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Morrissey by Pat Reid

Posted 11 December 2004, 8.00 am by triple

‘Morrissey’
by Pat Reid
(Absolute Press)

There are few musicians more enigmatic, or so slavishly adored, as Steven Patrick Morrissey. As frontman of The Smiths – one of the most influential bands to come out of Britain in the past three decades – then as a solo artist, Morrissey has inspired adulation, outrage, confusion and controversy in pretty equal amounts. All the while, Morrissey’s private life has remained unusually private. The UK music press, in particular, has variously lauded and lambasted the man and his music over the decades, but their opinion has become less relevant since Moz set up home in Los Angeles, and unexpectedly found the Mexican-American community the source of a new fanbase.

Pat Reid has been a fan of Morrissey and The Smiths since his student days, and penned a previous volume about him – ‘Bigmouth: Morrissey 1983-1993’ in 1997. This latest book illuminates Morrissey’s meandering career path from teenage misfit to aspiring rock writer then articulate, if not controversial, singer with The Smiths, and finally to exiled, chameleon solo artist.

Reid is an incisively perceptive writer, and his book is chatty and highly readable. It comprises a subjective though fresh look at Morrissey’s ouvre, many anecdotes and arguments about music and culture, and a discussion of the Morrissey’s sexuality, a topic which has always vexed the prurient press. Despite the singer’s claims of celibacy, and the fact that he has seemingly been single most of his life, most people who give the topic any thought – Reid included – assume him to be discreetly gay. Morrissey also has the unusual quality of eliciting a sexual response from men who aren’t gay – Reid describes him as ‘a gay icon to straight men’.

Sexual controversy has dogged Morrissey since early Smiths lyrics were suggested by music journalists to refer to child abuse. This was probably unfounded, but Morrissey went on to stir up trouble with a series of flippant though racially insensitive comments. He then compounded problems by waving the British flag onstage during a support slot to ska band Madness, whose audience at the time included a far-right nationalist contingent. Penning a song called ‘The National Front Disco’ didn’t help either (imagine an American artist singing about the KKK Klub and you can understand why this could be inflammatory) – Morrissey was deemed a racist by the UK’s most influential music paper. Like Eminem, Morrissey is an artist who uses lyrical personas, and often should be taken with a large pinch of salt – when Moz crooned “England for the English”, was he being racist, or simply poking fun?

Reid’s book doesn’t address this issue in much depth, probably due to its being written without any contact with Morrissey himself. As a seasoned music journalist, Reid could almost certainly have arranged interviews with Moz had he wanted, but chose not to, aware of the potential disappointment of meeting his idol, and wary of Morrissey’s delight in upsetting journalists. So, Reid’s assertion early on that ‘this book is about Morrissey, his life, his music and his sexuality’, is only partly true – he discusses all those things, but the book is possibly more revealing about Reid himself than about Morrissey. Nevertheless, some of the most interesting and entertaining parts of the book are nothing to do with Moz – Reid is an informed and lively guide to the politics of the UK music press, the changing currents of the music scene and the wider popular culture. Reading his book is like having a long, opinionated conversation with a wittily bitter old friend. By the conclusion of the book, Reid realizes he’s gone off topic, and acknowledges that he’s “not really writing about [Morrissey], but about the things that happen around him, and the debris that trail in his wake”. This book will speak to Morrissey fans of every denomination - Reid avoids the common journalistic assumption that readers are familiar with all the music and artists that he knows, and thorough annotations make his arguments accessible whether or not you’re conversant with the intricacies of the UK music scene. The really interesting parts of the book deal with the aspects of music and popular culture which Morrissey has variously confronted, confounded and controlled. Whether you’re a devoted Morrissey fan or just interested in how the music scene has evolved over recent decades, there’s treasure to be found in Reid’s “trailing debris”.

La Ville des Vides (The City of Voids)

Posted 11 December 2004, 3.23 am by Villager

Take me away from this place,
Where flies do gather, stink and die
Pass me by, turn your face,
Rushing to live, forgetting why

Terrible youth stains the walls
The old afraid, stay indoors
Beggars as lepers stare, shivering
This shameless circus of
Shameful anonymity

Brave the cold, take the tube,
Ugly glare of neon loneliness
Hold your breath, hurry now,
With darkness comes menace
The rats smell blood, ever closer

Not peace nor rest,
Even in the dead of night
Demons lurk, and whisper,
In sleepless shadows
Everything moves, nothing alive

Unseen, I suffocate
In a commotion of melancholy
Choking on blackened emptiness,
The sadness endures.
Please, take me away.

Training Day

Posted 30 November 2004, 12.00 am by Duncan-O

I feel glad I drank an extra cup of coffee as I unbutton my green woodland-pattern fatigues and pull on a pair of powder-blue OR scrubs. It's my first day training in the burn ward at Brooks Army Medical Center--indeed my first day training in any hospital--and I'm still rubbing sleep from my eyes in the hopes of not making any mistakes. I'm having a little trouble pulling the surgical shoe covers on over my combat boots so I stumble a little when my hand shoots up at the call for two volunteers. The RN fixes her steely eyes first on Private First Class Kamena, then on me.

"Are you ready?" she asks? We both answer in the affirmative. "Good. Prepare yourselves for what you're going to see." She ushers us around the corner to the OR anteroom and all thoughts of caffeine are driven from my mind. Through the observation window, I see a naked man lying on the table. My eyes are drawn away from his blistered face, away from the charred, yellow-white patches indicating 3rd degree burns covering his body, and to the fasciotomy cuts running from his ankles to his groin and to his hips.

One of the many complications caused by a major burn is twofold: swelling and a loss of elasticity in the skin. In the limbs, this can cause a tourniquet-like effect that cuts off blood flow and eventually life in the extremities. The only way to relieve the pressure is to incise the skin the entire length of the burn.

The patient has similar cuts along his arms and torso. His insides are laid bare through the incisions; muscle, bone, blood vessels, and fatty subcutaneous tissue exposed to the air. A necrotic mass of tissue hangs out of his lower leg where dead muscle was already removed because of the danger of infection.

"We need your help in there, quickly," the RN's voice pulls my attention back to her already masked face. "I assume you know how to put on a pair of surgical gloves?" I wonder what I could possibly do to help this patient. I've trained to be a combat medic--tourniquets and CPR is about the extent of my knowledge. Following her closely, I glance at the ID placard on the door. PFC_______, 23. Burns over 80% of his body. He's my rank but a few years younger. I briefly wonder about his family.

The OR is hot, over 92 degrees. Hypothermia is another major danger to burn patients--they have lost their protective layer of insulation. I'm anxious to do anything to help--start an I.V., draw blood, monitor vitals--anything within my limited scope of knowledge.

"Stand at the feet and raise his legs when I tell you to. He has to be scrubbed for surgery." I gingerly take hold of the patient's ankles, taking care to avoid aggravating the fasciotomies. Ruefully, I consider the futility of my gesture since his legs are scheduled for amputation at the knee. As I lift the patient's legs above my head, a piece of equipment attached to his toe snags and pulls free. I feel like kicking myself but I inform the doctor that I just removed the pulse oxymeter.

"Don't worry. We'll deal with it," he responds.

The patient is a large one and his legs are heavy. I start to sweat from the effort and the heat in the room. I notice that other than his genitals and a narrow swathe of his chest, his feet are the only part of his body left unburned, probably protected by his own boots. Finally the nurse is done washing him off, and I lower his legs.

I stand to one side, out of the way as the room begins to fill with personnel. The RN tells us we can leave at any time, but my eyes are glued to the events unfolding in front of me.

"Blair blade," one doctor seated by the patient's left arm says with his hand extended behind him. This part, I think to myself, is just like TV. The assistant hands him the tool. It's basically a straight razor affixed to an adjustable guard so it can be employed like a cheese slicer, and this is exactly what the doctor proceeds to do. Off comes after layer after layer, not unlike peeling a potato. The doctor carefully slices a tattoo off of the patient's upper arm and then answers my question with a terse, "This is called an escharotomy. The dead skin must be stripped away--we shave until it bleeds." And bleed it does. Towel after towel gets soaked through, and soon the doctor gives up reaching for the hamper and drops them on the floor as they need to be replaced. Despite the presence of the red biohazard trash can, wasted scraps of skin begin to pile up on the floor and table.

Another pair of doctors is at work on the patient's legs. Apparently the burns are too severe to save the skin, so one is using an electric scalpel to remove patches of flesh the size and thickness of steaks from his thighs. The smell of burning flesh permeates my own mask and a thin haze of smoke hangs in the light of the overhead lamps. I glance at the monitor and marvel to myself how his pulse and blood pressure can hold steady even as they strip him of his skin.

I move to the other side of the room in order to gain a different perspective. On a side table, an OR technician is hard at work over something that looks like a miniature printing press. "What are those?" I ask, pointing to the rubbery grayish sheets he's feeding through it.

"Allografts--cadaver skin," he answers. His eyes grinning over his surgical mask, he holds a slightly darker one up and says, "See? It comes in all different colors." Thump-thump-thump and another sheet comes out, four times its original area and perforated to allow for fluids to flow. Yet another doctor hands the tech a similar-looking sheet of skin. I turn to see where this one came from, and I see him running a palm-sized stainless steel instrument across one of the few unburned patches of the patient's chest. This is how autografts are made--they are removing the last remaining virgin skin from the patient to graft it to where it's desperately needed.

The pace in the OR picks up. A sense of urgency prevails in the room as the team of six doctors moves in closer around the patient. It is time to staple the grafts in place and they must not be allowed to dry. "Allo! I need more allografts!" the call is repeated again and again. Hundreds of surgical staples need to be punched into the patient's flesh in order to secure this many skin grafts, and the disposable staplers contribute to the refuse on the floor, organic and otherwise. One doctor slips on the blood and other fluids puddling underneath the OR table as he hurriedly wraps a bandage around one leg.

And a nurse walks through the door. "Doctor, Mr.______'s mother is here. Is there someone who can talk with her?"

It all comes crashing home to me. This patient, this clinical exhibit, is the joy in someone's heart. He is someone's beautiful son, barely a man, and a cherished gift in her life as his own hangs by a thread and a prayer. Please God, don't let her come in here! Don't let her come in here and see this grisly display, this charnel house that claws at the mind and makes it beg to be released from reason. Don't let her see the light of her life sliced apart and flayed in the name of medicine!

"Not for at least another hour," the doctor responds.

Soon, it is done. I help move the man onto a clean gurney, the last time I will ever touch him. Later on, Kamena and I practice drawing blood on each other, but all I can manage is a couple of halfhearted sticks. What was novel a month ago now seems like child's play. I laid my hands on my first patient, a man who desperately needed help, and I could do nothing for him.

What Are We Good For?

Posted 26 November 2004, 8.00 am by Villager

Well well. I suppose after my little outburst you're all expecting me to come up with something ambitious, something grand, something of a higher standard than I normally spout. Something interesting, at least. Which raises the question of what exactly I am hoping to achieve when I share my thoughts with others. I'm not going to attempt originality, epic, brilliance, because I'm bound to fail and there's not much benefit to be had from achieving those things, save as a salve to my skulking ego. All I'm going to attempt is the communcation of my thoughts, feelings and understandings, whatever form these may take. What follows is a general statement of my mind, though it can be read in relation to my previous post. Without further ado:

One of the things that really irks me about the modern world is low nature of virtually all popular culture. This weekend I attended a series of lectures on Shakespeare and Spirituality (I'm no obsessive, but I had little else planned). My earliest memories of English literature are of MacBeth, and in my youth I was intrigued by how well thought out, how insightful, how well crafted, how effective it all was. It occurs to me that in the years that followed I've studied nothing that really threatened to raise the standard set centuries ago. Artistic movements come, they go, and fall into history. Fast forward to 2004 and though our cultural heritage is great and vast, it's all we've got. We have nothing of our own. A great variety of dull has descended upon popular culture. Contemporary intellectualism is elitist, self-serving and pretentious. If the onslaught of modernity was accompanied by something even vaguely resembling an intellectual progression then I could bring myself to forgive the rest of the sordid mess.

What of recent fame has resounded as thoroughly as Shakespeare? What we have of our own creation is voyeuristic "reality" shows, superficial talent contests, art which exists largely for it's own self-pity, films which seldom bother to even try reaching above the commercialism of sheer entertainment, literature which is obsessed with the unashamedly physical, idolisation of sports stars, singers and the rest of the dubious celebrity for their distinctly narrow prowess, and so on. Even that shining light of modernity, music, lies stricken. Perhaps the greatest evidence for our overawing frivolity is the absolute irrelevance of culture when the world makes big decisions. Culture, if such a thing can be approximated, exists only for purposes of entertainment and distraction. That it has largely always been so is true, but never has such a glut of useless and pathetic activity fouled upon our senses.

This is not, of course, for want of great thinkers. It is to my mind nigh impossible to succeed with ambitious and meaningful thought and expression not because nobody's trying, but because nobody's listening. They're all getting drunk, fucking, consuming, dribbling their lives away with superficiality and not a moment's thought. And they're quite happy to do so. I scour the papers, the museums, the net, yet with the odd, lonely exception I am left with no choice but to return to
the ancient heritage for engaging thought. Is this because there's nothing left to say? Has human intellectual progress peaked and slipped into an irreversible decline? Or has society closed its collective ears because we've heard it all before, so we might as well get on with partying before the lights go out?

I don't believe we've exhausted our creative and intellectual juices. That the canon of artistic history remains unchallenged is indeed partly because the canon carries enduring truths, and because what replaces the old is different only in degree. Even if it could be imagined that we've reached saturation, it would then be time to act upon our collective nous and create some kind of utopia. Or, at least, create something. Yet we just bumble through, no guiding hand of thought shaping the development of our world, no thought in our actions, no soul in our thought. The problem lies in communication as much as it does product. Great thought is for nought if it can't leave the thinker.

Why is this of concern to me? In short, because I see a tragic waste of potential. Potential that has existed for millennia but comes to a point now when we all have the greatest opportunity to use it, free of the constraints of illiteracy, poverty and servitude. We are the masters of our own destinies, yet we are content to drift on by as though fate were something that happens to you. Perhaps it is the victory of the gibbering masses, stimulating themselves from the cradle to the grave, slaves to the ungodly dollar. I like to think it doesn't have to be this way; that those with understanding can awaken from torpor those who live in ignorance and denial. Perhaps that is no more than futile optimism. Certainly the idealism of one or even a thousand will not transform the world. But if we can suitably affect those around us then a ripple effect will be had, and many ripples make waves. Even if I and those of you who sympathise with my babbling fail, at least in our collective failure we'll have each other for company. In this, AKpCEP can be a microcosm, however tiny, of the best of humanity; that which endeavours to explore and maximise our potential as the best of God's creation (or otherwise, as you see fit).

In short - and this is my third paragraph begun with the intent to close - it saddens me to think that we should resign ourselves to living our lives according to the pitiful example given by those around and before us. It is inherent in my nature to try and shape a little bit of the world according to my idealism. That the attempt may well be doomed to at least some measure of failure is obvious, but that it is a worthy use of time regardless is undeniable. For those who desire the material and physical pleasures of life, I'll not impede you.

For those who aspire to something more, I hope our paths entwine.

Little Jimmy McShoey

Posted 21 November 2004, 11.30 pm by Ice_Queen

Nobody believed little Jimmy McShoey
when he said his puppy went “Kablooie!”

They all laughed when he’d stomp his feet
as he turned away, red as a beet

Little Jimmy lied and lied,
except the day his puppy died

He gave the puppy an explosive treat;
a firecracker that has never been beat

It fizzed and popped and sparkled a lot;
so much that he hid behind the cot

He thought he’d give his puppy some fun
he didn’t think the pup would run

Next to the fireplace his puppy landed
his belly expanded and expanded

Like a giant balloon the puppy did rise
near the ceiling fan to Jimmy’s surprise

The fan caught hold of the puppy’s tail
and Jimmy began to wail and wail

As the pup went flying through the air
sparks landed in little Jimmy’s hair

He ran and got a bucket of water
to keep his puppy from getting hotter

But little Jimmy was far too late
to stop his little puppy’s fate

For when he returned to the room
he found his puppy had gone “Kaboom!”


But nobody believed little Jimmy McShoey
when he said his puppy went “Kablooie!”

Wedding Vows

Posted 20 November 2004, 2.17 am by berly

Chris ripped open the box from GigantorBooksellerdotcom. He took the books out of their shipping box and then looked at me. I had never seen this look before. Then it happened.

He took the dust jackets from two brand new books and threw them in the trash.

Just.like.that.

I could hardly believe my eyes. He said “I know. You probably think I’m crazy. Everyone else that has ever seen me do that thinks so.” He further explained, “I can’t stand those covers. They get in my way.”

I’m going to marry him soon. All I could think of to say was “You won’t be doing that to my books, will you? Because I can’t deal with that. I mean, I could NEVER throw away the dust jacket of my books!”

He assured me that he would leave all of my dust jackets on the books, unless he decided to read one. In that case, he would put the jacket aside until he was finished.

It’s funny, because this incident happened at least six months ago. Yet, it fails to fade from my memory as so many other discussions/events do.

Sometimes I feel like his ritual shows just how much he appreciates a book for what it creates for the reader. Those things that can’t be touched or seen by anyone else.

I’ve often thought about asking friends “Have you ever heard of anyone throwing away the dust jacket from their books before?”

We aren’t writing our own vows or anything for the wedding. However, I’m not sure I can keep myself from modifying the script by saying: “I do, as long as you promise never ever to throw away any of the dust jackets of my books.”

Blood[y] Relations

Posted 18 November 2004, 9.32 pm by Macaroni

I could feel the storm brewing. Preparing for my family reunion was like watching an ominous weather report: “Hurricane Fiona has bypassed the Caribbean and is currently making its way over the Atlantic, heading right toward us . . . ” I imagined distant aunts and uncles packing their bags and sharpening their knives with lust in their eyes. They wanted their reckoning, and my self-imposed exile from them would be the main topic of their questions, but my answers would not be accommodating. I never felt close to my family, and I rarely felt supported. I chose to let the people who were close to me, my friends who have earned it, be my family. To me, family is a designation earned, not inherited.
My distrust of blood relations probably started when I was very young. My earliest memories are of arguments between family members; heated discussions over trivial things, unnecessary violence, unnecessary rage. Growing up, I heard stories told in whispers of how this uncle had screwed this cousin out of a lot of money, or how that cousin was a lazy good-for-nothing bum. In spite of being indoctrinated into this family code of negativity and backstabbing, I was disgusted that people would choose to waste their time in such ways, especially on those who were supposed to be working for each other.
Adolescence was a difficult time for me, but I never found myself missing guidance as those who are in a similar position often do. When I needed support, it wasn’t anyone in my family I turned to, it was my close friends. I drew strength from people who shared my experiences and who saw me as a human being of worth, rather than someone’s sister’s son, which by blood meant an obligation to care. My friends were the ones who let me open up to them, free to expose myself, no matter how ugly that unraveling may have been.
Over time, my distaste for family has been tempered by experiences which have shown me that there are some who genuinely care, not just because they would lose face if they openly acknowledged they didn’t. But those experiences have been rare, and my circumstance – living far away from most of them, having no brothers or sisters – probably has played a part in continuing my perception. In part because of these positive experiences, I decided to attend the reunion.
The occasion was held at the house of a family friend, neutral territory free from memories of past gatherings which had played a large part in how I felt about family in the first place. The gathering was casual, held mostly outdoors. It wasn’t long before the interrogation started.
My nosy aunt: “So how have you been keeping yourself busy these days? How come we never hear from you? You never return our calls.”
“When did you call?”
“I called your mother just before Christmas. I told her to tell you we said hi the next time she talked to you.”
“Mom told me that she called you just before Christmas, and that you never returned her call.”
“Yes, well...how is school?”
I realized something which I think I will hold close to myself for the rest of my life at that family reunion. My family genuinely believed they loved each other, and in many ways, they did. But what held them together, tenuous though their bond was, wasn’t about love as much as it was about survival. They needed each other to exist. They needed to feel superior to each other, but at the same time, to know that they would be there for each other. My feelings towards them became less hostile, but my beliefs about what family really is were solidified.
After dinner and what felt like endless torrent of half-hearted questions, I felt I had served a sufficient enough amount of time that I could leave without being seen as having slighted these people who meant so little to me. I immediately made my way to my real family, my friends.

Aspirations and Neglect: A Statement of Intent

Posted 13 November 2004, 2.57 am by Villager

I remember when, some years past, Alexander and I agreed that I would become a staff writer for his fledgling creation. It was an exciting time for me, I was still very naive and had lofty expectations of life and the world. Alex's notion of the website fit snugly with these expectations. I would post at least twice a week, we said. I had entered into a marriage which was to be the canvas for my yet-formed psyche. AKpCEP would nurture me, and I it, a noble and ambitious plan. Through the sharing of knowledge, ideas and understanding, a small website with a funny name would make a blot, however small, in the sea of ignorance and stupidity that surrounds us. Society had failed to educate us, so we must take life by the horns and educate ourselves and each other.

What fills the space between then and now can be readily seen in the archives, which will tell you that I have contributed more articles than anyone else (at least since the dec/01 wipe). Yet this is misleading, in that most of my use of this page has been for my own mistakes, exploration and inquiry, rather than genuine contribution. My use has perhaps been typical; furiously active at times, but usually dormant. Furthermore, I imagine all of you who posted in those early times have been disappointed with what developed over the years. I know I am, not least with my own efforts and results, but with the collective failure too. Great writings have lived on this page where now I babble, but they have been tragically few and far between. Have we achieved nothing? Those of us who remain from such times barely keep our accounts ticking over, new Grinders concern themselves not with the virtual graveyard known as the Front Page, the Shed just another space for pettiness and jokes about AIDS. The past two months boast five articles. Did AKpCEP die without funeral?

This may sound sad to those of you who understand not the purpose of this website, but AkpCEP has been one of the formative influences on my development as a young man. I grew up around dunces and laymen, yet yearned for something more. If nothing else, the interaction with others who aspired to knowledge and understanding - people who to this day I struggle desperately to find in my 'real' life - played a valuable and influential role. That I inflicted upon you regular, ill-conceived ramblings is coincidental to my own experience. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I would be shocked if nobody else had taken similar benefit. As for the future, who knows. I've barely contributed over the past year or so and frankly, neither has anyone else.

As with any system or idea, the results will only be as impressive as the efforts put into them. As a concept, AKpCEP is marvellous. In practice, it flourished then wilted. Personally, I have come to realise that such a hub, that can bring together such diverse and intelligent people, is invaluable in in such a fickle and materialistic world in denial of its own capacity. If the will exists to achieve the goals for which the site was conceived, then it will witness great things once more. I hereby state my own intent to stoke the intellectual embers of the Grinding community, and once again strive for an ideal that I believed in so fervently when I joined.

I do hope you'll join me.

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They were done for an exhibition a couple of years ago . They asked for something to so with the summer. They are mixed media and oil paint on metal advertising boards - for ice cream.


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80s candy bars were pretty good

only because i traded it for a candy bar in the 80's.

lol we all know you don't have a soul ghoti

my soul for some carbs...

But of course!

Yo ! Does this work ?

* Alexander wonders if this still works

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