Sunday, September 6, 2009

Layer 191 Michael Moore, Taming the Monster II, Enlightenment, the Beeb, Saffire and Yet More Blues.

Bowling for Columbine, Cheering for Michael?

Having mentioned the Columbine killings yesterday I decided to dip into a book my good friend K had given me recently, called Moore & Us, by Jesse Larner.

I've wondered for some time what the case is against Michael Moore (if any) from a progressive point of view.

This book was written just after the re-election of George W, and begins,

“It wasn't supposed to be like this. Another four years of faith-based foreign policy, carried out by amateurs with no interest in facts or the lessons of history. Another four years of sadistic attacks on the poor, of privatisation of social goods, of gifts to the rich. Another four years of creeping theocracy and contempt for the Constitution. Another four years of complacency about an oil-based economy. Another four years in which to nurture a rogue sense of national sovereignty. On 2 November 2004, those Americans who saw through the Bush agenda found themselves contemplating a very dark future indeed.”

So far so good. I'll report back when I've read some more about Moore. Meanwhile, have a look at this:



Beatles Night on BBC2 reminded us of the power and the fury of the religious right in the USA – the way in which sections of the so-called Christian community responded to the news that Lennon had appeared to malign Christianity. Death threats.

Er – what was it Jesus said about love and forgiveness?


Taming the Monster II

The crux of Epicurus' philosophy is that if we have lots of money, but no real friends, no real freedom and very little time to live 'an analysed life', we will never be truly happy. And if we have those things, but are missing the fortune, we will never be unhappy.

I mention this because I was talking the other day to someone who makes a living from giving financial advice to people, and according to her, as soon as wealthy people in Britain have to start paying 50% income tax on whatever they earn above £150,000 per year they're all going to leave Britain and live elsewhere.

I said I was genuinely surprised to hear her say that, since it wouldn't worry me if I had to pay a mere 10% more on earnings above £150,000 – and I'd be pretty happy to be paying only 40% on everything up to the fairly princely sum of £150,000. 1.5K seems like a pretty hefty amount to me. Obviously I'm not in the real world. Although I do happen to know that £30,000 is the median salary in this country, and only 10% of our population have incomes above £70,000.

She was adamant. They're all going to go! It seems she knows a lot of these people, and many of them have already left for greener pastures. I can't say I've noticed. Maybe their work's being done by their deputies.

All I could say was, those people obviously care more about coining the absolute maximum amount of money than they do about their quality of life. Or maybe they think they can just keep on popping back into Britain in order to keep in contact with and enjoy the company of their children, grandchildren, elderly parents, aunts, uncles and cousins, lifelong friends, and of course our landscapes and our culture. If so, good luck to them.

It's not like they're going to live elsewhere for positive reasons – like because they positively love the people and culture and lifestyle of places like France, for instance, like my friends M & S. The tax-avoiders and evaders are seemingly doing it, or will be doing it, for entirely negative reasons – to get away from something, like a progressive income tax.


It's interesting, and ironic, that the City of London, through its greed and its idiocy - through causing the financial crisis - was responsible for finally showing the economically illiterate people of this country that very tight regulation of 'financial services' and the banking sector is absolutely necessary.

Whereas the bloody Labour party and its leadership not only abysmally failed in that task – they didn't even set out to do it!! Not a single one of them made it their job to argue the case for tighter regulation. Our Prime Minister in fact caved in to the City's demands for looser regulation – in order to make Britain, or to be exact, the City of London, the “financial capital” of the world. How bloody stupid was that?

And now Brown and Darling are trying to “work with” the finance ministers of the G20 countries to try to impose financial regulations. They're all in London for a few days for a crisis summit. Or summin.

France is supposed to be run by conservatives these days, but the French government sound like radical progressives compared to our lot. I really like the sound of their finance minister, who has given several interviews on the need to regulate salaries and bonuses. But Darling, dear Darling, batting for Britain, isn't having any of it. No sir-rreee.

“Christine Lagarde, France's finance minister warned [her] country would take unilateral action if its proposals to prevent bonuses from luring bankers into the kind of excessive risk-taking which caused the global economic crisis were rejected.” I really like her style. She speaks English fluently too. Who says economics can't be sexy?


Talking of Darling, there was a 25th anniversary celebration of Blackadder on TV on Friday night, and right funny it was too. They admitted they didn't know what they were doing in the first series, were very lucky to blag their way into doing a second series, and from then on had a right good time. Good interviews with all the gang. Rowan's looking strangely normal these days, Steven Fry avuncular and jolly, and Hugh Laurie strangely good-looking and leading-mannish – very Hollywood. But Baldrick still rules! As they said, Tony the Great, with his cunning plans and all, represents all of us!



The Age of Enlightenment was, without doubt, a key period in European and world history, and we're presumably still in it. Ha!

Zen enlightenment is NOT the same as European so-called enlightenment.

Here's what Wikipedia says about the European Age of Enlightenment:

A couple of weeks ago the Guardian did a report on “Edinburgh's big new art show that takes the Enlightenment as its theme”.
“Newspapers were born in the 18th century, in that age of enthusiastic modernity known as the Enlightenment; Edinburgh, along with Paris, was arguably the capital of this rationalist revolution, home to the - philosopher David Hume and the economist Adam Smith. This year, Edinburgh's international festival is hosting an art exhibition for the first time, taking the city's golden age as its theme: the Enlightenments puts 21st-century artists in dialogue with 18th-century ideas.

There's the problem, right there, with a contemporary art show about the Enlightenment. Who wants to be enlightened? Who believes, now, in the 18th-century cult of reason, of progress and the ascent of humanity? You only have to walk past the Royal Bank of Scotland to be reminded that Adam Smith has not had a good year.

The Enlightenment now functions in contemporary culture more as a whipping boy than a reference point.

Scottish artists – perhaps all artists – like to linger in the dark shadows of the gothic, not the bright light of reason.

Artist Gabrielle de Vietri's singing news performance meditates on the invention of newspapers.

Gordon's art is one long contemplation of the dark side of the Enlightenment, of Mr Hyde and not Dr Jekyll – from his slowed-down 24 Hour Psycho to Zidane, with its disconcerting, anti-climactic ending. Creek's drawing is similarly macabre and despairing of reason.

Tacita Dean's film Presentation Sisters towers above everything else here. The 18th-century philosopher Denis Diderot argued that truly worthwhile art must reject the triviality of theatre – of conscious performance – and instead depict characters whose absorption in their activities makes us in turn forget ourselves. This was an Enlightenment definition of serious art . . .

Dean's film . . . fulfils it. Presentation Sisters homes in on mundane daily activities and finds infinite beauty in them: doing the laundry, preparing breakfast, making a cup of tea."

Chopping wood, carrying water – classic Zen.

"What then makes the show so likable? I think because it creates a quietness, a pensiveness. The news singers at the Dean Gallery seem to slow down the speed at which we assimilate information. Why don't we take time to digest the news? Even at its slightest, the art here is about stopping for a moment, and looking inwards.

Art can be truly thoughtful, we discover, by being richly physical. Hesse's art seems made without any final goal in view; it has nothing to "say". It reminds me of another 60s cultural figure, Bob Dylan. In filmed interviews of that period he was always being asked to explain what his songs "said": cue a lot of evasive wisecracks. Hesse, too, seems in these works to have no intention of saying anything. This is art as play, though in play you can discover things the cold mind never will."

But then the writer of this piece Jonathan Jones, then goes and fucks it all up by concluding -
"The joy and freedom of Hesse's art is staggering. Any young artist could get an education just by coming to this show a few times. It tells, in stuff, the same truth David Hume put into words in 18th-century Edinburgh: that reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions."

Doh! Bloody Western dualism at it's very worst – stupid! So he's saying that if reason isn't the solution to all human dilemmas, and it isn't going to be pre-eminent and the sole directing force in our lives, then passion and unreason must rule! No, Jonathan, they mustn't.

Head, hands and heart. Reason, instinct and passion. Intuition, empathy and sensory experience. They all have their importance, their survival value, their potential to enrich and inform our lives. They all need to operate in balance and harmony, like an internal gyroscope spinning round an axis, and allow us to remain steady whilst living spontaneously and intelligently.

And my point is this. What a load of crap is generally talked in our culture about enlightenment, and thank goodness for the odd artist in our culture who can shed some light on true enlightenment. What a pity so many of our cultural commentators haven't a clue, particularly about enlightenment.

And if you really want to read some total crap about enlightenment, some real reactionary crap, then try this essay by John Montgomery of Urban Cultures Ltd - “A New Enlightenment”.


The Beeb

In the aftermath of James Murdoch's anti-BBC speech last weekend, the debate continues. Have a look at

and especially enjoy Charlie Brooker's Screen Burn -

which includes:
“As a news source, Fox [News] is about as plausible and useful as an episode of Thundercats. Still, at least by hiring [Glenn] Beck, they've genuinely challenged the stuffy consensus notion that people should only really be given their own show on a major news channel if they're sane.”



Music's back on YouTube! Hallelujah!

This week I is mostly checkin out stuff on the Hammond organ.

This is a classic featuring Booker T, with Steve Cropper on guitar -
Turn it up loud so you can really hear Duck Dunn on the bass.

Greatest Hammond solos – part 1 -
Lots of hairy rock rubbish – but with Jimmy Smith and Booker T showing how the instrument should be played. The kind of stuff by the hairy guys that killed rock music in the 70's. - a guy called Tony Monaco talking about Jimmy Smith, and playing the Hammond in a very jazzy blues style.

The advice Jimmy Smith gave him, over the phone on his 16th birthday, was, “Don't worry about playing all them notes – learn how to play the right chords.”

There's a shedload of stuff around Booker T and Green Onions on YouTube.

Though I have to say, for me Roy Buchanan's version of Green Onions is really the most dynamic and thrilling. Catch it on Spotify. VERY LOUD! Loads of versions on YouTube, but not as good.


Oxzen's Song of the Week – Middle Aged Blues Boogie – by Saffire the Uppity Blues Women

I've been looking for this for some time – Spotify don't have it.

The lyrics -

Listen out for an excellent piano blues solo. Shame there's some confusion about the lyrics in the middle of this performance -

“I'm throwing away my dustmop,
Got a brand new vacuum cleaner...
I'm no longer taken for granted
You ought to hear me when I holler
'Eureka, eureka'”

The version I have, on an old audio tape, goes -

“Well, I don’t need no reefer, I don’t need no cocaine
All I need is a young man, to drive me insane
I'm throwing away my dust mop, got a brand new vacuum cleaner
I’m no longer taken for granted, my young man sucks it up sweeter
A young man, to drive away my middle aged blues”

Blimey! – just found it on Spotify! – 3 versions. No ratings as yet, so they must only have been put on there very recently. spotify:track:3V4aUQIl2uUPI1iFnKg5JX Fabulous. Type Saffire in the search box and you get a shedload of their lovely stuff.

“Describing sex with an old man, she once said, "Honey, it's like trying to push a car up a hill... with a rope." -


Official Website:

1 comment:

  1. Good one on enlightenment and it helps a lot.

    Karim - Mind Power


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