Category Archives: Culture

Definitely not Normal: More Reflections Following Reflections on The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal) and then The Road back from Normal (following on from The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal))

Just to offer some perspective on the shift I have experienced in getting on and off planes, and the bit in between (@ #DFW19), here’s the Uptown Circle area of Normal, Illinois:

And here’s the High Street of the town I live in:

Perhaps best to hold on to the following sentiment, though I’m not sure what good that’ll do me:

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And just think, the whole thing started with this post: The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal

There’s no place like home, eh?

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Reflections on The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal) and then The Road back from Normal (following on from The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal))

A by-product of being able to attend the #DFW19 (David Foster Wallace) Conference at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, was the chance for me to visit the site of The Warehouse, 206 S. Jefferson Street, Chicago, considered by many to be the birthplace of House music, or at least the place where House music began commanding audiences, as opposed to just being shared around privately. Anyone with an interest in finding out more can just follow this link.

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The experience of visiting a building that means a great deal to me (because without a place like The Warehouse my teenage years would not have been so much fun – and I would not have begun to understand the bigotry I had grown up with as a child (nothing wildly overt, but the usual racist, sexist, homophobic stuff prevalent in the UK media, which then filters down via one’s parents)) was, as indicated in previous posts, akin to that of a pilgrimage. I only hope that the message of love and shared connections, so often promoted in the lyrics of House music songs will continue to thrive – and on that point, happenstance that Chicago Pride weekend is the time I get to visit.

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Fortunately for me a group of young teenagers (mostly dressed in rainbow colours and seemingly having much fun with one another) happily and politely answer the questions I have about how far it would take me to walk here and there, and generally advise me not to walk in the direction of the inner city ‘hoods (their term, not mine). The atmosphere in the city was amazing, and 50 years on from Stonewall (though there’s still much work to be done to foster understanding and shared connections (both within and outside of the LGTBQ+ community)) it seems like we can begin to imagine a Promised Land: “Brothers, Sisters, one day we will be free, from fighting, violence, people crying in the streets…” (Joe Smooth). At least that’s the optimistic view I’m taking given the young people I have encountered both at #DFW19 and on the streets of Chicago.

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The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal)

206 S. Jefferson Street, Chicago. The Warehouse. Pilgrimage (is that the right word?).

As someone who never really liked The Hacienda, Manchester, because it always seemed too aggressive (and probably too male???), but who can walk past the old site any time I please, I am beside myself with excitement at the prospect of being able to visit the site of The Warehouse in Chicago on Sunday 30thJune 2019 (driving back to ORD from Normal, with a few hours to spare (post DFW19)). I have already emailed the legal firm that resides at the premises to see if I can get any information about the state of the building, and whether there is actually anything to see when I get there – a commemorative plaque, or something similar?

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For me, it will be akin to the sporadic visits I pay to Sylvia Plath’s grave in Heptonstall – a form of worship, and just something I’m compelled to do without quite knowing why (or even knowing what to do when I get there). In my head, the visit to the site of The Warehouse will involve being able to park directly outside, selecting an appropriate song from my playlist (at this point in time that song will be Joe Smooth’s ‘Promised Land’ (but then again I’ll probably also have to play Frankie Knuckles’ ‘Move Your Body,’ as it would be rude not to (and probably also Jaime Principle’s ‘Your Love’))), and leaning against the car with headphones on for however long it takes for the song(s) to play, then I’ll maybe try to find a place for coffee, so I can sit and reflect on what this club meant to my life growing up as a teenager in a relatively down-trodden (certainly at the time) Northern ex-mining town. Notably, it will be the way that, unknown to me at the time, ‘black and Latino LGTBQ+ communities’ affected my white, working-class existence in ways that are truly immeasurable. Long shot this, because this is not the most widely read blog, but I’d be super keen to meet anyone who actually set foot inside The Warehouse – I’d buy you a coffee and probably a cake, so…

As a side note, it’s funny that some of the most profound feelings can be found in the most innocuous looking places.

 


Pondering [the food at] the #immersivestorytelling Symposium @ljmu – a fill-in-the-blanks festive entry (fun for all the family)

The golden rule of attending any event as a ________ is to go prepared. Either eat before you go, take a packed lunch, be prepared to have to search around for food, or go hungry for the duration (admittedly, things are getting easier for ________ as the turn to a ________ diet attracts mainstream attention). Gather my amazement upon return from procuring a cup of coffee to find that the food had been laid out with thought and care – long table of animalised protein* items, then a table with feminised proteins,* and finally, a sufficient distance from the animalised proteins so that the overpowering smell of decomposing flesh was not an issue for my nasal receptors, a table of ________ food, each tray with its own handwritten tag spelling out what each item was, and for whom it was suitable – examples from this final table included pea-mint hummus wraps, aubergine and roast veg on ciabatta slices, and my personal favourite, a nutty/mushroom filling in pastry.

It’s a coincidence that the symposium was timed between two major celebrations, Thanksgiving and Christmas, respectively, where the consumption of animal corpses (predominantly turkey) passes in most households without a thought for the processes involved in the industrialised “factory farming” of animals. So, after sampling some wonderfully tasty ________ items at the symposium buffet, it seems apt, as a ________ to post the following comment from Carol J. Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory:

“[W]e refer to meat eating rather than to corpse eating [as] a central example of how our language transmits the dominant culture’s approval of this activity” (48)

The question I’d pose, here, is: Just how tasty is the corpse in your mouth as you sit round the table with loved ones?

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* Phrases taken from Adams’ book.


Pondering the #immersivestorytelling Symposium @ljmu

Not a direction the #immersivestorytelling symposium flagged up, per se, but one that springs to mind of being of interest due to references of “doing things in different ways” and Future Thinking, is the thought of relying less on traditional, conventional, old-world models connected with funding, finance, and commercial concerns. If wonderful new applications and uses of technology (AR, VR, XR, AI) are just around the corner, and it seems they are, and we don’t yet know just how much of an impact they will have on human evolution, which undoubtedly they will, then why would we shackle their development by confining them to purely profit driven activities? Won’t pressures of profit for shareholders, and the wish for ever more growth, etc., lead us back to the same old results, where exploiting an idea for profit is the sole motivating factor (meaning that the full potential of an idea may not be reached if it is not commercially viable, for example)?

A term I particularly liked was Julia Scott-Stevenson’s “seeking preferred futures,” and at this point in human evolution shouldn’t we all be attempting such a thing? Phil Charnock’s reference to the Whole Earth Catalog and the idea of democratised knowledge and access to information speaks to new ways of future thinking that we’ve been theorising about but have not yet been bold enough to bring into actuality. Perhaps these evolving technologies could be the spark that ignites such a flame…

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Pondering Plutarch #1 De Esu Carnium

Just a mini-ponder on a person writing a couple of thousand years ago, but who so simply cuts to the chase of the veganism versus meat-eating debate. Plutarch writes:

Well, then, we understand that that sort of men are used to say, that in eating of flesh they follow the conduct and direction of Nature. But that it is not natural to mankind to feed on flesh, we first of all demonstrate from the very shape and figure of the body. For a human body no ways resembles those that were born for ravenousness; it hath no hawk’s bill, no sharp talon, no roughness of teeth, no such strength of stomach or heat of digestion, as can be sufficient to convert or alter such heavy and fleshy fare (“Plutarch on why eating animals is repulsive” – trans. Baxter v.09.13, http://www.philaletheians.co.uk/study-notes/down-to-earth/plutarch-on-why-eating-animals-is-repulsive-tr.-baxter.pdf).

He does go on to expand upon this point (and that may come up in future ponderings), but for now it’s sufficient for us to stop and think about what he is saying here, for we can all recognise this in our own bodies – we do not share the same physiology as the shark, the crocodile, the lion, the hawk, or any other natural born meat-eating predators, who catch, kill, and eat their prey in one movement. And if you disagree with what Plutarch says, then try it today. Find the cow, pig, chicken, or whatever animal you think you would like to eat, and kill it with only the tools that your body has – will your teeth be sufficient to strike an artery; will your nails be able to wrench the animals skin from its flesh; will you be satisfied with the taste of warm, bloody flesh, uncooked and with no seasonings or sauces to disguise its flavour?

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Do let me know how you get on. Me, I’m off to chew on some nuts and seeds.


Pondering Courtney Love #1

Title: Courtney Love and Hole: Reflecting Contemporary Strains in “Gender” Relations

Opening question: How is it that Courtney Love, via the Hole era or any other for that matter, is not celebrated for her musical talent the same as artists such as Nina Simone, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Patti Smith, Prince, and many others?

Added controversy: Courtney Love suffers at the hands of the media and the public alike because she is a woman, and precisely because she smashes societally enforced boundaries that try to dictate how a woman should “be,” “act,” and/or “behave.” The sort of misogyny that did for Yoko Ono (effectively pinning all the blame on her for what happened with The Beatles and Lennon, and never being truly recognised as the artist she is, that sort of stuff) is a factor, where men beat up on women (metaphorically in this instance) because they’re doing stuff that “boys are supposed to do” (Courtney is as good in this respect as any Iggy Pop, David Bowie, or Ozzy Osbourne, for example). But we can also factor in a sort of lazy/tired misogyny that feeds through to those you wouldn’t necessarily think would be capable of misogynistic ways – basically, other women who adopt the attitude of “she’s a bitch/whore/slut/etc.,” which is unfortunate but is a fact of life.

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Principle argument: The first three Hole albums are as good as any produced by any other artist(s), either living or dead. Courtney Love’s voice is as powerful and raw as Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash, Thom Yorke, and Amy Winehouse, respectively. Her lyrics are on a par with Lennon/McCartney (not a fan of The Beatles but am aware they are credited with good writing). Women who swear, fight, contradict themselves, do drugs, and are open about sex, for example, are punished in ways that men are not: think Jim Morrison, Keith Richards, Keith Moon, Jimi Hendrix, Axel Rose, and so on, in order to recognise the hypocrisy here.

Parting shot: If Courtney Love had done what she’s done in a man’s body she’d be lauded like a Lead Belly, a Lennon, a McCartney, a Franklin, a Van Morrison, a Jagger, maybe even a Dylan.

And extra bit (for free): The Slits also suffer in the same way as Courtney Love, and for pretty much the same reasons, though the circumstances are different.


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