polaroids
From a friend I've never met - the best round up of 2016 celebrity deathfest
Posted on the 19th December 2016 in the category sport



If you had told me twenty years ago I would have friends that I'd never met then I would have said you are mad. Then again if you would have told a wide-eyed me at on a Sunday morning there would be a pub in One Stop Shopping Centre which starts serving at 9am I'd have said your stark raving bonkers.

But thanks to social media I do have friends I've never met. Jez Hemming is one of those friends. Back in 2009 when I was persona none grata in West Midlands Media for my YouTube Two Fingers at the Brum Mail I was offered an olive branch by Danny Kelly on Radio WM. He stuck his neck out as his then boss was friends with my old boss who I had pissed off royally and had stopped presenters reporting the YouTube stuff when every other radio outlet in the city were revelling in my infamous idiocy.

I became a regular on his show reviewing papers and then every Friday doing a round up of wacky internet stories. One of those segments Jez was listening, he is a Brummie by birth but lives in North Wales, and he was in Brum listening to the show on the off chance. He liked what he heard and looked me up on Twitter. I was being followed by the Urbane Guerrilla. Great name I thought.

I was running Goggle-eye online at the time and asked the Internet for a Blues writer. Jez obliged. His copy was great, he loves the Blues and it showed in his writing. I'm well past hating the Blues with a passion now, as a young buck most weeks when I was only a weird second away from getting my head kicked in by Blues fans in some early hours drinking den it all seemed so real. But now, who gives a shit. So a mutual respect and admiration was forged.

After Goggle-eye collapsed we lost touch. Then a few years ago I got a message which contained one of my biggest achievements of my years in the game. It was Jez, he was doing a journalism course in Lancaster and told me he was on the verge of chucking it in, he was in his 40s and trying to enter journalism at an age most have thrown in the towel to go into PR.

He had read Obama and Me: The Incredible True Story of a YouTube Sensation and my tales of rambling madness and love for this dying game had made him change his mind and stick with his quest to be a journalist.

He now works for the North Wales Daily Post. That I played a part in this happening makes me very proud. And he is a bloody good journalist. Like me an old timer in a newsroom of bright young things who are naturally more adept at working within a hierarchical structure and are copy machines. What is needed in the newsroom of 2016.

But me and Jez still have our jobs, because we get great stories, you could not have newsroom full of hacks like Me and Jez but I'll argue till the day I drop down dead prematurely living on my own with a pot noodle in my hand that every newsroom needs a Jez or Me.

And like me Jez has had to work in this intense and demanding environment whilst being a carer, only someone who has done that week after week, month after month and year after year understands how sapping it is on mind and body.

Like me Jez likes to write. And he sent me something which is sublime. It is like poetry. I have written stuff like this before and I know how hard it is, it's phonetic, it's the written word but it is all in the reading of it, out loud by a Brummie preferably.

As this year of celebrity death nears to an end there will be a lot of stuff written about those who have shuffled, jumped or were pushed off this mortal coil and I bet nothing will be better than this.

 

2016 - Annus of Horribilis - Jez Hemming

I could have lied and said I’d cried when any of these celebrities died - But it’s fair to say, if the year was a ride It would have been a car crash, despite the fake grief for people we didn’t know.

Colonel Abrams no longer trapped with the crap that he rapped And Robert Stigwood became dead-wood as only he could. If you didn’t know, he was the geezer behind Saturday Night Fever, Aged 81, so not a big surprise when I heard he’d gone.

Another for the reaper was DJ Ed Stewart, Stewpot, But that wasn’t the most famous name to flee - that was David Bowie. The Starman, Ashes to Ashes, funk to funky, The man who fell to earth and outed Major Tom - the junkie.

Another to act out his final jape – the man aka Professor Snape, The camp Sheriff of Nottingham - Alan Rickman, A further loss to the luvvies and the hams was the beardy bloke who played Grizzly Adams, And the furnace heat is on for another one, because Glenn Frey was also done.

Frank Finlay will be an inlay on the celebrity tomb as he too drifted away, Twas sad, but this was very, when news broke of the demise of Sir Terry, His eyes and his ECG - Blankety Blank. Synonymous with Children in Need, for which he got a fee he didn’t need.

Among the members of well known bands who shuffled off to their Boogie Wonderlands, Maurice White, Earth Wind and Fire, great singer but sadly a consummate dier. Pete Burns failed to thrive when he gave us the answer to Dead or Alive, But he was not the only one goin’, so too was song-writing poet, Leonard Cohen.

In the lottery of life another loser, was George Martin, fifth Beatle, the producer, On the conveyor belt of those who passed Cliff Michelmore breathed his last And another robbed of life’s sweet magic, Paul Daniels disappeared, now was that tragic? It was for Debbie McGhee - but not as heart-breaking for me.

It was “Goodnight from me” in 2016, if you liked the Two Ronnies you’ll know what I mean, Another whose circadian rhythms went terminally wonky was that bloke Henry from Drop The Dead Donkey, Though he wasn’t the last to lose his spark, Because Howard Marks, the salty old scoundrel, became food for the sharks.

David Gest was past his best. Well I assume this is true as they laid him to rest And despatched to his heaven was the Welshman that starred in that awful Blake’s 7, It wasn’t good, nowhere near as good as Victoria Wood, Her life now replete, she left an unplayed piano and its empty seat.

The life of Prince was this year evinced, his purple face erased in a deluge of Purple Rain, never to be seen again, Like that literary Liver Bird – Carla Lane. The next departure we were to learn was the untimely ghosting of Caroline Ahearn, She was Royle family, Mrs Merton, and too premature for her final curtain.

Wilder still the end of Gene, who exited his final scene, Young Frankenstein, his best roles forgotten as Alzheimer’s sent Wonka to an end so rotten, Then Yorkshire born and Yorkshire bred, Jacko’s inspiration, Rod Temperton, was Yorkshire dead. Joined on the Viking burial barge by Jimmy Perry – they don’t like it up ‘em sarge.

Harper Lee wrote her final words, killing her instead of Mockingbirds, And Feck Arf Frank Kelly, Father Jack - no longer sweary but eternally smelly. Another whose work/life balance was overdrawn was the Man From Uncle actor, Robert Vaughan, And we learned Manuel was unwell as Andrew Sachs slipped through life’s fragile cracks.

A year of toil and watching stellar names shuffle off their mortal coil Not having had our fill of constant morbidity, We bade farewell to sporting greats: John Cruyff and Muhammad Ali.

Yet Katy Hopkins lives and breathes and spits her venom at refugees, And Sir Cliff Richard, he’s still here, protesting to the end that he’s not…going anywhere. And Donald Trump, his bloody face like a porcine rump, With promises to throw away, to be caught by the bigots of the KKK, The President erect, leader of the right-wing, white-wing, post-truth sect.

Brexit wrecks it, Jim’ll never fix it, and Cameron, disgraced, raced to a sharp exit, Intolerance and arrogance and dark, satanic hubris, The angriest year I’ve ever known, The Annus of Horribilis.

PS: I’m sure you’ve had your fill, But late news in, The sandman just got AA Gill.

And Zsa Zsa is no-more.



Trump won - Now Everybody Knows - That's How it Goes
Posted on the 23rd November 2016 in the category sport



"Everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows the fight was fixed

The poor stay poor, the rich get rich

That's how it goes

Everybody knows"

Leonard Cohen - Everybody Knows.

 

As I walked the streets in New York the day after the election it was obvious everybody knew.

Before I'd even sat down for breakfast a fellow hotel guest, a gentle lady in her 60s, cornered me to tell her how petrified she was because as an artist she was scared of being banned from working. Hours before a pretty lawyer in her 20s broke down in tears about her fears of being punished for having an abortion if she was raped and a man in the lift just said "the Supreme Court, man," as much to himself than to me.

New York was weirdly quiet, quieter than I'd ever known. Women were scared because they might not be able to make decisions about their own bodes, immigrants were scared because either they or someone they knew faces being snatched from their bed and kicked out of America. People were preoccupied with their own thoughts and the fear was etched on their faces, because they knew.

The city that never sleeps had woken up in a depressive funk, as if woken up suddenly after taking a shedload of sleeping tablets hours before, the Big Apple was awake but shaken to the core. Dazed and confused.

I'd had about an hour's sleep becuase I'd stayed up till 4am for a radio interview that thankfully had not ended my career. But what freaked me as I wandering the New York streets wondering about stuff was that Leonard Cohen was dead.

In my two weeks in North Carolina, Philadelphia, Lancaster, Baltimore and New York I'd picked Leonard Cohen's Everybody Knows as the tune of the campaign. I'd even ensured it was playing during one of my Facebook Live posts. The song's sense of forboding captured the election of The Evils of Two Lessers perfectly. Had he known the result before he had died? Did he think his lifetime of encapsulating progressive causes had achieved nothing?

What did Cohen think of Trump, whose contrite acceptance speech was hardly Obama's A Change Is Gonna Come but then again what will ever beat that magical night in 2008. There were people dancing in the streets and grown men crying with happiness in hip hop clubs as the sun came up. Politics had done that, and politics this year had left the coastal cities bereft and disbelieving, inland they were celebrating, but they were not dancing in the streets.

When Reagan was elected people thought he was crazy but he turned out to be a beloved president, if you ignore the war on drugs, Central America and New Orleans (he introduced over 21 age drinking and they tried to fight back using their "Wont Bow Down, Don't Know How" mantra only to be told they would get any money to build roads, schools and levies).

On the radio the bloke who called 12 elections in a row right admitted that Nostradamus had not even factored in Trump, even if you count references to trumpets.

But he said as Hillary won the popular vote so he had actually called the winner, sort of.

Like he had with Al Gore in 2000, and how similar Hilary and Gore are, career politicians who fluffed their lines becuase they were too cautious, too safe and too machine politicians who were either not brave to stand by principles or had no principles. She also reminds me of Gordon Brown, a politician with a brilliant mind who coveted the top job for so long it consumed them and then when they got in front of the electorate they were defined by wanting power. And it was seen as "their turn" but politics does not work that way. They never had the people skills of Tony Blair or Bill Clinton, politics is about emotion, Tony and Bill connected with people, they made them feel something inside, Hillary and Gordon did not, and could not inspire.

I called the election for Hillary, like the majority of political correspondents, pollsters and talking heads in America and across the world. And she won the popular vote but because of the electoral college she lost. I also thought she would win because of her ground game, she had 100,000s more people working for her than Trump, and the electoral college. His performance in swing states was incredible, she only had to win one to win the presidency. I was watching the results in a Latino bar when it became obvious Hilary was not going to win by a landslide. I went from being surrounded by vivacious Latino ladies high on life to consoling sobbing senioretas within an hour.

Enjoying New York before the results came in

I was not paid to go to America to cover the election, it was my holiday, hence why I was drunk most of the time. So I'm not beating myself up for getting it wrong. But looking at my Facebook Lives again the clues were there. I asked countless Americans about the election. Every barmaid, every Uber driver, every waitress, hotel receptionist, hotel bellboy and anyone sitting on a bar stool within shouting distance. And only one person said they really liked Hillary, most did not want Trump to win but they felt they were being forced to vote for her because they had no choice.

And I spent the majoriy of my time in cities, where Democrats are always stronger. If she was so unpopular in where she would win the vote what about out in the country and the towns which are dying.

America's cities are prospering, they used to be ghettos but across the land whites are moving back Downtown. My friend Willard, aka The Jewish Elvis, has seen the gentrification of his part of Manhatten - "it's basically better dressed people farting in your face now". The white flight of the 1960s and 1970s is being reversed and black and Latino communities are being split up.. Millenials (a phrase you hear so often) want to be in the city where every thing is on their doorstep. However, the towns and smaller cities are dying, the manufacturing jobs have gone and these places are dying. Places like Trenton, New Jersey where I ended up by mistake on the way to Philadelphia, our train was cancelled so we thought we would walk into town to the nearest bar, we made it about 200m before we realised it was a mistake. Streetlights were not working, the people on corners looked desperate, the looks in their eyes when they saw two tourists carrying their suitcases gave it away, we were their next hit, or next meal. We got an Uber and got the hell out of there.

It was so easy to label Trump supporters racist and mysoginist, but that is so lazy and easy for either UK or US Coastal elite commentators to make. Of course every Trump voter was not racist, but it fair to say every racist was a Trump supporter. The most depressing aspect of the election for me was the reemergence of the KKK and White Supremist movement. They kept popping up in the news whether it be a church burning in Mississippi (I mean its 2016 not 1966), white lifesaver sweets (Polos) being handed out in Lousiania or free weed being handed out in a black Philadelphia neighbourhood in the hope locals would get stoned and not go to the polls. Former grand wizard David Duke even had the chutzpah to run for election in the Louisinia senate. And seeing them celebrate Trump winning was sickening but that zero point something or another of the American population does not define a country, the GOP or the new President.

Trump's poster in Amish Country, PA

What happened was that millions of Trump voters decided that race (mysoginy, gay rights or protecting Muslims/Mexicans) was not the most important factor in their reason to vote, for instance the hope their mine/factory/mill would remain open or reopen trumped everything else. But if you are in an ethnic minority or gay (lets not forget the VP favours gay conversion therapy) that is scant reconpence and why so many friends have fallen out, and why the comments sections of Facebook threads get so heated.

2016 is the year of the Fuck You election. Brexit and Trump's win are part of that. In both cases it was the people in the small towns, away from the gluten free coffee shops, comedy improvs and IMAXs , that won the election. In both cases all the experts, all the establishment politicians and the majority of the celebesphere told voters which way to vote. And in both cases the people, who are the poorest and within a generation have lost their jobs and blue collar/working class pride of having a meaningful place in society gave everyone telling them what to do a massive fuck you at the ballot box.

Even Madonna offering Clinton voters a blow job could not swing it, and fair play to the reporter who turned up at her house asking her to make good on her promise only to be given his own "fuck you."

Both with Brexit and Trump's victory the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer, what is mindbending is that the poor voted to get poorer.

In the days after the election, which saw the Republicans win the Congress and the Senate, meaning the checks and balances which blocked Obama at every turn will be ready to do Trump's bidding, providing it is not too insane, political writers went in to turbo-shite-over-drive.

The statistics showed women had voted for Trump, Latinos and blacks had not come out in force, Millenials had not voted for Hillary in big numbers and Democrat shoe ins blue collar workers had voted for Trump. One stat I found telling was Clinton only won 51 per cent of unionised workers, Trump's pitch that trade deals had killed American industry trumped the Democrats historic ties with the unions. That said the unions have been systematically weakened in the last 30 years, one bright spot was Nevada where union organisation helped turn out the Democrat vote. With workers' rights to be attacked in the next four years like never before it might be the spark to get the unions back in the game.

The next four years could see the progressives fight back, why will America not fall into the deep abyss? Because of the millions of decent people who live there, go there, meet them, they are great people. My favourite status since Trump got elected was from a white American Facebook friend Raymond, who I've never met, but want to. He said: "If they try and introduce this register for Muslims, I will be the first to sign it." Humanity will win out in the end as long as there are people like Raymond around.

For me the biggest statistic was that 40 per cent of Americans eligible to vote had not bothered. In a country where it is impossible to avoid a general election, where every TV or radio programme included election adverts and even in Amish country, about as cut off from the modern world as can be, there was a Trump poster, where over and over again Americans were told this was the most important poll in their lifetime - four out of ten people did not want their voice to count.

I met plenty of people who said they would not vote, their reasons included they thought the election was rigged anyway, they could not forgive Hillary stitching up Bernie Sanders, they were sick of the whole thing and they did not want to be called for jury duty (America's electoral roll is used to pick jurors, a bit like in the UK how debt companies used it to catch up with debtors).

The turbo-shite-analysis was laughably over the top. Just as there were serious news segments in the days after Obama had won about America entering "post-racial politics" there were articles predicting the Democrats will never win an election again. The politicos pointed to all the stats, pontificating why women would vote Republican, why poor people would vote against their interests about how the young, blacks and Latinos can't be counted on to vote en masse.

The same happened when Ed Miliband was defeated in 2015, all the trends were used to predict Labour's future electoral toxicity.

All these fine political minds on both sides of the Atlantic missed one fundemental point - don't pick a shit candidate. A shit candidate loses elections, more than trends, more than anything, if a party picks a shit candidate then it will lose. Hillary had record unpopularity ratings, so picking someone unpopular for a giant popularity contest was never clever.

Jumping the gun in New York

 

She had decades of baggage, it did not matter that a lot of the mud threw at her was false, over 30 years some would stick, and it did. Yes she was qualified for the job, yes she was more suited to the Presidency than Trump and yes she probably would have done a better job but people did not like her, not becuase she was a woman but because she was that woman.

Trump had captured the mood of millions, his was a movement. But there was another movement in this election cycle. The movement sparked by Bernie Sanders. He energised the young and the left like Obama had in 2007 and 2008. He told people the system was rigged, the rich were winning the game that they had all the aces in, he made it clear the world's only superpower could afford free college education, he had been on the right side of history concerning civil rights and America's wars. He led consitently led Trump in the polls more than she did. But he was destroyed by the Democrats, Hillary's machine defeated him.

In an election dominated by emails, mostly hers, the wikileaks revelations laying bare how the top of the Democrat Party were prepared to fix the election against Sanders lost her countless votes, that's why so many Bernie supporters voted Trump, the polar opposite of their man, or stayed at home.

That's why she lost.

That's why America lost.

 

"I've seen the future, brother:  it is murder.

Things are going to slide, slide in all directions

Won't be nothing, nothing you can measure anymore

The blizzard, the blizzard of the world  has crossed the threshold

and it has overturned the order of the soul."

Leonard Cohen - The Future

 

 




Hell hath no fury like millions of women scorned - Hillary to win big
Posted on the 1st November 2016 in the category sport



We are in the last 24 hours of this bonkers American election which has amused and shocked in equal measure.
All those late nights watching the primary debates and results seem so long ago, because they are, this has being going on for nearly 18 months. And 95 per cent of the people I've met in New York, Charlotte, Trenton, Philly, Lancaster, Baltimore and Perry Hall are sick to death of it.
My not so scientific polling of barmen, waitresses, drinkers, hotel receptionists and uber drivers included some brilliant conversations but nearly all said they cannot wait for it to be over.

Friends arguing with friends, husbands and wives not speaking, Facebook accounts suspended to avoid clashing in status comment boxes and lying about who to vote for to prevent lectures from friends, I've heard them all.
And no one, well just one out of hundreds, actually admitting that they really like either candidate.
So many said it was the lesser of two evils, and Kane in Bob and Barbara's Philly dive bar summed it up the best when he said this election was the evil of two lessers.

"How in a country of hundreds of millions did we end up with these two fucks?" said our bullshit free Baltimore uber driver.
How indeed. I'm guessing like so many aspects of American life it comes down to money and who has the most of it.
If Hilary Clinton wins tomorrow an eye watering amount will have been spent for her to become POTUS, nearly a billion dollars on her various campaigns. All for a $400,000 a year job. Go figure, as they say here.

As for Trump it is impossible to calculate how much free media airtime he has clocked up during a campaign which was first laughed at and then steamrollered all his Republican politician foes.
His message of "can't be bought - Trump" is plastered over bridges, posters and televisions across the nation. His line in the Republican debates "I used to pay these people to do what I want" was so powerful in a country where so many voters think their politician are bought off by big business for good reason.

Robin Williams said it best - politicians should be like race drivers and wear the badges of their sponsors on their suits.
Well dearly departed Mork has his wish because Trump has his company's name on everything from his suit to his gold plane.
If only George Carlin and Bill Hicks were around to put this mad election into context, what I would give to hear them pair talk about Trump, Hilary and the state of the Union.


Another reason people are sick of the election is because it is so all encompassing, especially if you are in a swing state. If you turn on a TV, radio, computer or phone then it will be seconds or minutes before an advert pops up. And not just about Trump or Hillary because there is not just one election tomorrow but thousands across the country from congressmen to dog wardens. As we do not have political advertising in Britain I am now kind of hooked on watching attack adverts, especially in the local races, the McGinty v Toomey Pennsylvania ones were beautifully brutal. However, I do love how businesses use the election to sell stuff, from the coffee cup contests to casinos raffling off trips to Canada the day after the election.

As well as the elections to office there are over 150 single issue ballots, whether it be the vote in California about porn actors wearing condoms or the several states deciding to legalise weed. There are also votes on the level of minimum wages in places and environmental battles.
In most places the ballot papers are cowing huge and often confusing, sometimes purposely to put off poorly educated voters who often vote Democrat.

Over 40 states also allow early voting due to the sheer weight of numbers of people who come out on Election Day and the confusion that can cause.
In North Carolina, where we were for three days, the local Republicans (the same people who shot their state in the foot by making transsexuals use the toilet of their birth) had brought in early voting restrictions to hinder African-American voting. An old trick which is being replayed in several states, the lines always seem longer in black neighbourhoods whether it because of old equipment being used or less staff being on duty.
Despite the whole country being geared up for democracy the turnout is rarely above 60 per cent, which is lower than most countries.

This is my third US presidential election in America, the first one I worked my bollocks off for Obama, the second one I did a bit of volunteering but not as much as he was the most powerful man in the world by then. For the last midterms and this election I am more of an interested observer.

That magical November 2008 night when America, which was built on slavery, elected a black man to its highest office was all about hope.
The rest of the world fell back in love with the continent that gave us Hollywood, the blues, jazz and rock n roll.

Tomorrow, when Hillary wins it will be about relief not hope, relief it is over and relief the world has dodged a bullet by not putting a nutcase in the White House.
Why do I think she will win?
Well Trump's nasty campaign has awoken three electoral giants - angry white men for him and Latinos and women for Hillary. There simply are not enough angry white men to pick a president, this is 2016 not 1955 and you cannot fight demographics.
The registration of Latinos is up by over 140 per cent in some places, their turnout will make up for the lower African-American vote who came out in force for Obama twice.
Every Latino will know someone who Trump has threatened to send home, and it was electoral madness pissing off so many people.

And women, the beautiful, strong, brave women of America, will win it for one of their own, not because they want her but because they don't want him.
They don't want their children to see it is ok for the president to admit sexual assault and for many his boasts have triggered bad memories they had long ago buried. Hell hath no fury like millions of women scorned.

I'm guessing I will be one of the few people in the entire country who will be sad when the election ends tomorrow, and that's because I will have to go home.



 

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