terms to ease the conscience…

Just been reading a blog entry by the lovely gareth, in which he refers to ‘winning’ an ebay auction. Ebay themselves use the term on the page after the auction – ‘you’ve won!’ it proudly displays.

So, would someone tell me in what sense being willing to pay more than anyone else for a certain item is winning? Surely it’s just shopping? Does anyone do a victory lap round Sainsbury’s after laying out £100 on a week’s groceries? ‘yay, I won some fantastic organic food!!!’

Ebay is chance-inflected-shopping in the same way that the stock market is Ladbrooks for people in suits. ‘Investing’ in the stock market is just like having a flutter on the horses, only you have to buy the FT to follow the form instead of the Racing Post. Either way you’re throwing money at anything based on its ability to make you more money, not out of any kind of support for the enterprise involved, or any sort of sporting allegiance to the jockey or horse…

I was listening to a radio phone in on stock trading on BBC London yesterday, and at no point did anyone raise any kind of moral or ethical questions about the idea of investing in financial success without any concern for what the company actually does. When Chris Martin declared that ‘share holders are the great evil’ last week in the debate about how The new Coldplay album’s delay had dented the EMI share price, it was the first time I’d heard any kind of critique of the system on the news for years. Anyone questioning the rationale of the free market ideologues (FMIs) is painted as a mad commie (rather a commie than a FMI any day), and their critique dismissed as anti-progress or out of step with the times. Does anyone really think that a situation where any PLC is required by law to maximise the investment of it’s shareholders is a good thing?? This means that if a company wants to switch to using all recycled stationary in their offices, which would cost a bit more, they’d have to ballot their share-holders to be able to make the switch, and could be blocked, rather than being able to make ethical decisions in the work place. If they offer out to tender the production of a particular product and a ‘legal’ factory in the far east offers to make the stuff for less with worse workers rights and no unionisation, they are legally bound to go with the lower offer, again unless they ballot the shareholders.

So what can we do? I know various people who have with varying degrees of effectiveness bought stock in order to have a voice at AGMs. Turned up, highlighted particular human rights or environmental abuses and been able to change company policy (Tony Campolo, professor of Sociology at a Uni in Philadelphia, has written about this, but I’m not sure which book it was in…) That’s one way.

Or we can just support co-operatives, small businesses, family run shops, cottage industries, solo bassists… how did that last one creep in there????

If you haven’t done so yet, PLEASE read No Logo by Naomi Klein – a fantastic look at how all this stuff relates to branding in big companies. Beautifully written and very compelling.

How did I end up here, after starting a post to take the piss out of Gareth and his ‘winning’ on Ebay??

Back from Edinburgh…

Sorry for not blogging whilst away – I couldn’t remember my login details or the address where I need to go to to log in! doh!

Anyway, I’ve played nine gigs in the last two weeks, and had a whale of a time at the Edinburgh Festival.

But before Edinburgh, I had gigs in Glasgow and Berwick On Tweed. Both gigs were double-headers with Calamateur, aka Andrew Howie. Andrew got stuck in the highlands behind all the landslides on the day of the Glasgow gig, and ended up arriving at the venue half way through my set. The venue was a bar called Brel – a lovely place, with very helpful staff and a great ambience. A great place to play.

Thursday we went into Edinburgh, first to see Andrew’s mate Gareth (as featured in Danny Wallace’s book, Join Me), and then I went into to scope out the lie of the land for the festival. Never having been to the festival before, I had a wander round, and called in at the C Venues press office to find out who all the people were that I’d be talking to on the phone for weeks. Also picked up a few flyers and posters to dish out, but didn’t really get a handle on just how aggressively one has to flyer is Edinburgh is to work…

Friday was the Berwick gig – at The Barrels Ale House, which has changed a lot since I used to go in there when I was still at school and underage. It now has a lovely stage in the corner of the cellar, and loads of fantastic music on there each month. ‘Twas great fun to play a home town gig, and Andrew played another fantastic set – if you get a chance to see Calamateur live, take it, he’s marvellous.

Saturday was back to Edinburgh for a day’s flyering and sticking up posters. Still hadn’t realised at this point, that walking anywhere is a chance to give out flyers, so didn’t do as much promo as I should have. Still, I did get to meet up with Abe Laboriel – I usually meet up with Abe in LA each January during NAMM, so it was lovely to have him over here for a change, and get the chance for a nice long talk. His set, as part of the American Gospel Music fest was amazing – Paul Jackson Jnr on guitar was jaw droppingly good, and Abe was his usual inspirational self. Oh, and on Saturday afternoon, bumped into Dave Hunter, old friend from college that I’ve not seen for years. Very nice surprise.

Sunday, first gig day – more flyering, postering and badgering people to come to the gig. First gig went well, small but enthusiastic crowd, lovely venue. Didn’t set up a mic for chatting, so was probably not particularly audible.

Monday, The Small Person arrives in Edinburgh, but has to head off to meet up with old friends. No worries, I had a radio show to do anyway – had been booked for a couple of months to play on the BBC Radio Scotland ‘Arts Show’. The other guests on the day were Jenny Eclair, Barry Cryer and Ronnie Golden promoing their show Men In Beige, Terrafolk, and the cast of one of the South African Shows (very good they were too…) Was most amusing to be sat in an artist’s booth at the side of the stage with Jenny, Barry and Ronnie, each with our ‘publicists’. The show went really well, and I arranged to go and see Men In Beige and Jenny’s show The Andy Warhol Syndrome. Monday gig another small crowd, but once again highly appreciative.

Tuesday Met up with Tom StreetTeam and Sarah-Jane for lunch-time curry – much fun it was too. Followed by much flyering. The Small Person proved to be a flyering genius, picking a great spot from which to get to lots of people. Went to see ‘Men In Beige’ which was fantastic – great jokes, marvellous songs, laughed til we cried. Tuesday gig major jump in attendance, and adding a mic to the set up meant the crap I was talking between tunes was much more audible, and the music/talking bollocks split was now about 60/40. It’s amazing what hanging out with funny people does for your ability to think of amusing things to say between tunes.

Wednesday was a very wet day… most days were very wet days, and when it’s pissing down with Rain, flyering becomes very difficult. But hey, there were press people coming in, so hopefully another good turnout…. bit of a drop in numbers, and the stress of trying to flyer people in the rain meant I wasn’t quite as sparky as the night before… still, playing very well by now, so all is good.

By now the days have a distinct pattern to them. Get up, drive from Berwick to Edinburgh, park car miles out of town to avoid insane parking charges, walk into town flyering all the way, head to strategic flyering points – me to The Royal Mile, small person to C main. food, catch a show, back out flyering – me to St George’s West, Small Person back to C Main. Another pretty good attendance, back to being more funny again.

Friday went to see Jenny Eclair’s show, which is fantastic – a one woman show as an ex-reality TV star – made it big on a docu-soap, did lots of ads, magazines, Richard and Judy etc. then fell from grace spectacularly. Fantastic bit of writing, well acted, lots of laughs and a few tears at the more poignant moments. Top stuff. Another good gig – audience figures steadily growing as word gets round.

Saturday last day. Flyering like mad, til we ran out of flyers. Biggest crowd of the week, just wish I had the spare time to extend the run. Proof that what I do works at Edinburgh. Marvellous reaction, loads of CDs sold, met lots of lovely people after the gig, then loaded up the car and back to Berwick. Job’s a good’un.

So all in all a fantastic week. I know so many people whose first Edinburgh Fringe experience was to lose thousands, so to have the chance to play a low risk gig like this was marvellous. And a great chance to get to know how Ediburgh works. I really want to do the whole run next year ( though will have to find someway of getting away in time for Greenbelt!) Augusts will never be the same again!

Now I’m back and sorting out stuff for Greenbelt, and for my gigs in Sept/Oct/Nov. It never stops, thank God.

Christmas time, no mistletoe, no wine

…just a very relaxed day, watching TV and videos, cooking and eating nice food and not doing very much at all!!

Went to church in the morning, which was fun and chaotic in the usual style of Christmas day services, came home and started our now traditional pattern of eating one course every three hours throughout the day. Started off with soup and garlic bread. That was after opening the pressies – I got a couple of books (Rich Hall’s autobiography, and Vanishing Footprints, subtitled ‘native voices speak’ it’s a book of gorgeous photos of indigenous people from around the world, telling their own story. Beautiful), the new Eddie Izzard video , Circle, which is very good, especially the hour and half of his Paris show, in French. The set from New York is very funny, but he comes across as slightly out of practice with standup, having spent so long in hollywood… and some other bits ‘n’ bobs.

Dinner was nut roast with a homemade spicey tomato, red pepper, mushroom and onion sauce, steamed veg and jacket potato (mmmm, delish!!), followed by watching the Izzard vid…

Oh, we watched Christmas top of the pops – was it worse than usual or am I just nearly 30??? 80% of the stuff on there seemed to be teenage girls dressed as hollywood hookers, singing out of tune. What on earth has happened to the record buying public??? On ‘I love 1984’ last night, there was a bit about the soul/jazz revival of ’84, with some talking head or other mentioning that it was a backlash to the rubbishness of pop at the time. Here’s hoping that something similar happens to end the reality TV horse-shit that seems to be taking over the charts. for the two biggest selling singles of the year to be Will Young and Gareth Gates is just nonsense. It’s not even like they sold because they were lowest-common-denominator catchy pop tunes – I’d rather see some PWL pre-fab crap there – they are there purely because of the exposure and media manipulation of the Pop Idol TV show. The songs themselves are sub-Barry Manilow bland MOR holiday camp bollocks. Grrrrrr.

Here I am listening to Theo Travis – outstanding saxophonist, playing original, moving, music, beautifully written and played and selling a few thousand copies, as opposed to the millions shifted by the losers. No, I’m not expecting Theo to start selling millions (he’d have to bland-out for that to happen), but it’d be nice if radio in particular, and TV programmers started to give some air time to quality music regardless of formatting and dull stylistic constraints…

Right, rant over.

I’m knackered at the moment, thanks to having taken the small persons car out of the drive with the intention of getting it valeted as an extra christmas pressie, only to have it stall on the road, and then have to try and push it back onto the drive, failing miserably but pulling lots of muscles in the process, then having to tow it back up with my car (which didn’t like that at all – I’m lucky I didn’t wreck the chassis!!). My muscles are aching like anything, and my shoulder is bruised from trying to push it.

Now it sounds like I’ve had a pain-filled misery-christmas, complaining about pop-nonsense. Not true. I’ve had a marvellous time, very relaxing. The Office is being repeated nightly at the moment, and is outstanding – Ricky Gervais is one of the most talented comics to emmerge in this country for quite a while…

Soundtrack – currently Theo’s album (see above), I’ve also been playing the MINIDISC of Theo and I playing together from Monday a lotl; I bought ‘Acoustic Soul’ by India.Arie for the Small Person for Christmas, and that’s excellent, really enjoying that, and I finally bought ‘Steve McQueen’ by Prefab Sprout on CD (very cheap from www.101cd.com ) – one of my all time faves…

BTW, Evil Harv can now be reached at evilharv@evilharv.com should you have any questions about all things eville… his evil blog will no doubt emmerge soon… :o)