Tomorrow, I turn 40 years old. By design, my life now is simple, stress free, and fun. I feel loved, and I feel valued. It hasn’t always been this way; I have waded through massive amounts of bullshit to get here. I thought it only appropriate, on the 40th anniversary of my arrival on this planet, to share some key things that I have learned on my way here – alongside some of my favourite things from 1978. Please enjoy.
1. Makeup is not about how you look, it’s about how you feel about how you look. If you feel good about your face, you feel less compelled to spend your time fixing it.
2. There’s no emotional relationship you are not allowed walk away from when it is damaging you.
3. High heeled shoes are genuinely not worth it.
4. You are not responsible for how any other person feels. They may be upset, but that’s their truth, and it’s not down to you to manage that.
5. No one else is responsible for how you feel. Do not expect other people to behave according to what will make you feel good.
6. Tidy does not equal clean.
7. Most situations and stories can be cropped to fit any chosen narrative. Check the true facts before wasting your energy on outrage.
8. We are mostly designed to tolerate a status quo, to achieve stasis and maintain. We’re designed to put up with less than ideal conditions, until the pain of staying still outweighs the discomfort of actual change. Don’t beat yourself up about not immediately Fixing All The Things, but also understand where and when you need a push to achieve what you really want.
9. You do not have to forgive someone to be able to move on and have a happy and fulfilled life. Some actions and choices do not merit forgiveness – and not forgiving someone is not the same as holding a grudge. If you are living with constant anger or grief over someone else’s actions, you need someone to help you… but if a person wants forgiveness for their actions, tell them to go and find Jesus.
10. Some relationships are beyond economical repair, and that’s OK.
11. Every day, aim to be the best You that you can be that day. Might not be as good as yesterday, might be better than tomorrow, but it’s the best you can be today and that is good.
12. Take the time to always be honest with yourself. If you cannot acknowledge your own reality, your own failings, or admit your own wants, then your interaction with the world is not truthful. It’s not fair to yourself primarily, but it’s also not fair to the people in your life.
13. Cheap toilet paper is never, ever worth the cost saving.
14. Judging people is absolutely fine. Just keep your fucking mouth closed about it.
15. Ironing clothes is not worth the effort. Make a life decision not to do it, except in exceptional circumstances, and it will make you free. Well, free-er.
16. We have many evolutionary redundancies – male nipples, the appendix, wrist tendons for tree climbing… Pain is not one of them; physical or emotional, pay attention to it. It’s there for a reason.
17. Spend your time with people that value who you are, not the people that tolerate who you are.
18. If you think everyone around you is being an asshole, take a moment to find the common denominator, and then re-review the circumstances.
19. ‘Smart Casual’ is one of the world’s most subjective terms, and can be merrily abused to whatever extent you have the nuts for.
20. Doing a good thing because it makes you feel good, rather than because you actually care, does not make you bad person. Self care is important, and if everyone wins – happy days.
21. If someone tells you that their experience is different to yours, hear them. They are not lying to you, even if it challenges what you thought to be true.
22. No one can decide for you how you are supposed to feel about something. Your values and experiences may give you an entirely different perspective to even those closest to you. That said, if you are disproportionately apathetic, or massively overreacting, you probably want to have a look at that.
23. You are not entitled to the world giving you easy money. You are not entitled to a fancy house, or a fulfilling career. You are however entitled to the love and care of people who are supposed to love and care for you. If you didn’t get that, then they did a bad fucking job, and it doesn’t just fall under “Life’s not fair, deal with it”.
24. Woodchip wallpaper is the work of the fucking devil.
26. You are wrong about something. Something you think you are right about. You will probably be sensitive or angry when someone points it out. It’s fine to be wrong, it’s fine to be upset about it, and it’s fine to feel like a bit of a dick – what’s not fine is not learning from it.
26. If you are a man, everything you do is – by default – manly. If you are a lady, everything you do is – by default – ladylike. Correct people on their adjectives and don’t let them define your shit.
27. Recycle for fuck’s sake. You made the rubbish, it’s your responsibility, and that doesn’t stop when someone else puts it in the back of a truck and takes it out of sight.
28. If you cannot complete your work within your contracted hours, you have either been given too much to do, or you are in the wrong job. Do not give a corporation extra hours for free. You won’t be thanked.
29. Spend time with children. They will either allow you access to a world of simplicity you had forgotten about – or they will reinforce why you were right not to have them. Maybe both.
30. Say ‘no’ if you want to. You do not need to justify yourself, nor offer an explanation. It is not a debate, or a negotiation.
31. Be clear about your expectations to your family and friends. No one is able to read your mind, and because you are a different human person, what is obvious to you is not likely to be obvious to them. Failing to explain what you want and need is a straight line to disappointment – and it’s your own fault.
32. Fear will cripple you if you let it. Assess, understand risks, mitigate where possible, but walk forward in awareness with your head up.
33. Do not borrow trouble from tomorrow. Future You can handle that shit when time comes – if there is nothing you can do about it now, leave it the fuck alone.
34. If you are unable to stop worrying or being fearful on your own, you need someone else to help you out of whatever physical, emotional or mental situation you are in. Go and ask.
35. No matter how well-reasoned, balanced, inclusive, well-researched, fair and progressive your opinion is, someone will always fundamentally disagree with you. It may make no logical sense, but people give a shit about different things, and those things are often selfish and destructive. And since everyone is allowed an opinion, you just have to suck it up.
36. If you don’t engage with other people’s drama, it won’t engage with you. Walk away, without remark, be at peace.
37. Spend deliberate time immersed the things that bring you joy. 5 minutes of laughing at a squirrel dicking around can counter a surprising amount of bullshit.
38. Anyone who belittles you or your experience is a bully. They are attempting to create a power discrepancy between you, to either repress you by standing on your head, or make themselves look taller by standing on your shoulders. Fuck them. You do not deserve that.
39. Some people want your advice and opinions to help them fix a problem. Some people just want your complicity while they are angry about something. Understand the difference, and be careful who you gift your time and energy to.
40. You are one person, from one place, with one life. There are 7,600,000,000 other lives out in the world – any time you spend understanding some of them better will make your own experience more rounded and rewarding.
Last night, I went to see Superheaven at The Lexington near Angel tube station in Islington. Superheaven are wonderful, and their last album – Ours Is Chrome – is one of my favourite records of last year. Please feel free to allow some of their good noise into your earholes;
My first visit to any new venue in London normally involves a fight with my piece-of-shit phone to try and get Google maps working properly, whilst simultaneously trying to look like I already know exactly where I am going. The whole tourist bellend bit wasn’t necessary last night however, because the Lexington is a really simple walk round the corner from the tube station.
The pub downstairs was nice but fairly standard, all high ceilings and old wood with areas that looked suspiciously church-like. The thing I enjoyed the most was the collection of old rifles and antlers on the wall – with silver and purple flock wallpaper because London.
I got there a couple of hours early, maybe because I fancied a few beers beforehand, maybe because I had no idea that the first band wasn’t on until 9pm… *cough* Doors opened at 8pm, so I headed upstairs to check out the venue itself, and I was one of the only people up there for the best part of an hour. Good effort, me.
While I was passing the time with my friend Bulmers Original, I noticed this young lad who also got there pretty early on. He attached himself to the front corner of the stage as soon as he got in, and he was all new band shirt and spindly enthusiasm. Don’t misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm in itself, but it causes me to be suspicious about people, and generally marks them out as Needing To Be Watched. I am of course including my own insufferable excitement at the Warners Bros Harry Potter studio tour experience; I’d have merrily punted small children across the room, and laughed while I did it.
Anyway, back to the gig. Once the band started, it became apparent that this lad was one of those idiots that insists on stage diving in the face of all contra-indication from the rest of the audience. Everyone else was gently moshing about and then out of nowhere, this whirling mass of elbows and knees launched from stage left. Again. And again. And again.
When he wasn’t crowdsurfing, he was trying to stir up a moshpit, jumping around and punching the air like a deckchair caught in a whirlwind. Put 20lbs and a few years on him and he would totally be that crowd-killing prick at hardcore gigs.
Even though I was stood well out of reach by the bar at the back, I found myself getting more and more pissed off by him. Everyone is entitled to have fun at a gig, but he was just being a fucking nuisance. Since he’d been going unchecked for most of the gig, another lad joined in as well because, you know, monkey see monkey do.
I know that I don’t generally like people anyway, and can often hold excessive ideals of social conduct, but it genuinely wasn’t just me getting narked off with it; eventually the singer asked for everyone to please bear in mind that there were a lot of smaller people and girls up the front…
I didn’t stay to the end because the train times home were being changed due to scheduled works (I don’t know why I was surprised) and the fear of getting stuck in London overnight is real. As a result, I don’t know what actually happened after I left… however I have come to the conclusion that I am a mean, spiteful old spoilsport, because I know exactly what I hope happened, and it is perfectly illustrated by this panel that I found recently when re-reading Preacher:
Last night, I had a dream that I was in a forest somewhere. Not a dark, wildernessy type forest, mind. Deciduous trees, vibrant green colours, a leafy glade if you will. The kind of place you go for a walk on a Sunday when you and your partner have guilt-tripped yourselves into doing some exercise, but don’t want to commit to anything you will regret later.
I was on one side of grassy clearing, and on the other side was a medium sized fire pit. In the middle of it was a big stack of wood, arranged into pyramid shape, burning nicely. There was a young man sat on a log by the fire; I was there with him, but I couldn’t say now who he was supposed to be. He was very blond… I think my brain had made him up by splicing together 3 or 4 different people from reality, as it does more frequently with places.
Also there with me were my two cats. That’s worthy of note because a) we were in the middle of a fucking forest and b) they both passed away between 3 and 8 years ago respectively, and I have never dreamed of either of them before.
They were just wandering around in the clearing, doing their own cat stuff. You know; sniffing things in that deeply feline way that that makes their whole upper lip area flex, eating grass which I know damn well was going to get thrown up in the middle of night for me to tread in, trying to catch out the ghosts that were ruffling their fur every time the wind gusted…
Suddenly, they both moved off in that paws-blurred, ears-back, slinky trot that cats do when they really want to get away from something, but don’t want to draw attention to the fact that they are shitting themselves. Upon investigation it turned out that a grizzly bear had appeared a way off down the path and the cats had, quite rightly, cheesed it.
As so often with the world of dreams, things got a little weird after that. I think I ended out squaring up to the bear, with a burning branch in each hand, because there was no way that either Blondie or I could have run away fast enough to get to safety. I don’t remember how it ended, but I am going to assume that it was not triumphantly – for me at any rate.
Wildlife confrontation aside, and regardless of however briefly, it was really nice to be back with my cats again. Just chilling, having a nice time.
I miss them.
I guess I understand now why some people like to believe there is a heaven.
One day I am going to die. My heart will stop beating, and my blood will stop being pushed around my body. This self-sustaining organic system that I walk around wearing will fail. After everything I have forced upon my body over the years, at some point it will no longer be able to keep functioning. It will fail, and it will stop. I will stop.
When that happens, it may come as a surprise. It may be as the result of some massive trauma; I may simply run out of blood because it’s leaked everywhere, or certain key bits of me may be compromised beyond repair.
Or… I may be aware that there is something deeply wrong with me, and my death may be the end of a medical battle. I may have known for some time that somewhere inside me, something was destroying me from within.
Whichever route gets me there, I will eventually stop. I may stop quietly in my sleep… however, knowing myself, I doubt that very much; I wake up if a moth so much as farts on the way past my bedroom window. I am fairly sure that right at the end, I will be awake and aware. Even if it is just in some primal way, I will know when the end of me arrives, and I will be scared.
In the final moments though, I don’t think I will be scared for very long. I don’t know what brain chemistry does to perception at the point of death, mind you – it might stretch time weirdly, like it does in a car accident. Although I reckon if that happens, some kind of “-amine” will be released in conjunction and it will get all trippy and 60’s-music-video on my ass.
All things considered, I’m not actually scared of dying. It’s the life bit right before that which concerns me.
(For context, I’ve just listened to Blackstar, the last David Bowie album. I’ve had it for the best part of 4 months, but have bottled listening to it until now.)
2016 has brought death and loss sharply into focus, for me and for a lot of other people around the world. I am aware that people die every day and that they are all important to someone. However this year has heralded the end of many people who had global renown, and whose impact was was felt by many more people than just those who were in their immediate lives. It can’t help but sharpen your thinking about certain things when you lose so many people in such a short period of time.
It’s generous to think that I will keep living an enthusiastic and independent life well into my 80’s or 90’s, but the reality is – that might not be the case. Tonight might be my last night *cue dramatic music*
I do not believe that anything happens to us spiritually once we’re dead. We stop, and we degrade. I do not believe that we have souls that are released from a physical shell, I do not believe that there is a world beyond this one, or a higher plane, or a heaven. When we’re done, we’re done. We may get to leave a legacy behind us that impacts other people (for good or for evil), but most of us will only exist in memory.
So the real question then becomes this; if I stopped living tonight, what’s my legacy, my memory?
Does my sister know that I loved her beyond anything else? Is my houseful of shit simple to sort out when I’m not here? Was I living the life I wanted to live? Did I inspire joy and amusement in those around me? Would the people left alive behind me be able to say in confidence that I had a good fucking time while I was here?
I believe that the answer to all of the above is yes. Don’t get me wrong, I have lived through a load of awful situations in the past – and I haven’t been on the Harry Potter studio tour yet… But! Right now, at this very moment, I am living a life of enjoyment, happiness and balance. It took me a long time to get here, and it was hard-fought, but this is a state that I fully intend on staying in until I stop living.
I would encourage all of you to start cutting out the parts of your lives that cause you pain, anger, or sadness. Find ways to let go of the one-way transactions in your life, where you give and get nothing in return; the thankless jobs, the selfish individuals. The things and people that drag you down to less than you should be. If you need it, get help to be the best version of you that you can be.
Let’s be honest, you never do know when you will come to an end, and life is too short to be doing anything other than that which makes you smile while you are alive – and that which makes YOUR PEOPLE smile after you are gone.
On that note, I can confirm that after much experimentation and deliberation, Kale farts are seriously the worst farts ever.
This past Wednesday, I went on a night out with my work colleagues. We don’t all get to see each other very often, since most people work in different parts of the country, and fairly typically it ended out as a drunken, raucous gathering of 30-odd bloody lovely people having a bloody lovely evening.
However – both in the corporate environment that I work in, and the town centre on a Wednesday night – I don’t really blend in very well.
What happened throughout that evening (and has been happening since I was in charge of picking my own clothes if I’m honest), is that I had series of conversations with different people all about why I don’t dress up more – because I’d look really nice in XYZ outfit, because I have such a nice figure, etc. etc.
And I totally get it; I am a scruffy mess and that is not what the majority of people aim for. Any clothes that I put on immediately look like I have slept in them. You know what? I kinda like that.
I have a gleeful pride in how little time it takes me to get ready to leave the house, how small my wardrobe is, how few pairs of shoes I own, and how long it’s been since I last ironed anything. I think it would be fair to say that a significant part of that is a joyous rejection of gender-based expectations of how I am going to present myself – which in turn has it’s roots in the fact that I really struggle to care.
The last time I was interested in a fashionable item of clothing, it was a layered denim and black lace skirt. It was 1987. I was 9 and I was in love with Jon Bon Jovi, incidentally. On top of not really seeing anything which I am supposed to like that has appealed for the best part of 30 years, my natural inclination in everything is to expend as little energy as possible – which includes my appearance. When I was maybe 14, possibly 13, I had my hair cut short. It used to take me ages to manhandle it into shape in the mornings – because I didn’t understand that my hair was in fact curly. As soon as I realised that was the problem, I just let it run free and do whatever the hell it was inclined to do. That was the last time I made any concerted effort in my appearance, and I have never looked back.
There was a period of time after I left my horrible mistake of a marriage where I rushed back to the loving embrace of my metal roots, to get back in touch with who I was. I adopted a goth uniform of sorts, which was pretty much all I wore for about 3 years; black skirt, stripey socks, black mesh long-sleeved shirt with a slogan t-shirt over the top, black New Rock boots.
It was simple, lightweight, easy to pack, and quick to put on. I wore that until I bought my first pair of Criminal Damage baggy black jeans (or, my goat-smuggling trousers, as dubbed by my best mate) and then that became my new uniform. That tends to be my pattern; find something I like, then wear it for years until it falls apart or I find something of superior awesomeness. Rinse and repeat.
During the last relationship-I-should-never-have-been-in, I was constantly getting disparaged and sneered at for not dressing up nicely like the Eastern European women you see pushing strollers through town, or making a proper effort like the trendy women that you see strutting around Camden and Brick Lane. “Go fuck yourself, I’m outta here.” should have been what I said. I didn’t say that. I ended out wearing different clothes – skinny jeans, branded tops, women’s boots – to try and regain some modicum of respect, regard and interest from my partner. Because THAT always works, huh people? All that happened was that I further lost myself and got even more crushed under his boot heels by trying to conform to someone else’s idea of what I should be like.
I am never, ever doing that again. I don’t like skinny jeans, or having my hair in a bun, or dresses, or painful women’s shoes, or whatever bullshit some nutjob clothes designer has decided is suddenly the thing to wear this season. Sorry pal, I’m not playing.
There are a few things that I have always gravitated towards; black, red, black AND red, black and red STRIPES…
…otherwise muted colours, big shoes, baggy jeans. My ‘style’, if you can call it that, is comfortable, low maintenance, and cheap. I would like to say that it’s practical because of my over-fondness of massive pockets, but if you’d ever seen me hopping about in the rain to avoid absorbing my own body-weight in puddle water into my trousers, you’d understand why I avoid that claim.
One thing my style is NOT, however, is flattering. I have become less and less interested in putting myself on display as the years have gone past. I feel no obligation to wear anything that shows off my lady-parts, or even wear ‘women’s’ clothes at all. Like everything in my life these days, I know how to play the game, I just choose not to. As I go about my business, thousands of people might look at me and turn their nose up, or not even register me at all…
They are not the people that I am interested in. I am interested in the folks that see the scruffy, baggy jeans that haven’t been ‘on trend’ for a decade or two, who see the unkempt hair that I obviously haven’t done anything with since I got out of bed, and don’t care. I am interested in the people who look at my t-shirt and think, “She likes Brand New! Awesome!”
It’s taken me many, many years to properly get on board with the idea that I am fucking brilliant, precisely the way I am. I am aware that it means I will probably spend the rest of my life batting back questions about my choices, but that’s totally cool. Let’s be honest – who doesn’t?
[Brand New really are excellent, by the way.]
…to those who never have to deal with snoring, and get the whole bed to themselves.
…to those who only have their own glorious mess to contend with.
…to those who get to spend their entire disposable income on themselves.
…to those who never have to carry the cold stone of sickening worry in their belly.
…to those who know that the last piece of dessert will always be in the fridge where they left it.
…to those who get to go wherever they want without having to consult with anyone else.
…to those who can leave their washing on the bedroom floor.
…to those who never have to argue about who’s going to take the last beer.
…to those who are never waiting around for someone else to get ready.
…to those who never come home to any unnecessary conflict or petty gripes.
…to those who don’t have to spend a fortune on Christmas presents for someone else’s family.
…to those who never have to sacrifice space in their home to another person’s interests.
…to those who don’t have to apologise for coming home drunk.
…to those who don’t have to negotiate their way through the minefield of someone else’s headfucks.
…to those who can spend the whole weekend at home in their pants without criticism.
…to those who are enjoying a respite from drama.
…to those who never have to clean someone else’s piss off of the toilet.
For everyone who joins me in being actively grateful for being alone, I wish you a marvellous Sunday.
Valentine’s Day has always rankled a little, even when I have been in relationships. I resent the idea that at some point, a group of corporations has dictated a day when we are guilt-tripped into spending money to demonstrate the extent to which we care about someone – and as a society we’ve just gone along with it.
So as a nice, solid, two-fingered salute to a capitalist drive to exploit love, let us celebrate with gleeful joy the vibrancy of this exquisitely sweary ode to pure hatred by Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes;
It’s taken me a handful of days to be able to sit down and put my thoughts and feelings into order following the announcement last Monday of the death of David Bowie. Over the last few years, there have a been a number of deaths of famous people who have touched my life in various and important ways, but I was not prepared for – have been completely taken aback by – the depth of my emotional response to this news.
There have been several striking deaths from the world of music in particular recently. There was of course the passing of the mighty Lemmy Kilmister over Christmas which, without feeling personal, was definitely poignant; the death of a true legend and – by all accounts – thoroughly decent bloke. Lemmy had lived the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for at least the last 50 years, and it had been easy to believe that he was in fact immortal. He always had his foot planted squarely on the accelerator of life, but after being forced to withdraw from a number of live shows earlier in the year, it seemed like the end was finally on the horizon. He always said that he wanted to die doing what he loved right up until the very end, and that is precisely what happened.
Prior to that was Scott Weilland, whose passing most certainly did have a personal edge for me. For many years, he had seemed to be teetering on the edge of an untimely death, but there was always a glimmer of hope that he might make it out of the other side of his addiction OK. I felt a great sadness, but also a sense of resignation, when his story ultimately ended the way I’d always hoped that it wouldn’t.
But Bowie was different. Bowie was pure, unadulterated loss – and completely unexpected for everyone except those closest to him. A cross-section of my entire life had suddenly been sliced away. A layer of warmth and brightness suddenly absent.
I couldn’t speak to anyone at work on Monday morning, though to be honest, I’m not sure that my colleagues would have noticed; I am normally in a shitty, reclusive mood anyway due to being back in after a weekend of doing my own thing. I spent most of Monday dripping silent tears into my coffee, tucked down behind my monitor. I had my earphones locked in, immersing myself in the musical tributes on the radio, feeling wave after wave of emotion rolling up my spine, wringing my face into twisted masks and squeezing my chest until it burned and felt impossibly heavy.
There has only ever been one other occasion in the nearly 38 years of my life where I have experienced this level of grief at the loss of another being. Bowie was not family, he was not a friend, nor someone I had even ever met, and it’s hard to convey to people who don’t care exactly why it means so much. No he didn’t know me, but he had spent years talking to me, singing to me, playing music for me… Suddenly, for the first time in my life, there was no David Bowie and it hurt.
I wasn’t born until 1978, so by the time David Bowie featured in my reality, he had already done his ground-breaking, rule-defying, scene-changing work. By that point, he had been accepted by the mainstream, and had achieved mass commercial success. This meant that while I can pinpoint the exact moments that I discovered Motörhead and Stone Temple Pilots, David Bowie was always just THERE; Fashion, Modern Love, Let’s Dance, China Girl, Under Pressure, Dancing in the Street, Labyrinth…
There was never any negative association for me with Bowie. He was just a talented, beautiful singer, who made excellent music and made me feel slightly squiffy as Jareth the Goblin King, in a way I couldn’t really have explained at the time.
As I got older, I began to appreciate more of the history and legacy of David Bowie, the outstanding back-catalogue of work, the innovative progression of his music, and the stage characters – both human and alien – that he used to deliver it. He became an actual 3D personality who was always unapologetically himself in a way that I have tried to be but haven’t always managed.
I understand that there were a few dickish, coke-fuelled outbursts in his youth [which were all later rescinded], but despite these and his at-times controversial presentation and lifestyle, I have never heard or read about anyone saying that they hated David Bowie. I obviously wasn’t around for the more notorious and gender/cosmically ambiguous eras of his evolution so can’t speak with any authority, but I get the impression that he was SO different, SO unusual, that he provoked more confusion and bafflement than condemnation.
In the late 80’s, he turned away from the commercial focus that he had adopted and moved back towards being the Artist. While it didn’t bring him the laudits that he had earned in recent years, it was truer to his own sense of what he wanted to be as a musician and a person, and that was what was important to him.
My experience of Bowie was that he always seemed to have been striving towards discovering exactly what it was to be the best version of himself; trying something out, taking the best of it and the lessons it taught, then discarding the rest and moving on. He always came across as good humoured, honest, thoughtful and utterly, utterly grounded.
Even into his 60’s, when he could quite justifiably relax and put his feet up, he was not a man to ride his previous successes. His musical style was constantly evolving, and in the 90’s he largely retired the back-catalogue of hits that he could have continued playing and flogging for cash; it wasn’t what he wanted, so it wasn’t what he did.
As someone who is increasingly uncomfortable with being valued on my looks and appearance, I have really tried over the last few years to steer away from using physical attractiveness as the measure of the admiration I have for other people. However, with Bowie it is frankly unavoidable. Especially early on, a massive part of the stage persona was all about the visual, and he was quite simply one of the most beautiful, striking, captivating men I have ever laid my eyes upon.
Since his death, I have learned that he twice turned down the offer of honours from the Queen, because he didn’t want them. They meant nothing to him and they weren’t what he was making music for. He requested that after his death, he should be cremated with no fuss, no ceremony, no family, friends or media around him.
All things considered, David Bowie was the kind of human being that I prefer to have around, and that I try to be.
He released a new album, Blackstar, on his 69th birthday. I had no idea he had even been working on new music, so it was a delightful surprise. It’s since become apparent that it was made with the knowledge of his impending death, and based on the one track I have heard, Lazarus, it seems to also be his goodbye.
I of course bought Blackstar. It’s been sat on the shelf under my PC. I am not even close to being ready to listen to it yet.
Goodbye David, you beautiful, glorious, most human of alien creatures.
Today I cried for a lost love. Not a lost love who ever knew anything about it, mind – but a lost love nonetheless.
Music is a funny thing, when you think about it. It doesn’t even really exist, except as a memory or an idea. When it is being played, it is simply energy, a vibration, waves of pressure changes being perceived by our brains. And yet, there is very little that moves me as deeply as music. It is not something that I just listen to, it is something that I feel and absorb. It soaks into my bones and it pulses through my veins. Whether it’s good or bad, it is always a powerful and emotional experience, and it often results in my forming powerful and emotional attachments to songs, and albums, and by extension the bands that create and perform them.
For me, as someone who struggles to invest in emotional bonds with real people, it’s an intimacy that nothing else can really come close to.
My first brush with Stone Temple Pilots was when they had a song featured on the soundtrack for The Crow in 1994. The luscious, golden voice of Mr Scott Weiland wrapped around me like honey, while the catchy, bouncy and at times dark music was perfectly tuned to how I felt about life at the time. It soaked into my brain and added a new shade to my thoughts and feelings. There is a section of my brain that will forever be Stone Temple Pilots coloured, and over 20 years later, nothing has changed about the way I feel listening to that music.
Needless to say, my little teenaged self was later delighted to discover that Weiland himself was an absolute vision to behold.
It’s easy to sneer at footage of young girls in the 60’s, shrieking and losing their shit over the Beatles, but I totally get where that passion is coming from. I was just a little quieter about it.
In the late 90’s, STP shifted direction musically and I found myself stepping away because they just didn’t resonate with me in the same way any more. I bought a solo single of Weiland’s when I was at college which I loved, and gave me hope for great things from him in the future.
Consequently, I was delighted to hear a couple of years later that Weiland was teaming up with Slash et al in Velvet Revolver… but when I first saw him in a new video, I was shocked into tears. I had never really been that aware of his drug problems prior to that, but the destruction wrought by addiction was instantly apparent, and was powerful and hard hitting.
Watching that gaunt, skeletal shade of Weiland, the reality of what he was struggling with was impossible to ignore. I couldn’t engage with Velvet Revolver after that; it was too painful to see what had clearly happened, and was in all likelihood continuing to happen. I have since seen interviews with him in recent years, and it was very clear that he was either still in the clutches of a problem, or that some real intense damage had been done.
This morning, I woke up to the news that Scott Weiland had been found dead on 3rd December in his tour bus in Minnesota. I cried then and there in my kitchen, and I have continued to do so on and off throughout the day. I have not heard – nor have I cared to look for – any further information on the circumstances. Was it a surprise though? No. Not to me, and I don’t imagine it was to anyone else. Does that make it any less painful? No.
This was a man that I did not know, and had never met. I genuinely cannot imagine multiplying these feelings up to the scale of the pain and heartache of having to watch family and friends go through this same tortuous fight. Not being able to help. Never knowing from one day to the next what news you yourself are going to wake up to.
This is a goodbye to a man who never knew the esteem I held him in. It is also an extension of my heart and my deepest, deepest sympathies to anyone who is fighting their own demons – but more importantly, to their people who are helplessly caught in the current.
By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
A consortium of one hundred and twenty Islamic Scholars have placed onto the internet an Open Letter to Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi denouncing the organization’s violent and extremist actions in the Middle East. The letter, in the form of an interactive website, provides the world with an opportunity to read a perspective of the Islamic State’s affront to civilization from an academic analysis by scholars. The letter addresses the fundamental and basis in canon for disputing the claims of Al-Baghdadi that his is the only pure and legitimate form of Islam–refuting his claims of divine assent.
The original, in the Arabic, is presently being translated into other languages. The English is presently available.
There has been unfortunately much misconception in the Western World that there lacks true dissent to the terrorist outrages in the Muslim World. This letter can…
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