Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Yes vote was a great win, so here's a couple of sad songs by LGBTI country singers about love gone wrong to celebrate

Celebrations in Sydney. Photo: Peter Boyle/Green Left Weekly.
They say nothing good ever happens, but events yesterday sure put paid to that! Yes, I got a ticket to Alabama's "alt-country"/Americana superstar Jason Isbell! I cannot fucking wait! You can check out this recently streamed live show of Isbell with his band the 400 Units from the famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville to see why this is really fucking exciting news.

Also, the results were released of the non-binding survey on whether to support marriage equality in this country and it was a decisive victory for "yes" in a rare win for humanity, equality and basic fucking human decency.

(For the record, Isbell tweeted his support for Australians voting "yes" early in the campaign.)

It is a strange feeling, in this godforsaken nation, to feel positive about anything relating to the cluster fuck that passes for "politics" here. But after an unnecessary voluntary postal plebiscite (coz obviously in 2017 there is no other way to resolve an important issue than mailing out ballot papers with prepaid envelopes via a largely defunded postal service) and a fucking ugly campaign by the well-funded, Christian fundamentalist-driven no campaign...

... the vote, with a turn out of 79.5% of registered voters, was about 62% "yes", with clear majorities in all state and territories.

As a non-binding survey -- why would you spend $122 million in taxpayers money to resolve something definitively -- it does not resolve the issue in-and-of-itself. But it makes it a political certainty in some form, and a bill is expected to pass parliament by Christmas.

This has made a lot of people very happy. You can see some of them below, in the Green Left TV footage of the moment the result was announced to thousands of people in Sydney's Albert Park.

No doubt it has made a few people sad, mostly people called Miranda, Tony or Lyle. I won't show you them because there's too much misery in the world already.

So finally, Australia can catch up with famously socially progressive nations like Ireland and that country that gave Donald Trump the keys to the White House in allowing same-sex couples to marry, if not fully resolving all issues such as legal discrimination for trans people in various fields.

It may not be perfect, it may have taken an unnecessary toll on LGBTI people, but still.... if a win like that is not worth celebrating, I don't know what is.

And I know how to celebrate!

With Guinness!

With whiskey!

And sad country songs!!!

There is no occasion I can think of in which decent country songs about love going wrong are not appropriate, least of all a situation which is, after all, a celebration of love!

Now, country music has a reputation as some sort of uniformly socially backwards form, but it isn't. There is all sorts of country music, including by LGBTI performers. The mainstream country industry can be very conservative, and many just see that as the entire genre, as though you could reduce rock music to Limp Bizkit or Billy Joel, or hip-hop to, I don't know, Vanilla Ice....

So here are a couple of good country songs by a couple of LGBTI singers. Because love is love, as they say, and it frequently fucking hurts!

'I'm drinking water tonight coz I drank all the whiskey this morning. Drank the whiskey this morning, coz my baby, she ain't coming home...'

This is a fucking sad song. You see, "last night she went up to the bar, said she met some big country star". This country star is, apparently, "like [country legend] Dwight Yoakam". Not is Dwight Yoakam, which might be easier to take, merely sounds like the guy. And she's gone having "taken every last one of my good years". God, no wonder Sarah Shook is on the whiskey in the morning.

Listed last year by Rolling Stone in a list of 10 New Country Artists You Need To Know, when she isn't spending her mornings drinking whiskey, Sarah Shook is an openly LGBTI performer and civil rights activist from North Carolina, who has won an award for her work in promoting a Safe Spaces initiative in Chapel Hill, NC.

'It took 19 years to find her, and three years to make her mine. We had four good years of loving, but it only took two words to break her heart...'

Oh God, Melbourne-based country-blues singer Cash Savage knows how to pull out a gut-wrenching vocal.

In some ways, this is less "country" country than Sarah Shook. With Savage's bluesy voice over a driving banjo, it has bit of a bluesy folk vibe more than straight up "twang". But it definitely has a country soul -- ie: misery over love gone wrong.

As to marriage equality, Cash Savage never waited for any bullshit plebiscite. She married her partner, magazine editor Amy Middleton, a while back.


And yes, OK... I guess I might as well throw a couple of "happy" and "positive" songs in the mix.

'Aint gonna reference no lonesome road, I confess my affection has grown and grown. I'm in love!'

Here, Cash Savage sings to the glories of love in a song that is almost a spiritual experience. Soulful doesn't being to describe Savage's vocal style, and on "19 Years" and "I'm In Love", she shows how perfectly capture both extremes of that crazy fucking thing called "love".

And ok, this one below is not country nor is about love, at least not in an individual sense. This is a song by Gossip, fronted by LGBTI singer Beth Ditto, about LGBTI defiance in the face of the then-Bush administration's attacks on her community. It is... well it is defiant and on point.

'Standing in the way of control, we live our lives....'

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Lest we forget... when working people had real social power and the right resorted to a coup

Protest after Gough Whitlam was sacked by the governor-general.
As November 11 is Remembrance Day, so it is worth remembering that on November 11, 1975, the elected government of Australia was removed in a coup against the only truly left-leaning reforming government this nation has had.

After media attacks and economic sabotage and blackmail from the economic elites, the means was the "reserve powers" of the unelected governor-general operating as the representative of the British monarch. Governor-General John Kerr, in conspiracy with the Liberals, overthrew Gough Whitlam's Labor government and dissolved both houses of parliament,

In many ways, what the Whitlam government did was not that radical, but it can feel that way today. After a couple of decades of conservative rule, amid the general social upheaval of "the Sixties", Labor swept into office in 1972 and introduced free education and universal health care, legislated equal pay for women and Aboriginal land rights, withdrew Australia from the Vietnam War and diplomatically recognised the People's Republic of China, among other socially progressive measures.

This feels almost revolutionary after a couple of decades of neoliberal "counter-reform", but in many ways the Whitlam government also showed no desire to serious upturn the status quo or challenge the system. A symbol of this was the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in the dying days of Whitlam's government.

A leaked document showed Australia's ambassador to Indonesia Richard Woolcott said Australia should support it as a better deal over oil in the Timor Sea could be struck if East Timor was rule by the far-right Indonesian military dictatorship, rather than by the left-wing, anti-imperialist Fretilin party who ruled the newly independent nation. 

It could be said Whitlam's government had more pressing things on its mind at the time, but Whitlam continued publicly supporting Indonesia's occupation -- as did Labor right until its the end in 1999, suggesting it wasn't just the confusion of those hectic days at play.

The "Big End of Town" eventually turned on the Whitlam government amid economic chaos. In doing so, they confronted a powerful, highly organised workers movement -- probably at the height of its powers. The threat of a general strike against this right-wing assault on democracy was in the air, and strikes and protests broke out spontaneously.

Below I have posted a great song, "The Ballad of '75", that captures the mood in those days. It is by the Sydney-based Celtic punk band from the '80s, Roaring Jack -- led by the fiery Scottish-born socialist Alistair Hulett.

The song captures the contradictory sense of anger and confusion ("Drinking in the streets gave way to doubt") , but the most striking thing from our 21st century vantage point is the description it provides of the organised power of working people in those days.

This is spelled out in the song's opening scene, in a matter-of-fact way. The song is sung from the perspective of a young worker in an oxide plant in the then-working class area of North Fitzroy. When word comes that "they've given Gough the bullet", the workers simply walk out. 

Bert Gilchrist told the gaffer because Bert Gilchrist had the clout
He said, "They've given Gough the bullet and the lads are walking out"
And we walked right off that job while the gaffer held the door
And watched it on the telly in a TV rental store

The power relationship is described clearly: A shop floor militant "had the clout" and the boss ("gaffer") is reduced to holding open the door as his workforce files out.

We could talk a lot, no doubt, about the way this social power at the time was deliberate not used, sidelined, by the Bob Hawke-led ACTU, and the way this helped shift the balance of forces towards the right and opened the way for the Liberals to defeat Labour in the elections Kerr's double dissolution brought on.

But I think it is worth noting this power, as it's so far from our reality. Today, what the song describes would be highly illegal trade union action accompanied by six figure fines on any union that dared to try it (the CFMEU have in recent years walked out over safety, and that is exactly what they got, along with threatened jail sentences for union members).

The union movement has shrunk dramatically since 1975, from over 50% coverage to less than 15% today. That is real power lost -- and not just in formal rights, but actual social power.

For instance, in 1969, when a militant left-wing transport union leader Clarrie O'Shea was jailed under anti-union laws, the largest national strike post World War II won his freedom. The unions are in no condition for a repeat of that today  -- though new ACTU secretary Sally McManus, among others, is trying to  rebuild some of this power (which is why she is such a bogey figure for the right wing).

I think this social power of working people helps explain the sacking of the Whitlam government. The "Bert Gilchrist's" of the world, and the song's narrator, were emboldened by Whitlam's government.

The Malcolm Fraser government came in with the aim of undermining this power, but the union movement was strong enough to blunt much of the attacks. A much more complex process, where by a Hawke-led Labor government in the 80s signed an "Accord" with unions, made bigger gains in opening up a process of weakening union power, followed by the direct confrontations of the Howard years in the '90s and 2000s.

But for now... lest we forget there was a time when working people were so strong in this country, they could walk out at a whim -- and the powerful forces of the status quo had to launch a coup to remove a government they identified with.

I remember the day I was no more than a boy
Working in an oxide plant at the back of North Fitzroy
Bert Gilchrist told the gaffer because Bert Gilchrist had the clout
He said, "They've given Gough the bullet and the lads are walking out"

And we walked right off that job while the gaffer held the door
And watched it on the telly in a TV rental store
It was one hell of a situation, the kind you just can't gauge
There was Gough on the steps of parliament house saying now maintain the rage

In the year of the double dissolution
Drinking in the streets gave way to doubt
Australia voted in a revolution
Then stood back and let the fat cats push it out

There was violence in the air as I walked back home that night
Everyone you'd meet was getting ready for the fight
Saying "If they're out for trouble then trouble's what they'll get
We started out a colony do they think we're a colony yet?"

But as the weeks went by the anger turned to mild relief
Locks were freed like magic and I watched in disbelief
To see a scam so blatant so jacked up and full of holes
And the people in their thousands endorsed it at the polls

Some said they had it coming some were closer to the mark
Who spoke about conspiracy sinister and dark
But history records it and the story will be read
How we let them take democracy and stand it on its head

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Hayes Carll covers Guy Clark's "Magnolia Wind" and I might have to eat my words

Well, earlier this month, unable to stop listening to John Prine and Emmylou Harris's cover of Guy Clark's classic country folk song "Magnolia Wind", I chucked it up on this very blog and opined: "If there is anything more beautifully moving than Emmylou Harris and John Prine singing Guy Clark, I don't think I want to know."

Well, little did I know that Hayes Carll, whom I may have mentioned before on this blog once or twice, was going to step up and release a special cover of the track less than two weeks after my post.

Now, I don't want to suggest the reason for this was my post. I am not saying Hayes Carll religiously reads my blog and took my comments as a challenge. Obviously, i cannot prove this.

But he did once "like" a blog post of mine on Facebook defending him from Steve Earle's stupid insult, when I tagged him in it. So, you draw your own conclusions, that is all I am saying. I am just presenting the circumstantial, some might may say damning, evidence.

The key point is Hayes Carll has just released a cover of "Magnolia Wind", which is awesome news. "Magnolia Wind" is a really amazing song, as so many of Clark's songs are. Tender, poetic and heartrendingly beautiful. And Hayes Carll has a voice raw and broken enough to invoke its tension between melancholy and wonder, a song about love and its inevitable end.

Below is Hayes Carll's version recorded live on Youtube, and you can also do the decent thing and purchase it on iTunes.

You can hear John Prine and Emmylou Harris's cover and Guy Clark's original All three versions are incredible, but I stand by my original view that the Prine/Harris duet is pretty unbeatable. Hayes, if you are reading this as no doubt you are because I am not deluded at all, I still love your version and grateful you recorded it! Keep up the awesome work!

I'd rather sleep in a box like a bum on the street
Than a fine feather bed without your little ol' cold feet
I'd rather be deaf, dumb, and stone blind
Than to know that your mornings will never be mine

I'd rather die young than to live without you
I'd rather go hungry than eat lonesome stew
It's once in a lifetime and it won't come again
It's here and it's gone on a magnolia wind

I'd rather not walk through the garden again
If I can't catch your scent on a magnolia wind

If it ever comes time that it comes time to go
Sis just pack up your fiddle Sis pack up your bow
If I can't dance with you then I won't dance at all
I'll just sit this one out with my back to the wall

I'd rather not hear pretty music again
If I can't hear your fiddle on a magnolia wind


Friday, October 20, 2017

Sit Down, Have One More (or: The Kiss Of An Alcoholic Always Tastes Minty)

Sit Down, Have One More (or: The Kiss Of An Alcoholic Always Tastes Minty)

They say too much booze can kill you
Yeah well so can not enough .
I'm fast drinking and slow thinking,
Why the hell can’t I pick up?
You sure you won’t come home with me?
I promise I won’t throw up.
Yeah sure, too much booze will kill you
But then so will not enough.

Well I kicked that drinking habit
but the goddamn thing kicked back.
You see, my love has gone away
And they won’t be coming back.
Without you I'm drinking for two
Someone must pick up the slack.
Yeah I kicked the drinking habit
Then that fucker it kicked back.

I'm at my best after three drinks
At my worst just after four.
Hey, where do you think you’re going?
Come on, sit down, have one more.
There’s nothing on TV tonight
And no one is keeping score. 
I'm at my best after three beers
At my worst just after four.

And I wish that I could love you
But I swear it don't feel right.
Now, you're call me a poseur
Coz you know that I can't fight.
Well my favourite pose is standing
But that’s harder late at night.
And you know I'd love to love you
But I swear it don't feel right.

And too much booze will kill you.
But not tonight, it won’t
Not tonight.

Posted for Sean Hughes.

* * *

Yes, I know. That thing is sort of a poem, only it has a very basic rhyming structure that surely no poem does, not these days. Not that I know much about poetry. And it is sort of a set of song lyrics, only not set to music or with a chorus or probably many other things.

It is really intended as spoken word and I wrote about 15 years ago, when I first started to listen to a lot of Tom Waits, which is probably obvious as it is more or less something I think I imagined delivered by a Waits-esque character circa-1976's alcohol-soaked Small Change.

Though I wro it so long ago and barely think about it, or the small number of other lyrical-type things I've bothered to write, I've been thinking it about since Irish comic Sean Hughes died of cirrhosis of the liver aged just 51.

Coz that the is obvious irony in that poem/song/thing, of course. Too much booze does kill you, maybe not tonight but some night, like October 16, 2017, in a hospital having a cardiac arrest while getting treated for liver disease, if you are Sean Hughes.

And I am aware I am writing about this on a blog called "An Alcoholic's Guide to Modern Life" with a tag line "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are drink". I guess I just fucking love irony.

One thing about Sean Hughes was he also wrote poetry, like in a way I would never really dream of doing. Serious poetry, like the now-widely reported on poem "Death" that featured in 1993's Sean's Book.

I don't know almost anything about poetry, so I can't judge it, but some of it seemed alright to me, some seemed pretentious, but I don't really know. Sean Hughes could be quite earnest when he wanted.

It is not that I haven't published a lot of poetry in my time, right here on this blog! But, with titles like "I KILL YOU  NOW FUCK OFF AND GET ME A DRINK", this stuff is really too genius to even mention among poetry in general. Like it operates on a whole other level of brilliance that is beyond mere mortals (such as the Nobel Prize for Literature judges who keep ignoring me).

I am generally not interested in mortal poetry, even my own. Fuck, especially my own. the rare times I try to write it seriously, I do my hardest to seek to forget the fact.

But in honour of Sean Hughes, I will do something I have never done — and post here something poetry-related that I wrote seriously. Feel free to go to his funeral and heckle him about this point.

I will also note a piece Sean Hughes wrote a couple of years before his death on alcohol. He had quit drinking, then started up again.

The piece, entitled The fine line between drinks and 'proper' drinks, discusses the tragedy of alcohol in society, especially Irish society. Particularly noticeable is the suggestion he makes that his friends welcomed his return to drink as "the old Sean is back" — it is worth pointing out that this is his interpretation, not necessarily an accurate account, but it isn't hard to imagine.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sean Hughes changed comedy for my generation and he can't be dead, it's beyond stupid

A friend posted a link on the "Very Long thread" on Monday. This is a Facebook thread on my wall that has been going since September 20, 2013 and has generated more than 230,000 comments since, hence its name.

Friends comment on it about all sorts of things, with the sole aim to increase the comment count so we can eventually win some sort of prize. I mean, surely someone out there offers prizes for this kind of thing.

This link was a news article whose headline said Irish comic Sean Hughes had died, aged 51.

It is rare a headline that genuinely causes me to double take, then stare in shock. I am the fucking international editor of Green Left Weekly and we specialise in presenting the worst, most depressing news to the world, which, surprisingly, is largely indifferent.

I didn't even open the link. I did obvious thing and checked Twitter. Sure enough, people were tweeting that Sean Hughes was dead at just 51. Complications due to cirrhosis of the liver. I thought Hughes had quit drinking, but it seems he did for a bit, but went back on it.

Jesus, I looked hard at my beer reading that. Hell, I'm looking at the beer I'm drinking right now, thinking: "You bastard... your kind killed Sean Hughes!" (Still drinking it though, I mean it is already open and booze aint cheap.)

These are my two favourite Sean Hughes' jokes:
"I read that they've just arrested six Muslim men in Birmingham under the terror laws. Is this ringing ANY bells? I don't want to alarm anyone, but if you're Muslim and live in Guildford, don't hang out in fours."
"I had very liberal parents, they insisted I call them Bob and Marge. I don't know why, it wasn't their names or anything."
The first joke is paraphrased from when I saw Hughes' in Sydney in about 2006, and refers to the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four — Irish people tortured, then framed up and jailed for years for bombings they had nothing to do with, of which the current treatment of Muslims bears more than a passing resemblance. The second was part of his stand up in the early 90s and features in an episode on Sean's Show.

They represent the two extremes of Hughes' comedy, combining his capacity for biting social commentary with silliness —a stupid joke made funny by the cheeky, almost innocent way he'd deliver it.

It is difficult to describe what Sean Hughes meant to a certain section of people, people who were young in the early 90s and whose introduction to comedy that was raised almost to an art form came through the likes of Sean's Show, Hughes' groundbreaking anti-sitcom whose two series in 1992/93 was almost hypnotically hilarious. (A kind soul has just uploaded season 1 on youtube and Hughes himself uploaded season 2.)

Australia was blessed to have it shown latish at night on ABC TV. In my house, we somehow managed to record on VHS the final episode of season one, which to this day I rate as among the funniest half hours of comedy I've ever seen. Me and my sister watched it endlessly, over and over. I can still recall many lines.

(Sadly, one I remember is his repeated declarations, in the face of things going wrong: "I'm only 26!" In hindsight, that was already past the halfway mark of his life.)

For season 2, we were better prepared, and more was captured. He had a running joke that every time the phone rang, of quickly putting jazz on his stereo, then picking up the (toy) phone and waving it in front on the speakers before saying into it "Sorry, I'll just turn down the jazz!" As is his follow up in episode two of "What, God? I told you to stop calling!"

And there was his way of ending a phone call, seen in season one: "Bye-bye, bye-bye" offered cheerfully into his plastic toy phone.

Sean Hughes holds a slightly odd place in comedy. He exploded onto the British scene as a young Irishman, winning the much-vaunted Perrier award for his debut stand up show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1990 — at 24, he is the youngest comic ever to win it. He broke ground for Irish comics. This predates Father Ted, much less Black Books and Dylan Moran, among others who followed.

His show was different to most stand up of his day -- more conversational, with an arc. That approach is common, even the norm, these days.

Also, he made a point of bringing things outside the mainstream into his TV show, at a time when it wasn't normal. It doesn't seem unusual now that his TV show talked a lot about The Smiths (including the immortal line, "Everyone gets over their Morrissey phase... well, except Morrissey"), or that he wore a Nick Cave T-shirt in one episode, or had The Cure appear or had Pulp play in the background in a nother episode (in 1993, a full two years before "Common People" made them well-known).

This is why it can be hard to evaluate genuine trailblazers years after the fact -- looking back, what they did seems unexceptional and, without knowing the history, an observer thinks "well, that's not bad, but what is so special about it?"

Hughes was a transitional comic -- his impact was tied to a transition in comedy and he marks a sort of part-way point. He also played that role for me personally, and no doubt many others, opening the door to a different way of understanding and appreciating comedy. (He also, for better or worse, introduced me to The Smiths.)

Although it wasn't the first to do it, Sean's Show broke the rules of sitcoms, tore down the fourth wall and turned the fact that it was a sitcom into a joke itself. Playing a version of himself, Hughes would acknowledge the audience directly -- in the first episode, he is shocked to discover a crowd of more than 400 people in his living room.

But what made it work was the sheer joy of it, the way Hughes revelled in the silliness of the show, interspersing his stand up with running gags (in the first series, a sock never dried, in the second, he waged a constant war against scrabbled eggs stuck to a saucepan) and his self-deprecating commentary on life.

The books he put out in the 90s of his writings, 1993's Sean's Book and 1995's The Grey Area, stand alone as distinct works. There is the cheeky, lovable character from Sean's Show and his stand up in there, but he includes serious poems and heartfelt commentary, too.

Reading them at the time, you could feel Hughes' attempts to break out of attempts to pigeonhole him within the persona he played on TV. I remember it often felt a little too self-conscious, almost forced. But it was hard not to admire his determined refusal to be turned into a commercialised "easy-to-sell" product. It also revealed a dark side to his character, and a sensitivity that has been widely commented on (most comments in the media after his death refer to him as "gentle" and "kind").

He deliberately chose to express all aspects of his creativity and humanity -- no doubt against publishers and agents advice to stick to the grinning, floppy haired, cardigan wearing lovable loser as-seen-on-telly.

This dual nature, being in the public eye, but refusing the constraints of celebrity, marked his subsequent career. He was a team captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks from 1996-2002, but walked away from what was no doubt a lucrative gig because he was bored with its formulaic format. Around that time, he also quit stand up. He wrote well-received novels and took acting gigs, like his criminally underrated role as "Mod" in The Last Detective series with Peter Davison. Yes, he played another lovable loser, but an even gentler one, marked by developing middle-age.

He returned to stand up again, on his own terms. He didn't earn the commercial success or operate in the public eye like in the 90s, but he did what he wanted. And he never wanted to be Michael McIntyre or tour stadiums.

A great moment from Hughes' later career that I'd never seen until now was an appearance he made on Celebrity Come Dine With Me -- in which he chose to serve stew to the judges for all three courses. With, as Hughes defiantly insisted when criticised, actual variations! But still, as the judges kept noting, nonetheless the same stew.

A stung Hughes defended his culinary creations by declaring: "With Da Vinci did they go, ‘I really like that painting, but it’s really like the other one you did with Jesus in it'? Jesus is in them all! It’s just disrespectful to a craftsman like myself."

A clip from the show can be seen here, featuring the judge's reactions, with a highlight being Hughes' contribution to "Christmas cheer" (for it was a Christmas special) being getting in a Smiths cover band to perform "Meat is Murder" and the ever OTT-sad "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out".

It is a cliche to say "we'll never see the likes of him again", but fucking honestly.

I saw Sean Hughes in Australia three times -- from my rather loose memory, in Perth twice in 1996 and 98 and in Sydney in about 2006. I was too young to have seen him when he came out in the early 90s, but short of that, I took all the opportunities to see him live I've had and there is no other comic I can say that about. If he'd toured again, I'd have seen him again. Now I won't.

In recent years, I have only thought sporadically about Sean Hughes, occasionally checking out what he was up to and enjoying what meagre offerings the Internet threw my way. Richard Herring's live podcast with Sean Hughes from 2015 is great.

Since 2011, I've been performing stand up, to varying degrees of constancy. Thinking about it, I realise now that in my performances, there are some distinct mannerisms or ways of delivering a joke that are... well, let's be polite and say "inspired" by Sean Hughes. That were clearly borrowed from him. It's never been conscious, but it's real.

The simple fact is I wouldn't be doing stand up comedy if not for Sean Hughes. I love sketch comedy and that love has obvious sources -- Monty Python, Fry and Laurie, even Australia's Full Frontal, among others. But stand up, and that style of gag telling... Sean Hughes made me think it was worth doing. Whether that's to his credit or not... others can be the judge. Feel free to go to his funeral and heckle over this point.

Here are some lovely offerings from comics who knew and loved Sean Hughes:

Mark Steel and Rhona Cameron remember a friend who was a 'gentle soul, a proper comic'

Richard Herring's blog pays a wonderful tribute.

Matt Lucas interrupting an interview to pay respects to 'an icon of my generation'

And my personal favourite, this beautiful, heartwarming tweet from his Never Mind the Bollocks co-star Phil Jupitus about finding Hughes' Grey Area in a bookstore and the teller refusing to charge him for it.... I'm not crying, you're crying and somehow your tears have projected themselves onto my eyes, you fucking bastard!

(That story was actually quite appropriate, seeing as the introduction to Sean's Book includes a detailed guide on "How to steal this book", or otherwise get away with reading it for free -- and Jupitus came up with the ultimate trick, have him die unexpectedly.)

There are many more, from fellow comics and others, that can be read from Twitter or just googling. They all combine shock with respect and awe for a man who blazed a path so many others followed, and whose influence was far greater than he probably ever know. The only way to end this is with Sean Hughes himself:

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Poem! (three poems)

Here are three poems that form part of a... well a "trilogy", as I believe the kids call it. They are very important and I present them to you for your intellectual gratification and, most importantly, development.

A Poem!

This is a poem!
May it give you strength!
Although some say it is not very good!
Because it uses exclamation marks too often!
And awkwardly!
But exclamation marks!

A Poem! (II)

A poem! 
With marks of exclamation! 
For they indicate great points!
Are being made! 
In this great poem!


A Poem! (III)

A poem but
This time 
Without explanation marks 
The point 
Speaks for itself 
Without Them 
Ah fuck it
 I love exclamation marks!
A lot!!!
BUY ME A BEER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


(Copyright Carlo Sands 2017 like seriously do not even THINK of trying to steal these poems for your own commercial gain coz I I will fucking hunt you down.)

There they are! All three! About a topic very close to my heart! The exclamation mark! I know right? The Nobel Prize for LIterature is fucking rigged

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

It's not all bad, well OK a lot of it is, but still here is audio of me ranting on a stage

Well, a lot sure seems to be happening in the world.

I am sure like me, when you saw Donald Trump in Puerto Rico cheerfully lobbing paper towels at a crowd of people in that devastated Caribbean island, your first thought was: "Holy fuck, I'm also out of paper towels, what kinda natural disaster worsened into an extreme humanitarian crisis by a combination of climate change and extreme ongoing colonial exploitation do I have to organise to get the US commander in chief to chuck a few of them my way?"

Looking into the matter, it turns out the answer is "a pretty fucking bad one". Like we are talking a Category Five Hurricane so bad it caused Trump to stop golfing and actually visit after just two weeks, which is the highest level of severity meteorologists recognise.

Of course, Trump did more than that in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. He also wagged his finger at the Puerto Ricans, largely without electricity, clean drinking water ad with a gutted health care system already weakened by the savage austerity forced on the island by their US colonial masters that is unable to deal with potential disease outbreaks, and declared, as only Trump could:
“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack ..."
This is a bit like if you've been stabbed by some random bloke, and your mate, who is driving you to the emergency department before the last of your life leaks out into the growing bloody pool on the passenger's seat, points out that the cost of the petrol for this trip is really stretching his fortnightly pay check, despite you knowing for a fact he has more than half-trillion worth of high-tech weaponry in his backyard.

Say what you will about Trump, but he has a brutal honesty that is almost refreshing. No hypocritical tears for the dead or pretence that the US state and or its corporate masters give a flying fuck for the half-drowned, already-screwed people of the US's "I Can't Believe It's Not a Colony" colony of Puerto Rico, which has been a "not-colony" colony since the US won control over the Caribbean island from the Spanish in the 1898 Spanish-American War.

In all-too-predictable news, almost two weeks after Puerto Rico was hit by the super-storm, the US was hit by another mass shooting, one of the deadliest in recent decades (though not in US history, as the Lakota could point out).

Such a tragedy has many repercussions, one of which is Australians enter a new round of smug self-congratulation about how, unlike those nutty Yanks, we solved our gun problem after the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre when automatic and semiautomatic weapons were banned and we've not see a repeat of that horrific event.

No doubt this is to Australia's credit, so perhaps while we are on a roll having successfully managed one single positive  reform of note since 1996 about we may take some pride, perhaps we might, I don't know, consider not torturing innocent people in isolated prison camps, then abandoning them to their fate in impoverished Third World countries that cannot deal with them?

I know sometimes change is slow, and we're all a bit exhausted from spending the past 21 years patting ourselves on the back for the unprecedented (if you exclude large chunks of the world) wisdom in not letting nutcases have access to major weapons of death except when they serve in the SAS in Afghanistan,

But in the act of congratulating ourselves, we by-and-large missed yet another Black Death in Custody. Tan Chatfield, a 22-year-old Aboriginal man, died in custody at the Tamworth Correctional Centre on September 20 under what may politely be called "suspicious circumstances". This is only one of hundreds since the 1991 Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody laid down more than 300 recommendations to stop more Black Deaths in Custody — which have gone ignored and unimplemented.  In 2013, a review of deaths in custody by the Australian Institute of Criminology found that the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody had increased over the previous five years.

Still, how wacky are hose Yanks with their automatic rifles and paper-towel throwing presidents eh?

Meanwhile, Tony Abbott, the ex-and-wannabe prime minister of the nation one of the highest per capita carbon emissions in the world,  gave an absurd speech in Britain, questioning whether climate change was real before suggesting that possibly it might be a good thing regardless, because more people die in cold than heatwaves (yes he fucking said that).

Abbott clearly sees himself as "Australia's Trump", so it is just as well he's not, I dunno, heading a government in Queensland greenlighting and providing taxpayer funds for a large corporation's planned mega-coal mine that will condemn the great Barrier Reef to death and drastically worsen the global warming crisis, which, just to prove I know how to shoe in a callback, contributed to the strength of Hurricane Maria that devastated Puerto Rico.

No, that would be Queensland's Labor government, a government of a party that actually accepts global warming, but presumably just figures this planet is screwed so let Adani hasten our fate.

But it is not all bad! Not only is their push back on protests on these things (such as the growing campaign against Adani), no, even better! Here is some dodgy audio of me ranting on a stage, recorded on the first night of my solo show Inspired? at the Sydney Fringe Comedy festival! (Warning: it starts abruptly, as I had forgotten to turn it on, so just begins with me yelling about something...)

I am very kindly providing this to you all for free, coz that is the kinda guy I am. Just a decent guy and not at all desperate to get my angry voice out there for some sort of deeply disturbed personal reasons I have never investigated for fear of what might surface. However, the show was a fundraiser for Green Left Weekly, so if you wish you can make a donation to the publication, which relies entirely on supporter donations to survive.