It's not my style to walk out of my own party. But at least I'd warned people of my intentions, and so at a few minutes after midnight last night - or should I say, this morning - I put !!!'s 'Pardon My Freedom' on the decks, packed up the rest of my records and left a swinging Step On at The Royale almost four hours ahead of closing time. The preceding three hours had been enormous fun, with one of our biggest crowds yet shaking a leg early to the downtempo likes of the Nuffwish 'Loaded Chalice' bootleg, The Clash 'Bankrobber' Dub and Radio 4's 'Nation.'
My wife Posie, despite being seven months pregnant, then played a great short set that included The Rapture's cover of 'Wot?', The Gang Of 4, Pete Shelley, some Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets, and some Specials. She was soon seen dancing with my Beverley-born life-long mate Pascal to my second brief set, in which I got in a retro-modern segue of Wire to The Futureheads to Franz Ferdinand, paused for the wonderful environmental anthem 'Monkey God' from Tim Booth's solo album Bone (yes, I finally got a copy: it's out in the States in the New Year), before shamelessly playing the baggy hits and then getting the hell out of there.
I've yet to hear how the rest of the night went. I do know that announcing your party's conclusion is the best way to ensure you get good crowds for the time you have left. It seems a shame now to think we're wrapping it up in only a month's time, but the pitter patter of little feet (and midnight feeds) will keep Posie and I on our toes in a different way come the New Year. December 3 promises to be a thundering finale. Please be sure to put it in your diary.
Posie and Pascal find space on the Step On dancefloor.
Crystal Palace find space on the Selhurst Park wing.
If you're wondering why I left Step On early, then you haven't been visiting here much of late. I'm loathe to predict my time for tomorrow: two years ago, I ran 3:59 comfortably; last year I went out too fast in the considerable heat, crumbled in the second half, and was disappointed with my 3:56. Tomorrow's race should, by rights, be my year to get it right and get a fast time, especially given all my training, but anything can happen, and even the favorites sometimes pull up short. (Or don't even finish.) Plus, I'm convinced I caught a last-minute cold from too much outdoor activity this past week, as I've had the sweats for the last 48 hours. Unless they're just my restless nerves. Again last night I couldn't sleep properly - I was lying awake in the early hours wishing I could just get up, get dressed, get down to Staten Island already and get it over with. I finally got back to sleep after starting in on a Martin Amis novel... I admire the man enormously but let's be honest: his dense writing is a fantastic cure for mid-night insomnia.
Looks I digressed.... Let's just say that anything under those previous two times is good going for my age, and allowing that, just like last year, tomorrow looks like being the warmest day of the surrounding two weeks, pushing into the low 60s Farenheit (17 Celsius), then anything below 3:45 is a victory.
And while I do have a personal time goal in mind, I have to remember to have fun. Warm weather brings out the crowd in their millions and makes this a communal event. And so, I look forward to seeing some of you en route. You may not see me, however; though I'll probably put my name on my shirt somewhere, I'll be otherwise incognito under a hat and glasses as protection from the sun, so you'll probably not notice me unless you're looking for my number. It's 6364. Results will be posted here.
It has occurred to me - three years running, in fact - to do the Marathon in a Crystal Palace shirt, for the fun, to offer support and to be easily identified. And it occurred to me again this lunchtime watching Palace's brilliant performance against Premiership Champions Arsenal, holding the Gunners 1-1 despite having only two shots on goal to Arsenal's fifteen-plus, in the type of tightly-fought game that brought back all the best memories of life as a football loyalist. But replica shirts are appalling for performance; they don't allow ventilation which means that after a few minutes, they stick to your skin. So here's my serious question for someone to answer while I'm off wearing Asics:
Does anyone know whether the players wear the exact same shirts as the fans? Or do we pay £40 not so much for a replica as for a second-rate imitation? And if the players do wear a different material, HOW is it different?
You can ponder that for the rest of the weekend, and let us know here if you have the answer. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to run.
The problem with running a Marathon, if you take it seriously (and I do): you can train successfully for months, and feel great about it, because the big day itself is far enough way that it's not bothering you. Two or three weeks ago, I was so fit and upbeat and well trained that November 7 couldn't come soon enough. But now that it's upon me, I'm suddenly paranoid about my health, and fully aware that every activity comes laden with dangers...
Massacre Mansion last Saturday? They warned us about two big stones in the pitch black graveyard; I still slipped on them, and very nearly sprained my ankle. Election night? Sure, let's go out and see how people are reacting. Um, it just happens to mean walking around the neighborhood on a cool night and mixing with all kinds of people who may themselves be nursing a cold. Attend the Marathon Expo to pick up my bib, and stay around to check out the clothing and sample some freebie merchandise? Absolutely. It just means two hours on my feet, exposed to hundreds of visiting runners who have just got off lengthy plane journeys, and a subway ride home in rush hour next to a guy sniveling loudly the whole way. Go see my favorite new band, The Futureheads? Absolutely. It just happens to be a midnight show the week the clocks go back, which means it's a 1 am show when I should be going to bed early. That final outdoor run? Sure. Even schedule it after a meeting in Midtown, and right before a last massage nearby to ensure my muscles are all warmed up for the rub-down. It just happens to be absolutely pissing down while I do it, which means traveling home in wet clothes in rush hour. Finally get an early night? Sure, I was in bed last night before 11pm. Could I sleep? Hell, no. I'm wound up like a jack in the box. How the hell do professional marathon runners ever work up the zen to sleeve twelve hours a night up front of a big run? How do pop stars sleep the night before the big televised show? And how do professional footballers ever get to sleep the night before a Cup Final?
I console myself with the thought that thousands of runners on Sunday will be battling jetlag, and thousands more the vast majority will have gotten out of bed hours before dawn, on as little as two or three hours sleep. I'm spoiled rotten in that regard; the drive to the starting corral takes all of fifteen minutes from our house, which means I can sleep in until about an hour before I'm expected to be there. That's assuming I sleep Saturday, of course. I may still be reliving Crystal Palace's performance against Arsenal, a game that's being shown live here tomorrow. (Spend the day before a Marathon in an NYC bar with drunk-by-lunchtime Englishmen? Why not?)
The scene on the decks the last time Nick Cain came by with his friends....
Oh, and DJ your monthly party two days before the Marathon? Yes, I'll be at Step On tonight for the penultimate party. Time Out wittily noted in its listing for us this week that "penultimate" means "second-to-the-last, for those who don't partake in Word of the Day." And it's true: we will indeed be wrapping up Step On, at least in monthly form, just four weeks from today. So if you're in or around New York City, please consider venturing out tonight to help see us off in style. Posie and I will be alternating on the decks between 9pm and Midnight; Nick Cain and Allen Keys who did such a great job in August and doubled our crowd with their boozy friends will be taking over afterwards along with their own mate Johnny Castle. If you see what looks like an architectural drawing on the wall where normally there'd be a Stone Roses poster, look closer: it's a floor plan of the original Hacienda. Thanks, Si. If you see me in the room after midnight, please kindly walk me to my car. And if you have a cold, don't come near me!! I'm paranoid enough as it is!
The best cure for the blues is
the blues. Throughout my life, I've usually been able to rely on music to lift me out of the doldrums, and last night was no exception. Despite being exceptionally tired during the day yesterday (to the point of feeling hung-over, and purely from the bad election news), I rallied myself to attend The Futureheads' late-night headlining gig at the Canal Room.
When I saw the Sunderland-based group at Rothko in September, I was blown away by their energy, but later wondered whether I was allowing my nostalgia for their old-fashioned sound to cloud my long-term judgment. Turns out I wasn't: these last few weeks, I've been unable to stop playing their eponymous debut album. It's that rare kind of record that has an immediate appeal, yet reveals greater depth with every play. It's got 15 songs, it's 36 minutes long. It's surely my debut album of the year.
The Futureheads in full throttle: Ross, Barrie and Jaff.
The Futureheads' sound is distinctly retro, I readily accept, but then that's true of just about every other band that's made it big this past couple of years. And more so than their obvious peers Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, The Rapture and Interpol among them The Futureheads is relentlessly exuberant, intriguingly concise and admirably adventurous. Perhaps most importantly, it says something. For if there's a downside to the 80s revival among rock bands, its the general lack of lyrical substance. Franz Ferdinand may have celebrated homo-erotica with 'Michael,' The Killers might have sent up the American alternative scene with 'Indie Rock'n'Roll' and Interpol, just possibly, had something meaningful to say with 'NYC,' but none of these are substantive messages to match our serious times. The Futureheads are themselves relatively light-hearted in their seriousness 'First Day' is an attack on the 9-5 lifestyle performed with an almost comical increase in speed but at least they bother to address the issues.
Another reason not to lump them in with the whole 80s revival is because their reference points actually predate that decade. The Futureheads who, bless them, were not even born at the time are in fact immersed in 1978, the year The Jam honed their Rickenbacker riffs with All Mod Cons, Wire embraced pop with Chairs Missing, XTC emerged from the Swindon railway sheds with White Noise and the Gang of Four got all sharp-edged and studenty on us with Damaged Goods.
All these influences are apparent on The Futureheads' album. They're even more obvious in the live show, where they're evenly distributed amongst the four members. Guitarist and singer Ross Millard occasionally sings with a Weller-like growl, holds his Telecaster high like The Boss, and with his Harrington-jacket and un-buttoned shirt style, represents perennial British casual street chic. Bassist and vocalist Jaff, barely out of his teens, favors the Fred Perry and tailored jacket mod look; tall and jovial, he represents the group's simplistic youthful exuberance. Hidden at the back, but laden with responsibility considering the group's abrupt rhythms, drummer Dave Hyde wears the sort of lop-sided haircut that would make him a perfect barfly in contemporary New York; he also sings.
Together, the three of them would make a good band. But let's not mince words here: it's primary guitarist and vocalist Barrie Hyde, wisely placed center stage, who separates The Futureheads from all the retroheads. Dressed in an alarmingly tight-fitting suit, blessed with commanding presence and a piercing stare, he is less a Weller or a Strummer than an Ian Curtis or Colin Newman. His sharp moves and yelping vocals absolutely demand the adverb "angular." He's the kind of front man you imagine making a formidable footballer, twisting and turning the defence with a dummy here and a dribble there. And though he keeps his banter to a minimum, he's obviously a man with a serious mind. (As referenced in my previous review, he was formerly a tutor at The Sunderland City Detached Youth Project.)
Barrie Hyde: Demands the adverb "angular"
Bassist Jaff: youthful exuberance
The set at the Canal Room was basically the debut album, opening with the record's initial one-two punch of 'Le Garage' and 'Robot', closing with its distinctive Kate Bush cover 'Hounds Of Love' and finale of and about 'Man Ray,' and otherwise mixing up the order as befits a live set and adding their cover of the TV Personalities' 'Picture of Dorian Gray.' Hard though it is to pick highlights from a set performed at breakneck speed, piercing volume, clinical precision and boundless energy, I'd have to go for those that combined all the influences: 'Trying Not To Think About Time,' 'First Day' and 'Carnival Kids' marry the complexity of XTC and Wire with the gruff fury of The Jam and The Buzzcocks. In the process, they become The Futureheads' own.
There was little lip service to current events; The Futureheads have enough confidence in their music to let it do the talking for them. In turn, you could have been forgiven for thinking that this audience mostly young and wildly enthusiastic cared not a toss about the previous 24 hours. Maybe they were just letting off steam like myself. Towards the show's conclusion, Barrie finally announced his hopes that the audience wasn't "too bummed out by recent events"; Jaff felt the need to clarify with an unnecessary "
election shit." Returning for the encore, Barrie dedicated it to a "special someone" and then realized that was too vague. But still he kept it simple; with a quick confirmation of the name 'W', he launched the band into the non-album live show highlight, 'Piece of Crap.' Then they were gone.
Barrie, Dave, Jaff and essential contemporary item: Vox amp
I checked my watch. 16 songs in 40 minutes, including the encore. About what I used to expect from The Jam and Wire. As if to reinforce the obvious, the DJ hit us with a 1-2 of 'White Riot' and 'In The City' but most people were heading for the doors before the modern dance party could get going. The combination of a late show, the clocks going back and the all-nighter many people pulled over the previous 24 hours - along with the energy of those previous 40 minutes meant we were all well spent. I jumped in the car, and passed up the World News on the radio: I drove home instead singing along to The Futureheads' 'Stupid and Shallow.' Just like being 16 again, my new favorite band had got me over the blues.
This is a tough morning to get energized, not least because I was up late trolling Park Slope bars with a visiting English friend who wanted to get the "election vibe." He's been here for over a week, and had been understandably surprised by the lack of campaigning here in New York. It had to be explained: New York State perennially leans Democrat, and by such sufficient margin that the Candidates dont even bother to visit and ask for our vote. I've never been entirely sure if this is a blessing or a curse it's probably a little of both but the bottom line for my friend was this: If he felt like this Election was being fought elsewhere, that's because it was.
The New Yorkers' sense of detachment was echoed in approximately 37 of the other 49 States: the campaign money, the negative ads, the personal appearances were all focused on the remaining dozen, and specifically in five intensely close Swing States. As such, and though I live in a resoundingly left-wing community, you still might not have known what was going on yesterday: on my block, the only evidence I could see of Election Day was one front window full of anti-Bush stickers, and a front yard with an American flag and a placard for Ralph Nader.
The lack of visible pro-Kerry merchandise doesnt mean my neighbours weren't energized, involved, and motivated to vote. They were. But it does perhaps reflect the lack of excitement Kerry was able to generate in the several months since he won the Democratic Primaries. Over these last four years, the American left was only ever united in its hatred of Bush, never in its support of any actively campaigning alternative. As I wrote yesterday, Kerry finished strong - I grew ever more encouraged by his Presidential potential as Election Day grew near, the opposite of how I felt about Al Gore four years ago but by the time I went to bed late last night, I couldn't help thinking that his personality surge was too little, too late. I'm not sure the vast American public ever felt like they knew him well enough to fully stand behind him.
Anyway, last night, thousands upon thousands of people in Park Slope flocked to the local bars and restaurants, many of which were decorated like New Year's Eve, in the hope that there would be night-time news worth cracking open champagne for. Unlike the neighborhood windows and front yards, almost every gathering place in this 'hood had pro-Kerry Get-out-and-vote messages on its menu blackboards; one out of every three people nervously knocking back a drink was wearing some kind of political t-shirt, button badge or sticker. Typically, and tellingly, almost every one of those was antiBush rather than pro-Kerry.
Over dinner excellent high-carb spicy diner fare at Bonnie's Grill - I tried to explain the Electoral College system to my visiting English friend, and told him not to make any assumptions based on early returns. Everything, I stressed, was staked on that mere handful of swing States. Besides, after what happened four years ago when some of the networks wrongly called Florida, launching this country into its most disputed election count in living memory I had no expectation or desire to see the winner announced before morning. As my friend sipped his way through a range of American beers (all of which, I should note, he was impressed by) and I stuck to seltzer (it's a Marathon thing), we were encouraged by Kerry's apparent win in Pennsylvania, while the numbers looked close enough in a number of other States for us to remain optimistic.
But that was with the TV sound down. By the time we trundled home to actually listen to the networks' talking heads rather than merely watch the incoming numbers across the bar, the news was a lot less encouraging. Around midnight, every TV station called Florida for Bush and made the precise same prediction: without taking Ohio, Kerry would lose. And the early Ohio returns showed Bush in front.
A few hours sleep, and nothing has changed. As of 10am this morning Eastern Time, Ohio remains a close call and may not be settled for days but it's not, as best as we can see, close enough to make a difference. Kerry will have conceded by the time most of you read this. Besides, the Popular Vote is decidedly in Bush's favor. Anyone who feels that Gore was the rightful victor last time, given that he received over half a million more votes nationwide than Bush, will have a tough job not accepting Bush as the legitimate winner today, based on his popular vote margin of several million votes. As best as I can read the figures, the 4,000,000 additional Democrat Candidate votes over the 2000 Election have been completely wiped out by an additional 8,000,000 Republican Candidate votes. In other words, for every new voter the Democrats encouraged to the polls, the Republicans engaged two. Though turn out was higher yesterday than in decades, and the Population is steadily increasing with potential voters all the time, still this following statistic makes disturbing reading: Bush looks like getting more actual votes than any President since Ronald Reagan was re-elected in 1984.
There will be plenty time a good four years to figure out how that happened. I've written enough for now. I feel like the 1980s revival has extended beyond post-punk funk and into the funk of politics. Precisely 20 years later, Bush is the first incumbent Republican to be re-elected since Reagan. But, specifically, I'm reliving the 1983 British election, where a far right Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was decisively re-elected (despite a disastrous economy, increased unemployment, civil unrest at home and visceral hatred from a significant percentage of the population) thanks to an overseas war, the financial backing that comes with being the ruling party, the intensely negative campaigning such money can finance, and deep divisions within the opposition.
Britain under Thatcher was not the most powerful nation on earth, however, which is why many people across the world will be aghast at Bush's re-election in a way they weren't troubled by Thatcher's decisive re-election in '83. Then again, the American President is only allowed two terms in office; Thatcher managed three (and her successor one more), before the British people finally kicked her party out of office. The good news today has to be taken where it can be found. And it comes down to this. In 2008, Americans will again be voting for a new President. And this time, it definitely won't be George W. Bush
Sunday's run is going to feel especially long.
Tom Wolfe reveals his conservative side - and purposefully winds up his interviewer - in today's Guardian.
"I would vote for Bush if for no other reason than to be at the airport waving off all the people who say they are going to London if he wins again. Someone has got to stay behind."
And Bill Bryson displays his usual sharp wit in The Times.
"Mr Bush spent 98 days at his ranch last year. This compares with the 19 days of vacation that President Clinton averaged in his two terms (though comparisons are perhaps unfair, as we know that Clinton took much of his relaxation in the Oval Office) or the 41 days a year that President Reagan averaged which, it should be noted, includes recovery time he had to take after being shot."
Monday afternoon I started writing an article about the American political climate these last four years. But 1500 words in, I was still wading through the last months of 2001, trying to explain why I offered reluctant support to the Administration for its war in (but never on) Afghanistan. The more I wrote, the more I felt the need to defend my position, and the more I defended myself, the more I wrote myself into a quagmire, which shows how easily these things can happen. Finally, realizing the mess I was in, I scrapped my original game plan, and started over again. We all head down the wrong path sometimes.
Yes, I know that's a cheap metaphor for the war in Iraq. And I'm fully aware that it's much easier to criticize the President in writing than it is to be the President in person. Which is why, if there's one sentence I want to hold from my earlier draft, it's this one:
"Nothing I have read or heard since and if you visit this site often, you know I follow political news closely has ever led me to doubt that the events of September 11 would have taken place regardless of who was President."
That President happened to be George W. Bush. Not my choice. Nor yours, most likely, if you're hanging out here. And not even the first choice among voters in the 2000 Election. But history has a way of dropping momentous events on those who least expect them. And for barely three or four months between, say September 20 2001 and Christmas of that year Bush looked like he might surprise us all and rise to the occasion. For a short period after September 11, he was the most popular President in living memory.
George W. Bush, it turned out, had what it took to be a good War President. But only for three months. Not for three years. And certainly not for four more. If we can pinpoint a turning point, when his judgement first proved lacking in the long run, it would have been when his Administration encouraged dubiously committed Afghan warlords and questionably motivated Pakistani troops to go after Osama Bin Laden in the mountainous no-man's land that separated those two countries - even though the finest American fighters were in the region, ready, willing and desperate to do the job themselves.
If that sounds like I'm parroting John Kerry and his overdone 'outsourcing' jibe, then let me make this personal. I remember the week before Christmas 2001, the owner of a local Park Slope store, a prominent local Jordanian-Palestinian, a man who oversees an annual youth parade for peace, assuring me, entirely unrequested, that that "piece of shit Bin Laden" would be captured or killed within days. Having followed events in Afghanistan in incredible detail, at the expense of freelance work, I shared his confidence. There had been widely voiced doubts, by Bush's opponents in America and elsewhere, about taking on Bin Laden and the Taliban, but up until now, the Administration had got the fight right.
I went to England days later for Christmas, and by the time I came home, early in the New Year, it seemed as if the focus had shifted. Somehow, the battle in Tora Bora had not reached the end game. American commandos had not been called into action. It turned out that Bush and co., believing that they'd defeated Al-Qaeda just because the Taliban had vacated Kabul, were already moving resources to prepare the war they wanted all along. To quote one of the more eloquent protest banners of the last three years, "George W. Bush hijacked our grief and flew it into Iraq."
Other than that brief period after September 11, what Michael Stipe has poetically called 'The Great Silence,' this has been a bitterly divided country to call home over the last four years. And even that brief period of respite was not exactly pleasant: in fact, it was the saddest, most painful, constantly upsetting weeks of my life.
I speak as a New Yorker, someone who had to live amongst the attacks and their lingering after effects. September 11 changed me, I state that freely. Call it indeed, a loss of innocence. Or an education. I learned, for example, that that there was a strain of fundamentalist Islam that believed in all-out murderous war against America, one in which civilian casualties were to be maximized. The realization that such depraved evil not only existed, but was actively supported in parts of the world, truly rocked my faith in humanity.
And I learned that there was a faction of Americans, some of them right here in my neighborhood, which also believed in a war against America one they could duplicitously support by conveniently blaming the nation as deserving every calamity that befell it.
I've always known that there's an element of the right wing that is reactionary and discriminatory, that feeds itself on anger and prejudice. That's nothing new to someone who grew up in the race-baiting climate of South London in the 1970s. But over these last four years, I've become thoroughly disillusioned by how many people on what I had always called my side of the fence the left are similarly consumed by blind hate. These people have acted no differently over the last four years than those who railed viciously against Clinton over the previous eight. They've proven petty and vindictive. They trade in such simplistic insults that their children can echo them in the playground without having to explain themselves a vaguely amusing irony considering the object of their ire and his supposedly infantile lack of sophistication. They refuse to recognize a single word of truth uttered by a member of the Administration while looking up to media figureheads whose handling of the facts is famously loose. They will even defend a Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein if it enables them to carry on attacking George W. Bush. They have never called on the free Muslim world to exercise even half as much opposition to the Islamist terrorist leaders as they have expended on their own elected politicians yet if they did, the world might already be a more peaceful place.
Still, don't get me started on the far right. As I say, there are no surprises there: it's a territory I stay as far away from as possible. Overall, the viciousness on either side has, these last few years, reached a level of near murderous poison. There's a general belief out there among sociologists that anyone who witnesses an execution quickly becomes opposed to the death penalty, but I somehow suspect that if stoning was re-introduced in America, thousands would line up to take part as long as they could do so along political lines.
But this remains a fine nation, all things considered, especially once you get outside of the hard-line local communities on the left and right, most of whom take cowardly comfort in numbers, and move out to the greater public. Most Americans, black or white, Republican or Democrat, are not interested in attacking their neighbors for their political leanings. Most Americans want the same things. They want to live in a country that allows people to work their way up the ladder according to ability and aspiration, but not to be left lying helpless should they fall. They want to feel safe at home without being considered a bully abroad. To help the poor of the world without having that aid taken for granted. To adress the evils of totalitarianism without having to solve every international crisis unilaterally. They want the right to quality, free education and health care, but believe they should have a choice in their providers. Most Americans don't flinch at a different color of skin or a non-heterosexual relationship. Most Americans are genuinely warm, friendly people who say "have a nice day" not because they're conditioned to do so, but because they mean it.
These people deserve a President who can bring them together. Is John Kerry that man? I can't be certain, but I know George W. Bush is not. He campaigned four years ago as someone who would unite this nation, yet failed miserably. After 9/11, millions of people were ready and willing to commit themselves to the American nation, to help rebuild the country's confidence and to present a positive face to the rest of the world. He had a golden opportunity to harness American energy to hijack, if you like (and yes, that word is again used deliberately), JFK's great saying, "Ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for your country." Instead, his Administration assured us it could do the job itself. It humiliated us instead.
This, then, is where we find ourselves in November 2004... Internationally, the USA is reviled. (Some of this animosity was inevitable, I suspect; lurking behind the outward sympathy over 9/11 across the globe was a deep dislike of Bush, guaranteed to go public the moment the President used military force on America's attackers.) The country is immersed in a war that, while ridding Iraq of the world's most horrendous ruling dictator something I am thrilled about - has only managed to make enemies of the very people it was intended to free. The President finds himself unable to admit that this war has gone to anything less than plan, even as hostages are savagely beheaded and brave Iraqi army and police recruits gunned down and blown up on a daily basis. The same President who would not risk body bags in Afghanistan at a crucial moment for America's survival, no longer even references the men and women of the Armed Forces now dieing in unacceptably large numbers every week.
Bush's refusal to even look at, let alone address, the problems of our global environment, has further negated his international reputation. We don't have many years left to correct the planet's health, of which the following are serious signs of terminal illness: oil is finite, there's a hole in the ozone, the ice caps are melting and the sea is rising. Yes, the Kyoto Treaty was flawed, and the Senate had already thrown it out under President Clinton, but that doesnt mean Bush could not have come up with a viable alternative. Meantime, international aid remains intrinsically bound in Bush's Christian missionary position. In an ideal world, Africans would be frightened enough of AIDS to abstain from sex with anyone but their committed partner. But in an ideal world, there would be no AIDS to begin with. In the meantime, give them condoms for God's sake.
At home, the stock market is right where it was four years ago, and just about everyone I know feels the pinch. Money is tight here the way it was in the midst of the Thatcher years. It's true that the economy dipped in the late Clinton era, and that Al Gore would also have inherited an oncoming recession (exacerbated by 9/11). But Bush's solution tax cuts for the rich has helped no one except the rich. We've gone from a massive surplus to a record deficit in no time at all. In the interim, personal savings have shrunk and the median household income has gone up less than $100 in four years. While we fret about our future finances, the Administration is tampering with the centuries old separation of Church and State, playing to a religious right wing that steadfastly opposes abortion under any grounds, and attempting to amend the Constitution to outlaw gay marriage at the very moment history finds the issue moving to the mainstream. Bush is entitled to his religious beliefs it's a free country, wouldn't you know but he is not entitled to use them as the bedrock of his political agenda.
I've never believed, as opponents keep touting, that Bush has "torn up the Constitution": the very public level of opposition to his policies, from demonstrations to documentaries, editorials to law suits, proves that this country is still a vibrant democracy. I don't believe Bush has caused irreparable damage to the American domestic fabric the way Thatcher caused irreparable damage to the British domestic fabric. But that doesn't mean I trust him not to cause that damage given a further four years. (For an example, look at Thatcher and her second and third terms.) After all, this Government has already proven itself the most secretive in decades. And its emergency measures have all the mark of a latent dictatorship. The Patriot Act and the edicts that allowed prisoners to be brought to Guantanamo Bay did far more to impinge on Civil Rights and International Law than they did to capture known terrorists. The hundreds who were rounded up and imprisoned in New York and New Jersey after 9/11 were revealed not to be active terrorists but either petty criminals and/or illegal immigrants at worse, and entirely innocent at best. There has not been a single successful arrest and subsequent prosecution of a high-profile Islamist terrorist here in America since 9/11.
Yes, there have been apparent unravelings of "sleeper cells" and yes, we have not been attacked again as we were on 9/11, and I know there are millions who will be voting for Bush based on this, what Donald Rumsfeld might call an "unknown unknown." But even to the extent that any of this is the result of good police work, it's surely the least we should expect of our Administration. Do I personally feel safer three years after September 11? No. I fear that if Al-Qaeda wants to launch a similar attack again, then it will. Living in New York City, that fear is very personal.
History will never know how Al Gore might have reacted to all these events as President: the faltering American economy, the attacks of 9/11, the totalitarian Taliban, the murderous obstinacy of Saddam Hussein, the continued cowardice of the United Nations, genocide in Sudan, AIDS in Africa, the hole in the ozone, the relentless pressure from the religious right, the appeasement tendencies of the far left. If Gore had waged his Presidency the way he waged his Campaign in 2000, we might have been in an even worse place than we are now
Though that is hard to believe.
Which brings us to John Kerry. He is hardly my ideal candidate. I hate the Two Party system as much as ever, and am frustrated that we're back to it just two electoral cycles after the country looked like opening, with the emergence of the Reform Party and the Greens, into at least a four-party system. I don't believe for a moment that if he wins, John Kerry will be able to deliver even half as much as he has promised.
But in recent weeks, as the daily sound bites find the Bush campaign reveling in distortions, exaggerations, fear mongering and outright lies, I've been increasingly impressed by Kerry's stance. Starting with the debates, Kerry finally came down off the fence, swinging hard, landing punches. He's stopped playing up the Vietnam Veteran angle and instead nailed his sail to the mast on any number of homeland issues - abortion, health care, stem cell research - that will, ironically, lose him as many votes as they'll gain. But in establishing his position, people have started to see a man who may, after all, have conviction. They're realizing that it's okay for a Presidential candidate to admit to mistakes or to change direction now and then: that this is as much a mark of intellect as of weakness. (Come on, what sports fan loves a coach who won't make changes to a consistently losing team?) They're seeing a man who thinks on his feet, who can digest the details. Most encouragingly, they're seeing a man who genuinely wants to lead the country who wants to turn these awfully divided States back into one nation, indivisible.
Can he succeed? It's not enough to say that he can't do worse than Bush: that's a vote for abstaining if ever there was one. But I believe he can. I believe he's a good man. I believe it's vital that John Kerry get the opportunity to prove his worth. I desperately hope that he wins today both in the popular vote and in the Electoral College. I pray that it's by a sufficient margin that we don't endure weeks of farcical uncertainty as we did in 2000. And then I want to see us move forward. Under John Kerry, the USA might once again be able to lead the world by example, not by force. And if he is half as genuine about uniting the country as Bush proved insincere, America will become a yet more pleasant place to call home.
Some photographic souveniers from a particularly scary Halloween. Why so scary? Well, we visited a Haunted House (Massacre Mansion) in the Catskills, where we twice had a real Jason jump out at us in the dark with a live chainsaw (fortunately minus the blade), and partly because of the number of political costumes on show in New York. On Election Week 2000, it seemed like a cop-out (or a co-opt in?) for New Yorkers to use the Candidates for their fear factor. This time round, after four such frightening years, it felt perfectly appropriate. It almost goes without saying that both in our own Park Slope parade in Brooklyn, and what I saw on TV of the Greenwich Village parade in Manhattan, there was not a single anti-Kerry costume on display.
But this was, hands down, my favourite costume team of the night....
The kind of Boy Band you CAN get enthusiastic about. Great work, kids....
Is Bono trying to confuse the competition? He's certainly confused me, going by two quotes from the November issue of Q magazine.
The first is from Michael Odell's interview with an unusually acerbic and aggressive Michael Stipe, about how R.E.M. "kick-started" their disappointing new album Around The Sun.
"I had taken an edict from a friend who does a similar job to me," says Stipe. "His name is Bono. I was stressing about my songs and he said, 'We are songwriters, just write the song. They don't have to be great. Just do it.'"
And this is from a typically amiable and alcohol-ridden Bono himself, in a cover story about the new U2 album How To Dismantle An Atom Bomb, conducted by editor Paul Rees at the band's retreat amongst the millionaires' playground in the South of France.
"We compete with ourselves, with the idea of not becoming crap like everyone else does," says Bono. "Because the only way you can justify living like this with your fancy houses and no money problems is surely not to be crap."
Q keeps Bono's ego in check by printing this picture of The Fly with The President. Bush looks absolutely terrified by the encounter, doesn't he? (I did a Google search and couldn't find a picture of them actually shaking hands. Does one exist?)
I admire Bono for doing what it takes to support the causes he believes in. After all, you never see The Boss pressing the flesh with The President, do you? At least not the current one. (Yes, I am being mischievous. It was Halloween weekend, after all.) The above photo is from President Bush's address to the Inter-American Development Bank in 2002 at which Bush announced, according to the White House summary of the occasion, "that the United States will increase its core development assistance by 50% over the next 3 years, resulting in a $5 billion annual increase over current levels." I trust Bono has been keeping tabs on this promise to ensure it didn't go the way of so many other ones.
OCT 25-31: John Peel tribute, Park Slope update, Expat Commentators for Kerry, The Libertines/Golden Republic/Sondre Lerche/VHS Or Beta/Concretes live
OCT 18-24: R.E.M., Kevin Tihista, Brian Wilson, Atomique. Anglo-American Angle, Jon Stewart,
OCT 11-17: Fiery Furnaces, Green Day, Bowling For Soup, Paul Weller, The Go! Team, Fatboy Slim, New York Wines and Dines, Dick Is A Killer,
OCT 4-10: Best of Best Of New York, Keep iJamming! Thriving, WebFriends, October Hitlist
SEP 26-OCT 3: This Sporting Life Parts 1 & 2 (football and Olympics), Full Court Music Press, Rudi, The Clash, Apocalypse
SEP 19-25: The Zutons/Thrills live, Brian Clough RIP, Iraq, Hunting, Virgin Trains, Punk Voters, Step On Steps Down
SEP 17: The V Festival Review: Pixies, Charlatans, Scissor Sisters, Fountains Of Wayne. Basement Jaxx, Audio Bullys, Freestyler, The Killers, Pink - and camp cameraderie.
SEP 12-16: Johnny Ramone, Village Voice vs. New York Press, Love Parades
SEP 11: Absolute Affirmation: A New York Hitlist.
SEP 3-10: The Futureheads live, The Good News, Step Off, No Sleep Till Brooklyn
AUG 23-SEP 2: No postings: On summer holiday.
AUG 16-22: 33 Notes on 45 Bands: Little Steven's International Underground Garage Festival
AUG 9-15: Step On, The Summer Hitlist
AUG 2-8: Crystal Palace are shirt, Crazy Legs are back, The British are Rapping, Losers Lounge, Step On
JULY 26-AUG 1: Farewell to Orbital, the Nike RunHitWonder, Pere Ubu in the Park, Devo, Dave Wakeling, Berger & Wyse
JULY 19-25: Live reviews: Mission Of Burma/Electric Six/The Fever/Van Hunt/Brazilian Girls/Apollo Heights/L Maestro; Crime Watch, Book Watch, TV Watch, Booze Watch
JULY 12-18: Jeff Mills' Exhibitionist DVD review, Midweek W(h)ines, Los Pleneros de la 21/Kékélé live, The Homosexuals,
JULY 5-11: Nick Hornby's Songbook
JUNE 28-JULY 4: The Streets/Dizzee Rascal/I Am X/Funkstorung live, Wine, Football and festivals,
JUNE 21-27: Lollapalooza, Morrissey, Deadwood, London Calling, Stone Roses, Euro 2004,
JUNE 14-20: Fast Food and Cheap Oil, Party Prospects, More Clash, Radio Indie Pop
JUNE 7-13: MP3s vs AIFF, Step on, June Hitlist, The Clash,
MAY 31-JUNE 6: Benzos/The Hong Kong/Home Video live, Tribute Bands, Lester Bangs, Glad All Over
MAY 24-30: The Clash, Fear Of A Black Planet, Marvin Gaye, Sandy Bull, Richard Pryor, Stoop Sale LPs, Michael Moore, Nat Hentoff
MAY 17-23: 5th Ave Street Fair, James, Surefire/The Go Station live, Crystal Palace
MAY 10-16: Radio 4 live, John Entwistle, Jeff Mills, Wine notes, Joy Division covers
APR 26-MAY 9: Twenty Twos, Morningwood, French Kicks, Ambulance Ltd all live, More Than Nets, Mod, Turning 40
APR 19-25: 5 Boroughs Rock, The Number 3 Bus, Orbital split, MC5 reform
APR 6-19: British Press Cuttings, More Than Nets, Art Rockers and Brit Packers
MAR 29-APRIL 5: The Rapture/BRMC/Stellastarr* live, The Chinese Beatles, Freddie Adu
MAR 22-28: Singapore Sling live, Kerry on a Snowboard, Pricks on Clits, Eddie Izzard, Who's Two
MAR 15-21: TV On The Radio live, Tracking Terror, Bloomberg's Education Bloc, The Homosexuals,
MAR 8-14: The Undertones live, Winemakers Week, Madrid Bombings, Just In Jest
MAR 1-7: Rhone-gazing, Pop Culture Quiz answers, Who's Hindsight, March Hitlist
FEB 16-29: Lad Lit, American Primaries, New York novels, Candi Staton, the Pop Culture Quiz, World Musics In Context
FEB 9-15: Grammy gripes, Spacemen 3, Replacements, Touching The Void, Moon myths, Voice Jazz & Pop Poll
FEB 2-FEB 8: Suicide Girls in the flesh, Johnny Rotten's a Celebrity...So's Jodie Marsh
JAN 26-FEB 1: Starsailor/Stellastarr*/Ambulance live, Tiswas, Wine Watch, Politics Watch
JAN 19-25: Brooklyn Nets? LCD Soundsystem, Iowa Primary, The Melody, TV On The Radio
JAN 12-18: The Unicorns live, New York w(h)ines, Sex In The City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, S.U.V. Safety, Bands Reunited
JAN 5-11: Tony's Top 10s of 2003, Howard Dean and his credits, Mick Middles and Mark E. Smith, Mick Jones and Don Letts,
2003 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2002 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE: