Archive for September, 2012

I am delighted that two very special films, both of which I saw on the big screen this year, have been nominated for a Grierson British Documentary Award.

John Grierson was a documentary film-maker who made a name for himself in the first half of the twentieth century, for films such as Drifters and Night Mail (above).  He is remembered with this prize, because he was one of those rare things – someone who changed and developed dramatically the medium he worked in. So it is down to him and other pioneers that documentary film is considered an art form in itself.

The two films I am delighted to see on the short lists of the 2012 Grierson Awards are Carol Morley’s feature documentary Dreams Of A Life and Paul Duane’s Barbaric Genius. I will write at more length about them both. They have overlapping themes of loss, grief, friendship and alienation. But are quite different in style, with Morley’s splicing interviews with dramatised scenes, and Duane’s taking on a more traditional documentary format, that still seems contemporary and fresh.

Good luck to both film-makers, I can’t wait to see their next pieces of work!

A fresh new voice in the jazz world, Zara McFarlane has been nominated for a MOBO award for Best Jazz Act.

You can vote here:

You can see her latest video here:

And also buy tickets for her London gig in October here:

‘Police and Thieves’ is a great song! Zara’s voice and vibe remind me a bit of Jill Scott but it’s sometimes unfair to make comparisons. She’s a unique talent. Good luck Zara!

I went to see Patti Smith live in concert, at the Troxy in East London this week. I am still buzzing from the experience. She was BRILLIANT!

There are a few bands and artists where I remember exactly when I got to know their music, when I got hooked. Patti Smith is one of them. In the early nineteen nineties, I had dropped out of university and was a bit lost in life. I lived with my Dad and stepmum. My stepsister would come home from her uni for the summers, and we’d sit in her attic bedroom drinking and listening to music.

I had always been, and still am I suppose, quite a ‘pop’ girl. I didn’t know much about rock and roll in its more dirty, dark, gritty form. So I would sit wide eyed and open mouthed as my quite grungey stepsister introduced me to record after record (and it was vinyl) of wondrous music. Marc  Bolan and T Rex, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, PJ Harvey, Bongwater, Nirvana, Mudhoney and Patti Smith.

Patti Smith and PJ Harvey were revelations to me. Those of you who know me as bolshy, mouthy, rude QRG may be surprised to hear that as a young woman I used to be very shy and repressed. In some ways I still am, I suppose. So these two screaming dervishes, who could also play guitar and write beautiful love songs as well as rousing anthems had me mesmerised. They are part of the fanfuckingtastic tradition of hard, kick ass Punk Women from Debbie Harry to Toyah to Siouxsie Sioux to Poly Styrene.  Patti is also a good example of the Woman Artist As Witch, with her long, scraggy dark hair, her irreverent approach to God and her witch-like refusal to conform to anyone’s idea of what a woman should look like, do or say.

Has Patti maintained her joie de vivre? Her husky but tuneful voice? Her no nonsense approach to performance? You bet she has. The 66 year old artist is as full of energy and panache as ever. And, as I proceed with alarming pace through my fifth decade, I think she is as good a role model to have as any.

The most inspiring thing about her show and her for me, currently, is how she WONT GIVE UP. The tracks she played from her current album sounded as complex and memorable as her earlier, infamous work. This Is The Girl, for example, that she dedicated to the late great Amy Winehouse sounds to me like an instant classic:

It is tempting to dismiss ageing popstars as past their peak, and just playing for the money, or because they need attention. In some cases that is probably a fair assessment. But seeing Patti Smith jumping and waving (and at one point barking like a dog) on stage, I was struck by her energy, drive, talent and POWER. Why take up knitting and re-releasing box sets (I’m looking at you Morrissey and Marr) when you could be doing what you do best, and loving every minute of it? And as if to underline my point, Patti played her old Horses track ‘Redondo Beach’ for Moz himself. ‘I went looking for you, are you gone, gone?’

But of course the climax of the gig was GLORIA and a theatre full of fans singing along: ‘G – L – O -R -I -A’! The line ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine’ is one of Patti Smith’s most famous utterances. As a very non-militant atheist I don’t tend to like songs dissing religion. But there is something reassuring about Patti’s Heresy. Partly maybe because she comes from a religious background, and though is critical of the church and its institutional status, she maintains a very spiritual ethos and passion. During the gig she spoke in support of Pussy Riot, and their blasphemous acts in Russian churches. But when at the end she told us we should ‘pray any way you fucking want to’ the whole audience seemed ready to get down on their knees.

The surest aid in combating the male’s disease of self-contempt is to be loved by a clever woman – Nietzsche

It is now well-documented that in my -frequent – arguments with feminism, my ‘sisters’ sometimes end up resorting to calling me a ‘man’ to dismiss and demonise my criticisms of their dogma. So, if the cap fits…

Recently I have made connections with some of the bloggers and activists who run A Voice For Men website. Loosely self-defined as ‘MRAs’ (men’s rights activists) these men – and a few women allies- provide a non-man-hating perspective in amongst the cacophony of misandry that is ‘mainstream’ feminist gender culture.

I like the subtitle to AVfM – ‘masculine counter-theory in the age of misandry’. It succinctly turns on its head the received wisdom that suggests it is misogyny and sexism against women that is the biggest gendered problem in society.

So I was delighted to be asked to contribute to the site. So far I have written two pieces. The first took quite a lot of soul-searching and emotional effort as it describes my break with feminism, that I grew up believing was the only logical, and moral lens through which to analyse gender. My essay is called:

Leaving The Sisterhood – A Recovering Feminist Speaks

The second is an edited post I initially put here at QRG HQ. (Thanks to  Laura Agustin for feedback which led to a few changes). It’s entitled:

Second Wave Feminism Is Dying (Slowly)

I only found the Nietzsche quote today, and I don’t know its context. But I like its suggestion that masculinity suffers from a pathological bad rep that needs to be transformed. And the suggestion that women must be involved in that shift. This is subtly but vitally different from the feminist concept that men themselves are ‘bad’ and need to change (with the help of enlightened feminist women). My view is that all that needs to be altered is how we LOOK at men and masculinity…

While I go back to my Nietzsche to see if I haven’t read too much into it, I hope you take a look at my posts at AvFM and the rest of the site.

The future is bright. The future is mixed-gendered!


Thanks again to @deanesmay for the encouragement to write for AvFM

I read two blogposts this week which deal with the subject of depression and seeking help for mental health problems. They probably struck a particular chord with me as I am currently seeing a (very good) counsellor/therapist.

The first piece is by Reese Rants where she encouraged her readers to ‘turn off the negative soundtrack’ that often accompanies us when we are beset by anxiety and unhappiness. The second is by Sue George at her blog, Bisexuality and Beyond. She discusses recent research which suggests bisexual people suffer mental health problems in greater numbers than others, and don’t seek help enough.

Whilst I have substantive comments about both articles, there was one ‘superficial’ thing I couldn’t help but notice and explore first. Both bloggers illustrate their work with a photo of a young (white), naked, woman, sitting in a  crouching position looking sad!

This reminds me of that meme that went round the internet recently, where someone had found a set of stock photos of women laughing alone with salad.

There are a number of possible reasons why Lucy Reese and Sue George chose the images they did. They are both women and so probably identify more closely with pictures of women looking depressed. But in relation to Sue’s piece, I would argue that bisexual men suffer more prejudice and biphobia than women (because it is less acceptable for men to experiment with same sex sex than for women. They immediately get labelled as ‘gay’).  So some photos of (cute, naked?) men looking sad would be appropriate here.

But as a blogger myself, sometimes we just go for pictures we like. Pictures that we instinctively feel will enhance our words in an aesthetically pleasing way. And cute naked women certainly do that, I think the whole internetz would agree! Even when dealing with the most serious subjects, we have blog hits at the back of our minds. One woman even wrote a whole book based on this concept, called ‘Marketable Depression’!

I am also reminded here of Chumbawamba’s album, ‘Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records’. It was a stark reference to what I have since termed concern porn. When covering sensitive, difficult issues such as poverty or depression, the western media often can’t help but relish in the ‘voyeurism’ involved in looking at vulnerable people. There may be a tad of that in Sue and Lucy’s choice of imagery.

As something of an ‘aesthete’ and a ‘voyeur’ myself, whilst I do have a lot of problems with concern porn, I can’t help but wish people would choose better pictures to ‘concern’ over! How about this painting by Egon Schiele entitled ‘Kneeling Woman With Head Bent Forward’?

Or Van Gogh’s evocatively named ‘Old Man in Sorrow (On the Threshold of Eternity)’?

You never know, paintings by accomplished artists might actually cheer some of us depressed readers up!

Maybe one of my ‘problems’ is that sometimes I treat mental health issues – my own and those of other people – in a flippant manner. I suspect my counsellor might call that a ‘coping mechanism’.

So this post is probably a window on my soul more than a proper criticism of the blogposts above.

However, beneath my facetious surface there lies some deep thought and struggle with issues of mental health and sexual identity.

When it came out earlier this year I criticised the Bisexuality Report that Sue refers to in her post. I was actually shocked that in 2012 bisexual people and academics were presenting bisexuality as somehow linked to mental illness! So under Sue’s post I made the following points:

‘I am not questioning the findings of the reports. But I am very unhappy with bi organisations promoting the idea that bisexual people suffer worse mental health than others.This is becausea) it falls into the ‘pathologising’ approach to sexuality that was so big in the 19th century when the ‘homosexual’ was presented as mentally ill.

b) it ignores how many people have same sex sex without ever recognising themselves as ‘bisexual’. What is their mental health like?

c) it makes out bisexuals to be a separate category distinct from gay, straight, trans, msms etc.
The thing I love most about bisexuality is it challenges the whole notion of fixed sexual identities

d) it is ‘depressing’! I am happy to campaign for better mental health services and access to services for bisexual people. But I am not happy to present bi people as prone to mental illness.

I myself do not identify as bi and I have had plenty of mental health problems in my life. But I dont have a ‘community’ to talk to. Not based on my sexual identity anyway.’

But please, if you think of me as providing a ‘negative soundtrack’ to the discussions on bisexuality and mental health, and if you want to respond to my points, don’t illustrate your response with a picture of a cute naked woman looking sad!