Sunday, January 19, 2014

'Little bit of dirt mixed with tears' -- five songs by Lucinda Williams

'She is an example of the best of what country at least says it is.'
Despite her share of critical acclaim, American country singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams remains underrated when her success is compared to her talent. Emmylou Harris said of Williams, "She is an example of the best of what country at least says it is. But, for some reason, she's completely out of the loop. And I feel strongly that that's country music's loss."

Williams has long been an artist I have been aware of as the kinda singer I'd like. Whenever I came across her, she impressed me -- and made me think "I should really investigate her stuff more seriously". For some reason, it was only recently I did -- first, these being the times they are -- via random songs on YouTube and then more seriously, album by album, on Spotify.

From the start, I was deeply impressed -- even blown away by the quality of the songwriting and, in the live clips, Williams' ability to inhabit a song and draw out all of its emotional power. In fact, the combination brought to mind Tom Waits in its potency -- which anyone who has read this blog knows is not small praise from me.

So here are five Lucinda Williams songs. They are not an attempt to be her "Five Best Songs", but a taster -- five songs that seem to me to be able to can draw out some of her power as a performer, which is why all five are clips of live performances. It is also a YouTube playlist.

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'Little bit of dirt mixed with tears...' A wonderful poem about daily life put to great music and performed very solidly in this clip. When I decided it was time to start looking at what Lucinda Williams had to offer on YouTube, this was the very fist clip I played -- and I was instantly hooked. From the 1998 album of the same name.

'How would broken find the bone?' Well... talk about great poems... this one is beautiful and hopeful and melancholic and devastatingly, heartbreakingly sad all at the same time. It is songs like this that are needed to process the world around us, in all it horror -- big and small. This is what art is for. From the 2003 album of the same name.

...Take the high road or take the low
No one but you and God will ever know
And you might play rough and win or lose
Either way, love, you'll get the blues

From the cradle to the grave
You will always be a slave
To the quiet darkness of your memories
And that's the truth, my friend
The ugly truth, my friend...

Yeah well, start to finish, a killer track that one. From Williams' most recent album, 2011's Blessed.

'Sun came up it was another day. And the sun went down you were blown away...' Williams' scintillating, heartfelt song for down-and-out Texas country singer Blaze Foley, tragically killed in 1989 defending a friend. The jury let the killer off, in part, it has been said, due to a lack of belief the white Foley would have been in a predominantly poor Black area simply because he friends with a Black man rather than a more sinister reason. From 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

'Please come find me and help me get fucked up ...' Sometimes, love is meant to be a bit fucked up and accompanied by some really cool guitar playing. From the 2001 album of the same name.

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'Hush a wild violet, hush a band of gold. Hush you're in a story I heard somebody told...' Williams spinetingling cover of Tom Waits' 'Hang Down Your Head'. There was noway I'd get through an *entire* blog post without Waits in some form.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My prediction for tonight's Victory-Wanderers match in Melbourne.

My prediction for tonight's match between Melbourne Victory and the Western Sydney Wanderers in Melbourne is all the 9.30 news bulletins tonight (and then all news shows repeatedly for the foreseeable future or until the next time Lleyton Hewitt wins anything) will show any footage at all of anyone at, or in a 100-kilometre radius of, AAMI Stadium looking even vaguely cross while the news reader hyperventilates over "more violent scenes" bringing "fresh concerns of sokkah thugs" followed by a representative of the Victorian police insisting on the need for "stern measures" to stamp out the scourge of hooliganism that has taken over this country and then the Football Federation of Australia calling a press conference to announce they are expelling the two clubs forever from the A-League and all that A-League fans carrying membership tickets in active support areas will be preemptively shot, causing the Daily Telegraph's Rebecca Wilson to complain at the soft, conciliatory approach of the FFA for refusing to place all Red and Black Bloc member's heads on spikes outside Parramatta Stadium to make a clear stance against criminality, before she drunkenly plows her car into a nearby kindergarten, killing dozens.

This will be rapidly followed by Scott Morrison announcing plans to round up and deport anyone caught wearing a "sokkah shirt" while Christopher Pyne announces a reworking of school curriculum to ban any mention of any sport not played with an egg-shaped ball that isn't called "cricket".

The Red and Black Bloc, active support for the Western Sydney Wanderers, responds to repeat drink-driving offender and Murdoch media hack Rebecca Wilson, who wrote a hit job on the RBB without a word of truth in it that, among other things, said the decidely multicultural group "made her skin crawl".

Below is an alleged leaked email from Channel 10's Chief of Staff to Channel 10 staff today, posted on the Passion Is Not a Crime Facebook page dedicated to defending football supporters from various attacks. It could well be s sign of what to expect in media coverage of tonight's game. (You can see a screen shot of the alleged email, signed, here.)

"Hi everyone,

If you happen to be going to the Melbourne Victory / Western Sydney Wanderers game tonight at AAMI Park could you please keep your smartphone handy in case crowd tensions boil over.

News would be interested in any amateur vision shot of flares / push and shove / security evicting people / verbal abuse etc etc. Inside and outside the ground.

The last request is that you please tip your phone on its side to film ... so any vision is captured in landscape.

Please email me ASAP at this address if you manage to film something."

Oh, and in terms of what'll happen on the pitch -- I say Wanderers 1-0.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Sherlock: Everyone else is blogging it, so here is my Sherlock blog! (May contain traces of Jeremy Brett)

Well, the internet seems to be going crazy for Sherlock Holmes, which can only be a good thing. I don't understand, though, just *who* those people *are* in all the pictures and gifs that keep getting posted on Tumblr?

Surely the kids all know that there is only ONE true Sherlock Holmes? I mean... surely? Surely the schools *at least teach them that*???

And if you don't know what I am talking about, here is an older blog post that explains it clearly and THEN go here and watch the EPISODES OF GRENADA TV's 1984-'94 SHERLOCK HOLMES SERIES ON YOU TUBE!!!

Sherlock Holmes:

With Watson.

There is a time to think...

...and a time to act.

Jeremy Brett...

...Sherlock Holmes.

And finally, I will simply note, I have nothing against this new series. It is quite enjoyable and, in his way as an updated Holmes, that Cumberbatch bloke isn't actually too bad I suppose. And of course, this new series is nothing like the train wreck that is the Guy Ritchie films.

But the best bits about Cumberbatch's performance are all based on Brett's work -- the arrogant aloofness and sudden manic bursts. He is standing on the shoulders of a giant... So I merely seek to ensure that The Great Man is not forgotten in the hype.

Friday, January 03, 2014

So what the fuck's been happening, world? 2013? What *was* that shit?

Yeah well, end of the year, and what a fucking year eh? There were some real horror stories, some real nightmarish "how can humanity DO this?" moments. And I am sure the absolute lowest moment for all of us was the truly stomach-churning news emerging from Nigeria in November:

Police enforcing strict Islamic law in Nigeria publicly destroyed more than 240,000 bottles of beer in an attempt to crack down on alcohol consumption and other "immoral" behavior in the area, an official said Thursday.

Graphic scenes of a beer holocaust emerged from Nigeria in November.

Christ... all that beer... 240,000 bottles... it is so hard to see the good in the world when you read things like this. Man's inhumanity to beer, eh? It gets to you. For God's sake, world, how could we have JUST SAT ON YOUR HANDS WHILE SUCH SLAUGHTER WENT ON?!?

But, amid the carnage, there was progress. For instance, Tilburg has become the latest Dutch city to embracy "drunk voting".

For the next municipal elections in March 2014 Tilburg, the sixth biggest city of Holland, opens a special voting booths at midnight in the city centre to attract more voters. In other big cities like Rotterdam, The Hague and Groningen this was already the case four years ago. Several hundreds of people made a small stop to vote when they returned home from the bars.

Sure, this might seem a small thing, but symbolically this is an important win. I mean, just look around the world and see what happens when you force electorates to vote sober.

It can only improve the political situation.

Meanwhile, in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un showed the world *just how it is fucking done* by ordering the execution of two advisors to uncle and counter-revolutionary traitor Jang Song-Thaek -- while said to be "very drunk".

Fuck, *that* is how you rule a country! In my opinion, this style of government should be extended globally. The Australian political situation would be a *fuck load* more interesting if you never knew which political figure or high-ranking bureaucrat had been bumped off when you checked the news in the morning.

Hell, I might even start watching Q & A just to see who had survived -- especially if they show footage of the executions from the past week. Among other things, you give Labor hacks machine guns, there goes the "workers' party" in a glorious burst of gunfire and blood splatters.

'I'm drunk! Kill him!' We need a ruler like this, if only to make current affairs programs more watchable.

And they say binge drinking is out of control among young people in this country! Exactly how many people do they execute on an average night out?

The sad truth is it is all a beat up. Kids don't drink *enough*. Seriously, whenever I hear the youth of today are out of control with their drinking, my response is *if only*. In my experience, this is the most sober-minded young generation I have ever had the misfortune to meet.

Sure the media and cops and governments beat up "drunken violence", but stats actually show a *21%* decline in non-domestic violent assaults since 2008.

It is just as an excuse to give the cops more powers. And more often than not, as this horror story of a savage unprovoked violent assault from Brisbane shows, it is the *cops* you gotta worry about if you're out at night having a drink.

But on the youth... I don't get their lack of commitment to drunkenness, I just don't. I mean, I get that the price of alcohol in licensed venues is outrageous... and all the decent pubs are being gentrified into stainless-steel hellholes, and the severe undermining of the social safety net has left a generation dependent on precarious casualised work just to survive, and the pressure of actually making sure the education you increasingly pay more and more for actually translates sooner rather than later into a badly needed job is really high and... well FUCK just typing that shit makes me want a drink.

Of course, shit aint easy all round. The Global Recession begun by the 2008 financial crisis is hitting millions of people really hard, but sometimes, it is the personal stories that really bring it home. Like the heartrending story of England's Princess Michael of Kent.

Princess Michael of Kent has explained how she and her husband have been hit by austerity; meaning they can no longer dine out as it's "too extravagant".

The Princess, who is an interior designer and author, told The Times in an interview to promote her debut novel: "I am in very austere economic times too, thank you very much! We’ve cut back dramatically ..."

The Princess, who lives with her husband at Kensington Palace, added: "We invite people here [Kensington Palace]. I cook. Well, if I’m giving a dinner party I get in help."

She also told the interviewer of her love for budget carrier easyJet saying: "it’s the only direct route to Biarritz [a luxurious seaside town in south-west France]."

But there are good news stories amid all the gloom! Why, here in Australia, we just recently heard the *great news* that 2900 Holden workers have been, in Prime Minister Tony Abbott's words, "liberated" from their jobs.

Yes, no more are these longs-suffering proletarians oppressed by a reliable, livable wage! Modern-day Che Guevaras are the liberation fighters known as General Motors executives, who took millions every year in taxpayer-funded subsidies only to shut down all production when profits weren't good enough.

Sure, liberation is never easy, as Comrade Abbott acknowledges: "Some of them will find it difficult, but many of them will probably be liberated to pursue new opportunities and to get on with their lives."

'All we have to see, is that I don't belong to you and you don't belong to me! Freedom!' Holden workers have learned to appreciate George Michael's wise words now they have been liberated from a regular, decent wage.

And of course, this year we actually got to see the End of the World, and I am not talking about some shit self-referential Hollywood film. I am talking about the End of the World that wasn't broadcast -- in the Philippines post-Super Typhoon Haiyan, possibly the strongest storm to hit land on record.

In the Philippines, you'd struggle to find a single person willing to accept, or even listen to, Australian environment minister Greg "But I read It On Wikipedia" Hunt's insistence that referring to the scientifically-accepted impact of global warming on extreme weather events is "playing politics". It is hard to do that when it is a matter of life or death.

Also, last year was Australia's hottest on record and globally, 13 of the 14 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. But whatever. Nice planet we had, and all that. In more important news, what has happened in *my* life?

Well, thank you for asking, I thought we'd *never* get round to it! I've been writing my Carlo's Corner column for Green Left, coz the goddamn editor keeps insisting, no matter how hungover I try to point out I am when, a day or so after the deadline, I am pressed for copy.

And in the process of writing "Carlo's Corner", I got blogged by far right-wing climate denying crypto-fascist/Daily Telegraph comment editor Tim Blair -- after I dared to mock Australia's role in destroying the UN Warsaw climate talks -- and Blair's congratulatory celebration of this ugly fact.

I was then predictably attacked in the comment section by Blair's right-wing zombies, which is only to be expected... but one went too far and *dared* to criticise my poetry!!! MY POETRY!!! HE SPECIFICALLY LINKED TO THIS POEM WHICH IS MY ABSOLUTE MASTERPIECE!!!

I then defended my poetry, and another of these bastards, called "Right Wing Demon", said: "Carlo, so I went to the link and read your poetry. Sorry, it is not much better than my poetry which is crap. I wouldn’t be so proud of that effort if I were you."

All I can say is I *really* wanna read Right Wing Demon's poetic efforts, if his poetic efforts (and we can say with 100% certainty we are dealing with a "he") are even worse than my totally serious and and not at all written as fast I could type them while drunk masterpieces.

Asides from that, well I did some stand-up stuff, particularly via the ever-wonderful Comedy on Edge at The Pub Formerly Known As The Shannon in Chippendale). I didn't do a huge amount, really, but when I think on it, I kinda got to do some incredible shit.

* I got to take part in Green Left's annual comedy debate down in Melbourne hosted by Rod Quantock. Performing with Quantock meant a lot to me, coz he is a legend of the comedy scene -- renown for his left-wing political bent and for starring for years in all those ads as Capt'n Snooze. He also said some nice shit about me, which you can read on the poster for my own show a bit below.

* I got flown to Darwin to do a gig for the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network in August. Rod Quantock was originally going to perform at the event, but had to pull out. After they almost secured a bunch of performers with actual *names* in comedy, my name got thrown into the mix.

Never having been to the Northern Territory, I was pretty keen... until, having agreed, it was revealed the gig was just outside Darwin in Palmerston at a Sports Club with the explicit aim of drawing in the redneck locals to seek to "educate" them away from hostility to asylum seekers via a free comedy and trivia event.

My mental image of having to make a Blues Brothers-esque escape from the venue as bottles rained down around me was not altered when, before it started, a local, not knowing I was there to perform, cheerfully told me his exact views on these dickheads who'd come to his local to talk about boat people, and his personal solution to the problem of all these boats coming: blow 'em all up.

As it turns out, I had no need to worry. The locals all happily shunned the well-meaning event and stayed in the front bar while I performed to the 20-odd refugee rights supporters who had turned out. Which was fine by me... And then afterwards, I got to see Darwin and other bits of the Top End with Robbo and Conehead, who had made the trip up.

We saw the best Darwin's nightlife had to offer, featuring a violent bar brawl involving off duty soldiers. Then we went to Adelaide River to see far more socially agreeable creatures.

Adelaide River. More agreeable company than off-duty soldiers in a bar. Photo by Conehead.

* I did my first show at a festival, going up to Brisbane for the Brisbane Fringe Comedy Festival to perform "The Yucky County: Just Make Clive Palmer PM". It went well, was quite a lot of fun, and, in passing, I got Rod Quantock to give me a nice quote for publicity.

'Carlo Sands is a sharp, well-informed political comedian who crafts laughter from the absurdities of Left and Right '-- Capt'n Snooze.

* And I performed, along Twiggy Palmer (who interrupted Abbott's victory night speech), Newcastle comic Hannah G, and Michael Hing who has been on TV and shit, at Green Left's enormously successful "Welcome to the Abbottoir" in November. You can see my clip below, and all four performances are here.

'So Adelaide's bus tickets, eh?' If there is one thing I have learned performing comedy across this wide brown land of ours, it is that people love to laugh at Adelaide.

But, of course, it would be totally remiss of me to not mention the most important, inspiring and just GODDAMN GLORIOUS event in the ENTIRE WORLD for 2013 ... the Western Sydney Wanderers winning the A-League premiership in their FIRST EVER SEASON!!!

This feat was achieved in the very final game of the regular season on March 29, when many thousands of Wanderers fans made the trip up the see the mighty red and black down Newcastle 3-0 to conclude one of the most remarkable feats in sporting history.

'Who do we sing for?' Wanderers players (above) celebrate winning the Premier's Plate in the club's first ever season with the fans (below).

Well... fuck, that was glorious. But anyway, here is Texas country singer Hayes Carll summing up what it is like trying to *live* in this godforsaken hellhole of a world.

'And I'm out here in the filth and the squalor... and all I wanna do is stomp and holler...'