Police Kill More Americans In March Than In Entire UK Since 1900

More Americans Killed By Police In March Than In UK Since 1900

I mean, read the article.  That statistic really says it all.  The United Kingdom has gone through The Troubles in that time period.  Two World Wars took place in that time period just across the channel, with bombing taking place in England, which one would imagine would raise suspicion.  England has its own problems with immigration.  I’m sure many of you have heard of the National Front, of soccer hooligans, of many problems.  What I’m trying to say is that it isn’t like the UK is a land of peace and tranquility.  Yet somehow their police don’t kill people at the rate ours do.

I give a lot of grief to police here at this blog.  Just on my way home from Florida on the last tour I ran into an exceptionally kind one who let me off for speeding without a ticket.  I don’t believe all police are bad.  I’m not saying this to balance my argument or to extend an olive branch.  I think we have a problem here, but I think it is complex and it is better to acknowledge that complexity rather than to just say police are bad.  It has to do with our culture, our history, our unique racial problems that go back to the origins of this country, our politicians, our military industrial and prison complexes, and so many other factors.  But as a country we must find the result unacceptable.  It’s time to start asking some hard questions and beyond time to make changes.

Hat tip to JR 

Powdered Wigs, Syphilis, and Tradition

Today I was at a friend’s house watching the new History Channel miniseries about the Revolutionary War.   While we were watching it my friend asked me why people wore wigs back in that time period.  I had to find out and upon doing so found this article:

Why Did People Wear Powdered Wigs?

A sample:

For nearly two centuries, powdered wigs—called perukes—were all the rage. The chic hairpiece would have never become popular, however, if it hadn’t been for a venereal disease, a pair of self-conscious kings, and poor hair hygiene.  

The peruke’s story begins like many others—with syphilis. By 1580, the STD had become the worst epidemic to strike Europe since the Black Death. According to William Clowes, an “infinite multitude” of syphilis patients clogged London’s hospitals, and more filtered in each day. Without antibiotics, victims faced the full brunt of the disease: open sores, nasty rashes, blindness, dementia, and patchy hair loss. Baldness swept the land.

At the time, hair loss was a one-way ticket to public embarrassment. Long hair was a trendy status symbol, and a bald dome could stain any reputation. When Samuel Pepys’s brother acquired syphilis, the diarist wrote, “If [my brother] lives, he will not be able to show his head—which will be a very great shame to me.” Hair was that big of a deal.

The rest of the article is interesting as well.  Eventually Louis XIV, King of France, and Charles II, King of England, also started wearing wigs.  (Both of these kings were also thought possibly to have had syphilis.)  Well once kings start wearing wigs it is only a matter of time until others do.

So basically you had a bunch of rich people that were fucking too much, got syphilis, started wearing wigs, and then they influenced a whole lot of other people to start wearing wigs.  What is so funny is that judges used to wear wigs in the U.S.  Judges in England still wear them.  So you had and have all of these so called respectable people carrying on a tradition that in part started because of an STD.

It kind of makes you wonder what other respectable traditions have their basis in bullshit too…

We Tried, and We Failed – Jeane Lyrics

Jeane
The low-life has lost its appeal
And I’m tired of walking these streets
To a room with a cupboard bare

Jeane
I’m not sure what happiness means
But I look in your eyes
And I know that it isn’t there

We tried, we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried

Jeane
There’s ice on the sink where we bathe
So how can you call this a home
When you know it’s a grave?

But you still hold a greedy grace
As you tidy the place
But it’ll never be clean
Jeane

We tried, we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried

Oh, cash on the nail
It’s just a fairytale
Oh, and I don’t believe in magic anymore
Jeane

But I think you know
I really think you know
Oh, I think you know the truth
Jeane, oh

No heavenly choir
Not for me and not for you
Because I think that you know
I really think you know
I think you know the truth
Oh, Jeane

That we tried, and we failed
That we tried, and we failed
We tried, and we failed
We tried, and we failed
Oh, oh, Jeane

These are the lyrics to the song Jeane, an early Smiths composition.  Even though I’m a huge Smiths fan, I actually discovered this song through Billy Bragg.  I also really love the version by Sandie Shaw, which the Smiths played on.  (Featured above)

Morrissey, the lyricist of the song, was a fan of British kitchen-sink dramas and the work of writer Shelagh Delaney.  (Especially the must read play A Taste of Honey.)  These works were some of the first time that realistic 50’s and 60’s British working class life were displayed in drama.

These lyrics have never been far from my mind since the first time I heard this song.  I’ve never been great at writing the story song.  However, this song shows how lyrics, at least in my mind, can be so much more effective politically through the empathy that a story conveys.  The idea that life should be better for the working poor does not need to be conveyed in any obvious way.  In painting the picture that the lyrics do, one where you can’t help but notice the sad and demoralized state of its protagonists.  One can therefor empathize with the characters and be able to draw the political conclusion for themselves, which is always the more powerful way to come to an idea.

I also like how the small details of this life are interspersed with lines that could work as quotes unto themselves.  “I’m tired of walking these streets to a room with a cupboard bare”, does so much to paint a mental picture of the life the song is describing.    Yet the chorus line is so simple and Zen like that it almost seems carved from granite:  “We tried, and we failed.”  That is a line that if heard a few times, will pop up in your head again and again as life presents itself with an excuse to utter it.  It always brings one back to that song, whether consciously or subconsciously, and those characters.

Another thing to notice is that the lyrics are genderless.  Jeane could be both a boy or a girl and therefor anyone can relate to it.    This song is able to be sung by both male and female with equal conviction, without changing a line of it.

I picked the Sandie Shaw version above, as I could only find the Billy Bragg version with the faster tempo.  I’m used to the Billy Bragg version on the Reaching to the Converted album.  This song is one of the few times that I actually prefer the cover version  of a song rather than the original.  I also should note that the Sandie Shaw lyrics differentiate very very slightly from the printed lyrics above.  Again, there are at least four versions of this song recorded that I know of and I’m not sure which one the printed lyrics come from.  

I also found this version of Sandie Shaw and Johnny Marr performing the song for children on TV.  It is not the full version, so I didn’t want to put it at the top.  I like the idea of this song being sung for kids.  Teach ’em real young what’s going on out there!

Peaky Blinders and Black Sabbath

Peaky Blinders

I just watched the first episode of the Netflix show Peaky Blinders.  It is a show based around a gang in Birmingham just after World War I.  One episode is not enough to judge a TV show by, but the first episode has gotten my attention.  The show makes you aware of many of the economic and cultural forces that shape life in poverty stricken Birmingham.  As much stylization as the show has on the surface, it at least seems rooted in real world concerns.  (It also seems like it will be featuring a great deal of sex and violence to reel in the casual viewer, those who might not be as interested in the the larger themes the show is hinting at.)   However, I will deal with the show in further detail concerning its plot and meaning once I have watched more.

One thing that seems of undeniable quality is the cinematography and set design of the show.  It is black on black almost to the point of looking like a Edgar Allen Poe story.  When there are striking colors introduced, it is when the characters leave the slums of Birmingham.  The only other use of color is in the dress of a beautiful girl from Ireland, who comes to the neighborhood to get a job.

The reason I am mentioning the look and feel of the show is that I couldn’t help but think of Black Sabbath.  The seminal heavy metal band was from Birmingham.  Although this show is obviously presenting a stylized noir version of the city, there is no question that the Birmingham of this period, and for many years later, was often a bleak place.  My point being is that, for any of you that wondered why a town in England would father a band like Black Sabbath, you can get a pretty good idea of it here.  In fact if I had any early criticism of the show at all, I wonder why they didn’t use Sabbath’s music, or music that was similar, given that they have already modernized the score.  The show looks like Black Sabbath sounds.  Many that only have a passing knowledge of Black Sabbath probably think of the typical fantasy imagery that many metal bands would go on to use.  (To be fair Black Sabbath played into this perception at times.)  But Sabbath sounded like they did for a reason.  This was dark music reflecting the bleak surroundings of their environment.

The Collector Review

The_collector_1965_film_poster

I saw a really great movie the other night called The Collector.  It was from 1965 and it starred Terrance Stamp and Samantha Eggar.  It was a psychological thriller about a man that kidnaps and imprisons a woman.

Terrance Stamp plays Frederick Clegg.  Clegg is seen collecting butterflies at the beginning of the movie.  He stumbles upon a house that has a large underground cellar.  He decides to take his collecting one step further and he kidnaps Miranda Grey, who is played by Eggar.  He has known Grey since they were young, but because he was of a lower class he felt inferior to her and was always afraid to approach her.  He has convinced himself that if he can keep her captive long enough eventually she will learn to love him.

It was directed by the great William Wyler that also directed Ben-Hur, among many other classic films.  Although the general story is quite simple, the movie is pregnant with ideas, features great performances by both its leads, and creates a good deal of suspense.  Aside from some brief intrusions by a couple other people, it is almost like a two person play.  Most of the action takes place in Clegg’s house.

Clegg is someone that wants to be understood and feels greatly inferior due to his class.  Class in England, where this movie takes place, is much more of an issue than in America, especially at the time of the film.  The movie also deals with the struggle of the sexes as Clegg wants to posses Grey.  There is even a seen where it looks as if he is carrying her across the threshold like they just got married, even though he has made her unconscious.  One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Clegg has a meltdown over not being able to understand the abstract art that the educated and more sophisticated Grey loves.

The power of this movie really comes from the main performances and the dialogue of these two characters.  (Apparently Stamp and Eggar dated at some point before this movie was made.  Stamp was also told by the director to not talk to Eggar during breaks between filming.  All of this adds to the tension that you see on screen.)  The characters are complex and the story is riveting.  This is an older movie that still holds up completely today.

John Lydon On Voting and Russell Brand

This will be my last post on John Lydon for awhile, but since I have been posting about him, and I included a post about Russell Brand yesterday, I thought that this would be a good video to put up.  I can’t agree more with Lydon about voting.  I also completely agree with his advice on reading.

I apologize.  I originally linked to the wrong video.  The correct video is now above.  

Another Look at the Scottish Vote

Another Look at the Scottish Vote

The link above from Huffington Post examines the Scottish independence vote from another angle.  Apparently it had as much to do with the legacy of Tory policies as it did with any newfound call for independence.  One can trace the modern unhappiness of the Scots back to Thatcher.  The kind people still have a wonderful dream?…