Good morning midnight, It’s Christmas

Cristina Sleep It OffMy mother said ‘I’m a survivor, I pull together Christmas every year.

Something has to last’ she said ‘Once a year let’s have the past’

And then one year to reach up high to hang an angel from the tree

became a painful thing ‘Besides she’s lost her wing’ my mother said

Thing’s Fall Apart by Cristina Monet-Palaci first appeared pale-faced and defiant upon the world, well New York anyway, same thing they say, well New Yorkers say anyway, back in 1981. Going by her first name Cristina her pop-life burned briefly incandescent before evaporating in a puff of neon-dust several years later.

This post is about Things Fall Apart only, though it itself may tell you very much about Cristina. It was her Christmas song, or rather her concession to Christmas song, which as you should gather already is hinting that for her the spirit of Christmas is the sort that Shane MacGowan may raise a glass to. Except that he is very much likely to be doing so in a downtown bar whereas she in an uptown one.

For many Christmas is to be celebrated, for the rest it is to be, if not endured, then at least carefully negotiated.

There are many Christmas songs that celebrate it – whether it is Jesus Christ or Santa Claus or even some confusion of them both – it would be a long pointless list to make of them as such songs cannot be escaped from – whether in your home, whether out shopping, at a bar, at a party, even for some poor souls in their workplace.

Songs that take a more begrudging approach to Christmas are lesser in number but often find themselves as loved as those more unabashed celebratory ones. Certainly in early December anyway when the Christmas spirit has not yet enfolded us all and we are still resistant and perhaps even resentful of its looming presence so that we can take the likes of the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s Fairytale of New York or Blink 182’s Won’t Be Home for Christmas to our still humbug-bosoms before like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life come Christmas Eve we are finally broken down and such cynical sentiments are cast aside where then even the most syrupy Christmas song is suddenly in heart-step with our own.

There are those though whom Christmas is neither anticipated or resisted, neither cherished or feared rather it is collided with like an uncomfortable fleeting drunken encounter before stumbling on their way into the dead of night. Things fall apart is one such song.

My boyfriend said it’s really sweet the way you go for Christmas cheer

I said we can’t afford the tree

He said ‘Love is free’ so we trimmed the cactus with my ear-rings that we’d meant to pawn

There wasn’t any snow but there was rain

He licked me like a candy cane

Then one day he said I can’t stand in your way. Way of what I asked. But he was gone.

The lyrics do not exactly need anything adding though if you have not heard it you have also to consider it delivered in a spirit of existential nonchalance with a New York  drawl. I am not going to spend too much time on the music because this song’s spirit resides in its words but the music starts with a wonky sounding Music Box refrain of Silent Night before proceeding into choppy guitars – it was called No Wave (by a music journalist no doubt) which was like New Wave but with the melody more of an occasional guest. The guitars dutifully duel along with an electronic underlay that gets vaguely excited upon each passing chorus. It offsets Cristina’s deadpan delivery without distracting from it too much.

Why might you be on a collision course with Christmas? After all it does come every year on schedule wanted or not? Perhaps Christmas can only be welcomed and celebrated in unison with family and close friends but if you are on unspeaking terms with your family and a lone wolf ricocheting through life then you may find that Christmas finds you before you find it.

Cristina’s Christmases are a series of afterthoughts and family something located on the outer edges of her existence. The usual human dramas are in full flow and it just happens to be Christmas too. And with each successive verse the family plays a disappearing role – first spent at home with her mother and as likely to be a latter-year coupling of ageing mother and ageing daughter as a cosy childhood Christmas, second verse the family now an unremembered past just a maybe-future with a boyfriend and its impossible possibility and then the third verse finds her lost in a party, strangers for company. Just as well there is no fourth verse.

The party was a huge success but where should we go next they said

They killed a tree of 97 years and smothered it with lights and silver tears

They all got wrecked. They laughed too loud

I started to feel queasy in the crowd

I caught a cab back to my flat and wept a bit and fed the cat.

Then the chorus refrain

Things Fall Apart but they never leave my heart

Desolation never sounded so alluring. Then the following final defining line

Good morning midnight, It’s Christmas

Suggesting that Christmas Eve is only just getting started, and Christmas Day is only going to be recalled Boxing Day.

If you find yourself alone at Christmas by circumstance then perhaps comfort yourself with Prince’s Spectorish swoon Another Lonely Christmas.

If on the other hand you chose Christmas as your only companion then consider Things Fall Apart as Your Song. Drink eat and generally self-indulge. And be as merry or as unmerry as you damn well want.

For myself though, as much as I love this song and play it a lot each December, I will only venture as far as mid-afternoon Christmas Eve with it. Beyond that time it is too dangerous and I do not want to find myself welcoming Christmas at the strike of twelve with Cristina’s nasal if dulcet tones ringing in my ears. I have six young nieces and two young nephews to attend to and save me from myself. For now at least!

Please Twitter, continue to go forth and be trivial

Continue to stream sound and fury signifying nothing.

Twitter imageThere is a problem with the title of this piece of course. That it assumes there is a single if multi-headed multi-hearted multi-limbed multi – you get the picture – beast wandering about called Twitter. Who has a jealous rival in Facebook and an old now near-reclusive one called MySpace. Except non of these organisations – and did I forget Google Plus but that’s just the problem with Google Plus – everyone forgets about Google Plus – are not sinister shadowy corporations recruiting us against our will to partake in their services. We check in of our own will and we can check back out just as sharpish. Most of us so far at least have chosen to stay.

Most it seems taking pot-shots at Twitter and Facebook and the like – I am going to stick with the catch-all term ‘the like’ here as frankly there are an awful lot of social media sites and perhaps by using this term it might persuade you that I am familiar with each and everyone of them when I am in fact familiar with just a few more than the four already mentioned – are those without Twitter followers, without Facebook friends. But granted there are those who entered, tentatively tweeted and suspiciously begrudgingly updated their statuses, decided it was not for them, made their excuses and left. Their disinterest is understood. So is their disdain. What rankles though is the superior attitude – that because it was not for them it should not be for anyone.

I am reflecting on this following a recent article in the New York Times online by one of their correspondents Timothy Egan on their Opinionator Blog. It was called Please Stop Sharing – and I responded with a comment. This comment was published as one of the Top Picks. I know lights should be hidden firmly beneath bushels yet here I am with scant regard for bushels shining said light of mine before your eyes which are now too busy blinking for me to see whether any disapproval in them.

New York Times Top Pick CommentAs an aside and a nod to humility you will note that said comment saw two words ‘the Telephone’ fused together as one idiotic term. Damn New York Times not allowing me to endlessly edit my own comments after they have been published!

Okay that is not actually the reason for this blog piece – well perhaps a little! – rather to respond further to the assertion of this piece that new social media is obsessed with the trivial and peopled by those who being called a moron would be a compliment too.

Timothy Egan’s piece is quite long but certainly not as long as many pieces you will read in the New York Times. The unwritten old-media law is that with more words comes more weight, more gravitas, more authority. And Twitter with its 140 character limit must then by definition be light, frothy and insubstantial.

But there is no correlation with being wordy and being articulate? Of being verbose and being profound?

That it s always necessary to be profound when it is almost never necessary to be profound.

Twitter is an obvious antidote to verbosity. You have to be succinct – though as an aside that does not stop some Twitterers from scattering their thoughts on a subject across multiple tweets – get a blog already! – and with its strict character limit is an encouragement to clarity as much as to triviality.

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker - a tweeter before Twitter?

It is an encouragement too to the aphorism and the epigram – I am sure Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker would have been avid tweeters – though perhaps the opportunity to endlessly expound might have tired even their inexhaustible wit.

But even here there is the suggestion that Tweets must all be smart and significant. As if we should never make throwaway or meaningless remarks. Because that is the other undercurrent of pieces like this that writers of the old media live lives of continual high significance uttering spell-binding observations of the human condition in between their tea and toast, cruising the cultural Zeitgeist the rest of their waking hours before their palpitating head hits their pillow weary under the weight of so much existential exercise.

As if triviality and inconsequence were invented along with social media sites themselves. We – I am using the royal we here and I apologise if I have presumed against you and you yourself are one of those worthy hallow souls of the old apparently anti-social media but then I guess I am just a bit surprised to find you here reading this blog of mine – have always had a tendency for the trivial and the throwaway, of noting and commenting on small things as well as monumental things, and Twitter allows it a greater community, to share without restraint. And this will take on all shapes and forms – views that we don’t always hear or like intrude upon our protected worlds – where some would rather live in a world where their views are as echoes of everyone else’s.

But even then, at any time we can retreat and unfollow those whose insanities and inanities don’t match our own insanities and inanities. We can end up indeed in just the same circumspect carefully chosen company as in the non-digital domain. If that’s what we really want.

My response to the New York Times was nothing like this though – indeed the verboseness of this response would have been more fitting in a letter to that august journal in the days before the first spam Email had been sent (a second after the first Email had been sent)…whereas my actual response was succinct, not Tweeting succinct, but as good as.

What is also notable about it is that despite the Top Pick status accorded it, it has not elicited even one response – I would like to think the readers of the NYT were dumbstruck by my own revelatory brilliance and unsettling wit but alas more likely it was met with universal indifference as they stifled a yawn before quickly skipping onto the next – ahem! – non Top Pick comment.

And perhaps ironically, though it has had the recommendation of the Editors of the column it has had no recommendation from its readers. Pah! Perhaps the old asocial media high-bred hacks know better than their Hoi-polloi readers afterall!

Phoebe Claire Riley – green man and silver birch costumes and other such things

Phoebe Claire RileyPhoebe Claire RileyUniversity of the Arts London Showtime site – in effect a market-place for their students of fashion, art  and design to share their works with the world.

At a time when they are still developing their art and finding their muse as it were. I will be interested to revisit some of these posts years, hopefully not too many years, from now to note how many of them have gone on to fame and fortune. It is important afterall that their art is seen by the widest audience possible – what good is art and fashion if no eyes ever alight upon it save the artist’s and close friends and accomplices.

Not that I am under any illusion that this humble blog of mine will contribute too much to their fame or fortune either – but who knows what post will go viral and what sink into the cyber-void…

Of course there is fame and there is fame, there is fortune and there is fortune. Only time itself will reveal whether they are the next Alexander McQueen, the next Sam Taylor-Wood.

The artist that caught my eye this week was Phoebe Claire Riley. She has a BA Honours Degree in Costume for Performance. I have always had a liking for costume design and consider it a pity that its leading exponents are not better known and courted, shunned instead for their more glamourous haberdashery clan-members of Couturiers and Ready-to-wear Designers. 

Phoebe Claire Riley

Hansel & Gretel, The Witch

Their work is more famous than they are but then perhaps that suits too – letting their work grab the limelight while they go quietly about their business unbothered by intruding microphones and camera lenses.

Their work for example quietly appearing in many a period film or TV costume drama – too many to mention – but what a gift Jane Austen has been to their tireless trade! Not that all costume work is 18th Century Gentrified Fashion I should quickly add!

So with Phoebe Claire Riley it is her work that may get more of the media attention than she herself.

There is but a brief biography of her on the showtime site thus:

I am an aspiring costume designer and a competent and creative maker and supervisor.
I enjoy working collaboratively and I am keen to learn and develop my skills further within employment.

And what a difficult time to be seeking employment too.

Though her bio is brief interestingly and perhaps instructively the tags she gives to this page are not – there are many and I am not going to list them all as you can see them for yourselves save just to list some of the more intriguing ones – Facebook like, St Exuperry’s King, conceited, Hansel and Gretel, costume cora, prunesquallor, boiled sweets – whether these tags resonate with you or are just too opaque I do not know!

On show is a sample of her work and her inspirations. I present a sample of that sample.

I shall do my best to keep up with her work – even if this might mean squinting through the rolling credits!

Phoebe Claire Riley

Cheeta’s Fuchsia, Titus Alone, the Gormenghast Trilogy

British Government e-Petitions – 21st century democracy?

HM Government e-Petition Site

Home Page

Warning – this post is about the processes of democracy. If this kind of stuff causes mild catatonia in you – or worse – then you should get out of this post now while you still have the chance.

So I may well now be addressing the cyber-void but hopefully there are a few of you out there who share my dark interests and that will persevere with me.

Onwards then. You may be familiar with online petitioning and even if not assuming you know what a petition is I think you can quite easily imagine what their online version involves.

Perhaps the most well-known e-petitioners currently are Avaaz whose remit and reach is global. They don’t just petition though they also campaign, fund direct actions and organize many protests online and offline.

The subject of this post is the e-Petitions site, a British site only, being the initiative of the current UK Coalition government arising from its main Conservative partner’s election manifesto. And this manifesto promise at least was kept.

When this was first introduced the opposition Labour Party opposed it saying ‘some crazy ideas could be debated’! Resists urge to say that MP’s are quite capable already of their own crazy bill propositions and implemented legislation!

In fairness to the Labour Party a similar initiative by them when they were in power and Tony Blair was the PM resulted in 50,000 signatories asking for Jeremy Clarkson to become Prime Minister – the horror! – stick to Motoring journalism Jeremy, please!

And another condition of this site that should predicate against any malcontent madness was that if a petition received over one-hundred thousand signatures it would then be debated in the House of Commons. So one would hope that even if a crazy idea was petitioned for it would not find 100,000 crazy petitioners – but then refer back to previous paragraph!

Because such a petition could then become law you have to be a British Citizen therefore to participate – whether setting up a petition or as signatory to it.

This post is not going to reflect on petitioning as a form of representative democracy, or the use of technology in our voting. Nor is this post going to consider Referenda either let alone e-Referenda – issues of interest to me but far to complex and digressive for this post.

In this post I merely want to see what the state of play is on this site – what are the issues currently exercising we Britains?

HM Government e-Petition Site

Current most popular petitions

It is not simply a matter of creating a petition on the site and it immediately appears awaiting expectant 100,000+ autographs of we the British people. It first must be checked by the relevant Government department to ensure that it is of an issue that falls within government remit along with the usual horseplay of we the people not taking these things seriously and initiating facetious and or parodic petitions, or indeed more seriously libellous or discriminatory. And indeed ensuring that something is actually being petitioned for and not just someone sounding off without aim! The other check is that it is not a duplicate of an existing petition. Though having seen the petitions I have some credulity on this latter point – many just seem variations on an existing petition.

And before I move on it should quickly be noted that some e-petitions have already met this 100K threshold and have been debated in parliament such as one for the full disclosure of documents relating to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster and another for a reduction of duty on petrol and diesel for motorists.

I am not going to offer too many thoughts about each of the petitions themselves, whether I agree with each petition or not , as many of the issues that they raise are worthy of at least a posts worth of serious discussion in themselves.

The most signed petition currently I will though share some words over as I think by its popularity it so merits this.

HM Government e-Petition Site

Preamble of Rioters to lose Benefits Petition

Perhaps it is just the pedantry of someone who enjoys writing but the immediately striking thing about the current most popular petition is that it has spelled ‘lose’ as ‘loose’ – arghh  – and has over a quarter of a million signatures despite that! Clearly this petition relates to England’s Summer riots. I am also not sure though why it restricts the loss of benefits to London rioters – rioting having taken place among many other English cities such as Birmingham and Manchester and indeed many of our smaller towns too.

This is not a petition I would sign. Most of the crimes committed during the rioting are covered by existing laws – I am always concerned when political parties in a pique of populism, usually pandering to the press too, advocate for new heavy (handed) legislation. It creates a cycle where one in order to be seen as tough – or rather not soft – proposes ever more draconian solutions. I am waiting next for someone to propose that convicted rioters should be tied to a trebuchet and catapulted into outer space!

I am also concerned at retrospective legislation – a contract is a contract – this is what we hear when a fired head of a failed bank holds onto their generous pension despite calls for it to be reduced or withdrawn altogether – think Fred Goodwin – and so it should apply to those receiving benefits too.

And then we are saying that it is not enough that someone is fined but they should have their income removed too. It being implied that all those rioting were on benefits. But a proportion were in work too – should their salary also be confiscated? I feel this proposal and the petition itself are part of the culture that sees al those on benefits as being undeserving of those benefits and on the take. Among the more extreme sections of the right wing are those too that oppose the whole idea of the welfare state.

I don’t though want to make light of our fears over the riots. A riot in place is a terrifying and unsettling event – should you find yourself in the thick of it your very life and livelihood could be at stake – naturally the responses to it are visceral and intense. And a political response to it is inevitably going to reflect that. Acts of shoplifting and arson become more than just shoplifting and arson when not individual acts but part of a collective (un) civil action of a riot. But then it is our very own PM that said the riots were about crime, pure crime and nothing else. Comforting statement to make so as not to have to reflect on the social, economic and political context that such events took place in.

So clearly I am on the other side of the fence as it were where this petitioning request is concerned. What is noticeable though is the diversity of views expressed on these petitions.

HM Government e-Petition Site

Process

For example let us consider the emotive issue of Capital Punishment which is currently outlawed in the UK. It is not a party political issue – Conservatives and Labour oppose it, Conservatives and Labour support it. Any votes regarding it have always been left to the conscience and discretion of the MP with no party line prevailing upon them. And the majority of those MP’s have opposed its restoration.

And on this issue by so doing have not taken a populist stance, because most British people when polled support the restoration. On this issue I am in the minority. I am used to having minority political opinions though but that’s another story!

These opposing camps are reflected on the e-Petitions site too. However surprisingly to me the petition calling for the ban to remain has the most signatories at 32,000 as oppose to 24,000 for those seeking its restoration.

As part of this post I thought I should sign one of these petitions by way of seeing what process was involved. And so what better to join the 32,000 and sign the petition for the ban on capital punishment to remain.

Each of the listed petitions are in fact hyper-links to further details about each petition. This particular petition not surprisingly had been assigned to the Ministry of Justice. In addition to those further details about the petition the person responsible for it is also listed – in this case a Martin Shapland. No further details are provided about him and I wonder if there should be by way of transparency and accountability?

The site also allows us to share and thus further promote the petition with three social media sites – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. As an aside I had one of my Facebook friends share a petition with me which was a little awkward as though I agreed with its propositions I thought it was a bit vague and did not want to get into a political spar in the public space of Facebook. I treat Facebook like a family dinner table – I will not discuss politics, religion, money and sex – I will however discuss all four of these things anywhere else and most certainly on this blog! – but I digress!

HM Government e-Petition Site - Signatory form

Signatory form

When you click that you will sign the petition you are asked for certain information such as whether you are a British citizen, your name and postal address. Additionally your Email address where you also have the option to be updated about the progress of the petition. I can understand why a postal address is needed to discourage multiple entrants from a single individual and other fraudulent misuses. Incidentally it also has a Capture Spam option – so in addition to soliciting us for Viagra and anti-virus software Spam Bots may now have an interest in campaigning for a political issue – spam bots are growing up! The final process is to wait for a confirmation Email where a link needs to be clicked on by way of confirmation. Done!

This though brings me to one of my, if not reservations about this site, then concerns, namely that has any one can set up a petition there will then be thousands of such petitions in circulation – as indeed there are and all well and good – but what causes one petition to hit a popular nerve and another to sink without trace is not necessarily the merits of the issue being petitioned but how well that issue is publicized. And the most organized in this field are already established groups and special interests with links to Parliament and the mainstream media. Additionally the popular press can easily trawl these petitions for ones that strike a chord with its interests – quite a reasonable thing for them to do don’t get me wrong – but we are still then left with a situation where it is those with most media influence calling the shots as to our political agendas.

On the other hand I don’t want to go all Noam Chomsky on you here and spiel on about the Manufacturing of Consent – and reader I could! – but it is a sobering reminder that some issues are not as popular with the public as they are with our ruling politicians and certain sections of the press. And yet because of the press-coverage we ourselves start thinking that a particular issue – let us say leave the Euro-zone! – must be on the minds and in the hearts of most British people when in many cases they are not – just a buzzing sound in our ears from all their incessant jaw-jaw! A point of view endlessly repeated does not become true because of that – alas it can become the conventional wisdom. Okay so I have gone a bit Chomsky on you!

And yes there is a petition currently popular about leaving the Euro-zone too!

Nonetheless I do not decry this initiative of the Government. In spite of my reservations I really do welcome it and will be trawling it myself too see if there are any petitions that resonate with me for me to then get behind. I may even start a petition myself – though I am betting I am not as original as I like to think I am and that anything I might want to start a petition about is already being petitioned about!

The Cannibalistic Councillor – La concejala antropofaga

The Cannibalistic Councillor - La concejala antropofaga

There is nothing more democratic than pleasure

I used to be quite anal about DVD Movie extras – for some enough to watch the film itself, not I. For me I would plough my way through every deleted scene, every interview of cast and crew – from director through lead actors through writers through costumers all the way through to the key-grips – what is a key-grip anyway?! – the box office theatre trailers, and on. Before I realized it was a kind of madness. These extras combined would outlast the length of the film itself – and then some.

Now I am weaned off DVD extras – not to the extent though that I won’t even see what is on offer. Sometimes they will provide an extra that is a work in and of itself. One such DVD was Pedro Almodóvar’s 2009 film Broken Embraces. On it was an eight-minute film ‘The Cannibalistic Councillor’, a short based on one of Broken Embrace’s incidental characters. He had liked the performance of the actor Carmen Machi so much that he decided to develop a new self-contained scene around her.

The Cannibalistic Councillor - table sceneThis short is a cast of three. The main star of Broken Embraces, Penelope Cruz herself, and Marta Aledo being the other two. However since we only see the Cruz character, Pina, briefly, pretty much just to say good-bye  and the Aledo character, Maribel, is seated, head slumped down on the kitchen-table for the majority of the short, it is really all about Machi. And Machi’s performance is a stream-of-consciousness monologue to camera of her character Chon on sex with a bit of politics thrown in. This short is 18 Certificate. The only quote that the IMDB give is the one that starts this post because most of the reason for the 18 Certificate is the film’s language, well leaving aside moments where she is snorting cocaine between bouts of digesting flan!

As said the Aledo character is slumping – we are not quite sure why – this is Almodóvar so she could actually be dead despite the obvious unconcern of Chon. She could also be asleep or passed out drunk or wasted. This gives Chon full-reign to expound her philosophy of sexual and political liberation to we the audience.

I had been looking for a script for this film on the web but could not find one. I am about therefore to include some of the lines and quotes featured. There is no 18 Certificate on the web – yet – but if you are easily offended by sexual language then reader move along now, nothing more to see here!

Chon is a Councillor of Social Affairs – hence half the title. The other half of the title will become all too apparent very shortly.

We have to recognize desire as the main driving force of a better society – when you desire someone you don’t usually wish them harm – unless they reject you that is

So she exclaims. And so far so political. Disappointed? Shame! You won’t have to wait long.

She then goes on to tell us how she plans to take a year’s sabbatical to write a book elaborating on her theories – “a book in which I describe the fantasies I have during council meetings, the opening of parks…opening masses to the Patron Saint of Madrid! On those as on all occasions all I think about is sex!”

I’m only interested in looking at the men’s asses, their feet, their packets

I could have placed an exclamation mark after each of those anatomy parts so described but resisted! Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Shame for you! – but if you are not familiar with the euphemism ‘packets’ – they are due north of the men’s asses – if they are lying down and staring at the sky or ceiling that is!

Going on to explain

that’s why I wear dark glasses, not from photophobia (!) …but to look wherever the fuck I want

She then goes on to explain to us that her interest started young, very young.

‘I started being interested in packets when I was four years old…I could grab them just by raising my hand…like someone picking fruit’ (! – the exclamation marks are always mine and I am having to suppress my use of them too!). Going on to explain that at first she was a great success before the men in her family and circle of friends began to become wary of her ‘unfortunately there was no paedophile and they started to move away as soon as they saw me coming!’ Is that funny? It was one of those moments when I instantly laughed then another voice almost the next instant reprimanded me in chiding tone as if to say ‘Did you just laugh at that?’! Yes I did oh finger-pointing voice in my head! We can laugh at horror and its monsters as well as being appalled and condemnatory of them…she finished by saying

I was marginalized at an early age – it’s very hard to be judged and rejected when you’re only three

…she’s now lost a year too!

But out of asses, packets and feet it is the latter that drive her most crazy – you may know that the Latin for feet is Ped and the Greek for love is Phillia – I am not going to make the obvious pun – Almodóvar does not make it either, perhaps because it does not translate in the Spanish tongue or because it is bad taste or worst that it is a bad pun?! Her love for feet – podophilia actually! – is more than merely smelling, touching, kissing them – she fantasizes about eating them – and hence the second half of the film’s title reveals itself!

She first digresses that the Councillor for Health told her that she prefers ‘big dicks and being hit by one before she puts it in her mouth’ – a sort of eating cock without the cannibalism! She replies to this Councillor that that is the problem with their political party

that we give the image of an old fashioned party rooted in the past – I like having my pharynx fucked too – like everyone!

Her party incidentally being a right wing Conservative party not that that is relevant in anyway other than to explain the following remark of hers that they could ‘win a lot of votes from bored socialists if they were aware that when I am eating dick I like to put – and I am paraphrasing here! – the man’s big toe in my cunt…’ and well let us just say she is only just getting warmed up…and I am not exactly clear why socialists knowing that of conservatives would be more inclined to vote for them either. I guess it humanises them!

She then goes on to explain to the unconscious woman and to us, the by now very conscious audience, (and very likely self-conscious too if we are not watching this alone!) that one of her fantasies is ‘to eat a whole man’ – a man mind not a woman – it must be the taste of those packets!…she shares that she has a a title for her book ‘Pig in the P.A.P’.  – PAP being the acronym for her political party but I must confess that in amongst her full-throated discourse I did not catch what it stood for – somehow I got distracted!

This was the climax of her vocal outpourings as she then toned it down – a tad – with reflections on fidelity and monogamy.

It is at about this point that the hitherto unconscious Maribel lifts her head up off the table – she had been sleeping afterall. The then waken woman reveals that she had been ‘out like a log’ and had a dream, strangely an erotic one at that! – about eating a man! She then expressed aloud that she thought that weird to which Chon replied

I think cannibalism is good for you – you look radiant – despite that print

She was referring to Maribel’s dress!. And so the story ends.

If only Almodóvar would extend this spin off conceit and see Cron’s book published!

The Cannibalistic Councillor - closing credits

You’ll never walk alone

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark

So sings, well many actually. ‘You’ll never walk alone’ was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein – Richard Rodgers wrote the rousing tune, Oscar Hammerstein the stirring lyrics. They wrote it for their 1945 show musical Carousel. In the show it is sung twice – as a solo then a later choral reprise. It was first sung on Broadway by Christine Johnson but it has been covered many many times. Not as many times as ‘My Way’, but there must be in excess of a hundred recordings.

You'll Never Walk AloneIt is the sentiment that resonates with me. No atomised anthem, individualistic elegy imagining that we can all go it alone, ‘You’ll never walk alone’ reminds that we always have each other and that each other can take very many forms – the apple of your eye, family, neighbours, friends, work-colleagues, country, or in common cause there is strength in numbers whatever that cause might happen to be. Occupy each others Hearts and Minds.

My Way is the Bizarro version of You’ll Never Walk Alone, with its bombast and bluster, you against the world, enduring by your own unique strength and talent – and of course we the listener are doing it our way too and whatever your way and my way is we are too assume it does not involve anything we might do together, never our way! For My Way Hell is Other People, for You’ll Never Walk Alone Heaven is Other People.

You’ll Never Walk Alone connects between peoples but other listeners may feel it like a modern hymn reminding them that however alone they might feel their God is always by their side. Whether you believe your beginning is Genesis or Big Bang its sentiment stirs deep.

It first came to my attention as a 1960’s pop song by Gerry & The Pacemakers. They were from Liverpool England and I was aware too that fans of Liverpool Football Club sang it at their Anfield football stadium before during and after the match. It was a unifying anthem for them but clearly when they were singing ‘You’ll never walk alone’ they did not have the rest of humanity in mind not even the rest of Liverpool – their local rivals Everton would not have been included in this apparent lyrical embrace! The song, perhaps not surprisingly, was adopted by many other supporters of football clubs all around the world – reminding that what is inclusive is at the same time exclusive.

At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Shirley Jones

Shirley Jones

The next version I heard of this song was to be my favourite and it was from the 1956 film adaptation of Carousel. I did not much care for the film but the two versions, first solo by Claramae Turner then a choral version with Shirley Jones, I found the most moving and magical – even the poor slightly echo-chamber sound recording only seemed to add to its other-worldly feeling.

But even so I did not feel this could be the best version of this song – a more anthemic choral version I felt must be out there.

Must it? I might never be able to find out. Until that is the arrival of the global jukebox that is Spotify.

Now I would be able to type in ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and be presented with countless versions.

And countless versions there were – far too many indeed to list never mind listen to.

Inevitably there was a version by Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley seems to have covered every song that ever existed for no other purpose than giving his golden tonsils a workout. You’ll Never Walk Alone is no different – his heart is not in it – when he sings ‘tossed’ it sounds like ‘toast’ – though your dreams be toast and blown! He does though have a gospel accompaniment which at least gets some of the spirit of the song.

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Johnny Cash

The Man in Black

Johnny Cash was another singer who covered a lot of other people’s songs particularly toward the end of his life with his American Recordings series. His covers usually transformed the originals with his own singular stamp such as his cover of U2’s One – he gets it and then some. Not so it seems with ‘You’ll never walk alone’ which he also covered. And like Elvis he seems to have trouble with the lyrics too – he sings ‘lark’ like he was about to sing ‘lord'(‘and the silver sound of the lark). The musical accompaniment goes church again but this time with its organ not its choir. Though he sounds like he is taking it more seriously than Elvis does, he does not really seem to be swept along by the sentiment merely going through the motions as if he had clocked in for work and was looking to clock out again as soon as he could. From the man who made ‘I Walk The Line’ perhaps his attempt at You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was always going to fail.

Nina Simone

Nina Simone

It turned out that many legendary American singers had covered You’ll Never Walk Alone. Another was Nina Simone – her signature song perhaps is ‘Ain’t Got No (I Got Life) with lines such as ‘Ain’t got no mother, ain’t got no culture, ain’t got no friends, ain’t got no schooling’ – what has she got? – well she has got herself – again like Johnny Cash would You’ll Never Walk Alone prove too much an alien philosophy for  her?! Her version is from her 1958 Little Girl Blue album and the opening minute or so sees her playing in its melody on the piano by way of an introduction – or so I hoped waiting expectantly for Nina Simone’s deep dark voice to appear but it never did. This was a piano version – and she certainly puts her heart into it building it up to a crescendo. But the music alone is not enough – I need the stirring words too.

Nina Simone was a Diva before that term was invented. Next up was another Diva this one though I would be approaching with trepidation, musical trepidation. It was Barbra Streisand – of the tradition of all about me, so all about Barbra and You’ll never walk alone led me to approach this version with much scepticism. Would she kill it with schmaltz? Be far too concerned about hitting all the right and high notes than nailing its sentiment and spirit? I’m afraid my prejudices were confirmed – ‘walk on, walk on’ she sang, she could have been singing a TV commercial for hiking boots…

The next version I saw coming – an Opera version.This one by the Three Tenors of Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras – so light entertainment opera at that. It had plenty of passion though if too much like a singing contest between the three of them than any feeling of solidarity with the other – more ‘I will always walk alone’!

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

The Righteous Brothers

The Righteous Brothers

My quest for the golden version was remaining elusive. Next up was a version by the Righteous Brothers – known for their soulful Phil Spector ballads such as Ebb Tide and Unchained Melody they would surely hit the spot? On this occasion though Bill Medley’s deep voice sounded like a bad Elvis cover-version though his ‘brother’ Bobby Hatfield crooned it beautifully but when their voices both joined in harmony with the string accompaniment it was like being bubble-bathed in Mantovani – the only thing missing was the scented candles –  I needed a cold shower afterwards!

I was giving up hope. The next version was an actual chorus being the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – perhaps this would be the one…alas no – too much like a choir practice than a rapturous soaring of souls.

There were still a lot more versions ahead of me and I was losing heart. Three torch singers my eyes next alighted on – Mahalia Jackson, Judy Garland and Tammy Wynette – if one of them can’t nail it then I would be calling it quits!

Mahalia Jackson’s version was not a church one which I was hoping for but a live nightclub one – you could hear the coughs and clinks of wine-glasses in the background – her version is a little too sober though, a little more wine for her may have been in order.

On to Tammy. Tammy Wynette sings it in typical heart on her sleeve style, the sobs stifling in her throat. Had I not known anything at all about this song and this my first hearing of it I am sure I would have warmed to it. But I had heard plenty about this song and like most others singing it she did not seem to realise the magnificence and scale of the song – it was not just another standard to be notched up and crossed off.

Judy Garland

Judy Garland

Well for a start her version would see the chorus changing the lyric ‘Hold your head up high’ to ‘Keep your chin up high’! – not quite capturing the same sentiment I thought! It was a good version though and Judy Garland is one of those who can sing the telephone directory and make them sound like torch-song tablets from the musical mountains but again their version did not capture its hold-hands spirit – she and her chorus sounded like they were in two separate rooms – as in don’t upstage the original diva by standing in my presence! – sort of ‘You’ll never walk alone, just not with me’!

Oh well. So my quest goes on.

You’ll Never Walk Alone was I suppose the We Are The World of its time and I only make that comparison to wonder if a fitting version of it would require a number of singers and groups coming together to do an ‘Hallelujah’ version of it as it were? – Thom Yorke, Scott Walker, Anthony Caleb Followill, Ed Sheeran, Gary Barlow, June Tabor, Van Morrison, Kate Bush, Neil Young, Shirley Manson, Rachel and Becky Unthank…in my dreams!

Should any of you have a favourite version then please don’t keep it to yourself but share in the comments below.