Jesse Lacey was the closest thing I ever had to a hero. Those who know me well (and probably most of you who don’t know me that well) know that the music of Brand New has had a huge impact on my life. They’ve been my favourite band since I was 18 and their songs, specifically the lyrics of frontman Jesse Lacey have gotten me through some tough times.
That’s why the recent revelations about his past emotionally and sexually abusive behaviour towards a minor is like a punch to the gut. I am devastated. With the recent exposure of powerful men in the entertainment industry as sexual predators, it was inevitable that sooner or later most of us would find out that someone whose work we admired would turn out to be a scumbag of the highest order. For my wife it was Kevin Spacey. More about him later. For me, it is the one person I had dared to hope it would not be.
For the last couple of days, since the news broke, I have felt sick to my stomach, imagining that this man who has had so much influence on me could do such awful things. I had been listening to their new album earlier in the day – it popped up again the next time I opened Spotify; I went to see them in concert last month. That will be the last time I ever see them live.
Honestly at this stage I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the end for Brand New. They were widely slated to break up in 2018 anyway, and if the other members of the band have any decency they’ll call it quits right now. Either way, even if they continue I can’t in good conscience give them any more of my money. Honestly, at this point I’m not sure if I can ever listen to one of their songs again. That’s going to take a lot of thinking.
Of course every time something like this comes to light there’s the discussion of separating the art from the artist. I don’t agree with this, and I believe twitter user @DILUTEDSPELLS put it pretty succinctly when they said ‘I’ve seen tweets backing Jesse Lacey: “Separate the art from the artist”. That is despicable, idiotic and terribly wrong. Those words came from vile lips, a wicked mind and a barren heart. Art comes from the soul of the artist. There is no way to separate or differentiate.’
That isn’t to say that I will deny the influence his music has had on my life. That is impossible. But I feel as though I can no longer go back and listen to songs where he half-jokingly complains about how hard it is to be a famous rock star, or how he’s a tortured soul. It must have been so fucking terrible to have to manipulate your doting, teenage fans in to helping you get off.
This brings me to his ‘apology’, and back round to Kevin Spacey. Not long after all this broke, Lacey released a statement through Brand New’s social media accounts essentially glossing over the core aspect of these revelations – that the girl in question was 15 when their interaction began – and blamed any and all past indiscretions on his sex addiction. I don’t know that throwing sex addicts as a whole under the bus is as bad as Kevin Spacey essentially using his coming out as being gay as a cover for addressing the awful things he did in the past, but it’s the same tactic. This kind of non-apology is bullshit and is designed to distract attention from what the abuser did on to how sorry we should feel for them – Lacey for having to deal privately with this addiction, and Spacey for having to live in the closet for so long.
This shit will not stand anymore. I am done. This weekend has been hard for me but I don’t want any sympathy. Your thoughts should be with the countless millions of people who suffer sexual assault and harassment every day. I don’t know the name of the girl in question, or really any details about her, but I believe her. And I believe all the other people coming forward with similar stories about Lacey, and I believe all the stories of every other person who says they’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted. This shit isn’t going to go away because a few pieces of shit get exposed. We, and by that I specifically mean men, have a responsibility to treat all women with respect, and to be vigilant about the behaviour of the people with which we associate. If you see it happening, say or do something to stop it. No more excuses.
This shit will not stand anymore.
Last night I sat in my living room with my partner watching Friday Night Lights, and for the first time in nearly three years I felt really, truly, despairingly sad.
On and off for several years, I used to suffer from some pretty bad depression. This was due to a number of factors, primarily loneliness, the deaths of several close family members and my own (extremely close) brush with the Reaper back in 2005. Thankfully, for the last few years it has been pretty absent. In that sense, I feel like I am one of the lucky ones. Some people don’t get the luxury of going three minutes without feeling the crushing weight of depression, let alone three years.
But last night I had that feeling again. It took me a little by surprise, to be honest, as it has been so long, but it was unmistakable, and it was all because of the result of the EU referendum.
My partner and I stayed up and watched pretty much the whole thing, only throwing in the towel and calling it a night when David Dimbleby announced that the BBC was calling the result in favour of leave. We were in shock. Surely there was no way this could be happening? But it was, and it just goes to prove the old adage that people on the right punish the complacency of those on the left by turning up in droves to vote for what they believe in. We saw it in the last general election, we saw it again on Thursday.
Since then I’ve run a gauntlet of emotions that have mostly centered around furious anger. I was livid, and I still am, with this country -my country- for succumbing to such pig-headed xenophobia and for believing such outright, obvious lies.
I will personally be affected very heavily by this referendum. For starters I am planning a wedding to take place in the USA in August. This wedding will have to be paid for in US Dollars, which I currently do not have. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this wedding will now cost a lot more now than it did 4 days ago when I have to change my Sterling over to Dollars.
But this isn’t why I’m mad, at least not entirely. I’m mad because I feel like a link has been severed between this country and I. It’s been some years now since I have felt even remotely close to being proud to be English. I was born in Liverpool, but spent most of my formative years living in Wales with a Welsh mother and English father, and I’ve been leaning a lot more on my Welsh heritage since I realised the implications of English nationalism.
There is a hell of a lot wrong with England and the UK in general, but at the end of the day I am still British, and for better or worse this was still my country and I understood it in a way that you can only really understand a country you grew up in.
That understanding vanished overnight on Thursday. By Friday morning I felt like I had gone through the looking glass and was in some kind of weird mirror image of my country. Even London, my adopted city of the last 5 years felt like it was a different, more sinister place. Familiar places suddenly felt jarringly unfamiliar, and I found myself looking at people on the tube and asking myself if THEY were responsible for this. I don’t know that I will ever get over that feeling.
This result has served to show me that I don’t belong in my own country anymore. I don’t feel welcome here. I recognise that this comes from a place of extraordinary privilege. I’m not Polish, or a person of colour, or Muslim. I will not be beaten up in the streets for my race or skin colour as is already happening in the wake of this monumentally appalling decision. Nonetheless, I can hear it in the back of my head as I walk down the street, a dull voice saying over and over “If you don’t agree with us you know where the door is.”
I’ve made no secret of my decision to leave the UK, made in December last year when my wonderful partner agreed that we should get married and move to the USA. That decision was made from a position of choice. We assumed, wrongly it seems, that if the experiment we conducted with moving to America went awry somehow that Britain would be a (relatively) safe option to return to. She has an Irish passport and therefore luckily will have indefinite right to remain regardless of what happens. Others are not so lucky.
Now it doesn’t seem like such a safe bet. It feels as though Britain has been given its last chance to prove it is anything other than completely fucked, and it didn’t just miss it, it blew right past it waving a Swastika flag. I feel as though I’m not leaving because I want to anymore, I feel like I’m leaving because I have to.
The bluster and lies of the leave campaign are already unravelling before their eyes. The strong economy they promised has gone down the toilet as the Pound takes the biggest single currency drop ever overnight and the UK loses its AAA credit rating. The strong negotiating position the promised has gone as the EU demands that we begin the process of leaving immediately, not at our leisure. The £350million a week for the NHS…well, surely no-one ever believed that one, right?
I’m genuinely worried that in 5 years time if we do decide that the USA isn’t for us that there will be no Britain left to return to. Even if there is, will I feel enough of a bond to want to come back? I love my family and I love my friends, but I worry that I’ll feel such resentment that it’ll override my desire to even come back and see them regularly.
I’ve tried to avoid saying too much on how I feel about the leave voters. I understand that people who voted leave aren’t stupid for doing so, even if I did say as much in anger a couple of times on Friday morning. Many of them, the Boris Johnsons, Rupert Murdochs and Nigel Farages of this world are far from stupid. They are cold, manipulative, highly intelligent racists and xenophobes that will manipulate millions of people, many of whom have been disenfranchised by the institutions they represent, to further their own personal gains.
I also recognise that not everyone who voted leave is racist. There are a whole bunch of good reasons to leave the European Union, they just don’t outweigh the reasons to stay. For a while there was even a more balanced left wing case for leaving that vanished when Jeremy Corbyn switched allegiances to Remain. However, the Leave campaign has been run on a platform of bald-faced xenophobia. Even the Remain campaign was talking about what to do about immigration. The whole campaign has been one giant, racist, scaremongering clusterfuck.
Any vote to leave has to come with the implicit understanding that even if you did not vote leave for racist reasons, you are willingly voting for a policy that will categorically lead to mass xenophobia and racist violence. This has already been proved by the attacks around the country. You are responsible for this. You made this happen, and that is just as bad.
I’m sick of the narrative that the losers should take it on the chin, reconcile with those who fucked their futures, those who have caused so many people to live in fear of their lives because of the colour of their skin or where they happened to be born. Fuck that. Do you really think that if Remain had won that Farage and company wouldn’t be kicking up the almightiest stink ever? I’m angry. I’m furious. I’m not going to forgive, I’m not going to forget, and I’m not going to kiss and make up with these people.
This is why I’m sad. I’m sad because hate and fear won, and it has cut me off from Britain in a way that can’t be fixed. To feel irreparably severed from your country, even if it is full of bigots, is very jarring indeed.
There’s nothing left for me here.
Looking back on 2013 one of the things I haven’t managed to do anywhere near as much as I would have liked to is write.
Of course I set up this website, and a number of the pieces featured in my links section were penned this year, but I really don’t have an awful lot in the way of output to show for my writing in 2013.
I did to write my first ever short story, and have had some excellent feedback on the first draft, but it is far from completion (and has been since summer), and even my attempt at NaNoWriMo, which usually yields 50,000 words every November regardless of my other efforts, was unsuccessful.
There are probably some perfectly legitimate reasons why I didn’t manage more than this. 2013 has been the first year I have spent continually in full time employment since I left university; I suffered from a rather debilitating bout of depression for a couple of months which made motivation to do almost anything non-existent. So on and so forth.
But I would love to write for a living, and almost nobody has had the luxury of being able to sit down at 18 with the certainty that they have a full career as a novelist ahead of them. Terry Pratchett was a journalist and a press officer for a power station before he hit it big with the Discworld series. Plus someone very wise once told me that the best way to fight depression is through action, as inaction only leaves more time to stew over your problems.
My point is that if I want to achieve this goal, and I do, I have to bloody well pull my finger out. I want to motivate myself to increase my writing output, because I’m not just going to become a better writer overnight. Like anything it takes practice, and 2014 is going to be the year I get that practice.
And I need your help. Yes, you, back there in the cravat.
What I want to do in 2014 is to write a short story every week. 52 short stories that at the end of the year I can put together in a compilation. The problem is that even creative minds like mine (one day I will patent my automatic sun tan lotion application booth) run out of ideas when faced with having to come up with that many stories, so I want the majority to be commissioned.
So, if you would like me to write you a short story on any subject then please let me know either by leaving a comment on this post, sending me a tweet, or through the Contact Me page.
I reserve the right to refuse a subject if I find it too offensive, so please don’t try to shock, but otherwise anything goes. I won’t refuse something because I don’t know how to write the genre or because it would be too hard. Be as vague or as detailed as you like!
Story lengths will obviously vary but I will try and make each one at least 1500-2000 words, and the more I’m enjoying writing it the longer the story will be. (Sentence carefully worded to avoid innuendo…) Stories will be written in order of the requests being received.
Well, that’s the crux of it, so if you want to get involved and help me come a bit closer to realising my dream whilst getting your own personalised short story out of it, then please drop me a line. I’d be glad to hear from you all!
Hello everyone. Apologies for the delay between updates. A number of factors have been getting in the way of my ability to write stuff to put up here recently, most notably National Novel Writing Month, which I intend to write about at greater length at some point.
One of the factors is that I have been going through a bit of a rough patch lately, and I have found it difficult to motivate myself to write anything at all, let alone blog posts.
I was given a piece of advice a while ago, and that if you are struggling with depression it can often help to look to the positives in your life as a means of beginning to drag yourself up out of the doldrums to help get you to a place where you can be happy about yourself again.
With this in mind a thought came to me the other day. Most of the people reading this will likely know that in 2005 I was diagnosed with and treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. I’ve never been one to use my illness as a crutch or an excuse except in circumstances where an after effect of the illness or treatment (which was, in many ways, worse than the condition) were genuinely the cause of my inability to meet a commitment.
In fact I’ve always tried to have the most positive attitude possible regarding the whole thing and, besides having joints that an 80 year old would be ashamed of, I’ve not come out of the whole thing too badly really. Honestly I am mostly just glad to be alive.
This wasn’t always necessarily guaranteed however, as, at some point at the end of June/beginning of July 2005 I was put under sedation, which is one or two steps short of being placed in an artificial coma.
The previous week I had undergone total body irradiation as the final major. part of my treatment programme. Nuking the whole body like that does rather put paid to the immune system, and I was warned that I would, while it recovered, be very susceptible to infection.
Despite the best efforts of the hospital staff I rather inevitably caught pneumonia. My temperature went well over 40 degrees, and let me tell you, when that happens you start to hallucinate some weird shit, like seven hour episodes of Emmerdale.
I don’t remember any of this, hence why I am a bit sketchy about the exact dates it all happened, but I can only assume I went full Exorcist, speaking in tongues, rotating my head 360 degrees and floating several feet above the bed, so they made the decision to sedate me for my own safety. Or so I didn’t possess any of the doctors or something. Let’s go with the second one.
Those of you that have had pneumonia, or know someone that has, will know that it can really just gut your body, so you can imagine how dangerous it is for someone whose natural defences have decided to do one. At some point during my two weeks of sedation my lungs failed and for a while stubbornly refused to get their shit together and work again.
A little known statistic that a doctor told me is that if one of your organs fails then you have a 95% chance of it recovering and surviving. If its compatriots start coming out in solidarity, however, your chances of pulling through drop to 5%.
At one point during this time my parents were told by one of the doctors in the ICU that if my lungs didn’t recover within two days it would pretty much be curtains, and no encore.
Obviously this didn’t happen as I am here to tell the tale, but waking up to be told that you had effectively been given two days to live is a bit of an eye opening moment in your life.
This fact came up in a conversation at work the other day (we’re a sickly bunch) and it got me wondering how long exactly it had been.
Well, I can’t be 100% certain due to the ambiguity of dates and the fact that I was basically in a coma when this call was made, but I can say with absolute certainty that within the last month it passed the 3000 day mark.
3000 odd days ago death came knocking, and rather than go along willingly I told him his shoe was untied and kicked him in the knackers when he wasn’t paying attention.
I recall someone once getting outraged at the suggestion that cancer is a ‘fight’ because it implied that the people that didn’t make it, the ones that just couldn’t beat the thing, hadn’t tried hard enough or something.
As anyone who has had cancer, or has seen someone they love go through cancer treatment will know, it is a fight. You have to fight every day because if you give up you can be damn certain that it will eat you alive, quite literally.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving up. Some people just do not have the energy to do it, or they feel that their lives are fulfilled enough that they can go to their end satisfied. For some people the horrors of going through radiotherapy or chemotherapy to potentially tack another couple of years of poor quality life isn’t worth it.
But fighting gives people a chance. Not everyone that fights will win, because after all no-one said it was a fair fight. But some will survive, against all the odds, and live on to fight another day. I am fortunate enough to be one of those people, but there are those who were close to me that weren’t, including my own mother.
So from now on when I can only see the negatives in life I’ll turn to the one positive that, as long as I am alive will only become more and more amazing. If you are in a similar situation I can only advise you to do the same. Because if death comes calling for me again, and he will, I’ll be ready this time, because I’ve already lived 1500 times longer than I should have. And he can fucking bring it.
Finally, I would like to finish this post with the words of Julian Dreyer of La Dispute:
“And sing for all your friends and family; sing for those who didn’t survive.
But sing not for their final outcome; sing a song of how they tried.
We live amidst a violent storm; leaves us unsatisfied at best,
So fill your heart with what’s important, and be done with all the rest.”
Delivering the speech.
Last weekend I was extremely privileged to see two of my best friends tie the knot. Even more so, I was asked to give a short speech at the reception, in conjunction with another very close friend.
It was, I have to say, a very nerve-wracking but enjoyable experience. The thing is, it really shouldn’t have been.
From the age of 10 right through to a year or so after I left university I was regularly involved in amateur dramatics, performing in front of crowds larger than that which was present at the wedding. I didn’t even have to learn lines for the speech!
Further to that I gave dozens of presentations at university. Almost all of them to people who knew their stuff but none of them came close to the nerves last Saturday.
I have actually spoken at a wedding once before, and rather less joyously at the funeral of my mother in 2007. And yes, I was extremely nervous before both of them, for completely different reasons.
At the first wedding, in 2010, I was convinced no-one would laugh, that my jokes would fall flat. It didn’t help that at the time I was struggling with very severe cataracts, which made reading the words a bit more of a challenge.
At the funeral, well, I just wanted to make sure that I gave mum an appropriate send off, which in hindsight I have no doubt that I did.
I’ve always said that standing up in front of those crowds, particularly the latter are two of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I thought this time would be different.
I read the speech out in front of a few friends who would be at the wedding, and my partner-in-speech did the same. No nerves at all. I absolutely nailed it.
‘I’ve done it all before, people laughed last time, anyway it’s a wedding, unless you’re being offensive people are legally obliged to laugh or something,’ I kept telling myself in the run up, and it worked to an extent. The several glasses of free Pimm’s I inhaled at the reception certainly helped too.
When the speeches were announced I was feeling OK, but then as the previous one finished and I was preparing to go, it all went to hell. All of the possible scenarios went through my head at once and I lost it.
But, of course the speech went off without a hitch like it did before, and, if I’m privileged enough to be asked a third time, it likely will again. So why the nerves? Given my history of getting up in front of crowds of people and talking this kind of thing should be my bread and butter.
The only answer I can think of is the personal nature of the words I was saying. A wedding is obviously a huge moment in the lives of two people and to screw that up by saying the wrong words is a momentously bad thing to do.
The words you say on stage are, unless you intend to pursue a career in acting, largely inconsequential. But the words you write and say about someone you love (platonically of course – that would be awkward) are much more meaningful than that.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that to anyone who is bricking it about delivering a speech like that, be it for a wedding, a funeral, a bar mitzvah, whatever, the nerves are there for a reason. They’re there to remind you that the words you are about to say actually mean something, that you care enough for the person you’re saying them about that you don’t want to screw up.
And that is why, despite the weeks of worrying I got it right, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. That and all the free alcohol.
Finally I would like to extend the heartiest possible congratulations to Llinos and Cara for taking the plunge, and wish you eternal happiness and lots of dragons.
I was at work the other day getting ready to pack up and come home when an email pinged in to the organisation’s info@ mailbox. The day was nearly over but I decided to do my duty and read it in case someone needed some urgent information, and boy am I sure glad I did.
We get quite a lot of spam in to our various mailboxes. Most of them are just companies in India trying to hawk their website design skills to us, or someone offering energy or telecoms solutions that we don’t need. But this email was an absolute cracker. I haven’t seen an email like this in years, and I felt as though I needed to share it with the world.
With no explanation offered whatsoever, I present unto you ‘Black Judgement time train hurtling to hell with humanity, the Messiah comes’:
We have the doomsday
Character of God the Messiah comes we have the doomsday and stand just before the last day but also in front of the biggest holocaust of all time Every second person comes if only for the poor desecrated gassed Murdered Jews to hell. This is the mere revenge for Auschwitz Treblinka Kristallnacht, etc.
Instead of calling Christianity into paradise has brought all mankind into hell reunified Nazi Germany. So I have to call when the Apostle Abraham cradle of humanity all people for the last time in paradise. All men are invited to the table of the Lord’s Supper is already preparing for the Day of Judgment. This applies to all people. For Christians, pagans and all religions. We are just before the Last Day and do not have any more ground. Of the earth you will again see nothing more.
Judgement, Black Time, train hurtling to hell with all of humanity. The deaths require your execution. God of all mankind is condemned to hell Final Solution
The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin is the Gates of Hell humanity and should be immediately demolished or all of humanity is thrown into hell. No Human Being is then saved. Thanks to the Brandenburg Gate, we have long been the third world war everyone is now punished just as hard as Adolf Hitler
Will you all go to hell because of the ridiculous Nazitor Brandenburg in Berlin, the Germans block the way to Paradise for about 7 billion people. A gigantic crime. If the Brandenburg Gate is not torn down immediately and the Second World War is not properly atoned Germany has brought all mankind into hell Final Solution
Whoever does not repent and repented not have eternal life in heaven lost is still added into the eternal fire The final solution applies to everyone Especially for the German Bundestag
Character of God must be immediately distributed worldwide so not all go to hell and come see pictures my homepage
I will complain in the U.S. and even in Washington, if not what will be done immediately. Then the parliamentary and even the federal government is a nasty surprise!
The Apostle Abraham Cradle of Humankind
People need to withstand enormous pain in the lake of fire without burning himself. The screams are gigantic and for all ages. Hell is the harshest possible punishment in body and soul.
Screams of hell
Million boilers are in hell. In each tank, a man of wallowing in the glowing lava is. Hell has gigantic proportions
John Lennon the boiler
The noted Dutch humanist Erasmus once said that “Your library is your paradise,” and considering how much of a keen reader I am I would have expected to feel a greater draw to them in general.
It has, however, been some years since I’ve been a member of a library of any sort, and that was more by necessity than design. I highly doubt I would have come out of university with more than a handshake and a kick up the backside if I hadn’t devoted at least some time to the reading of books I took from the campus library.
The last time I was in a public library is a lot longer ago than my university days. As a child I used to be a member of the local library in the small town I grew up in on the North Wales coast.
The range of books was understandably limited, given that the building’s floor space probably wasn’t much bigger than that of my, uh, bijou London studio flat, but in that tiny room I read some books that set me off along paths that I’m still treading to this day. To give but one example I’m pretty certain the first Discworld book I ever read in primary school came from that library and now I’ve got practically an entire set of bookshelves filled with Pratchett’s work.
However, while my love for literature flourished through my teens and in to my twenties, my love for libraries apparently did not. Since I left university in 2009 the thought of taking out a library card had never even crossed my mind until a couple of months ago when I moved out of my flat in Clapton in East London and took out the aforementioned petite domicile in which I now reside in the rather more upmarket Muswell Hill.
One of the first things I noticed as I was walking to the flat viewing is that there was a library a mere two minute walk away at the end of the street. Any excuses I had were about to run out, and finally after three months of dithering I yesterday became a member.
I was interested to find that in addition to a pretty reasonable selection of books they also had a couple of large shelves full of DVDs to borrow. Take that, Blockbuster, eh?
I’ve never been a particularly broad reader when it comes to fiction. Take a look at my shelves and you’ll certainly see quite a wide variety of history books and course books from university with a smattering of ‘classic’ literature and political/philosophical theory, but otherwise I mostly read science fiction and fantasy. Six of the eight books in the pile on my bedside table right now are SF/F. Other than the occasional political thriller that’s pretty much it.
As I glance over the contents of my shelves I can’t help but wonder if the disappointingly narrow focus of the material contained therein is somehow related to my prolonged absence from the British public library system.
Perhaps when I’ve reached the bottom of my current pile I’ll use this opportunity to broaden my horizons. Who knows what possibilities it might open up?
(As an afterword, this map give a rather depressing overview of the state of the British library system as it stands today. Perhaps, if you are able, you might take the time to show your support to your local library and keep Britain reading.)
Welcome to my website. I’ve set this up to keep track of all the work that I do for other websites and as somewhere that I can post any stories that I’ve written or any thoughts that doesn’t fit in to the categories of the other sites that I contribute to. I hope you enjoy, and any feedback is welcome.