Homer Numan

Homer Numan

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Little Boots in Belfast

OK so it's official -- Little Boots is a goddess.

An hour on stage is a bit frugal it must be admitted but she HAS only released one album. And Victoria's audience interaction has improved immensely since those nervous first days of gigging. Inter song banter, fun singalongs and above all a sense of real enjoyment permeate Little Boot's set.

Accompanied by two guys who no-one notices, Miss Hesketh begins with 'Ghost', a nicely understated seated keyboard performance -- then it's off with the jacket and straight down to business with 'New In Town' and a flood of great catchy synth-pop from the frankly disappointing 'Hands' album. Except that live these often lack lustre tunes take on a whole new life of their own. There literally isn't a mis-step here -- just an overwhelming sense of fun.

Victoria is an absolute delight -- an eighties synth queen twinned with a sixties style icon for the 21st century. You've just have to love her.

It's back to keyboard mode for the rather lovely 'Echo' the first of two encores -- and then the wonderful 'Stuck On Repeat' gets two treatments -- the slow one and the manic dance one.

This is genius right here -- Miss Boots is going far -- just wait for the next instalment and catch her live if you possibly can.

Setlist: Ghost / New in Town / Tune Into My Heart / Click / Mathematics / Symmetry / Hearts Collide / Earthquake / Meddle / Remedy / Echo (Encore) / Stuck On Repeat (Encore).

Just a quick word on the 'Little Boots is fat' media nonsense -- shocking though it may seem not everyone thinks that stick-thin celebrities are the ideal -- there's a reason that many men prefer Kimberley to the other Girls Aloud members. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a few curves and the media body-shape gestapo need to be roundly ignored. Victoria is a million miles from being 'fat' in the general public's sense of the term and even if she were, what the hell would it matter? Stop being so fucking shallow.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Clerical Abuse Scandal and What it Teaches Us

The latest devestating report on the sexual abuse of children within the Roman Catholic church, this time concentrating on the Dublin diocese, raises many issues.

The collusion of church, state and police force in the systematic and long-standing cover-up of child rape is shocking beyond belief, but is on another level merely an example of the horrors that absolute power creates within human society.

The difference however between this case and say the Nazis or Chairman Mao, is that here we have an organisation supposedly endorsed by God. Let's ponder that for a moment.

It's clear that the most vile and sickening abuse of children was carried out over decades, perhaps centuries, with the full knowledge of all levels of church hierarchy. This must therefore include God's supposed emisaries on earth -- successive pontiffs. The question begs to be asked -- what type of a deity would allow his ambassadors to preside over crimes which are, let's face it, pretty much as horrific as humanly possible, effectively carried out in 'his' name?

According to biblical accounts, God intervened at various points in history, ostensibly to make examples of 'sinners.' Are we to understand from the lack of divine intervention that sexual abuse of children is actually OK? That hey some people might not like it but it's done by men of God so just grin and bear it?

Or might it not be rather more sensible to conclude that this gigantic paedophile ring, masquerading as a religious edifice divinely capable of moral guidance, is merely a complete man-made sham?

Whichever of these possibilities is correct, we also need to ask exactly why anyone continues to attend mass, to listen to the mind-boggingly hypocritical moralising of this deeply degenerate and corrupt organisation. Would we be happy to respect the thoughts of Gary Glitter on child-care? Then why would anyone wish to heed the ramblings of elderly opinionated bachelors on such subjects as sexual morality, contraception and abortion?

This church with it's preposterous rituals, homophobia, sexism and criminal condemnation of the humble yet life-saving condom apparently intends to brazen out the most awe-inspiring paedophile scandal in history. Nothing is going to change other than the most basic 'safe-guards'. That means priests remaining compulsorily celibate (other than converted Anglicans -- hypocrisy anyone?), the idea of women priests some sort of inexplicable blasphemy and the mere appearance of 'his holiness' on a balcony a cause for flocks of fawning pilgrims rather than angry protests and demands for disbandment of this smug and irredeemably corrupt organisation.

We can only imagine the mental and physical suffering endured by thousands of children at the hands of these depraved perverts masquerading as men of God. We can only recoil in horror at the thought of those brave enough to come forward being ignored, punished and betrayed not only by the church supposed to protect them, but by the police and the political establishment. We can unearth endless sickening horror stories for years to come, but the question is, are we going to learn lessons from this vast religious abomination?

One lesson everyone should agree on is that absolute power must never again be placed in the hands of any organisation, whether political or religious. Another should be that religious faith must be an entirely private matter -- not organised by some group who 'know what God wants', not indocrinated into children purely because their accident of birth made them a mormon, a jew or a roman catholic.

Not much about religious belief can be proved. But one thing this sorry episode does prove is that organised religion is even more open to sexual, financial and moral abuse than secular organisations and should at best be discouraged.

The notion of raising children in one particular branch of one particular faith is every bit as preposterous as raising a child solely to be a plumber or a botanist.
It supposes that young people are incapable of making the 'right' decision on the supernatural and must therefore be indocrinated at an age when their minds are unquestioning and naive. It also supposes that there is only one 'correct' way to worship a deity and if you don't get it exactly right you're going to the bad place.

It was exactly this type of superstitious notion that caused thousands of doubtless well-meaning parents to entrust their children to an organisation who proceeded to abuse them in the most depraved manner imaginable, then compounded the crime through denial and cover-up.

This must never happen again. When a representative of the roman catholic church seeks to pontificate on a moral issue they must be openly challenged. What right have they to advise anyone on morality? Why should anyone ever listen, attend or respect anything to do with this organisation?

Additionally we should discourage the religious indoctrination of children. As societies we rightly shield our children from alcohol, sexual activity and the pressures of career choice until they are well into their teens. Why should religious belief be any different? Have the courage of your convictions -- let them decide when they want to.

As the 'clerical abuse' scandals all too painfully illustrate, keeping children away from these supposed men of God is actually a form of protection.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Celebrity Torture

OK in the 70s and early 80s TV was dull. Three (later four) channels, all closing before midnight, populated with dowdy dramas, hokey sit-coms and rubbish game shows. I much preferred listening to music. But in it's own way it was homely and harmless.

Fast forward to 2009 and we have huge audience figures for such gems as X-Factor, I'm A Celebrity and (until recently) Big Brother.

What these shows have in common is a rather nasty sadistic streak -- the enjoyment of the suffering of others, not entirely unlike the gladitorial spectacles of the Roman empire.

I've given my thoughts on X-Factor below, whilst Big Brother merely reached it's natural conclusion -- a 'house' stuffed full of unstable, nasty and freakish characters chosen merely for their conflict potential. The particularly unsavoury celebrity edition pitting the deeply ignorant late Jade Goody with Shilpa Shetty was likely a bridge too far for this moronic format and it's set to end after the next series.

But 'Celebrity' is a slightly different animal. Gather together a dozen has-been or never-were 'celebs', drop them (literally) into the jungle and metaphorically poke them with sticks for public enjoyment.

The 'Bush-tucker trials' become ever more sadistic and gross, to the point where the producers begin to cross the line between entertainment and torture. Back in the day we had daft shows like 'Gladiators' and 'The Krypton Factor', which tested physical stamina, yet allowed contestants a modicum of decency and achievement. 'Celebrity' instead sets out to humiliate and bully participants into performing ever more sickening tasks, egged on by sniggering schoolboys Ant and Dec, whilst millions at home presumably revel in the suffering of others.

But I hear you cry, these people are paid, they know what to expect, they get free publicity. But you're missing the point. Offer the public £10k to run naked down a street being pelted with rotten eggs and fruit and you'll inevitably find takers. But should they be allowed to degrade themselves in this way for what is after all a neanderthal voyeurism?

And more disturbingly, it's obvious that each series of 'Celebrity' is more sadistic than the last. Rather like pornography, viewers require ever harder doses of humiliation and suffering to sustain their interest.

So where will it end? Is pandering to the public's lowest common denominator in exchange for the holy grail of ratings a defendable policy? How many teenagers must be broken on X-Factor, celebrities covered in maggots before people cry enough? Or will they merely demand more? And should we be surprised by the alarming rise of bullying in schools and workplaces when we witness Katie Price screaming in a 'jacket' of squirming insects or watch Paul Burrell eating kangaroo testicles?

Yes it's easy to laugh and point fingers at these shows, in much the same way that it's easy to watch a fellow child being bullied in the school playground. But what does it say of the current state of human nature that others suffering is a cause for entertainment?

Big ratings = big advertising revenue = big money, but if this comes at the expense of one of the most basic tenets of civilisation, is it really worth it?

Friday, November 13, 2009


A heartfelt plea for (non-human) animal rights. Thank you Sandra.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

X-Factor X-Ploitation -- Lucie Jones & Jedward

Reality TV, it seems, has become the new gladitorial sport. Where else could you find naive, vulnerable and unpaid young people being verbally abused and psychologically tortured in a public arena by egotistical millionaires?

Simon Cowell, the current god of TV exploitation, has sacrificed yet another young hopeful on the altar of ratings. Cowell, lest we forget, has to date demonstrated no talent whatsoever. Fellow panellists Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue have been through the mill of pop careers, Louis Walsh has managed two highly successful boy bands. Cowell's talent merely extends to a ruthless, stalinist head for business in an endless pursuit of ratings and ever increasing mountains of cash.

Having mercilessly slated (with some justification) the embaressingly talent-free Dublin twins known as Jedward, he was given the opportunity to jettison them from the competition last weekend and save the talented Welsh singer Lucie Jones. Instead he made a lame comment about neither being able to win (how could he possibly know?) and sent the matter to the public vote, which Lucie lost. Despite his later assertion that he has no prior knowledge of who recieved the lowest number of votes, it is inconcievable that as X-Factor is effectively 'The Simon Cowell Show' (quote Pete Waterman), he would not have such figures to hand or at least to earpiece.

It is reported that the remaining contestants have been banned by Cowell from commenting on the decision. To add insult to injury he subsequently informed Chris Tarrant on live radio that the twins 'don't realise how bad they are.'

What is painfully clear is that shows such as the X-Factor are much less about finding talent and much more about big ratings, which in turn translate into advertising revenue and phone-in rake-offs.
The number of consistent success stories from these shows is painfully small -- off the top of my head we're talking Will Young, Gareth Gates (to a point), Girls Aloud and Leona Lewis with the jury still out on acts such as JLS and Alexandra Burke.

What is also painfully clear is that prospective candidates need professional guidance, before, during and after each series. Lest we forget, most of the finalists are barely out of school and completely unskilled in the business of celebrity. They are abruptly catapulted from non-entity to facing the full glare of the public and press, only to be unceremoniously dumped back home after a few short weeks.

Whereas shows such as Maria & IDA at least featured contestants who had some experience in the music business, X-Factor and it's ilk merely pluck hopefuls from the street and exploit their raw talent and naivety.
By the end of each series, the winner is awarded a contract, more or less guaranteed the Christmas number one and allowed to sink or swim largely through their own endeavours. The remainder leave unpaid and rejected, in most cases to perform in a few local shopping centres before returning to all too real reality.

Rather like it's bastard cousin Big Brother, X-Factor becomes ever more cruel to supposedly keep interest alive. The recent public disintegration of Susan Boyle on 'Britain's Got Talent' testifies to Cowell's callousness and absence of conscience. In Jedward he sees a talking point, a tabloid fodder to buoy ratings for a few weeks before being dumped into oblivion. An eventual winner will be feted for a few weeks then Cowell will turn his attention to his next expolitative charade.

Make no mistake, these shows are about big business and personal greed and absolutely nothing to do with finding new talent or enriching the musical tapestry. The format panders to the lowest common denominator -- bland karaoke song choices, long 'suspenseful' pauses before results announcements and often neanderthal mocking and interplay between judges. Cowell sits in judgement and says what he thinks of each performance, a task anyone could manage. If the show stood or fell on long-term results, Cowell would be mopping a floor near you as we speak. As it is, such shows are a success merely because people watch -- not because of any artistic merit (which as proved this week is roundly ignored by Cowell) or because it helps the UK music industry in any meaningful long-term way.

Sooner or later the X-Factor and it's ilk will run it's course. Cowell will make a particularly gross error of judgement, a 'reject' will throw themselves off a cliff or the public will wise up and stop wasting their phone calls on manipulative karaoke. Whichever -- the sooner the better. Cowell can retire to one of his villas and Saturday evenings can hopefully be home to less exploitative fare.

In the meantime, Cowell needs to publicly admit several uncomfortable truths -- the show is about HIM alone, he has no real interest in discovering talent, and his pathetic flip-flop posturings on particular acts are every bit as sad a charade as the supposed rivalry between the judges.

Perhaps then we can at least respect his honesty, if not his methods.