Rush Hour Crush

This exert is from David Holbrook’s essay Magazines – with special reference to the exploitation of pseudo-sexuality, that was part of the Pelican sociology book Discrimination and Popular Culture, 1973.

People travel vast distances to work (and on the journey they read manic journals and magazines, which supply them with sensations). They move from one meaningless sprawl to another, for the inner city environments become increasingly impersonal and ugly. There, they are largely engaged in meaningless tasks, which offer them no sense of personal value. They are offered relief from the meaninglessness of their work and environment by office flirtations, pin-up and pop-singer cults, film and television talk, cosmetic and fashion preoccupations.
As Denise Levertov writes:

In tiled and fireproof corridors
the typists shelter in their sex;
perking beside the half-cock clerks
they set a curl on freckled necks.
The formal bird above the doors

is set in metal whorls of flame.
The train goes aching on its rails.
Its rising cry of steel and wheels
intolerably comes, and fails
on walls immaculate and dumb.

Comptometers and calculators
compute the frequency of fires,
adduce the risk, add up the years.
Drawn by late-afternoon desires
the poles of mind meet lust’s equators…

(Typists in the Phoenix Building)

On such pursuits the modern office or factory worker often spends a disproportionate amount of income, in a desperate search for a sense of identity and meaning. Yet, as we know, people also yearn for much more exacting, or romantic, or challenging opportunities – as youth does especially. At home, the mother, alone in her comfortable, efficient, and hygienic living-box, often suffers from isolation, frustration, and boredom. She has few opportunities to find something meaningful to which to devote her life, beyond herself. As the suburban dweller ranges farther out from the city centre the tedium and strain of commuter travel and the lack of meaning in his work and lesiure – all threaten him with dehumanizaton. So, he bravely tries to find meaning in his family life, or in what social life he can find, amid the deficiency of provision for creative leisure, or service or ‘giving out’. But his life tends all the time to make it more and more difficult to find individuality, humaness and meaning, and this schizoid dehumanization is felt increasngly in all the great populations of suburban sprawls from Tokyo to Greater London.
In such cultural deserts the periodical press can only superficially and temporarily relieve the cultural starvation of the population at large. The first Daily Mail speaks in an editorial of being designed for commuter travel, in 1890. Since then, increasingly, the mass media have educated us to believe that the solution to the problem of life is through the acquisition of personal possessions and sensations, and implicitly, that an acquisitive attitude to all experience is a valid one. That we find the point of life through acquiring things or even experiences is a lie, and it is this deceit implicit in popular commercial entertainment which makes it nihilistic in effect, by contrast with the true arts and live entertainment.

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This Is A Paper, But This Is Not News

With the media and fake news at the fore of the ‘news’, along with the far-right on the streets, here’s a track from back in 1985. It was on the Here Comes The Blues 6 track album. I wore mine out ages ago.

Anti-Fascist

This piece of writing is from 1977 and is in the first Hackney Writer’s Workshop anthology.

It is written in huge four foot high letters. It can be seen clearly streets away.
It is a white paint daubing on a high brick wall which shouts BAN FASCISM.
It has been there ever since I can remember and that’s almost twenty years. Its paint is now beginning to fade. I remember seeing it when I had no conception of the words meaning, and I remember not asking my parents in case it was something rude.
It is unfortunate that I ever did grow up to know what it meant, that it should be a word stll relevant in the modern world.
Maybe it was scrawled up there by two young Jews with a brush and bucket of paint at the tme of the Mosley street riots. I can almost see them in the dark night slapping on the paint carefully but quickly and all the time keeping a watchful eye on the empty streets.
Having finished their night’s labour I imagine them running off into the dark not daring to look at the slogan until the following morning when along with a hundred others they could tut and gasp at the cheek of the graffiti artist’s work.
“Who could have done such a thing?”, they would say mockingly and sharing a grin. There’s a funny thing about that sign. If you stand very close to the wall, it’s just lines and circles. It tells you nothing. Yet just by standing back a few yards the message is very clear.
Sometimes one must be free of oppression to understand that he has been oppressed.
But what of them now? What of the brave hotheads who felt they could not live that night through without advertising their emotions. Are they still as heated and eager to alight the world or have the drops of time extinguished the flame. Maybe they are tired and apathetic, maybe they are dead. No matter if they are either. For a little while at least they have left a tribute to the people they were and the politics of compulsion.
The work of thos graffiti artists is as deep and honourable as anything hanging in the national gallery. Maybe more so. It doesn’t belong in a museum though but where it is, in the street. Its audience is you and me. It is a plea and a warning.
Pray the fading white paint need never be renewed.

Roger Mills

The Woman I Was Supposed To Be

This poem was in Cheryl B’s 1998 collection, Motor Oil Queen. The much missed Cheryl was born in 1972 and was a favourite on New York’s spoken word scene. She was working class and wrote about class, sexuality, feminism and swore a lot. She had a fierce sense of humour which characterised her poetry.
Her revolt was language and in spelling and using words correctly.
She read many times in the UK and influenced Salena Godden and Roddy Lumsden, amongst others.

The Woman I Was Supposed To Be

The woman I was suposed to be has long highlighted hair and fake green contact lenses.

The woman I was suposed to be has had liposuction to remove the tiny packets of fat and other indecencies from her body.

The woman I was suposed to be cries during Hallmark commercials.

The woman I was suposed to be loves tasti-d-lite, tanning salons and precious moments statues.

The woman I was suposed to be has a successful career in a professional field and/or a rich husband.

The woman I was suposed to be wears a gold pendant around her neck that says “spoiled rotten”, “princess”, or spells her name out in diamonds.

The woman I was suposed to be enjoys shopping at Pier 1 imports wth her mother.

The woman I was suposed to be doesn’t sleep around, but gives blow jobs because if there’s no intercourse then it isn’t sex.

The woman I was suposed to be represses her lesbian desires.

As I sit here writing this, I think of the many ways my life falls short of these expectations and sometimes I question my choices. How I have missed out on this woman’s life sugar highs and valium lows where dreams are kept safely locked in a bedside journal and not a hair falls out of place.

I imagine that she is still a part of me, she lives in the fat on the back of my arm and when I feel that uncontrollable urge to match my socks with my t-shirt she is asserting her prowess over me. When my cheap panties cost more than my weekly food budget it is she who has purchased them.

As a matter of fact I could blame all the ills of my life on her, but that wouldn’t be fair.

Maybe I’m more like her than I let on
maybe we are just two peas stuck in the same pod
two potheads stuck in front of the same t.v.
except that I have control of the remote.

Cheryl B

October 1936

From Stepney Words II, 1971.

October 1936

We stood at Gardiner’s Corner,
We stood and watched the crowds,
We stood at Gardiner’s Corner,
Firm, solid, voices loud.

Came the marching of the blackshirts,
Came the pounding of their feet,
Came the sound of ruffians marching,
Where the five roads meet.

We thought of many refugees
fleeing from the fascist hordes,
The maimed, the sick,
The young, the old,
Those who had fought the fascist lords.

So we stopped them there at Gardiner’s,
We fought and won our way.
We fought the baton charges,
No fascist passed that day!

Milly Harris
Age 65

Disco Rhymes

This poem comes from Ahdri’s 1985 collection Speshal Rikwes that was published in Toronto, Canada.

Back In ’78

Some were punking
down in the city
even up in the sticks
others were funking
out in the suburbs
getting down/and around
to a black/black sound
Back in ’78

Matching red eyes
to cheekbones
mascara tint to skin/tone
sweeping coat
to weather the cold
long skirts and heels
to thrill his soul

Red-wined lips/yellow-nicked
by two
forgetful snow
on ruined hairdo
carefully preened
for the club circuit routine
Back in ’78

“Dinkel’s” style backing up
“Le Tube”/with slick/slick chicks
and cool/I mean/real cool dudes
while “Checkers” checked
into the money scene
the studio swung
with real live queens
doing the club circuit routine
Back in ’78

Yeaaa/aaa/ahh
you had to ‘hustle’
or else ‘freak out’
cause “K.C. & his “Boys”
had lost their clout
but they were stll about/
they were still about

And “Le Chic”
had their pick
of the good/good times/
disco rhymes:
good times and rhymes
fast food and wine
(two glass at a time)
liming/rhyming
bad/bad/timing
Back in ’78

Drive in our car
stop at every bar
punked and funked
eat a lot of junk/
eat and sleep
with nothing to reap
Back in ’78
every morning
get up late
stopped from school
broke all the rules
never knew them
just who were the fools
cause the year went by
my, how time flies!?!
no warning/no sign
Oooops ’79
too much liming/rhyming
bad/bad/timing

disco/ver/ed too late
not to play with fate

back in ’78

Ahdri Zhina Mandiela