Thursday, September 27, 2007

John Vanderslice has recently learned to enjoy America again. The singer-songwriter, who National Public Radio called “one of the most imaginative, prolific and consistently rewarding artists making music today,” found it through an unlikely source: his French girlfriend. “For the first time in my life I wouldn’t say I was defending the country but I was in this very strange position…”

Since breaking off from San Francisco local legends, mk Ultra, Vanderslice has produced six critically-acclaimed albums. His most recent, Emerald City, was released July 24th. Titled after the nickname given to the American-occupied Green Zone in Baghdad, it chronicles a world on the verge of imminent collapse under the weight of its own paranoia and loneliness. David Shankbone recently went to the Bowery Ballroom and spoke with Vanderslice about music, photography, touring and what makes a depressed liberal angry.


DS: How is the tour going?

JV: Great! I was just on the Wiki page for Inland Empire, and there is a great synopsis on the film. What’s on there is the best thing I have read about that film. The tour has been great. The thing with touring: say you are on vacation…let’s say you are doing an intense vacation. I went to Thailand alone, and there’s a part of you that just wants to go home. I don’t know what it is. I like to be home, but on tour there is a free floating anxiety that says: Go Home. Go Home.

DS: Anywhere, or just outside of the country?

JV: Anywhere. I want to be home in San Francisco, and I really do love being on tour, but there is almost like a homing beacon inside of me that is beeping and it creates a certain amount of anxiety.

DS: I can relate: You and I have moved around a lot, and we have a lot in common. Pranks, for one. David Bowie is another.

JV: Yeah, I saw that you like David Bowie on your MySpace.

DS: When I was in college I listened to him nonstop. Do you have a favorite album of his?

JV: I loved all the things from early to late seventies. Hunky Dory to Low to “Heroes” to Lodger. Low changed my life. The second I got was Hunky Dory, and the third was Diamond Dogs, which is a very underrated album. Then I got Ziggy Stardust and I was like, wow, this is important…this means something. There was tons of music I discovered in the seventh and eighth grade that I discovered, but I don’t love, respect and relate to it as much as I do Bowie. Especially Low…I was just on a panel with Steve Albini about how it has had a lot of impact.

DS: You said seventh and eighth grade. Were you always listening to people like Bowie or bands like the Velvets, or did you have an Eddie Murphy My Girl Wants to Party All the Time phase?

JV: The thing for me that was the uncool music, I had an older brother who was really into prog music, so it was like Gentle Giant and Yes and King Crimson and Genesis. All the new Genesis that was happening at the time was mind-blowing. Phil Collins‘s solo record…we had every single solo record, like the Mike Rutherford solo record.

DS: Do you shun that music now or is it still a part of you?

JV: Oh no, I appreciate all music. I’m an anti-snob. Last night when I was going to sleep I was watching Ocean’s Thirteen on my computer. It’s not like I always need to watch some super-fragmented, fucked-up art movie like Inland Empire. It’s part of how I relate to the audience. We end every night by going out into the audience and playing acoustically, directly, right in front of the audience, six inches away—that is part of my philosophy.

DS: Do you think New York or San Francisco suffers from artistic elitism more?

JV: I think because of the Internet that there is less and less elitism; everyone is into some little superstar on YouTube and everyone can now appreciate now Justin Timberlake. There is no need for factions. There is too much information, and I think the idea has broken down that some people…I mean, when was the last time you met someone who was into ska, or into punk, and they dressed the part? I don’t meet those people anymore.

DS: Everything is fusion now, like cuisine. It’s hard to find a purely French or purely Vietnamese restaurant.

JV: Exactly! When I was in high school there were factions. I remember the guys who listened to Black Flag. They looked the part! Like they were in theater.

DS: You still find some emos.

JV: Yes, I believe it. But even emo kids, compared to their older brethren, are so open-minded. I opened up for Sunny Day Real Estate and Pedro the Lion, and I did not find their fans to be the cliquish people that I feared, because I was never playing or marketed in the emo genre. I would say it’s because of the Internet.

DS: You could clearly create music that is more mainstream pop and be successful with it, but you choose a lot of very personal and political themes for your music. Are you ever tempted to put out a studio album geared toward the charts just to make some cash?

JV: I would say no. I’m definitely a capitalist, I was an econ major and I have no problem with making money, but I made a pact with myself very early on that I was only going to release music that was true to the voices and harmonic things I heard inside of me—that were honestly inside me—and I have never broken that pact. We just pulled two new songs from Emerald City because I didn’t feel they were exactly what I wanted to have on a record. Maybe I’m too stubborn or not capable of it, but I don’t think…part of the equation for me: this is a low stakes game, making indie music. Relative to the world, with the people I grew up with and where they are now and how much money they make. The money in indie music is a low stakes game from a financial perspective. So the one thing you can have as an indie artist is credibility, and when you burn your credibility, you are done, man. You can not recover from that. These years I have been true to myself, that’s all I have.

DS: Do you think Spoon burned their indie credibility for allowing their music to be used in commercials and by making more studio-oriented albums? They are one of my favorite bands, but they have come a long way from A Series of Sneaks and Girls Can Tell.

JV: They have, but no, I don’t think they’ve lost their credibility at all. I know those guys so well, and Brit and Jim are doing exactly the music they want to do. Brit owns his own studio, and they completely control their means of production, and they are very insulated by being on Merge, and I think their new album—and I bought Telephono when it came out—is as good as anything they have done.

DS: Do you think letting your music be used on commercials does not bring the credibility problem it once did? That used to be the line of demarcation–the whole Sting thing–that if you did commercials you sold out.

JV: Five years ago I would have said that it would have bothered me. It doesn’t bother me anymore. The thing is that bands have shrinking options for revenue streams, and sync deals and licensing, it’s like, man, you better be open to that idea. I remember when Spike Lee said, ‘Yeah, I did these Nike commercials, but it allowed me to do these other films that I wanted to make,’ and in some ways there is an article that Of Montreal and Spoon and other bands that have done sync deals have actually insulated themselves further from the difficulties of being a successful independent band, because they have had some income come in that have allowed them to stay put on labels where they are not being pushed around by anyone.
The ultimate problem—sort of like the only philosophical problem is suicide—the only philosophical problem is whether to be assigned to a major label because you are then going to have so much editorial input that it is probably going to really hurt what you are doing.

DS: Do you believe the only philosophical question is whether to commit suicide?

JV: Absolutely. I think the rest is internal chatter and if I logged and tried to counter the internal chatter I have inside my own brain there is no way I could match that.

DS: When you see artists like Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse out on suicidal binges of drug use, what do you think as a musician? What do you get from what you see them go through in their personal lives and their music?

JV: The thing for me is they are profound iconic figures for me, and I don’t even know their music. I don’t know Winehouse or Doherty’s music, I just know that they are acting a very crucial, mythic part in our culture, and they might be doing it unknowingly.

DS: Glorification of drugs? The rock lifestyle?

JV: More like an out-of-control Id, completely unregulated personal relationships to the world in general. It’s not just drugs, it’s everything. It’s arguing and scratching people’s faces and driving on the wrong side of the road. Those are just the infractions that land them in jail. I think it might be unknowing, but in some ways they are beautiful figures for going that far off the deep end.

DS: As tragic figures?

JV: Yeah, as totally tragic figures. I appreciate that. I take no pleasure in saying that, but I also believe they are important. The figures that go outside—let’s say GG Allin or Penderetsky in the world of classical music—people who are so far outside of the normal boundaries of behavior and communication, it in some way enlarges the size of your landscape, and it’s beautiful. I know it sounds weird to say that, but it is.

DS: They are examples, as well. I recently covered for Wikinews the Iranian President speaking at Columbia and a student named Matt Glick told me that he supported the Iranian President speaking so that he could protest him, that if we don’t give a platform and voice for people, how can we say that they are wrong? I think it’s almost the same thing; they are beautiful as examples of how living a certain way can destroy you, and to look at them and say, “Don’t be that.”

JV: Absolutely, and let me tell you where I’m coming from. I don’t do drugs, I drink maybe three or four times a year. I don’t have any problematic relationship to drugs because there has been a history around me, like probably any musician or creative person, of just blinding array of drug abuse and problems. For me, I am a little bit of a control freak and I don’t have those issues. I just shut those doors. But I also understand and I am very sympathetic to someone who does not shut that door, but goes into that room and stays.

DS: Is it a problem for you to work with people who are using drugs?

JV: I would never work with them. It is a very selfish decision to make and usually those people are total energy vampires and they will take everything they can get from you. Again, this is all in theory…I love that stuff in theory. If Amy Winehouse was my girlfriend, I would probably not be very happy.

DS: Your latest CD is Emerald City and that is an allusion to the compound that we created in Baghdad. How has the current political client affected you in terms of your music?

JV: In some ways, both Pixel Revolt and Emerald City were born out of a recharged and re-energized position of my being….I was so beaten down after the 2000 election and after 9/11 and then the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan; I was so depleted as a person after all that stuff happened, that I had to write my way out of it. I really had to write political songs because for me it is a way of making sense and processing what is going on. The question I’m asked all the time is do I think is a responsibility of people to write politically and I always say, My God, no. if you’re Morrissey, then you write Morrissey stuff. If you are Dan Bejar and Destroyer, then you are Dan Bejar and you are a fucking genius. Write about whatever it is you want to write about. But to get out of that hole I had to write about that.

DS: There are two times I felt deeply connected to New York City, and that was 9/11 and the re-election of George Bush. The depression of the city was palpable during both. I was in law school during the Iraq War, and then when Hurricane Katrina hit, we watched our countrymen debate the logic of rebuilding one of our most culturally significant cities, as we were funding almost without question the destruction of another country to then rebuild it, which seems less and less likely. Do you find it is difficult to enjoy living in America when you see all of these sorts of things going on, and the sort of arguments we have amongst ourselves as a people?

JV: I would say yes, absolutely, but one thing changed that was very strange: I fell in love with a French girl and the genesis of Emerald City was going through this visa process to get her into the country, which was through the State Department. In the middle of process we had her visa reviewed and everything shifted over to Homeland Security. All of my complicated feelings about this country became even more dour and complicated, because here was Homeland Security mailing me letters and all involved in my love life, and they were grilling my girlfriend in Paris and they were grilling me, and we couldn’t travel because she had a pending visa. In some strange ways the thing that changed everything was that we finally got the visa accepted and she came here. Now she is a Parisian girl, and it goes without saying that she despises America, and she would never have considered moving to America. So she moves here and is asking me almost breathlessly, How can you allow this to happen

DS: –you, John Vanderslice, how can you allow this—

JV: –Me! Yes! So for the first time in my life I wouldn’t say I was defending the country but I was in this very strange position of saying, Listen, not that many people vote and the churches run fucking everything here, man. It’s like if you take out the evangelical Christian you have basically a progressive western European country. That’s all there is to it. But these people don’t vote, poor people don’t vote, there’s a complicated equation of extreme corruption and voter fraud here, and I found myself trying to rattle of all the reasons to her why I am personally not responsible, and it put me in a very interesting position. And then Sarkozy got elected in France and I watched her go through the same horrific thing that we’ve gone through here, and Sarkozy is a nut, man. This guy is a nut.

DS: But he doesn’t compare to George Bush or Dick Cheney. He’s almost a liberal by American standards.

JV: No, because their President doesn’t have much power. It’s interesting because he is a WAPO right-wing and he was very close to Le Pen and he was a card-carrying straight-up Nazi. I view Sarkozy as somewhat of a far-right candidate, especially in the context of French politics. He is dismantling everything. It’s all changing. The school system, the remnants of the socialized medical care system. The thing is he doesn’t have the foreign policy power that Bush does. Bush and Cheney have unprecedented amounts of power, and black budgets…I mean, come on, we’re spending half a trillion dollars in Iraq, and that’s just the money accounted for.

DS: What’s the reaction to you and your music when you play off the coasts?

JV: I would say good…

DS: Have you ever been Dixiechicked?

JV: No! I want to be! I would love to be, because then that means I’m really part of some fiery debate, but I would say there’s a lot of depressed in every single town. You can say Salt Lake City, you can look at what we consider to be conservative cities, and when you play those towns, man, the kids that come out are more or less on the same page and politically active because they are fish out of water.

DS: Depression breeds apathy, and your music seems geared toward anger, trying to wake people from their apathy. Your music is not maudlin and sad, but seems to be an attempt to awaken a spirit, with a self-reflective bent.

JV: That’s the trick. I would say that honestly, when Katrina happened, I thought, “okay, this is a trick to make people so crazy and so angry that they can’t even think. If you were in a community and basically were in a more or less quasi-police state surveillance society with no accountability, where we are pouring untold billions into our infrastructure to protect outside threats against via terrorism, or whatever, and then a natural disaster happens and there is no response. There is an empty response. There is all these ships off the shore that were just out there, just waiting, and nobody came. Michael Brown. It is one of the most insane things I have ever seen in my life.

DS: Is there a feeling in San Francisco that if an earthquake struck, you all would be on your own?

JV: Yes, of course. Part of what happened in New Orleans is that it was a Catholic city, it was a city of sin, it was a black city. And San Francisco? Bush wouldn’t even visit California in the beginning because his numbers were so low. Before Schwarzenegger definitely. I’m totally afraid of the earthquake, and I think everyone is out there. America is in the worst of both worlds: a laissez-fare economy and then the Grover Norquist anti-tax, starve the government until it turns into nothing more than a Argentinian-style government where there are these super rich invisible elite who own everything and there’s no distribution of wealth and nothing that resembles the New Deal, twentieth century embracing of human rights and equality, war against poverty, all of these things. They are trying to kill all that stuff. So, in some ways, it is the worst of both worlds because they are pushing us towards that, and on the same side they have put in a Supreme Court that is so right wing and so fanatically opposed to upholding civil rights, whether it be for foreign fighters…I mean, we are going to see movement with abortion, Miranda rights and stuff that is going to come up on the Court. We’ve tortured so many people who have had no intelligence value that you have to start to look at torture as a symbolic and almost ritualized behavior; you have this…

DS: Organ failure. That’s our baseline…

JV: Yeah, and you have to wonder about how we were torturing people to do nothing more than to send the darkest signal to the world to say, Listen, we are so fucking weird that if you cross the line with us, we are going to be at war with your religion, with your government, and we are going to destroy you.

DS: I interviewed Congressman Tom Tancredo, who is running for President, and he feels we should use as a deterrent against Islam the bombing of the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

JV: You would radicalize the very few people who have not been radicalized, yet, by our actions and beliefs. We know what we’ve done out there, and we are going to paying for this for a long time. When Hezbollah was bombing Israel in that border excursion last year, the Hezbollah fighters were writing the names of battles they fought with the Jews in the Seventh Century on their helmets. This shit is never forgotten.

DS: You read a lot of the stuff that is written about you on blogs and on the Internet. Do you ever respond?

JV: No, and I would say that I read stuff that tends to be . I’ve done interviews that have been solely about film and photography. For some reason hearing myself talk about music, and maybe because I have been talking about it for so long, it’s snoozeville. Most interviews I do are very regimented and they tend to follow a certain line. I understand. If I was them, it’s a 200 word piece and I may have never played that town, in Des Moines or something. But, in general, it’s like…my band mates ask why don’t I read the weeklies when I’m in town, and Google my name. It would be really like looking yourself in the mirror. When you look at yourself in the mirror you are just error-correcting. There must be some sort of hall of mirrors thing that happens when you are completely involved in the Internet conversation about your music, and in some ways I think that I’m very innocently making music, because I don’t make music in any way that has to do with the response to that music. I don’t believe that the response to the music has anything to do with it. This is something I got from John Cage and Marcel Duchamp, I think the perception of the artwork, in some ways, has nothing to do with the artwork, and I think that is a beautiful, glorious and flattering thing to say to the perceiver, the viewer of that artwork. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at Paul Klee‘s drawings, lithographs, watercolors and paintings and when I read his diaries I’m not sure how much of a correlation there is between what his color schemes are denoting and what he is saying and what I am getting out of it. I’m not sure that it matters. Inland Empire is a great example. Lynch basically says, I don’t want to talk about it because I’m going to close doors for the viewer. It’s up to you. It’s not that it’s a riddle or a puzzle. You know how much of your own experience you are putting into the digestion of your own art. That’s not to say that that guy arranges notes in an interesting way, and sings in an interesting way and arranges words in an interesting way, but often, if someone says they really like my music, what I want to say is, That’s cool you focused your attention on that thing, but it does not make me go home and say, Wow, you’re great. My ego is not involved in it.

DS: Often people assume an artist makes an achievement, say wins a Tony or a Grammy or even a Cable Ace Award and people think the artist must feel this lasting sense of accomplishment, but it doesn’t typically happen that way, does it? Often there is some time of elation and satisfaction, but almost immediately the artist is being asked, “Okay, what’s the next thing? What’s next?” and there is an internal pressure to move beyond that achievement and not focus on it.

JV: Oh yeah, exactly. There’s a moment of relief when a mastered record gets back, and then I swear to you that ten minutes after that point I feel there are bigger fish to fry. I grew up listening to classical music, and there is something inside of me that says, Okay, I’ve made six records. Whoop-dee-doo. I grew up listening to Gustav Mahler, and I will never, ever approach what he did.

DS: Do you try?

JV: I love Mahler, but no, his music is too expansive and intellectual, and it’s realized harmonically and compositionally in a way that is five languages beyond me. And that’s okay. I’m very happy to do what I do. How can anyone be so jazzed about making a record when you are up against, shit, five thousand records a week—

DS: —but a lot of it’s crap—

JV: —a lot of it’s crap, but a lot of it is really, really good and doesn’t get the attention it deserves. A lot of it is very good. I’m shocked at some of the stuff I hear. I listen to a lot of music and I am mailed a lot of CDs, and I’m on the web all the time.

DS: I’ve done a lot of photography for Wikipedia and the genesis of it was an attempt to pin down reality, to try to understand a world that I felt had fallen out of my grasp of understanding, because I felt I had no sense of what this world was about anymore. For that, my work is very encyclopedic, and it fit well with Wikipedia. What was the reason you began investing time and effort into photography?

JV: It came from trying to making sense of touring. Touring is incredibly fast and there is so much compressed imagery that comes to you, whether it is the window in the van, or like now, when we are whisking through the Northeast in seven days. Let me tell you, I see a lot of really close people in those seven days. We move a lot, and there is a lot of input coming in. The shows are tremendous and, it is emotionally so overwhelming that you can not log it. You can not keep a file of it. It’s almost like if I take photos while I am doing this, it slows it down or stops it momentarily and orders it. It has made touring less of a blur; concretizes these times. I go back and develop the film, and when I look at the tour I remember things in a very different way. It coalesces. Let’s say I take on fucking photo in Athens, Georgia. That’s really intense. And I tend to take a photo of someone I like, or photos of people I really admire and like.

DS: What bands are working with your studio, Tiny Telephone?

JV: Death Cab for Cutie is going to come back and track their next record there. Right now there is a band called Hello Central that is in there, and they are really good. They’re from L.A. Maids of State was just in there and w:Deerhoof was just in there. Book of Knotts is coming in soon. That will be cool because I think they are going to have Beck sing on a tune. That will be really cool. There’s this band called Jordan from Paris that is starting this week.

DS: Do they approach you, or do you approach them?

JV I would say they approach me. It’s generally word of mouth. We never advertise and it’s very cheap, below market. It’s analog. There’s this self-fulfilling thing that when you’re booked, you stay booked. More bands come in, and they know about it and they keep the business going that way. But it’s totally word of mouth.

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Peruvians sue Newmont Mining Company over mercury poisoning

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Peruvians living near the site of a release of mercury are preparing to sue a U.S. mining company, announcing last Saturday that they will bring their case before a Denver judge.

On June 2, 2000, a serious accident in the province of Cajamarca, in Peru, poisoned many residents with mercury, a highly toxic heavy metal. A truck from Newmont Mining Company dumped two metal canisters of mercury along an Andean highway, in the communities of San Juan, Choropampa, and Magdalena. Curious townspeople (mostly children) picked up the silvery droplets, and some even drank some of it. Many residents became sick from severe mercury poisoning. Some of those who came in contact with the mercury suffered blindness, and one even had a purplish rash on her body.

Over 300 people directly suffered the effects of mercury poisoning.

As the owners of the Yanacocha mine which produced the mercury, Newmont Mining offered up to US$6 thousand to more than 700 local residents, but over 1,100 others are still engaged in a legal battle with Newmont over the case.

In today’s global economy, many international businesses have looked overseas to maintain their profits, but environmental law professor James Otto is asking about the cost to the environment and public health. “Any company that wants to mine internationally now must not only have the legal right to mine but also a ‘social license’ to operate,” he said. “Peru has been a wake-up call.”

As the Peruvian residents gear up for their lawsuit against Denver-based Newmont Mining, the world’s largest gold mining firm, some of these important questions may finally be answered. After the breakdown of mediation talks with Newmont on January 20, the residents and their lawyer decided to stop negotiating behind closed doors and take their case to the public. Last Saturday, March 5, 2005, they announced that they are bringing their suit before Denver District Judge Robert Hyatt. “If successful,” states Ken Krowder who represents the plaintiffs, “[this] would mark the first time an American firm is held accountable for environmental damages overseas.”

This is not the first time Newmont Mining has had trouble with an emerging Third World environmental movement. Recently, in August 2004, a US$543 million lawsuit was filed against Newmont Mining by the Indonesian Environmental Ministry and local villagers. They claim that pollution caused by the company’s mining activities has caused serious illnesses and other health problems, including skin disease, tumors, birth defects, and a decline in fish stocks, a staple food. One particular mining practice used frequently by Newmont Mining in Indonesia is submarine tailings disposal, a waste disposal method for mercury and arsenic that is outlawed in the United States.

At least six Newmont Mining managers, including an American and an Australian, face up to 15 years in a Jakarta prison for environmental and corporate crime in that case.

The local Peruvian residents are continuing their fight for safer mining practices and compensation for existing damage and injuries. Thousands of local townspeople protested against the Yanacocha mine last fall, demanding protection for the local water supply.

Newmont Mining officials have blamed the June 2000 mercury spill on a contractor, and have lost the battle to keep the case out of the American court system.

Billy West, voice of Ren and Stimpy, Futurama, on the rough start that shaped his life

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Billy West, voice of Ren and Stimpy, Futurama, on the rough start that shaped his life
Author: U5M4mh Posted under: Uncategorized
This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ren and Stimpy. Bugs Bunny. Philip J. Fry and Professor Hubert Farnsworth on Futurama. Sparx. Bi-Polar Bear. Popeye the Sailor Man. Woody Woodpecker. You may not think you have ever heard Billy West, but chances are on a television program, a movie, a commercial, or as Howard Stern’s voice guru in the 1990’s, you have heard him. West’s talent for creating personalities by twisting his voice has made him one of a handful of voice actors—Hank Azaria and the late Mel Blanc come to mind—who have achieved celebrity for their talent. Indeed, West is one of the few voice actors who can impersonate Blanc in his prime, including characterizations of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd and other characters from Warner Bros. cartoons.

What is the fulcrum in Mr. West’s life that led him to realize a talent to shape personalities with his voice, and how did the discovery of that gift shape him? Wikinews reporter David Shankbone found that like many great comedians, West faced more sour early in life than he did sweet. The sour came from a physically and emotionally abusive alcoholic father (“I could tell you the kind of night I was going to have from the sound of the key in the door or the way the car pulled up.”), to his own problems with drug and alcohol use (“There is a point that you can reach in your life where you don’t want to live, but you haven’t made the decision to die.”).

I’m telling you stuff that I never said to anybody…

If sin, suffering and redemption feel like the stages of an endless cycle of American existence, West’s own redemption from his brutalized childhood is what helped shape his gift. He performed little bits to cheer up his cowed mother, ravaged by the fact she could not stop her husband’s abuse of young West. “I was the whipping boy and she would just be reduced to tears a lot of times, and I would come in and say stuff, and I would put out little bits just to pull her out of it.”

But West has also enjoyed the sweet. His career blossomed as his talent for creating entire histories behind fictional characters and creatures simply by exploring nuance in his voice landed him at the top of his craft. You may never again be able to forget that behind the voice of your favorite character, there is often an extraordinary life.

Below is David Shankbone’s interview with renowned voice actor Billy West, who for the first time publicly talks about the horrors he faced in his childhood; his misguided search for answers in anger, drugs and alcohol; and the peace he has achieved as one of America’s most recognizable voice actors.

Contents

  • 1 The use of celebrities for voiceovers
  • 2 Iconic characters and choosing projects
  • 3 Discovering his talent
  • 4 “It was a horror chamber where I grew up”
  • 5 West moves to Boston after his parents divorce
  • 6 How West dealt with his father’s abuse
  • 7 Rehabilitation and sobriety
  • 8 Is West glad he experienced addiction?
  • 9 West on his career
  • 10 West on politics
  • 11 Billy West on modern American society
  • 12 Billy West on telling it like it is
  • 13 Source
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Bank of England governor warns housing market is biggest threat to UK economy

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Bank of England governor warns housing market is biggest threat to UK economy
Author: U5M4mh Posted under: Uncategorized

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has warned that the state of the housing market in the United Kingdom is the current biggest domestic threat to the country’s economy, due to lack of house building, and regulatory issues.

In an interview to be aired on Sky News today, he said the housing market is the “biggest risk” to the economy and has “deep, deep structural problems”. Of house building he said: “There are not sufficient houses built in the UK. To go back to Canada, there are half as many people in Canada as in the UK, twice as many houses are built every year in Canada as in the UK and we can’t influence that.”

“We’re not going to build a single house at the Bank of England. We can’t influence that. What we can influence […] is whether the banks are strong enough. Do they have enough capital against risk in the housing market?”

Carney also said the Bank of England would look into the procedures used to issue loans and mortgages to see if they were being granted appropriately: “We’d be concerned if there was a rapid increase in high loan-to-value mortgages across the banks. We’ve seen that creeping up and it’s something we’re watching closely.”

Kris Hopkins responded to Carney on behalf of the government, saying the government “inherited a broken housing market, but our efforts to fix it are working”. “We’ve scrapped the failed top-down planning system, built over 170,000 affordable homes and released more surplus brownfield sites for new housing. We’ve also helped homebuyers get on the housing ladder, because if people can buy homes builders will build them. Housebuilding is now at its highest level since 2007 and climbing. Last year councils gave permission for almost 200,000 new homes under the locally-led planning system and more than 1,000 communities have swiftly taken up neighbourhood planning. It’s clear evidence the government’s long-term economic plan is working.”

Earlier this month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development called on the UK government to “tighten” access to the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme introduced by George Osborne and the coalition government in 2013. ‘Help to Buy’ has also recently been criticised by three former Chancellors of the Exchequer — the Conservatives Norman Lamont and Nigel Lawson, and former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling. Darling said: “Unless supply can be increased substantially, we will exacerbate that situation with schemes like Help to Buy.”

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UK minor faces charges for calling Scientology ‘cult’ at protest

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UK minor faces charges for calling Scientology ‘cult’ at protest
Author: U5M4mh Posted under: Uncategorized

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

News media in the United Kingdom are reporting that a boy under the age of 18 was served with a court summons by City of London Police because he held a placard calling Scientology a “cult” at a peaceful protest on May 10. Human rights activists have criticized the decision to issue the 15-year-old the summons as an affront to freedom of speech, and representatives for the City of London Police force explained the actions of the police.

Individuals from the group Anonymous were protesting Scientology in the fourth protest in as many months, as part of the anti-Scientology movement Project Chanology. The Project Chanology movement began when the Church of Scientology attempted to get a leaked Scientology promotional video featuring Tom Cruise removed from websites YouTube and Gawker.com.

Members of Anonymous were motivated by the actions of the Church of Scientology, and bombarded Scientology websites and were successful in taking some of them down. Anonymous later changed tactics towards legal measures, and held international protests against Scientology on February 10, March 15, April 12, and most recently May 10.

At the May 10 protest, the 15-year-old boy was present and held up a placard which stated: “Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult,” with a mention at the bottom of the sign to the anti-Scientology website Xenu.net. He attended the protest held outside the Church of Scientology building on Queen Victoria Street, near St Paul’s Cathedral in London. In a post made by the boy on the anti-Scientology website Enturbulation.org, he stated: “Within five minutes of arriving I was told by a member of the police that I was not allowed to use that word, and that the final decision would be made by the inspector.” The website describes itself as “A Source for Information on Dianetics and the Scientology Organization”. Using the pseudonym “EpicNoseGuy” at the Enturbulation.org message board, the boy goes on to describe how he was “strongly advised” by police to remove the placard.

City of London Police cited section five of the Public Order Act 1986 to the boy, which deals with “harassment, alarm or distress“. In response, the boy cited a 1984 judgment given by Mr. Justice Latey in the Family Division of the High Court of Justice of Her Majesty’s Courts of Justice of England and Wales, in which Latey called Scientology a “cult” and said it was “corrupt, sinister and dangerous”. In the actual 1984 judgment made by Judge Latey, he stated: “Scientology is both immoral and socially obnoxious. […] In my judgement it is corrupt, sinister and dangerous. […] It is dangerous because it is out to capture people, especially children and impressionable young people, and indoctrinate and brainwash them so that they become the unquestioning captives and tools of the cult, withdrawn from ordinary thought, living and relationships with others.” According to the boy’s post at Enturbulation.org, the City of London Police told him he had 15 minutes to remove the sign in question. He was given a court summons by the police about a half-hour later, and his sign was removed and taken by the police as evidence.

I am going to fight this and not take it down because I believe in freedom of speech.

In videos of the May 10 protest posted to YouTube, City of London Police can be seen telling protesters not to use the word “cult” in their signs. Protesters discussed the issue with police and stated that they had checked with lawyers and verified that criticizing religion was a valid form of protest. The police warned protesters that if they violated police instructions regarding usage of signs “you will be prosecuted”. A female police officer read a form statement to the 15-year-old and stated: “I’ve been asked, if you could remove it [the sign] by 11:30, if not then I’ll have to come back and either summons you or arrest you.” The boy read Mr. Justice Latey’s 1984 judgment to the police, and then said: “I’m not going to take this sign down.” He told fellow protesters: “If I don’t take the word ‘cult’ down, here [holding up his sign], I will be either, I think, most likely arrested or [given] a summons. I am going to fight this and not take it down because I believe in freedom of speech, besides which I’m only fifteen.”

After the boy was given a summons one of the protesters asked a member of the City of London Police force: “Are we allowed to say Justice Latey says Scientology is a cult?”, to which the police officer responded: “I’ve already had this discussion with people. Direct quotes by individuals, I haven’t got a problem with.”

This barmy prosecution makes a mockery of Britain’s free speech traditions.

“This barmy prosecution makes a mockery of Britain’s free speech traditions. After criminalising the use of the word ‘cult’, perhaps the next step is to ban the words ‘war’ and ‘tax’ from peaceful demonstrations?” said Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti in a statement in The Guardian. The boy has appealed for help in order to fight the potential charges and possible legal action from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Ian Haworth of the United Kingdom-based Cult Information Centre also commented on the actions of the City of London Police to The Guardian, saying: “This is an extraordinary situation. If it wasn’t so serious it would be farcical. The police’s job is to protect and serve. Who is being served and who is being protected in this situation? I find it very worrying.”

News of the summons issued to the UK minor has received significant attention on the Internet, hitting the front pages of websites Slashdot, Digg, and Boing Boing on Wednesday. The story has also been discussed in hundreds of blog postings, including sites related to the tech-sector and others related to civil liberties.

City of London police had received complaints about demonstrators using the words ‘cult’ and ‘Scientology kills’ during protests against the Church of Scientology on Saturday 10 May.

In a statement given to publications including The Guardian and The Register, a representative for the City of London Police explained the rationale for the summons: “City of London police had received complaints about demonstrators using the words ‘cult’ and ‘Scientology kills’ during protests against the Church of Scientology on Saturday 10 May. Following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service some demonstrators were warned verbally and in writing that their signs breached section five of the Public Order Act 1986. One demonstrator, a juvenile, continued to display a placard despite police warnings and was reported for an offence under section five. A file on the case will be sent to the CPS.”

“City of London Police upholds the right to demonstrate lawfully, but we have to balance that with the rights of all sections of the community not to be alarmed, distressed or harassed as a result of others’ actions,” said City of London Chief Superintendent Rob Bastable in a statement given to The Register and The Daily Telegraph. Unlike the City of London Police, the Metropolitan Police Service (the territorial police force responsible for Greater London excluding the City of London) has not raised an issue with protesters using the word “cult”, according to Londonist.

… if we receive a file we will review it in the normal way according to the code for crown prosecutors.

A spokesman for the CPS told The Guardian that they did not give City of London Police specific instruction about the boy’s protest sign. The spokesman said that the CPS gave the City of London Police “general advice” about the laws governing protests and “religiously aggravated crime”, but did not give advice about this specific case. “… if we receive a file we will review it in the normal way according to the code for crown prosecutors,” said the CPS spokesman.

The City of London Police has faced controversy in the past for its close association with the Church of Scientology. When the City of London Scientology building opened in 2006, City of London Chief Superintendent Kevin Hurley praised Scientology in an appearance as guest speaker at the building’s opening ceremony. Ken Stewart, another of the City of London’s chief superintendents, has also appeared in a video praising Scientology. According to The Guardian over 20 officers for the City of London Police have accepted gifts from the Church of Scientology including tickets to film premieres, lunches and concerts at police premises. Janet Kenyon-Laveau, spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology in the UK, told The Guardian that the relationship between the City of London Police and Scientology was mutually beneficial, and said that Scientologists conducted clean-up campaigns in urban areas affected by drug use problems. A City of London Police spokesman released a statement in November 2006 saying: “We are conducting a review to ensure that all members of staff are aware of the force policy on accepting hospitality and to assess whether clarification or amendment of this policy is necessary.”

Each of the Project Chanology international protests against Scientology has had a theme: the February protest called attention to the birthday of Lisa McPherson, who died under controversial circumstances while under the care of Scientology, the March protest was arranged to take place two days after Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard‘s birthday, the April protest highlighted the Church of Scientology’s disconnection policy, and the May protest highlighted the Scientology practice of “Fair Game” and took place one day after the anniversary of the publication of Hubbard’s book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Another international protest is planned for June 14, and will highlight the Church of Scientology’s elite “Sea Organization” or “Sea Org”.

 This story has updates See No prosecution for UK minor who called Scientology a ‘cult’ 

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ANZACs remembered ninety years after assault on Gallipoli

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ANZACs remembered ninety years after assault on Gallipoli
Author: U5M4mh Posted under: Uncategorized

Monday, April 25, 2005

Australians and New Zealanders throughout the world stood still for their national war memorial days in remembrance of the failed Australian and New Zealand Army Corps — ANZAC — attack on Gallipoli, Turkey that began on 25 April 1915. The fateful attack was designed to end the First World War more quickly by creating a supply line to Russia. A hundred-thousand died in the battle, remembered every year as ANZAC Day by both nations.

The British-directed battle of Gallipoli is often seen as the defining moment in the ‘birth’ of Australia and New Zealand. With New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark saying “For New Zealand as for Australia it was at Gallipoli that our young nations came of age.” [1]. This being the 90th anniversary of the attack, Clark, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Britain’s Prince Charles are all at Gallipoli to remember that fateful campaign.

Some controversy has been created about Australian Prime Minister John Howard not attending the New Zealand ceremony at Chunuk Bair on the Gallipoli Peninsula. This has upset many people as it is a break in a tradition that the Prime Ministers attend the ceremonies of both countries.

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Don Van Vliet, best known as ‘Captain Beefheart’, dies aged 69

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Don Van Vliet, best known as ‘Captain Beefheart’, dies aged 69
Author: U5M4mh Posted under: Uncategorized

Saturday, December 18, 2010

US avant-garde musician and painter Don Van Vliet — better known by the stage name Captain Beefheart — died Friday aged 69. New York’s Michael Werner Gallery confirmed the cause of death as complications with multiple sclerosis, a condition Van Vliet suffered from for many years.

Born in Glendale, California on January 15, 1941, the highly experimental musician created several unique and influential albums from 1967 through to 1982, backed by a frequently changing group of musicians known as The Magic Band. His most famous album, Trout Mask Replica (1969) melded free jazz, blues-rock, and avant-garde styles to create a critically acclaimed (albeit commercially unsuccessful) work. He retired from music in 1982 to focus on painting.

Whilst none of the albums released by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, including 1967 debut album Safe as Milk, were commercially successful, his work is regularly cited as highly influential. Groups such as The Sex Pistols, Jethro Tull, Hawkwind, and Roxy Music all mention Beefheart as influencing their music.

A childhood friend of Frank Zappa, Beefheart was christened Don Glen Viet, later changing this; and, adopting the stage name of Captain Beefheart at Zappa’s suggestion. Of the dozen albums produced under various lineups of the Magic Band, Trout Mask Replica is placed at number 58 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Despite no formal training, it was under his own name and as a painter, that Van Vliet experienced his greatest commercial success. His first exhibition was in Liverpool, in 1972. In the wake of this he was advised that as a painter he would be unlikely to be taken seriously unless he abandoned his musical career.

He is survived by his wife of over 40 years, Jan Van Vliet.

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CanadaVOTES: Animal Alliance (AAEVPC) candidate Marie Crawford running in Toronto—Danforth

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CanadaVOTES: Animal Alliance (AAEVPC) candidate Marie Crawford running in Toronto—Danforth
Author: U5M4mh Posted under: Uncategorized

Thursday, October 2, 2008

On October 14, 2008, Canadians will be heading to the polls for the federal election. Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada candidate Marie Crawford is standing for election in the riding of Toronto—Centre.

Marie is a Director of Animal Alliance of Canada, a separate but related organization. She volunteers her time for Animal Alliance, but unlike party leader Liz White, does not work out of their office.

Wikinews contacted Marie, to talk about the issues facing Canadians, and what they and their party would do to address them. Wikinews is in the process of contacting every candidate, in every riding across the country, no matter their political stripe. All interviews are conducted over e-mail, and interviews are published unedited, allowing candidates to impart their full message to our readers, uninterrupted.

The incumbent in this riding is National Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton. Other than Crawford, trying for the riding are Liberal Andrew Lang, Sharon Howarth (Green), and Christina Perreault (Conservative), Marcell Rodden (Marxist-Leninist), and Bahman Yazdanfar (Canadian Action Party), and independent John Richardson. The riding has existed federally since 1979, and has the seat has been occupied by Bob Rae (NDP, 1979–1982), Lynn McDonald (NDP, 1982–1988), Dennis Mills (Liberal, 1988–2004), and Layton (NDP, 2004 to present).

For more information, visit the campaign’s official website, listed below.

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Gay Talese on the state of journalism, Iraq and his life

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Gay Talese on the state of journalism, Iraq and his life
Author: U5M4mh Posted under: Uncategorized

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Gay Talese wants to go to Iraq. “It so happens there is someone that’s working on such a thing right now for me,” the 75-year-old legendary journalist and author told David Shankbone. “Even if I was on Al-Jazeera with a gun to my head, I wouldn’t be pleading with those bastards! I’d say, ‘Go ahead. Make my day.'”

Few reporters will ever reach the stature of Talese. His 1966 profile of Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra Has a Cold, was not only cited by The Economist as the greatest profile of Sinatra ever written, but is considered the greatest of any celebrity profile ever written. In the 70th anniversary issue of Esquire in October 2003, the editors declared the piece the “Best Story Esquire Ever Published.”

Talese helped create and define a new style of literary reporting called New Journalism. Talese himself told National Public Radio he rejects this label (“The term new journalism became very fashionable on college campuses in the 1970s and some of its practitioners tended to be a little loose with the facts. And that’s where I wanted to part company.”)

He is not bothered by the Bancrofts selling The Wall Street Journal—”It’s not like we should lament the passing of some noble dynasty!”—to Rupert Murdoch, but he is bothered by how the press supported and sold the Iraq War to the American people. “The press in Washington got us into this war as much as the people that are controlling it,” said Talese. “They took information that was second-hand information, and they went along with it.” He wants to see the Washington press corp disbanded and sent around the country to get back in touch with the people it covers; that the press should not be so focused on–and in bed with–the federal government.

Augusten Burroughs once said that writers are experience junkies, and Talese fits the bill. Talese–who has been married to Nan Talese (she edited James Frey‘s Million Little Piece) for fifty years–can be found at baseball games in Cuba or the gay bars of Beijing, wanting to see humanity in all its experience.

Below is Wikinews reporter David Shankbone’s interview with Gay Talese.

Contents

  • 1 On Gay Talese
  • 2 On a higher power and how he’d like to die
  • 3 On the media and Iraq
  • 4 On the Iraq War
  • 5 State of Journalism
  • 6 On travel to Cuba
  • 7 On Chinese gay bars
  • 8 On the literary canon
  • 9 Sources
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German warship undergoes repairs after firing on itself

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German warship undergoes repairs after firing on itself
Author: U5M4mh Posted under: Uncategorized

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Lübeck, a Bremen class frigate of the German navy, is undergoing repairs after accidentally firing upon itself during a training mission off the British coast.

According to Korvettenkapitän Jan Ströhmer, the accident happened near Plymouth, Devon on May 2nd, where the Lübeck was taking part in an Air Defence exercise; unmanned drones towing targets for ships in the Royal Navys South Coast Exercise Areas. During the practice, the ship’s 76mm artillery gun experienced problems, possibly due to jamming. When the crew turned the gun in order to investigate the trouble, the weapon discharged. No one was hurt and the ship was not critically damaged.

The Lübeck subsequently returned to Wilhelmshaven, her home port, for repairs.

With a length of 130 meters and 3800 tonne displacement the primary role of the Lübeck is anti-submarine warfare (ASW) however she retains capabilities in anti-surface (ASuW) and anti-aircraft warfare (AAW). Her ships company numbers roughly 203.

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