Friday, April 29, 2011


So, today was the Royal Wedding in London. No, I did not fly over to see the fanfare; only John Foxx is worthy of a $600-$1000 plane ticket. I did, however, catch a bit of it on Channel 13 as I was getting ready for work. The whole phenomenon raises some interesting questions.

The first and most obvious question is why they do it at all. Why is there still a monarchy in Great Britain? Their political duties are largely ceremonial, and they’re really a wealthy family being kept in zoo-like conditions. They are expected to behave in a certain way that is somewhat less than human, and ironically, they are held up as being better than other humans (they are “royalty”, others are “commoners”). This is because they are living symbols.

I like this example because it demonstrates something that I have great difficulty explaining in a “rational” sense—the force of symbol over function. The British monarchy is a symbol of British history, which is a huge force, not only for citizens, but for the world. They are an archetype unto themselves, and even though there’s no functional reason for them to be there (other than tourism, perhaps), they are still supported. You will always hear an outcry against getting rid of the monarchy when it is suggested. State occasions are loaded with symbol, and the royal weddings are the ultimate symbol—they bring together the notion of union/conjunctio (the marriage) with the religious symbolism of a place like Westminster Abbey (2000 years of Christian symbolism), with the royal symbols that carry hundreds of years of British history. It’s like an orgasm for the unconscious. People react to it in a very emotional manner—either they are very excited, or they are very opposed. Either way, it has an effect on British citizens, and on others around the world as well.

Americans have a real love affair with British royalty. They just love the aesthetics of the beautiful palaces, decorations, and regalia. They love the archetypal notion of being a “queen” or a “prince” or a “princess”—anything with a title, really. And they can do this easily because they are outside the system. (I say “they” even though I’m American, because I’m not really that bowled over by all of it, though I can appreciate the aesthetics and symbolism of the whole thing). It’s very much romanticized.

For the British, it’s a different story. Certainly the monarchy has its staunch supporters. But among regular middle class and working class people, the impression of the monarchy and their feelings about it may be rather different. Since the industrial revolution, Britain has had quite a violent history of class warfare—parallel in some respects to what went on in the United States in the early 20th century with the beginnings of the labor movement, but much more intense—and going on for a much longer time. There was a reason punks were angry at the time of the Queen’s first jubilee in 1976. All this money spent on fanfare when there was poverty, unemployment, and scarce resources. The symbolism of the royalty affects them as much as anyone else—you almost can’t help it if you are of European descent at all. But the British often struggle with that archetype versus the resentment over fiscal realities.

As I was watching the motorcade from Buckingham Palace on the television, one of the female British commentators made the statement, “Michael Middleton must be so proud of his daughter, being the son of a Yorkshire pilot, and coming to this.” Since this is a bit unclear, let me re-state: Mr. Middleton is the son of a Yorkshire pilot. Now he is part of the aristocracy, due to his daughter's marriage. I think I threw up a little in my mouth. It’s an illustration of something that I don’t like about the UK—a caste-like class distinction. It is accepted that what one’s parents did determines one’s place in society, regardless of anything that person may have achieved on their own. It’s as if feudalism never died out, and we’re still in the era in modern Europe where one can only change their social status by the partner they choose. And even still, that person is considered to occupy a “lesser” place, whether that is conveyed overtly or subtly.

It’s particularly offensive to me as an American, partially because of our own collective mythology in this country. In America, the idea is that anyone can become successful if they work hard enough. This is utter nonsense, but it does permeate the elementary ideas of our culture. As an idea, it has its advantages and disadvantages, like any myth. It can prompt someone to overcome difficult circumstances. As we are seeing in this country today—it can also be an excuse to disenfranchise those who are not rich, by suggesting they have not been hugely successful because they are “lazy” and “entitled”. All myths have a dark side. And no one should be fooled into thinking there’s total equality in this country—anyone who is not white, male, and Protestant (and wealthy) has a real set of challenges to deal with if they occupy any position of authority. But the British love to come here—as I was once told, coming to America for the common British person is like losing 15 pounds right off—the weight of “hereditary (and geographic) racism”.

When John Foxx visited New York in November of 2009, I had someone ask me what Americans thought of his Northern accent. I laughed, because the average American can’t tell the difference between a Lancashire accent and a posh London accent. For that matter, Americans can’t tell the difference between English, Irish, and Scottish accents. It’s all “British” and all wonderful to them. (Of course, the Scots and the Irish are often offended by being lumped in with the English). Americans don’t care. If you have a British accent, they love you. It may be the most hated accent other places in the world, but not here. The Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 have been long forgiven. I happen to love John’s Chorley accent, but it subjects him to a lot of prejudice at home (which he has indicated in interviews, and is evident in the way many English interviewers talk about him). Americans don’t get that—it seems stupid to treat someone differently because of their accent. And I’ll go out on a limb and say we’re right for once—it is stupid. Not that we don’t discriminate and judge in other ways. Humans are funny that way.

In any case, the wedding fanfare was colorful and interesting, and I’m very glad the British got a bank holiday out of it. I hope the royal supporters and detractors both had a good day, and if you’re one of those obsessed people that bought a Kate and William commemorative refrigerator, may I suggest you get professional help.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WAMFEST at FDU: Visconti, Marsh, Escovedo. And, Thoughts on Association

After work today, I went to the first event in Wesley Stace's (John Wesley Harding's) "WAMFEST" for this year. WAMFEST is a remarkable musical and literary event that takes place at Fairleigh Dickinson University every year. You can check out the WAMFEST blog here.

This event featured Alejandro Escovedo and his band, rock critic Dave Marsh, and superstar producer Tony Visconti. The whole event was amazing--Escovedo is an amazing musician, and I say that as someone who is not a particular fan of his genre, which is sort of a rock/country kind of thing. (That may be unfair, but take it as a loose interpretation). He was produced by Visconti, who spoke about the production process with Escovedo, and compared it to the experience of producing acts like David Bowie and T.Rex. If Escovedo did a very simple tune live, Visconti explained how he would suggest certain chord changes to Escovedo to bring out the chorus and other features of the song, to make it less like a song with "campfire chords". They played two different versions of the same song, to demonstrate how they sounded pre and post production. It was fascinating.

There was a question that I wanted to ask Tony Visconti, but they took 3 questions, and there wasn't time for another. I wondered how easily he could switch between genres--from Marc Bolan's initial "hippy" phase, to the electric glam rock, to the R&B of Bowie's "Young Americans", to the music of someone like Alejandro Escovedo. I didn't get to ask him, but my friend and colleague Harry suggested to me that a good producer is probably a good facilitator. They should be open to what the artist is doing, and go with the flow. Suggestions ought to enhance the sound, not totally change it to something inauthentic.

They ended the event with a rendition of "All the Young Dudes", which you may remember as the hit song for Mott the Hoople. This was an emotional choice for me, as this song makes me cry. Since I've driven home, I've debated whether or not I should publicly say why. I've concluded that I should, as it's an excellent illustration of how music has an impact because it is associated with much bigger things, in spite of its original intention. Literature can have a similar effect, but sound can make a world of difference.

I will start by telling you that "All the Young Dudes" reminds me of my brother, even though I have no memory of my brother being a particular fan of this song, or ever playing it in my presence. My brother died of AIDS at the age of 23. It's funny to even mention that, as we were strictly instructed to remain hush-hush about the cause of death (which ended up being complications from pneumonia). The reason I was given was, "there are people who would burn our house down if they knew." To which I say with all great sincerity, to such people, if such people are out there: Fuck you and go to hell.

"All the Young Dudes" is clearly a song relating to gay culture, and there is a sadness to it, as it definitely has a minor key in its notes. Thank God they didn't have an organ or other synthesizer there, because if I heard the synth part I really would have lost it. Being of a somewhat "English" temperament, I'm rather embarrassed by public displays of emotion. I'm not interested in carrying on in front of others.

As I mentioned, my brother never showed an affinity for this song. He liked the kind of disco/techno music that was being played at the Palladium and Studio 54 in the early 1980s. I think my association with this song must have come from a documentary, or some event, where I heard this song and connected it with him.

But it's bigger than just him. I don't tend to dwell on death. To me, to mourn a person too long is an act of selfishness. (I apologize if I offend anyone with that statement). I feel that if I care about the person, I let them go, and let them move on. I say that as a spiritual person. If I hang on, then they may hang on for my account. There's no reason they should do this. I need to contend with my own void, and use it as a learning experience.

It's more about the bullshit he put up with as a gay man coming out in the early 1980s. About the prejudice and intolerance shown by his job, and even by members of our family. The lasting impact this has had on my mother, which has had a lasting negative impact on family relations. It was destructive in many ways, and did not need to be. It was because people are stupid and fearful and prejudiced. That makes me sad and angry. I include myself in this, because I am human and not immune to bad behavior. The song has a bit of fight to it, and I suppose it makes me think of fighting prejudice, and loving yourself in spite of the fact that society does not accept you. The fact that society is this way makes me cry. Freedom is something I value above all else, and I don't like to see others limited or deprived of it, for reasons spoken or unspoken.

So, if I read this over, I say "Wow". One song reminiscent of one event remembered vaguely triggers a whole world of symbolism and association. That's how powerful the unconscious is. I don't think about these things every day. But it's clear that they still affect me.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Spring has taken us by surprise. The weather outside is often damp and chilly, yet everything is blooming. Now that oil is becoming obscenely priced, I am looking forward to the days when I can turn off the heat and open the windows in the house.

This week I turned 39. I also had a tumor removed from my left breast. I have not called about the pathology, but it seems certain that the tumor was benign. As my sister noted, "If it wasn't, you definitely would have heard by now." Besides--the nurse that did the ultrasound, the doctor that stuck a wire through the tumor using ultrasound, and the nurse that did the subsequent mammogram all told me that they could see it was benign, so I am satisfied that it is. I will see the doctor next week.

Needless to say, this is why I've been quiet on the blogging front. I'd hoped to do more while I was home recovering, but I spent more time sleeping and reading. The surgery wasn't too painful (except when they did the mammogram while the wire was in my chest), but my body was traumatized nonetheless. Hence, the rest of me felt equally traumatized, and not with worry. The old cliche is that idle hands are the devil's workshop; in my case, you can replace "hands" with "brains". It's like getting fitted for new glasses; some things come sharply into focus, other things become blurry. Things that were uncertain before become even more uncertain, and somehow nothing is familiar anymore. You start to feel like you are shimmering and disappearing. All is forgotten, there are only the afterthoughts.

At such times, it is necessary to ground. When the brain starts acting like the air traffic controllers that are talking on their cell phones and watching movies instead of helping planes land, it's time to get practical and focused. The brain is a filter, designed to keep one from becoming overwhelmed. Sometimes it has to be beaten into shape. (Figuratively speaking, of course.)

I was excited to learn that my nephew ordered these for my birthday. They are chocolate Cthulhus. They haven't come yet, and that's a good thing; I haven't decided whether I want to eat them or just admire them. My week has been rather Lovecraftian. I was reading Jung's writings on Paracelsus, the Renaissance physician and magician. His discussion of the filius regius somehow reminded me of the Cthulhu mythos, though I'm not sure that's entirely accurate; the filius regius is that "king" hiding in the depths, that which is worth risking destruction and chaos to bring to light. Lovecraft suggested the opposite--that we should seek the peace and safety of a dark age. Of course, Lovecraft lived in rapt terror of the unconscious, and was not interested in risking himself to confront it.

Paracelsus talks about the lumens naturae, which is the Divine Spark in humans. It is a light within the darkness, that actually self-illuminates the darkness. Jung suggests that we need to find the illumination in the darkness in order to have the sense of peace and security that comes from awareness. The trouble is that you have a lot of groping in the darkness before you find it, and you could lose your way. Hence the need to keep a foot in awareness. On the ground.

The Miskatonic Books blog noted a great find this week--a postcard found in some old Arkham House books written by H.P. Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith. The postcard is difficult to read in the scan on the blog, but I am told that Lovecraft appears to be speaking about Aleister Crowley, and refers to him as a "queer duck". Probably one of the nicer things he was called in his lifetime.

My sister has two pet ducks; one of them died suddenly on Monday. Another friend of mine lost her sister-in-law over the weekend, at the young age of 41. I learned today that two of my co-workers lost a parent and a grandparent respectively. Death knows no season; it is the only certain thing. April has been a death-month for many of my friends. It reminds me that things do not stay the same, and indeed they are not the same. Situations and circumstances also die. Then there is decay, followed by new birth. In between there is a void, an unknown. Here too, it is necessary for the living to ground.

Grounding should not be about wealth and worldly business. Grounding should be about connecting to nature. Jung talks about science and technology, and how our insistence on scientific method as the determiner of truth has had a negative impact on the psyche. It is necessary to remind ourselves that we are part of a larger system. And then to get out of our own way.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


There’s a great blog that I have on my RSS feed called “Sunday Magazine”. It shows Sunday New York Times articles from 100 years ago that day. This week, there is an article called “Palladino Outdone by a Non-Professional Medium”. The gist of the article is that a medium is proved to be a fraud, but the person writing the article wants to believe that Miss Burton (the medium) is not a fraud. She says and does things in a trance, and wakes up claiming no memory of it. David, who writes the blog, concludes, “At worst she’s a fraud. At best she’s self-delusional,” and questions the value of dedicating newspaper space to such things.

In reading Jung’s “occult” cases, he describes an interesting phenomenon called “automatism”. This is a psychological term that has been around forever, and basically describes any activity performed unconsciously. A blatant example of automatism would be sleepwalking, but there are more subtle examples. After reading the Sunday Times piece, it occurs to me that the case of Miss Burton is quite similar to at least one of Jung’s described case studies. I mention it because it is often not a case of fraud, and not exactly self-delusional in the way we usually think of that phrase. The debunkers are right (it's not spirits but the medium's actions), but so is the medium (he or she is not being consciously deceptive).

Certainly there are many mediums who are outright frauds, but the phenomenon of automatism is entirely legit. Jung cites experiments in auto-suggestion that demonstrate how the mind tricks itself into believing in things like a table moving of its own accord, or how a subject can “hear” messages of the person who begins the auto-suggestion by an almost imperceptible movement of a table or surface where the subject is resting their hands. The subject comes out of their hypnotic state, and both they and others present will swear that objects have moved, and that messages were received from a spirit. In fact, it is nothing more than a psychological trick that stimulates the personal unconscious.

That said, Jung points out that psychology uses a phenomenological approach; the psychiatrist is not there to prove whether or not supposed spirit communications are real, they are they to observe authentic psychological phenomena. And anything dealing with “spirit communication” is of interest, because it suggests a direct connection with the collective unconscious if it reveals archetypal ideas.

It is interesting to read Jung’s take on spirits, because he starts out assuming they don’t exist, and his later writings suggest that he believes they do exist. Their connection with the collective is sketchy; it’s unclear at times whether he thinks spirits are manifestations of the psycho-archaeology of humans, or something in a separate class just outside the collective.

Of interest here is the idea of fakery; even when something is being faked (i.e., the medium is seen physically moving something that was claimed to be moved psychokinetically), it’s not always because the medium is a deliberate fraud. In many cases the medium is doing something without consciously being aware that they are doing it. That doesn’t make it a spiritual manifestation, but it shows how much the unconscious affects us without our knowledge. In the case cited by Jung, the 15-year-old medium who was his patient knew things that she “could not know”, and supposedly manifested spirit personalities, but all of them could be attributed to things stored in her personal unconscious (complexes often appear as different “personalities”), and he was able to prove this point by point.

And herein lies the secret of Tarot cards and other forms of divination (astrology excepted). Jung coined the term “synchronicity” to describe the associations that revealed unconscious content. Synchronicities are often mundane things that we notice that seem to bear relevance to an event or crisis in our lives, and it is often the unconscious trying to “point out” something to us that we can’t consciously see. When someone lays out Tarot cards in a spread, they are activating the collective through the use of collective imagery. The symbols on the cards connect with an unconscious symbolism, and you are able to “predict” astonishing things that on some level you are already aware of. Jung points out how things related to the collective defy space-time constraints, and this is what makes them interesting. They point to a super-psychological non-linearity of time.

So—in the case of the medium, she may have been receiving unconscious messages, but these are in no way involving spirits—just as Tarot cards don’t involve any manipulation by spirits. It’s an entirely natural psychological phenomenon.

“Parapsychology” deals pretty exclusively with the collective unconscious, at least according to original definition. The existence of spirits is difficult to prove as we know, and psychology does not even attempt to answer the question. It can’t be answered any more than the “Is there really a God” question can be answered by any scientific methodology. All you can do is gather case studies.

That said, I’m personally inclined to believe in the existence of spirits and other beings, though the border between what is an unconscious manifestation and what is a legitimate separate phenomenon is not clear. It’s not entirely clear what a “ghost” or “spirit” is, either. I do think there are legitimate mediums out there, though I haven’t seen many. What they are contacting is also unclear, but it seems they are able to directly “hear” what may be remnants of personalities, or perhaps actual intelligent beings. It’s a perpetually interesting question, and one for which we’ll never have a definitive answer. The only way to know for sure is to actually die—and then there’s no way for us to report back. Not a way anyone would accept scientifically, at any rate.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Judging the Book

Another story of mine has been published at “Long Story Short”. It’s a very short piece entitled “Just Like”. This is not a horror story, it does not fit into the archetype series. It’s just a vignette I wrote while feeling somewhat literary. The benefit of this piece is that it’s something I can share with my colleagues without them thinking I’m a deranged lunatic.

It’s interesting how people judge the personality of the author by their writings, as if every piece were autobiographical in some fashion. Certainly some thoughts and feelings of the author will manifest themselves in stories, but it would be a mistake to think that the characters are literal reflections of real life people and events. The exception would be if the author tells you that a fictional piece has some autobiography, or is autobiographical. Besides that, I wouldn’t assume anything.

A good example of this is H.P. Lovecraft. He was often vilified as a deviant, perverse and monstrous for his writings. Yet Lovecraft was extremely mild-mannered and conservative in most respects. You probably wouldn’t meet a more normal person in your life. His writing was how he grappled with his terror of the unknown. This is certainly a motivation that I share with him.

I’ve been reading a collection of Jung’s writings on psychology and the occult. Jung talks about spirits, demons, and all sorts of manifestations that come directly from the collective unconscious. Early on he describes the collective as being separate from individual consciousness and personal unconsciousness. In earlier writings, Jung suggested that we should have nothing to do with the collective—it should not intrude on conscious life. By his later years, he spoke more of integrating collective content with our ordinary consciousness.

Jung tackles something in his introduction to Moser’s book on ghosts that has always been a pet peeve of mine. He says “Rationalism and superstition are complimentary. It is a psychological rule that the brighter the light, the blacker the shadow; in other words, the more rationalistic we are in our conscious minds, the more alive becomes the spectral world of the unconscious. And it is indeed obvious that rationality is in large measure an apotropaic defence against superstition, which is every present and unavoidable.”

Thank you, Dr. Jung. While I think skepticism has a place and can be healthy, there is often a rationalism applied to things that don’t lend themselves to logical processes, a seeking for statistical data on occurrences that are often entirely random. And the inability of these things to be rational and orderly causes the skeptic to dismiss them as false without a second look. But we only dismiss out of hand those things that make us uncomfortable. I have seen hardcore skeptics who scoff at the idea of anything “paranormal” be the first to freak out when they witness a “paranormal” event that is obviously not a trick and defies any normal explanation.

Psychological truth is different from physical truth. Regardless of the interpretation of the event, the fact that one authentically experienced something makes it a psychological truth. It doesn’t matter if they saw something “real” in a material sense, if they were hallucinating, or if they were simply mistaken or tricked. Psychology is never about “proving”; it is (or should be) about mapping the processes of the unconscious, and their interaction with consciousness.

Unconsciousness and the contents of the collective unconscious are part of my lifelong study and personal quest. We have become split by dismissing the unconscious to an alarming degree. If we don’t explore what’s there and tackle it—especially the negatives—then during a crisis, those things will control us, and we won’t have a clue as to where it comes from or what to do about it. It’s not psychologically healthy to be that unaware. We try to fight things off by being “clinical” and “scientific”, or by clinging to dogmatic religion and/or xenophobia out of extreme fear. In this sense, the atheist and the evangelical may have something in common.

I am over-generalizing again, of course. Certainly there are those in religious and non-religious camps who cultivate awareness of themselves and their cultural context. But there needs to be an openness, one that doesn’t shut down every strange thing as “demonic”, or “false”. Psychological truth requires a different kind of study and understanding.

Wish me luck as I move on to the writings of Henry Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus.

In the meantime, I leave you with a recent Cthulhu comic. It’s animated, so watch the last panel for at least a full minute. If Cthulhu really existed, he couldn't be more horrifying than current news and reality TV...

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

London Trip--Everything But the Troxy

Here is my “everything but the Troxy” post on my recent trip to London. It should be subtitled "The joys of traveling during Mercury Retrograde". Some of you may scoff at astrology, but I live in fear of Mercury Retrograde. And it began promptly on the day I left for London.

I have to say this adventure did not start well. I arrived at the airport and checked in, no problem. Discovered I still had Elite status, even though my recent update didn’t mention it. However, it didn’t matter—I went upstairs to find only 1 security checkpoint open in all of Terminal C at Newark, with one line extending for what seemed like miles. No special Elite lines. And in front of me on line were approximately 8 million Hasidic Jewish boys. When I saw how much stuff and how many accessories they had (hats, belts, coats, etc.), I imagined that I could be there for awhile. Fortunately, things moved much more quickly than expected. Not that it mattered—I got to the gate in time to sit around for several hours. I got to spend at least one of those hours listening to a 3-year-old scream at the top of his lungs. The flight ended up being about 2 ½ hours late, and there was a Nor’easter going on outside.

There is always music playing when you get on the plane and take your seat. The new fad in this equivalent of “hold” music is 70s and 80s songs that were pretty decent being re-done by auto-tuned female vocalists, and thus becoming horrible. I never thought I would miss Muzak—at least no one sings on that.

In spite of the shaky start, I wasn’t too late getting to London. The walk to Passport Control from the gate at Heathrow was longer than my actual time with the immigration officer. He asked why I was there, I told him it was for a concert. He asked what it was. I said, “It’s called Back to the Phuture, but I’m really going to see John Foxx.” He gave me two thumbs up, handed me back my passport, and said, “Enjoy”. I’m guessing he’s a Foxx fan.

So, here I am in London, and now I have the hurdle of making my way over to the East End. I know this will take me almost another hour, longer if I take the Picadilly line from Heathrow. So, grumbling, I take the more expensive Heathrow Express to Paddington, and make my way over to Bank via the Central line.

The Bank tube station was designed by sadists. Yes, I know about all the “major escalator work”, but you can tell this station is horrible even with escalators. It’s just an endless maze of stairs, and by the time I got to the Docklands Light Rail, I was certain that I was going to run into the Minotaur. The trip to Limehouse was mercifully short from there, and I didn’t have too much trouble finding the hotel. By now, it was about 3:15 in the afternoon, and I was meeting my friend Gem for drinks and dinner around 4. We met near Euston and ended up in Bloomsbury. I didn’t end up staying out too long—I had that vague sick feeling that occurs just before I’m about to get a massive headache, so I thought it prudent to go to my room and go to sleep.

I was supposed to meet my friend Paul the next morning, but a quick call the day before pushed plans back to the afternoon, so I decided to visit the Tower of London. Heck, it was only 2 light rail stops away, and I’d never been there. A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that. But most of my time in England has not been spent at tourist attractions. When I was in school back in the 90s, I spent most of my time visiting out-of-the-way stone circles and other weird places. I didn’t hang out in London much except to do shopping, and I think a friend and I caught a show once at the Old Vic. Now I spend most of my vacation time there book shopping. So—I can tell you where to find books in London, but I’m not an expert on tourist attractions.

Right. So—it was a beautiful day, probably close to 70 degrees, and everything in bloom. Spring has definitely arrived in London. It occurred to me that when I left New Jersey, we were expecting more snow (which didn’t materialize in a big way, apparently). Seems to me that the U.S. has some catching up to do on the weather front. Ahem.

Obviously I did not get to do the most thorough tour of the Tower, as you could probably spend all day, if not days, there. I didn’t go on a formal tour—I preferred to explore the buildings on my own. I like places like this, charged with tragedy—you can feel as you walk past the stone walls. Stones are like sponges, and they seem to soak up the energy of emotion and trauma. This was certainly true here—the Bloody Tower, the Wakefield Tower, parts of the White Tower—I actually found myself wanting to get out after awhile. It’s hard to describe that kind of magnetic overload—I imagine that it’s like sticking your finger in an electrical outlet, or perhaps what severe radiation exposure would feel like.

I stopped at a pub nearby for lunch, and then headed back to Limehouse. You know the story from there, and if you don’t—read yesterday’s blog posting.

The day after the Troxy, I had to get up ridiculously early, and I was feeling decidedly unwell. I had to leave before the hotel breakfast started, so it was an unnerving ride from Limehouse to Bank to King’s Cross, to the Picadilly Line. The swaying motion of the train did not do wonders for my headache or nausea.

Fortunately, I started to feel better by the time I got to Heathrow, and I was starving by the time I sat down to breakfast after going through security. The plane was on time—we boarded early, in fact—and not that full. There was an empty seat between the myself and the woman I was sharing the row with, much to the delight of both of us.

This is probably a good time to mention one of my long time observations in the “Murphy’s Law of Travel” category. Turbulence can occur any time on flights, but it only tends to occur at one of the two following times:

-During the beverage service
-When there is a queue for the lavatories

I can add a third one to this after Sunday’s flight—when you’re circling the airport waiting to land. This is a deadly, cruel Mercury Retrograde joke played after you’ve had a reasonably relaxing flight, and are just starting to feel normal. I should note that the woman next to me was 4 months pregnant. So, here we are circling the Catskills (Hi, Bruce) and then Sussex County, New Jersey. I have had inner ear problems since I hit my thirties, and I don’t take going in dizzying circles very well. Add turbulence to the mix, and you’re liable to turn different shades of green. And I realized that if I was nauseous, the pregnant woman next to me must have been hellishly worse. And she was. Fortunately neither of us got sick, but it was close. By the time we landed, I was dazed and unwell again. God forbid you get off a plane feeling normal—it would violate some cosmic law, I think.

Anyway, that’s my trip—short, sweet, and exhausting. I imagine I’ll feel normal again just in time for my surgery on the 18th.

Monday, April 04, 2011

The Troxy--John Foxx at Back to the Phuture, April 2, 2011

I've decided to do just one blog posting about the Troxy, and do it first. Tomorrow I will write about the rest of my London trip. I think many readers who want to know about the Troxy aren't that interested in the details of my trip, and vice versa. And if you're interested in both--well, you'll have that too.

So--without any more ado, here is my account of the Troxy gig.

First--what we like to dub "Foxxgate" started a bit after 3:00, when I went to the Queens Head pub, the official meet-up place. It took awhile for everyone to show up--myself and Phil were the first two to show up, then Fons, and then Chris, Brian, Gem, Garry, and Tapio. I took some pictures, but many of them came out blurry for some reason, so my apologies to those of you I know on Facebook--only 2 or 3 photos came out.

We headed over to the Troxy, arriving at about 7:30. Mark Jones was in the middle of his set, and I had missed Mirrors, who were supposed to have been very good. I sat up in the VIP balcony, as I wanted a good view of the visuals. John Foxx came on at 8:00, opening with "Shatterproof". Here is a clip I took from my vantage point:

The set list was excellent--here it is, direct from the Maths Facebook page:

He's A Liquid
Burning Car
The Running Man
No-One Driving
The Quiet Men
Walk Away
The Man Who Dies Every Day
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Slow Motion

The band seems to have been the same one playing with John at the Roundhouse last year--John, Benge, and Serafina Steer managing most of the synths, and Robin Simon on guitar. As most of you know, I am hardly a technical or sound expert; however, the set really sounded fantastic, like there were no misses. (Judging from how relaxed Steve Malins looked later in the evening, I'm guessing that everything went as it should musically). I'd never heard John do Hiroshima Mon Amour live, so that was a treat. And while I love Interplay, I'm glad he mixed up the setlist. Makes sense, really, as the audience is not just Foxx fans. The audience also seemed better behaved than the Roundhouse audience last year.

The only negative was the visuals. The set started with Jonathan Barnbrook's visuals, but then about halfway through, there were no visuals at all, or just sporadic ones. I asked John about this later, and he said that Karborn's visuals "wouldn't go"--they did not work for some reason. That was a bit disappointing for me, as the visuals are part of what makes the set. (Mercury Retrograde strikes Karborn again--last time was Liverpool). In the grand scheme of things, though, everything that went right went really right. So, kudos to John and everyone else for an excellent show.

Here are some good photos of the entire show by Matey Bloke.

After John's portion of the show was over, I spent time at the VIP bar talking to Rob Harris. Rob then left to take some photos of Mark Daniels' set, and I sat down. Gary Numan came on after that--he opened with "Down in the Park" I was recording it with my digital camera, when suddenly towards the end of the song, I saw John Foxx walking up the stairs. He saw me and said hello, and then stood at the back watching the visuals. I got up and joined him, as I'd wanted to chat with him a bit, and doubted I'd get much of a chance at the aftershow. We talked mostly between songs, and that was when he told me about Karborn's visuals. He was up in the balcony to get a good view of Gary's visuals, which were well done. We were there through much of the set, then John had to go backstage again. I went and joined Steve Malins, who I saw sitting just a couple rows ahead of where I'd been before. He was sitting with a man whose name I don't know, but who I recall seeing at the DNA exhibition in July of 2009, the man that Karborn thought was Steve's brother ("Brigid--is that Steve's brother?" "I have no idea. Why don't you ask him?" "No--no, I can't ask him. I want it to be Steve's brother. I like the idea that he's Steve's brother. If he's not, I'll be crushed. We can just say he is, right?"). I did shake hands with him, but it was really difficult to hear him when we were talking, so I didn't get his name. Steve's wife was also there, a row ahead of us, and as we were heading to the aftershow, she rather cryptically mentioned a trip to New York this year. Sounds more definite than last year, when Steve said it was "indefinite", so I'm hopeful.

Incidentally--I should note that the trip to New York would not be a gig, so American fans, don't get too excited yet. The last time I talked to Steve about it, he said it wasn't likely before 2012. It's incredibly complicated to do substantial gigs if you're a foreigner entering the U.S., especially on the tax side, and I'm sure they're not overflowing with copious amounts of cash, so it takes more time than you would expect. It's easier for John to do small things like exhibitions, but even that has an associated cost--Lord knows that I know it's not cheap to travel regularly between countries.

John showed up rather late to the aftershow, and then left early. I did talk to him briefly, but as always, there were many others who wanted to talk to him, and as usual, I didn't want to monopolize. This is probably the first time he's asked me if I was going to get back to the hotel safely--Limehouse is what you would call a "mixed" area, and that particular area is not so good, from what I could see ("Dodgy" is how my British friends describe it). I did end up walking back to the hotel with other friends staying there, so it was fine. I didn't see Steve or his wife again, and I ended up leaving about 15 minutes before the aftershow was over, so I don't know if they ever made it.

As we were leaving, we saw security throwing someone out, and realized quite suddenly that it was Rob Simon. We looked at each other, and said, "What the f**k?" I don't know what the Troxy security was up to that evening, but they had this more-than-aggravating habit of hassling those with AAA passes. (That's "access all areas"). They were arbitrarily deciding who could be certain places, and who couldn't. They apparently decided that Rob Simon didn't belong there, even though he had a pass and showed it to them, and when he argued, they threw him out. Rob told them that they were a bunch of a-holes, and I was certainly on his side--there was no reason for the forcible ejection, especially not someone in the band. Rob Harris intervened to keep a fight from starting, as I don't think anyone wanted to see him get arrested. He then came over to where I was standing with friends, and said, "Sorry for that," but was clearly still pissed off, and with good reason. He went over and was talking to the organizers when we left. I found out later that he was let back in through the stage door, so I'm glad it was sorted, but it was very unnecessary.

I ended the night having a drink at the hotel pub with the same friends, and went to bed around 2:30 am. When I got up at 6:30 am I was ridiculously dazed and hung over, but had to begin the trek home. I'll talk more about the other details of the trip in my next post.