Monday, August 17, 2009

Layer 180 Woodstock, Hendrix, Political Egos, Religion, Faith and Humour.


This weekend was the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. On Saturday night the 'Director's Cut' of the movie was shown on TV, and it was quite difficult to watch. The whole thing, apart from some of the music, was quite a shambles. Now that I stop to think about it I realise that a) I never bothered to buy the album of the event, and b) I didn't even enjoy the Woodstock movie when it first hit the cinemas - just as the era of peace and love (and anti war demos) was drawing to an end.

My outstanding memory of the film was the Santana section – full of pulsating music from a band that was at that point unknown in Britain. Superb throbbing bass guitar, thundering drums, pounding percussion and wailing Hammond organ. And of course the incredible Carlos and his brilliant guitar.

As for the rest of the event . . . That ridiculous chain-link fence that was so easy to break down or climb over! Sheer amateurish idiocy on the part of the organisers. The rain, the appallingly muddy ground, the lack of food and water, the incessant tannoy appeals to share food . . .

It seems completely incredible that Jimi Hendrix didn't get on stage till the Monday morning – till it was all over, and all that remained in front of the stage were a few bedraggled, wet and stoned stragglers, squelching through the mud and the piles of garbage.

I wonder what Jimi thought of that, as he cranked out his electric blues version of the Star Spangled Banner, which remains stunning to this day in its sonic invention, its painful intensity, its emotion, its sheer audacity and its implicit judgement on a country that was still embroiled in a war in Vietnam that continued to shock the rest of the civilised world for its barbaric conduct, its incredible cost, and its determination to impose the American state's wishes and authority on the people of a small country, all in the name of fighting Communism.

By sheer coincidence my ex-wife is currently enjoying a two week holiday in Vietnam, and the daughter of a friend has recently returned from an activity holiday in Vietnam, learning how to scuba dive. Had a great time, apparently.

According to Wikipedia, “Hendrix got into trouble with the law twice for riding in stolen cars. He was given a choice between spending two years in prison or joining the Army. Hendrix chose the latter and enlisted on May 31, 1961.”

Imagine that – two years in prison for just riding in a stolen car – not even stealing it. Two years, mind you. Either that or incarcerate yourself in the army. Jimi chose the army. The army threw him out after less than a year.

Check out three different versions of 'Machine Gun' on Spotify. Also Star Spangled Banner. Play it loud.

And 'All Along The Watchtower'. The greatest song by the greatest songwriter, played and sung by the greatest musician, ever recorded. I've said it before and I'll say it again - get some good headphones, and crank the volume right up.


Minister of Defence.

Mr Ainsworth says, “I can't keep helicopter crews permanently in theatre. I have to bring them home. I have to train them.” If it were me, I'd train them beforehand.

This kind of language reveals perfectly the mind set of our current politicians. Egocentric and elitist language. I, I, I. Me, me, me.

Check this. WE have to do certain things. WE have to look after our armed forces personnel. WE have to train them. He's doing what he does on behalf of US. It's US that matter. Not him. We're still SO far away from having a government that understands ministers are public servants and do things for US, on OUR behalf.

They may be political leaders, but they still need to understand that they lead in the directions that WE want to go in, and work for the benefit of all, including non-voters and children.

I've just discovered an excellent website that monitors the actions and views of MP's -

It also reports on MPs' 'interests', their voting record, their expenses, etc.

It seems Mr Ainsworth, MP for Coventry North East:

Voted strongly against a transparent Parliament
Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards
Voted very strongly for introducing foundation hospitals.
Voted strongly for introducing student top-up fees.
Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws.
Voted very strongly for the Iraq war.
Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.
Voted very strongly for replacing Trident.

I think this gives a pretty clear impression of where he stands on the political spectrum. Pretty much four-square with the Tory party, and, of course, the leadership of New Labour.

“In the 2009 Parliamentary expenses scandal, in which some MPs were criticised for their expense claims, it was revealed that, in 2007-8, Ainsworth had allegedly claimed the maximum permissible amount of £23,083 for second-home allowances, making him the joint highest claimant in that year.” - Wikipedia


“Religion is of the soul. Faith is of the spirit.”

This is a quote by someone taking part in a Sunday TV programme yesterday, and it's the first time I've heard the divide between religiosity and spirituality expressed in this way. This may well be a cliché in religious circles. But still, I think it's true – if we equate religious needs and religious tendencies with emotional needs and desires, and if we agree that emotions emanate from the soul, then religion is of the soul.

To belong to a religion, and to let your life be directed and shaped by the rituals, beliefs and dictats of a priestly caste and 'holy' scriptures, must be because you feel the need for a set of simple (or complicated) rules to abide by, because you feel an emotional need to put yourself and your life in the hands of some 'Superior Being' (or beings), and because you don't trust yourself to be able to grapple alone with life's challenges and a search for meaning and purpose.

'Faith' is an interesting word. To have faith. Mmmmm. How, exactly, does that work? Self-hypnosis?

On a different programme about religion yesterday the leaders of the major 'faiths' in Britain were asked how they knew that God existed. “It's faith”, said the Hindu guy. You take it on trust. You believe it because you believe it. Or not.

Interestingly, there were no interviews with any Buddhist leaders. Surely that can't be just because Buddhists don't believe in God?

When asked what God actually IS, the Archbishop of Canterbury said, “Something greater than I can conceive of, or put words to.” So that's fair enough then. He can't imagine what God is, and he can't describe God either. That's not what's called copping out, is it?

Apparently Hindus also believe there's one Supreme Being, but they also like to have lots of little Gods as well. Why not? The more the merrier.

There's an exhibition on at the British Museum at the moment called Garden and Cosmos. Don't bother going to it unless you really, really like Hindu art, or you don't mind parting with £8 just out of curiosity. The pictures on the website pretty much do the job for you. Check out painting number 9. What's that guy going to do to all those women with that strange-looking instrument?

The most interesting part of the exhibition for me was about the Naths, whom I'd never heard of, and who use hatha yoga and meditation to become like the “great perfected beings”.

"Our aims in life are to enjoy peace, freedom, and happiness in this life, but also to avoid rebirth onto this Earth plane. All this depends not on divine benevolence, but on the way we ourselves think and act."

Here's an interesting blog, which I've just had a quick look at.


My Big Decision
BBC Three

From the website of Love Productions:

“This series follows girls, on the cusp of womanhood, on the brink of making huge decisions. Each week two girls wrestling with the same issue embark on a road trip across the UK. There's just one catch... They're taking their mums and grans with them. A week of family "bonding" is the last chance for the older women to influence their daughters' decisions.”

In fact this week's (repeated) programme was about just one young woman, her long-suffering mother, and her mum's mum. The young woman is not so much 'wrestling' with an 'issue' as living a lifestyle of binge drinking, casual sex and terminal selfishness.

She says she loves her mum, and she clearly does, but it's obvious to viewers that her over-tolerant and loving mum is desperate for some respite from her daughter's “evil” attitude and constantly obnoxious and challenging behaviour.

After a lifetime of being unable or unwilling to say 'No' to her daughter, this mother, who's clearly a lovely woman in every way, is considering the downside of giving and desiring 'unconditional love'. This seems to be something that a lot of women, and a lot of mothers, need to think about. As well as 'tough love' and 'anything for a quiet life love'.

After a week of activities such as observing alcohol casualties in A & E, talking to the victims and parents of victims of drunk drivers, and talking to long-term alcoholics, the girl has to decide whether or not she will change her lifestyle, in response to the pleas and urgings of her elders.

Three months later the film crew go back to interview the family and find them completely changed. Everyone looks happy and positive. It's like someone's waved a magic wand and filled young miss with emotional, social and spiritual intelligence. She's only been out on the town drinking and partying on one occasion, and she's had no casual sex. She's cut right down on the alcohol too. She's started speaking to her mother respectfully, considerately, and appreciatively.

It looks like her week's 'road trip' has worked a miracle, and she's been brought to her senses by her experiences, and her reflections on her 'issues'. And then the voice-over casually mentions the fact that six weeks ago she met a young man and started seeing him regularly. Er . . .

So she now has an intimate, affectionate and loving relationship with a guy she seems to spend a lot of her time with. They go shopping, they talk, they hold hands, they go for long walks, they gaze into one another's eyes and they experience hitherto unknown natural 'highs'. Or at least we can assume they do, if we've been there and done that ourselves.

Question – what does this tell us about the real needs of teenagers and young adults?


How to explain to my Japanese friend the stuff on a repeat of The Fast Show?

Anna Gestapo, on 1970's 'Spanish' TV?
Surgeons snogging whilst carrying out a transplant?
“This season I are wearing mostly no pants.”
“Drill Bit” perfume, by Taylor Woodrow, 'for particularly manly men'. What's funny about an Africaaner perfume sales lady?
The Twelve Ronnies, on Spanish TV?
Ron Manager on 'Match of the Day'?


This week's Celebrity Wife Swap featured Ron Atkinson and Tessa Saunderson. After spending a few days with Tessa's husband, Ron's wife finally 'got it', and was subsequently able to explain to Big Ron why it was really, really unacceptable and inexcusable to call someone a “fucking lazy nigger”. On or off microphone.


Heard on radio -

“Richard Prior said it took him 15 years as a comedian to really find his 'voice'.”

What lessons are there here for our education system, and the need to enable our young people to find both their spoken and their written voices? If we value self expression, self-knowledge, authenticity, etc, that is.

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