Modern Times

In what constitutes a reasonable birthday present - I'm on the new Bob Dylan album.

It was my first non parent-led trip to London, fifteen years ago, and my girlfriend and I couldn't get off the train quick enough. Straight to Camden Town.

Within minutes of arriving we passed a velvet-suited, top-hatted fella. Camden was jaw-dropping enough but I remember the shot of excitement as I realised we'd bumped into a seemingly unaccompanied Bobby Dylan.

I managed to get some photos of my girlfriend getting an autograph and as more people gathered around, realised that Dave Stewart was shooting the whole thing on a 16mm camera.

The next day on the tube we saw the story on the front page of The Guardian, but the photos stayed Up North and I haven't seen them since.

Well, a limited-edition of 'Modern Times' comes with a DVD containing the promo shot that day and there I am, hovering in the background...

There's also a fantastic shot of my girlfriend approaching him for an autograph, but it's 4am, again, so I'll just add a few more thoughts:

1. I knew that week that I wanted to live in London. Even if I presumed you didn't meet your 'heroes' everyday.
2. Being people's 'hero' makes you more than a little odd, which in turn only makes you more mythical.
3. Keep copies of important photographs.

Meanwhile, Modern Times is a bloody good album. I recommend the DVD version.

How's Them Apples?

Great news from across the border. If only hops were fruit.

We can all dream.


Wide awake. It's 4am and I'm having the World Service jitters.

A common issue for many Radio 4 junkies, this is today's version:

Sunday afternoon in the pub, takeaway food and too early to bed with The Westminster Hour on the radio. A lackadaisical approach to the sleep function and 5 hours later you're waking up to some crazy World Service program, that often leaves you in a restless insomniac confusion.

And so it was that about an hour ago I'm roused by the collective jeering of the Turkish parliament as they heckled an MP who refused to remove her Islamic headdress in 1996.

This is not the way to be woken up in the middle of the night, especially when you're prone to suffocating anxiety.

Having just managed to avoid the upright, not-a-chance-in-hell-of-getting-back-to-sleep awakeness that can ruin a night, I watered and de-watered and headed back off to sleep pleased that some calming 'world' music had followed the screaming Turks.

Minutes later though, just in that foggy half-sleep, I'm suddenly aware that someone is being throttled at the foot of my bed.

And she's not going quietly.

Actually she's a singer from Northern Canada who's style would have been interesting on 'Later...' but is fucking frightening unannounced in the middle of the night.

The unreasonable dominoing that occurs for me in these situations means however that almost immediately I know that any chance of a peaceful night is bolloxed. Within seconds I leap from issue to issue and in a minute or two I'm knotted up and far too awake for a Monday morning.

And so here I sit and there's even less of a point to this post than usual, and certainly no punchline.

The link to the crazy Canadian, Tanya Tagaq, is here, however. Well worth a listen.

Testing. 1,3 Testing.

While I'm here - it's also well worth a little look at Mike Marqusee's blog on Comment Is Free.

This piece on the British Citizenship Test is particularly interesting.

That's A Good Balloon

For those interested (and you should be, indeed you should be) Goodballoon has returned to the interweb over at Goodballoon's Paunch.

It's always worth a visit (and an RSS feed I reckon) - here.

In other news, the talented but illusive Finlay have their albums now available on iTunes and eMusic. You can check them out over at MySpace.

Meanwhile I sit here listening to Alice Cooper's show on Planet Rock, reading and weeping at the Sunday papers but still taking an unhealthy solice in the MacBook firmware update...

Oh dear.

Moove It

On a tech note - anyone suffering from Macbook burn and the dreaded 'mooing' fan, get the new firmware update from Apple (choose 'software update' from the Apple dropdown menu).

At last my new laptop is everything it should be. That is, it's fast, quiet and now doesn't give me hot sweats and red thighs.

Which is a good name for a magazine.

Oh Christ...

Jesus wept...


...putting money on this 'ceasefire' being in place, let's say 2 minutes after the deadline?

And on the homefront - Alex Cox has some interesting things to say here.


I've spent all day with my interenet connection down. After hundreds of frustrated attempts to connect it finally came back on at 8 o'clock.

And the only thing I actually can think to do. Is write this.

Just went out of the house! Got a curry and some Stella and back in time to catch Poirot.

The weekend wasn't wasted after all...


" the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy." Ernest Benn

Shit Misses Fan


An ominous part of this appalling situation is the fact that the Met says that it's 'severely disrupted' rather than 'stopped' something awful taking place.

One way or the other I'll be honest, it puts me on edge. The fallout is going to be considerable and the implications for cultural relations dire.

Simon Hughes has at least been on Sky beginning to question how the Labour Government's un-erring support of the US is making us a target.

But I've already heard 'the enemy within' used twice this morning...

This cannot become the expected pattern of life for generations - we've got to start to understand the way that extremists on both sides are feeding off each other. And that means, at the very least, moving away from the comic-book 'us and them' that seems to becoming Anglo-American foreign policy.

And if, as it's reported, it's true that Blair and Bush have been discussing this for weeks, why did Tony still go on holiday?

And furthermore, in the name of anything that resembles democracy, Parliament needs to be recalled immediately.

Some Links

I'm sat, as usual, in dismay as the war in the Middle East escalates on it's 29th day.

Here's some related stuff:

Some history here,
and from George Monbiot here.

And Tony Benn's speech from the demo here.

Any Questions?

There was a serious turnout on the Emergency Demonstration in London yesterday, regardless of the usual media blackout and the complete under-estimate of the numbers by the Met.

Lots of issues are being thrown up by the current situation – and the march started to highlight the difficulties that we may face. But the sooner we ask awkward questions, the sooner we might get some progressive answers.

Three years ago, the biggest demonstration in British history had little impact on Tony Blair or indeed the Labour Party. His pre-arranged attack on Iraq and unquestioning attitude to the Bush Administration carried on apace, leading us merrily to where we are today: Afghanistan in turmoil, a civil war in Iraq and hatred of the US and Britain higher than ever.

It’s clear that the so-called ‘War On Terror’ is now set to dominate the world agenda for decades. It took a few years for a Cold war replacement to be put in place, but now we’re all set; a never-ending war between ‘us’ and ‘them’. That you’re either for or against. History is reset at September 2001. The enemy dehumanised. Anything justified in its name.

And consequently, debate and discussion is only framed within this context. No real understanding of Arab opinion or history. ‘Terrorist’ used as a catch-all for any dissenting voice or resistance movement.

It’s going to take some tough, pragmatic thinking to work out how we can truly reverse what’s going on in our name. And if we don’t want the world that Bush and Blair seem intent on enforcing, we’ve got to find the answers that actually achieve an alternative.

It Only Pours

So the house is sinking, due to a cherry blossom tree and shallow Victorian foundations.

Meanwhile I’m sat here being driven mad by neighbours on all sides having building work done on their properties.

It’s almost enough to make me want to go out.

But then I’d miss gems like yesterday when a correspondent in Jerusalem signed off with “…and so they sit waiting for the rockets to come raining down”. Back in the studio, Jeremy Thompson cleverly linked with “Well, talking of raining down, here’s Francis with the weather”.

Priceless. After a while the whole thing becomes a circus…

So, how can I possibly go out? Today for instance, between live feeds of the heavy weather in Lebanon, Sky is reporting how Northerners are far more likely to die young from alcoholism and an in-depth look at credit-card debt.

And that’s just the kind of escapism I’m looking for.


Spending a fair amount of your summer days indoors, being sterilised with a laptop while Sky News loops for hours in the background isn’t necessarily good for your mental health. My excuse today though, is that I’m waiting for a surveyor to check out a hole in the front garden that the building is falling into.

I noticed the cracks in the plasterwork a couple of weeks ago and guessed the ‘drought’ was to blame. When the front step started sinking and an inch gap between the floor and the wall appeared I rethought my conclusions and alerted the relevant parties.

For a week then, as I’ve awaited the arrival of a professional opinion to set my mind at rest, my mood seems to have sunk too. Although not an uncommon knock-on of a mediocre depressive nature, the shitty soup of current affairs and personal over-thinking has taken a bit of a toll.

Watching the ongoing slaughter in the Middle East, often LIVE, punctuated by ads for over-priced consolidating loans while thinking the front room might collapse isn’t quite the ideal summer.

But it’s the impotence that’s the darkest corner – from not knowing shit about under-pinning to having no way of influencing our nut-job Prime Minister.

And then the humbling thought that as I check the width of the cracks in the wall before I go to bed and struggle to sleep thinking about the implications of an unsafe house and the fact that I’m nailing myself to the spot with a cycle of debt and seem to be unable to lift myself to do anything about it as I hurtle through the years with nothing achieved, which I know isn’t ‘really’ true, but it fucking feels like it…

As all that bubbles away, some poor bastards in Lebanon and Gaza are being blown to bits. And if you’re not dead, maybe you’ve no house, no more town, no more family, no legs, no eyes. And I guess you’d develop a ‘depressive nature’ pretty quick.

But the impotence is a different thing – when the pundits asked where the ‘men-folk’ of Qana were while the women and children sheltered, what did they expect? Because if the same situation was happening here, where’d you reckon most of our ‘men-folk’ would be?

I guess the only related good news is the Mel Gibson saga. Always fun to see closeted bigots exposed, but when it’s a religious-nut anti-semite it’s all the sweeter.