she is also interested in appearances seeing that she takes so much care regarding her own?

But no. My poor dear friend really could not see that there was anything wrong with him setting his sights on Lucinda Goddamn Beautiful, nor did he feel it unlikely that she would someday look beyond his shlumpy exterior to unearth the gem that quivered for release beneath all that Adipose tissue.

It’s true that her previous boyfriend had been one of the ugliest dudes in the Bay Area, with facial skin like exploded bubble wrap, but he also happened to be an egoist of monumental proportions who was something of a celebrity on the local scene, which in the attraction sweepstakes cancels out the equivalent of at least two receding hairlines.

Dan Savage, of the brilliant Savage Love “advice” column, once did an extra-brilliant piece about the lonelyhearts issues of the TMI community (that’s Traumatic Brain Injury). Apparently the number-one most desirable feature in women sought by TMI men (this whole article is from a hetero perspective by the way – homosexual beauty fascism being a topic unto itself) was that they be “able-bodied”. Though there are obvious advantages to dating someone who can walk, if you happen to be stuck in a wheelchair, the desire for able-bodied love apparently wasn’t just about convenience and having someone to mop up drool, it was a status thing. Savage quite rightly pointed out the obvious hypocrisy of expecting the able-bodied woman to look beyond the disability and embrace the severely damaged body of the male TMI victim, whilst the male TMI victims themselves were completely unable to do this and were actively disinterested in seeking love amongst their own ranks.

He also noted while doing his research, that though he did indeed occasionally see an able-bodied woman selflessly devoting herself to her TMI lover, he never, as in NOT ONCE, saw an able-bodied man with a TMI woman.

(Before angry male spouses of female TMI victims come after me with pitchforks, let me make clear I’m talking about relationships formed after the injury, not ones that survived it.)

Beauty fascism isn’t nice. It’s not nice to dismiss people because they are physically damaged, or just not terribly cute, because they have no fashion sense, bad hair or rotten taste in shoes. Obviously, we should all be able to look beyond the surface exterior to discover the soul of a person and we shouldn’t be so stupid and naive as to think that a person of great beauty is also a great person.

But one-sided beauty fascism is even worse. This idea that men don’t have to be that great-looking in order to be attractive to women but women, no matter what their other qualities, must still be great-looking in order to attract even below-average-looking men is just super-twisted.

I just went on Google and typed “fat dude skinny chick” and found a popular question on Yahoo Answers to be one that dealt with this dilemma, specifically “How can I get a skinny chick to like me, a fat dude?”

Unsurprisingly, most of the answerers banged on about getting one’s unique and loveable personality to shine through the fat.

Not one person suggested losing some fucking weight.

Ringing in the New Year on Brighton Beach

January 1, 2011

What a beautiful night!

Didn’t want to go to parties but wandered down to the beach a half hour before midnight. I wanted to be alone, yet with people, which I guess is sort of how I go through life.

At first there were just a few of us, but then more and more people came down, drawn to the sea, and started letting off dozens of Chinese lanterns and fireworks, while fire dancers spun their poi.

I sat on the very end of the stone breaker, facing the sea, everything happening behind me: the bonfires and sounds of laughter and singing and rockets going off. And in the minutes just before midnight this happy cacophony crescendo-ed and I leaned my head all the way back, cackling like a maniac, each hand madly ringing a bell (two Cs an octave apart), staring and blinking at the pink and green and white starbursts whistling and exploding against the black night sky while the lanterns drifted higher and higher until each was just a distant pinpoint of faintly glowing orange, the colour of new stars.

I rang my bells til my arms were sore, screaming with deranged exultation that was also catharsis, and I didn’t stop until the last shower of flaming cinders dispersed overhead, then I let the last tones ring out, stilled the bells. I looked at my mobile phone, the modern human’s pocket watch. It read 00:00.

There was something like silence for almost a whole moment and then it began again: the singing and laughing and firing of rockets.

Begin again, begin again…

I was at the very edge of the sea and walked up to it then and put my hands in it and bathed my face with the water, my tears mingling with the waves.

A fresh start. What is lost is gone. Say goodbye to it forever, sweetly. And with the tenderness that sorrow brings, dare to invite something new into your life.

If you’re one of those annoying people who’s had an absolutely perfect year then I guess you won’t have a clue what I’m on about and probably think I’m being a bit melodramatic.

But I think there are many of you who will know just what I mean and also understand that I’m not the least bit depressed as I write this. There is a borderland where sorrow and joy touch, where hope and loss shake hands, where regret for what one has or hasn’t done makes way for new resolve. There is no time like the changing of the year to effect a powerful magic in the contemplation of these opposites which are really conjoined twins.

And all with really cool special effects!

Happy New Year everyone! With love from Brighton beach.

(Well, Hove actually….)

p.s. the picture is of a laser show on the old West pier that was actually done at Chinese New Year, but it captures the mood and location perfectly. I never take photos when I’m trying to have an experience so my words are the only document of last night. As it was in honour of a different calendar, it also says, to me, that there can be and are, many “new years” even within a single year…

Get your fucking hands off me

December 26, 2010

Last night I was at a wonderful Christmas party and then, right at the end, the whole thing was spoiled. I wrote a letter to the person I had a conflict with, but as I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again, I’m posting it here.

Dear Dude from Party

If I were a man, would you have thought to grab me by the arms and physically restrain me when I said I wanted to leave?

I doubt it.

Because then you would have had to consider whether or not you had a good chance of victory, should the man not like being grabbed by the arms and attempt to fuck you up. You would have had to look at the guy, assess his strength, size, fitness level and aggression quotient and determine for yourself whether it was a risk worth taking.

Not so with a woman. That’s a no-brainer – unless she’s the female heavyweight boxing champion of the world, you’re gonna win.

The instant I felt your grip on my elbows I knew that this was a battle I could not win and that yes, if it came down to it you could force me to hear you out. Men have been doing this to women since the beginning of time. Exerting their physical superiority in order to make women obey them, listen to them.

How are women to get men to listen?

I can’t hold you down and make you hear me.

That’s why I feel so passionately about secular society and Western institutions. That’s why I hate all religions and Islam in particular. Because they enshrine man’s physical superiority in laws that give him legal superiority as well.

That’s why I want Europeans and Americans to stop bashing the West and try to strengthen our secular institutions and democracy, however flawed. Because here at least, we have legal instruments that make it so the physical law of strength doesn’t run things like back in the jungle.

Here we have laws that say women can do whatever they want and that men cannot tell them how to dress, what kind of sex to have, who to believe in or what to think. Men cannot tell women when they may or may not leave a room.

Men still try to do it anyway, as you yourself demonstrated, but we have LAWS that at least give some avenue of retribution. So-called honour killings still happen in the UK but the murderers can be prosecuted.

You interfered with my free will and as long as there is no Sharia Law in the UK then I, along with any other human being, have the right to decide for myself when I leave a room.

Although I think you are a nice person and I had enjoyed most of your company up until that point, I must tell you that in that moment you may have had no intention of doing so but you DID in fact, re-enact the entire history of male/female relations and it’s a sad one.

Do you remember when, as a child, everyone could pick you up, put you down, make you do anything at all because they were so big and you were so very small? Do you remember how helpless and angry you sometimes felt when, kicking and wailing, the physically superior beast would carry you to your room, deposit you there, and shut and lock the door behind them? Do you?

That infantile fear of being completely dominated never quite leaves those of us who are female.

I know you did not mean to hurt me and had no evil intent, but the ease with which you gripped my arms and prevented me from carrying out my free will did indeed send me into hysteria. Can you understand this?

Earlier, we had had a brief discussion about Islamism and I explained to you that I was distressed by Westerner’s harsh critique of their own history, at the detriment of the better things that have emerged from it. I told you that it troubled me that people in countries where free speech was “allowed” spent so much time attacking the imperfections of their government instead of realizing that the whole flawed enterprise is under threat and that we better shore up the dams. You and Graeme, both men, were typically unmoved by my words, asking me if I’d read the Koran etc.

In fact, I do not express opinions unless I have thoroughly researched the subject so yes, having studied Islam quite enough, I feel secure in my p.o.v. that it is harmful to the cause of gender equity and the principle of separation of church and state.

You proved my case, inadvertently, when you grabbed my arms. You acted as a man who thinks he has a right over me, that my own choice to leave can be cancelled by your will that I stay, enforced by your body. That is exactly the kind of shit I want to make sure is not considered acceptable.

Speaking of not expressing opinions when ignorant, this brings me to the trigger for the final act last night. You were attempting to opine on the subject of ley lines. You didn’t know what the fuck you were talking about. This is not name-dropping but I happen to have been fortunate enough to be personally acquainted with the person who made everyone, including you (though you don’t know it), aware of ley lines in the 20th century. His name, may you never forget it, was John Michell. He was quite simply the best person I have ever known and none will ever match his intelligence, originality, humour, generosity and sheer brilliance. He died last year and I still weep despondently and with regularity over his absence. I am not alone in this. It may sound ridiculously inflated to state that knowing John was like sitting at the feet of Plato, or hanging out with William Blake, but if you bother to investigate you will see that even the mainstream newspapers made such comparisons when he died. One day, if we don’t go up in flames because of some idiotic “religous” war, his name will be up there with Galileo.

If you want to give me an opinion about opera but say you don’t know Puccini then guess what, I don’t give a shit about your opinion because it is incompletely informed.

Likewise, there is absolutely nothing you can say on the subject of ley lines that will ever brighten my mind because I knew the master himself – of whom you’ve never heard (!) – so shut up.

Instead of shutting up, realizing you were in the presence of someone who had greater knowledge than you, and first-hand intimacy with the modern father of the discipline, you tried to physically hold me down when I realized you were a lost cause and wanted to leave.

I know myself and my temper and it is therefore my responsiblity to handle it in the best way possible so as to have the least adverse affect on others. That is what I was trying to do when I realized you were angering me and it was late, we were drunk and I should probably go home.

How fucking dare you second guess my choice.

I did not want to have an argument in Bella’s flat, knew she was trying to sleep and so acted to avoid this outcome.

But by refusing to recognize me as a sovereign being you caused the very explosion I was trying to avert.

I hope that you will never again in your life use your physical strength to make a woman listen to you or to prevent her from going where she wishes.

Though it was unconscious, you demonstrated an ugly reality about gender relations and I pray that it gives you much food for thought.

And finally, before you attempt to discuss ley lines again, read up on John Michell. Had he not come across a battered old copy of Alfred Watkins’ “The Ley Hunter’s Manual” at some charity shop somewhere in the UK, sometime in the late 1950s, I can guarantee that the book would be unavailable today, rather than in print, and furthermore that every single author on the subject since then would have had to find something else to do with their lives as they would be unaware of ley lines. It was John who rediscovered this work and then devoted his life to meticulously documenting and measuring sacred geometrical topography, and whose numbers and proofs were so elegant and beautifully explained that they essentially founded the modern study of ancient measure.

Your ignorance was stunning but it pales next to your arrogance.

No hard feelings. But I hope you learned something from this.

Yours truly,

The Holy Healing Bitch
p.s. Just noticed after writing this that I have bruises in the shapes of fingers on my left arm, just above the elbow. I see your point. Literally.

If Gurus Aren’t Real then How Come Their Followers Have Real Experiences?

October 17, 2010

Amma Grateful Dead Alexandra Palace Gurus Frauds Cults Eric Clapton

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” - Carl Sagan

* This is sort of a follow-on to my previous post (Bullshit!) which referenced Amma, the so-called “Hugging Saint.” This is my attempt to explain what is really going on when people claim to have transformative experiences by hugging this woman.

“If gurus aren’t real then how come their followers have real experiences?”

Good question, grasshopper.

It may seem like I’m changing the subject but I want to ask you if you’ve ever been to a big rock concert of an internationally renowned act?

I mean a really big one: the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Nirvana, Beyoncé; genre doesn’t matter, any act with millions of devoted fans all over the world will do for the purposes of this thought experiment.

If you have ever attended such an event, you will have noticed the energy in the hall/stadium/amphitheatre when everyone’s waiting for the band to come on. Some fans, as you know, take their devotion to ludicrous extremes; spending their hard-earned cash flying all over the world to catch every single performance of a tour; naming their children after the band members; dressing like them, copying their haircuts, even having plastic surgery to resemble them.

These people, if they ever ran into their heroes at the local Starbucks would no doubt fall to their knees prostrate, forget how to speak, burst into tears and/or attempt to snatch a button off their idol’s jacket sleeve.

So whilst it’s safe to conclude that Eric Clapton is not, in fact, God, it’s equally comprehensible that according to graffiti found all over London circa 1965, he once was.
At least to some people.

That’s an early preview of my point, but I haven’t gotten there just yet and may have forgotten what it was by then, so remember that for me please.

Let’s go back to the rock concert.

OK, so there you are; the place is packed with excited fans and there’s an incredibly charged atmosphere as it gets closer to show time. If the band is late on stage (and the headliner ALWAYS is, for reasons that will become clear immediately after these parentheses) then the energy goes up a few more notches during the wait. It’s positively crackling in there! You could light your joint just by holding it above your head to catch some of the sparks.

What exactly is responsible for this tingling electrical buzz? Is it the band, our modern day shamen, sitting behind the curtain in deep trance, collecting their magical forces and silently transmitting a mega-bolt of emotional flash-lightening to the awaiting massive?

In all actuality, if they’re half-way respectable rock stars anyway, they’re far more likely to be backstage with a Jack and Coke, getting a pre-show blow job.

So the energy must be coming from within the crowd then, right?

The combined anticipation of a large number of people who all share similiar feelings for the band is feeding off itself, multiyplying and gathering force. Picture a snowball barreling down the mountainside, then – using your imagination – keep its momentum, but turn it into fire and make it go in a spiral instead of down.

You have just created a mental picture of what is happening inside the auditorium. It’s like a feedback loop that just continues amplifying and doubling. It’s the magic of the vibe: it increases itself exponentially by itself. If I knew calculus I could probably express it as an equasion. Alas.

Finally…the lights go down! This can only mean the band is about to come on! The vibe triples, quadruples, making the hairs on your arms get tiny erections. People exchange thrilled glances, squeeze each other’s hands, hug and kiss, they start to jump up and down, whistle, whoop, howl, scream declarations of love, someone shouts something funny and the people nearby all laugh out loud.

omigod omigod omigod omigod!

the hubbub the buzzz buzzz buzzz buzzz buzzz buzzz buzzz buzzz buzzz!

The stage lights come on. It doesn’t seem like it could get any higher, but the vibe shoots up another few notches.

Maybe some pyrotechnics go off, or a short piece of video art plays, or a cryptic voice-over of great portent. Laser beams ping all around the room in a lattice that exactly replicates the energetic spider’s web that’s drawing everyone closer in to the centre of the experience, the core of their own being; all of these techniques designed to prolong the penultimate moment before the Entrance and further heighten the uncomfortable, delicious tension.

The crowd is practically wriggling; there’s a surge to the front; but nobody minds getting crushed (yet); the screams get louder, adrenaline and oxytocin are flooding everyone’s nerve terminals. And then….


The lead singer usually comes on last, often raising their arms above their head or in an outstretched attitude of embrace that implicitly includes every single person in the room. Sometimes they make a gesture of humility, like bowing with one hand on their heart or making the sign of prayer. How apt.

It’s like an explosion, like an internal simultaneous fireworks display. The crowd nearly levitates, the roar is deafening, the applause like Katrina on a corrugated tin roof.


Keep in mind that no-one’s played a note yet.

At this pregnant moment of loving expectancy someone in the band has to SERIOUSLY fuck up to stop the vibe of the audience from generating a brilliant performance out of ‘em.

This does of course sometimes happen, and as anyone who’s ever witnessed a crowd “turning” can attest, hell hath no fury like an audience that’s just been badly let down.

The very same individuals who will fork over hundreds for tickets, recordings and merchandise and get tattoos of the band’s logo on their necks, have absolutely no problem whatsoever with hurling a beer bottle directly at the face of their favorite rock star in the entire world, with intent to wound, should s/he stagger onstage in a wasted stupor and, in a croaking voice, forget the lyrics to the fan’s favorite tune.

But if it’s a top pro act, then all they have to do is capitalise on the vibe that’s been fire-snow-ball-spiralling while they were backstage, and they can turn it into a collective experience that approaches the transcendental. (In fact there is very little difference between descriptions of religious experiences and a fan’s account of the best concert ever.) Ideally then, a sort of energy exchange starts to happen between those on stage and those watching. The vibe has energized the band, now the band starts to give it back to the crowd.

AND – they’ve got electric guitars and really big speakers!

Now the energy has a form, a sound: it is MUSIC!

The best and highest and most magical of all the arts I don’t care what you say. It is MUSIC that moves us to our core like no painting ever could, sorry Leonardo, because you just can’t feel the vibrations of the colours in a painting in your cunt.
(Or cock or whatever.)

Or as Dick Clark might say of the Mona Lisa “well, it’s good…but you can’t dance to it.” Neither can you sing along (especially not whilst abrasive guards scream “KEEP MOVING!” in various languages as you shuffle past it in a herd, but that’s the subject of another essay).

The music, the heavy intoxicating music; its pulse, its deep, deep beat, its soaring melodic lines, its poetry; the music fills the space like ether escaping from the alchemist’s jar and EVERYONE is super-super fucked up and loving it.

When I say “everyone”, I do not of course mean literally everyone.

If you’ve ever accidentally ended up at a concert of a massive star that you don’t particularly care for because someone had a free ticket or something, then you will know exactly what I’m talking about.

I once got dragged along to a Phil Lesh and Friends show in Concord, California, despite a life-long inability to understand the musical phenomeon that was the Grateful Dead (Lesh having been their bassist, for those who share my indifference).

Maybe it’s unresolved trauma from that time my parents took me to see the Dead as a little kid in London in the 70s?

The only thing I remember about the show is that groupies stole our home-made apple pie from where we thought it was safely hidden backstage and it upset me in a really big way. I have a very clear visual of going to the wicker basket to get it because I was starving and then just the shock and disbelief when I pulled away the tea towel and the pie had seemingly vanished. I couldn’t understand what had happened and even thought at first we must have left it at home, even though I clearly recalled it being in the basket earlier.

That was my first personal experience of theft you see. I knew you weren’t supposed to take other people’s stuff and until that instant, I didn’t fully comprehend that there were those who did it anyway. I lost a shred of innocence that night. It’s perfectly fitting that it was an apple pie too; that American symbol of all things good and wholesome.

Nonetheless, I don’t think the stolen pie can be the sole reason why I have a deaf spot regarding the Grateful Dead. While I don’t mind a couple of their songs, I’ve never been able to “get” them really or to put my finger on what it was about them that inspired such mass adoration.

Their music has always struck me as slippery. It noodles along and slides and slithers here and there in a largely inoffensive way, but then just as easily it slips straight out of my ears and leaves no trace behind. It doesn’t stick in my head or throb in my soul.
It doesn’t make me cry.

But I agreed to go to the Phil Lesh show with my raver boyfriend (the Dead having gained a whole new audience on the back of nouveau psychedelic culture) because Bob Dylan was opening (!) and I’d never seen him. As it turned out none of the boyfriend’s bonehead pals, including the driver, bothered to look up directions to the venue, so we got lost on the way and arrived just as Dylan was taking his bow.

Already pissed off, I tried to be open to Phil and Friends, and to get into the groove that everyone else was clearly deep into. I hoped that since the Dead were famous for their live shows more than their studio recordings, now I’d finally understand what their fans had been frothing about all this time – having blocked out all memory of seeing them in their heyday, thanks to the apple pie incident. But because I didn’t feel the crowd’s anticipation, only a wary kind of apprehension, there was no way I could catch their buzz, no matter how many hits of acid I ate. (I know because I tried.)

It was a very strange feeling. I was “a part of” something, because I was there, physically present along with everyone else and yet, I was outside of it because I simply couldn’t connect with the scene. I felt like an anthropologist at first contact: I’m here with you but I do not know your ways.

People are just as fanatical about the many Dead off-shoot projects as they are about the original band, and so the lively atmosphere did not reflect whatsoever what I was personally feeling. Though I tried valiantly to battle my own preconceptions, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to dig the music. So I tried to stay neutral during the wait, but my true feelings bordered on dread. I’d missed Dylan and now I was stuck at this fucking Phil Lesh show!

Alone in my bubble, nothing could penetrate it. Strangers smiled rapturously at me, assuming I was as jazzed as they were. I smiled politely back, feeling nothing.

When the band came on, it was as I feared: I don’t like the Grateful Dead much, which – no surprise – this music sounded exactly like. Maybe they were even playing Dead songs, I really couldn’t tell you. It all sounds the same.

The slippery music slid around me, mainly passing right over my head, leaving me the strangely unaffected eye of a storm that was sending everyone else flying. Gradually, my feeling further degraded. I was no longer just unaffected, I was BORED and starting to get angry. The Dead were legendary for the length of their shows and I was getting a bad, bad feeling that its former members stayed true to the old tradition.

I suddenly remembered an old punk joke.

Q: What did the Deadhead say to the other Deadhead when they both ran out of weed? A: Dude, this band suuucks!

I chuckled and wanted to share the joke with someone else, but of course, there was no one to tell it to.

I couldn’t have been more out of synch if I’d tried. Eventually I started wandering around by the concessions area, figuring that anyone else who hated the show would probably be trying to get away from the speakers too. But I never found my kin.

It was a long lonely night.

Earlier I said the Dead’s music didn’t made me cry, but it did – just this once.

Seventeen decades later, when the show was finally over, and we were trying to part the mists of time and remember where the hell we’d parked, we ran into a young hippy kid with dreadlocks and a bloody head. He was tripping his balls off and had also evidently been selling doses at the show (note to budding drug dealers: this is generally ill-advised) with the result that he’d been jumped and been divested of both stash and cash. Somebody pointed him in the general direction of something and we eventually found our car and split. This encounter seemed like the perfect exclamation point to cap the evening.

So just think: if people can work themselves into a near frenzy about what is, objectively speaking (and to those not under the spell), a few other people thrashing away boringly on electronically amplified instruments, how high is the limit for those who believe they’re about to be touched, or HUGGED even, by the divine incarnate?

I understand that Amma keeps people waiting for their hug for ten hours or even more, while the public sessions of singing bhajans, devotional music, often last all-night.

She’d have to really suck ass at hugging not to leave most people satisfied after all that build-up.

By a sweet coincidence, I noticed while researching this piece that the last time Amma came to the UK, she did her thing at the Alexandra Palace.

That’s the very same venue where my apple pie got nicked by Deadheads back in 1974.

Peace and love, man.

Sorry, grasshopper, I think I forgot the question.

But hopefully that answered it.


October 14, 2010

gurus charlatans Amma


I’m dealing with a lot of Bullshit right now. It’s coming at me from every angle like some kind of horrific splatter scene in a Coprophagiac’s porn flick.

It’s interesting actually, how many levels Bullshit can exist on.

Two of the situations in question deal with large-scale spiritual frauds, two are about the untrustworthiness of intimates. (There was another one in the latter category recently as well, but it pales in significance and so I won’t include it here. Amateur night, you know.)

All are about Bullshit.

Without getting into the devilish details, i.e. the specifics of each movement of the Bullshit Symphony I am currently trying to get out of the auditorium before the feces-flinging finale of, let’s just delve straight into the bog which begs the question: why do people misrepresent themselves?

Looking at these four very different instances from the sort of safe distance that allows pattern and design to emerge from the crap-sprayed mess, I find that it is helpful to assume the detached and objective stance of a forensics professional analyzing a crime scene.

The M.O. may be different, the repercussions varied, but people who present themselves and their lives with a high degree of “spin” are basically all operating from the same dead battery.


The user is ashamed of his need to exploit others; of the fact that s/he is so incapable of honest ascent. The poseur is ashamed of his/her inherent lack of cool, of the creeping certainty of mediocrity that gives rise to the uncontrollable urge to self-aggrandize. The hustler is ashamed of the truth, of the honesty that would make her/his scams less palatable to the gullible. The plastic shaman is ashamed – scornful actually – of humanity itself, and ashamed at being a piece of it; getting over on the fellow-fools is a way of soothing the shame.

Although it is not grammatically correct to use “they” in place of “he” or “she” if wishing to make a comment about a person without indicating “their” gender, I have done so anyway below because the English language is bastard stupid on this point, plus his/her s/he become clumsier with each repetition, and most crucially I am trying to protect myself from the guilty by being vague:

One of the four makes promises they cannot keep; cuts sweet deals that always turn sour.

One tells lies to hide how much they take from others; creates squabbles amongst their critics that they may divert attention.

One falsifies history in order to give themselves unique access to “ancient wisdom” which snake oil they then sell to the anxious seekers.

One uses psychotropic drugs to mesmerize the overly-earnest and then claims this ownerless force as their own (for which of course they charge a pretty penny).

Doesn’t it just suck?

Everywhere you look there are people making false claims, bigging themselves up, donning tin tiaras and getting drunk (and rich) on the illusion of being special.

I’m sicker of it even than I’m sick of the trouble I perpetually land in when my finicky nostrils detect the concealed pile of shit and, goddamn it Diana, go and communicate the sensitive information to my mouth which of course then vomits out the obvious question: what the fuck you trying to pull?

If you think I make a lot of friends this way, you’d be dead wrong. It’s not the kind of thing people generally thank you for, even the people you have just dragged half conscious from the pile of Bullshit, upon which they were about to choke.

And that is what I find even weirder:  the desire to swallow Bullshit: whole.

Logically, it would progress therefore, that both the purveyor and consumer of Bullshit are getting off on the exchange somehow.

Here’s a little example, not one of the Big 4 Bullshit Artists teasingly referred to above, but of some silly twat I’ll never see again, and who will most likely never see this.

I think I’ll even give her real name here, which if I remember correctly, was Venus (depends what you mean by “real” I guess) which makes it just that bit more amusing.

At a recent gig of “healing sounds” in Camden Town, in which I’m proud to say I was the only performer whose spiritual lyrics included the word FUCK, I met Venus out on the patio by the canal after I’d sung.

Gushy and wuvvy at first, she somehow managed to steer the conversation towards “living saint” Amma, (you know, the one that hugs) with whom she had clearly become recently infatuated.

I always bite my tongue at least one and a half times before saying what I really think, when someone is spewing Bullshit, in order to give them a chance to voluntarily emerge from the mental sewer and start either talking sense or about the weather. And so I did.

Unfortunately for Venus, she didn’t take the hint and kept talking about Amma. Finally, she shoved her watch in my face, which had Amma’s face on its face. This was too weird; a timeless divine being telling the time. Priceless. As I’m sure Venus would agree.

Pitying the lacerated sides of my tongue I ventured forth with the mild remark, “uh…I’m not really into gurus you see…” To which Venus, glowing from within, replied knowingly “…ah yes, that’s just how I used to feel! But then I met Amma and felt such divine love ..”

I couldn’t hear the rest because a humongous volcano of Bullshit erupted at that very moment, coating us all in a fine layer of putrid filth.

Politely ignoring the stench and inhaling deeply on my fag (part of the reason I smoke is for sensory survival in situations such as these) I decided to risk continuing. Maybe Venus was ready to hear the truth after all.

In my mind I flashed upon an exposé I had read of the whole Amma cult in which it was pretty well inarguably demonstrated that her image, hugging shtick, and Western presence had been skillfully stage-managed by PR professionals.  Having been to India and seen the enormous commerce in gurus that thrives there, this made sense to me. I also recalled a personal account of a horrific visit to her ashram in India by a well-trusted friend whose observations are on the level.

Maybe I should break it to Venus gently?


Best just spill it.

“..actually…” I countered, “..I believe that Amma’s mission is a carefully constructed example of the corporatization of Indian spiritual culture…”

I would have said more but to my surprise, 10,000 volts of electricity suddenly coursed through Venus’s slender frame, jettisoning her from a cross-legged position next to me to a warrior stance about 12 feet NE of her former situation.

“I’m NOT having this conversation!” she said with a holy defiance that owed a lot to popular representations of Jean D’arc.

Thanks to my terrible addiction to tobacco, I was still extremely calm, extremely cross-legged still, and still by the canal. I spoke quietly.

“It’s OK. You can close your mind any time you want.” (puff)

Venus/Joan, gripped her invisible sword in its scabbard and spoke with the conviction of a thousand martyrs.

“But my HEART is open!”

(Oscar nod.)


“..well, it’s not really an either/or you know. You could always go for both.”


I wish I could remember Venus’s exact words that follow but my chief recollection is of spontaneously diving into the canal, to wash off the thickly caked layers of Bullshit that were starting to congeal on my favorite pashmina, and all I could hear from beneath the water was this WHOMP WHOMP oscillating thrumming as her distorted face collapsed and kaleidoscoped, shape-shifting through the entire pantheon of Durgas.

The general gist though was that the mind couldn’t be trusted whereas the heart could.

I do not concur.

“…I think you’ll find,” I continued in what I hoped was a reasonable tone of voice, “..that actually the mind is a terribly useful tool, particularly when the heart gets confounded. Abandoning the intellect in order to have a ‘spiritual experience’ doesn’t seem like a smart move to me.”


Venus was still trembling with incandescent self-righteousness; she was the defender of the grail, the keeper of the key, she was the Cathars at Montségur, she was Sally Field in Not Without My Daughter!

I could only really see her out of the peripheral vision of my right eye at this point. Once the chapatti flour of her half-baked convictions had mingled with the peroxide of my skepticism and the resulting explosion had blasted her across the deck, I saw no reason to twist from the direction I’d originally been facing, with the result that she was holding court with my right shoulder, whilst I studiously addressed the barge hitching-post in the centre of my field of vision.

Remembering that she was a New Age Mamma Bearing Unconditional Love, I believe she then said something along the lines of: “Peace sister, we don’t have to agree.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more,” I affirmed to the hitching-post.


We smilingly avoided one another for the rest of the evening. (That is, Venus and I – the hitching-post cleverly stayed put.)

What have we learned from this object lesson?

Well, to me it’s simple: bullshitters peddle bullshit for various reasons, most to do with money, fame, prestige, sex, and the other popular void-stuffers that mask the gaping, aching, hole within.

Bullshittees swallow bullshit because they (think they) need to be fed things to believe in that not only don’t require proof, but which reject the very idea of proof at all. Why else would Islam be the fastest-growing religion in the world despite its obvious flaws? Why? – because it’s the mack daddy of all responsibility-abdicating faiths with its unshakeable tenets that govern practically every situation of life. If you wanna come on this ride folks, please leave that pesky brain at the door.

Maybe that’s what’s always bugged me about the word “believe” – it’s almost like an admission that you are putting your trust in something that’s as likely to be cubic zirconium as diamonds. You’re saying you don’t care; that the buzz you get from thinking you’re wearing real diamonds is worth being duped.

So, then maybe it’s not even worth bothering to enlighten the willing victims of a confidence trick, maybe there’s no point in busting people whose endless tangled lies and manipulations waste countless precious hours and generate fathomless tears.

But what else you gonna do?

Sit there covered in Bullshit? Lapping it up happily like pigs in…uh… shit?

I can’t tell you what to do, but in the immortal words of Hall and Oates I can definitively state that: I won’t go for that/no-wo-wo-oh/no can do

The bummer, of course, is that when you reject Bullshit, you can for sure expect one thing: for your trouble, you are going to get a lot of shit. 

As I once said, un-ironically, to myself, upon having a heavy bowel movement whilst high on ayahuasca and realizing that there was no toilet paper in the cubicle: 

oh shit!

Why the Souls of the Dead Turn Into Stars

September 25, 2010

Knowing our bright souls will perish

In a minute vivid display

In a merry ring

Skip to the death

But shall not fade away…

…something remains

A glimmer

A spark

Shining for evermore

So that others who come

If others there be

Will know others have been here before

Sign #3: French Anarchist Bio-Fuel, Copenhagen, December 2009

September 25, 2010

This was taken during my “hilariously” disastrous trip to Copenhagen for the COP15 conference and protests (more of which I’ll be giving a comprehensive account of, once I can face the thought). One of the meeting points for activists, which was also a tea bar (although you could bring your own beer and laptop if you just needed to get on the wi-fi) had a bulletin board with info about various actions taking place, times and places etc. People also stuck notices up there if they were looking for a ride, a place to stay, or in this case – the return of some vegetable oil that had been confiscated by the police.

The entire text reads:

“Help us! The Police seized the cooking oil we use to drive our bus. They say we could make bombs with it. Please call the Police and ask for the return of our oil: (then some phone numbers). Signed – The French Activists of Caravan Solitaire”

I just love this hand-made sign. I hope they got their cooking oil back and that Caravan Solitaire was sur la route (encore) bientôt!