Category Archives: Writing

Why #AllLivesMatters is Stuff and Nonsense and Speaks of a Wider Ignorance Testament to Human Stupidity

As ###s become ever more politicised, here’s one quick reason why #AllLivesMatter or #EveryLifeMatters is just a weak response:

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If ALL or EVERY life matters then factory farming would not exist.

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If ALL or EVERY life matters then 60% of all known species on the planet would not now be dead.

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If ALL or EVERY life matters then arable agriculture would not use pesticides indiscriminately.

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If ALL or EVERY life matters then tons of $$$s would not be used creating weapons for the arms industry.

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If ALL or EVERY life matters then wars would not be tied to ‘national pride’.

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If ALL or EVERY life matters then stop supporting the systems that work contrary to such thought.


A$AP Rocky Tasted Colours (I Have… Have You?), and other bits and pieces…

Fragments…

If you’ve never tasted colours, and I don’t mean with your tongue, there’s a guaranteed way you can… but it requires effort. And sometimes it can go wrong. A$AP Rocky can tell you.

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Growing up in a working-class household, with roots firmly in an underclass (here, I wave my great, great, great-grandfather’s life in your face – pursued across much of Scotland, Lower Canada, northern England, and then transported from the docks of Greenwich to Tasmania, to live the final 16 years or so of his life alone on Betsey Island), it’s astonishing that I abhor racism and other stuff. Racism is inbuilt into British society and its notions of British ‘pride’. So is sexism. So is speciesism. So is homophobia. Fear of the ‘other’ a vital component of colonialism.

University wasn’t even on my radar as a school leaver. The working classes are meant to work. Get a good job. Work hard. Save for hard times ahead. Retire and travel until you’re physically incapable of travel. Die, leaving a legacy of a few thousand pounds for your children. Inspiring.

The early years British education system, in particular, forms an apartheid based upon genitals. School uniforms reinforce this (to this day).

Every field you drive, walk, and/or ride past that has animals in is a death camp. Controversial?

Cruelty to animals is disguised by the mechanisms of capitalism. Factory farming of animals is excused because God says so. Eating dead flesh is normalised through massive effort and will, but kept that way through ignorance and selfishness.

Take a moment. Consider your job. In 200 years’ time will anyone credit it as being vitally important to humanity and the planet we live on? How so?

Humanity is not humane. But people get upset when reminded of this.

Space exploration is pointless given our current attitudes.

It is hard to read/watch works of fiction with half a planet starving, with the history of violence on this planet.

That there is an arms industry is testament to human stupidity. Redundant notions of human ‘nature’ sustain violence.

When I have time I will document the various flyers and paraphernalia from (mainly) illegal house party events and club nights. Once, in Blackpool police station, having spent the night in a cell, and having listened to R.E.M.’s ‘Shiny Happy People’ coming from goodness knows where, and with the person in the next cell singing repeatedly, ‘I’m just a mixed-up kid, don’t know what I did’, the arresting officer had the audacity to ask me to supply him with such paraphernalia. My face said it all…

Yet, for all this, I am optimistic that humans will evolve in ways far better than we currently see of them. Veganism, and ending speciesism, is key to this, I believe. Lovely nights out, pondering dead flesh on menus with loved ones. Stopping in the middle of shopping trips to gulp down cow lactation. Chewing on such colourful sweets, held together with the stuff that oozes from cracked, boiled animal bones – yum. Life’s a carefree hoot, until you question everything…

So question everything…


Maxine Peake, Widnes Council, and a Reclaimed Toxic-Waste Dump – Reflections on Spike Island

Exactly 30 years to the day, what’s changed? I like Maxine Peake for her membership of the Communist Party and for her outspokenness on political matters (and she’s a truly great actor (but maybe yet to be recognised as such)).

The only occasion I’ve had to go near Widnes in the 30 years since is to drop some paperwork off at a colleague’s house (Widnes and surrounding areas are much nicer than the name Widnes suggests – maybe Widnes Council needs to amplify this (or change its name). I once lived near Summertown, Oxford. They know how to name places down there. It lived up to its name.

The Stone Roses LP is still a part of my vinyl collection, and is, in fact, unsleeved on my (still/static) turntable right now. I own way more vinyl than 30 years ago.

Maxine Peake took a beating from a critic for her performance in Peterloo (something to do with her northern accent) – maybe the critic should have been focusing on the incident itself, and the fact that kids like me weren’t taught about such things (or the tanks sent to Glasgow shipyardsto ward off the ‘threat’ of communism; or the use of paramilitary troops disguised as police officersto break up the coal miners’ strikes).

I didn’t value mon£y then (I never had much until around 1996). I don’t value it now, and have arguments with people about it. I did have a phase in between where I had money and acted like people who have money (and didn’t like it (the pha$e) very much).

I think the Stone Roses are in danger of becoming their own tribute act.

The world is in such a mess it is hard to tune out.

Much of human activity is pointless, at best, and destructive, at worst.

Doing anything for mOn€y involves compromise.

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25” Straight Leg Jeans, Fishing Hat, and C20H25N3O – Reflections on Spike Island

Jeans. So wide at bottom, trainers/trainees/sneakers completely obscured from view. Turn-ups 3” deep, turned 3 times, gather roughly 1” dirt/dust over course of night. Later emptied onto bedroom floor. Pockets deep enough to hide Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, for personal consumption. Two packets of fags. £30. Lip balm stick. Zippo lighter. 30 years on, jeans lay in paper bag in attic. Nearly new. One careful owner. Pockets empty.

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Fishing Hat. Bought from Army Navy Stores on high street. Morning of Stone Roses concert: Lee’s back yard. Selection of Airfix paint pots, very small. Dip tiny paintbrush, flick paint onto hat. Old bed sheet on patio appeases Lee’s mum. Colours selected: Made of Stone (hat: light khaki/stone?). Not yet aware of Jackson Pollock (have heard name in lyrics). 15 minutes after concert ends, hat stolen w/ menace. 30 years on, presumed dead. Reward offered for safe return.

C20H25N3O. Safely enters Spike Island. Spends 2 hours playing in pocket fluff. Tiny piece of cardboard/paper w/ kooky image (of what?). Taken w/ water. 1 hour later all faces look implausibly distorted, both animal and alien-like. Dry mouth. Cigarette smoke causes wincing, watering mouth, and colours in back of eyes. Smoking oddly unpleasant yet comforting. Toilet trips fraught w/anxiety. Light reflecting off disco ball (for Waterfall) causes tiny slashes on face (hand waving cannot deflect light/slashes). Concert ends. Walk to car, alone. Hat stolen. 6 or 7 of them. 1 of me. Walk on. Find approximate parking area. 30 minutes getting anxious (friends watching do not let on, just watch). Friend retrieves distraught me. Safe in car. Up to Lee’s room. Inspect dust/dirt. Ears hurt. Eyes won’t close. Dry mouth. Wincing at smells and colours.

27thMay 1990. Spike Island, Widnes.

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Sunny. Hot. Dry. Vivid.


Even Amidst Fierce Flames… #TransLivesMatter

An ardent fan of FX’s POSE, watching Paris is Burning further cements the extent to which we are all indebted, culturally, to those who simultaneously thrive and struggle in subcultural realms. It is fair to say that the riches they magically produce from next to nothing to put on a Ball, for instance (admittedly, sometimes through criminal means), or to form a family House, both, in part, to provide structure and meaning for the younger generation but also to validate their own existence, succinctly demonstrates the wastefulness of our society, where the mainstream fails to recognise the true value of such activity – instead occupied with figuring out how best to plunder it for financial gain. At least that’s my cynical view of things.

In previous posts, on the subject of House music’s origins in Chicago, I discuss my own purposeful, carefully planned pilgrimage to The Warehouse, 206 S. Jefferson St., and the debt that I feel towards the pioneers of the genre – again, those bringing something new and vibrant into the world, and often with very little at their disposal. While there, in passing (queuing for coffee) I chat with kids busy with their preparations for Pride weekend, some of whom possibly too young and confident to have given much thought to those that came before them – although they were thoughtful enough to make me aware of the areas I shouldn’t wander into in Chicago. Kids dressed in tutus, boob tubes, and wild, colourful adornments and even wilder hairdos, far more concerned with the violence that I might experience than for their own safety, which is kind of a nice thing – that they don’t live in fear of what someone might do just because they are seen to be different by a minority of hateful people with skewed perspectives.

And so the point of this post is the deep sadness that I experienced as Paris is Burning draws to a close. Somewhat naïve, and occasionally hopeful, despite my cynicism, I wasn’t prepared for news of Venus Xtravaganza’s murder. I’d already ‘lived’ that when Candy dies in a similar manner in POSE. Sitting/laying on a bed talking about her hopes and dreams of a domesticated life with a husband out in the suburbs may sound a little bit cliché, but that was Venus’ dream, and for someone forced to move away (or to feel like they’re forced to move away to save a family the embarrassment of having to explain away the fact that Thomas Pellagatti doesn’t exist anymore – Venus Xtravaganza has taken over) in her early teens, to a life where someone ends up seeing you as literally so worthless that they’ll strangle you and leave your dead body under a bed, not to be found for around four days, is way more than sad. It is fair to say that in Venus we see (if we so choose) a Golden Lotus that endures.


Socialism may just Save the World (for now) – only very slightly, and not directly, linked with The International Adam Curtis Society series of posts

In light of the Covid-19 stuff that’s going on right now, there are three things worth pausing over:

Commonality. Knowing that this virus does not appear to discriminate brings the possibility for renewed connection. Maybe life’s too short to hate. It’s probably too valuable to keep doing things the way we have. Wars, weapons, greed, etc., all seem fairly crass at a time like this (yet their effects are long-lasting and far-reaching).

Community. Though there are always stupid people amongst us, the vast majority of things I’m seeing and hearing about are tales of positivity – people being kind and compassionate to one another. People willing to help others in a time of need.

Communication. Fortunate that we do not have to live within our own limited bubbles, modern technology offers the chance to connect and engage with like-minded people around the globe. Feeling that there are others who think, feel, care the way we do can bring great comfort.

And as capitalism ceases to function (though, perhaps, temporarily), brought to its knees in a matter of weeks, it’s worth reflecting on the derivation of the three words above. They are all linked. In many ways they are lynchpins of capitalist society (certainly the latter two), yet society seems reluctant to acknowledge this fact. Anyhoo… stay safe, comrades.

We are The International Adam Curtis Society.

We know no boundaries.

With love,

President Matthew Alexander…

(The International Adam Curtis Society series of blog posts will not use imagery, web links, or anything other than the written word to convey its message. Distraction and entertainment is not our goal.)


Roosevelt Diggin’ the Commie Vibes- The International Adam Curtis Society series of posts

The central tenet of Adam Curtis’ The Century of the Self (Part One): Happiness Machines is that Freud’s theories around human ‘drives’ are used to underpin the Capitalist system throughout the 20th century – appeal to the most base elements of humankind and you can sell them all the stuff you wish (and profit financially in the process). Curtis documents facts around Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, who influenced big business in the U.S. in all manner of Freudian thinking around ideas of consumerism – not mentioned is Ernest Dichter, a disciple of Freud’s, who functioned in a similar manner. Now, this is one way of going about things, using marketing, advertising, public relations, and so on, to influence consumers, but it’s condescending at best, and just plain manipulative at worst. Edward Bernays’ daughter, Ann, sums this up as the planned wedding together of democracy and Capitalism, in order that it be inconceivable for anyone to think that democracy could ever survive without a Capitalist system to protect it.

Curtis positions Roosevelt and the ‘New Deal’ in opposition to this, stating that Roosevelt understood the benefits of not treating members of the public as ‘passive consumers’ – Roosevelt preferring to engage with the masses as ‘active citizens’ capable of thinking for themselves (and of the needs of others). Now, Roosevelt was no saint (his ‘deal’ did not apply to all citizens, obviously), but what Roosevelt actioned/approved/sanctioned during this period is akin to the early years of Lenin’s Russia (though starting from a much more advanced position, technologically and ideologically), and thus I find it very hard for anyone to argue against the fact that Roosevelt used the mechanisms of Communist thought to lift the U.S. out of the doldrums it found itself in during the 20s and 30s. Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ was born of Leftist thinking, a crazy bastard-child of democracy and socialism. Comrade Roosevelt’s vision underpins the logic of Communist ideals – the P.O.T.U.S. ensures that state funding provides work, and security, and prospects. That’s not how Capitalism works. That’s not how the ‘markets’ wish to operate. F.D.R. was RED. That’s for sure. Discuss.

If you have stuff to say about Adam Curtis’ works, or have ideas that spring from them, you should email: Matthew.Alexander@liverpool.ac.uk

We are The International Adam Curtis Society.

We know no boundaries.

With love,

President Matthew Alexander…

(The International Adam Curtis Society series of blog posts will not use imagery, web links, or anything other than the written word to convey its message. Distraction and entertainment is not our goal.)


We Just Accept It – The International Adam Curtis Society series of posts

The current Covid-19 goings-on offer a moment’s pause, with which an entire planet could choose to consider alternatives to the way we do things, both politically and socially. When Adam Curtis (in the same interview with Russell Brand that I mention a couple of posts back) says that ‘we know that, and we just accept it… it’s normal’, in response to events happening around us that we feel we have no control over (in this instance the arms’ industry supplying weapons to a country that allows it to bomb another country), can we imagine a time when this kind of apathy will cease to be so?

It is very easy, when so entrenched in a system, to think that there are no alternatives. Only a month or so ago it would have been unimaginable to consider approaching a bank with the idea that you’d like to not pay your mortgage for a bit, and to not bother with any charges or auto-default settings being applied to your credit rating. Yet here we are.  Obviously, Coronavirus has had a huge effect on the banks’ thinking, here, but pause over this for a while and begin to understand that if mortgage and loan payments are not of vital importance now, why where they so in the past? And why should they be in the future? And why should we fret over such stuff when there are billions of people for whom food and shelter are not standard items?

Yes, we need rules to live by. I’m not advocating for absolute chaos. But do we think that we could learn to not accept things the way they are? Do we see beyond the construct of wealth, and debt, and profit, and greed? Can we see past what we are taught to believe is ‘normal’?

Once more, if you have stuff to say about Adam Curtis’ works, or have ideas that spring from them, you should email: Matthew.Alexander@liverpool.ac.uk

We are The International Adam Curtis Society.

We know no boundaries.

With love,

President Matthew Alexander…

(The International Adam Curtis Society series of blog posts will not use imagery, web links, or anything other than the written word to convey its message. Distraction and entertainment is not our goal.)


Theaster Gates – Amalgam

On at Tate Liverpool as a special exhibition, Theaster Gates’ Amalgam ebbs and flows in the way it conveys the horrors that U.S.A. administration policy visited upon the people of Malaga, a small island off the coast of Maine in the early 1900s.

There are, however, some joyful elements to take from Gates’Amalgam, and it will be up to each individual to find these.

The smell of the Ash pillars is one such element. Get up close. Press nostrils to the wood. Inhale the uniquely vibrant stench of death.

The other element is contained in Gates’ multi-media film that runs on loop.

For a few brief moments two individuals stare (at one another). The look is (enough). The connection pure. This, for anyone who has ever felt it, is the moment a heart feels (like it’s to burst). As you catch another’s stare. Something fixes (the gaze). It is a back and forth. (It is). And you are lost, if only for a brief spell. Unable to look away. Almost unable (to breathe). All else fades (from view). And upon averting one’s gaze, for that has to happen at some point, that person seems to live within you. They are all (you see). The memory of features (imprinted). Recalled (at will). A vital presence. Carried (within). Felt )without(.

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(For my friend).


The Left has Run Out of Ideas – The International Adam Curtis Society series of posts

During conversation with Russell Brand (Under the Skin, 2017), Adam Curtis suggests that the reason the Left is so ineffective at the moment (and he’s saying that way before the catastrophic 2019 General Election result) is that it has simply run out of ideas. One of the things The International Adam Curtis Society should do is to rectify this by way of fashioning ideas, both everyday and revolutionary, in order to give direction to Leftist thinking.

Here, I am mindful of Lenin’s work to transform a fairly basic country, ravaged by war, into a progressive and innovative one, and of Lenin’s adaptability as situations unfolded that had not been accounted for. The general goal of Lenin’s was to create a society where the majority felt free from oppression and where people were respected no matter their background. And for a time it worked. But as with all things that run contra to the interests of the wealthy elite (used only because this term will be readily understood – I do not class them as such), they are rarely left to prosper.

Here, though, I take heart rather than brooding in feelings of despair. If the events in Russia following the 1917 Revolution sparked so much panic amongst nations devoted solely to Capitalist progress (again, a word used with full awareness of the irony of these conjoined words), then it is clear that a nerve had been touched. I tend to agree with Adam Curtis when he says that post-revolutionary Russia, for a brief time, became a most inclusive place, full of potentiality. And though these are early days in the formation of The International Adam Curtis Society (IACS), I am sure that such potentiality will be found again. The Left may well have run out of ideas, currently, but there is a rich source of inspiration to be revisited.

Again, members are actively being sought, so if you have things to say about Adam Curtis’ works, or have ideas that spring from them, you should email: Matthew.Alexander@liverpool.ac.uk

We are The International Adam Curtis Society.

We know no boundaries.

With love,

President Matthew Alexander…

(The International Adam Curtis Society series of blog posts will not use imagery, web links, or anything other than the written word to convey its message. Distraction and entertainment is not our goal.)


What does Art do?

Depending on where and how you view art, and then again, what type of art you’re viewing, the effect it has on a viewer might be different. I can recall many standout moments from established, world-famous galleries, such as the Tate Modern showing of Rothko’s ‘Four Seasons’paintings, or Bourgeois’ ‘Maman’, for instance.

But what about the pop-up shows, the shoestring-budget shows, the ones where selling stuff isn’t the primary objective? Well, after mulling one of these shows over for a couple of weeks I’ve come to the conclusion that the main effect I experienced is that of thinking… What am I meant to think? Am I being guided by the artists to think? Or am I thinking anew because of what I’ve seen? And even… what have I just seen – what’s its purpose?

And thinking is never a bad thing, so, the overall result on a person’s psyche must be impactful at the very least. If it stays with you, as this show has, its effect will be long-lasting and far-reaching (assuming that I’m not the only one still thinking about it (the show)).


The International Adam Curtis Society – Inaugural Post #AdamCurtis

As self-appointed President of The International Adam Curtis Society, I reach out in a gesture of goodwill to worldwide admirers of Adam Curtis’s works. Join the society, and help, as a collective, to push the next phase of human evolution by engaging with Adam Curtis’s works via the written word. Specifically, the task of all society members is to break free from the constraints of ‘hauntology’ and ‘individualisation’ – both terms that Adam Curtis uses to describe the stuck state all of Western society finds itself in.

As President I will direct the society’s agenda on a monthly basis, seeking engagement from members in the form of guest blog posts, tweets, etc., that will appear, initially, as part of the textual silence project until a dedicated website can be set up. Such writings will discuss aspects of Adam Curtis’s works, with the aim of shattering the widespread public apathy that currently exists, and which leads, inevitably, to a kind of atrophy induced by a rapacious capitalist system that seeks to nullify all existential threats to its existence.

The work you are tasked with as a member of The International Adam Curtis Society is serious and you are unlikely to reap any reward from it in your lifetime. However, remember Adam Curtis’s comments on The Civil Rights Movement of 1960s’ America, where he remarks that people the world does not know the names of are the people who did the real work of the movement. Such work is arduous. But it is important. Follow in their footsteps. Be glorious in word and deed. Seek nothing in return, other than a better world for all human and non-human animals.

In the spirit of past movements a Manifesto will be drawn up, but this will take time. Meanwhile, take the following memory of mine as the foundation from which all action shall spring:

Growing up as a child in 1970s Britain, born into a working class community, and regularly exposed to the glitz and glamour of American TV programmes, a devastating blow was dealt to me as a five or six year old. It was the realisation that I would never grow up to meet my childhood hero: Captain Buck Rogers of the 25thCentury. This may sound laughable, but the dawning comprehension that I would need to live for over 500 years (an impossible task) shattered my childhood, thrusting me into a period of seriousness that exists to this very day (and yes, I soon realised that he was a fictional character, but nevertheless, it’s the spirit of the memory that I want you to retain). And so the spirit is this – it is that we can live free from imposed boundaries, we can reach for new worlds, we can concentrate human intellect on a far larger goal than profits and trinkets, and that we can utilise the age of technological advancement to resign late stage capitalism to a footnote of human evolution. Fear and hate and discrimination and violence and profiteering have no place in this quest. Love and empathy and understanding and peacefulness and commonality, for both human and non-human animals, must be our guiding light, here.

If you wish to join The International Adam Curtis Society, comment on this post in the first instance, or send an email to Matthew.Alexander@liverpool.ac.uk. And remember… we are about to create something new in the world, where power struggles, the language of war and hierarchies, the practices of profiteering have no place.

We are The International Adam Curtis Society.

We know no boundaries.

With love,

President Matthew Alexander…

(The International Adam Curtis Society series of blog posts will not use imagery, web links, or anything other than the written word to convey its message. Distraction and entertainment is not our goal.)


Spare a Thought #LivLitFest 2019

Is there a room where the famous writers can retire following the public event? I hope so. They’re all in attendance, supporting each other—it’s a veritable feast of literary dining for the paying public—but most wear a wearied look, forced to perform. You have to look closely to see it. They’re smiling, sure, but a commercial mask, a veneer separating them from the gathered crowd—the quiet, reserved members of the public, and the annoying, needy ones alike. A relatively new form of low for the literary geniuses must be the ‘posing for a selfie’ craze. There’s the mandatory line for book signings. Fair enough, you expect that. But now it’s not just a signature and polite chat with each person in the queue. Now, they come round to your side of the table. Most without even asking. They just assume it’s fine. They don’t see it as an invasion of your personal space, where you get to smell them, whether you want to or not, as phone swipes into camera mode. Wine on breath. Lipstick on lips. Perfume squirted goodness knows where. Lingering odour of tea (dinner). Faint waft of gum disease. They want to put their arms around you. You have to smile, look pleased to be a part of this. It seems to take an eternity. It’s rather unpleasant. I’m next in line. I can see the author’s utter distaste for this, but they’ve bought a book, so what are you gonna do? I offer to take the picture, so it’s not really a selfie. This, for two reasons. One: it makes a nicer picture for the couple in front of me. They both get to be in the frame with their literary idol. Two: it speeds the process, saving the literary genius from sitting through more of this torture. You see it in the eyes of the literary genius. Like a cow, drained of milk. Teets sore, struggling to lactate. That’s what the smile looks like. It’s a smile, but not a smiling smile. Aiming to please, you can see that, but the reality of the situation seeps through. You have to ask yourself… Is any amount of money worth this? My name, yes, it’s…


Definitely a Survivor, Not a Victim #MeToo #RapeCulture

In the coming weeks, having recently revealed her identity for the first time, Chanel Miller, the survivor of an horrific sexual assault, of which she has no actual memory because she was unconscious at the time, will speak publicly about life following Brock Turner’s decision to sexually assault her instead of helping her (which you’d imagine would be an automatic response at seeing a person unconscious on the ground, but as we know, Brock Turner’s first thoughts were not that he should help but that he should try to remove her clothes and rape her – only stopped by two passers-by who were actually willing to help Chanel Miller in her unconscious state (personally, I don’t think that I’m overdoing it stressing that point)).

There are a number of issues to be raised here, but first and foremost our thoughts must turn to the fact that Chanel Miller had no choice in what happened that night, and that she has had to live with the consequences of Brock Turner’s decision to sexually assault her, and she has lived that form of private hell ever since, and now she is about to relive it all in public, with everyone who wishes to know about such things having access to the most personal details of her life, which will be incredibly stressful at the very least.

And this is where #MeToo (and its earlier incarnation) and awareness of #RapeCulture are key to educating current and future generations in order that people stop doing such terrible things to other people. The ramifications of such acts are long lasting, and forcing ourselves, and others, to think about how a person can dehumanise another person in order to satisfy whatever urge they feel at that moment in time is a step towards ending inhumane behaviour. Chanel Miller should have been helped, not sexually assaulted, and it is to her credit that she is willing to speak up to help others.

As this is the time of year where youngsters start college/university life, many living away from home for the first time, it is important to spread the message that no matter how intoxicated a person may be, and no matter the clothes they wear, and no matter the areas through which they walk, whether alone or accompanied, no one has the right to sexually assault or rape another person. That seems like an obvious statement, and many readers will agree without even flinching, but there are those like the Brock Turner of 2015 (who failed to show remorse for his crime) who will continue to do so unless such behaviour is called out and challenged – shout as loud as possible until it becomes second nature for a person to help rather than harm. Chantel Miller’s voice will be heard, and it will make a difference.

And I haven’t even had time to mention the judge, Aaron Persky (who was eventually recalled).


What Would This World Look Like? #Trump #BoJo

It only took a little over three years…

the textual silence project...

Here’s a very short post, for a change. It may be nice to pause, amidst the political goings on of the moment, simply to ponder the following. In a world where it is possible, although not altogether plausible or desirable, for Donald Trump @realDonaldTrump and Boris Johnson @BorisJohnson to become head of state, respectively, what would such a world look like?

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Would it look like this? Might The Donald reach across the Atlantic and smack a big wet one on BoJo’s fleshy lips? Worse things could happen, don’t you think?

#VoteWhatever (it probably doesn’t matter anyway) #PoliticsIsDead

(ooh… Soul II Soul)

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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?


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

Where to start in trying to sum up the #DFW19 (David Foster Wallace) Conference at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois? Perhaps with the attendees at the conference? Perhaps the topics of conversation? Perhaps the countries from which people travelled?

 

 

The age range was fairly impressive, with presenters as young as 18 years of age, and attendees one might describe as senior, but those are merely numbers (or hinting at numbers), not conveying the breadth of knowledge possessed by the youngest, nor the enthusiasm shown by the eldest. The male/female split (if we must do such things, and I suppose we must given the ‘LitBro’ conversations around Wallace) was around 66.66%/33.33%, fluctuating on certain days due to late arrivals/departures. And a cursory read down the list of presenters speaks of visitors/presenters from Australia, Brazil, Italy, Spain, Canada, Switzerland, UK, Netherlands, along with Eastern/Western and Northern/Southern States in the US.

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Another feature was the number of independent scholars in attendance – those who share a passion in discussing literature and culture, and who were willing to make the journey, and to mingle with academics. The overall effect was, in my mind, spectacular, and if this in any way speaks to the readers of this blog post, that, perhaps, you, or someone you know who has an interest in Wallace, or contemporaries of Wallace, or even in contemporary literature and culture as a whole, or creative writing, or indeed many other things, then there is a real need for you to act upon this and to look to attend and/or present at future conferences (at ISU or elsewhere – the main thing would be for you to make contact with the broader David Foster Wallace community, and to seek out such opportunities – my email is at the foot of the page if I can help facilitate this for you). And that doesn’t mean you must necessarily be on the ‘Saint Dave’ side of the fence – straddle the fence, or even kick that mother/father over (metaphorically, for I am not advocating violence).

 

 

But why? Well, the overriding sense of this conference is that we are now moving into more challenging conversations arising from a discussion of Wallace’s works – and that’s not before time. In recent years the inclusion of diversity panels have brought about a focus on issues of gender and race, respectively, with this year’s panel turning the attention on LGBTQ+ issues, and/or the lack thereof in Wallace’s works. Wallace, just one writer from a list of thousands, left a legacy in his writing that speaks of the beauty and poetics of carefully crafted prose, but also offers a specific cultural moment for us to reflect upon – and some of it is f***ed up and/or just erring on the side of cringe worthy (the HIV/AIDS essay, the use of vernacular particularly with respect to minority and/or disenfranchised communities, the prevalence of sexual violence, the essay on rap music, the exploration of infinity, and the list goes on…). Have you something to say on these (I’d imagine you would)?

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Taking time to analyse our current cultural climate, wherever that may be, seems more pressing now than at anytime in recent memory. So, as a parting shot, let me reflect on the things I have experienced this year, not all of them academic in nature, but more personal, things that shape the way I think and feel…

Talking to very young people who make me feel inferior because they are so switched on (Andrew, Tyler, Matt, Reilly, Elena, Kristin, Ben, Ryan – if any of those are spelt incorrectly, sincere apologies), but who are in no way contributing to my inferiority complex (that’s all my own sh*t going on).

Generally being listened to and given time to speak and communicate my thoughts, and then receiving communication back, whether in the form of comments, suggestions, and/or questions.

Meeting people I genuinely felt a sense of affinity with (all of those listed above but also Ryan, Emilio, Denys, Kristie, Amy, Brian, Jane, Allard, Vern, Tennis Andrew, John, Gen, and Swiss Andrew).

Not plucking up the courage to ask questions because the right moment never came up/my own inhibitions got in the way (Grace, JoAnna).

But getting to talk to people and feeling a sense that they too see a need to change the ways in which we currently live, and the ways in which society has operated in without any real sense of critique, let alone the possibility of change.

I didn’t see any ‘LitBros’ at all. Just genuinely affectionate, and thoughtful, human beings. Some dressed formally, some dressed informally – doesn’t matter. All good.

And then it’s over and I get to fly home, stopping off at 206 S. Jefferson Street, Chicago, on the way, of course (see original The Road to Normal (in particular the road back from Normal) post. “Brothers, Sisters, one day we will be free, from fighting, violence, people crying in the streets…” (Joe Smooth).

*Classic mistake – forgot to put my email at the foot of the page first time round. Here it is: Matthew.Alexander@liverpool.ac.uk

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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.


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