politicians....keeping a watchful eye
The United Kingdom is, for want of a better descrption, being run by a modern version of the Keystone Cops, acting out a further installment of the Carry On Movie series. The criminal shame regarding the current expense scandals, are the people we presently permit to govern us out of a colossal economic mess, have proven themselves to be untrustworthy. There really isn't any standpoint which can absolve any of the current parliamentary incumbents and the general public are a) very angry, but more importantly b) very confused and frustrated. How can we take a politician seriously, when he or she asks us to tighten our belts, whilst at the same time, expect us to refurbish a second home, or give them a financial back hander for a home they have already completed payments upon? This is why we are confused, and it was a Right Wing newspaper (and it is important to point that position out, as the initial vitriol was aimed at the Labour party.....who used to be a Socialist party, by the way) who have 25 of their journalists pouring over the expense claims of the 600 or so people who 'govern' us right now. We are looking at a pile of dirty laundry, which will probably never be cleaned up in it's current manifestation. Always been scandal in the Houses of Parliament, but never on this scale. Root and branch reformation of a dead tree is what is currently proposed in resolving this situation.
On another point of note, are these politicians who are quick to point out that they are clamping down, currently, on benefit cheats. Takes one to know one I guess. LOL.
'it's a great system, isn't it?' I did nothing wrong...so I am paying back several thousand pounds I shouldn't have claimed for, to prove how innocent I am of all charges, and I am very sorry'....nurse!
In it's worst manifestation the roots of capitalism translates to the needs of the individual outweighing the needs of the many, so don't try to sell any passing Vulcans that particular package of proposals! The roots of Socialism believes that the wealth should not be in the domain of those few who hold the purse strings, but the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Sure, there are rags to riches stories of those who have built their wealth up from scratch from working class backgrounds, and it is also true that there are a few who would not contribute anything to society, but expect to be carried by the system. My personal belief is that both of those relevant sections of society are in the minority. From my personal experience, the silent majority are fair, think that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and consequently, as an example, we have a fully functioning health service which does not look at a persons wallet or purse, before an individual is treated following an injury or serious illness. We should be proud of that part of the state. When absolute power is placed in the hands of the politcians, who are not recompensed poorly for their labours (around £65,000, approx $100,000, for an average MP's salary thesedays), then we have to look at exactly what has led to this debacle.
In the early 1980's, the system relating to MP's salaries was changed, allowing MP's to claim for additional expenses as part of their salary package. Mrs Thatcher set the financial mood music, but not the parameters within which MP's should claim allowances. The system has been in place since then, with Tony Blair maintaining the status quo Mrs T. implemented all those years ago. The Speaker of the House Of Commons has protected the MP's financial privacy, and he is now about to be removed from office as one individual falling on his sword seems to be far more acceptable than 600 MP's doing likewise. Once he has gone, so has the problem....in their eyes.
For the Stateside visitor, this must all sound like a foreign language, however, the scene is that, the Gordon Brown government have been claiming expenses, over and above, their common sense allowances, with the current expense claims being the full on financial twelve inch remix! Are they alone in this scandal? No. The Liberal Democrats are just as culpable, as are the Conservatives, who do not come out of the wash whiter than white either. The differences between the parties are basically based upon class. The Middle class Labour and Liberal politicians have concentrated on fiddling their mortgages for second homes which don't exist, trouser presses etc, whilst the Conservatives go for the grander gesture. Moat cleaning for their castles, under tennis court heating, lawns that take 6 hours to cut!, etc. All paid for by the tax payer and all pretty shoddy and, if it was any of the rest of us, this would be described as fraud. After all, if it looks like a dog, goes woof, chases cats and runs after sticks.....it is normally a dog. We, the truth be told, for doing the same as our constituent MP's in our own lives, would currently be enjoying Her Majesty's pleasure in Wormwoods Scrubs, Wandsworth etc., with no option to say 'I have behaved improperly, and here is my cheque'.
The Telegraph will make a few thousand pounds out of the debacle, however, whether they will help further their political allies campaign next year is something we will have to monitor. The Conservatives excesses are larger than any of the other parties. They were always bound to be. A castle is much more expensive to upkeep than a London flat. The Telegraph have a duty to see this through and leave a level playing field for all MP's. Initially they targeted Labour, as that suited their Editor's political ends, however, the same page space, allocated to Labour's 'mistakes', does need to be allocated to the Conservative and Liberal parties respectively. That is a simple matter of fairness. David Cameron (leader of the Conservatives) looks like a man standing in down town Hiroshima, after the bomb fell, shouting 'this must never happen again!'.
As mentioned previously, the current arrangements for the politicians pay levels were set back in the early Eighties when Mrs Thatcher was setting the political mood music. North Sea Oil had funded unemployment, which created an employers market, which in turn gave her the wherewithal to defeat the coal miners, and thus the trades unions. When that battle was won, the dwindling profits from the oil revenues sloshed around in the treasury in the late Eighties, and the leaders at that time allowed the economists to go out and party in the City. Couldn't have any regulation could we? The money men emulated the Gordon Gecko 'greed is good' mindset, wore their red braces, and everything was perceived to be 'money no object'. We all know the rocky road that particular mindset 'state of affairs' has taken us all along recently. You set the mood music and, if you leave the record on long enough, no-one notices after a while and matters 'drift' into chaos, whilst a chosen few make billions for themselves.
One personal story, in amongst all of the 'expense claims' scandals, which has disappointed myself the most, is that of the Scottish MP Tam Dalyell, who I supported at the time Mrs Thatcher had taken the country to war with Argentina. Tam was against that war, as was I. He wrote a book called 'One Man's Falklands' which was compulsive reading for those on the left of the political divide. Tam has, recently, placed a claim for £16,000 for bespoke shelving for his home, at the expense of the tax payer, and only a couple of months before his retirement as am MP. That really saddened me as an unashamed supporter of the left in the U.K. Some people I thought were above such things.
Currently politicians are standing in line in order to make their case as to whom is the most righteous person than the next 'Member Of The House'. I would strongly advise each of those individuals to remember the biblical assertion, 'he who is without sin, let them cast the first stone'.
So what do we do with these people? We elect, and grant them our permission to represent each of us at the decision making departments of government. Sack them? They undoubtedly have some skills, however, to an MP, there is not a true Statesman or Stateswoman amongst them. Instead these are todays best of a bad bunch. Careerists. In all cases, we elect politicians to serve ourselves and our communities. If someone commits an act of fraud, or shoplifts etc, invariably they are given community service. As a positive response, the Telegraph should finish their investigation and place all of the 'misdoers' accounts online. A team of lawyers should examine each case and determine a period of community service for each politician who has claimed for anything outside their remit. The community service should manifest itself in the form of each MP carrying out his or her duties for free, for a limited period, based upon the size of the misdemeanour, until such time as their earnings meet the sums required. Punishment fit the crime, so to speak. How would this work? Well, if an MP has wrongly claimed £40,000 for the upkeep of their garden, say, it would be a simple piece of mathmatics, where you divide £40,000 into £65,000, work out that as a percentage of a year, and that MP would perform their duties for approximately two thirds of the year without pay. All told, for £65,000, I could stay in a small hotel in London's suburbs and commute with plenty of finances left over. It is time for these people to lead the way, not instruct us to 'do as I say, but not as I do'.
The biggest worry regarding all of this mess, is that politicians are now seen in such a bad light (and bear in mind we are in an economic mess, the size of which we have seen only once in the last hundred years), that the leaflet shown at the top of this piece is an acorn, which could grow, if we are not level headed and become reactionary. The only word the BNP have missed off that poster, is the word 'white'. I spoke to a friend about the interest the far right might take in the current situation. Bear in mind, these people appeal to the lowest common denominator in a human being. They take advantage of the fact that the U.K., like it or not if you are a supporter of the left, has a population which is conservative (with a small 'c'). Ask most white U.K. males about hanging, say, and they will tell you it should be brought back. Ask them about foreigners, and they will tell you there are too many in the U.K. People want more police on the streets, stronger sentencing for burglars, and corporal punishment brought back into schools. Conservative views, held by many on the left as well. Conservative with a small 'c'. One of the things I am most proud about the U.K. is our ability to listen and be tolerant. At our best, we create health services. When people are unhappy (as many are economically right now), it is easier for the scare mongers to look for scapegoats to blame for the reasons why some might feel a little low. This is the worst crime our politicians have perpetrated at this point in time. They have dithered and created a set of circumstances which the likes of the British National Party and The U.K. Independence Party happily feed off. Manna from heaven for them. This gives them the tool kit to go out to the country and make mischief. Now more than ever, we should be looking for solutions and not for problems in our society. When that BNP leflet arrives through your door, bin it. Don't protest vote. Just go to the polling station and write 'none of the above' on your ballot paper, and leave if you feel that strongly about the current set of MP's.
On a final point, it would be very nice to see a list of which MP's have not been misclaiming. Credit where credit is due etc.
Toby Walker, 18th May 2009
are we losing the point, soul people?
The current domestic economic problems affect just about every part of our society. The news is pretty bad most places at the moment, and every single soul will be affected in their own ways. Within Soul circles, there are developing a couple of issues which I thought are very worthy of discussion at this point, as, with money really getting 'too tight to mention', it is important to remember why we are music followers, and who are the originators regarding why we have arrived at where we are at.
The first topic was raised during a conversation I had with a deejay, who was hugely influential within the club scene in the South East of the U.K.during the Seventies. He is still deejaying to this day ('Meals On The Wheels Of Steel'!) LOL. We were talking about the current state of the U.K. and how much I had enjoyed attending his Ilford Night Club back around 1976 and into 1977. The economy at that time wasn't that great either, and we discussed the music of that particular era, and how well attended his club seemed to be back at that time. The great thing about this learned person, was, and still is, his ability to entertain a crowd. He was the perfect mix of entertainer and music pundit. In fact many folks forget how knowlegeable some of these people actually are. Back in those days, myself and my friends used to scour the deejay listings in the back pages of Blues and Soul, find out who and where were playing the music we wanted to dance to, and off we would go to the various haunts throughout the week. The music came first, however, if we could be entertained, as well as enjoying the sounds, well all the better. Recessions do tend to make people want to escape the doom and gloom the media seem to delight in feeding us on a daily basis thesedays. In the late Seventies, the youth were rebelling against a staid old cultural and political system, whilst the rest of the country were suffering the indifference of a stale Jim Callaghan led Labour government (remember 'Crisis? What crisis?'), which soon led us into the world of Margaret Thatcher and her decade of financial self advancement, which continued into the Blair years, and took us to where we are right now. Screwed. Lot of folks blame Margaret Thatcher for many things. I do to a certain extent, although, what cannot be denied, is she did set up the freemarket forces, set the financial mood music for all whom followed (and followed fairly willingly I might add), which eventually led us into recession, leaving us wanting to hit the clubs all over again in 2009. Phew! The need for the Soul fan to get out and enjoy themselves, is pretty well irresistable. The fact that I, regularly, am sent flyers to various gigs around the country, is a testament to that fact.
Many of those who look retrospectively clubwise, do so with two things in mind. One is the need to hear music of some standard, the second is to be entertained. Times really don't change that much if you are a Soul fan. What does change is how the music is delivered. There are still many great records released thesedays. Some great dance tunes around (Mario Biondi etc.). The main change within the scene is the conception and the growth of the Internet. I am a great fan of the World Wide Web. It is emancipating for many, it enables people to communicate instantly across great distances, it brings people together. What has become more apparent recently is the growth away from the fascination with the technology (which was something we all would have had to go through to embrace the medium) to a point where people are talking about 'that tune' again. Full circle? Who knows, although, as with many aspects to this phenomena, there would be a backlash, and it is here where I would make a plea to those who are reacting against the technology. Here goes...
I recently went to a nightclub where several deejays were due to perform their sets. I didn't know the line-up of jocks, but I was prepared to be entertained by them, and was quite looking forward to the evening. At the end of the night, some of the jocks brought their 7"single boxes over to the table and we spoke about the music. What transpired wasn't a conversation regarding how great a side was, it was more to do with the amount of money the jock had spent on what there was within their particular collection. Sure, most of the songs I didn't know, and may have been as rare as rocking horse doo doo. The problem with the night, for me, was nobody danced. The deejays had all the lights spinning, the volume up, but all played to an empty dancefloor. The records may be collectable for some, however, I was left wanting for a great Gamble and Huff type production, rather than something that was recorded in a Detroit garage, sounding as if the bin men had come to collect the landfill trash that week! Far more impressive to bring records along to a gig in a record box, rather than a safe! LOL.
I get sent lists from some shops, either by post or by e-mail. Sure, I look at some records I have here and have witnessed huge value hikes on some pieces of vinyl. If my wife catches me looking at the lists, she invariably says to me 'valuable to whom? Not much value if you don't sell them are they?' She is absolutely correct. I bought the music, and wouldn't sell it, as I bought the record, purely and simply, because I liked it. Nothing else. If it is worth £1,000 or one penny, I would value it just the same. The folks who play to empty dancefloors miss the point of the music altogether. You might as well be buying blocks of gold and getting other folks to buy the drinks at the bar, if the value is that important to you. Entertainment is where people will gravitate towards during times of depression, not your own value assets.
My second point concerns deejays as well. Mainly radio Jocks, who, by and large, those whom I have been in touch with here, really are 'my heroes', musically. More recently (certainly over the last year), I have credited certain individuals regarding people who have turned me on to certain albums or singles. The great thing about the Net, and the 'Soul Network' is that, not everyone will be aware, or know everything. The mesh that binds us all is the music. I get things wrong at the site from time to time, informationally. When I do, and I am corrected, I put the record straight (pardon the pun!), update the information, and move on. Recently, I have reviewed some albums at the site, and credited places where I have, initially, heard certain pieces of music. For myself, it is not important who played a song or an album first, it is the fact the the music is being played and is getting out there. I have been politely told off by some folks for not crediting the correct sources. I think in these cases the sources for most jocks are personal matters. If you hear a deejay play an album first, then that is your point of origin for that piece of information. If the need for creditation is taken to it's conclusion, the artist is the person who deserves the main props. The need for the middle men to receive acclaim does have a feel of a lack of self belief, and a need for self promotion. The best deejays out there, for myself, are those who just play the music and require no pats on the back from any Soul colleague. I certainly have supported several companies and radio stations, along with individual deejays, the best of whom support the music selflessly and for free. I do likewise myself here. Good case in point was the Chestnut Brothers recent CD. When a promo arrived here, it would have been very egotistical of myself to hold on to copies which could have helped the guys sell more units, but given me 'an exclusive'. I mailed out copies to several deejays (at my own expense) immediately, and eventually, the album did receive some airplay on the better radio stations. That promotional work was not anything I sought any credit for, nor should I have received any thanks. That ball should be placed fairly and squarely in the hands of Al and Ty Chestnut. It is, and always will be the music which is paramount.
When I once spoke to Dave Godin about these issues, he just told me 'it's something you have to put up with'. It's the music makers who are the gel that musically bonds everything together. We are peripheral, all told. Unsalaried sales representatives if you wish. Members of the Black Music audience.
One show I attended a couple of years ago, was a show performed by the Funk Brothers at the London Festival Hall. I went along with some good friends, and took my daughter. During the interval we spoke to a few Motown diehards about their favourite Motown tracks. One guy mentioned a tune I had never heard of. He knew all of the people who were performing on the track, who wrote it, where it was recorded, and on what day. He was an encyclopedia of Soul. Certainly put me to shame. After we had discussed the track I said to him 'what do you think of the Temptation's song 'Just My Imagination'? He looked at me with the biggest smile on his face and said 'that is a great song isn't it?' He knew exactly where I was coming from. That tune always comes up fresh for this scribe. I must have heard that song ten thousand times. That is the true benchmark of, what many folks describe as 'timeless Soul'. Great music.
Two questions. What do you think of that song?, and 'Do you know who first played that song in the U.K.?' Doesn't really matter does it? The important thing is the Temptations recorded it, I can buy it, and as a song here, it is just as vaulable as one of those 45's that no-one at that club will dance to.
Toby Walker, 3rd March 2009
another fine mess
Now that the recession is official, and here with us, at best estimates, until the late autumn, we are now looking towards those who took us to the edge of the financial abyss recently, which we are now looking over, and asking them to do likewise. Not pretty viewing is it? One U.K. minister stated yesterday that we would be looking at a 15 year period before the country got back to anything resembling some fiscal stability. He was, probably, correct and hauled over the coals for scare mongering. If he is guilty of that, then so are much of the printed media along with the television channel networks. Sure it is nice to know that we are not alone in our financial worries, however, we don't all need to be informed we are all doomed and it's the immigrants and the social security spongers to blame. Create a lack of clarity of thought, and any person can blame anything or anyone and get away with it. Divide and rule it is called. If it looks like a dog, it chases cats and sticks, wags it's tail and goes 'woof woof', it is highly likely to be a dog! Clearly, it's the banks who are at fault here.
The picture above shows four bank bosses from Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS, who have been dragged kicking and screaming in front of a parliamentary panel of MP's and told to apologise unreservedly for the crisis which forced the Government to bail out the banks with £37 billion of taxpayers' money, additionally forcing the bankers into admitting making mistakes. The guy on the right is Nick Leeson. He 'broke' Barings Bank by losing 700 million pounds from the banks stock market values a few years ago. He was imprisoned for 6 years for doing so and was only allowed out as he was found to be suffering from colon cancer.
Maths was never my strong point at school. In fact I was downright awful at the subject (not bad at Art and English though), however, isn't 700 million pounds a great deal less money than 37 billion? The fab four in the picture took their banks to the proverbial edge, and the English public had to bail them out to the tune of the above sum. They invested awfully and they pay themselves in excess of 2 million pounds per person per year. Now if a surgeon operates on a patient and makes a grave error, do they not lose their job? The Baby P fatality was another case in point. The Social Services failed the child miserably, the Head of the Borough's Social Services lost her job. She should have done so. A salary of £100,000 per year plus gave her a lavish lifestyle (well it is in comparison to most of us in the real world). She lost her job, however, she is now fighting her dismissal, and in a perverse way, she could be perceived as being justified in doing so. The fab four did not lose their jobs. In fact they were told they were naughty boys and should jolly well go back and sort out their bedrooms! Slapped wrists...write out 500 times.....'I must not cost the British tax payer £37 billion'!
There has always been a double standard, judicially, in the U.K. A rape, burglary or murder, has never been seen in the same light (or severity) as those who steal from a financial institution. Stealing from a bank has always been treated as a far more serious offence than a rape ever has been. The Great Train Robbery perfectly illustrates that case in point. The pursuit of those involved went on for decades. Someone robbing a bank. Can't have that can we? Some male judges make the treatment of rape victims such a farce, that many women will not come forward, as they feel they will be perceived as having 'asked for it', somehow. The Bankers could do no wrong. How many of us have used the phrase 'well, you can bank on that'? The goalposts have shifted to the point that the general public do not know who to financially trust anymore. This is certainly the case regarding peoples pensions, savings, insurances, mortgages, investments...and now current accounts.
The Prime Minister used to, in times of crisis, address the Nation. This one hasn't. Supposed to be the worst financial debacle in the last 100 years, and he will not talk to us about it. Instead we are bystanders, looking at a system on the brink. People are losing their jobs, companies are placing all their plans on hold, and the country is simply treading water. Those to blame are the banks. Sure we can blame the subprime market in the U.S. for lending huge sums to people who were given poor advice and have now lost their homes, however, the same system was in operation here. Some of these U.K. banks were lending people ten times their annual salaries in order to get folks onto the property ladder, and fill their own coffers. When I left school back in the early Seventies, the limit was three times annual salary, and no more. You also had to have a percentage deposit to place on the property before any keys were handed over. The banks had one huge party, paid themselves fabulously, and we are now picking up the tab to the tune of around £60,000 per person of working age in the U.K. right now.
One small item I wouldn't mind clearing up is this. When a health service is nearly at breaking point, and it's staff ask the government for a miniscule amount to get the system working properly, they are told there is no more money available. I guess the answer to that question is the same answer to the question 'where does the money come from when we decide to go off to foreign climes to blow the brains out of the local population, and kill our own armed forces in the process?' Priorities is the answer to those who hold power whether they are Republican, Democrat, Conservative or Labour. Look after the money men. Those who argue that we need to pay some doctors or bankers fabulous salaries in order to keep them here, well my answer would be 'let them go'. Would you want a footballer in your side whose only motivation is financial?
I know that, from U.S. friends of mine, the U.S. economy is on the ropes. If it makes you feel any better (and it won't, I know), the U.K. economy is in the same boat. We have even affected China's economy, or should I say the money men have. Capitalism can only function if those given responsibility behave responsibly. If they do not, then everything goes pear shaped. Socialism can create dictators in it's worst incarnation (Mugabe etc). The problem with two extremes of a political circle, is that where the two extemes meet, the situation is pretty much like for like. In no way am I a liberal with a capital 'L'. I am a socialist with a small 's'. This means that those who have the most, help support those who do not, based upon the fact that, at some stage, we all hit hard times. That is with the proviso that those who have the least do not utilise that standpoint as a way of life. These people have given up on life. They are small in number and are the victims of a decline in culture. That decline is borne out of a culture which currently rewards stupidity and actively celebrates it. If someone can become a millionairre for behaving poorly, and show no skills or talent for anything in particular, other than liking the attention that celebrity status brings, then those who do have something to offer, by and large, give up the ghost, and we all suffer in the long term.
The fab four did not apologise enough for my liking. Once they had had their say, they should have been taken to court and prosecuted in the same way Nick Leeson was. Keeping their positions should have never been an option. Banks should have 'salary ceilings' for each director. They should be proactive in helping those whose lives they are at fault in ruining, after all it is these victims who have provided the tax finances which helped them keep their positions up until now. If an employee will not stay at a company, as they see themselves as a high flyer, then they should be encouraged to move on to new pastures. Those individuals who were encouraged to borrow up to the hilt by these financial institutions, should be granted the most reasonable of repayment terms. No-one should have their property taken away from them. Bank charges should be scrapped for the duration of the crisis. The banks make enough money to survive through investments. Each bank should also have an independent monetary police force visit, unannounced, to check the finances are being run professionally, and there are no 'fiscal loose cannons' at large within the organisations.
Ourselves? Well I do not understand how a rail network can increase ticketing charges by 6 times the current rate of inflation during 'interesting times' such as these. The money that was pumped into the financial sytems, should be completely repayable, and (I don't think I would find one dissenting voice within the U.K. right now regarding this next subject) the monies that arrive back into the treasury be diverted directly into the transport systems and the health service. No-one in the U.K., who is suffering from a fatal illness, should be denied access to any existing drug out there. Perhaps the salaries of the fab four might be a good financial injection to begin with. 8 million pounds as a starter, and a statement of future intention.
Worrying times for many people out there. The crumb of comfort is you are not alone, and this situation does offer the countries around the world a fresh start....that is provided that people get real regarding their perceptions of their worth within society, at the highest levels. The Banks? As Marvin said, 'Makes me wanna holler...hold up both my hands'.
'The Republicans believe that the power of government should be used first of all to help the rich and the privileged in the country. With them, property, wealth, comes first. The Democrats believe that the power of government should be used to give the common man more protection and a chance to make a living. With us the people come first.' Harry S Truman
Toby Walker, 11th February 2009
brother in the white house
The previous article below was written prior to the election of Barack Obama. The above image comes from the U.K. television footage of Barack's acceptance speech on that cold day back in November last year. We knew the financial tsunami was about to hit, and it is washing over all of us at the moment. My personal hopes, along with millions of Americans and peoples around the globe reached fruition on that November day. Jesse Jackson cried, and we all looked forward to a political breath of fresh air. It does seem a shame that the process of handing over the political baton seems to be a long and drawn out affair. It would have served the World well to have the new incumbant in the oval office, getting on with business before the Christmas period. There are those on U.K. talk radio stations who wonder whether Dubya was actually all that bad. From where I am standing (and slightly tilting my head) his time in office was an awful one. He seemed to take his eye off the ball on every matter that required any serious attention, and his judgement was severely left wanting. Even if you disagree with that statement, you cannot tell me that the mood music was all wrong.
Watching Jesse Jackson at Obama's acceptance rally did bring back many childhood memories of those images of the men pointing, stood at the balcony of that Memphis hotel, just up the road from the Stax Records studio's in Memphis on the 3rd of April 1968. I was 12 years old back then. Funny how some images stay in the grey matter whilst we are still relatively new to the World.
Barack will move into office next week, to probably the worst situation his country has been in in the last century. America is at war on two fronts, unemployment is rising, and the economy is in the worst state it could possibly be in. I spoke to my web providers at the beginning of the year as a result of my forgetting that, although I pay for my Soul website on a monthly basis, my personal work website is paid for annuallly. That cost arrived in here at around $200 for 2009. I had to think about relocating the website to some free webspace, as the shrinking economy didn't warrant me paying out for both places, so I chose Soulwalking as the one which stayed, and my work one had to go. What I had completely forgotten about, was that the States were being hit by the mistakes of the deregulators in much the same way we were here (perhaps even more severely), and the company which hosts my work space had been hit by the shrinking U.S. economy. I have to say that, if you think that the World has gone to the dogs, think again. My contact at these providers said I could have my work site hosted free as a thank you for keeping Soulwalking at their company. My contact is a big Soul music fan, so Drew, thank you!
Over Christmas, I spoke to friends regarding 2009. Said to them that it would be interesting to see where we were all at come January 2010. How will our year have panned out? Will we all still be in work? Barack Obama will be in his job, that is for certain. Public perspective will be interesting though. Although the man has said, 'there are no quick fixes', we all live in a digitial, 'I want it now', age. People want results fast. Although he is bound to see the first half of the year as pretty much plain sailing, when the autumn (fall) hits the World, it is my belief that the media will begin to turn on him. The media have a lot to answer for. They claim to be the mouthpiece's of the populus, however, in truth, they are loose cannons, who fill the general publics psyche with a sense of foreboding. Pick up any paper in your newsagent or store. Check the tabloids. 'Family kill two year old, whilst social workers do nothing', 'More knife crime on our streets than at any other time in history', 'Freddie Starr ate my hamster!'. Personally, I quite like the last one, but, by and large, you would think that the planet was about to implode upon itself and none of us have any decency left in us at all. I'd like to make one optimistic point here. If you read the headlines of doom on the front pages of your newspaper, ask yourself this question. Why are they on the front page of that newspaper? They are there because they are newsworthy. To be newsworthy these stories have to be unique. For a story to be unique, it has to be a one off, or a rare occurrance. Look at your neighbours. Do they kill their two year olds, knife everyone left right and centre....or even worse, eat your hamster! LOL. Sure, if you lived next door to Freddie Starr, you might say yes, but in the U.K., there would be 60 million others who would say no. The media. They will make or break Barack Obama. At first they will make the man. Next year they will try to break the man. They will find scandals in closets that don't belong to Barack and his family. They will accuse him of being anti this, or anti that. This will be born out of the fact that he didn't have a magic button to press that will right the wrongs of deregulated financiers at the outset.
Personally, I think Barack Obama is highly unlikely to burst out of his suit and fly off to get the bad guy. What he will bring to the table is a breath of fresh air. A new start, but a start is all it will be. His real benefit to everyone out there, is he should bring a feeling calm. A considered approach to problems and not the Bush 'shoot first and ask questions later' politic.
When Clinton said that 'it is the economy stupid', he was right on the button. In the U.K., a recent poll was very interesting. When people were asked whether they thought the economy was in a real mess, 80 percent of folks said things were very bad right now. When folks were asked if this recession would affect them personally, only 50 percent said that it would do. Mathematically, approximately one third of people are burying their heads in the sand economically. Whilst jobs are being lost on a daily basis, Nero is fiddling whilst Rome is burning. My guess is the situation is the same across the Western World right now.
I think that, if anything good comes out of the whole mess, is, once everyone accepts that things aren't ever going to be the same, people will work more closely together. People will swap skills as payment for things fixed around the house. We do this here right now. I produce artwork for stationery for a friend of mine who is a plumber. He comes and fixes the boiler if the thing breaks down. Nothing wrong with that. No money changes hands, and if one of us isn't busy, we help each other out. Older folks would call it a 'Second World War mentality'. I call it, simply, living.
I am looking forward to seeing Brother Barack in the White House next week. A steadying influence in a turbulent world. Be a good time to reflect on those people of peace (above) who laid the foundations for what is about to transpire, and thank them in your own way, remembering that without them, you would probably be seeing Jed Bush about to take over from where his brother left off.
Take care this year, and if you feel a bit deflated regarding the whole mess we are in, you are not alone. Do remember there are millions of citizens out there who don't carry knives, beat their kids to within an inch of their lives and, definitely, wouldn't 'eat your hamster'! LOL. The headline below is a real one! Hard hitting journalism at it's finest!
Toby Walker, 15th January 2009
the 2008 economic crisis
Not all that great right now is it? We are, pretty well, powerless, left tinkering with the personal accounts domestically, whilst those in whom we trust, have had a huge gamble at a certain establishment, which in this case is the World Bank, and their numbers didn't come up this time round. I think the grass roots populus of America are, probably, very much in tune with the grass roots of many other Western Countries. Ghandi's quote regarding 'what he thought of Western Civilization?' being 'a very good idea' seems to indicate that even those who are considered to be great, do make mistakes sometimes. Personally, I have no problem with people making errors. People who describe themselves as 'individuals who make no mistakes', are generally those who never undertake anything. The trick of 'making good' errors is to admit from them, learn from them, and rectify them if at all possible. This current state of affairs is really only 'paper-overable'.
The cause of the current crisis is corporate greed. It usually is. The building blocks of Capitalism, put simply. If you can encourage the individual to take on debt, and things do not go according to plan, you can write off the bad debt, and have someone's house to show as a repayment of sorts. Great if you are a suit, but someone used to live in that house. That was the house that had post delivered to it not that long ago, asking you if you would like to take out this credit card or that one. Here, in our house, I was receiving daily postage from various financial banking institutions offering me huge sums of money, for various usages. Get a new car, go on holiday, 'that new LCD 50" T.V. is within your grasp'. I am pleased we didn't fall for any of these things. If we had the money, we'd buy something. If we didn't...well..we didn't. The constant pressure was pretty intense and competitive between these banking institutions. The result of having a huge financial party, really since the Seventies, and now we have the hangover. In the early hours of the party in the U.K., Mrs Thatcher used the funding from North Sea Oil in order to keep unemployment high, thus breaking the 'power' of the Trades Unions. Nationalisation was a word that the right would spit out in disgust. Now we are looking to partially do just that with the very people who used to believe the Gordon Gecko manifesto of 'greed is good'. It has now been proven not to be the case. No more red braces in the City, thank heavens.
O.K., so I nail my political colours to the mast. Yes I am a Socialist. I am also very proud of my country, or should I say my countrymen and women. We do not live in a huge house, we do not have a car. We don't need one. We do not take long holidays in exotic climes. We try to live within our budget. Whenever things look as if they are going to be problematic financially, we take the appropriate action. We elect governments to govern. We look to the banks as responsible institutions, in whom we place our trust as part of our financial lifestyle 'regimes'. We have all been let down very badly.
I can't talk too much regarding U.S. politics, as I am not well versed enough in the subject. My only fear with the U.S. is John McCain. His political line, actually, scares me. Obama does seem to have a more considered approach to the current troubles. He is eloquent and matter of fact. If he does receive the mandate to run the U.S. economy, he deserves a medal even before he walks though the doors at the Oval Office, and deals with any other subject. For the Right to promote a more 'righteous and profound' political stance does seem to appear arrogant and, dare I say, an ignorant viewpoint, considering the current economic climate.
In the U.K. there are some matters that mystify me really. To use a sporting parrallel, if you have a national soccer side, who are losing 2-0 in the last twenty minutes of a very crucial international game, and you have a proven striker on the bench, would it not be foolhardy to leave that player on the sidelines? Politically, Gordon Brown has already proven himself as a competent chancellor. Even the right wing of the Conservative Party would have to admit that. Gordon should be doing three things. Two are common sense, and one is a political point. Firstly, during a crisis, when I was a child, the Prime Minister would address the nation. Tell us what is going on. Cut the proverbial c**p and be honest with his country's population. Put our minds at rest, or tell us we're all doomed. We all think the latter anyhow, so things could only improve for the man. Secondly, he should hand over the running of the country, temporarily, to his second in command, in order that he can purely focus on what he has shown us he can do very well, namely his proven expertees in running the economy and the U.K. money markets. He should be a resident at the Bank of England for the foreseeable future. Lastly, to deflect any criticism from the 'hard right', he should be constantly making the point that the previous Conservative government do not have a good track record on running the economy. They cost the United Kingdom billions in assets, taking us into an Exchange Rate Mechanism, that the country just was not ready for. Sure, it is making a political point, however, it is worth taking that point on board. Of course new blood should be allowed to have their day, however, the U.K. is not ready for this right now, and has already taken one huge gamble that has not paid off. As Sir Alex Ferguson delightfully once said, 'It's squeaky bum time'!
As far as the banks go, another quote from the late Max Bygraves....'I wanna tell you a story'! Each of us entrusts our banks, as I stated. About six weeks ago our domestic house insurance was up for renewal. The major high street bank, who provide (or should I say provided) us with our domestic insurance sent us our latest updated annual direct debit renewal. The bank will remain nameless. It is not my 'habit' to post company names at the site! LOL. We live in a two bedroom flat in Surbiton in Surrey. Their latest annual bill request was for £863.37. Seemed to be pretty high to me, so I called an old, long established insurance company, based locally. They quoted us on an improved insurance policy, which came to £289.86. A difference of £573.51. That is over $1,000. We took on the new insurance and I called the old bank and asked them why the quote was so high? They said that it was their way of calculating domestic insurances, however, they were prepared to look at a much lower figure. I suggested that that ought to have been undertaken as a matter of course, and not at the request of a 'valued' customer. These are the people we entrust with our finances. I work freelance as a designer. Sometimes cashflow is a real problem. When I receive a cheque, I still have to wait up to 5 days for the money to clear into my account. This is in a 'one click' , Internet ready, economy. If the latest sums of £2,000 per person are being requested from us all to bail out these institutions in the U.K., then the payback should include faster currency turnarounds for customers, and more transparency in dealings with folks. To put things bluntly, if an individual has built up debt, because the banks, basically found they could make more money from folks being in that particular predicament, then the repayment terms should be interest free and long term. If my business had just gone 'belly up', I would lose my house. I would not expect my neighbour to find £2,000 to bail me out.
This crash is worse....and different....from the great depression. The financial turmoils back then would lead to a greater governmental control. In the wrong hands, munitions were built to buoy the German economy. That lead to an Austrian dictator undertaking the unthinkable. An awful time for Europe as a whole. That included Germany. There were execution chambers built in Berlin where those German citizens who questioned the new regime were executed. Over 100,000 German citizens lost their lives in disagreement with the Fuhrer. Not a point often made, however having been to Cologne and seen the place after the mass bombings there on a Respect wall, it does make the individual realise that no-one wins in wartime. Everyone loses. I have the greatest respect to the veterans on all sides.
Today, we are involved in fighting within countries who didn't fly planes into the Twin Towers, and, personally, I still find that mystifying. Sure the Taliban are a concern, but Iraq? The West placed Saddam Hussein in power, made a mistake, and it cost billions to remove him from the place. With the economy in the mess that it is in right now, extending the conflict is non productive on all sides. In all conflicts, peace is arrived at through dialogue. You have to talk to your sworn enemy, whatever the situation. Ireland is at peace right now because some very brave politicians decided to sqwabble, then shake hands, and become statesmen and women. The U.S. and the U.K. need to bring the troops home. They have families that miss them and they need to be cared for after they set foot on domestic soil. They served their countries, it is time for their countries to serve them.
This new financial mess is currently, three times the size of the crisis that the U.S. (followed by the rest of the World) went through in the great depression. We live in different times. The complexion of this disaster (which is what it ought to be decribed as), will be treated very differently. We live in a multi-media age where appearance is the superior over substance (something I often hark on about in music). We will be told that things will get worse, but not to worry as confidence will return, which will be true, after a fashion, as that is probably being organised right now within the media. The person on the street will have a different story. Those who are honest, will say, 'I am finding it really tough right now and I am worried about paying, even the least sizeable bills'. Then there will be those who live in denial. They will be like the banker who loses his job, but still commutes to his old offices each day, for fear of loss of face. These folks will still drive their huge people carriers and buy expensive items for their families at Christmas, however, the bank account will be decreasing rapidly on a daily basis.
Here, we have now saved on domestic house insurance. We have frozen our utility bills for three years and now we will wait for the politicians to earn their large salaries, and do their job for a change. Is Capitalism dead? Well the ideology may not be for some. My beef with Capitalism (and why I have always favoured Socialism) is that, for Capitalism to function, someone benefits whilst someone else suffers. Socialism is based upon a fair days pay, for a fair days work. Whether there is a great difference between the two is really semantics, although I do believe that it is possible to get on in life without leaving destruction in your wake. Examples? Paul Newman, Martin Luther King and Curtis Mayfield spring to mind. Good luck with your financial dealings over the coming months. Time for a new beginning, I believe. Caring Capitalism? A contradiction in terms! LOL
Toby Walker 2008
to download....or not to download music...
Above are some of the various players in the ongoing debate regarding downloading music from the Internet for free....allegedly... that ought to take care of any lawsuits, but thesedays who knows? Who knows how to behave or what we can or cannot do? The goalposts change all the time. One thing that does not change is the greed of the larger music industry bodies, mainly employing automatons who 'don't know much about music, but delight in all manifestations of the terpsichorean muze'....they like a nice tune! LOL.
If you are fifteen years old in the U.K. thesedays (and believed everything that was written in the media regarding 'you and your type'), you'd think that a) you are part of a knife-wielding gang of hoodlums out to kill anyone who lives in SW19, because you live in SW17, or b) you sit in your bedroom cyber-bullying your school mates, whilst downloading 'Now That's What I Call What Is The Point 70' for your iPod for free. Useless part of society aren't you? On top of all that, you turn on your telly first thing in the morning, whilst you are getting ready for school, and there sit two additional parent type breakfast presenters (double trouble! LOL) reinforcing the fact that you are foul mouthed, stupid and violent! Funny that, as my experience of the young folks I see at my daughters school is, well they aren't anything like that! Sure they may download a track or two off Limewire or similar, but they respect their teachers, input positively into their school and are some of the better behaved members of society today (check the pensioners hour at our local branch of Waitrose....scum of society!) LOL. All I can impart to you is what I see, so why are young adults depicted as criminal for downloading a free song or two?
Bear in mind that these young folks have grown up in a culture where that is the norm. One Breakfast presenter stated that 6 million young people are 'illegally' downloading songs from the Internet every day, and each of them own approximately 800 songs on their computers that they haven't paid for. 6 million? Amen to that. 6 million interested in a creative culture (that doesn't end up in anyone being killed at knifepoint), introducing themselves to the creators of some fine music, or some not so fine musicians depending on your viewpoint. I would be more worried if there were no youngsters interested in music at all. Statistics? Read into those whatever you wish. 'One child gets hit by a car in Brixton every six minutes'. Now there is one hell of an unlucky kid! LOL
The industry plays a divide and rule game with the public. They play the potential purchasers off against the creators of the art and then standback and complain that their tens of millions have now only become millions. I am in a perculiar position at Soulwalking in as much as I side with the buyers, and the creators. The musicians, without doubt, ought to be paid their fair share of the musical profits, whilst the purchasers should pay a fair price for the commodity. Therein lies the root of the problems and the position that we have found ourselves in right now. Let me explain.....
Recently I have been working in Chelsea Harbour and commuting there every morning via the London Underground. Invariably I have to stand on the way there and home, especially during rush hour. Time to read the ads above the doors on the train. One particular one caught my eye. It was for a music store retailing the latest album by the artist Duffy. The asking price for the woman's latest CD was £7. Not bad at all, in comparison to the price 10 years or so ago. Back in those days you could easily add 100 percent to today's asking price. Much of the time, the CD's that came in from the States into the Soul Stores reached £18 sometimes, which I merrily forked out for, thinking at the same time 'I wish we had U.S. prices'. What were the chances? Not that great. The industry had everything tied up very nicely. The artist complained that they were only receiving a couple of pence for the sale of a CD, whilst the consumer was being fleeced to a far greater extent and those that bleat about 'their poverty' thesedays did very nicely thank you very much.
The revolution came with Napster. People found they could swap a tune or two with someone they hadn't ever met, but were willing to share their songs in a way that folks did when they were taping an album for a friend. All told, 'home taping is killing music' turned out to be a lie, in as much as the companies became even more powerful and proftable. Not much of a hullabaloo regarding that domestic practise at the time. If fact it was widely ignored by the public. After all, the vinyl receipts more than compensated the fat cats.
As the 'download musical democratisation' spread, the power of purchase was placed back in the hands of those that wanted the music and those that produced the music. Those that produced could remove the middle man, thus keeping more of the rewards from their work for themselves (quite rightly). This is why the accusations that the general public are at war with the artists, really hold no water. Yesterday I bought the album 'Touch Of New York' (main page at the site) directly from the artists website, thus bypassing the multinationals and giving the money to the creators. I am sure I will be portrayed by some of the industry types as being a crook somehow, in the same way they are trying to criminalise me for CDR'ing my vinyl albums here, under the accusation that, if I am making the analog music digital, I must be about to transfer the music across the net to all and sunder. Takes one to know one is all I can say! Pay your tax first time around, now we want you to pay it all over again. Perhaps those that transfer their video casettes to DVD ought to be imprisoned for the same reason? Oh sorry, that is O.K. isn't it?
The truth that is manifesting itself right now is pure and simple. The industry was immensly greedy 10 years ago. The public had had enough and now the industry has begun to charge folks exactly what ought to have been charged some 10 years back for a chart CD. We should be retrospectively counter sueing the industry for taking excessive profits from us, as they can still make a profit on a unit today at half the previous asking price. Extortion is the word isn't it? They missed a golden opportunity, which was, if I wanted Duffy's latest album 10 years ago, and the price was £7 (a price that must still make the capitalists a profit or the CD simply wouldn't exist in that store), I would have rather had the CD than a download, and I wouldn't have paid the asking price for something less in quality musically than for something of a higher quality, better informationally and more 'ergononmic'. The proverbial door has long since slammed shut after that particular horse had bolted. What is even more comical is the response proposed by various government bodies and web service providers, where, if a song is downloaded for free, the individual concerned will have their broadband speed cut to a dial up speed or less. So what happens if a younger person receives this punsihment and they still want Duffy's new album? They certainly aren't going to buy it from iTunes as it takes ages to download, and all the local record stores are shut down thesedays. HMV don't stock singles anymore....but that is all your fault isn't it, because you are downloading music 24 hours a day? You should be ashamed of yourself! Folks simply aren't going to even consider buying music anymore, so the purchaser and the creator gets punished, whilst the record company executive sits at his desk telling us all 'I told you this would happen and it's all your fault!', whilst he removes his nose to spite his face. If he isn't going to make the big buck, no one else is either!
I am in a lucky position here, as much of the music here is sent by an artist or one of the smaller independents struggling to get by. When I buy music, I do it selectively. I'll buy anything by a smaller label artist or from an outlet such as CD Baby, basically, anyone who supports the industry small guys. Most of the older music I like I already have on vinyl here. The big guns tend to tell the artists what to churn out, embellishing their products with 'names' in order to maximise sales. What the companies don't realise is that music industry has reverted back to the days of the Forties and Fifties, where artists earned their real money from live performances. Whether it is Led Zeppelin at the O2 or Amy Winehouse at Glastonbury. The money is still in the industry, however, gigging is the order of the Millennium day. Charlie Parker made very little money from sales of 78's. His nightime antics kept the rent man from his door.
Free mp3's? Firstly, if you are downloading tracks for free, well you are in good company. I have done so and I suspect those that say they are holier than thou ought to check the length of their noses. The only difference, (semantics really), is that I download to listen and then buy if I like a song. I'll even promote the artist at Soulwalking for free, workwise, in order to try to spread the word. It has really made me laugh to listen to presenters on radio stations stating 'well of course, I have never downloaded anything I haven't paid for'. Well he who is without sin, let them cast the first stone. Blaming kids is easy meat for the record companies. After all, kids are always up to no good aren't they? Last Christmas I went to the house of one of the wealthier parents from my daughters school. The subject of downloading mp3's came into the conversation, whereupon I tried to argue the case for not hanging, drawing and quartering children for downloading, and I was lectured by those who are holier than thou. The odd thing was it was all to the backdrop of music being played from a laptop in the living room which contained 10,000 songs downloaded for free from the Internet by the party's host! LOL
Solutions, solutions, solutions.....Firstly, I think a cooling down period would be a good starting point, which would involve an open debate from all sides, with the recognition that no-one is a criminal. This is a cultural circumstance that requires some attention, that's all. Do bear in mind, the technological know how is constantly being advanced, and advertised as 'this means you can do this or that'. There was an item on the BBC news regarding some research relating to speeding up internet access. Their 'barometer' of the speed comparisons were 'it takes about 4 hours to download a Hollywood Movie from the Internet using broadband. With this new technology, it can be completed in half an hour'. I stood in my kitchen and watched the news item thinking 'It doesn't take the brain of Britain to put two and two together, the only problem is where, but I am sure my next door neighbour will know'! Personally, I would make the sales of CD's non profitmaking for anyone except the artist (who would then negotiate with their own preferred retail outlets, or supply the units from their own websites, as soccer players do in their own creative arena, placing the decision making in the hands of those with the skills and abilities and not the middle managers). Some artists (Radiohead etc) have already decided to take whatever the general public sees fit to pay for their product. I'd, personally, pay Madonna nothing for her new 'deterrent', but I'd pay Lamont Dozier £15 for a new album, no problem' Hows that for democracy! Madonna? Play that new single in the caves in Afghanistan. That'd soon flush out Bin Laden and bring the troops home earlier! LOL
Finally, before I am hung drawn and quartered for suggesting that the larger companies ought not to cast the first stone as they are guiltless, do remember, we are all human. We do make mistakes. Everyone does. Those that claim not to, do either no work, or worse still, nothing at all. A couple of years back the largest of the British Broadcasting companies were in touch with me. I had scanned a picture of the Ronettes from their schedule periodical magazine and they didn't like it. I thought I was O.K. using the image as I had paid for the magazine, but apparently I was breaking their copyright. They told me take it down from Soulwalking or face the consequences. I took the image down immediately. I was then referred (by a site visitor) to a page on one of their own web pages relating to one of their Radio Channels. They had utilised an image I had taken myself of Lamont Dozier, after our chat at the Grosvenor House Hotel, placed it in the centre at the top of their web page and given Soulwalking no credit at all. I e-mailed them and asked them how they were that day? I pointed out the image they were using on their web page was a personal photo, taken by myself, and posted on Lamont's page at Soulwalking. I said they had threatened me with legal action regarding a picture of the Ronettes earlier that week. They asked what they should do, and I said 'leave it there, it looks real nice on the page'. My point was, we all do things in error. Learn from your burns, remembering what doesn't kill you makes you stronger in the long term. They gave me a credit after all, and that was that. Here is the link, if you are curious:
We must lay off the kids and those who download the music. We must be grown up and find more inventive ways of rewarding the creators and thank the public for paying for the music. The downloading force is out of it's cage and it's growth is irresistable. If we sell fast internet speeds, fast computers to access the internet and the wherewithal to download a song directly into programmes designed just to do that, we can't then complain if people use all those tools. 'Here is a car, it does 160 miles per hour, but you are only allowed to drive at 20 miles per hour'. What are the chances? I sit here feeling as if I am a common criminal sometimes, after 40 years and 8,000 albums of music purchased, promoting albums, singles and artists. Hell, what must that 15 year old sitting in their bedroom downloading a top 40 single feel like? Bout time we talked up our kids and encouraged them culturally. They are not all muggers, hoodies or druggies. I have learned a great deal from my daughter and her contemporaries. What is that quote? The child is the father of the man. Listen to the young. You might develop a different and more positive perspective.
Toby Walker 2008
...site visitors? Blimey! LOL. Soulwalking is eight years old, started with around 5 daily visitors a day (if I was lucky) and now a million folks have dropped by the place, which is quite amazing for a website whose subject matter might be construed by some as being too highly specialised. Personally, I don't think that is the case. One thing I do know, are my counter folks at the site, do not include visits I have to make to the site, personally, in order to check texts etc. Just individuals such as yourselves. Sure, there are websites that receive a million plus hits a day (or even an hour!), let alone within an eight year period, however, the one thing that I do believe I have achieved is getting the place to about where I wanted it to be at the outset. Built on strong foundations, gimmick free, honest in reviewing and non-profitmaking. I also wanted the place to have a homely feel, where the regular visitor might wonder, in a quiet moment, 'what Toby might be listening to today'. I have been sent a great deal of music. With each company I have been honest with them regarding their product. They know where they stand and you guys know that I am not giving material a positive review when I have actually not liked what I have been listening to.
Soulwalking was originally born out of a frustration with myself! LOL I was trying to track down information regarding the L.A. Boppers on the Net. Sure there were album listings, but nothing about the band, or it's main man Vance Tenort. I just figured that if no-one was giving these guys their props, then I would shoot my best shot. Eight years down the line and Vance and I have become friends, seperated only by an ethernet cable! LOL. Vance relaxing in the picture he e-mailed me above! Nice guy. Now if you ever get to hear 'Something's Missing' off their first album.......
dave godin and nathan heathman messages
Lot has happened in the last 8 years. The low times have been documented previously, so I won't dwell on those. Soulwalking has taken me to some weird and wonderful places. I have made good friends with a few people as a result of the place, some taken away from us as soon as I have got to know these wonderful people. These guys include the gentle giant Nathan Heathman, bless him, and the Blues and Soul scribe Dave Godin (rest in peace Soul-cialist). On the day of Dave's funeral Bessie Banks sent me a message that was read out at his 'leaving doo'. Check Dave's page at the site for those texts. That is what I meant by 'weird and wonderful' regarding the site.
Soulwalking got me in communication and, subsequently, into the Grosvenor House Hotel here in London, with my all time Soul hero, Lamont Dozier. Our hour long chat I still have here on CD. I took the image above of him after our chat.Lovely man.
tashan with grace
The singer Tashan came to the house here in 2004, all as a result of his resume page being posted at the site. He is a great singer and a gentleman.
What (if held up by Mexican bandits) would be the main lesson learned in the last 8 years? Well, that is an easy lesson. Do not type into Google the word 'Soulwalking'. In 2000, if I did that I would get about 14 links to check out, most of which were to do with Astral travelling or that sort of thing. Today that search will bring up several thousand links, some nice ones, however it only takes one that has, say, reproduced the site completely for another personal Soul website. There was one site that had lifted the background image, the lot! The giveaway was the web address, however I have been told to visit many sites, most of which I have declined to do so. In a way, on go the blinkers and I just get on with stuff. All told, folks can mirror my written efforts, but they can't mirror the opinion of this old girl! LOL.
My 'Soul' wish is that I have played a very small part in, not 'keeping the faith' but 'spreading it', for whatever that is worth.
The best reward of this site is, well...you guys! Almost to a person, you have been supportive, helpful and incredibly polite and I thank you for that. Next time you are in your local Soul store, and you ask the assistant after the latest Leon Ware album, do bear in mind they can't tell you there is no demand for this music. If that was the case, you are one in a queue of a million, and you can't all be wrong can you? Cream always rises as they say. Will I still be here in eight years? Will the site reach two million? So many questions, so few answers and, as Dimples once sang, 'life is certainly uncertain thesedays'. Whilst I am still around, I'll try to support those brothers and sisters out there, making the real stuff for discerning folks such as yourselves to pick up, if it hits the spot for you, and for me to review whenever I get a spare moment.
Thank you guys. You are the best.
with duke from the four tops
with ronnie mcneir
with marva whitney
with gwen mccrae
Soul comrades Charles Waring and Peter Young. Respect to the pair of you.
Toby Walker 2008
I bet the poster above brought a smile to your face, didn't it? It comes from a book I have here called 'Prop Art'. This is a book illustrating how politics were brought to the street via the images generated by politically motived graphic artists and their instructors. When I first saw this poster, I thought the couple on the right would make a nice Mum and Dad. I wouldn't be ashamed if they were my parents. The terms used in the image are generally self explanatory. 'Forced Busing' were court orders ruling that schools shouldn't be segregated in the future as a result of 'racially political' bus mapping, whilst 'Mulattoes' is a Spanish word that describes a child born to parents of different colours. All told, we all probably, have friends who have mixed race children. The kids are not rapists or cannibals. LOL. They are simply nice kids. If you don't know, or have any friends whose Mum or Dad may be Black, who are coupled with a brother or a sister of another colour, well I guess you may still hold with the values of those who generated this poster.
As with many political posters, much of the message concerns a 'scare factor'. Something to instill the fear into the individual that the big Black bogeyman is coming to get you. It is easier to scare folks, if they have no Black friends, in the same way we are instilling a fear of everything Muslim thesedays. During the First World War, you had a guy, looking much like an unhinged Colonel Sanders, telling us that the World was going to end, if we didn't flatten the whole of Europe. Much of the common denominator as to why we fight less 'World Wars' thesedays, is to do with communications. The old Colonel couldn't have frightened us half as much, if we had 'Our Man In Beirut and his camera crew' on our television screens 24 hours a day.
1950's West Indian immigrants
Workwise, I have been very busy at home. I work from here, so, during the day, I either listen to the music folks mail me here, whilst I am working, or listen to the radio (talk shows mainly). One thing that has struck me is the current tide of hatred being vented at our European partners, due to the relaxation of border controls, allowing folks a legal right to go live wherever they wish. One thing I am most ashamed of, as a British citizen, concerns the treatment of our friends from the West Indies, who had taken up the offer of work on the London Underground back in the Fifties, via advertising and recruitment offices in Kingston, Jamaica. The indigenous White Population, basically, didn't want to get their hands dirty working on the tube, so a decision was made to offer the work to folks outside the U.K., those who comprised of parts of a bygone 'empire', who would do the work willingly. When these guys arrived on these shores, sure the work was there, however, the welcoming party from the indigenous White folks was less heartwarming. In the late Fifties, there were race riots, which led to the rise of the British National Front, the matter not being helped by the likes of Enoch Powell MP delivering speeches foretelling of 'rivers of blood'. Whose blood was he talking about? Welcome to Britain. Those times made me ashamed of some of my fellow countrymen and saddened me that, instead of welcoming these guys with open arms, the real reception was with fists and bigotry.
Move fifty years on and here I sit, drawing away and listening to descriptions amounting to 'our scummy British people live off the State, we need Polish and Eastern European migrants here to do our dirty work for a pittance, they are coming to rape all our women, kill all our men, steal our houses and live off the State....a bit like our own indigenous White members of society, who after all have paid........sorry decided that living off the State is a welcoming career move!' Jeremy Kyle show participants! It is like 1956 all over again. Funny how history repeats itself. If you question those that hold the view that the country is now Siberia, they accuse you of calling them racist, and you are an upholder of the Nanny State. O.K. then, who are going to do the jobs that many of our White U.K. counterparts feel they are too good to do? It seems to this person that, being British thesedays amounts to the individual as part of the White run society, who are basically Europeans but have happened to have resided here a little longer in the great scheme of things. I would go so far as to say, who is British anymore? Our roots define us. Scandinavian, German, probably with a hint of Russian? Hell, we are all mixed race. Gene Pool's are generally like illnesses to the media. Disposable. Illness of the moment here are of the hospital generated viral variety, last year it was HIV, before that is was Chicken Pox epidemics. They are like trends. Who is it trendy to dislike right now? Polish, Eastern European types. Last year it was Muslims. We are a very disposable society, and our opinions fall under that remit accordingly. O.K. I want to ask you two questions. When I say YOU, I mean those of you who are White and British. I would like you to take your time and answer the questions honestly to yourself. If you do, I think you may begin to think, ' well maybe I have beed had'. Here goes:
1. It is 12 midnight on a Friday night in your busiest local town. You are making your way home from the cinema or a night out on the town after seeing a show, perhaps with your family. An end of evening fight has just broken out and is spilling onto the street from one of your town's local drinking establishments. Which part of the U.K. gene pool would you expect to see constituting those taking part? I request again, be honest with yourself.
2. Examine your life from the day you were born to wherever you are at right now. Look at the really great events. Now look at those who have caused you the most anguish at various stop off points in your lifetime. Those who have conned you, mis-sold things to you, attacked you in the street, or hurled abuse at you. What part of the U.K.'s gene pool does that comprise of? Be honest with yourself.
Of course, there will be a small minority who will single out one ethic group or other. Our answers will vary of course, as every persons life experiences are different. What I am talking about here are percentages. Speaking from personal experience (as that is all I have to go on, all told), my answer to both of those questions are members, or a member, of the White indigenous section of our society. Am I proud to be British? Yes I am. As a Socialist, I have been told to go and live in Russia at times! LOL, as I am a communist, which I am not. Socialism's rewards are earned. Fair days pay, for a fair days work. The media need their bogeyman. My personal belief is that 50 years on, all of us will know someone from Poland or Eastern Europe, and be proud to have them as our friends. We will know of marriages from all sides of the European tapestry. These people will become our children's best mates in time. Time not only heals all wounds, it wounds all heels, and those who nuture the rhetoric of anger against those who are here to help or make our country strong, will be long gone or simply seen as 'out of touch with reality'. Made me laugh the other day when I heard a woman complaining that she couldn't understand what some Polish people were saying. What on earth was she doing trying real hard to listen in to a private conversation in the first place! Busy body! LOL.
I am proud of Britain for it's multi-culturalism. If we didn't have all races here, what a boring place this would be. All I would be left to look at are those angry young men in Union Jack shorts beating each other up and then setting about the rest of us. From that standpoint, I am not proud of this country. I demand to be sent back to where I came from! Wimbledon does have some good points though! If I am already there, then bring me back here! I am very angry! LOL.
Toby walker 2.11.07
leadership and direction...
Nine months into 2007 and it looks as though we may be headed for an autumn election, in the U.K., although there are those who believe that there may be a spring ballot. My guess is, whilst Gordon Brown is enjoying his honeymoon period, as far as he is concerned, he might as well hit the election trail, as, when 'the joys of having Tony Blair's best mate now in office' wear off, we will all have to wake up and smell the political coffee. Truth be told, this is a revamping of the old yarn telling the tale of the Emporers new clothes. New Labour is now Old Labour. Perhaps they ought to treat the various parties as computer upgrades. Welome to New Labour 6 (sorted out a lot of old bugs that meant the country crashed a few times, but not anymore!).
Tony left office a couple of months ago. We all had to endure the 'pass the sickbag' moments during his final farewell speech. Perhaps the biggest laugh came with the woman holding up a banner, addressed to Cherie Blair, with the banner reading 'Thank you for lending him to us for the last 10 years'. Blimey, I forgot the joy that bought me so much at the time, that I will now have to leave the room for a while and return once I have wiped the basin down and brushed my teeth! The event didn't pass without the finest political moment of the year thus far, that came when our ex 'Head in a State' left the room to the fine words of that New Labour theme tune 'Things can only get better'! Hilarious!
Poor old Gordon had to bear the brunt of every race creed and colour that Mr Blair had upset over his decade in power from the outset, with some very upset Muslims driving their vehicle into the front of Glasgow airport and then setting fire to themselves, obviously absolutely delighted that Tony's best mate is now running the show. Blairs legacy? Well three things really. Firstly, being the first Prime Minister to bring back the 'Grin Of Insincerity'! Secondly, he organised a second Vietnam with a bloke from Texas, who lives on a golf course and professes to run the largest economy in the World, the pair of them killing hundreds of innocent people all because his Dad had a go at the place and didn't finish the job....oh yes, and he is a little short of oil to buoy up the economy at home, and this all has nothing to do with that and he had to do something post 9/11. Phew. Finally, Tony's biggest crime was allowing the country to run itself. Sure the rhetoric was there, however where was that beef?
Let me elaborate on that last point (if you aren't asleep already! LOL). I would like to ask every British citizen one question. When Tony spoke (insincere grin, hands gesticulating, shirt sleeved and damp under the armpits) about exactly what a difference he was going to make to the country, in his time as Prime Minister, whilst waffling on about his great achievements.....hold that image up in your left hand and hold the image you have of your country up in your right hand as things stand right now. They look the same? My guess is they certainly do not.
When I look at the country as things stand, 10 years down the line from the last conservative administration, I see folks running their own lives. We used to vote in parties to represent us and our wishes, however Tony Blair moved the government so far away from the people that the silent majority felt alienated. This is a pretty dangerous state of affairs, as those who are unelected then impose their influence. We are told crime is falling, however, my eyes tell a different story. In a way, law and order are two fairly ineffectual words in the political make-up of British Society. In fact, we are heavily reliant upon each other regarding personal behaviour and standards. If your next door neighbours boy decides to verbally abuse you, there isn't much you can do, so we get on as best we can. Those with weak minds blame someone of another skin colour or language. A convenient view for the stupid. My personal experience is that, as I have said before, most of the ills ever to fall at my doorstep are by and large from the hands of the indigenous white population of this country.
My good friend Gerry is Black. He used to be taunted by his not so bright work colleagues that all Black folks should go back to where they came from. Gerry always used to say to me 'Who wants to go back to Lambeth?' Britain's 'Best of British' eminates from the larger silent majority out there, who have friends because of who their friends are, not because of their religion or color. The biggest problem we all face, isn't whether we wear religious attire or have dreadlocks, we are all in the same boat. The problem is the leadership that is lacking that is supposed to be there to guide us. If a young person is trying to get on the property ladder and the minimum downpayment to do so is £40,000, the chances are poor of that ever happening. You can add to that the University loan that has to be paid back to the state. All told, no chance. If you succeed and get your Freehold property, do remind yourself that you still don't own the house and the land it's built upon. The Queen does (along with one eighth of the rest of the planet), so if she decides to pull the plug, it's all back to square one, and you own nothing....now where did all that money go? Scary thing is, this is absolutely true! Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had a real opportunity to make a difference, however, they spent so much of their time in office staring at their navels, that we became treated the same way some children are in their homes. 'Go out and amuse yourself, can't you see I am busy'! Britain is now made up of 60 million folks governing themselves. You can choose to live off the state, choose to behave however you wish or, like so many out there, choose to live in debt. Hell, one day I will be dead and the slate will be wiped clean.
The options? Well if you want another four years of governing yourself, well, it's a done deal. Here are your choices. Labour. Slogan: 'Britain is out there somewhere, now go off and play like the good little children that you are'!. Conservative. Slogan: 'Britain is out there somewhere and we are all very, very angry about it and we will stick to whatever Labour have done and see how they like it.....so there'! Liberal. Slogan: 'Britain is out there....is that you mummy, can I have another sugar in my cocoa, the nights are drawing in?'! The Greens. Slogan: 'Britain makes a great launchpad for this rocket I am building...give us a hand Frank. I'm getting off here before the whole place floods'! Finally, the British National Party. Slogan: 'The whole country should go back to where it came from, you can stick your congestion charge where the sun don't shine.!'........Blair's Britain, and now it's Brown's. Lousy at running the country, but they are great at running a bath! Good here isn't it?
toby walker 5.9.07
whatever turns you on...
First of all I must apologise for the image above of me. There are reasons why it was taken, mainly that, a very good friend of mine asked me if I had any recent images of myself that he might be able to send off to his Printer. My friend is an excellent journalist, who wanted to run a short interview with me regarding the first record I had ever bought. I did say to him, 'why would anyone be interested in listening to my recollections relating to an old Thunderbirds E.P. that I still have here!' He said, 'you know what I mean.....the first Soul record'. I guess Parker and Lady Penelope wouldn't give Otis Redding a run for his money in the Soul stakes, so I cherry picked the Chairmen of the Board's 'Everything's Tuesday'. Really cheers me up everytime I hear that song. I guess General Johnson has that unique ability to install some happiness software in my old grey matter, and good luck to him. Truthfully, I could have chosen from a few releases I bought around that time. That 45 had the added bonus of a large dose of great memories at the time it was out. What a great song. That really turned me on! Grace took the photo's for me, nagged me that I wouldn't smile in any of them (she's right of course! LOL), and I nagged her that she wasn't taking enough of them. She actually took over 50, so that told me! I chose this one to scare you guys as it, kind of reflects, how my mind has been since the times of the article below. Next month I am back in the 'horse-pill'-tal having my manhood restored! LOL Fine state of affairs, still, in the meantime, I got to exercise my choice, musically, of what does turn me on.
All told, the music is a thread that runs through all our lives. I know that, otherwise, what on Earth are you doing on a Soul Music related website? Over the last few years many folks have passed on stories relating to their own experiences. 'Places and Spaces' as brother Donald Byrd once reflected on. I pointed out at the outset that I wanted the site to have the sense that the visitor was 'dropping by a friend's house', so, as I was about to place some, non Soul related imagery to the Start Here page at the site, I figured if I placed the texts and images here, it may give you the opportunity to expand the size of the Toby dartboard that you have been throwing darts at over the years round your place!
Two seperate paths that affected me in my younger days were soccer (football in the U.K.) You know if you live in the States, that soccer is the 'girlie' version that men dive a lot during the game, without having been touched! In the U.S. the REAL football is the game where two sets of guys line up against each other (shoulder pads larger than the women on Dynasty used to wear!) and run at each other....with or without the ball....what the hell, this is a man's football game! Football in the U.K. was an extension of many working institutions back in the early 1900's. Almost a trades unionists type of sport. Nowadays many soccer players not only play for their countries, they can buy them outright! Well, in the Sixties, I followed a side called Manchester United. Still do today. The club is now a 'global franchise' and is owned by American businessmen. David Beckham used to play for the team, although, back in the Sixties, no multi millionaire style stars existed. During the half time breaks the guys would do manly things like, smoke a cigarette and eat a slice of orange, whilst still smelling of the 16 pints of beer they had 'downed' the night before. Times have changed. I used to travel up to London whenever United came to town. They won the European cup in 1968, aided by some greats of the day, one of whom was a certain George Best. Below is a picture of that side.
The two programmes just above were from that campaign. Quarter final against Gornik in February 1968, semi final against Real Madrid in May that year. The Real Madrid programme is the away programme. A previous European game saw George Best become a globally famous sports star, dubbed 'El Beatle' by the Spanish media. George went on to date Miss World's, become an alcoholic, blowing nearly all his money, and ended up in my hometown of Surbiton in the final year of his life. Sad to see him in and out of Public Houses in the town. I stopped and spoke to him one day. He spoke for a while, although he was looking for the next drink, I could tell. Very sad now, although George did donate his cornea's to a needy person, just before he died, so someone is looking at the World through some very special lenses thesedays.
Eight years on found me shopping at a retailer called Seditionaries in the Kings Road in Chelsea. Many of my generation of 'Soul heads' will remember going to several Soul clubs that used to play the latest import releases most of the night, stopping briefly, in order to play the 5 or so records available emerging from a new form of music called Punk Rock. If you wanted to hear the music out, you'd have to attend a concert, go to one or two specialist venue's, or hit the Soul clubs. I had a year or so where I bought Soul and Punk music in parrallel, until Punk became hi-jacked by the industry, so the Punk had to stop, but the Soul endured. Clotheswise, at the outset of the new wave, the fashions were really up to you. If you wanted to buy from a retailer, you could buy from a shop called Boy, although Seditionaries was the real deal. That shop was owned by Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood. Below are 4 shirts I bought from there at the time (1976).
click the image above for a larger version
To explain the other images, well, you have the first four shirts (there are others but I haven't found them just yet....they are someplace here!). The last two are close-ups of the pink shirt. Reason for these is that Vivienne Westwood used to work in the shop. Always very charming. When she put together a run of one particular design, the first 100 had the shops labels stitched in someplace on the garment, many times by the woman herself. There are two of the shirts here that have these in the top image, the last image I ran through Photoshop's enhancing software, so you can (sort of) read the black on black texts (Malcolm McClaren, Vivienne Westwood, Seditionaries). The shop used to be called Sex before it was renamed. This shirt has a label from that shop in the collar. My recollections of Vivienne at the time can be summed up as 'charming with attitude' (if that makes any sense!).
The pair of them rocked the cultural boat at whatever they felt most uncomfortable with. Vivienne tried to rock the fashion world (and succeeded), Malcolm's mistake was in trying to destroy everything. Sure, most of us were exhausted by the musical Emporer's New Clothes acts, the ageing monolith's of Rock, that trudged endlessly onward into a spiders web of McClaren's making. In his own way, my belief is that Malcolm thought of us as his sheep, however, most folks who were into the new idea's wanted change desperately as well, and I think he was a little shocked by this. All history now. All told, Rock is just as boring thesedays. Anything that doesn't move stagnates. It then starts to stink. People can put up with a bad odour for so long, however a point in time arrives when we simply have to call in the cleaners. Now McClaren and Co. are no longer trading, we'll have to find some new spring cleaners. That will be down to the 16 year old's of the new Millennium. The wastebasket is crying out for the likes of the boy band and the Beatles soundalikes. In truth, it is only really Black music that is moving onwards. One thing you can count upon within musical circles, and that is, if it feels uncomfortable, then it is healthy. Personal perspective, however, taken from experience.
Whatever turns you on, well, please make sure it doesn't kill you, enjoy time passing and get the same kick I did the other day when I found an original vinyl copy of Marvin and Tammi Terrell's 'United' album! 'Two Can Have A Party'? Now there's a tune!
toby walker 8.3.07
health and hospitals
Been a strange last month or so. One of those periods that are life changing all told. I have been very unwell and it has been a time to take stock of what is going on in my life. I am 50 next week. Two thirds gone, one third to go (or so) in this incarnation.
Yesterday I walked slowly into our local town. All told I have to as I am completely exhausted. One thing that did strike me as I hobbled around the place were the various conversations going on. Most public dialogue thesedays is carried out with the use of technology. Generally mobile phones. Two words I hear a great deal, when folks are talking on these gadgets to hide behind are, the words 'I' and 'Me'. Funny that. Folks seem so insecure they almost have become their own PR guru's. One place you don't hear those words at all, are from the mouth's of nurses. They use the 'You' word a great deal.
I have spent the last two and a half weeks in the hands of the U.K.'s National Health Service. Envy of the World, so I am told. Certainly, there are some wonderful people working within this institution. The conservatives in the U.K. hate the Health Service. Mrs Thatcher did her best to dismantle the place, in the Eighties, by flooding it with highly paid middle managers, in the hope that the Service would be crippled financially, leaving her to bring in the private sector, basically pricing the poor out of the equation. She almost suceeded, however, she forgot the fact it was a vote loser. Problem with the Iron Lady, is she forgot the public love the idea of free health care for everyone. She didn't much care for the institution as it is pure socialism in action.
Well, what was wrong with me? Well I hate being a burden to anyone. Last time I was in hospital was when I was having my wisdom teeth out in 1976. One morning, a month ago, I was sick. I was bringing up blood. First it was red, then brown. I called the hospital and within a few minutes an ambulance was here. I had a stress related blood disorder, along with some liver damage as a result of that and drinking more than my 22 units of wine per week. I guess one complicated the other. Problem with liver problems is it can make you very irrational. They undertook every experiment under the sun imaginable, until I got to the point that, if they had drawn a pistol and shot me in the leg, I wouldn't have cared. I asked my wife not to bring in any visitors until I looked like a human being again. The main doctor did later tell me they had considered putting me into intensive care at one point. They didn't know what to do with me.
After 'the treatment' I was wheeled into a ward with men who were, at least 25 years older than I was. One was an old colonel, who went deaf during the Second World War. One was a lovely Iraqi man (very nice family) with leukaemia, one an ex footballer who was disorientated and peed everywhere, one guy who had cancer and a two bottle's of vodka a day alcoholic. Funny sitting in a ward with my copy of Blues and Soul, a walkman and a copy of the Independent. They had retirement magazines at their bedsides.
One thing that did strike me were the reasons why the staff were doing what they were doing. The Junior Doctors seemed to be going through the motions until they got promoted and the larger salaries began rolling in. I asked one nurse why she joined the Health Service. She simply said 'Because I want to save lives'. Bless her heart. They dealt with the nastiest of jobs, without complaint. Try asking a Junior Doctor to change the bedsheets of an old man who has just soiled his bed. Not a hope in Hell. What people say may be one thing, however, all I saw, when things were going pear shaped at the place, were the nurses resolving the life threatening issues. You cannot deny what is right in front of you.
As I began to recover, it did dawn on me that, if the Doctors could remove your dignity, then they could do with you as they pleased. To keep some pride in myself, I would make my own bed, get my own breakfast, shower and shave each morning and go downstairs 3 floors to get my newspaper (even though they were delivered to the ward door each morning). I went into the hospital gardens when the sun was out, just to get away from 'that smell'. Not sure what it was, but the fresh air was far more preferable.
I hardly slept at all at night, as no-one else seemed to, so I made tea, normally around 3 a.m., chatted with the night staff, and waited for the sun to rise each morning. On the last morning I was there, the colonel had decided to take off most of his evening wear and was warming his 'tackle' on his angle poised lamp, whilst shouting for a nurse to come move his pot plant for him. My Iraqi friend had decided he wanted to get out of bed to use the toliet, so he started to tug at his tubes, even though he had a bag to pee into fitted, so I was fighting him back into bed. I heard a sigh from behind the curtain behind me (all this going on at 5 a.m.). The man in that bed had just died. They wheeled him out in the morning.
Out of the place the following morning and on my way home. The Iraqi guy was shocked I was leaving. He was 'nil by mouth', so I wiped his mouth for him each morning with a damp sponge. Had a couple of kisses from the nurses that morning as well. Healthwise, well I met all the criteria for a full recovery, although I am still taking various vitamins at their request.
I am never going to touch a drink again. Funny thing is I haven't missed the stuff at all. Guess it was a hobby rather than an addiction. If I have learned one lesson from hospital, well it is that the last of our great freedoms is our attitude. Lose that and we lose everything. Curtis once sang 'keep some pride upon my face'. Amen to that my brother.
toby walker 5.10.06
The three people above all ought to have been American Presidents, in my humble opinion. A folk singer, a Soul singer and a completely mad woman that makes more sense than any woman I have ever come across!
Problem with many folks is we are too hard on ourselves. We are trying to make sense of a nonsensical World. Those, like the Michael Moore's of this planet look at the place and wonder 'Am I the only person who thinks this way'? Funny thing about Michael is he isn't.
I get a great deal of e-mail from folks frustrated regarding their lives. They feel that everyone else is having a great time. I can tell all of you, that isn't the case. Our lives are long, in comparison to a fly or a bee. We have time to ponder on things. The Desiderata states that 'if you compare yourselves to others, you become vain and bitter'. Never was a more true word spoken.
Generally, I think we are too hard on ourselves. As we get older, we get more grumpy and time seems to speed by more quickly. As a child, time couldn't pass by fast enough, so we became frustrated and took that frustration out on other people, that is until we became frustrated grumpy old people ourselves and criticized others offspring for the same things we used to do to others at the same age.
The President' s above? Well President Taylor described a 'walking man'. Well that is what I am as the car had to go, as we didn't have enough money to run our old vehicle. In a way, I like being a 'walking man'. James sings about him 'knowing nothing at all'. I like that description as well, as I have found that the more I understand about Black Music, the less I know. President Taylor has my vote.
President Mayfield would have been one of the greatest Presidents that has ever lived. No wiser man has ever walked the face of this planet. Curtis came out with a few line's that are so wise that, if he was still around today, he should be knighted. Lines such as 'I've met many people over the years, folks are the same most places, they have so many fears, shed so many tears, die in so many years'. The man also wrote 'nothing beats a failure like a try'. More on that story later.
Joni is another genius. Bit like Michael Franks in many ways. Can't just say 'I love you'. That has to come out in many sentences. She should be President Mitchell at this moment in time. Joni would legislate against the climate change policy that Dubya has now running in his Oval 'Orifice'. She speaks more sense than all of the politicians on Capitol Hill.
The Curtis comment regarding 'nothing beating a failure like a try', well that goes back to what I was saying about underselling ourselves. If you make an effort in a relationship, you have to make yourself vulnerable. That means you might get hurt, however, the rewards are enormous if things go to plan. Personally, I had a relationship some 25 years ago that lapsed, due to no fault of either parties. I felt like the World had fallen apart, however, I have a great family now, and I wouldn't have wanted to live with someone whom I wasn't making them happy. I tried, it failed, so I tried again.
If you think that everyone else is leading a much happier life than you are, well, as the Mayor of New Orleans stated 'Everyone has to take the edge off their Jones'. Do download that Real Audio sample off the main page at the site. Remarkable piece of dialogue.
As for ourselves, well, just be a little kinder to yourself. The empty vessels make the loudest noise, and there aren't too many of them. In many ways what most of us do each day makes the planet a better place, which makes you a pretty special digit on this pretty small ball of rock and water in this huge universal vacuum that no-one has worked out how it functions. Property and money are just belongings. Your reason for being here is a) you have a right be be here and b) it is how you treat people and that is how you will be remembered. Money is just an enabler and is as common as muck. Pretty sad if no-one thought about you if you passed away tomorrow, because of who you are? If you had loads of money, does that make you a more memorable person? I don't think so. Howard Hughes passed away a very unhappy man. Just be kind to yourself and those close to you. As President Taylor would say 'the secret of life is enjoying the passing of time'. Go and enjoy!
toby walker 4.6.06
One of the most important parts of living in a democracy is the ability to use our freedom of speech and behaviour, within certain parameters. What I mean by that, is I should be allowed to have an opinion, but counterbalanced with logic and not with racial, religious or sexual insult. As far as behaviour goes, well if I walked out every morning and kicked an eighty year old lady in the shins, society would expect me to show some sort of restraint, and leave the poor woman alone. Therefore those who say 'I can do or say whatever I want in society', need to balance their opinions alongside freedom of speech and behaviour, after all, who is better or worse than you or I? If you think you are better, then look at yourself in the mirror and tell me you have more eyes, more noses, more ears than the person that might be standing next to you. Mostly folks compare themselves by the amount of money or property they have, both of which do not matter once we leave this life. Someone else owns the property. Money gets burned and they cut down a few more trees and print out some more of the stuff, with an image of some monarch who, all told, was never any different to you or I. Hell, we all eat, wash, breathe and go take a leak every now and then, before we all go meet our maker! Comparing yourself to others just encourages vanity and bitterness. I digress, as usual! LOL.
Identity cards are, if I am clear about things, according to Sundance's government, are designed to protect me and my family. When I swipe my card over whatever scanner there may be, wherever it is, I should be comforted that Sundance and Co. will be making sure I get a good nights sleep. The difficulty with these are they are likely to attack those they are trying to protect, and make our lives a little more unsettling.
The cards are about to be legislated through the House of Commons right now. A friend of mine copied me on a piece written by a woman called Frances Stonor Saunders, who was the former arts editor of the New Statesman publication.
These new cards are very different to our current passports and driving licenses. Sundance is setting up yet another layer of, an already convaluted government system. This one is called the National Identity Register. N.I.R. for short. Great idea Sundance, but I already know who I am, and I have a lovely little picture of myself in my passport, so why? Catch illegal immigrants? Well there's a clue in the 'illegal' part of that phrase. Illegal means they are not playing by the rules, so the chances of them having an identity card is slim to say the least, so what in effect we are doing is collecting information on law abiding citizens. So let's dig a little deeper.
O.K. Firstly, you get the back of your eye scanned, fingerprints taken and a picture taken of you. Very nice, but don't they do that in police cells? Have I done anything wrong? No. Then why do I have to prove anything to anyone? Frances wrote:
'Every place that sells alcohol or cigarettes, every post office, every pharmacy, and every Bank will have an N.I.R. Card Terminal, (very much like the Chip and Pin Readers that are everywhere now) into which your card can be 'swiped' to check your identity. Each time this happens, a record is made at the N.I.R. of the time and place that the Card was presented. This means for example, that there will be a government record of every time you withdraw more than £99 at your branch of NatWest, who now demand ID for these transactions. Every time you have to prove that you are over 18, your card will be swiped, and a record made at the N.I.R. Restaurants and off licenses will demand that your card is swiped so that each receipt shows that they sold alcohol to someone over 18, and that this was proved by the access to the N.I.R., indemnifying them from prosecution.
Private businesses are going to be given access to the NIR Database. If you want to apply for a job, you will have to present your card for a swipe. If you want to apply for a London Underground Oyster Card, or a supermarket loyalty card, or a driving license you will have to present your ID Card for a swipe. The same goes for getting a telephone line or a mobile phone or an internet account.
Oyster, DVLA, BT and Nectar (for example) all run very detailed databases of their own. They will be allowed access to the N.I.R., just as every other business will be. This means that each of these entities will be able to store your unique number in their database, and place all your travel, phone records, driving activities and detailed shopping habits under your unique NIR number. These databases, which can easily fit on a storage device the size of your hand, will be sold to third parties either legally or illegally. It will then be possible for a non-governmental entity to create a detailed dossier of all your activities. Certainly, the government will have clandestine access to all of them, meaning that they will have a complete record of all your movements, from how much and when you withdraw from your bank account to what medications you are taking, down to the level of what sort of bread you eat - all accessible via a single unique number in a Central database.
This is quite a significant leap from a simple ID Card that shows your name and face.
Most people do not know that this is the true character and scope of the proposed ID Card. Whenever the details of how it will work are explained to them, they quickly change from being ambivalent towards it.
The Government is going to COMPEL you to enter your details into the NIR and to carry this card. If you and your children want to obtain or renew your passports, you will be forced to have your fingerprints taken and your eyes scanned for the N.I.R., and an ID Card will be issued to you whether you want one or not. If you refuse to be fingerprinted and eye scanned, you will not be able to get a passport. Your ID Card will, just like your passport, not be your property. The Home Secretary will have the right to revoke or suspend your ID at any time, meaning that you will not be able to withdraw money from your Bank Account, for example, or do anything that requires you to present your government issued ID Card.
The arguments that have been put forwarded in favour of ID Cards can be easily disproved. ID Cards WILL NOT stop terrorists; every Spaniard has a compulsory ID Card as did the Madrid Bombers. ID Cards will not 'eliminate benefit fraud', which in comparison, is small compared to the astronomical cost of this proposal, which will be measured in billions according to the LSE (London School of Economics). This scheme exists solely to exert total surveillance and control over the ordinary free British Citizen, and it will line the pockets of the companies that will create the computer systems at the expense of your freedom, privacy and money.'
Not my writings but those of Frances. Interesting reading though. She wrote that she wanted these passed on to folks, so that is all I am doing. I think she speaks a lot of sense.
If you are like we are here, the phone goes at least once a day, from either a double glazing salesman, a mortgage company wanting your business or some phone company wanting to sell you something. Where did they get my phone number from? When I ask them, it is usually from records they have collected from other databases. Identity cards, sound like a great way of putting good people out of work and making money out of hard working people. Bear in mind, as Frances said, the Madrid bombers happily went off and blew up ordinary Identity carrying card members of the public. Instead, as always, it seems that the law abiding majority are to be targeted by Sundance and his posse.
The telephone sales people make me laugh (usually from a call centre in Bombay, as it is cheaper there as you only have to pay the staff next to nothing to do this stuff!). One called here and said 'Can I interest you in some double glazing'? 'No thank you', 'Why not'? 'Because we had some installed last week' 'Can I ask you what type of double glazing was it'? 'No you can't' 'We are in your area, can we come and look at your windows'? 'No you can't' 'Why might that be'? 'Because we already had double glazing installed last week' 'We have some very competetive prices' 'What part of 'I don't want any double glazing do you not understand'? I even had one very persistent guy trying to sell me life insurance here. After a while he said to me 'Don't you care for your wife and family'? To which I responded 'No I hate her and I wish the rest of the family had the plague'. I then put the phone down. Even my pension company sent me a letter that read, and I quote 'Thank you for returning the A Day Maximum Benefit Calculation form. You have indicated that you were a controlling director for this employment, however, our records show that you were a controlling director' Nurse! I was never a controlling director at that place at all!
What do you have to do to get rid of these guys? Identity cards will make this sort of thing ten times worse, and imagine you had a drug problem or were off sleeping rough on the street, were completely recovered and re-housed, and then applied for a job? No chance, so no incentive to go for rehabilitation.
Useful ways of dealing with telephone sales people:
1. 'I am sorry but you have the wrong number'.
2. 'What part of I don't want your service do you not understand'?
and my favourite:
3. Simply say 'Could you hold the line a moment', put the receiver down on the table, but not on the actual appliance, and go and make a cup of tea, go for a long walk, do some shopping, or have a bath! They eventually hang up I assure you!
Toby Walker 10.4.06
middle men in suits
One of my favourite all time movies is 'The Apartment', featuring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. In that film Jack's character is a guy trying to get ahead in a huge corporate company, but having those 'above him' placing pressure on him to allow them to use his apartment in order to have 'extra marital affairs', whilst he went to the local bar and drank Martini's all night, waiting for the 'suit' to go home.
We all know these guys, especially the women out there. They speak in forked tongues, pinch your backside, and are so impressed with themselves that their World changes in their own eyes into a small soap opera of reality.
Wear the right suit, work out and use language that no-one understands, that is 'suit' language. I worked in a company that was very like this. The 'middle men' drove me out of the place. They did very little as far as I could see, but demanded large rewards, whilst those with ability and talent were sidelined, and had been bled creatively dry, when the 'Oscars' were handed out, for whatever conference / show or exhibition were completed, so to speak.
I was in correspondence with a woman the other day. Here are parts of my communication with her.
'I sat and listened to two suits in a bar the other day, whilst waiting to go to the BBC to see a music showcase. These guys were getting together a presentation with their laptops. Mobiles at the ready. I couldn't understand what on Earth they were talking about. There is a corporate language that is designed to confuse.
When their clients sit down to hear that presentation, none of them will dare ask the presenters just exactly what they are talking about, for fear of sounding stupid to their colleagues. That's corporate 'touchy feely', 'thinking outside the box', 'helicopter view' (LOL), 'push the envelope', 'percussive maintenance', and my favourite, 'seagull manager' (apparently a manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything and flies out!) speak. They are all barmy! LOL.
The other 'speak' are the conversations these guys have outside the office environment. I call it 'Sex In The City speak'. An example might be 'I am sooooo not going to the party tonight'. Put that 'upwardly mobile' individual in an A.I.D.'s hospital in Africa, and the patients would look at them as if they had seen an Alien! LOL. The suit would probably criticise what the dying African was wearing and they need to do something with their hair!
I have been to the third world and it is awful that one third of the planet owns two thirds of the wealth. When the poor countries ask the West 'we need your help', we ask them 'well what are your assets?'. They say they don't have any. We then say to them 'what about those trees over there? Cut them down and sell the wood'. They do that and the local climate changes. The sea levels rise, the lands flood and people die. All because a suit with a mobile in New York or London 'soooo wanted to have some new furniture put into their apartment for the dinner party this weekend as the Managing Director and his wife are popping by'. Crazy people out of touch with reality. 'Pass the Belgian chocolates and my champagne, would you darling, and don't worry your pretty little head about the caviar, it really pushed the envelope to the boss!'.'
We are all actors in this strange scenario. What should I say to my 'superior' in order to keep my job? Bit like a guessing game. If you don't go out with the rest of the staff after work for a few drinks, you are portrayed as 'not being loyal' to the company. Kind of Ally McBeal in many way's. How would Ally's colleagues have treated her if she hadn't gone out and created a hangover for herself?
A similar scenario happened to me when my daughter was born. I couldn't go out, after work, as we had a child to look after. Was I to leave my wife at home on her own, whilst I went out and got completely drunk with men I don't really get on with, anyway? I don't think so. Just think I had my priorities in the right place.
Many 'suits' took the credit for ideas I had come up with. All told, if the middle managers don't take care of the machinery that they regard is below them, then nothing will ever be achieved of any consequence. In the music industry the story is the same. Make the right noises and do as you are told, and you'll progress. Make a stand and you are yesterday's news.
Bear in mind that it is those who have made a stand in history that have changed things. Sister Rosa Parks is a good example. Easy for us all to be sheep, even if it makes the individual a few dollars. Does it make us a better person all told?
Toby Walker 7.2.06
Well what does the New Year hold in store for us?
I have personally never liked New Years Eve. Those who have had poor years, well it brings the bad stuff home to them all over again. We speak from personal experience, so, I guess we are looking forward to the new year arriving and the old one passing.
This time of year, you turn on your television to find those who have only eaten a blade of grass or dust, telling us that we are all pigs and we need to get into shape and eat more healthily. Well what a great Christmas they must have had. Dry bread and water? Having a jolly holiday stuffing a green bean! LOL. In a way, they are almost as bad as those, who don't believe in the reason for Christmas actually being there, but are more interested in material things and money. For them 2006 is meaningless. If you don't believe in Jesus, then you don't believe in A.D. or B.C., so you can make up your own calendar! The fitness folks also tell us we have indulged ourselves too much and make a few bucks in the act of doing so. For them, they have spent a small fortune getting into shape in order they can look down on the rest of us. Bit sad really. Happiness comes from within.
On Boxing Day, there was a huge outpouring of grief from those who had lost their loved one's in the Tsunami. It will be the same for those families, who likewise will remember the devastation that Hurricane Katrina brought upon those poor folks in New Orleans on that anniversary. Oddly, there are two similarities in both cases. There were no early warning systems in the Indian Ocean, as the folks who live there are poor. There were no building projects being proposed in New Orleans as there wasn't a great deal of money to be made out of the folks there either, even though New Orleans sinks 1 metre every 100 years. Common denominators if you like. The response in New Orleans was pitiful.
My hope this year is that we do what we say we will do at Christmas, and actually put actions into words, and help those less fortunate than ourselves. Instead of December 25th, why not May 9 or November 16 to do something to help those who are in need? If you don't have a lot of money, you can try to treat your brother and sister in the way you want to be treated yourself. That is free and is just as easy as being unfriendly. In the six years the site has been up and running, I have had one very strange individual impart some of his own warped opinions. That is a grain in the sand of all of the other site visitors who are simply great people. We get more insecure as we get older. Makes us more defensive, that's all. We all have a right to be here. It is just the empty vessels that make the most noise. You, I can tell you right now, wherever you are, are certainly not empty. Just get on with what is a day to day life business, and wonder if there is more to life than just this. Ask yourself, if you took away your daily efforts, the overall scheme of things would be very different. 'It's A Wonderful Life' if you like.
I have seen some things in 2005, that I would never want to see again. It makes you really think about what is important in life. Whatever President's or Prime Minister's do affects all of us. Remember politics are just that. These guys have an agenda. You don't. Just vote for who you think might make a difference, however, politicians will promise the Earth, and deliver very little. For ourselves, it takes losing someone close to you to make you realise the hurt others are feeling, and reside within the same lifeset scenario. In a way, it makes the individual less tolerant of stupidity and violence within societies. We really don't need either, but we celebrate stupidity within all sections of our culture. My hope is that the goodwill, that is to be found in many sections of society, is nurtured and not nullified this year. It has not been a great start to the New Millennium, however, the pendulum has to swing the other way at some point.
At the site, well, despite all of the struggles at the end of last year, I still feel that the new music is of the highest standard. Some great musicians, struggling I admit, to get their material out there, sending me some fabulous offerings. These men and women are heroes in my eyes. Easy to criticise, but hard to create. They all deserve a medal!
Enjoy the New Year. I know that many folks sit and wait for the next piece of bad news to arrive. All told, you don't achieve anything unless you struggle. If you sit back, life just passes you by. Not a great way to be remembered.
Have a great New Year and try to avoid people who ask you what your New Year's resolution's are. They are probably a fitness freak trying to make a dollar! LOL
Enjoy your year.
Toby Walker 2.1.06