Man and camels on the Hameem desert, some 170 kms west of Abu Dhabi:
Sunday's BBC4 documentary Tom Waits: Tales from a Cracked Jukebox made me reconsider my views.
I'd always had Waits down as, basically, a poseur: a middle-class son of teachers who adopted the world-weary persona of a down-and-out drunk, singing of hard times and urban desolation with an absurdly mannered over-the-top gravel voice, chain-smoking the while and adopting suitably anguished expressions: a barfly exploring the underside of LA like Charles Bukowski, without - unlike Bukowski - actually living the life.
I wrote about him a while back, quoting Stewart Lee:
Waits is just an actor pedalling a watered-down, glammed-up, version of the genuinely avant-garde artists that he’s co-opted, such as Captain Beefheart, but in a vaudevillian form that places his invented persona in inverted commas and ensures, rather than marginal cult status, commissions from arts houses and the adulation of thrill-seeking squares who’d be scared by the real thing.
Well....now I'd say that's a little unfair. Waits can't really be accused of selling out or popularising. He's hardly a household name; he's not playing Vegas. Yes, his Way Down in the Hole was featured as a theme in The Wire, but he's always refused to let his songs be used in commercials, even going to the courts to protect his image - "Apparently, the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad—ideally, naked and purring on the hood of a new car...I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor."
And he writes and performs some fine songs - even if, as here, he owes a lot to Brecht/Weill:
But, mainly, I'm no longer bothered about this poseur business. So what if he wants to adopt the persona of an LA beat hipster? If it works for him - and it clearly does - then good luck. We British have a particular horror of people pretending to be who they're not; especially the unforgivable sin of middle class people trying to make out they're working class ("mockney" etc.). Americans, bless 'em, aren't so hung up on such things. People can invent themselves.
Besides, it's all an act. He's a performer. And it's a performance he's grown into. What might have seemed forced in his twenties is much less so as he hits late middle-age.
In case we didn't get the Netanyahu=Hitler message, see the swastika at the lower right there.
Pro-Palestinian and antisemitic, as we see here with the PSC, are increasingly synonymous.
A man who received death threats after renouncing his faith wants to reach out to other people like him.
Imtiaz Shams grew up in a Muslim family in Ilford in the late 1990s and early 2000s, going to school in Hainault and Seven Kings.
The 28-year-old says he was “very religious” as a youngster, always reading books about Islam and going to the mosque.
But as he approached his twenties, Mr Shams started to question things.
He said: “Every Muslim has questions about their faith when they they’re growing up, and that’s totally fine.
“But as I got older and my critical thinking developed, I started to doubt whether the answers I was getting really made sense anymore.”
Despite having doubts, Mr Shams did not actually consider leaving his faith until several years later.
He said: “Even though I wanted to leave, I had absolutely no idea how.
“I didn’t know anyone who had left Islam, I didn’t even know it was something people did.
“But in reality, lots of people feel the same as I did, they’re just not out to their families and the community.
“A lot of non-Muslims aren’t out because they think it’s not worth the abuse they’d face.”
He added: “I’ve had two death threats in the past three months – but it’s not just extreme stuff like that, it’s how people’s interactions with you change too.
“They ignore you, try to keep their children away from you..."
London, in the 21st century.
[Photos: Guido van Helten]
Important work by David Collier, who finds - to no one's surprise - that the PSC is riddled with antisemitism:
I have just concluded an in-depth investigation into antisemitism inside The Palestine Solidarity Campaign that has spanned months but drew on several years of underlying research. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) claims to be “the biggest organisation in the UK dedicated to securing Palestinian human rights.” The PSC patrons include: Jeremy Corbyn MP, Pat Gaffney, Rev Garth, Ken Loach, Dr Ilan Pappe, Hilary & Steven Rose, Alexi Sayle, Baroness Tonge of Kew, and Betty Hunter. It partners with many of the largest unions in the UK.
The result of this research is an eighty-page report, that focuses on seventeen separate PSC branches across England and Wales, and culminated with an in-depth case study of a mass demonstration in London. The full report can be downloaded at the bottom of this page.
In truth, I stopped the detailed analysis at seventeen branches simply because I was inundated with material....
When I refer to antisemitism within this study, I avoided *all references to the conflict*. We all know the trick is to deflect accusations of antisemitism with a false cry about criticism of Israeli policy. I set out to avoid this. I was only interested in those pushing conspiracy theory, holocaust denial or classic antisemitic tropes. The argument that antisemitism is about legitimate criticism of Israel simply has no weight against this research. The bar for antisemitism that was used is unnaturally high. As an example, if the worst I found was an activist suggesting Israel should be destroyed, is committing genocide and Zionists are all Nazis, that activist *would not* have made the grade for this research. Let that fact sink in.
The ‘antisemitism’ referred to here is *ONLY* ‘hard core’ antisemitism. Examples include: USA controlled by Zionists; Jews responsible for 9/11; the Paris Bataclan massacre was a ‘false flag’ to increase support for Israel; Ashkenazi Jews are fake; Zionist Jews support ISIS; Jewish Zionists stir up fake antisemitism; many varieties of Holocaust Denial; Israel harvests organs from the dead; Israel harvests organs from the living; Mossad wanted to assassinate Obama; the BBC is ‘the Zionist Broadcasting Corporation’, ‘Zionist tentacles’ controlling Parliament; Mossad did 7/7/2005 in London; Kristallnacht instigated by Communist and Freemason Jews to promote War against Germany; Babylonian Talmud advocates sex with child age three; Goyim bloodshed ritual by the Talmudic worshipers [sic] of Moloch, the children holocaust bloodthirsty monster…..