troubled diva  
 

My freelance writing can now be found at mikeatkinson.wordpress.com.
Recently: VV Brown, Alabama 3, Just Jack, Phantom Band, Frankmusik, Twilight Sad, Slaid Cleaves, Alesha Dixon, Bellowhead, The Unthanks, Dizzee Rascal.

On Thursday September 17th, I danced on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.
Click here to watch, and here to listen.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Consequences: Post the 8

(posted by Saltation)

I'd hate that.

Oh, I so would. In fact, never mind "would", I hate that NOW. Right now. This bloody instant. Jeez I hate that. That is RIGHT out of order, that is. From here on in, that is not to be raised in public anywhere in my hearing.

OK, maybe if I'm not wearing my hearing you could sneak it out.
Not saying you should.
Not saying you couldn't.
Not saying you not shouldn't.
Just saying: if I am wot nearing my hearing, sorry: hot searing nigh earing, you might have more of an outside chance of not being not able successfully to utilise the absence of the missing double negative re that.

But don't rely on that.

Just stop that.

That is bad.

Not this, of course. This is lovely. There should more of this. And also of it. Just ask any old lady.
We stopped this nice old lady in the street and asked her opinion, and she replied firmly in her reedy old voice: "I think there should MORE OF IT!"
So there you go and here we are and is that the time? I'm late.


So so what, I hear you cry, in your far-off-but-oddly-close internet perspectivy kind of way. Not via the comments box, obviously. 'Cos I'm still writing. Just by sheer dint of will and personality. And good on you. Good on you! All that (sorry) criticism you took as a child, about watching too much TV and having too many gadgets and getting to way too high a high-score above your dad on Playstation... well! Who's laughing now, eh?! Eh?! Not them, oh no! It's YOU! You with your powerful electronically-enabled mind, powerfully reaching out through the modern electronic cloud we swim through today, to communicate with people around the globe without the need to even TOUCH that (sorry) laughably old-fashioned "keyboard". Ha! In fact you can reach right out and CONTROL people who

hi
my name is gerald and i am 15 years old oh god no not old enough no pimples jeez. i am 21 no 22 years old and tall and i am looking for a girl. friend.
i have lots of interests and senses of humours and a powerful dynamic charging career and six feet and you can email me on ultraboy547@aol.com for a good time and possible long term relationship

are just... hello? Hello-oooo? are you WITH me? God, aren't girls scatty? They've all just rushed off.

Kinda interrupted that lovely maniacal cackling you were working up to too.
That is SUCH a shame.
You, no really you do, you do the BEST maniacal cackling of anyone I know.
Almost megamaniacal.
No!
Really!
I'm not just saying that!
I swear to god.
You could SO do any melodrama. ANY!
No, really. If there was ANYONE who could take over from, oh I dunno, say Charles Dicken (there used to be two of him), he used to be the world's best periodic-short-dramatic-fiction-person person, it'd be you. No! You! I mean it. Really!
I mean, you know Dickens, right? Right? Famous now for knocking out a few books about boys going up totally non-freudian chimneys and then becoming vastly rich and inheriting and all SORTS of stuff that'd have him pilloried on suspicion now, right? But did you know he actually made most of his bread and butter while he was alive (not sure what he's eating now) from publishing his stuff every month in periodicals? I mean, he never really published a whole novel as a whole novel the whole time he was alive. Just lots and lots of magazine instalments. So each week, to maintain reader interest for his next instalment, he'd end up with his hero in the middle of some dramatic cliff-hanger. Like. Uh.

"There I was, dangling from a cliff on a burning rope over a pit of tigers."

Friday, July 15, 2005

Consequences: Post 7

(posted by Stuart Ian Burns)

There's no motivation as strong as love. When I was fifteen I used to leave the house at the same time every morning to make sure that I was on the same bus to school so that I could see a girl I was in love with. I would only every see her for about ten minutes, and she had no idea (unless she noticed me trying not look to look like I was looking at her). I ended up speaking to her twice and I knew it wasn't to be - her ambition was to be a solicitor, mine was to even get into a university. Those measures of success were being drilled into me, and seemed to matter, at least at that age.

I suppose you're expecting me to say that her ambition inspired my own and that motivated me to better things. Disappointingly it didn't. Even now, I don't measure my own success or lack of against anyone else. I have ambitions and dreams, a career I'm working towards but it's on my own terms its not because of a road map drawn up by anyone else or because I see someone else's life and want to emulate them. It's too easy in this life to have a role model to aspire to be then to fail, wasting a life and potential you might have in other areas.

That said, I'm thirty now and I still don't have a clear direction. I'm still waiting, what plan I do have in flux because of my own little long game. I'm not quite were I expected to be now, perhaps a touch behind, but no one gets perfection, there's always a niggle. Is my niggle that I'm not in love at the moment? I used to get it all the time, the stomach cramps, the inability to form actual words when someone is around, the not knowing were to put my hands. Perhaps I grew tired of it not going anywhere; I hope my subconcious hasn't decided that it's had enough with all that and in the words of the song I'll never fall in love again. I'd hate that.

Consequences : Post 6

(Posted by Pam Br)

For the first time, the system had let me down. I'd like to say that, but if I'm completely honest, I let myself down.
I'd had my life planned out since the age of 12. There was never any question - I was going to university and I was getting a degree and I was going to have a career. I though it would all just happen naturally, without any effort from me. First mistake.
I did alright in high school. I should have done much better, but I was lazy and didn't study. I left with 6 qualifications, 2 A's and 4 B's. Enough to get into my chosen degree course anyway.
Second mistake was not getting a summer job. I was so sheltered from the big, bad world. Living in the suburbs and having reasonably affluent parents, I didn't have a clue about the value of money or having to budget.
I'd chosen a joint degree course in geology and archaeology (well, you can't say I wasn't ambitious !). I don't remember ever getting to grips with either subject. I wasn't prepared for the transfer from teaching to lecturing. I was used to getting attention and help whenever I needed it and you just couldn't do that. I stopped attending lectures and spent all my time in the student union or in gay bars with poorly chosen "friends". My parents were in the process of separating, so they never asked me how I was getting on. It was too easy to have a good time. I hadn't had many friends in school and I had been bullied, so I latched onto the first people who were nice to me. Third mistake. The fourth mistake came as a result of the third - getting a student loan. If you had friends you had a social life and that costs money. I spent maybe £100 on books for the first term and the other £3200 was blown. I was out every single night, burying my head in the sand and convincing myself that if I could just keep laughing nothing else mattered.
Halfway through the last term I realised that there was no way on this green earth (or any other earth for that matter) I was going to pass the exams. I didn't fancy repeating the year and I knew there wasn't much chance of me getting a job in that field anyway. Excuses, excuses. I spoke to my advisor and switched to accountancy for the next year. A new start. Didn't bother with a summer job again. What's the point when they're throwing money at you ?
I started the next year with all good intentions. I bought my books and attended lectures religiously for 3 whole months. Then we got our first essay assignment (duh duh duh thud). I didn't understand it at all. It might as well have been for anthropology and in Polish. I don't know why I didn't just ask for help. I guess I just found the whole lecturing system a bit too impersonal. Another excuse. I knew I couldn't repeat another year so I threw in the towel and dropped out. I'll never forget, or forgive myself for, the disappointment on my mother's face when I told her. It would be so easy to blame it on the university system or the bad influences but I have to take responsibility. It was all because I didn't want to ask for help.
There is a silver lining to this cautionary tale. It was around this time that I met my wonderful girlfriend. She gave me the boot up the arse I needed to get a job and, 5 years later, life's getting back on track. There's no motivation as strong as love.

Consequences: Post 5

(posted by Clare)

For the first time, the system had let me down.

Because it did, surely it did... didn't it?

At some time, it must have done. Or how did I end up a revolutionary socialist, at the tender age of 16? I was angry, and chomping at the bit. I was going to save the world. Because there were wrongs everywhere I looked, and they needed righting.

What made me most angry? Nuclear weapons were the first thing I marched, shouted, jumped up and down about. That was when I was 13. Then I got riled about the unequal distribution of wealth, and the exploitation of the working class. But I'd always been a stickler for fairness. Wherever there was an underdog I'd be there, whether the quiet girl teased at primary school or the mother whose daughter (my friend) was castigating her for not ironing her uniform... "Parents are people too, you know!" was my self righteous cry.

But revolution is quite an extreme reaction. Was it feminism? Is that what did it? Was I a victim of terrible sexism? At the age of five I insisted my teddy was female (why should all bears be male?), and marched around the playground shouting "Boys are rubbish, put them in the dustbin!" I declared myself a supporter of women's lib at the age of nine and naïvely rejoiced at the introduction of a female prime minister. But do I have any personal tales of mysoginist injustice? Nope. I was the only girl studying A level maths. I felt a bit outnumbered. But nobody ever, would have dared ever tell me I couldn't do whatever the hell I wanted to do.

I honestly can't think of one single significant example of being let down by the system. Not personally.

But boy, I can tell you a gazillion tales of other people's pain. The friend who was dragged into the back of a police van on a Saturday night, beaten up and then charged with assault. One of them headbutted him and broke his own glasses. My mate was charged with criminal damage.

I could go on. I won't.

But you know what? I've been trying to work out why somebody would blow themselves sky high if they hadn't grown up in a war zone. Why they would kill innocent people if they didn't have blameless dead relatives of their own. What would make them feel THAT strongly about something...

But we do. Human beings. We're capable of anger, passion, great good and sheer evil. And we always, every one of us, think we're right.

What we're not so good at is taking a step outside, and looking at things from someone else's point of view. We've all behaved badly, we've all hurt people. But we all feel happy to condemn when someone else is committing a crime.

There's no question in my mind that those bombers perpetrated a hideous, heinous, evil act. But that gets me nowhere. I want to know why. I want to know who next. I want to know when. And what scares me most is not that a stranger whose mind I'll never inhabit has done this terrible thing. The question that burns in my brain is... Could it be me? Could it be you? And whose eyes, and whose teeth will be exchanged for the eye and the tooth of last week's victims?

The greatest atrocities in world history have been committed at the hands of ordinary men and women. Nazi soldiers and every-day Germans. Rwandan soldiers. Balkan citizens. Large numbers of people caught up in the language of hate, seeking retribution against those they consider to be their enemies. People like you and me, answering the call of "We will not be beaten" and "They can't do this to us, because we are strong."

In the summer of 1969, I was born.

That year Nixon gave the go-ahead to "Operation Breakfast" - the covert bombing of Cambodia, conducted without the knowledge of Congress or the American public.

On June 29th, in New York's Greenwich Village, the police raided a gay bar and sparked the Stonewall riots.

On July 14th, Francis McCloskey (aged 67), a Catholic civilian, died one day after being hit on the head with a baton by an officer of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) during street disturbances in Dungiven, County Derry.

For the first time, the system had let me down.

You knew I was going to get round to doing one of these sooner or later, didn't you?

Presenting... the first ever Troubled Diva Podcast!

Well, I say Podcast; it's actually nothing more complicated than a 49mb MP3, of just over 53 minutes in duration, containing music and speech, which I knocked together today on my afternoon off. There has long been a repressed radio presenter in me; take a listen, and see whether you think it should have remained repressed, or whether I have a future in broadcasting bright and breezy "drivetime sounds" to the blogosphere.

Oh, and there's a prize quiz embedded in the broadcast, as well. So listen and win!

The Troubled Diva Rough Guide To "World" Music - Parts 1 & 2 - re-posts.

For a limited time only, here are some (hopefully) more stable links to the two recent Rough Guides. I'll be posting track-listings next week.

Part 1. Part 2.

More outages.

Dude, where's my blog? This is really f**ked. The 34SP server which held this site has suffered a critical failure, taking all of the files with it. In the absence of any clear information from the hosting company, I have restored what backup files I do have, and re-published the site through Blogger. So, at least we're back with a skeleton service.

None of this should affect the actual text of the postings themselves, as additional copies are always held on Blogger's server. For which much thanks.

How desperately tedious this all is. And I had so many ideas for postings today, as well...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Big Brother 2005: Craig's lament.

(With apologies to the undoubted majority of my readership, who naturally have no truck with such crass, reductionist populism on the dread "Gogglebox". The Glorification of the Common Man, as my dear late crashing snob of a grandfather used to say, on the rare occasions he was troubled by such vulgarity.)



"You're beautiful. You're beautiful.
You're beautiful, it's true.
I saw your face in a crowded place,
And I don't know what to do,
'Cause I'll never be with you."
Let's be Blunt. If the "boys in VT" don't knock up something like this during Craig's "exit interview", then a rather large ball will have been dropped.

Yesterday's outage.

Apologies for the extended break in service yesterday; this was apparently caused by a wonky server at my (normally faultless) hosting company.

While the site was down, I amused myself by compiling a "state of play" round-up of life in the Big Blogger house, six weeks into the experience. My character over there has been showing occasional signs of going a bit "panto villian" (see also the recent "party manifesto" task), and I'm wondering whether to build on that further (for the sake of entertainment), or whether to rein it in (for the sake of gamesmanship). We shall see.

K and I are relieved to hear that our newest friend Quickos made it back to Belgium safe and sound. He has already started telling his readers all about his exciting adventures with K in the Princess Diana Memorial Garden, and his Daddy tells me that there will be plenty more to come. We are already missing his cheerful little face around the place. No, seriously, we are: it's the weirdest thing, but we have never before met a glove puppet with so much natural charisma.

Finally, don't miss the excellent "Consequences" guest post below, from brand new blogger on the block, (and Kevin Ayers fan, woo!) Rob of Eine Kleine Nichtmusik. A full day later, and I'm still quietly seething...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Consequences: Post 4

(Posted by Rob )

“Sing it. Sing it so I can hear all the words.”

There she goes, Mrs Dodds the teacher who takes the choir. A dandelion-head of frizzy white hair appearing over the top of the upright piano, silhouetted against the windows across the classroom. Between us, lines of boys and girls standing ready to sing, some with look-how-hard-I’m-concentrating expressions, some with a kind of easy nonchalance, but all ready to hit those consonants so hard the windows will blow out. (“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” won’t be released for another eleven years, but the scene where the aliens’ reply to the human musical tootling shatters all the windows will make such an impression on me that maybe it echoes backwards through time.)

“Toodle-um-a-um-a, toodle-um-a-um-a, it looks like rain….”

And where am I? I’m the new boy, standing near the back because of my height, only in the school for a few months because we’ve just moved into the village. Not totally friendless, but with those guarded friendships you get when everyone else is already formed up into groups and you’re an appendage. Fairly bright: up there in the top five or so, sometimes vying for the top spot with Julia (a nerdy type but I fancy her like mad, just knowing somehow that she’ll blossom into a real beauty) or with Paul (son of one of the teachers, very full of himself, bosses people about, the kind of blond sporty type I am already coming to be wary of). Ten years old and wanting to fit in, that’s where I am.

“Toodle-um-a-um-a, toodle-um-a-um-a, don’t mind the rain….”

At my previous school we’d done French, which I liked. At my new school they do not only French, but German and Dutch as well. It beats me how anyone manages to take in three languages on an hour a week between them, and I’m not sure how much they do take in. However, all that is pretty theoretical because no sooner has my pudgy behind hit the seat in those classes than somebody asks for volunteers to sing in the choir which will be rehearsing at this time each week. And that, said John, is that. Goodbye French, hello choir. I do choirs. I do music.

“He’ll mend your umbrella, then go on his way….”

Picture the tubby ten-year-old, a bit of a nerd with a head full of science and a worryingly good memory for trivia. Also - courtesy of Dorset-born parents - cursed with an accent which to anyone from the Manchester area is redolent of Long John Silver, of yokels with straw stuck in their mouths, of village idiots…. The accent doesn’t show though when I let rip with my boyish treble. It’s a belter of a voice in fact: not King’s College Chapel material, maybe, but decently formed, in tune, and able to get the high notes without straining or cracking. I can certainly keep my end up in the school choir, which I love. The ugly duckling becomes a skylark.

“Singing toodle-um-a-um-a-toodle-ay,
Toodle-um-a-um-a-toodle-ay,
Any um-be-rellas to fix today?”

Terrific. The notes die away. Windows still intact, but we’ve nailed it. Oh, and there goes a hand over on the far left, near the piano. It’s Paul, the abovementioned alpha male of Junior 5. Not a bad voice himself. What does he want?

“Yes Paul?”
“Please Mrs Dodds, Robert Saunders wasn’t singing.”

What?

“Sorry, Paul?”
“Robert Saunders wasn’t singing.”

Has this child gone insane? Not singing? You’d have to cram a sock in my mouth and spray me with tear gas to shut me up.

And then. And then. I can see it now, forty years later, Mrs Dodds hardly even looking at me and saying “Well, we don’t want people in the choir who don’t sing, so Robert can go back to Mr Clowes class. Go on,” because I was standing in shock , “Out you go.”

I can feel around forty pairs of eyes on me. The ones nearest me, mostly female, puzzled because they know I was singing. Paul’s, triumphant. The rest? At the age of ten, the word “Schadenfreude” is still in my future, but the concept has arrived. I put down my music, eyes pricking and throat closing up with anxiety, rage, confusion and embarrassment. I clamber out of the row of children, and leave. I close the door behind me. I let go of a few anguished sobs but I’m literally choked up, and not much comes out. Slowly up the stairs, not wanting to get to the top.

If leaving that room is bad, arriving back in the other classroom to take up French (and German) (and Dutch) halfway through the year is even worse. How do you make an entrance that takes the sting out of “Hi, I’m a failure and have just been binned from the choir for no reason I can comprehend yet”? I may have an awesome capacity for trivia, but the memory of that entrance, indeed most of my memory of that class, will vanish completely. I may eventually learn French and German (even a few words of Dutch), but not from Mr Clowes, though I assume he will try to teach me.

--------------------------------------------------------

Forty years on, it still rankles. I can only make sense of the whole incident as a set-up of some kind, whether because Paul was Mrs Dodds’ class favourite or for some other reason. Why else would his unsupported delation have led to my immediate dismissal? No chance to say anything in my defence. No asking the children round me if they had heard me singing. No “You’d better start singing or you’ll be out of this choir” even. Just “Please Mrs Dodds, Robert Saunders isn’t singing” and I’m history. Remembering the incident brings up so many negative emotions that if I wallowed in them I would begin to turn to the Dark Side. I really do want to go back through time and cut Paul in two with my blood-red light sabre. I want to gesture at Mrs Dodds and have her throat close up even more than mine did when she threw me out. “Apology accepted” I would breath metallically at her lifeless form. When I think back, it’s her role in all of this that I find most despicable and hard to understand. Paul, I assume, got rid of an unwanted rival, and fair enough, that’s what ten-year-olds do, if they’re total prats who believe the world is made for them alone. She was a teacher, and teachers are supposed to be the Guys In White Hats when you’re ten years old. For the first time, the system had let me down.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Consequences: Post 3

(Posted by PB Curtis)

"We should be proud of what makes us, us."

"Ewes? Female sheep?"

"No, Us, upper class."

"Your usage of us is very u; surely, you mean you, not us."

"We beg your pardon?"

"One is merely middle class, your highnesses, for which one apologises and feels humble in your presence. I'm non-u, and thus we can't be proud of it. You wire in, though, and knock yourself out."

Not exactly the way the conversation went, but a legitimate mimeo thereof. The discussion was class shame - I believe (no, I bet) it was Julie Burchill who said that only the middle class are ashamed of themselves - but my high-born friend seemed to be just as stamped with the Burchill imprimatur, given her call to proud arms.

I'm pro-pride, as a rule. I truly believe that if we spent more time and effort being proud of ourselves for what we do, and what we are, we'd all need less medication and fewer therapists. We're encouraged not to, however, and the blame for this lies squarely with Evagrius of Pontus.

He is the founding father of charts of infamy with his original list of eight nasty human passions, and argued that pride was the worst of the lot. It's classical Greek irony, this proclamation that pride is shameful. You can't help but wonder if he didn't hate himself just a little, because Evagrius apparently enjoyed great acclaim as a theologian, before - HA! - getting busted having it off with a Roman Prefect's wife. Then he has the gall to blame pride for his downfall, rather than his penis. With that sort of chicanery, if he was alive today, he'd be a former Tory cabinet minister.

Anyway, I digress. I was in the middle of talking about class structure in Britain, and I go off and get hung up on Greek cock. That is always happening to me. My point was going to be that while pride is cruelly undervalued, actually being proud because Mum and Dad were upper, middle, or working class is missing the point. Fair enough to not be ashamed - which is the noble origin of "working class and proud of it" - but plain old wrong and stupid to really be proud. If only because, as Clare illuminates, there are more sterling qualities than the retarded social construct of class to be proud of. We all know that - right? - but shame remains the more enticing emotion, because it's become perversely legitimised as humility.

Had "Shagger" Evagrius not been such a weasel, he might have made a compelling case that it's shame that's an offence against God, and love, and the self; the world might have been a much better place for it. Pride is a hosannah. Sing it.

Consequences: Post 2

(Posted by Clair)

The corny ones will get you every time...

My life is ruled by cliches. Every day there is a cliche that describes my life, and slowly I've got to come to grips with the fact that my life isn't perfect.

There are good things that happen, and bad things. There are obstacles to overcome and hurdles to be jumped. But despite all this, life goes on.

As a race, humans are remarkably good at carrying on despite everything. We plough through and achieve despite the odds. The odds might be terrible, we may be facing war or poverty, slavery or hunger, but we have a humongous will to carry on. An innate desire to survive, despite all the odds. And I think we should be proud of this. Proud of the inner strength that drives us onward. We should be proud of what makes us, us.