Leering Billboards

‘…the car’s on fire and there’s no driver at the wheel and the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides and a dark wind blows. The government is corrupt and we’re on so many drugs with the radio on and the curtains drawn. We’re trapped in the belly of this horrible machine and the machine is bleeding to death. The sun has fallen down and the billboards are all leering and the flags are all dead at the top of their poles…’

(from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9thvHDskYvA).

I saw a triangle between fantasy, religion and law.  I saw a watchful man with his hand on his hip and the law on his side, separated from the crowd by the machines speeding past.  I saw politics, stories and figureheads of world religions mixed into one neon mixture, spat back out onto the maddening crowd below.  I saw the Holy and the damned.  The failures of a thousand people wrapped around the hopes of a few who never knew how much they had invested in this dream, this flashing light paranoia of a thousand suggestions and a hundred hooks wriggling with the baited breath of hope.  The engine of a city, hot air shouted up into the sky to meet the cold winds blowing in from the Atlantic.


Digital photograph by the author, if reproduced please credit as appropriate.

Contend Peacefully

This blog was named partly after a 2012 album by the Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Allelujah! Don’t Bend, Ascend) and, until last weekend, I had never had the chance to see this magnificent band live.  Now that I have, I’m not too sure that listening to them on CD will ever be enough again (although it more than sates my appetite for the moment, as hauntingly beautiful as there music is).  There can be no comparison for just how good they are live, how truly monumental.  I’ve been lucky in the past few months to witness Sufjan Stevens and Godspeed live, amongst small local bands and friends bands (don’t ever forget to support your local bands and jam spaces!).  I haven’t wrote much about music recently on this blog but, along with literature, photography and writing, it is one of the strongest bonds of my creative life.  It is also a daily release from the grind of daily drudgery that is my current employment situation (something I am hoping to rectify shortly).

I also play the guitar and bass, albeit somewhat freely and only in semi-regular jams with friends where we all end up swapping instruments, but there is rarely a feeling like it when musicians lock together in a groove.  It’s hard to define and it is even harder to describe for someone that has never played an instrument, or has never played one with other people.  It isn’t like sex, where two bodies or more are locked in the carnal embrace, it is a feeling that is something different to that, knowing that you are locked in by the groove feels different – it feels exceptional.  It is even better knowing that you are a part of a community (a silent shout out to The Joyful March!), part of a rehearsal rota where you are all friends and invited to each others gigs, or nights sat drinking watching each other play in your rehearsal room of choice.  Even, like me, you play live exceptionally rarely (ok, almost never in the past few years) it is still a thrill to bang out some beats, some jams, and just to release.  To know that you are not chained down to the desk, that you are not a machine, that your job isn’t your life, that there are more facets to your character that can be defined by your daily feedback.  Anyhow, this is just a short note, a note I hope that makes you google the two artists above to discover their music and to entail your own meaning to theirs.

To grow as you hear, to hear as you grow.

A Letter From Your Friend

Dear John,

Forgive the state of this paper that I write on to you now.

There is no sleep in this house now, there is only the ongoing pain at the long and drawn out suicide of humanity, that final desperate cry that is falling on deaf ears the world over.  Our cities, our towns, and our villages are burning in this fever, we are being choked as the very oxygen of life itself is sucked into this unremitting chaos, this rack and ruin of our modern world.  I know you have felt true pain in your life John, as I have mine, but this is unlike anything that we have seen before.  There is no glory in death, no beauty in execution, no mercy in torture.

Man is at the mercy of fellow-man, and that well of mercy has reached its bitter and turgid end.  It is dry, bone dry, and we have resorted to barbarity to replace what we have lost.

Even as I write this letter to you now I can hear the engines of jeeps prowling the street, the siren call for retribution wailing into the night.  I can hear the distant thud of artillery threatening the very capital.  The sands of our land are choking on the blood of its people, spilt time and time again.  I have seen inhumane scenes, of neighbour killing neighbour, of families split by invisible sectarian lines, of death squads rampaging across the city executing those it hates on sight.  I have lost the beauty that I once found in life itself, and it has been replaced by those faces that I see day in and day out.  The faces that are willing to kill and to maim if you do not abide by their rules.

I cannot believe that these people have families that lovingly raised them to be citizens of the world, that were ensconced in the beauty of our religion from birth.

It would be a lie, a certain and death-defying lie, to tell you that I did not fear for my immediate future.  There is no hope in munitions, helped either in its aim by the barrel of a gun or of a bomb held securely in the bay of distant plane.  In that sense, they both share the same problem in that they only kill and main and alienate – they do not heal, they do not bring together the families of those that are at war with each other.

The news is the same the world over, each country fighting its own personal war against the populace.  I pray for you my brother, as I shall pray for your family as you pray for mine.  May we find each other again in a garden of peace.

Yours sincerely,

Abdulrahman M.

‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

The inspiration for the blog name itself came from recent album ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!‘, which was released by the Canadian post-rock band ‘Godspeed You! Black Emperor‘ a few months ago.  The band, originally hailing from Montreal, Quebec, have been playing as GY!BE since 1994 and have released 5 albums thus far.  Known for their long tracks, inclusion of spoken passages taken from old tapes into their music, and for playing film loops during their live shows, GY!BE have become a staple of my weekly CD rotation of music.  Independence, and being able to play what they want to play, has long been a strong motivator throughout the bands history, and as such they have always released albums via the Montreal based independent record label ‘Constellation’.  The band themselves work to, and maintain, a strong work ethos of independence within the largely conglomeritised music business, and help to produce local and international acts.  Letting fans actively record their gigs is heavily encouraged by the 8 person band.

If you are a big fan of singing, it may be wise to give this band a miss.  Content to rely on their instruments to invoke emotions and convey feeling, GY!BE engage with modern day politics in the world at large by highlighting contentious issues in their album artwork and live performances.  Never one to blow their own trumpet, they rarely advertise releases or upcoming tours, yet have attracted and maintained a dedicated fan base.  Although they rarely give interviews an insight into both the dynamic and the passion of the band can be gleaned from this Guardian email interview, conducted in October 2012, ahead of the ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ release date.

I have mentioned this band in past entries, and doubtless I will mention them again.  They remain a strong source of inspiration for achieving success in a way they wanted to achieve, and remain dedicated musicians.  As individuals they have also became embedded with their local music scene, pursuing involvements in other bands or helping to produce new artists.  This is something that I believe is key to helping maintain key connections and shared musical experiences.  If you have time, I heartily recommend a listen to Goodspeed You! Black Emperor.


“And so now we thrum our joyous tension in opposition to all of that. Things are not OK. Music should be about things are not OK, or else shouldn’t exist at all. The best songs ever are the songs that ride that line. We just try to get close to that perfection. We drive all night just to get closer to that perfect joyous noise, just to kiss the hem of that garment. We love music, we love people, we love the noise we make.” (source).

Other Blogs That Are Worth A Read

I realise that this blog is random.  Full of ill thought out scenes that in no way make a whole, or random bits of writing that never go anywhere; that stand independently and mean, ultimately, nothing to anyone other than the author.  However, I would like to point the reader in the direction of some rather delicious blogs so that even if you think you came away empty handed from this site, in reality there are a few choice diamonds sitting in your pocket.

And so we begin.  On the subject of writing there has been many books written about how to write, what to write, and why to write.  Frankly they can be boring, pedantic, tedious and over-thought.  Sometimes though there are gems, such as Stephen King’s ‘On Writing‘.  I recently came across this wonderful blog, from the author V. H. Thomas. In particular  this post, ‘A HELL of a lot of questions answered!‘, is a frankly written and enlightening piece detailing the myriad of questions that often gets thrown at the author by curious friends and fans.  The author’s eloquently written response sets out both her experience and her advice to budding writers and interested parties, in clear precise points.  Topics include how to start writing, what to do with a manuscript, how to approach getting your work published, and which media to do so.  An interesting and thought provoking read!

Next up is ‘The Activist’ blog, one that I have been following for some time.  Focused on human rights issues around the world, but particularly in Tibet and South East Asia, the author writes passionately on important issues that rarely make the larger newspapers or websites.  The articles are often well cited and read widely across the world, and although you may not agree with the author on every topic raised, it will certainly make you think.  This blog is but one voice among many, but it is a strong voice that campaigns for justice and honesty.

Perhaps one of my favourite sites is Swinging for Compass, which offers up bite sized chunks of writing from an enigmatic author who traverses the world.  The style is reminiscent of Hemingway, and not a word is wasted.  Being able to conjure up a feeling or a scene in as few words as possible is no mean feat, and the author of this blog captures each country that he visits perfectly.  The evocative language is simply a delight to read, and perhaps most movingly, the author writes about the every day characters that are often given short thrift in most travel writing.

And last, but not least, there is this wonderful site where you could waste many hours, The Useless Web.  This site helps to showcase what the internet was made for.  A personal favourite from this random site generator is this Staggering Beauty website.  I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

Now if you don’t mind me, I’m going to listen to some Godspeed You! Black Emperor and muse over my career choice, or the lack of a career.  I cordially invite you to listen to a wonderful track that is both haunting and majestic…