Thursday, 27 February 2014

Paco de Lucia

Until asked to perform and interpret Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez in 1991, de Lucía was not proficient at reading musical notation. Biographer Pohren, however, at the time of writing his biography in 1992, said that he was still not proficient and had found a bizarre way of learning the piece, locking himself away. I guess when you feel rhythm so sublimely in every fibre of your being, reading music must seem an unnecessarily laborious step.

by South Utsire

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Close Encounters: Air Traffic Control Scene

If you ask me, this is one of Steven Spielberg's greatest films, but he seems a little coy, even disparaging about it these days. Amongst the cast, the legendary French auteur Francois Truffaut beatifies the film in the role of Claude Lacombe. True, the aliens at the end are rubbery paper mache puppets with hands like marigold gloves, but even that gives them a quaint edge of consciousness dreaminess. Most of the film, however, has it's feet on the ground. This scene is an example of what I mean- the rhythm is perfectly tailored, and each line of dialogue is delivered with such crystal choreography that you can't help repeating it for days. Or maybe I've just watched it too often.

No, I don't want to report a UFO. Over.

By South Utsire

Friday, 21 February 2014

George Orwell & A Brief History Of Cranks

After reading George Orwell's The Road To Wigan Pier, I have for a while been meaning to lampoon the lampooner himself, with regard to his portrayal of "vegetarian Quaker sandal wearing (etc. etc.) socialist cranks" and his implied notions of 'common sense' historical materialism vs 'airy fairy' libertarian socialism. But I needn't have bothered! I came across this brilliant 2006 blog by Paul Laity for Cabinet Magazine called A Brief History Of Cranks, which I have taken the unusual measure of reproducing in full below.

It is worth saying that Paul Laity also sees the respectability of the William Morris romantic nature tradition of wanton tree hugging: "In many ways, the tables have turned on Orwell. The likes of Edward Carpenter and Leslie Paul can now be regarded as forerunners of a very modern ecological anti-capitalism. Environmentalism is increasingly the cause rather than an eccentric distraction from it.

No shit. Oh how I would hate to live in Orwell's world, where we are outdoing each other with Maoist style Burberry uniforms, grunting in one syllable to "pass us a chunk of coal 'cross table.. ahm 'ungreh". Presumably in Orwell's world he would be Minister of Propaganda, and we would sit at his feet adoringly and listen to his North Korean prognostications. Now I just can't remember that author who wrote a dystopian novel on proscriptive lifestyle fascism and the totalitarian state... something to do with a Big Brother...

A Brief History of Cranks

Paul Laity

”Socialism,” George Orwell famously wrote in The Road to Wigan Pier (1936), draws towards it ”with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist and feminist in England.” His tirade against such “cranks” is memorably extended in other passages of the book to include “vegetarians with wilting beards,” the “outer-suburban creeping Jesus” eager to begin his yoga exercises, and ”that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking towards the smell of ‘progress’ like bluebottles to a dead cat.”

Andrew Muir in "rational dress." Courtesy First Garden City Heritage 
Museum of the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation.

The stereotyping and caricaturing of middle-class “cranks” goes deep in English national culture. Throughout the nineteenth century, Punch magazine lampooned health obsessives who sought a purer life in boiled cabbage and teetotalism. An Aldous Huxley story, “The Claxtons,” which anticipates much of Orwell’s philippic, portrays a puritanical, radical, self-deceiving bourgeois family: “In their little house on the common, how beautifully the Claxtons lived, how spiritually! Even the cat was a vegetarian.” And earlier this year the right-wing tabloid Daily Mail derided the Guardian (not for the first time, no doubt) as being run by (and for) “sandal-wearing folk.” It’s a gibe that’s still meant to suggest the things it did in Orwell’s day: woolly-headed naivety, moral superiority, and worthy bohemianism—certainly a world beyond the values of a mythical “real” England of ordinariness and decency.

Orwell’s savage send-ups of “cranks” betray some anxiety about sexual freedom but usually make straight for the obvious target—their earnestness. Cranks want the world to become a less cruel, less crassly commercial, more beautiful place. Their pleasures are wholesome, “natural,” and energetic. (When I was growing up, my parents would refer to certain people as very “brown rice and bicycles.”) According to the cartoon version of countercultural progressives, they are desperate for everything to be health-giving and improving. So one of Orwell’s figures of fun is a “hangover from the William Morris period” who proposes to “level the working class ‘up’ (up to his own standard) by means of hygiene, fruit-juice, birth-control, poetry, etc.” In his novel Coming Up For Air (1939), we encounter “Professor Woad, the psychic research worker”: “I knew the type. Vegetarianism, simple life, poetry, nature-worship, roll in the dew before breakfast … They’re all either health-food cranks or else they have something to do with the boy scouts—in either case they’re great ones for Nature and the open air.”

Orwell’s satire in The Road to Wigan Pier was employed in a particular and urgent cause: the fashioning of a popular (non-crankish), common-sense radical politics to face the growing threat of Fascism. (Soon after handing the manuscript of the book to his publisher, Victor Gollancz, he began his journey to Barcelona to fight for the Republicans in the Civil War.) In his view, cranks—along with “shock-headed Marxists chewing polysyllables”—were giving socialism a bad name. He also implied that they were only superficially committed to the socialist cause, and ultimately concerned more about their own moral purity than about the exploitation of the working class. But who exactly did Orwell have in mind when he let loose his invective? Who were the cranks?

He chose never to mention in print that he had himself mixed with many countercultural types, including his aunt, Nellie Limouzin—a bohemian whose husband was a socialist and stalwart of the Esperanto movement—and the Westropes, who owned the bookshop in Hampstead where he worked in the mid-1930s. Francis Westrope had been a conscientious objector in the war and was a member of the Independent Labour Party; his wife, Myfanwy, campaigned for women’s rights—both were keen Esperantists. His backer Mabel Fierz, too, lived in a big house in Hampstead Garden Suburb and leaned towards a mystical and spiritual socialism.

Friends and family members no doubt influenced Orwell’s portrait to some extent, but he had a whole politico-cultural tradition in his sights. This stretched back at least as far as the millennial socialist sects of the 1830s and 1840s, inspired by the reformer Robert Owen and his newspaper the New Moral World. “Cranks“ were much in evidence in these model communities—Catherine and Goodwyn Barmby, for instance, who became impatient with the imperfectly purist tone of the Owenite movement, and formed the Communist Church (its sister organisations included the White Quakers in Dublin and the Ham Common Concordium in Richmond). They preached various New Age prophecies, along with vegetarianism, hydrotherapy, long hair, and sandal wearing. Over the years, Goodwyn Barmby became a Christ-like figure, with blonde hair down to his shoulders; together the young couple walked the London streets with a cart from which they dispensed tracts and harangued passers-by.

The late nineteenth-century socialist revival was heavily invested in “crankish” beliefs. As Michael Holroyd has written, it was largely “from agnostics, anarchists and atheists; dress and diet reformers; from economists, feminists, philanthropists, rationalists and spiritualists, all striving to destroy or replace Christianity” that the revival was drawn. The firebrand Henry Hyndman, a disciple of Engels and founder of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in 1881, despaired, like Orwell, of this kind of moral faddism. “I do not want the movement,” he asserted, “to be a depository of old cranks, humanitarians, vegetarians, anti-vivisectionists, and anti-vaccinationists, arty-crafties and all the rest of them.” Not surprisingly, William Morris and his friends in the SDF decided to secede and in 1884 formed their own group, the more anarchical (and sexually radical) Socialist League.

The Fabian Society, begun at the same time, was an outgrowth of the ethical-spiritual (and meat renouncing) Fellowship of the New Life. This was also the age of the Vegetarian Cycling Society and the socialist Clarion Field Clubs, which aimed “to bring the town dweller more frequently into contact with the beauty of nature: to help forward the ideal of the simpler life, plain living and high thinking.” George Bernard Shaw, who, as a vegetarian and wearer of unbleached and knitted natural wool, had a close relationship with crankery, summed up the two different impulses in the socialism of the time: one was to “organise the docks,” the other to “sit among the dandelions.”

The patron saint of the dandelion-sitters was Edward Carpenter, and Orwell clearly had him in his thoughts. A former curate, a guest of Thoreau, and the author of a long Whitmanesque poem, Towards Democracy, Carpenter exhorted a spiritual socialism and a return to nature. As a result of a vision, he bought a smallholding at Millthorpe, near Sheffield, where he grew his own food. He was a vegetarian and an advocate of birth control and Eastern mysticism; he also wrote The Intermediate Sex, the first book generally available in Britain to shine a positive light on gay sex. He used to bathe naked at dawn with his manservant and lover, and his life was denounced as scandalous and immoral.

Edward Carpenter wearing his famous Indian-style sandals. 
Courtesy Sheffield Archives, Carpenter Collection, Box 8/31 a.

More than anyone else, Carpenter was also responsible for introducing sandals to British life. When his friend Harold Cox went to India, he was given instructions to send back to Millthorpe a pair of sandals from Kashmir. The pair in question featured a thong that curled up from the sole over the toes to an ankle fastening. “I soon found the joy of wearing them,” Carpenter wrote. “And after a little time I set about making them.” Shoes, he decided, were “leather coffins.” He took lessons from a Sheffield bootmaker and “soon succeeded in making a good many pairs for myself and various friends.” (Shaw was given some, but they cut his feet and he vowed never to wear them again.) Various disciples made the pilgrimage to Millthorpe, including, Carpenter remembered, one woman dress-reformer—“her name was Swanhilda something“—who walked miles in the pouring rain, wearing a roughly cut blue serge dress and sandals which kept getting stuck in the mud. One of Carpenter’s employees at Millthorpe, George Adams, also took up sandal-making. When he fell out with his master, he moved to the newly established Letchworth Garden City, in Hertfordshire, and established a small sandal business there.

Letchworth has a special place in the history of crankery. “One day this summer,” Orwell writes in The Road to Wigan Pier, “I was riding through Letchworth when the bus stopped and two dreadful-looking old men got onto it. They were both about sixty, both very short, pink and chubby, and both hatless. … They were dressed in pistachio-coloured shirts and khaki-shorts into which their huge bottoms were crammed so tightly that you could study every dimple. Their appearance created a mild stir of horror on top of the bus. The man next to me … murmured ‘Socialists.’” “He was probably right,” the passage continues. “The Independent Labour Party were holding their summer school in the town.” (Orwell neglects to say that he was attending it.)

Letchworth Garden City, established in 1904 as an experiment in town planning—a utopia of pure air and rational living—instantly became a mecca for simple-lifers and acquired a nationwide reputation for “crankishness:” sandals and scandals. One of its two original architects, Raymond Unwin, was a former associate of Carpenter’s within Sheffield socialism (and a vegetarian). An early resident offered a description of the “typical Garden citizen,” who wore sandals, ate no meat, read William Morris and Tolstoy, and kept two tortoises “which he polished periodically with the best Lucas oil.” The vegetarians in the town opened the Simple Life Hotel, which had a health-food shop and a food reform restaurant. A member of the Quaker Cadbury family started up an alcohol-free pub, the Skittles Inn, which did a brisk trade in hot chocolate and Cydrax, a non-intoxicating apple wine. (This inspired G. K. Chesterton’s comment about a life which is all skittles and no beer, and later John Betjeman’s raillery in Huxley Hall: “Not my vegetarian dinner, not my lime juice minus gin, / Quite can drown a faint conviction that we may be born in Sin.”) Londoners, on their Sundays off, made special excursions by train to study Letchworth’s strange collection of smock-wearing Esperanto speakers and theosophists: a cartoon from a local newspaper showed day-trippers at a human zoo. “Daddy, I want to see them feed!” pleads a child. Signs for visitors include: “To the Long Nebbed Sandal Footed Raisin Shifters,” “This Way to the Non-Tox Pub,” and “To the Hairy-Headed Banana Munchers.” Annie Besant, a theosophist and campaigner for birth control, opened the St. Christopher School—where the Independent Labour Party gathering was held—and which today still offers only vegetarian food (its pupils admit to nipping out to McDonald’s).

Cartoon by Louis Weirter, published in the local paper The Citizen, 1909. 
Courtesy First Garden City Heritage Museum of the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

The 1920s and 1930s offered plenty of countercultural trends to cause Orwell more immediate alarm. Pacifism of an absolutist kind was more generally espoused in the early to mid-1930s than at any other time in British history. There was also a craze for the open air (associated with an increase in leisure) and for a hygienic, wholemeal lifestyle. The membership of the Clarion Cycling Club reached a peak in the mid-1930s, and unprecedented numbers of city dwellers in knickerbockers and open-necked shirts took to youth hostelling and rambling with high-minded verve. “Freedom to roam” over dales and moors became a left-wing issue, and mass hiking a political act, sometimes combined with a touch of nature mysticism. In 1932, the writer S. P. B. Mais led sixteen thousand people out onto the South Downs one morning to see the sun rise over Chanctonbury Ring (unfortunately, it was cloudy). The back-to-nature movement assumed other forms, too. The Nature Cure Clinic was opened in Marylebone in 1928, taking its homeopathic ideas from the East via Germany. Raw fruit and vegetable juices were championed as essential for removing toxins from the body. And it was in the 1930s that Dr. Edward Bach argued for the healing effects of the flower essences he had found while collecting dewdrops from plants at dawn. 

Organized nudism first appeared in Britain in the late 1920s. One of the first resorts to open was Sun Lodge in Upper Norwood, southeast of London. From 1928, members of the Sun Bathing Society would meet at weekends to soak up the invigorating, health-giving rays and enjoy other activities such as “rhythmic dancing.” Locals would gather around the boundary fence trying to catch a glimpse of the bathers in puris naturalibus. In 1929, the police were called in at the Welsh Harp Reservoir near Wembley to protect naturists from rioters. In spite of the controversy it attracted, the nudity movement gathered strength. A letter to the Times in 1932 called for recognition of the benefits of sun-worshipping “in less than a bathing costume.” Its signatories included Shaw and C. E. M. Joad, popular philosopher, socialist, pacifist, countryside enthusiast (and perhaps the model for Orwell’s “Professor Woad”). Joad was convinced of the healthiness of lying “naked to the sun,” if only in deserted coves. Ridicule was never far away. In the film I See Ice (1938), George Formby sang of having “A picture of a nudist camp / In my little snapshot album. / All very jolly but a trifle damp / In my little snapshot album.”

Leslie Paul, founder of the Woodcraft Folk, an anti-militarist alternative to the scouts, which was open to both boys and girls, described himself as “a socialist of the Edward Carpenter stamp, in love with a mystical vision of England.” In 1933, five hundred young members of the Folk camped around a large Bronze Age standing stone in Herefordshire to hear a lecture on ley lines while two boys crouched in wicker cages on top of the monument. (Today, the owner of the land on which the Queen Stone sits prefers its exact location not to be publicized so as to discourage the holding of séances.) Paul, a writer and journalist, spent much of his time in a cottage in rural Devonshire. A local friend, Joe, his “taut and curly” chest hair like a “wire mattress,” would sunbathe naked for hours a day while declaring his Tolstoyism and denouncing leather shoes. “Vegetarianism was in the progressive air,” Paul later wrote. “New food shops catered for fantastic new-life tastes. … I drank a mixture of malted milk, hot water and olive oil which was held to have the most beneficial effects on one’s colon and nerves.” He was an admirer of the Soviet Union, a socialist, and a pacifist. “Pacifism had an extraordinary affinity for vegetarianism,” he reflected, “and so we lived on enormous wooden bowls of garlic-flavoured salad, and messes of lentils and roasted pine-kernels garnished with leeks. We thrived.” 

Orwell attended two socialist summer schools in 1936: the one in Letchworth and another, held at a large house in Langham, near Colchester, which was organized by the Adelphi, a magazine he reviewed for. The journal’s founding editor was the critic John Middleton Murry, a pacifist and socialist of a spiritual, poetic kind, who acquired the countryside house in the hope that it would become the nucleus of a new form of egalitarian community. (“In that simple and beautiful place, our socialism became a reality,” he wrote. “It felt to me as though we had attained a new kind of immunity from illusion.”) All the guests were asked to help in the center’s running: Orwell was in demand as a dishwasher, using skills he had developed while down and out in Paris. During one of the discussions he apparently told the mostly middle-class audience that they wouldn’t “recognise a miner or a docker if they came into the room.” Murry eventually came to believe that the Adelphi Centre was too much of a talking shop: the socialists staying there lacked the discipline imposed by tough physical work. His next project was a pacifist farm.

There are hundreds of other examples of simple-life socialists who would have provoked Orwell’s scorn. And, despite his best efforts, the long and rich history of “crankery” continues beyond the 1930s to elements of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the hippies, and the greens. (And beyond Britain too, of course.) In the 1960s, a vegetarian restaurant took the sting out of over a century of mockery by proudly adopting the name “Cranks.” In many ways, the tables have turned on Orwell. The likes of Edward Carpenter and Leslie Paul can now be regarded as forerunners of a very modern ecological anti-capitalism. Environmentalism is increasingly the cause rather than an eccentric distraction from it.

Much of what Orwell understood to be crankishness has become fashionable. There are now three-and-a-half million vegetarians in Britain, yoga seems to be an increasingly accepted part of middle-class life, and homeopathic pills are taken in the millions. (Though such trends perhaps suggest even more than in Orwell’s day a certain kind of self-preserving, self-cherishing lifestyle as opposed to a genuine commitment to change the world.)

Inevitably, as some aspects of crankishness have been absorbed into the mainstream, other strange practices and beliefs take their place, ripe for ridicule by the majority. In the spirit of The Road to Wigan Pier, today’s anti-capitalism could be said to draw towards it with magnetic force every tree-hugger, organic fruitarian, solar-powered scooter rider, water-birth enthusiast, Tantric-sex practitioner, world-music listener, teepee-dweller, hemp-trouser wearer, and Ayurvedic massage addict in England. As for sandals, the journalists at the Daily Mail may keep alive the time-honored association of cranks with near-naked feet, but the long queues outside Birkenstock shops should make them think again. The simple life may be as far away as ever, but we are all sandal-wearers now.

Paul Laity is an editor at the London Review of Books. He edited the Left Book Club Anthology (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001).

By South Utsire (confirmed dandelion sitter)

Joan Baez: Silent Running (1972)

That's what I feel like at the moment; floating alone through the vastness of space in a bubble dome, with just Huey and Dewey, 2 chickens for company.

By South Utsire

Permaculture: A Quiet Revolution

Henry Kissinger once famously said  Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people.” He also said "If you can't hear the drums of war you must be deaf." The Independent reported in January that some still think Kissinger while in office 'yielded much that was little short of evil' and he has been accused of 'war crimes, crimes against humanity, and … offences against common or customary or international law.' Nice.

The recent wave of protests in the Ukraine saddens my heart. Not so much that people are standing up to a corrupt and totalitarian elites- in many ways it is good to see such indomitable resolve and bravery. It is more that after the bloodshed moves to the representative institutions and the state machine kicks in again, it will become clear that nothing has been achieved apart from a rebranding. Just like the collapse of the USSR, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the anti- apartheid government in South Africa, the revolutions in South America, Yugoslavia and the Baltic states, two World Wars and the overthrow of colonialist powers in Africa and India. All of those disappointments humanity has had to suffer. And the fighting will have been futile. That is what saddens me.

The other way is to not fight at all. Fighting only plays to the power instruments of state, the police and army, the drones and social controls of the media and the judiciary. If you choose not to fight Goliath, then he shrivels to a wincing sociopathic schoolboy with a slapped bum. The start of this video quotes Bill Mollison: "I teach Self- reliance, the world's most subversive practice. I teach people how to grow their own food, which is shockingly subversive. So yes, it's seditious, but it's peaceful sedition." 

What will Goliath do with a population that will not engage with the bollocks iPad overwork micromeals celebrity culture? What will Goliath do when people turn to the green Earth; their evolutionary diet and medicines in an act of self reliance (self- defiance)? What will Goliath do when people go "off grid" and generate their own energy using the simple elements of air, earth, fire and water? He can watch through the frosted TV screen the flickering surveillance drone images of an advanced ecological culture where common sense has been restored. And people will be happy again.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Kissinger.

by South Utsire

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Thank You itKuPiLLi !

It would be remiss of The Bohemian Budgie to not credit the brilliant Kirsi Iggy Rouvinen aka itKuPiLLi (Finnish for CryBaby), in her own words "a Finnish designer and digital artist, living in Los Angeles with my hippie husband, a cute dog and 5 groovy cats. " Oh, and not forgetting some children and grandchild. It's a miracle she has the time. For the last 2 months we have been using her design as a banner header and now we have a banner of our own, wanted to say thanks very much for getting us started.

By South Utsire

Loop vs Spacemen 3

Oh The Beatles or the Stones? Oasis or Blur? The Cheeky girls or erm… well, you get the message.

The Bohemian Budgie was pleased to hear that following their split in 1991, Loop have now reformed with the original lineup of Robert Hampson (vocals, guitars), Hampson’s ex Becky Stewart (Bex) (drums), and Glen Ray (bass). As part of their comeback they will play in April 2014 as headliner of the Roadburn Festival and will also appear at the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona in May 2014. Here's a 1989 Loop SNUB BBC  TV interview:

In the late 80’s/ early 90’s, the band's psychedelic/drone rock gained comparisons with Spacemen 3, much to the latter's annoyance. An NME interview with Danny Kelly reported: "they [Spacemen 3] seemed to spend their spare time bleating that the increasingly prominent and popular Loop had nicked that psychedelic artillery nightmare sound from them." and [Spacemen 3] interviewed in Lime Lizard magazine, April 1989, "Yeah, they really ripped us off!! Their first record sleeves, their sound, their live shows, just about everything. Their first few gigs were supporting us. The first time they had acid was when we gave it to them. Then they started calling themselves Loop. The first album was alright but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t done already."

Boo hoo “we had acid fur- hurst.”

The supreme irony of all this blunt- headed bickering, is that Spacemen 3 also buckled under its own weight in 1991, and the band split up. If there hadn’t been so much acrimony between them, they could have done an ABBA and all swapped round, making a new supergroup, called Loop 3 and The Spacemen. Here's a 1991 Spacemen 3 Interview from BBC 2's Rapido:

By South Utsire

Loop: Afterglow (1990)

Interestingly, Loop did a cover of Mother Sky, previously featured by The Bohemian Budgie in its original incarnation, by prog-rock outfit Can in 1970. 

By South Utsire

Spacemen 3: Take Me to the Other Side (1988)

By South Utsire

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Wassily Kandinsky

Kandinsky's work did not go unseen during Hitler's reign. Several of his best canvases appeared in the notorious "Degenerate Art" show - a massively well-attended exhibition lampooning Weimar Germany's crop of modern artists. Kandinsky taught at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture from 1922 until the Nazis closed it in 1933. That makes him a rather fine chap in my opinion.

By South Utsire

The Sun Also Rises: Wizard Shep (1970)

The group were a husband and wife folk duo from Cardiff; Graham (vocals, guitars) and Anne Hemingway (vocals, dulcimer, glockenspiel, vibes, percussion). The group's name was taken from Ernest Hemingway's famous book. Arrangements were by Anne. They toured extensively but only released one album, much sought after by collectors. Originally released on the self titled album in October 1970 (Village Thing, VTS 2) they received critical acclaim by the Music Press but this did not reflect album sales. The album featured supporting musicians John Turner (string bass, finger-picked & with a bow), and Andy Leggett (whistle on "Suddenly It's Evening"), both of the Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra.

By South Utsire

The Babble Machines

"There is trouble. Multitudes will not go back to work. There is a general strike. Half the factories are empty and the people are swarming in the ways. They are talking of a Commune. Men in silk and satin have been insulted in the streets. The blue canvas is expecting all sorts of things from you.... Of course there is no need for you to trouble. We are setting the Babble Machines to work with counter suggestions in the cause of law and order. We must keep the grip tight; that is all.

… Asano touched his arm and gave him a warning look, and forthwith another of these mechanisms screamed deafeningly and gave tongue in a shrill voice. "Yahaha, Yahah, Yap! Hear a live paper yelp! Live paper. Yaha! Shocking outrage in Paris. Yahahah! The Parisians exasperated by the black police to the pitch of assassination. Dreadful reprisals. Savage times come again. Blood! Blood! Yaha!" The nearer Babble Machine hooted stupendously, "Galloop, Galloop," drowned the end of the sentence, and proceeded in a rather flatter note than before with novel comments on the horrors of disorder. "Law and order must be maintained," said the nearer Babble Machine."

Text: from The Time Machine, H.G.Wells (1895)
Image: Eyes from Metropolis, Fritz Lang (1927)

By South Utsire

Ali Akbar Khan: Raga Kanara Prakaar (1969)

"If you practice for ten years, you may begin to please yourself, after 20 years you may become a performer and please the audience, after 30 years you may please even your guru, but you must practice for many more years before you finally become a true artist—then you may please even God."
 Ali Akbar Khan

The 80 Minute Raga (Raga Kanara Prakaar)

Raga Kanara Prakaar ( 80.00 )
Alap - Part 1 & 2 ( 40.00 )
Gat - Part 1 & 2 ( 40.00 )
Ali Akbar Khan - Sarod
Mahapurush Misra - Tablas
Originally recorded live and released on a double LP by The Connoisseur Society in 1969.

Late evening Raga. The Alap, part 1 and 2, is a complete Alap in 15 parts. The Gat is played with changing rhythms. The first part is in slow teentaal followed by a medium tempo teentaal wich then goes into a second section in a fast ektaal returning for the final climax to a teentaal in fast tempo. This Raga is also referred in some other sources as being Raga Darbari Kanada. 

By South Utsire

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Baba Ram Dass & The Spiritual Community Guide

Many years ago (and I mean MANY years ago) I chanced across an already ancient looking book from 1973 called The Spiritual Community Guide. It is basically a mish mash of spirit funk and US West coast guffaw connected with cults, gurus, yoga, weird diets, psychedelic drugs, mushrooms and herbs; music, nudity, theosophy and the New Age of Aquarius, with a gazetteer at the end of health food shops, astrology courses, and adverts about drinking your own piss. OK, I’m lying about that last bit, but it wouldn’t be out of place. The funny thing is, I don’t know how it came into my life, but it has exerted a rather strange mystical force since I first opened its tattered pages and started reading articles and philosophies from people whose names I couldn’t at first even pronounce. It was one of my very first genuine connections with the way out hippy shit that was later to blossom and flower into the zany Taj Mahal of unorthodoxy that constitutes, well, me. Owing to its obscurity it must have been a small scale publication, perhaps retailed through health food stores and alternative establishments, which makes it all the more odd that it should enter my small sphere.  Anyway, I will drop in occasional Blogs from the Spiritual Community Guide and see what you think. This one is one of the more normal ones from Baba Ram Dass, who had only just authored the best seller Be Here Now, in 1971.

By South Utsire

Monday, 10 February 2014

Rousseau On Land

"The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody."
Rousseau, 1754
By Mountain Forehead

Vegan Cupcakes

by South Utsire

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Barbara & Ernie: For You (1971)

These cool cats play For You from their album Prelude To... (Cotillion Label, 1971).  

By South Utsire

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Murray Bookchin: Post- Scarcity Anarchism (1971)

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“We of this century have finally opened the prospect of material abundance for all to enjoy— a sufficiency in the mean s of life without the need for grinding, day-to-day toil. We have discovered resources, both for man and industry that were totally unknown a generation ago. We have devised machines that automatically make machines. We have perfected device s that can execute onerous tasks more effectively than the strongest human muscles that can surpass the industrial skills of the deftest human hands that can calculate with greater rapidity and precision than the most gifted human minds. Supported by this qualitatively new technology, we can begin to provide food, shelter, garments, and a broad spectrum of luxuries without devouring the precious time of humanity and without dissipating it s invaluable reservoir of creative energy in mindless labor. In short, for the first time in history we stand on the threshold of a post-scarcity society. The word "threshold” should be emphasized here for in no way has the existing society realized the post-scarcity potential of its technology. Neither the material "privileges” that modern capitalism seems to afford the middle classes nor its lavish wasting of resources reflects the rational, humanistic, indeed unalienated, content of a post-scarcity society. To view the word "post-scarcity” simply as meaning a large quantity of socially available good s would be as absurd as to regard a living organism simply as a large quantity of chemicals."

“For one thing, scarcity is more than a condition of scarce resources: the word, if it is to mean anything in human terms, must encompass the social relations and cultural apparatus that foster insecurity in the psyche. In organic societies this insecurity may be a function of the oppressive limit s established by a precarious natural world; in a hierarchical society it is a function of the repressive limits established by an exploitative class structure. By the same token, the word "post-scarcity " mean s fundamentally more than a mere abundance of the means of life: it decidedly includes the kind of life these mean s support . The human relationships and psyche of the individual in a post-scarcity society must fully reflect the freedom, security and self-expression that this abundance makes possible. Post-scarcity society, in short, is the fulfillment of the social and cultural potentialities latent in a technology of abundance.”

By South Utsire

Rudolf Rocker: Anarcho- Syndicalism (1938)

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“Our modern social system has internally split the social organism of every country into hostile classes, and externally it has broken up the common cultural circle into hostile nations; both classes and nations confront one another with open antagonism, and by their ceaseless warfare keep the communal social life in continual convulsions. Two world wars within half a century and their terrible after-effects, and the constant danger of new wars, which today dominates all peoples, are only the logical consequences of this unendurable condition which can only lead to further universal catastrophes. The mere fact that most states are obliged today to spend the better part of their annual income for so-called national defence and the liquidation of old war debts is proof of the untenability of the present status; it should make clear to everybody that the alleged protection which the state affords the individual is certainly purchased too dearly.

The ever-growing power of a soulless political bureaucracy which supervises and safeguards the life of man from the cradle to the grave is putting ever-greater obstacles in the way of co-operation among human beings. A system which in every act of its life sacrifices the welfare of large sections of the people, of whole nations. to the selfish lust for power and the economic interests of small minorities must necessarily dissolve the social ties and lead to a constant war of each against all. This system has merely been the pacemaker for the great intellectual and social reaction which finds its expression today in modern Fascism and the idea of the totalitarian state. far surpassing the obsession for power of the absolute monarchy of past centuries and seeking to bring every sphere of human activity under the control of the state. “All for the state; all through the state; nothing without the stale!” became the leitmotiv of a new political theology which has its various systems of ecclesiastical theology God is everything and man nothing, so for this modern political creed the state is everything and the citizen nothing. And just as the words the “will of God” were used to justify the will of privileged castes, so today there hides behind the will of the state only the selfish interests of those who feel called upon to interpret this will in their own sense and to force it upon the people.”

"As long as a possessing and a non-possessing group of human beings face one another in enmity within society, the state will be indispensable to the possessing minority for the protection of its privileges. When this condition of social injustice vanishes to give place to a higher order of things, which shall recognise no special rights and shall have as its basic assumption the community of social interests, government over men must yield the field to the administration of economic and social affairs, or, to speak with Saint Simon: “The time will come when the art of governing men will disappear. A new art will take its place, the art of administering things.” In this respect Anarchism has to be regarded as a kind of voluntary Socialism.”

By South Utsire

Alexander Berkman: What is Anarchism? (1929)

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From “The Wage System”

"In the capitalist system the workingman cannot work for himself, as in the old days. He cannot compete with the big manufacturers. So, if you are a workman, you must find an employer. You work for him; that is, you give him your labor for so and so many hours a day or week, and he pays you for it. You sell him your labor power and he pays you wages.

In the capitalist system the whole working class sells its labor power to the employing class. The workers build factories, make machinery and tools, and produce goods. The employers keep the factories, the machinery, tools and goods for themselves as their profit. The workers get only wages. This arrangement is called the wage system. Learned men have figured out that the worker receives as his wage only about one- tenth of what he produces. The other nine-tenths are divided among the landlord, the manufacturer, the railroad company, the wholesaler, the jobber, and other middlemen.

It means this: Though the workers, as a class, have built the factories, a slice of their daily labor is taken from them for the privilege of using those factories. That’s the landlord’s profit. Though the workers have made the tools and the machinery, another slice of their daily labor is taken from them for the privilege of using those tools and machinery. That’s the manufacturer’s profit. Though the workers built the railroads and are running them, another slice of their daily labor is taken from them for the transportation of the goods they make. That’s the railroad’s profit. And so on, including the banker who lends the manufacturer other people’s money, the wholesaler, the jobber, and other middlemen, all of whom get their slice of the worker’s toil.

What is left then - one-tenth of the real worth of the worker’s labor-is his share, his wage. Can you guess now why the wise Proudhon said that the possessions of the rich are stolen property? Stolen from the producer, the worker."

By South Utsire

Peter Kropotkin: The Conquest of Bread (1892)

Far be it for me to disparage a man's facial hair, but sometimes I do think this book should be called The Conquest of Beard, such was the wealth of chin- mane this genius of a man could sustain.

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“The best canvases of modern artists are those that represent nature, villages, valleys, the sea with its dangers, the mountain with its splendours. But how can the painter express the poetry of work in the fields if he has only contemplated it, imagined it, if he has never delighted in it himself? If he only knows it as a bird of passage knows the country he soars over in his migrations? If, in the vigour of early youth, he has not followed the plough at dawn, and enjoyed mowing grass with a large sweep of the scythe next to hardy haymakers vying in energy with lively young girls who fill the air with their songs? The love of the soil and of what grows on it is not acquired by sketching with a paint-brush — it is only in its service; and without loving it, how paint it? This is why all that the best painters have produced in this direction is still so imperfect, not true to life, nearly always merely sentimental. There is no strength in it.

You must have seen a sunset when returning from work. You must have been a peasant among peasants to keep the splendour of it in your eye. You must have been at sea with fishermen at all hours of the day and night, have fished yourself, struggled with the waves, faced the storm, and after rough work experienced the joy of hauling a heavy net, or the disappointment of seeing it empty, to under- stand the poetry of fishing. You must have spent time in a factory, known the fatigues and the joys of creative work, forged metals by the vivid light of a blast furnace, have felt the life in a machine, to understand the power of man and to express it in a work of art."

“Very often the idler is but a man to whom it is repugnant to spend all his life making the eighteenth part of a pin, or the hundredth part of a watch, while he feels he has exuberant energy which we would like to expend elsewhere. Often, too, he is a rebel who cannot submit to being fixed all his life to a work-bench in order to procure a thousand pleasures for his employer, while knowing himself to be far the less stupid of the two, and knowing his only fault to be that of having been born in a hovel instead of coming into the world in a castle.”

By South Utsire

Working Classics Series

This dinky quartet of historical anarchist books from AK Press illustrating key thinkers in the movement, are an accurate and concise introduction to the panoply of anarchist theory and practice. They are not meant to be exhaustive, just snapshots in time. And between them, they provide a good systematic educational overview of anarchism, whereupon you will be disavowed of the opinion that it is all about waving a black flag and throwing Molotov cocktails at demonstrations. One thing you come away from these books thinking is how simple the basic ideas of anarchism are, and how such simplicity gives them abiding strength.

I have summarised the general feel of each book in the table below, and shall take the next few days to post quotes from each book to give you a flavour.

Conquest of Bread
Peter Kropotkin
The Anarchist version of the Communist Manifesto by Marx.

What is Anarchism?
Alexander Berkman
Good but Billy Basic introduction. Section on Chicago Anarchists was inspired, emotional & most informative.

Anarcho- Syndicalism
Rudolf Rocker
A bit geek academique chiq. Dry in places, it nonetheless explores the interface between anarchism and trade unionism thoroughly. A “how to” manual.

Post- Scarcity Anarchism
Murray Bookchin
The best of the four. Noticeably more contemporary. Addresses today’s issues competently in the context of the ecological crisis. Prescient and forward thinking.

By South Utsire

Friday, 7 February 2014

Bearded Ladies, Anyone?

I got this compilation CD of psych- folk tracks by B Music, exclusively of 'Vixens on Vinyl: 15 Home Grown Selections of Forlorn and Freakish Female Songsmithery from the Past 4 Decades.' Every track is indeed as desribed, so I’m sharing the 1st two with you (plus blurb) and you’ll have to buy the rest:

Speck Mountain: Hey Moon. Speck Mountain is a place where liquid organ drones and sacramentally simple guitar lines shimmer in a psychedelically corrupt gospel haze behind Marie- Claire’s Stevie Nicks on downers/ Hope Sandoval on uppers vocals. Filled in with slow motion funk bass lines, blanched out sax, one lonely melodica and enough tape delay to stretch from Pacific sea caves all the way to the Northern Lights- everything here echoes, and everything glows. They met by chance in Bergen, Norway, and immediately the vibe was like two shell shocked deep sea creatures burrowing into each other for warmth. 

Wendy & Bonnie: Paisley Window Pane. Guitar luminary Gabor Szabo first introduced this inconceivable duo (aged 13 and 17) to an audience of Folk and Jazz enthusiasts via his self funded struggling imprint ‘Skye Records’. The rare debut LP of fragile, brooding awkward teenage love songs and quasi politically conscious flower power took up to 30 years to find its place in pop history alongside bands such as Stereolab, Broadcast, Mazzy Star and Misty Dixon who would collectively adopt the ahead of its time LP with open arms. Welsh pop activists Super Furry Animals sampled a minute long chunk of the sisters music for the intro to their LP ‘Phantom Power’ and tracks soon began to crop up on outsider music radio mixes and compilations. CD reissues of the album are slowly becoming a household fixture for fans of slightlydelic, close harmonies and ghostly cinematic arrangements.

By South Utsire

Hindu Artwork

By South Utsire

Juicy Lucy Live from Bread (1971)

I saw the 1971 film Bread as an 68 min extra on a British Film Institute DVD, whose main feature was a 90 minute similarly themed hippy/ groupie/ music exploitation film called Permissive (1970, directed by Lindsay Shonteff). Of the film Bread, the BFI say:

An unusual mixture of pop festival documentary and saucy teen comedy, Bread was exploitation filmmaker Stanley A. Long's second attempt at what he called a "counter culture gimmick movie". His first, Groupie Girl (1970), produced by Long, was based upon the real-life exploits of the film's co-writer, Suzanne Mercer. Her encounters with rock musicians, as salaciously filtered through the distinctively seedy vision of director Derek Ford, had given Groupie Girl the grimy ring of truth, and the film made a lot of money. Unfortunately, despite its title - contemporary slang for cash - the more light-hearted Bread did not. 

Regardless of the tongue in cheek intentions, Bread holds attention and is quite engaging film for such a simple plot. It culminates in over 8 minutes of illicit and wild blues- rock pop festival headed by a band I had not heard of before called Juicy Lucy. If they were consistently as good as they played in the film, I am surprised they didn't achieve greater acclaim, although they did score a top 20 hit with their cover version of the Bo Diddley perennial Who Do You Love? Nowadays most Americans know a Juicy Lucy as a type of fucking cheeseburger.

By South Utsire

Tree Lore #1: Wood of Suicides

The Wood of Suicides illustrates a passage from the Inferno canticle of the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.  Sinners who take their own lives are condemned by King Minos to the Seventh Circle of Hell. The Wood of the Suicides is where the souls are transformed into gnarled, disfigured, and brittle trees which comprise this gruesome forest. Each tree is different, for example, Bella's tree has vine wrapped around her neck like a noose, representing how she took her life. Each tree is a twisted version of their own suicide. The trees produce Suicide Fruit that causes thoughts of suicide on humans like Dante. If he is unable to resist the effects of the fruit, he will commit suicide by stabbing himself with his cross.

The illustration is Gustave Doré Suicides and Squanderers from 1861. Finding it difficult to secure a publisher willing to take on the expense of producing the opulent folio edition the artist envisioned, Doré himself financed the publication of the first book of the series, Inferno. The production was an immediate artistic and commercial success.

By South Utsire

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Shocking Blue: I Love Voodoo Music (1970)

Never heard of these guys before tonight. This track is from the 2nd Shocking Blue album Scorpio's Dance. Shocking Blue went to Number 1 in Feb 1970 with Venus from the album At Home, long before Bananarama were buffed & bouffant. Both song's lead vocals are performed by the late Mariska Veres. Both song's music and lyrics are written by Robbie van Leeuwen, the band's guitarist, sitarist and background vocalist. For Venus, Van Leeuwen used The Banjo Song, an arrangement of Oh! Susanna on a 1963 album by The Big 3, as his inspiration; the bassline, riffs and melody sound almost exactly the same. However, The Big 3 never claimed plagiarism.

By South Utsire

A Farm For The Future

BBC Natural World (2008-2009: Episode 14 of 16) Duration: 50 minutes

Wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family's farm in Devon into a low energy farm for the future, and discovers that nature holds the key. With her father close to retirement, Rebecca returns to her family's wildlife-friendly farm in Devon, to become the next generation to farm the land. But last year's high fuel prices were a wake-up call for Rebecca. Realising that all food production in the UK is completely dependent on abundant cheap fossil fuel, particularly oil, she sets out to discover just how secure this oil supply is. Alarmed by the answers, she explores ways of farming without using fossil fuel. With the help of pioneering farmers and growers, Rebecca learns that it is actually nature that holds the key to farming in a low-energy future.

What I like about this episode is not so much the twee, Vaughan Williams 'quintessentially English' flavour, although it is good to see how permaculture ideas can be moulded to a traditional temperate grassland system. I am more impressed at how it logically conveys the intimate level of integration which is possible when small scale, low tech, mixed agriculture design is employed. It makes sense on every level.

By South Utsire

Nature Bjork

South Utsire

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

So Long, Pete Seeger

It has taken me a while to get my head around the passing of Pete Seeger. Whilst he has been universally acknowledged as the father of the American folk revival, and without him undoubtedly the wonderfully lyrical and heartfelt folk- protest songs of Bob Dylan, Woodie Guthrie, later Billy Bragg and others would have been stifled, (as well as the acid folk of particularly Joan Baez, and all of that generation of sitar- wielding psychedelic visionaries, prophets, singers and bands), I can’t help thinking I just didn’t like his music. It bores me, as if Ned Flanders had been intravenously injected with Sherbet powder and told his salvation depended on him fighting off the zombie apocalypse with a tambourine & harmonica in the cacophonous armour of an ill fitting one- man- band getup. Really, it’s that bad. I wish it was different.

Obviously, I agree with the sentiment of his protest songs. And no doubt being at a Pete Seeger concert live would have me sinuously singing along like a willowy girl clutching my ashen tear- streaked cheeks, and wailing like a star struck banshee waving a lighter and sobbing with ineffable love for my fellow human beings. I do however think it would be hypocritical of me to say what a great musician he was. I heard a Radio program about him, and apparently his mother, who was a concert musician, tried to encourage him to pick up music early on. But he refused it as a career option, having been showed just how demanding it was, in terms of practise and effort by his mother. Nevertheless he eventually went his own way, and by his own admission, picked up simple protests songs on guitar because they were relatively easy to play.

I think he was a much more profound influence as a social activist, and a galvanising force for the peace and socialist cause than he was a musician. So instead of posting a trite and insincere “If I had a Hammer” clip, I instead post some quotes from (and of) the great man, in tribute to his achievements.

"I still call myself a communist, because communism is no more what Russia made of it than Christianity is what the churches make of it. But if by some freak of history communism had caught up with this country, I would have been one of the first people thrown in jail."

"Don't let schoolin' get in the way of your education."

"Singing with children in the schools has been the most rewarding experience of my life." – Seeger, October 17, 2009, at community concert in Beacon, New York

He was one of the few people who invoked the First Amendment in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA). Everyone else had said the Fifth Amendment, the right against self-incrimination, and then they were dismissed. What Pete did, and what some other very powerful people who had the guts and the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the committee and say, "I'm gonna invoke the First Amendment, the right of freedom of association...."
...I was actually in law school when I read the case of United States v. Seeger, and it really changed my life, because I saw the courage of what he had done and what some other people had done by invoking the First Amendment, saying, "We're all Americans. We can associate with whoever we want to, and it doesn't matter who we associate with." That's what the founding fathers set up democracy to be. So I just really feel it's an important part of history that people need to remember."

Quote by Jim Musselman (founder of Appleseed Recordings), longtime friend and record producer for Pete Seeger

By South Utsire

Bob Crow and RMT Union Strike

In case you missed it, the 48 hour strike has begun of London Underground workers in the RMT Union. And with it, the TV spoonfeed tower has responded accordingly at the behest of their commercial masters, by demonising the actions of the union, failing to represent any public opinion which is sympathetic to the plight of these workers, instead alluding to the artificially constructed British Bulldog mentality that we are meant to adopt in times of crisis, and attacking the evil communistic union leaders. Going on strike is no bed of roses. Raising your head from the rut of wage drudgery and paying the price at the end of the month, when the rent needs to be paid, takes courage and solidarity.

The 'dinosaur unions' cat- calling by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight last night was facile and embarrassing, betraying an intellectually bereft trivialisation of the conflict by the media. Instead of addressing the details of this legitimate industrial dispute, where 950 jobs are on the line... 950 FAMILIES thrown onto the unemployment scrapheap of minimum wage London;  we get patronised by the Babel Tower, supposed to be the flagship intellectual current affairs magazine, with childish curmudgeonly mudslinging.

Who elected Jeremy Paxman? A manikin robot, installed for the sole purpose of mass mind obfuscation, on the back of an unsolicited TV Licence TAX, has no right even to sit at Bob Crow's feet. Crow at least has a democratic mandate to represent his workers and yet has to deal sincerely with such tripe. And it was interesting to see the Bullingdon Gherkin King Boris Johnson, the self- styled Churchill reject of Big Business saying he thought the RMT should only be allowed to strike if 50% of the workforce had voted for it. Until he was reminded that less than 50% of Londoners had voted for him. Of course it's different for the elites and their rarefied circle.

I support the strike. The demand is clear: take the swathing 950 job losses off the table, sustainably make use of their skills and training, and the RMT workers will return to what they do best, put people before profit, and invest in an environmental and efficient transport system befitting of a 21st century country.

Update: tonight the Government have announced their intention to designate London Underground workers "Essential Workers" which will effectively deny them the right to withdraw their labour in strike action. There is a name for such enforced labour: it's called slavery.

by South Utsire

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Vilayat Khan: Raga Yaman (1968)

Raga Yaman (50.42 )
Part 1 - Gat Vilambit laya ( slow tempo teentaal ) - ( 23.46 )
Part 2 - Madhya laya ( medium tempo teentaal ) - ( 15.03 )
Part 3 - Drut laya ( fast tempo ) - ( 11.85 )  

Vilayat Khan - Sitar
Manik Rao Popatkar - Tablas

Fans and media alike liked to play up Vilayat Khan's rivalry with and animosity towards Ravi Shankar. However, in calmer moments Vilayat would admit there was not much to it. His animosity for the politics and institutions of India's cultural life was another matter. In 1964 and 1968, respectively, he was awarded the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards – India's fourth and third highest civilian honours for service to the nation – but refused to accept them, declaring the committee musically incompetent to judge him.

by South Utsire