I’d give anything to be at Glastonbury Festival

This week should have been the 50th anniversary of the Glastonbury Festival, but instead, everyone is locked down thanks to Covid-19 and watching what the BBC are showing (which is all the big headliners so mainly Coldplay or Adele) or scouring YouTube for footage which isn’t just focused around the main stage and Babylon. Instead of 200,000 or so people on site there’s the Eavis family obviously, the few people who live on the farm all year long, and a small BBC crew so the site looks like this.

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It’s a very melancholy sight, A few trucks, a few vans, a tent, and the bare skeleton of the Pyramid Stage.

What the weekend has shown is how much a part of my, and thousands of other people’s lives, the festival is. After all I’ve nearly been going for 30 years, so more than half my life has involved Glastonbury in some shape or form, and I’ve made sacrifices over the years to go there. Even now I’m disabled and not especially well I want nothing more than to be in a field with mates watching bands, or soaking it all up at the cider bus or as it is Sunday afternoon, I’d probably be watching the act on the ‘Legends’ slot before getting ready for the final night and the grim return to reality on Monday.

Had things not went the way it did regarding the stroke and cancer over the last few years, my plan was to move to the general area. I’d already done some checking things out in Glastonbury regarding work and somewhere to live, but that all went south thanks to illness, then Brexit made it harder and now Covid makes it even more unlikely so I’m here in Glasgow wishing souls existed so I could sell it to whatever Devil is out there so I can solve all problems overnight and ensure Glastonbury returns next year.

Because here’s the thing; I’m not sure we’ll be able to go back to what it was like before the virus, at least without accepting we have to live with an increased death rate. There’s a wee voice at the back of my head saying 2021 won’t be able to happen as remember, we’re only seven months into this pandemic and we’re finding out Covid as we’re going along. We might have drugs that help but the chances of a safe, working vaccine in 12 months looks unlikely and although I remain optimistic, there’s a realism which is beginning to sink in.

I hope I’m wrong because I want nothing more than to spend a week on Worthy Farm be it by Faustian deal or otherwise. I hope this time next year I’m working out how to make the final day last as long as possible and that maybe, perhaps someday everything awful is gone and I might even go back to my plan of spending the rest of my life in the area.

Til then it’s the BBC and YouTube. Hopefully though I’ll see some of you on a farm in Somerset next year…

What I thought of Star Trek: Deep Space 9

One of the good things about barely leaving my flat since March is I’ve done a few things I wanted to do; one of which is rewatching Deep Space 9. When it was on I did, and didn’t watch it. I did watch most of the last couple of seasons on its first broadcast, but overall I couldn’t be bothered with it. It was the 90’s and catching up with programmes were a lot harder if you failed to set your video recorder.

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I loved The Next Generation. It started badly but became a firm favourite after a year or so of it being broadcast in the UK, but DS9 was another matter. It was broadcast at the time on Sky which meant if you didn’t have a subscription you missed it, so for most of the first season, I only caught the odd episode which I generally didn’t like. This is supposed to be Star Trek yet they’re sat around a space station talking about prophets with a load of dull characters.

Even when I did start watching it every week I wasn’t especially taken with it, so when it finished I filed it away but over the years the series has come in for serious praise, and friends have asked if I’ve ever sat down and watched the lot. I never really had the time til Covid made the time so back in March I started watching DS9 from the first episode. The first season is a slog as it tries hard not to be TNG, but at the same time it is restricted by the station setting however by the second season everything starts to settle down, and the bigger picture begins to unravel. Also the characters start to become interesting, especially Sisko who til then has been bland but becomes something else as this man still struggling with trauma, but starting to realise there’s something in the religion of Bajor, the planet at the heart of the series.

Then there’s Major Kira. There’s no way in modern American TV would you have a terrorist as a leading heroic character, but here’s DS9 doing just that while struggling with some of the things she did in her past. While the others started to round out, even O’Brian who’d been a minor role in TNG turned into a solid leading character and showed that there’s a class hierarchy in Starfleet.  By the time Worf comes on board in season 4 the series is in full flow and has become something more than just another Trek spin-off.

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But although it is ‘dark’, it also protects the optimism for a future where the human race is just better, so much so that they fight a long, two year way which costs the lives of millions to protect it.

In fact DS9 is one of the best bits of television drama made. Even though the idea of binge TV wasn’t around in the 90s, it’s a show made for it by accident at a time when episodic TV in America at least, still ruled. It’s a complex show that doesn’t overplay the dark as Discovery did or was just a rambling mess as Picard was, but it’s also clearly the show which influences modern TV Trek the most, yet the producers of these shows don’t understand that preserving that positive vision is Star Trek. Without it, it just becomes a space adventure series which you’ll flick past on Netflix.

DS9 showed you can find hope in the dark and Gene Roddenberry’s vision was more or less preserved and even developed as DS9 showed how ordinary people lived their lives in a society where science and culture have advanced beyond what we could ever expect today. By the end of binging on it, I felt as if I’d missed out on something great at the time, but if there’s anything good about Covid is it gives folk like me a chance to reassess things and in this case, discover something wonderful.

 

 

 

 

Is the comic book market being manipulated?

Short answer, yes. However, watch this video for the points being made.

I’ve discussed this in the past but the fact is we’re living in an artificially created bubble for comics, and a big chunk of that can be placed at the feet of Ebay and of things like Key Collector App.

Having an app that lists key books is fine, but the problem lies is users manipulating data to artificially create a demand which isn’t there, so you could have an issue which has happily resided in dealers 50p boxes for decades and turn it into a £20-40 book overnight and there’s nothing key about the book at all. For example…

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Now this happened back in the 90’s when speculators would drive up prices artificially helped by the likes of Wizard who’d push books purely on spec, or if they had connections to dealers who had boxes of the things sitting around.

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Right now as well if you’re wealthy but can’t afford to invest in a Picasso, you can pick up a Batman #1 for much less knowing that your investment will grow. To make sure your investments do grow, you have to ensure the market as a whole grows which is why Golden Age titles are out the reach of most collectors, and now Silver Age titles are similarly becoming out of reach. Some Bronze Age books are now rising dramatically in value thanks again to speculators. In many cases it isn’t even because of rarity but an intent to create key issues and capitalise on the film/TV boom based upon comics.

If you’re a dealer this sounds great but the problem is if nobody is reading comics outwith of speculation purposes, then the medium suffers. This, like so many other things in the industry, isn’t spoken about seriously as it still is the Wild West in many cases.

Collecting comics is fun but making collecting prohibitively expensive isn’t a great idea to grow the industry, nor the medium and perhaps it’s time for the industry as a whole to confront the issue of speculators and maybe try to avoid the bubble collapsing which would damage the industry just at it did in the 1990’s.

Dawn of Planet of the Cops

The essay Planet of the Cops by Freddie deBoer has been something I’ve gone back and forth to since I first read it a year or so ago. As the days grind on it becomes more and more apprent that deBoer has more or less defined where we are in the West in 2020.

The first paragraph is more applicable now than it was then.

The irony of our vibrant and necessary police reform movement is that it’s happening simultaneously to everyone becoming a cop. I mean everyone — liberal, conservative, radical and reactionary. Blogger, activist, pundit, and writer, obviously, but also teacher, tailor, and candlestick maker. Cops, all of them. Cops everywhere. Everybody a cop.

Everyone is policing everyone. Everything is polarised. Everything is either black or white. People side with tribes regardless of how it goes against their personal trust in things like science, or their own political ideology which we’ve had in some shape or form for years, especially from the right, but now the left have grabbed this authoritarianism with both hands. And I’m not talking about people being exposed as crooks and complaints going through the correct channels, I’m talking of people being cancelled because they may have Tweeted something stupid even over a decade ago.

Take the case of Hartley Sawyer who plays Elongated Man on The Flash. He made some racist and misogynist Tweets which read like bad jokes however this was back in 2012 so someone has scoured his timeline looking for something to punish him. In this case, it’s lost his job. But yet something similar happened with James Gunn when old social media posts emerged but that had huge chunks of the left trip over themselves to excuse, and demand his job back at Marvel, which eventually happened. What’s the difference? I dunno. Neither should have been sacked is the main point but a witch hunt needs witches.

Liberalism and critical thinking is under threat now from right and left, which means one can be left wondering where exactly did it all go wrong. How did we go from the potential for free speech the internet gave us even a decade ago to an online Stasi state where someone, somewhere is looking through all your social media to find one post they can declare as wrongspeak so they can get you fired. As deBoer says, is it any wonder leftish parties in the West are struggling to gain support when these parties at their core are run by small, but powerful groups more interested in maintaining political purity and identity politics over winning elections or fighting for a singular cause which may well change things for the better for so many. Solidarity, especially class politics seem to be gone replaced by this.

So we have situations where people can raise campaigns to cancel someone because they liked a Tweet from someone ‘problematic’ but put the same effort into understanding how class politics affects people’s lives or take the time perhaps to look into a situation to find the truth, is simply not going to happen as a whole. And more and more people dirft away from a left more interested in eating itself, or standing up for anti-scientific positions, or dragging up a post someone did a decade ago so they can call on the rest of the Stasi to get the person sacked.

As deBoer says…

A cop culture is one where a mob forces a company to patch its game because the treatment of video game parrots is somehow deficient. Do you buy that narrative at all? Do you think any single human being is so fucking daft as to believe that lots of children are going to be inspired by Minecraft to feed their real parrots real chocolate chip cookies? Or do people like being cops? Do they like being in a position to make demands? Do they like lazily threatening people, “nice company you have here… wouldn’t want it to get embroiled in some controversy”? People are alienated and worn down and hopeless, and so they see their opportunity to finally be the one pulling over somebody else’s car, lazily tapping the glass with their flashlights. “I’m the one in charge now,” he thinks, as he sends an email to somebody’s boss over a Facebook status he doesn’t like.

The effect of all this is draining. It is cumulative and it solves nothing but it helps polarise things more and more, as people, scared of being sacked or ‘cancelled’ go along with the mob because they know one wrong thing said and that mob turns on them.  Good causes end up ruined or easily mocked by people who don’t live their lives in the middle of all this, so for them instead of being drawn into something which they may support are alienated because there’s no discussion, no thought. Just a doctrine that one must observe or face the wrath of the mob.

I have no idea where this ends. However we need to make a stand for things like critical thinking, science and the ability to win arguments though fact & reason, instead of death or rape threats added onto the threat of getting the person sacked. Plus if we let the right, especially the hard right, dominate the fight for free speech that will not end in a good way.

Hopefully things change soon but I really do fear we’re living in a neverending Planet of the Cops.

 

A quick word about the Warren Ellis allegations

For those who don’t know a series of allegations were made regarding Cameron Stewart and Warren Ellis by women who said both groomed them when they were younger, and like each such revelation it’s followed by a range of women who’ve been through the same experience with the named people, and although nothing illegal went on (though Stewart might have his collar felt due to Canadian law) it’s certainly a case where both appear to have used their positions to basically get sex, or at least try to.

Fact is this is not uncommon in the industry.  I’m not as full in the industry as I once was, but back in the day you’d see certain people sneaking away with women, or men, who were not their partners with everyone turning a blind eye because this was just how it was done. Plus you didn’t really want to get involved as you never know if people have open relationships.

This, however, doesn’t excuse what Stewart and Ellis are accused of though I will say there’s been stories about Ellis for some time but we’ll see in the months to come what happens next as Ellis hasn’t said a thing on his social media which is unsual.

There’s also a ream of people coming into the story late saying things like they’ll burn their comics because these people are bad, which is insane because the fact is nobody is 100% pure, and you’ve already spent your money. The fact is human beings aren’t flawless and quicker some of the people coming in late to the story realise that the better, but we’re in a weird, strange period right now so don’t count on it.

I hope both apologise and open up a larger conversation about this in the industry, because although the problem will never go away it may help reduce it in future.

Return to Glastonbury 1999

The end of the millennium was a strange time. The 90’s had been relatively stable since the end of the Cold War, minus the odd bit of genocide and war and we were all looking forward to the 21st century as after all, it could only be a next stage in the evolution of humankind?

Sadly, this was not to be the case but there was a shiny new optimism in 1999, Y2K panic aside of course. That year’s Glastonbury Festival is something I’ve written in detail about previously, was a bit of a mixture as in 1999, Britpop had breathed its last though bands still vainly plugged on for that last big hit, and although Big Beat was a thing music and youth culture was a bit over the place in these pre mass internet days. So the festival’s lineup that year felt like that with no major strand of music one could pull out of it.

 

 

Also the weather played a part. 1997 was muddy but it’d remained dry most of the weekend so was hard work, but still fun. 1998 was just wet, miserable and muddy all weekend, plus the lineup was poor, or acts you looked forward to were shite. It was a terrible year so 1999 was hoped to be dry just so we could have more options than rain and mud.

 

 

Fortunately, it was dry and in fact, on the run-up to the festival it even seemed it could be a ridiculously hot year which it wasn’t. It ended up being a perfect weekend weatherwise. Warm, dry with a wee bit of rain on Saturday to keep the dust down. Getting between stages wasn’t an issue as it was busy, but not rammed as people had clearly been put off coming down without a ticket due to the weather in the previous couple of years.

 

 

I liked 1999’s festival a lot. At the time it felt like a reward for those of us who suffered especialy in 98 which overall, still stands as one of the worst festival I’ve ever been to in 30 years, and the great thing about watching this video footage is just how many great acts played that year. Hole for example were fucking brilliant, and REM still pulled off one of the best headline sets I’ve seen. Watching tens of thousands of people bouncing at the Fun Loving Criminals was awesome in the truest sense of the word, but there was so many dreadful acts milking out a last few rays in the sun.

 

 

So 1999 felt like an end. We’d survived Britpop and the 20th century with a whole fresh new one just six months away, so of course, the festival closed the final one of the millennium with the general averageness of Skunk Anansie.

 

 

Glastonbury 1999 didn’t end with a massive climax, but just sort of faded away. 1999 itself didn’t end with the apocalypse but a lot of hangovers, and maybe a few computers which glitched a bit. 2000 was going to be a great year, and the 21st century was going to be so much more different than the 20th century.

Well, that’s right for sure. I do however miss 1999’s festival. It was fun, and it was a year where the best stuff happened away from the main stages in a lovely disorganised mess and the future looked good. Fast forward two decades and we’re living with far-right lunatics in charge of the UK, and we’re in the middle of a lethal pandemic which has seen me quarantined since March.

Sigh

Bring back 1999…

 

 

Panic on the streets of London

Yesterday on the streets of London, thousands of far-right protestors took to the street to protect statues, mainly by fighting, drinking, fighting, throwing out Nazi salutes, fighting, beating up people who have nothing to do with anything to do with the protests, drinking and of course, fighting.

Oh, and pissing next to the memorial of a policeman killed in a terrorist incident. In the background to what is now a clear and outright culture war is Covid-19 which cares nothing for any cause, but it will kill a proportion of people it infects. It’s clear a second wave will come and it’ll come hard however that will play background to this as over the next few months the UK government looks for distractions for their Brexit policy.

At the same time, some protestors do have to introduce some nuance into their worldview. Some of these statues do need to go as they’re not relevant to the 21st century, but as much as I may despise someone like Churchill he needs something to acknowledge what he did to defeat the Nazis in World War 2, and there’s a number of people who may hold dubious views or were bastards but again, we need to note what positive work they did.  History is messy and nobody is pure.

But we’re in a culture war now. Where this ends up I have no idea but we should be very, very wary of the far right being able to mobilise a few thousand people on the streets of London during a pandemic. The next few months especially are not going to be especially fun ones, especially once the depression the UK is flirting with kicks in and the effects of that hurt.

 

RIP Denny O’Neil

When I first started reading American comics few writer’s names stuck with me. Of course there was Stan Lee, but as someone who was more into DC Comics at the time really there was Gardner Fox and Denny O’Neil. I don’t really know why O’Neil became the first writer I made an effort to follow but in thinking of it, I can trace it back to his run on the Justice League of America and this issue.Partly because I loved The Creeper but mainly because it was a great read.

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It wasn’t a massive run but it helped drag the JLA from a fun wee comic to something more aking to what Marvel were doing. Today it’d be called a reboot. Whatever, it was just a great comic, and run, which made me notice O’Neil’s name at a time when you’re more likely to notice an artists name. And it was with an artist O’Neil was to be forever linked with because of their amazing work on Gree Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman. In both cases, characters are rebooted, made gritter to reflect the times of the late 1960’s, early 1970’s.

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His and Neal Adams reboot of Batman, his cast of characters and especially The Joker, became the default depiction of Batman up til Frank Miller’s version dominated from around 1986 onwards.

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He also rebooted Superman, and Wonder Woman, effectively dragging a number of DC’s core titles out of the early 60’s pre-JFK assassination times they were trapped in. Unlike some of his peers, O’Neil’s quality of work into the 80’s didn’t drop and in fact in some cases improved, especially his work on The Question which is a title often forgotten about when discussing the revival of the medium in that time.

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I could spend weeks going through how O’Neil’s shaped my appreciation for the comics medium. As writer, then editor he’s guided a number of creators through who later became giants in the medium, which to be honest few people can claim to have ever done. The entire size of his footprint on the industry is so large we’ll never see the true scale of it because being a creator in this industry and staying relevant in some shape or form for five decades won’t be repeated. He’ll be hugely missed.

 

Milestone Comics TV item from 1993

Back in the early 90’s DC Comics reacted to the lack of black representation in their titles and their creative staff by distributing comics produced by Milestone Media which was the brainchild of the late Dwayne McDuffie.

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The idea proved to be a successful one initially as well proving that DC were willing to back such a project and indeed, characters did develop a following with Static getting his own cartoon series. It is a shame that when some today leap to dismiss or slag the 90s off, this is forgotten about 99% of the time which can be blamed upon the ignorance and stupidity of those trying to teach history with no knowledge.

When it was launched in 1993 it came with a load of publicity, much of it outwith our wee bubble which is comics. Here’s a piece from the U.S at the time which is pretty good for mainsteam television reporting upon comics back then, or indeed, even now.

Go search some of the back issues down. Barring a few issues, most will still be pretty cheap and you’ll get yourself some of the better superhero stories of the 90’s done from an angle nobody else was doing.

Return to Glastonbury 1997

What seems like a long time now back in 2013I wrote a long piece about my time at Glastonbury 1997. Well, there’s always room for more as some videos have cropped up on YouTube of the BBC’s coverage, which was their first year after picking up after Channel 4 who pissed off Michael Eavis who I seem to remember thought were not taking the festival seriously.

 

The thing about 1997 it was the start of the festival forming into what we know it as today so it was slowly becoming more corporate, and the rumours of Richard Branson buying Eavis out to run it post 2000 hung around like a bad smell. However for now it was safe with Michael and Jean Eavis running it. I have to say at this point that for the first 30 years, Jean Eavis was the heart of the festival as knowing that she’d turn a blind eye to collapsing fences or fence jumpers as she wanted the inner city kids to be there to supplement the student kids from wealthier backgrounds.

 

However, the mud which descended upon that year put off the gentrification of Glastonbury did sort the men from the boys. By Thursday afternoon it was horrendous, and to this day I still tell people of the sleet which fell that Thursday afternoon or watching people in tears looking at whatever bit of art which was falling apart or standing there wondering where their tent went. Sadly the conditions meant thieving was rife, so tents were robbed (as I mention we suffered from that) or stolen completely.

On the Friday though it did slowly improve. An early slot for Echo and the Bunnymen saw us sit on what grass there was in front of the main stage, but the Other Stage was a mess with the stage sinking into the quagmire which meant missing Kenickie, but this meant more time to drink. One of the things of this year was although by the Friday afternoon it wasn’t freezing, but it wasn’t hot either so it meant your beers were cold.

 

Thing is because of the mud everyone’s thighs were like coiled steel by the Saturday afternoon so we were all bouncing along like wired kangaroos through the mud.

 

Looking back at all these videos just reminds me of how bloody good this year was, and that how through adversity, tens of thousands of us went ‘fuck it’ to make that year a special year. Of course, the TV footage sold it to tens of thousands of people who were normally outwith what was still countercultural, and in years to come this would change the festival to an establishment event.

But even now it is firmly part of the UK’s establishment there’s a part of it which retains the soul of years like 1997.  There’s still people there who are going not because it’s part of the ticksheet of things to do before university and a nice comfy job, and it’s because we can in our own wee ways recapture the great years like 1997.