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Back from Edinnburgh, with new car. Will post more stuff later on.

For now, have a read of the mini-obituary of Eric Roche on his website. I’ll write more about Eric later. I still can’t quite believe he’s gone, even though it was pretty much inevitable after his last diagnosis. He had such inner strength that there was part of me that thought he could beat inoperable cancer… Sadly I was wrong.

Another great Greenbelt Gig

Saturday at Greenbelt, and my plan was to avoid anything ‘work’ related for most of the day, and it mostly paid off. What I did do was to invite lots of special guests onto my show during the day in the hope that some of them would turn up!

So following a couple of seminars and a lot of sitting around chatting to lovely peoples, I headed up to my venue for the 7.30 start. just after 7.30, the band before started their last song – which then went on for 12 minutes. Always nice to be 15 minutes late getting on stage for a gig at a festival where audiences are on a tight schedule and probably have the gig bookended by other things they wanted to see…. if I’d been on sound, I’d have turned the power off.

Anyway, we got set up and I explained the premise of the gig – one piece of 50 minutes long (it was going to be 70, but the delay meant I cut it down), with a whole load of special guests, each one coming on stage one at a time, then playing, me looping them and then leaving while their contribution lives on for the next guest to interact with.

The four guests who ended up doing it were Jez Carr (obviously – Jez being a genius improvisor and perfect first contributor to anything like this in terms of letting the others who are less familiar with the form to hear roughly what’s going on.) So Jez played some piano, which got looped, then left, and after me layering a little more, guest number 2 was Andrea Hazell, (soprano from the Royal Opera House), who sang three of four beautiful layers of wordless vocals, harmonsing my ebow line.

Guest no.3 was Duncan Senyatso, who contributed some beautiful guitar, and a vocal line that meshed so marvellously with Andrea’s voice that it sounded composed, though far to intricate to have been composed by me!

Last guest was Patrick Wood, keyboardist and composer with The Works – I’ve collaborated with Patrick on a lot of improv things before, and once again he played some gorgeous fender rhodes sounds to the loops. To finish things off, Jez came up and played some bass – Jez is a great bassist and plays very differently to me, so it was lovely to have him take the low end somewhere else…

And in between and through it all I was mixing and adding and fading and chopping and multiplying and post-processing and keeping it all interesting for 50 minutes.

and the end result was without a doubt the best gig I’ve ever done at Greenbelt, and one of my favourite ever, I think. Some really really beautiful music – I’m gutted that I didn’t record it, but I’m sure we’ll get to do something similar again – time to contact the British Council in Botswana and see if we can get them to fly us over there!

So after the show, I was compering in Centaur – the huge indoor venue here at GB – where The Works were playing, followed by Aradhna – both played fantastic sets and went down a storm.

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…just in case you thought all American Christians were as mad as Pat Robertson…

While the fundementalists on the American religous right get all the press, fortunately there’s a huge movement of US Christians from across the theological spectrum that are rejecting the jihad rhetoric of the Bush camp, and attempting to rethink their response to the world and their country’s place within it from a theological perspective, rather than rejigging their theology to put the US at the top as the new Jerusalem, God’s agent on earth.

Probably the biggest organization giving voice to these thinking christians in the US is Sojourners, founded by Jim Wallis, author of the best-selling book, God’s Politics – Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It.

Here’s Jim’s response to Pat Robertson lunatic pronouncements, taken from The Sojourners Website – their weekly email, Sojomail is really worth subscribing to.

Pat Robertson: An embarrassment to the church
by Jim Wallis

Pat Robertson is an embarrassment to the church and a danger to American politics.

Robertson is known for his completely irresponsible statements – that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were due to American feminists and liberals, that true Christians could vote only for George W. Bush, that the federal judiciary is a greater threat to America than those who flew the planes into the World Trade Center Towers, and the list goes on. Robertson even took credit once for diverting a hurricane. But his latest outburst may take the cake.

On Monday, Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Robertson is worried about Chavez’s critiques of American power and behavior in the world, especially because Venezuela is sitting on all that oil. We simply can’t have an anti-American political leader who could raise the price of gas. So let’s just kill him, the famous television preacher seriously suggested. After all, having some of our “covert operatives” take out the troublesome Venezuelan leader would be cheaper than another $200 billion war, he said.

It’s clear Robertson must not have first asked himself “What would Jesus do?” But the teachings of Jesus have never been very popular with Robertson. He gets his religion elsewhere, from the twisted ideologies of an American brand of right-wing fundamentalism that has always been more nationalist than Christian. Apparently, Robertson didn’t even remember what the Ten Commandments say, though he has championed their display on the walls of every American courthouse. That irritating one about “Thou shalt not kill” seems to rule out the killing of foreign leaders. But this week, simply putting biblical ethics aside, Robertson virtually issued an American religious fatwah for the murder of a foreign leader – on national television no less. That may be a first.

Yesterday Robertson “apologized.” First he denied saying what he had said, but it was on the videotape (it’s tough when they record you breaking the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus). Then he said that “taking out” Chavez might not require killing him, and perhaps kidnapping a duly elected leader would do. But Robertson does now say that using the word “assassination” was wrong and that he had been frustrated by Chavez – the old “my frustration made me say that somebody should be killed” argument. But the worst thing about Robertson’s apology was that he compared himself to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German church leader and martyr who ultimately joined in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler.

Robertson’s political and theological reasoning is simply unbelievable. Chavez, a democratically elected leader in no less than three internationally certified votes, has been an irritant to the Bush administration, but has yet to commit any holocausts. Nor does his human rights record even approach that of the Latin American dictators who have been responsible for massive violations of human rights and the deaths of tens of thousands of people (think of the military regimes of Chile, Argentina, El Salvador, and Guatemala). Robertson never criticized them, perhaps because many of them were supported by U.S. military aid and training.

This incident reveals that Robertson does not believe in democracy; he believes in theocracy. And he would like governments, including our own, to implement his theological agenda, perhaps legislate Leviticus, and “take out” those who disagree.

Robertson’s American fundamentalist ideology gives a lot of good people a bad name. World evangelical leaders have already responded with alarm and disbelief. Robertson’s words will taint and smear other evangelical Christians and put some in actual jeopardy, such as Venezuelan evangelicals. Most conservative evangelical Christians are appalled by Robertson’s hateful and literally murderous words, and it’s time for them to say so. To their credit, the World Evangelical Alliance and the National Association of Evangelicals have already denounced Robertson’s words. When will we hear from some of the groups from the “Religious Right,” such as the Family Research Council, Southern Baptists, and other leaders like James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Chuck Colson?

Robertson’s words fuel both anti-Christian and anti-American sentiments around the world. It’s difficult for an American government that has historically plotted against leaders in Cuba, Chile, the Congo, South Vietnam, and elsewhere to be easily believed when it disavows Robertson’s call to assassinate Chavez. But George Bush must do so anyway, in the strongest terms possible.

It’s time to name Robertson for what he is: an American fundamentalist whose theocratic views are not much different from the “Muslim extremists” he continually assails. It’s time for conservative evangelical Christians in America, who are not like Islamic fundamentalists or Robertson, to distance themselves from his embarrassing and dangerous religion.

And it’s time for Christian leaders of all stripes to call on Robertson not just to apologize, but to retire.

Which part of 'thou shalt not kill' is so unclear?

So in his usual ‘ignore everything jesus ever said and 2000 years of church tradition’ kind of way, American TV-evangelist and uber-wanker Pat Robertson has called for the US Government to Assassinate Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela.

So, the war on terror, eh, George? Now one of your ‘boys’, your ‘bottom line’ is calling for extra-judicial killings of national leaders. Time to have Pat thrown into camp X-Ray? How about a few weeks in Abu Graib? I mean, it’s not like it’s just suspicion that he’s inciting millions of his highly guillible viewers to support murder in the name of God and country. My, what startling respect he has for the rule of law, for due process…

Robertson’s a dick, we all know that – he’s been spouting rubbish for 20 years. After the Sept 11th attacks, he and his fellow moron, Jerry Falwell blamed it on pagans, abortionists, feminists & gays and lesbians, so it’s pretty clear where he’s coming from – but this seems to be on a whole other level, in that it’s clear incitement to murder.

The crazy thing is that the US has a history of doing this kind of shit in central and southern America – they supported the military coup in Chile in ’73, and from then on, backed any bunch of right-wing murdering psychos operating in the Americas, if only they were against a ‘leftist’ government, including the Contras in Nicaragua (for more on this, read ‘Like Water on Stone – the story of Amnesty International’).

So when Rumsfeld told reporters “Certainly it’s against the law. Our department doesn’t do that type of thing,” he should, as Cary pointed out on TimeBeing (email discussion list thingie – if you’re not on it, you don’t need to know) ‘Even giving Donald the benefit of the doubt, shouldn’t there have been an, “anymore” tacked on the end of that quote?’

It’s all just another example of the stunning duplicity of the US government when it comes to what constitutes terrorism, or war-crimes, or justification for invasion. One rule for all, my arse. What’s most shocking is that the rest of the world’s national leaders will fail once again to stand up to the US, to put pressure on them to condemn in any sensible terms the words of one of dubya’s closest allies. A former presidential candidate, FFS!

The latest development is that Robertson has claimed his comments were misconstrued – OK, which bit of “You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war … and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.” is unclear?

He’s calling for state terrorism to be enacted on the leader of a nation, and should be tried under America’s new draconian anti-terrorism laws. You can bet your arse that if Louis Farakhan has said something similar, they’d be onto him in a second.

Robertson, you’re scum, do the decent thing and hand yourself over to be tried for incitement to terrorism. Go on, just for lil’ ole me. You loser.

More on the G8 aftermath

Gig report from last night, and a couple of online reviews to come, but first, some politics! (yay! i hear you cry)

Today’s Guardian reports that Blair is a bit hacked off the aid agencies are down on the G8’s ‘acheivements’, but also suggests that he has some fairly ambitious plans during Britains tenure as president, to push for more movement on getting rid of farming subsidies, and for a new treaty on climate change.

Now, the problem here is, Tony now has a foil in both camps – he knows that Bush is not going to give in on capping emissions, and he knows the French aren’t going to go quietly on the CAP, so he can happily talk in non-definite terms about wanting things to ‘move forward’, ‘develop’ etc. without much fear that he’s actually going to have to do anything.

Of course, there’s the off-chance that he means it, which would be good. But there’s no real way of knowing. I don’t really trust him on anything these days. I can’t really see why anyone would after the outright lies he and his government told over Iraq. Why should he change now? He hasn’t even come clean over that disaster.

But I live in hope. We still have the problem of the G8/WTO/IMF/World Bank actually existing in the first place, but I’m a pragmatist and I really hope things move forward in a direction that is favourable for the world’s poor. We just need to remember that we’re still operating within a fundementally inequitous framework, and at some point, the world’s poor and working classes need to realise that the billionaires don’t really have our interests at heart. The globalised neo-feudalism of G8 style political dialogue is all about seeing what concessions they can make without spoiling things for share-holders. And therein lies the fundemental problem.

The Co-Op caught in a moral quandry…

Question – does it constitute discrimination to exclude someone based on them being discriminatory?

Such is the problem facing The Co-Operative Bank, who have terminated the account of Christian Voice, over the ‘homophobia’ in their stance and literature. Those odious Christian Voice people (the ones who came to prominence by protesting Jerry Springer – The Opera, and have since become, rather tragically, the self-appointed spokes people for ‘the church’, or at least the tiny proportion of the churc that they wouldn’t consider apostate.

The Co-Op bank have a history of banning people under the terms of their ethical policy, and in a rather bizarre and hilarious twist, Christian Voice have found themselves with some, I suspect, rather unwanted support… from the BNP!

The execrable racists have issued a press release (I was going to link to it, but you can find their site if you want to – I don’t want to give them traffic. it’s dated June 24th) coming out in favour of the Christian Voice, and against the horrible political correctness of the Co-Op. The BNP has previously had it’s accounts closed by Barclays and the HSBC (slightly ironic given barclays refusal to terminate dealings with apartheid-era South Africa, but we’ll let that one slide for now…)

So Christian Voice may have found a fitting bedfellow for their crazy ranting.

Either way, I’m glad I bank with the Co-Op.

Soundtrack – Charlie Hunter Quartet, ‘Natty Dread’.

The smokescreen of Debt Cancellation

This is all getting very murky.

the G8 have pledged $50 million dollars in debt relief for Africa.

Sounds good? Yes, of course. Until you start to break it down. Firstly, it only goes to 18 countries – lots more needed. Secondly, it’s condition on ‘economic reforms’ in the country, under the IMF’s HIPC scheme, which require increasing privatisation and opening up of nationalised industries and services to outside tender (guaranteeing that american and european companies get to start syphoning money out of those countries again, in return for provide water, energy, transport infrastructure as a profit making venture – now call me naive, but surely in a situation where poverty is as rife as it is in those 18 countries, the last thing they need to be worrying about is their water supply breaking down or being held to ransom because the share-holders of the parent company aren’t making enough?? That’s as bad as being in the debts they are already in.

It’s so galling that the twin evils of the IMF and World Bank go around telling countries how to run their economic affairs to the advantage of the rich. This is why trade law reform is THE big issue for the Make Poverty History campaign. Debt relief is all well and good, but if the cancellations are off-set against falling aid packages and industrial contracts to outside investors, they’re still utterly screwed.

The bottom line is, a share-holder based economic model is never going to favour the poor. It can’t, it is institutionally programmed to reward those with more money for their investments, to protect their investments from doo-gooders who seek to put the wellbeing of the stake-holders ahead of the balance sheet of the share-holders. It’s evil, pernicious and it needs to be challenged before anything is going to change substantially for the world’s poor.

If you are a share holder, use your power and vote at the company AGM to push for reforms. That’s the only way things can change on a company level – the directors and managers of a company are legally bound to maximise investors profits above all else. So they can’t even start to use recycled office paper unless it saves money or it’s cleared by a vote. So vote.

And if you don’t own any shares (I don’t, and never will) support co-operatives instead – organisations that operate on a stake-holder basis, where decisions are made considering the effects those decisions will have on all affected, not just those with a financial interest.

Debt cancellation is a wonderful thing, I’m glad it’s been announced, but I hope it becomes part of a MUCH bigger package of reforms, cos right now, it’s not making anyone’s poverty history.

and while we’re on the subject, consider this t-shirt, from Philosophy Football

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??

The Man In The Van With A Bass In His Hand

Went to see Mike Watt at the ICA this evening. He’s a bit of a punk legend, particularly in the States, where his first band, The Minutemen, inspired a whole generation of American punk bands in the 80s. In the mid-90s he made his first solo album, on which a who’s who of the American alternative scene paid their respects to Watt – members of Nirvana, The Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, The Pixies, Black Flag, The Rollins Band, Sonic Youth, Porno For Pyros etc. etc. all appeared on the record with him.

I met Watt a couple of years ago at The Bass Bash in Anaheim during NAMM, where he played a set with Kira, as ‘Dos’ – just two basses and voices – a resolutely low-fi punk set at an evening of fusion twiddling. Great subversive stuff. We also chatted alot that evening, and he revealed himself to be a deep, intellegent musician commited to maintaining his integrity as an artist, and staying true to his original punk ethic – DIY, and don’t take shit from anyone – even when signed to a major label.

Tonight he played all the tracks from his latest album – The SecondMan’s Middle Stand – from start to finish. It is, he says, a ‘sickness opera’ – a song-cycle based on his near-fatal illness, in three sections; hell, purgatory and heaven.

The music is very difficult to describe – very intricately written but playing with a punk abandon, the arrangements stop on a dime, switch time signatures, have unison phrases for all three musicians (the line-up is a trio of organ, bass and drums – not your typical punk lineup!) and then switch to full on dissonant avant garde scariness, and back to more conventional song forms. The dynamic range is huge, from a whisper to ear-splitting rock-out, and at the heart of it all is Watt’s aggressive, adventurous bass playing. All in all, marvellous stuff, impossible to accurately pigeonhole, deeply personal, and definitely music that rewards repeat listening.

He’s on tour in the UK for another week – go and see him if you can, but leave any preconceptions at the door. Do take earplugs though – it gets very loud! I’m so out of practice with ‘rock’ gigs – the volume scared the life out of me til I got my plugs in.

Watt’s tour diary makes for great reading too, though be warned, he speaks his own language, so the Pedrospeak Primer might help!

SoundtrackMike Watt, ‘The Secondman’s Middle Stand’; Mike Watt, ‘Contemplating The Engine Room’.

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