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Archive for the ‘Tattoo Nightmares’

Kiwi parents nightmare: ‘Our son should still be here’ – Now To Love09.04.21

There's a photo of a beautiful boy with a huge smile on the wall of Tash Dalley's kitchen in Mount Maunganui. It's her son Blake, aged 13, posing on a balcony overlooking the sea in a smart navy shirt he'd just bought with his mum.

The photo was taken on December 10, 2020, the night of the school dance for children leaving Mount Maunganui Intermediate School for the long summer break.

Blake never got to see that summer. He never started high school. He never got to dance again. Less than a week after that photo was taken, Blake was lying in an open casket in the family's living room, dressed in that same shirt.

His distraught parents Tash, 41, and Seaton, 50, slept at his side. His siblings circled their brother, talking to him and drawing pictures to put in "his bed".

The Dalleys are a large, loving family. Blake was the middle child, with older brothers Clayton, 19, Mitchell, 17, and Aidan, 16, younger brother Mason, six, and his two sisters Elise, four, and Brooke, two.

The death of their beloved "Blakey" in a suspected suicide plunged the family into a deep darkness, "the stuff of nightmares", which his distraught mother wants no one else to experience.

Tash is racked with anguished sobs as she recalls the days before Blake died.

A keen skateboarder, he'd spent the weekend hanging out at the skatepark, before Tash picked him up for a trip to Starbucks. It would be their last outing together.

"He talked about what Christmas present he was going to buy his girlfriend Milli he was so thoughtful about gifts and the summer trip he was going on with his dad. Nothing unusual."

The next day, Monday, Tash got a call to pick her son up from school early. She tells, "Blake was a typical teenager, but he wasn't one to get into big trouble. Seaton taught our boys that you're moreof a man if you walk away from a fight, but sometimes Blake would stand up to try to protect people."

Blake was not fighting, just mucking around, however, it was decided he wouldn't return for the last day of school. Tash tells Woman's Day, "I remember looking at his face. He was staring at the wall, angry, as though he'd checked out.

He was like that all the way back in the car and went straight to his room."

Tash busied herself with her normal routine, emptying lunchboxes and getting afternoon tea for the youngest children. She went downstairs to Blake's room to find him still sullen.

"I told him to tidy his room it was a terrible mess. I asked what was going on, but he wouldn't say anything. I said I was so disappointed in him and we'd talk later, but" Her voice drifts off as she crieswith an unimaginable pain.

A short time later, Tash returned to see if he had tidied the room. When she opened the door, it was a sight she'll never forget. "Finding Blake that way will haunt me until my last breath," she says softly.

"The image replays in my mind, especially at night, when I lay down to sleep."

Tash managed to drag her son into the hallway, screamed for help and started CPR. She remembers, "I saw our three little ones watching wide-eyed at the bottom of the steps.

I told them it would be OK and to go upstairs."

Meanwhile, after getting the call every parent dreads, engineer Seaton rushed home in thick evening traffic to be greeted by fire trucks, police and an ambulance. He watched helplessly while paramedics worked on Blake's small, lifeless body.

Blake was pronounced dead shortly afterwards. Seaton says the shock was indescribable. It was only when a funeral director arrived and explained the stages of grief that they'd be going through that the family were able to talk about their feelings. "Without him, we'd still be lost."

In the following days, Seaton says, "Family, friends and the community held us together, bringing food and cleaning. Blake's school was amazing." People flocked to the family home and spoke about how they were also struggling.

Tash tells, "Because we were open about how Blake died, a surge of people came to talk to us about the mental health of their own children. One mum sleeps by her child's bed each night, afraid she's going to take her life.

"Many kids came to us to say they felt depressed and spoke of suicide. You'd never have guessed it in a million years from these kids just like us with Blakey. A common theme was there was nowhere to go for help."

The most shocking thing the family learned in the aftermath of Blake's death is that there are no counsellors available in intermediate schools. Tash declares, "That's when kids like Blake need it. Blake could be anyone's son. Suicide doesn't discriminate. It affects all communities and the kids want to talk, but to who?"

The couple decided in the thick of grief that they would "do something" in Blake's name to help the situation. Feeling strongly that younger students need more support and education in mental health, they were impressed by Mike King's Gumboot Friday initiative, which provides free one-on-one counselling but is not funded by the government.

"I agree with Mike that we need to catch these kids early they need someone to talk to," says Tash. "We've set up a Givealittle to commemorate what would have been Blake's 14th birthday, with all funds going to Mike's charity."

The family is overwhelmed by the response, with money pouring in from all over Aotearoa. As Woman's Day went to print, they'd raised almost $65,000.

"Each day, when we saw the figure increasing, it brought us to our knees, tears streaming down our faces," says Tash.

"As a country, we shouldn't have to do this ourselves, but we're beyond grateful that people want to help stop the statistics rising."

Tash adds that she and Seaton feel incredible guilt for not knowing how much Blake was hurting. "He was an empathetic boy who felt things deeply. A comment that another person might brush off would bother him all day. I remember him complaining he didn't like his looks and that he was too short, but he did it in such a jokey way, we didn't register."

After his death, the couple accessed his phone. Most of the content was skateboarding photos and chats with friends. But they were heartbroken to discover messages from people telling him he was ugly. He'd also recorded TikTok videos to a song called Better Off (Dying) by the late rapper Lil Peep.

Tash tells, "The videos were excruciating. We saw how he was suffering. He said he was lonely, that he'd seen texts about himself that made him feel sh*t, that he couldn't stop crying, couldn't express himself and that he hated being so sensitive. I don't think kids speak to their parents about these things, but maybe if he'd had someone neutral to talk to That's why we need people in schools."

Mount Intermediate principal Melissa Nelson commends Tash and Seaton for being so public with their loss, saying, "For so long, suicide has not been spoken about and, as such, so many people's lives are destroyed in the secrecy. It's something we should feel ashamed about as a nation."

This year, the school raised funds for counsellors, but this money runs out in 2022. There are already 30 children on the waiting list. Mike King agrees that there is a desperate need for counselling for a younger age group, saying that while the government funds support to 12- to 24-year-olds, 40% of the kids accessing Gumboot Friday's services are aged 11 and under. "There is no need for families to go through this trauma we need action, not talk," he says.

The Dalleys hope that helping Mike's charity means other families will not suffer.

Tash says, "The sheer exhaustion of grief is a heavy weight, but our amazing children get us out of bed every day. We owe them a happy life and happy parents. They're our blessings and we step up each day for them. We share our emotions more with the kids now and let each other know if we're having a crappy day."

Tash and Seaton are haunted by triggers. She explains, "Closed bedroom doors and sirens make our blood run cold, while the sound of skateboard wheels on concrete really pulls at our hearts.

"If we hear the outside gate close, for a split second, we expect to see Blake bounding up the stairs with that cheeky grin. Then reality kicks in and sadness hits."

Tash recently had two tattoos inked on her arm, including a butterfly on her wrist. She explains, "Since Blake died, everyone has noticed a large monarch butterfly flying around the balcony into the house."

Around Blake's room are his skateboards that he will never ride again. But in his mum's heart, he is still riding. Her second tattoo is Blake on his skateboard with his favourite quote from Star Shopping by Lil Peep: "Look at the sky tonight. All of the stars have a reason."

IF YOU NEED ASSISTANCEIf you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, text or call 1737 any time, day or night. For Lifeline, call 0800 543 354 or text 4357. For the Suicide Crisis Hotline, phone 0508 TAUTOKO. In an emergency, always dial 111.

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Moving to NI was my best decision ever, says Ben Nicky – Belfast Telegraph09.04.21

One minute youre an international DJ travelling the world and playing to thousands of adoring fans, the next youre being bothered by rabbits in the Northern Irish countryside.

ut Belsonic-bound Ben Nicky said buying a luxury house in Co Down six months ago was the best decision he had ever made new furry friends and all.

The Cornwall-born DJ (35) told Sunday Life: I actually live near Belfast now, believe it or not. Im just in the countryside and all my friends live here.

You get loads of land here with your property compared to back in England theres not as much space there.

I live in the middle of nowhere. I love it.

I came and saw a house a big farm. I saw the price of it and was like, What? That must be for the garden. They were like, No, thats for the house.

I couldnt believe it. It was 20 or 30 per cent cheaper than in England, so I just went for it I literally did it in the space of two months. I saw a house and just bought it and did it and I dont regret it at all.

In my garden we have loads and loads of rabbits. My dog chases them and the rabbits set my car alarm off all the time.

People probably think my house is being burgled my CCTV sensors keep going off because of the rabbits too so its a bit of a nightmare.

Theres a lot of animals here but I just really enjoy it. The only problem is I get bad hay fever and this is probably the worst house ever for allergies. I wake up and sometimes I cant breathe. At first I thought it was Covid, but no, just hay fever.

Among the locals Ben counts as his mates is high-profile tattoo artist Willy G, who he describes as his best friend.

The past 18 months have been incredibly difficult for the entertainment industry, but the DJ tried to stay strong after the outbreak of the pandemic.

I tried to make a positive out of it. Im quite a positive person, and I was in England at the time when it first happened, he said.

Until two years ago, I was one of the busiest DJs on the planet. I was doing a different country every day at some points. It was getting ridiculous and I needed a break regardless.

It (the pandemic) wasnt the kind of break I wanted I should have taken a break for personal reasons, not because the world stopped but it made me have to make a positive out of a negative situation and it probably did me some good, personally.

From touring so long, I was financially stable to get through the situation, but there were so many friends and colleagues that have really struggled.

The hospitality sector has really taken a hit and has been ignored by many. As much as I understand the front line and things like Covid, its always going to be harder for hospitality to come back.

The nightclub industry, especially, took a very big hit. There was no talk of football, there was no talk of cricket and there was no talk of tennis or Formula 1. Every time there was a headline, it was, Nightclubs must stay closed, but we werent talking about 100,000 going to the football or Wimbledon.

It was a little frustrating during that period, but at the end of the day, Ive come out of it quite well and Im fit and healthy still, luckily.

Theres people that have obviously died from Covid or (through) the effects of being in lockdown and stuff, so its been hard for everyone. Im just lucky to be fine and Ive used it to better myself.

As well as his home, which includes a recording studio, Ben bought himself a Border Collie he named Ayla, after one of his biggest hits.

When not trying to stop the six-month-old pup from chewing his designer trainers or his newly painted skirting boards, hes been busy preparing for his show at Belsonic next week.

Ben has always had a huge local fanbase, from his days at Kellys in Portrush through to playing Belfasts SSE Arena and festival shows.

My last show here was Belsonic two years ago. That was sold out and insane crazy, crazy, crazy, he said.

Im trying to say this humbly, but I believe Im the highest-selling DJ of all-time in Northern Ireland. No one has sold as many tickets before. Its an honour.

People here have been so warm to me and I know most of the people from here that have done well, people like Fergie.

One thing that Im not about is being just about myself. Im here to really help try and grow the scene as well and get more business for others.

People forget that when I put an event on at Belsonic, taxi drivers are making more money, the bars are making more money, the restaurants are making more money, the airport, the train...

So, its not just about me, its about bringing more income into the city. If people support me by buying a ticket and help me make money, then I really want to help people, in return, to make good business.

I even get hairdressers and make-up artists telling me that on the day of my gigs they are fully booked every year and they say, Thank you so much.

It trickles all the way down and one thing I am for is really helping Northern Ireland events come back stronger.

Even if it doesnt involve me, I will happily support it because it (Northern Ireland) has been a massive, main part of my career and I feel like I kind of owe something to everyone here.

When I walk down the road, even my postman... everyone stops me and everyone is lovely and nice. Its great.

I live in a farmer area and people are very friendly and look out for each other. Everyone here has just been really warm and happy to help. I like the sense of community.

Bens Belsonic gig takes place next Saturday at Belfasts Ormeau Park. All ticket holders must prove their Covid-19 status to gain entry and keep the event safe.

They must provide proof of full Covid vaccination, proof of a negative NHS lateral flow test inside the previous 48 hours, or proof of a positive PCR test within 180 days of the event.

The DJ told Sunday Life he couldnt wait to play for fans again.

We are still in uncertain times, living through a period where, sadly, people are getting Covid, he added.

But I think we are getting to a point where we understand that if you dont want to go out, you dont have to no one is forcing you to.

If you want to be protected and you agree with the vaccine, get it. If you dont agree, you dont have to get it.

As an artist playing at that show, I would never sit here and tell anyone what to do because everyone has different health conditions.

Some people are young and potentially dont want to risk doing something they dont have enough research about, and some people are older and want to be protected.

Me, Im staying out of all the controversy about the whole vaccine thing and Covid thing. Ive just been totally pro-choice.

All of you, you do what you want, but if youve got Covid, you shouldnt be at an event anyway.

If you have a positive test, then you should stay at home because youre probably going to feel like s*** for a few days and you dont want to give it to your mates, do you?

So, get a negative test, come to the gig and have an amazing time.

Ben Nicky plays Belsonic at Belfasts Ormeau Park on September 4. For more information and to buy tickets, visit

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Moving to NI was my best decision ever, says Ben Nicky - Belfast Telegraph

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23 Best Halloween Tattoos Creepy and Traditional Tattoos – Country Living08.23.21

Did you ever love something so much that you wanted it permanently inked on your body? That's what these spooky holiday lovers did when they got Halloween tattoos. For these 23 people, Halloween is much more than a one-day event at the end of October. To them, it's something worth looking at, talking about, and enjoying 365 days per year. Fortunately for them, there are also a ton of tattoo artists who a love a year-round Halloween aesthetic, and they were more than happy to oblige their clients with these tattoos. In fact, spooky tats are so popular, many tattoo shops run specials on any month with a Friday the 13th. On that day, you can usually get a somewhat cheaper small tattoo of some kind of Halloween-esque object like a cat or a pumpkin.

From regular Jack o' Lanterns and roller skating skeletons to creepy spiders and pumpkin spice lattes, here are 23 of the most epic year-round Halloween tattoos. You can simply enjoy looking through the gallery or use them as inspiration for your own Halloween-themed tattoo. And be sure to check out the individual artists' Instagram pages to see their other work and possibly even book them if you happen to live nearby. Clearly their art is pretty great.

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1Ouija Planchette

"Love the art and idea of a ouija planchette more than the idea of actually using a ouija board," tattoo artist Rhi joked in the caption of this photo. It's a beautiful piece of work.

2Halloween TV

If watching scary Halloween movies is one of your favorite pastimes, you could get this symbolic tattoo homage to that hobby.

3"Witch Please"

Minimalist tattoo artist Shelby Lynn Bayles said that Halloween is her favorite holiday, making this tattoo extra fun for her to complete.

4Spooky Flowers

This Halloween bouquet features pumpkin flowers, skulls on stems, and even a tiny ghost, cobwebs, and candy corn. It's the perfect balance of spooky and cute.

5Witch's Hat

Artist Valarie Valentina inked this cute, purple witch's hat surrounded by orange flowers. You can see more of her work on her Instagram.

6Pumpkin Spice Latte

Is it even fall without the PSL? With this tattoo, you can enjoy the beverage all year longeven when it's sadly out of season.

7Creepy Crawly

This spider looks so lifelike, it seems like it could crawl right off this person's skin. Scary, but stellar artwork.

8Disney Halloween

Halloween at the Disney parks is a whole thing. Not only are the lands all decked out in decorations, but the Disneyland Haunted Mansion ride gets a complete Nightmare Before Christmas-themed overhaul. With this orange Mickey ears scene, tattoo artist Kristin Parlier totally nailed the holiday's Disney vibe.

9Romantic Frankenstein

"Every day is like Halloween to me," Tiffany Lother wrote when posting a photo of her Bride of Frankenstein tattoo.

Lother added, "I shop Halloween decor and use it as every day home decor, and Ive been in love with classic horror since I was a kid. This tattoo, and my love for Universals classic monster movies, inspired me to get a Halloween/Monster inspired sleeve a few years ago. Its still a work in progress, but I love this epic tattoo."

10Black Cat

Amanda LaForest specializes in colorful retro designs, and this vintage black and orange cat is the perfect Halloween tattoo. No bad luck here!

11Skating Skeleton

Another of LaForest's designs is this roller skating skeleton wearing a crop top and fanny pack. Halloween can be spooky and scary, but it can also have a sense of humoras seen in this tattoo.

12Simple Skeleton

If a roller skating skeleton isn't quite your vibe, you can always get inked with a simple skeleton like this one.

13Spell Book

For all you Hocus Pocus fans out there, here's a tattoo rendition of the iconic spell book from the film.

14"I Put A Spell On You"

Speaking of Hocus Pocus, there's also this tattoo which borrows from the Valentine's Day heart candy tradition. But in a Halloween twist, the candies feature lyrics from the Bette Midler Hocus Pocus song.

15Spooky Sushi

This is such a unique tattoo idea bats eating pumpkin sushi. If you're a fan of both the holiday and the food, it's hard to go wrong with a design that incorporates both.

16Skeleton Bat

This spooky little bat by Jodie Cox is actually pretty darn cute. It looks like it's just going through an X-ray machine.

17Halloween Heart

It's always fun to see classic Halloween items like pumpkins and ghosts merged with things that are beautiful and delicate like flowers and hearts. A great balance.

18Sheet Ghost

The sheet ghost is perhaps one of the most iconic Halloween images around next to pumpkins. It also makes for one of the easiest costumes if you're running low on time.

19Halloween Town Sign

Nightmare Before Christmas fans, this one's for you! This tattoo totally captures the spooky vibe of Jack Skellington's home.

20Black Cat on a Broomstick

"A [witch's] best friend," tattoo artist Lea Joyeux captioned this photo. This cat is so cute, anyone would want it as their best friend.

21Stylish 'Scream'

This is another one of those designs that combines the scary with the pretty. At the center is Ghostfacethe killer from the Scream franchisesurrounded by beautiful orange flowers. Stunning.

22Bubbling Cauldron

Wonder what's brewing in this cauldron tattoo... are those neon green ghost faces escaping from the bubbles? Something wicked this way comes, indeed.

23Simple Pumpkin

You really can't go wrong showing your love for Halloween with a simple Jack-o'-Lantern tattoo. This one image totally encapsulates the holiday.

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23 Best Halloween Tattoos Creepy and Traditional Tattoos - Country Living

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With the Lobsters Out to Sea: Caitlin R. Kiernan’s A Redress for Andromeda – tor.com08.23.21

Welcome back to Reading the Weird, in which we get girl cooties all over weird fiction, cosmic horror, and Lovecraftianafrom its historical roots through its most recent branches.

This week, we cover Caitlin R. Kiernans A Redress for Andromeda, first published Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrishs 2000 October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween anthology. You can find it more easily in The Weird. Spoilers ahead.

Ahmed and the woman with the conch-shell tattoo lean in close and whisper the names of deep-sea things in her ears, a rushed and bathypelagic litany of fish and jellies, squid and the translucent larvae of shrimp and crabs.

Marine biologist Tara finds Darrens face more honest than handsome. Maybe thats why shes attracted to himand why shes accepted his invitation to a Halloween party at an isolated house north of Monterey. Its no masquerade, Darrens assured her: just come as yourself.

The Dandridge House perches on a headland above the Pacific, amid tall grass wind-whipped, like the sea, into waves and fleeting troughs. With its turrets, high gables, and lightning rods, it would scream Halloween even without scores of candle-lit jack-o-lanterns outside. A black-haired woman is waiting on the porch. The jack-olanterns, she says, were carved by the guests: one hundred eleven for each year the house has stood. But its getting late, come inside.

Darren introduces Tara as the marine biologist hes been telling everyone about. The other guests wear impeccable black; in her white dress Tara feels like a pigeon dropped into a flock of crows. A Frenchwoman with kelp-brown nails tells Tara its always nice to see a new face, especially one as splendid as hers. A fat man in a storm-gray ascot is happy to learn shes a scientist. Theyve had so few of those.

As Darren draws her aside, Tara notices how shabby the rooms are. Theres little furniture. Windows are drapeless, and velvet wallpaper peels from the walls like reptile skin. Candles and gas fixtures, not electricity, provide flickering light. Darren reassures her that the partygoers are a tight-knit group, probably as anxious about her coming as she is about meeting them. They dont mean to be pushy with their questions, and she doesnt have to answer. Theyre just impatient. Impatient about what, Tara would like to know, but Darren leads her back to the crows.

A string quartet plays. The fat man introduces himself as Ahmed Peterson. Learning Taras particular field is ichthyology, he talks about his friend thinking a stranded oarfish was a sea serpent. She tops him with her own story about seeing a live oarfish twenty feet long. A woman rings a brass gong, and the guests file from the parlor to the back of the house. Darren gives Tara a coin, which shell need later. She assumes theyre going to play a party game.

A door opens onto winding, slippery stairs cut into the rock. Damp walls gleam in the light of the guests candles and oil-lamps. Cool air gusts from below, carrying the salt-smell of the sea and a less pleasant fishy odor. When Tara asks where the hell theyre going, a woman with a conch shell tattooed on her forehead looks disapproving, and Darren only responds, Youll see. No one ever understands at first. He grips her wrist too tightly, but before Tara can protest, she sees the sea-cave at the bottom of the stairs.

A warped boardwalk hugs the cave walls, above a deep pool welling chartreuse light. The crows take their places as if theyve been there hundreds of times. Darren, ignoring her pleas to leave, looks like hes witnessing a miracle. The crows part so she can see the stones jutting from the middle of the pool, and the thing chained there.

Taras consciousness splits between herself in the sea-cave and herself apparently later, lying in the tall grass with Darren. The chained thing was once a woman. Now she has spines and scales and podia sprouting from her distended belly. Crimson tentacles dangle between her thighs; barnacles encrust her legs; her lips move soundlessly as she strains against her corroded shackles. All the others have dropped their coins into the pool. Tara clutches hers like a tether to the known world.

She keeps the balance, Darren says. She stands between the worlds. She watches all the gates. But does she have a choice, Tara asks. Do saints ever have choices, Darren counters. Tara cant remember. Ahmed and the tattooed woman whisper the names of sea creatures in her ears, too fast. Somehow they become the Mock-Turtle and Gryphon from Alices Adventures in Wonderland and sing snatches from The Lobster Quadrille, while Darren explains that the jack-o-lanterns are a sort of lighthouse beacon: those who are rising, who rise every year, need to know that the partygoers are watching. The number of watchers is fixed. One of them has been lost. Tara must take their place by dropping her coin into the pool by midnight.

She sees those who rise in the glowing pool, all coils and lashing fins. She drops her coin and watches it sink, taking a living part of her down with it, drowning some speck of her soul. Like the chained woman, like the crows, she too now holds back the sea.

I told them you were strong, Darren whispers to Tara, above, in the grass. Below on the boardwalk, the crows dance. The chained woman slips into a stinging anemone-choked crevice on her island.

Tara wakes in the grass on the headland. Cold rain falls. Below the house, breakers roar. She cant remember climbing from the sea-cave. Darren and the crows have driven off. The house is dark, all the pumpkin beacons gone.

Next year, Tara knows, shell come a week early and help carve the jack-o-lanterns. Shell wear black. Shell know to drop her coin in the pool quickly, and quickly turn away.

A gull seizes something dark and wriggling from the seething sea. Tara wipes rain or tears from her eyes and starts down the sandy road to her car.

Whats Cyclopean: The house abuts the unsleeping, omnivorous Pacific, a phrase that only gets more disturbing and delightful the longer you think about it.

The Degenerate Dutch: Tara prefers the small group at the isolated house to New Yorks Halloween parties, gaudy with noisy drunks and drag queens.

Weirdbuilding: This weeks story is reminiscent of The Festival, and yet another entry in the long litany of oceanic weirdness.

Libronomicon: The lines about getting thrown with the lobsters out to sea, which might easily seem like the secret nightmare verse from Octopuss Garden, are actually from the Mock Turtles Song in Alices Adventures in Wonderlandlittle surprise, then, that theyre shortly followed by an influx of imagery from the Mad Hatters tea party.

Madness Takes Its Toll: Do quotes from the Mad Hatter count?

Ruthannas Commentary

Word of warning: when your new boyfriend invites you to an isolated party with a close-knit, strangely-mannered group of friends who accept only one new member at a time, and none of the previous new members are in evidence the fact that dude looks honest may not keep you safe. Things actually turn out much better for Tara than I was anticipating. And thats kind of awesome, because what happensto the degree I can tell what happens at allis much weirder and more interesting than anything I was bracing for.

Kiernans very good at riffing on Lovecraft stories. Previously weve encountered a close sequel to Pickmans Model and a distant play on Call of Cthulhu. This weeks story seems like a thematic echo of The Festival, in which our narrator gets invited to a strange bioluminescent ceremony in the bowels of a house, and wakes up alone and unsure of the level of reality of anything theyve encountered. A Redress for Andromeda goes beyond the Lovecraft, though: the ceremony in question is more resonant, and the narrator ultimately acquiesces to participation rather than running away. Theres wonder and glory here, and a willingness to pay something thatthe story suggestswe owe.

Exactly whats owed, and what the ceremony accomplishes, are left obfuscated. The closest we come is a description of what the saint/sea monster/woman is doing down there: keeping the balance, standing between worlds, watching the gates. We also learn that something rises, and expects to see the jack-o-lanterns as proof that were paying attentionand that the dropped coins are a sacrifice of more than metal, that they hold back the sea with pieces of soul.

The title provides a framework on which to hang some of these hints. Andromeda, of course, was offered as sacrifice to Poseidons sea serpent to protect the land from his wrath, and rescued by Perseus. So is the redress owed to Andromeda, for her near-sacrifice? Or is it owed to the sea, for her survival? Or both? The ceremony honors the sea monster saint, but also sacrifices to the seaor something in it. Unsleeping, omnivorous its not the Dreaming God of Rlyeh, anyway, who both sleeps and has distinctive appetites.

Tara, an ichthyologist, might bring to the ceremony a more scientific awareness of the oceans dangerswhich is not necessarily a more comforting perspective. The angry sea, the cheated sea that wants to drown all the land again can get what it wants via the intervention of gods, or just by waiting on human self-sabotage. Bright Crown of Glory, Livia Llewelyns story from a few weeks back, suggests that these two routes to sea level rise may not be so distinct.

So what is the worlds shame, down in that subterranean tide pool, that convinces Tara to drop her coin and join the crows for the long haul? What would have happened if shed refused? We never do get an answer to the question of whether saints have choices, and its just as unclear whether Tara does. Theres something in the hallucinatory Lewisian mid-point of the ceremonydanger and fear and silliness all mixed together, an eldritch ceremony carried out by pumpkin-lightto draw us in, and draw us to return, even without any promise of answers.

Annes Commentary

Its reasonable that the Andromeda of Classical mythology would appeal to Caitlin Kiernan. They (the authors preferred pronoun) are a paleontologist with a special interest in the mosasaurs, giant marine reptiles of the Late Cretaceous. Artists renderings show something like a shark-lizard hybrid. Not a cute little gecko of a lizardthink Komodo dragon crossed with saltwater crocodile. Make it ten meters long and youve got a respectable sea monsterthat is, Andromedas would-be devourer.

Andromedas parents were Cepheus and Cassiopeia, rulers of ancient Ethiopia. Cassiopeia bragged that Andromeda was more beautiful than Poseidons sea nymphs, maternal hubris that pissed him off big time. Showing the usual godly restraint, Poseidon flooded the Ethiopian coast and tasked his pet mosasaur Cetus with devouring any Ethiopian who dared go back in the water. An oracle told Cepheus that to restore the value of oceanfront property hed have to sacrifice Andromeda to Cetus. So Cepheus did the politically expedient thing and chained Andromeda to a seaside rock, an irresistible snack for any monster.

Luckily for Andromeda, Perseus slew Cetus before the beast could even nibble on her comely toes. Perseus then made her his queen, and they had lots of kids and eventually became constellations, as people in Classical mythology tend to do.

Kiernans rock-bound lady gets no happy ending. Instead she gets to be a saint. Many Catholic saints are martyrs, suffering gruesome tortures before their redress of heavenly bliss. Temporary agony for eternal ecstasy sounds like a good deal. But eternal agony for temporary relief? If there ever is relief for Kiernans lady. Tara doubts it, but as Darren says, no one ever understands at first.

I dont understand at last. Which is fine?

A Redress for Andromeda opens like a conventional horror story. You have your decaying, isolated manse and an ominous calendar date: Halloween, complete with jack-o-lanterns. The house has been a resort of animal-sacrificing occultists. The protagonist is an occult-innocent, lured to the house under the pretext of a low-key Halloween party. All the other party-goers dress in black and are a tight-knit bunch, like any respectable coven. Whereas Tara is dressed in prim white, like any respectable virgin sacrifice. Everyone but Tara anticipates an unexplained Event. The Event will involve odd silver tokens, which makes Tara think party game. Any respectable reader knows the Event will be no game.

As midnight approaches, things take a Lovecraftian turn. The party files down a stairway cut directly into the native rock. Any such stairway can lead to nothing good. Especially when the walls are damp, the steps slippery. Especially when the air smells like bladderwrack and dying starfish trapped in stagnant tidal pools. And most especially when an eerie yellow-green light begins to illuminate the descent. The stairway ends in a sea-cave pool featuring a rocky island witha thing chained to it. The thing is unnameable, indescribableat least, Kiernan doesnt name or describe it right away.

Section break. Now the weirdness escalates not so much in what happens as in how Kiernan structures their narrative. As if her drinks were spiked with strange brew, Taras consciousness splits between the sea cave and the grassy meadow, between recent story past and story present. In their online journal, Kiernan remarks: I have no real interest in plot. Atmosphere, mood, language, character, theme, etc., thats the stuff that fascinates me. Ulysses should have freed writers from plot. And there is something Joycean in this sections spatial and temporal disjunctures; its apropos-of-what conversations; its giddy plunge into Alices Wonderland as Peterson becomes Carrolls Mock-Turtle and the tattooed woman his Gryphon. The two murmur an incantatory list of deep-sea fish and invertebrate genus names in Taras ears; they follow up with the Mock-Turtles song, The Lobster Quadrille.

Interwoven with this phantasmagoric language-play is the plot: The marine-life/human hybrid chained to the rock is revealed as a suffering saint who stands between worlds and watches the gates; Deepish Ones rise, all coils and lashing fins; Darren urges Tara to drop her coin into the pool and become a redress-bringing watcher; Tara surrenders bits of life and soul to seal her acceptance of the responsibility.

We still dont know how Andromeda ended up in a sea-cave north of Monterey, or how she balances Everything, or what the Risers are, or how the coin-tokens serve as redress. Again, do we have to?

In the final section, Kiernan returns to conventional narrative. Pelted with cold rain, Tara wakes to the real world where practical things matter, like her purse and where she parked her rental car. She makes what sense she can of her experience, projecting the bitterness of its secrets on the again-deserted house and planning to come early next Halloween week to help carve jack-o-lanterns.

Then she watches a gull snatch squirming mystery from the sea, and atmosphere and emotion close the tale.

Next week we continue on the track of a nasty tome in Chapter 2 of John Connollys Fractured Atlas.

Ruthanna Emrys is the author of the Innsmouth Legacy series, including Winter Tide and Deep Roots. Her short story collection, Imperfect Commentaries, is available from Lethe Press. You can find some of her fiction, weird and otherwise, on, most recently The Word of Flesh and Soul. Ruthanna is online on Twitter and Patreon, and offline in a mysterious manor house with her large, chaotic householdmostly mammalianoutside Washington DC.

Anne M. Pillsworths short story The Madonna of the Abattoir appears on Her young adult Mythos novel, Summoned, is available from Tor Teen along with sequel Fathomless. She lives in Edgewood, a Victorian trolley car suburb of Providence, Rhode Island, uncomfortably near Joseph Curwens underground laboratory.

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Afghans narrate Taliban takeover on social media: fear, solidarity and resistance – Taiwan News08.23.21

"It's been four days since I lost all motivation to work. Throughout years of working as a journalist, I have never felt so frustrated and useless. I receive calls and messages from people I know, who tell me they have been attacked, beaten up, and dragged out of their houses. What should I do? Where should I publish these [stories]? My hands are tied."

This is what Anisa Shaheed, a prominent Afghan journalist, tweets about her life under Taliban rule. Praised for her courage byReporters Without Borders, Shaheed had continued to work even in face of the expanding power of the Taliban and their increasing threats for journalists. This changed when the militia stormed into Kabul, upended the lives of all residents and put the careers of female professionals in serious jeopardy.

Since then, like many other Afghan citizens, Shaheed has had only her social media accounts to report what is going on in the streets.

The return of the Taliban has set off shockwaves through Afghanistan's social media. Hundreds of influencers, activists and even ordinary citizens are rushing to scrub their digital lives. Posts teaching people how to delete online information are extremely popular. The increasing online activity of Taliban members and sympathizers is adding to people's horror.

But some Afghans continue to use social media to document events and voice their fear, anger and determination to resist.

The risk that the Taliban's takeover will reverse the gains made for women's social rights remains the top concern among female users of Twitter. Despite the militia's spokesman expressing the group's commitment to letting women study and work in "accordance with the principles of Islam, Afghan girls and women are petrified about their future.

"After high school graduation, I have been working and saving up to pay for my college tuition fees," writes Saher, a 19-year-old woman from Kabul, on her Twitter account. She used to work in a small clothes shop in Kabul's city center. "I will most likely lose that job since working in a shop is not regarded as appropriate for girls. All my plans are ruined."

Raha, a student in Kabul, did not dare to go out of her house for days. When finally she went out to buy groceries, the Taliban beat her for the visible tattoo on her hand.

"I don't want to emigrate anywhere, just want to live in a country free from Taliban, war and conflict. Is that too much to ask?" she writes in another tweet.

Laila F., a 30-year-old mother, says that the price of burqas surged sixfold overnight as more and more women feel it to be unsafe to walk in the streets without wearing such garments. "I wish it was all a nightmare," she writes on her Twitter account.

In Herat, the third-largest city of Afghanistan, tweets describe how memories of the previous Taliban rule more than twenty years ago have muted the streets:

"People aren't sure if Taliban will try to ban music again, as they did in the past. Streets in Afghan cities used to be filled with the sound of music coming from TV sets, restaurants, and shops. Now a haunting silence has taken over the streets," writes Stanis, a Twitter user based in Herat.

As the extremist group sets itself up to govern, new pro-Taliban accounts and pages are mushrooming across Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

These platforms consider the Taliban a terrorist organization and have long banned their content, but some members and sympathizers have managed to defy the restrictions and use the sites as a channel to spread their propaganda. Dozens of these new accounts publicly announce themselves as affiliated with the Taliban.

They post videos, images and slogans, often trying to amplify the assurances that the Taliban have brought peace to Afghans and convey the message that the Taliban are the true rulers of Afghanistan, different from the former corrupt administrations.

During the past week alone, their posts have racked up hundreds of thousands of views on Twitter and Facebook.

In the midst of the news about violence, death and theTalibans manhunt, small-scale online solidarity initiatives are thriving.

While NGOs in big cities are demonstrating their efforts to support displaced people, the Afghan diaspora discusses ways to offer help to those who need to flee. Others work to hook up those in need with people offering to accommodate them in neighboring countries.

Videos showing clashes between civilians and the Taliban quickly spread, especially those showing Afghan youth raising and waving Afghanistan's flag in front of the armed Taliban militants.

"My aim is to live my life, the way I did before, and dress the way I always did," writes Saher on her Twitter account. "Everyday resistance; this is all I can and will do against them."

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Let there be light: Special 1908 event saw downtown illuminated with electric light for first time – GuelphToday08.23.21

On the evening of July 24, 1908, an estimated 5,000 people packed Wyndham Street. From one end of the thoroughfare to the other, the crowd occupied not only the sidewalks, butthe road itself. And why not? It was newly paved! No more of the dust that had been the curse of hot, dry summers, or the mud that had made Guelphs downtown a pedestrian nightmare and the bane of ones Sunday shoes.

But it wasnt what was underfoot that had drawn so many residents to the towns core. Rather, they had come in eager anticipation to witness what was going to happen overhead. For the first time, downtown Guelph was going to be illuminated by electric lighting. The Mercury reported on the historic moment when the lights went on.

When the many electric lights, which form a radiant canopy over the whole of WyndhamStreet, were turned on, the whole expanse, covered with a permanent roadway as white and clean as the sidewalks, became as light almost as during the day. The effect was beautiful to behold and everywhere were to be heard expressions of admiration.

The lighting was considered a great sensation. It was hoped to be a forecast of the success of an event that had been planned for months; Guelphs Old Home Week that was coming up in August.

Guelph had extended an invitation to former residents to come home for a summer bash that promoters promised would be the greatest and best organized Old Home Week ever held in Canada. They said they had learned from mistakes made by other communities and expected everything to come off without a hitch. There can be no doubt of the extent of the success of the event, the Mercury boasted.

Trains rolled into the station bringing ex-Guelphites from across Canada as well as the United States. There were even a few from overseas. News of the event had been carried in the press in cities as far away as Buffalo, New York. The local hotels were booked up, and residents opened their homes to relatives and friends they hadnt seen in years.

Downtown streets were decorated with flags and bunting, all of which would look extra special at night in the glow of the new electric lights. The grounds of Exhibition Park had been prepared for a variety of attractions that included concerts and athletic competitions.

Guelphs own renowned composer, Roberta Geddes-Harvey, wrote a song for Old Home Week. The first verse went:

The boys are coming home today!

Home today! Home today!

The boys who have been far away!

Far away! Far away!

Some from distant foreign lands,

Some from Yukons golden sands;

Here we are to meet and greet

The boys who have been far away.

The boys were a diverse group. One was John Moffat, who came from his home in Berlin (now Kitchener) hoping to interest the Guelph Waterworks Department in a fuel-saving device hed invented. He couldnt sell them on his invention, but he told Mayor John Newstead and the Mercury stories about his grandfather who had helped cut the first road from Guelph to Galt with a crew of men who lived on a diet of raw pork and whiskey.

Another was John C. Kennedy of Port Elgin. Born on Nov.7, 1830, he claimed to have been the second male child born in Guelph. According to the Mercury, Kennedy was the oldest Guelph boy to come to town for Old Home Week.

Probably the most prestigious Guelph-born visitor was Sir Charles Edmund Kingsmill. He was an admiral in the Royal Navy and would one day be credited as a father of the Royal Canadian Navy. A series of formal dinners and receptions were planned for Kingsmill, and he would preside over a military tattoo in Exhibition Park.

Among the sporting events scheduled were baseball games, horse and pony races, and a Dare-devil-dash bicycle race that started on a slide from an elevation of 100 feet and concluded with a leap into a tank of water. Foot races were divided up into special categories for boys and girls, single men and ladies, married men and ladies, old men (over 50 years), and men over 200 pounds. One foot race was open only to boys who belonged to Guelph Collegiate Institute Cadets.

Guelphites would also have an opportunity to see wrestling star Artie Edmunds of Toronto, who fought under the name Edmunds the Great. Hailed as the most wonderful wrestler of his weight in America, Edmunds was coming to town for Old Home Week to take on Young Gussie of Chicago.

The Mercury announced that All kinds of attractions and amusements will be furnished by the Committee for young and old, consisting of merry-go-round, chute-the-chute, electric theatre, waxworks, Ferris wheel, moving picture shows, and anything else of the kind that can be procured. The very daring could go up in a hot air balloon for a birds-eye view of the city.

Of course, then, as now, care had to be taken that all was proper and in good taste. The newspaper went on to say, The Committee wish to assure the public that there will be nothing there that could offend the most fastidious. Nonetheless, a few people were concerned that the glare of those new lights might frighten the horses.

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Up Close and On the Ground With Canada’s Intrepid Tree Planters – Atlas Obscura08.23.21

Rita Leistner admits to having nightmares about planting trees. For almost 10 years she worked as a tree planter in the forests of British Columbia, and now shes the creative force behind Forest for the Trees, a photo book and documentary about the intrepid souls who take on this arduous, relentless, and ultimately rewarding job. In the opening lines of her film she explains how those bad dreams have recurred every six months or so for the last 20 years, so its obviously something that has never left me.

In Canada, logging companies hire professional tree planters to place seedlings in the ground by hand. Its a seasonal jobphysically demanding and over rough terrain. Leistner has found that most people cant appreciate just how demanding it is. In fact, she credits her time planting trees as preparing her for being a photographer in conflict zones. Someone at my agency in New York at the time, when Id been working in Iraq, was giving me advice, and theyre like, Well, you should take tree planting off your bio because it looks trivial next to your other accomplishments. And I thought, Oh my God, those like half-million trees that I planted, that was one of the hardest things I will have ever done in my life.

She finally got a chance to show people what it is like when, in 2016, she immersed herself once more in the Canadian forests with a camp of about 100 tree planters. For four seasons, the award-winning war photographer documented their grueling and often solitary work in the day, and their community camaraderie at night. In the documentary, distinctive facets of the tree planting life emerge, such as their lingo: cream (for land that is easy to plant), shnarb (for difficult land with big piles of sticks and brush), and highballer (for the person who plants the most trees). She documented their celebratory tattoos and their heartbreaking losses.

Interwoven throughout the film are Leistners large-scale (6 by 5 feet), incredibly detailed photos, as well as her own exploration of how her art and labor have come full circle. My film is about the process of making a film about planting trees as much as it is about planting trees. They are parallel activities throughout the film, and both are grueling and impossibly hard, she says. I see planting trees as a metaphor for so many things in life. Its incredibly physically hard, but you also have to be highly self-motivated because youre being paid per tree, not per hour. So it really teaches you about being self-driven, self-motivated, and how to persevere when youre cold and youre tired, because the weather is erratic, and sometimes the biting insects are hideously punishing and they make you crazy, and you have to just keep going no matter what and its the only way to get through the day.

Atlas Obscura spoke with Leistner about her nightmares, clearcut tattoos, and what sent her back after decades away.

Tree planters burn an average of 8,000 calories per day, which is phenomenal. Its the equivalent of running 2.5 marathons. And these are numbers that Ive gotten from a biochemist named Delia Roberts, who did studies on caloric output among tree planters. Roberts, who had worked for the Canadian Olympic team in nutrition and caloric balancing, was teaching biochemistry in British Columbia, where my project was made and where a lot of the tree planting in Canada happens. She had students who were tree planters, telling her how many calories they burned planting trees, and it was more than an Olympic athlete would burn, and she just said, No way, no one works that hard. Its not possible.

Eventually, [Roberts and another scientist] obtained a grant and they did a major study. And the study confirmed what the tree planters had told them. This is how they came up with this average 8,000 calories a day. Isnt that crazy? Youre covering enormous amounts of terrain, youre carrying heavy bags of trees that weigh around 30 to 40 pounds when theyre full, and then you have to plant them to empty them out. Theyre climbing crazy, impossibly rough, uneven terrain, riddled with cavities and uncountable things you can trip over, fallen trees and brush and prickly bushes. Youre navigating this with your shovel and looking for spots in the ground where you can find soil and plant a tree. So you have to slam your shovel into the ground, open a hole, and then you have to bend over with all that weight and put the tree in the hole, and close that hole with your fist or your footthousands of times a day! The whole time youre making sure your trees are exactly the right distance apart. They cant be too close together and they cant be too far apart. The trees cant be too shallow and they cant be too deep. And they cant be in ground thats too wet or ground thats too dry. Its monitored by people with measuring tapes who usually work for either the logging company or the government, and they do quality checks on everyones land. You have to get 95 percent quality or you have to go back and fix it, and you dont get paid to do that. Theres a lot of pressure. Youre paid per tree, and thats what motivates people to work so hard.

The tree planters in my project are working for logging companies and for the government. But tree planting is in transition. Its going from being something securely within the forestry industry to a kind of anthropocene symptom and solution to climate change. According to headlines, planting billions of trees is one of the most feasible and affordable ways of taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Who is going to plant those billions? It wont be done by volunteers planting a few trees a day. Canadas professional tree planters are capable of planting upwards of 2,000 to 5,000 or more trees per day! If tree planting were an Olympic sport, Canadian tree planters would win all the gold.

Back in 1991, I had this conversation with a buddy of mine, Garth Hadley, drunk in a bar in some small town in northern British Columbia. We were like, We should make a documentary film about tree planting, no one knows what this life is like. But we were in our 20s and we didnt know anything about how to make a film. Then years later, in 2015, I had just come back from a trip to Palestine, and I was in New York and Garth happened to be in New York with his wife, and I hadnt seen him in a decade. I guess because I was going to see him, tree planting was on my mind. Id had a nightmare the night before. I used to have nightmares every six months or so about tree planting. Usually it was about my photography career tanking and I had to go back tree planting despite how old I was. I arrived late, and I got a shovel with a broken handle, and I got the weirdest land, and my tent was ripped, and it was just awful. And I said, You know, Garth, I feel like Im done with conflict zones, and I had this nightmare last night about tree planting. Maybe we should make this film we talked about 20 years ago. He said, Well, your timing is perfect because I just bought a tree planting company, and lets do it. And thats how it started. I thought maybe itll take two years or something. But it was so photogenic, it was so rich, I just kept going back.

So after two years, at the end of 2018, they had a farewell party for me in the camp and as were driving out of camp, I said to my assistant, You know what? Im going to have to go back next year. I just knew it because, as I was about to leave, one of the planters comes up to me and he tells me a snippet of a story, but it was loud and we were leaving. I thought, Oh my God, I have to go back just to hear this guys story! I went back and it was a good thing that I did, because every year I gathered something that became really essential to the project.

Im trying to get this painterly feeling to the work. Im really trying to control what it looks like and so its super bright and colorful, with deep, deep depths of field, so every little detail is wrought. I thought they should be hanging up like heroic Renaissance paintings. My photography is not straight journalism by any means, but its a combination of being in a real-world situation like you would be in for documentary, but using these very complex studio techniques on the go, on the run, at the top of a mountain. Many people looking at the photographs think theyre staged or that theyre posed. When they realized that these are action shots, thats when the curators at institutions really took notice.

In my day we had a tradition where when you planted your last tree, your last season, you got a tree tattoo. So I actually have this tiny little tree tattoo on my ankle that I paid $15 for and it looks like a Christmas tree. I actually got it in Dallas after I swore myself off tree planting, so that was when I earned my tattoo. Then I come back 20 years later and tattoos are much more a part of youth culture, and theyre much more a part of the tree planting culture. Because it is such hard work, and because they feel theyre part of a community, I think theres this way in which their tattoos connect them. In this particular camp there was a tree planter named Laurence Morin, who is an artist. Shes in one of the photographs I made, and you can see she has a big tattoo on her arm. So Laurence started becoming the tattoo artist to the tree planters and I started filming it, and including her giving me a tattoo.

My tattoo is a bracelet around my forearm. Its a treeline on one side and on the other side its a clearcut [the vast swaths of land where trees are cut by logging], and that was Laurences idea. It was because I had been talking to her about war zones and how, when youre a photojournalist, you go to these conflict zones and, in a weird way, your work relies on all this damage that has been done. But youre also there to try to address it and do something about it. The clearcut was kind of the same thing, and the tree planters are addressing the clearcut. But even as a documentarian I was trying to do the same thing to acknowledge my role in this complicated, controversial industry because forestry practices are still evolving. Laurence said, Well then, why dont we put a treeline and a clearcut on your arm. So Im pretty sure Im the only person in the world with a clearcut tattoo.

Now tree planters from around the country go on pilgrimages to Laurence Morins tattoo studio in Montreal to get her to give them tattoos. So I always say its like Laurences tattoos are connecting them. For the rest of our lives, wherever we go, we will be connected by this ink.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Alesha Dixon says she’d lock herself in the bathroom and cry during ‘Greatest Dancer’ filming – Yahoo Entertainment08.23.21

Alesha Dixon fronted both series of the BBC show 'The Greatest Dancer' alongside Diversity member Jordan Banjo. (Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images)

Alesha Dixon has confessed she struggled with her mental health during the filming of BBC competition show The Greatest Dancer.

The singer was eight months pregnant with her daughter while filming the second series of the show in 2019.

Read more: Dixon says witnessing violence as child shapes her as mother

She told The Sun that she found it "overwhelming" to work on the show while pregnant and also looking after her first child.

Dixon said: "I would have moments when I felt really down and was really struggling but didnt really know why.

I think a lot of women can relate to locking themselves in the bathroom and having a little cry.

Watch: Alesha Dixon reveals work on new album

The 42-year-old star, who rose to fame as part of girl band Mis-Teeq in the noughties, said pregnancy was "confusing" for her mental state.

She said she has been inspired recently to talk openly about mental health in the wake of the "empowering and exciting" decisions of tennis star Naomi Osaka and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles to bring the issue into the spotlight.

Read more: Dixon reflects on challenging lockdown schooling

Dixon added: "On the one hand you are joyful, excited and happy to be having a baby, but then your hormones and your emotions are saying the opposite.

Its like you dont have control of your emotions and feelings, which can be scary.

Your emotions get the better of you but then you have to dust yourself off, put on a smile and get on with your day pretending that everything is okay. It can be hard."

Alesha Dixon has released new music for the first time in five years and has an album on the way. (Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

Dixon has returned to music in recent months with single War, ahead of an album which she has been working on for several years.

The star said that music has "always been like therapy" for her and that returning to the studio has really helped her mental health.

Read more: Dixon backs Diversity amid BLM performance row

There is so much talk about regarding mental health at the moment and so many people are being transparent about what they are going through, it just felt like the perfect time to put out this song," Dixon revealed.

Story continues

She added: What I am trying to say is, all of us at some point feel like we are in a battle with our own mind.

Watch: Alesha Dixon reflects on the birth of her second daughter

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People Who Have Competed In Or Worked On Game Shows Are Spilling Their Behind-The-Scenes Secrets, And It’s Really Freakin’ Cool – BuzzFeed08.09.21

"The day of taping, we were bussed from the hotel to Sony Pictures Studios at 6 a.m. There were 18 contestants plus two LA-based alternates in case anyone needed to drop out last minute. The entire morning was spent touring the studio, going over rules, practicing with the buzzer and the wheel, and going over our intros.EVERYTHING was explained every category and every game show law. Then, they split us into groups of three, and we went to set to start taping. The lady I lost to was FREAKING AMAZING at the game. While playing, I won a trip to London and Paris, and spun a 'bankrupt,' so I experienced a full range of emotions from the wheel. They were super accommodating when it came to my trip and made sure I could work around my schedule to go. You do have to pay taxes on the prizes, so I refer to it as my '85%-off trip.' My then-boyfriend and I decided to add Ireland to our itinerary, and they even paid for our flights to London and home from Ireland, even though the trip I won was just to go to London and Paris. Overall, it was a really positive experience!"


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The last humanist: how Paul Gilroy became the most vital guide to our age of crisis – The Guardian08.09.21

In 2000, the race equality thinktank the Runnymede Trust published a report about the future of multi-ethnic Britain. Launched by the Labour home secretary Jack Straw, it proposed ways to counter racial discrimination and rethink British identity. The report was nuanced and scholarly, the result of two years deliberation. It was honest about Britains racial inequalities and the legacy of empire, but also offered hope. It made the case for formally declaring the UK a multicultural society.

The newspapers tore it to pieces. The Daily Telegraph ran a front-page article: Straw wants to rewrite our history: British is a racist word, says report. The Sun and the Daily Mail joined in. The line was clear a clique of leftwing academics, in cahoots with the government, wanted to make ordinary people feel ashamed of their country. In the Telegraph, Boris Johnson, then editor of the Spectator magazine, wrote that the report represented a war over culture, which our side could lose. Spooked by the intensity of the reaction, Straw distanced himself from any further debate about Britishness, recommending in his speech at the reports launch that the left swallow some patriotic tonic.

The Parekh report, as it was known its chair was the political theorist Lord Bhikhu Parekh was not a radical document. It was studiously considerate. Contrary to the Telegraph front page, it didnt claim British was a racist word. It said that Britishness, as much as Englishness, has largely unspoken, racial connotations. This was the sentence that launched a thousand tirades, but where did this idea come from? Follow the footnote in the offending paragraph and you arrive at the work of an academic called Paul Gilroy.

Gilroy watched this depressing and deeply symptomatic episode unfold from across the Atlantic. He had joined Yale University the previous year, having left Britain in search of greener pastures. Several other non-white British academics had done the same: an article in the Guardian from 2000 about this exodus headlined Gifted, black and gone quotes one of Gilroys reasons for leaving: Even to be interested in race, let alone to assert its centrality to British nationalism, is to sacrifice the right to be taken seriously. The response to the Parekh report seemed to confirm that he had made the right decision. Twenty years later, it can feel like little has changed. Time moves forward but, on this issue, Britain stays still, having the same arguments over and over.

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Gilroy, 65, has since returned to Britain. Today, he is widely regarded as the countrys pre-eminent scholar of race, culture and nationalism. Its a status that he has acquired slowly, without fanfare, through a steady drip of books, essays and lectures rather than dramatic public interventions. Over four decades his work has spanned disciplines literature, history, philosophy, music, sociology but it is built around a simple plea: that race and racism be taken seriously.

He first made a name for himself in the late 1980s with his book There Aint No Black in the Union Jack, which argued that racism was deeply interwoven with nationalism in Britain. His 1993 follow-up, The Black Atlantic, still his most influential work, used the writings of enslaved people and their descendants to demonstrate their centrality to the making of the modern world. In 2004s After Empire, more than a decade before the referendum on EU membership, he diagnosed Britain with postcolonial melancholia: an inability to mourn the loss of imperial greatness, which was encouraging a corrosive nationalism.

Gilroy is a worldly scholar, who wants us to look beyond the nation-state and think on a planetary scale. He has been working for several years on a book about the effects that the climate crisis is having on our ideas about race and humanity. But he cant quite get Britain or England, really off his mind. In our conversations over recent months, he circled around the virulent nationalism that accompanied the UKs exit from the EU, the inhumanity of the Home Offices policy toward migrants, and the renewal of the far-right political forces that he encountered as a young person in postwar London, when he, like so many others, was intimidated by racists in the street. I really tried to warn people about racism and nationalism in this country, he told me, toward the end of one interview, when Brexit came up. To have all of those things that could be seen so clearly swell up into this Leviathan and beat everything that I think is important and beautiful and serious and democratic about this culture to death It has given me one or two things to think about.

In this moment of resurgent anti-racist politics, people are turning to Gilroys work. An activist told me that she saw a placard listing the names of essential thinkers at a Rhodes Must Fall demonstration in Oxford and Gilroy was the only living person on it. When the Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton shared a #BlackLivesMatter reading list on social media, he included There Aint No Black , alongside works by Malcolm X and Maya Angelou. Steve McQueens acclaimed TV series about Caribbean life in Britain, Small Axe, is further evidence of his influence: Gilroy was credited as an adviser. Hes the foremost intellectual in the United Kingdom: not an if, not a but, not a maybe, McQueen, a friend of Gilroys, told me over the phone.

He may not have the public profile of someone like the late Stuart Hall, who co-supervised his PhD, but Gilroys reputation in the field is unrivalled. People who work on race speak of his deep, formative influence; concepts that he developed such as the black Atlantic which refers to the transnational slave-descended cultures that span Africa, Europe and the Americas are firmly embedded in academia. In 2019, he was awarded the Holberg prize, a $700,000 award funded by the Norwegian government that is often called the Nobel prize of the humanities. (Not a single British newspaper covered it.) The awarding committee described him as one of the most challenging and inventive figures in contemporary scholarship.

Too challenging, perhaps. For all the plaudits, there is something unsettling about Gilroys way of looking at the world. He is an untimely figure. His ideas dont correspond to the vogueish pieties of identity politics or even cutting-edge studies of race. He is that most intellectually unfashionable thing, a humanist. And despite his insistence on understanding the importance of race, he has paradoxically spent much of his life encouraging people to work towards something radical, even utopian: moving beyond the idea of race altogether.

Gilroy does not like the spotlight. He was hesitant about being the subject of a profile, and friends of his seemed surprised when I told them that he had eventually agreed. There were moments in our conversations when he would artfully direct me away from personal questions or reflect wincingly on something hed once said. He seemed wary of what happens to a life when it is turned into a narrative, the way it can be smoothed into something neat, familiar and false. In his work, he has always condemned the tendency to reduce the world to comfortingly simple categories.

When we first met in person, in between pandemic lockdowns last winter in Finsbury Park, north London, Gilroy was easy to spot between the dog-walkers and morning joggers. He is short and bearish, and has a crown of dreadlocks, wisped with grey, reaching down to his waist. Dressed in black, wearing mud-stained walking boots a partisan Londoner, he is also an outdoors person he moved across the sodden grass with careful, almost monkish purpose. In conversation, he speaks fluently, gently, like a late-night DJ soothing listeners as they drive, but his tone belies a barbed impatience with the state of things. I cant watch videos of murder, he said in a recent discussion with the historian David Olusoga, referring to the killing of George Floyd. Im already angry enough. Racism, nationalism, intellectual complacency: these disfigure the world and move him, and this hasnt waned as hes grown older.

His mother, Beryl Gilroy, was a teacher, psychotherapist and novelist. She migrated from what was then British Guiana in the Caribbean in 1952, but she wasnt an immigrant: like the rest of the Windrush generation, she was a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, moving from one part of the empire to another. If that cohort was expecting a measure of hospitality, they found a hostile environment. Unable to adjust to the presence of semi-strangers who, disarmingly, knew British culture intimately as a result of their colonial education, and who represented a vanished pre-eminence, her son would later write, the country developed a melancholic attachment to its lost imperial past.

This was the era of the colour bar, when those newly arrived discovered the hollowness of their formal rights. Landlords would refuse to rent rooms based on what the neighbours might think. The graffiti Keep Britain White, [Enoch] Powell for PM put things more plainly. So, too did the violence: from the police, the marauding teddy boys, and the assailants, never caught, behind the murder of the Antiguan carpenter Kelso Cochrane in 1959.

In her 1976 memoir Black Teacher, Beryl Gilroy described what it was like to navigate the education system of postwar London. She encountered parents who didnt want a black woman teaching their children, and had to deal with racism from the pupils themselves, who were often parroting their parents. Life among the workaday English often amounted to a daily struggle for survival and dignity, but she was unflappable, eventually becoming the headteacher at Beckford primary school in north London.

In one scene of the memoir, though, we see her stalked by self-doubt. She worries about the child she is carrying, who was the product of what was once called miscegenation, the mixing of races. Her husband, Pat Gilroy a trained chemist and a communist, who left the party after Moscows tanks rolled into Hungary in 1956 was white. Might there not be some flaws in the chromosomes? she wonders, against her better instincts. After I had defeated an army of nightmares my fears subsided, but I remember to this day the anxiety with which I first examined my son, seeking some flaw, born of a fear buried deep down inside me.

With a white father and a black mother, Paul named after Paul Dienes, a Hungarian intellectual and friend of his fathers knew early on that he was different, and that sameness was overrated. Gilroy is not forthcoming about his childhood. He resisted the story that seemed to be taking shape as I asked him about it: the scholar of race who was drawn to the subject because of the racism he experienced as a child. I am so phobic about the cult of victim-speak that I dont want to narrate my life in that way, he told me.

Those formative moments cant be erased, either. In the introduction to his book Between Camps, he recalls a childhood memory of coming across the painted insignia of the British Union of Fascists, Oswald Moseleys political party, on a wall in bombed-out London. What was this doing in a country that had only recently helped defeat nazism? I think that was a stimulus to begin a kind of critical reflection on the power of racism and fascism and nationalism in British life, he said. It was literally having my face rubbed in all that shit.

As a teenager, Gilroy was drawn to the affirmative politics of black power, grew out an afro, and immersed himself in soul and funk. We people, who are darker than blue, Curtis Mayfield, sang at Finsbury Parks Rainbow theatre in 1972, with a teenage Gilroy in attendance. Are we gonna stand around this town / And let what others say come true?

His mother didnt always make him to go to school because she knew the kind of things teachers said about kids like him. Instead, he would read voraciously, often at the local library in North Finchley. Through his mother, he discovered books such as The Souls of Black Folk by the African American polymath WEB Du Bois that he would wrestle with for the rest of his life.

Gilroy failed his English O-level exam, having gone out the night before to see the American singer-songwriter Boz Scaggs play at the Roundhouse in Camden. But he ended up at Sussex University, where, browsing the university bookshop one day, he came across a collection of essays, Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain. I thumbed through it and thought, wow, he told me. Until then, he hadnt realised that scholars wrote about things like football, or pop music, or Caribbean culture. Now, after this encounter, academia seemed bigger, closer to life itself. Maybe, he thought, there might be a place for him.

The book that had captured Gilroys imagination came from the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham, one of the few institutions producing academic work that made sense of what Britain looked like from ground-level. The CCCS was under the directorship of Stuart Hall, the pioneering Jamaican intellectual who famously coined the term Thatcherism and transformed British leftwing thought by focusing on the importance of culture.

When Gilroy joined the centre as a postgraduate student in 1978, he found that it had an egalitarian ethos; the traditional hierarchy dividing students from teachers was undermined. In 1982, he and a number of his fellow students published a text, The Empire Strikes Back, a landmark in the field of British cultural studies. Its central theme, developing Halls work, was that the hard-right nationalism of the emergent 80s was being secured through appeals to racist fears.

The 80s were a heady decade, in which battles over belonging were constantly being fought. While the far right whipped up support by promising to repatriate them, Gilroys generation affirmed that they were here to stay and here to fight, as one leftwing group put it. His was a cohort, actually born in Britain, that was equipped with a sense of entitlement that their parents had not been able to enjoy, as Gilroy later wrote. They were called the rebel generation for a reason: the 1981 riots, in places like Brixton and Toxteth, were a revolt against police harassment, and it was thanks to them that Gilroy found employment after leaving Birmingham. Suddenly there were jobs in local government in new areas around policing, equal opportunities, around womens needs and experiences, he said. He worked at the Greater London Council (GLC), the city authority under the radical-left leadership of Ken Livingstone, where Gilroy did research for a unit that monitored the Metropolitan police.

He also gigged as a freelance journalist, writing for the counter-cultural music press. He got into prickly debates about jazz in the pages of the Wire and interviewed James Baldwin for City Limits. (I never got on with the English in general, Baldwin told him, People who believe that an elderly British matron is the Empress of the Indies and Queen of all Africa are dangerously removed from reality.) He was finding it hard to enter academia. I wasnt perceived as somebody who was staying within the bounds of the acceptable limits of scholarly research. A lot of the hostility came from people on the so-called left, he said.

His first book, There Aint No Black , published in 1987, was like a little grenade thrown into the discourse. His targets included English Marxists who couldnt understand the importance of thinking carefully about race; sociologists who portrayed Britains black population as either victims or criminals; the new racism of Thatchers Britain; and even the GLC, his old employer. In the book, Gilroy took riots and social movements to be as politically significant as any political party or trade union. My brain kind of cracked open when I read it, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, the celebrated American theorist of prison abolition, told me.

It is the second chapter that furnished the ideas that would, during the Parekh affair, offend the rightwing press. Gilroy marshalled a long list of examples pervasive phrases such as the island race and bulldog breed; the way politicians spoke about immigrants as aliens; laws that privileged immigrants with a grandparent born in the British Isles to argue that race and nation were enmeshed in the British psyche. The governments obsession with repatriating illegal immigrants was further evidence. Deportation, he wrote acidly, assists in the process of making Britain great again.

Most powerfully, Gilroy treated Britains Caribbean settlers not as a problem to be solved, but as people whose culture offered sophisticated readings of the world. He saw the soundsystem culture of reggae and dub whose body-shaking bass frequencies could be heard, and felt, in parties across London as harbouring a radical critique of the modern world. Darkened dance halls transported revellers out of the oppressive present, while the musics lyrics punctured the drudgery of labouring under capitalism.

Caribbean culture was also re-colouring Englishness itself. Gilroy analysed the 1984 single Cockney Translation by the London-born reggae artist Smiley Culture, which playfully juxtaposes cockney rhyming slang and black patois. The implicit joke beneath the surface of the record, he wrote, was that though many of Londons working-class blacks were cockney by birth and experience their race denied them access to [that] social category. He saw the song as a sign of his generations emergent, hybrid Britishness.

Music is central to Gilroys work, providing a kind of sonic argument against narrow nationalism. In his view, the history of black music is a powerful demonstration of how cultures, races, identities are all mongrel things, which cant be neatly packaged into ethnic parcels. Even a genre as seemingly American as hip-hop isnt purely American, he has pointed out: it was fertilised in the Bronx by Caribbean sound systems.

It was after a conversation with a musician, David Hinds, of the reggae band Steel Pulse, that Gilroy grew the dreadlocks that he keeps to this day. Interviewing him for a music zine during his Birmingham days, Gilroy spoke with Hinds late into the night, debating black power and music, and discussing Rastafarianism, a socio-political religion that connected people across the black Atlantic world. Growing out dreadlocks was a way of signifying ones ethical commitment to the sufferers of the world. In the Britain of the 70s and 80s, it was also a dangerous way to stand out.

When I asked him about this, more than four decades later, Gilroy resisted divulging what in particular prompted the decision to grow dreadlocks. I could tell that I was encroaching on personal territory. Instead, he answered by way of analogy. He talked about George Orwell, a figure whom he admires in all his contradictory complexity. In his essay A Hanging, set in Burma where he was a colonial officer, Orwell describes accompanying a colonial subject to the gallows. During this short journey, a dog runs up to the condemned and tries to lick his face. Moments like these humanise the prisoner, which horrifies Orwell, as it makes the injustice of what is happening inescapable.

In Burma, Orwell decided to tattoo his hands. He did this to make sure he would never be comfortable in polite society, Gilroy said. He marked his body in a way that said to them: I am not one of you.

An hour after sunrise, on a bright, cloudless day earlier this year, I met Gilroy on Hampstead Heath in north London for a walk. There are so many migratory birds arriving at the moment its a joy, he had written in an email a few days earlier. He was once again dressed in black, this time with a pair of binoculars around his neck and with dark-tinted, circular sunglasses. He lent me a pair of bins, as he called them, and we walked over the hills and through the ancient woodland. If were really lucky, he said. Well see a kestrel. (I had heard from his friends that Gilroy was a birdwatcher, but when I first put this to him, he flinched. I dont like birdwatcher as an identity category, he said. He stressed that he does not wear camouflage or go to bird fairs and that hes not part of that culture.)

The green, sun-speckled heath was almost empty of people. The morning air was piped with birdsong. It was a pastoral scene, the kind that might be called typically English. As we walked, Gilroy identified varieties of bluebell and rhapsodised over ancient oak trees. He has an exacting ear, easily distinguishing different species of bird from their interlaced song. A lot of these birds have migrated from west and central Africa, Gilroy said. What can I hear right now? I can hear a great tit, a blue tit, and theres a particular kind of warbler that sound which comes up from the area between Niger and Senegal. Later, to a bemused university colleague who happened to be walking by, he taxonomised three types of woodpecker.

The day before, Gilroy had delivered his inaugural lecture at UCL, where he has been a professor since 2019, via videolink. He used it to make sense of Boris Johnsons government and the Sewell report, published in March by the governments centre for race and ethnic disparities. For Gilroy, the report which clumsily downplayed the significance of racism in British life signalled an attempt to wind back the political clock to a time when anger at racism could be dismissed as people being chippy. Its designed to be an insult to the likes of me, he told me as we walked.

The culture wars have been simmering for as long as Gilroy has been alive. In the 80s, he wrote about how the press would claim Labour-run councils anti-racist endeavours were destroying freedom of speech. But much has changed, too; the Conservative cabinet, for instance, is more diverse than ever before. Overtly racist messaging on immigration, culture and heritage, he said in the lecture, while sock-puppeting the diversity and inclusion of minority government affiliates has, so far at least, proved to be a way to hold a new electoral bloc together and maintain the high temperature of populist and authoritarian ultra-nationalism.

But Gilroy believes theres something brittle about the Conservatives approach, which seeks to launch American-inspired battles over cultural values. I think that the British political class has been entirely bereft of any ideas of its own for a very long time, he told me. And its dismal inability to imagine a future for this country that is not an American future is expressed in the turn towards denouncing critical race theory or going on about these things.

Race and racism have never been, for him, about individual attitudes. They rather constitute a terrain on which politics takes place, where social meaning is made. In After Empire, he describes race as something that absorbs the cries of those who suffer by making them sound less human. The triumphant indifference of the UK government towards the suffering of others it is in the process of making it even harder for refugees to claim asylum is a sign that race continues to do its pernicious work.

The anti-racist mobilisations of 2020, the largest in British history, sparked by the murder of George Floyd in the US, took Gilroy aback. He remembers watching the toppling of the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston on a livestream. For many years, he had felt unsure about whether such statues should fall. He preferred to see them transformed, as in Hew Lockes 2006 artwork Restoration, which imagined the statue of Colston smothered in layers of guilty gold, or the May Day protesters who once gave Churchills statue in Parliament Square a grass Mohican and lick of red paint. Gilroy is not an instinctive iconoclast: as a child, he told me, he queued with his parents outside Westminster Hall to see Churchills body lying in state. He believes that politeness and civility are undervalued virtues.

But his doubts were swept away by Bristols colourful crowd. I couldnt believe it, he told me. When we spoke in December, he still seemed euphoric at the memory. Seeing Colston sink into the water had felt like a beautiful symbolic eruption, a glimpse of what England could be. As the months went by, some of that optimism waned. We witnessed something special and incredible last summer, he told me on Hampstead Heath in spring. But Im not seeing a lot of continued momentum. Maybe Im not looking in the right places. Gilroy is at his gloomiest when thinking about the effect that timeline media like Twitter and Facebook is having on young activists, drawing them into circular and parochial arguments online.

Anti-racism has changed since Gilroys youth, its edge blunted. For much of the 20th century, being against racism meant being for a radically different political and economic settlement, such as socialism or communism. Today it can mean little more than doing what Gilroy mockingly calls McKinsey multiculturalism: keeping unjust societies as they are, except with a few black and brown bodies in the corporate boardrooms. (Im not very interested in decolonising the 1%, he told me.) What is left is a more individualistic anti-racist culture, which is keen on checking privilege and affirming the validity of other peoples experiences, but has trouble creating durable institutions or political programmes.

There are moments when Gilroy shifts into lyrical lament, but he usually catches himself and tries to correct course. He has described himself as a cosmic pessimist moved by the obligation to find hope. During one conversation, when I asked whether figures like Priti Patel, the UK governments hard-right home secretary, whose parents were Indian migrants from east Africa, represent the end of a unifying anti-racism, Gilroy demurred. For every Priti Patel, for every Dishy Rishi, there are people out there doing things that are important work in solidarity with one another, he said.

He talked about the annual march to Downing Street that memorialises the hundreds of people whove lost their lives to police violence. You can see all kinds of faces on those walks, he said. (He tries to attend each year.) Then he described the aftermath of the Grenfell fire in 2017, when people of all religions responded with food, support, solidarity. The rhetoric that came from the survivors of the Grenfell fire stirred him. It was strongly humanistic actually, he said. Their banners, he explained, critiqued the murderous crime that they had suffered in the language of a common humanity.

A few years ago, on board a train headed for New Haven, Connecticut, Gilroy noticed something on the other side of the window: a bald eagle perched in a tree. He turned to his fellow commuters to see if they were also interested in what was, after all, their national emblem. They werent. They just thought I was some crazy black person, he recalled. By this point in career, in the early 2000s, Gilroy had left the UK for Yale, where he would become chair of the African American Studies department. He is proud of what he accomplished there, but there was some homesickness and controversy.

One of the guiding principles of his work is a hostility towards ethnic absolutism, be it white supremacism or black nationalism, which, Gilroy has said, can be as toxic as any other form of nationalism. (He has pointed out that the black nationalist Marcus Garvey once boasted that his organisation was among the first fascists.) Above all, he is deeply sceptical about the very idea of race itself. He sometimes places the word race in scare quotes to remind his readers that racial categories like black and white do not refer to some essential truth that stretches back through time. Instead, they are a modern invention, dating back to the ordering of the world by European imperialism. He likes to direct attention to the artificiality of these categories, the way they are made and remade. Indians during the 1857 rebellion against British rule were called niggers by officials; West Indian people, like Gilroys mother, only became black when they arrived in England. (How I hated that word black and the emotions, concepts and associations it aroused, Beryl Gilroy wrote in her memoir.) As her son once put it, Its white supremacy that made us black.

This rejection of race doesnt entail the denial of racism. Quite the opposite: race is a fiction with real effects and Gilroy has spent much of his life pointing these out. But its constructed nature does mean that when we see a persons racial identity, what were really seeing is a virtual reality given meaning only by the fact that racism endures, as he has written. Subjugated people might find solace and community in their race, but the long-term consequence of anti-racist work should be to discard the idea of race altogether.

Gilroy spent the 90s weaving these ideas into his third major book, Between Camps or as it was more provocatively titled in the US, Against Race which came out when he was at Yale. The book develops a complex argument about the lingering afterlife of fascism in capitalist democracies, which is connected to a provocative critique of identity politics. Race, he argued, was becoming antiquated and this was a good thing. Action against racial hierarchies, he wrote, in what is perhaps his most quoted line, can proceed more effectively when it has been purged of any lingering respect for the idea of race. Between Camps was also deeply critical of a regressive conservatism in corporate black American culture, which trafficked in a commodified blackness. (Among his targets were Spike Lees decision to set up an advertising agency, and the nihilism of much contemporary hip-hop.)

Hazel Carby, who has been friends with Gilroy since their days at Birmingham, was head of Yales African American studies department at the time. As a reporter wrote in 2001, she was hoping that Gilroys arrival at Yale would help broaden the fields purview beyond the borders of single nations and single-minded conceptions of race. It did, but he didnt endear himself. The audience bristled at this limeys apostasies is how the cultural critic Sukhdev Sandhu described one of Gilroys public appearances during this time. Some American critics found Gilroys arguments muddled, haughty or excessively broad. Others felt that he had overlooked the practical implications of rejecting race: would it mean the end of anti-discrimination laws, for instance? Prof Ruth Wilson Gilmore loved Between Camps, but it didnt go over well with all her students. I found that [some of them] found it really nerve-racking and distasteful to think that race as a category should go away, she told me. And that there was something wrong with somebody who thought that way.

When I asked him about his experiences in the US, Gilroy was hesitant. It was clear he was wounded by the period. I dont want to make this into an argument with black Americans because Ive been immensely affected by that history and culture, and its educated me in ways that Im really grateful for, he said. Much of his work, particularly his early books, had resonated there too. Saidya Hartman, a celebrated professor at Columbia University, told me about the formative impact of The Black Atlantic on her work. At that moment, in US scholarship, the emphasis was still on minimising the role of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery in the making of capitalism, she said. So to have the Black Atlantic argue so powerfully for its constitutive role in the making of modernity was really important.

But Gilroy admitted to me that he struggled with what he called the parochial elements in African American studies. Eventually, he said, he experienced such unpleasantness at the hands of some African American intellectuals who objected to my expressing my opinions about them as an outsider that he returned to the UK. For some thinkers in the US, this irritation persists. In his 2017 book Black and Blur, the theorist Fred Moten wrote a lengthy and unsparing footnote that took Gilroy to task: Who are you to lecture blacks in the United States, whom you conceive in the most egregiously undifferentiated way, about their international dissident responsibilities, while speaking of We Britons ?

But as the dust has settled, younger people have made use of Between Camps. It anticipated so many of the problems and questions that we are grappling with now, says the US writer Asad Haider, who cited Gilroys work in Mistaken Identity, his 2018 book about the limits of narrow identity politics. Haider gives a first-hand account of a student politics campaign that broke down because groups devolved into bickering, racialised sub-groups. The key idea he takes from Gilroy is that we have to go beyond the identity-based conception of politics to one of universal emancipation. (Bringing the word identity together with the word politics, Gilroy once told me, makes politics impossible, actually, for me, in any meaningful sense. Politics requires the abandonment of identity in a personal sense.)

Gilroy doesnt endorse a colour-blind politics that pretends the idea of race can be wished away. The post-racial world has to be fought for, against the odds. When Haider asked if Gilroy would provide a quote for his book, which he did, Gilroy sent him a favoured photograph of his, taken at the Manchester Pan-African Congress of 1945. The scene features placards with slogans like Arabs and Jews united against British imperialism! and Labour with a white skin cannot emancipate itself while labour with a black skin is branded.

In recent years, the appeal of an academic current known as Afropessimism has brought home just how untimely Gilroys ideas are. Its best-known proponent, Frank B Wilderson III, at the University of California, Irvine, contends that black people are viewed by all other people, including people of colour, consciously or not, as outside humanity. The result is that they are subject to a gratuitous violence that is unlike any other type of racism. To Wilderson, slavery is not a thing of the past in fact, it has never really ended.

The rise of Afropessimism is a bleak sign for the likes of Gilroy, schooled on Stuart Halls argument that race is made politically meaningful through the struggle against capitalism, which is itself not eternal. Gilroy sees Afropessimism as part of an ontological turn ontology is the study of being in which race becomes an unassailable barrier between the self and the world, and anti-black violence an immutable fact. Whats interesting to me is how resonant the Afropessimist outlook has proved to be, Gilroy said. I cant help thinking that its got something to do with the fact that it absolves you of having to do anything at all. That really what you have to do is just be black. And theres a sufficiency in that.

In sharp contrast, Gilroy wants to reinvigorate an old ideal: humanism. In some scholarly circles, calling oneself a humanist can sound not just antiquated, but suspect. It was, after all, the name of the woolly ideology of equality propagated by Europeans at the height of empire, who spoke of the liberty of man while denying it to millions. But to Gilroy, there is hope in the promise of a radical humanism, illuminating a post-racial world. This, he believes, is the humanism of figures who regularly appear in his work such as Du Bois, Primo Levi, Toni Morrison and the French-Martinican revolutionary Frantz Fanon. If thinkers who had lived through the 20th centurys abominations could hold on to the idea of a humanism worthy of the name, then so can we.

Gilroys prose can be difficult. His style is meditative, incantatory. He does not so much pursue a thesis in a linear fashion as solder ideas together into striking shapes. Writers, political figures and musicians are plucked from history and the present, placed in conversation with one another; a chapter might begin with two epigraphs, one from Walter Benjamin and the other from Michael Jackson. Sometimes the effect is frustrating, sometimes revelatory. A single poetic sentence might illuminate paragraphs of slow, swirling argument.

In 2019, after winning the Holberg prize, Gilroy travelled to Norway to give the laureates lecture, which he titled Refusing Race and Salvaging the Human. It is perhaps the clearest and most succinct statement of his worldview to date. If you want to be serious about the struggle against racial orders, he said, explaining his motivation behind the lecture, you have to adapt your understanding of what it is to be a human being and why that is worth fighting over.

The central scene is taken from the 1789 autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, the former slave and abolitionist. Equiano describes how he took control of a floundering ship during a storm in which the white crew had become inert, apparently indifferent to their own fate. With a few others, Equiano rescued the vessel, working so hard that the skin was flayed from his hands. Equianos actions scrambled the ships racial hierarchy. He was temporarily recognised as a kind of chieftain by the crew.

Gilroys point is that disasters can create the conditions in which we are forced to look beyond race towards our common humanity. What does he hate so much about race? Its not just that it is a bogus concept, not just that it leaves behind it an endless trail of atrocities, but that, on a smaller scale, it tries to limit what a person can be, telling them that they are one thing or the other, rather than many things at once.

In the lecture, he offered this summary of his politics, which might be best imagined daubed on the walls of a future flooded city: It is imperative to remain less interested in who or what we imagine ourselves to be than in what we can do for one another, both in todays emergency conditions and in the grimmer circumstances that surely await us.

Gilroy is rarely at a loss for words. As we walked on Hampstead Heath, he discussed why he left Yale in 2005. It was partly to do with the way his ideas were received, but there was something else. He came to a stop by a wooden fence. As he paused, the birdsong seemed to grow louder.

I have a weird love of England. And London in particular, he eventually said. This is my home. God, it is. And I didnt know it was until I went somewhere else.

When I asked why this love was weird, he replied: Because its ambivalent. And because it doesnt love me back. Its unrequited.

He did, surprisingly, receive an invitation from Theresa Mays office in 2017 to be put forward for a CBE for services to cultural and literary studies. Gilroy wasnt bothered so much about the imperial connotation of becoming a Commander of the British empire, as that was clearly absurd, but did find himself getting cross that the invitation came with a form about his ethnicity to fill in. So the woman who is hounding my brothers and sisters to death over the Windrush scandal, he told me in an email, [wanted] to monitor my ethnicity while handing me a bauble. How fucked up was that? He declined the invitation.

In 2004s After Empire, which he wrote while in the US, Gilroy puzzled over his homeland from afar. Why did it seem to be so stuck, unable to yield a different conception of what it might be? The obsession with the second world war from the English anti-German football chant Two World Wars, One World Cup to the endless, commemorative flyovers of spitfires troubled him. It seemed like a symptom of a society trapped in a warped image of the past: where the arrival of immigrants or refugees were spoken of as an act of invasion, where memories of the anti-Nazi war were stirred to justify interventions in the Middle East. He noticed that the neurotic fixation on the war went hand in hand with a carefully curated ignorance about empire and decolonisation the brutal conflicts in Malaya, Ireland, Kenya and elsewhere. This stifling airlessness, this postcolonial melancholia, could also express itself through outbursts of manic euphoria, as Gilroy recently reminded his followers on Twitter in the hysterical run-up to Englands appearance in the Euro 2020 final.

But the book also offered a measure of hope. Gilroy saw stirrings of something positive in the hybrid styles and self-effacing humour of British pop culture the Streets and Ali G are cited but also in life as it was lived. Take the north London neighbourhood he has called home for almost 40 years, Finsbury Park. In the mind of Englands rightwing newspapers, it is a byword for social breakdown: a den of Islamism, haunted by the threat of inter-ethnic tension. The cleric Abu Hamza, currently serving life sentence in the US on terror charges, was once the imam of the local mosque. In 2017, it was attacked by a white supremacist.

In Gilroys view, to focus on this is to mistake the exception for the rule. He sees Finsbury Park as a glorious expression of actually existing multiculturalism, where racial differences are rendered banal by the flow of urban life. People in cities like London more or less get on, living side by side, with young people, in particular, developing cultures that mix styles, music and slang the opposite of ethnic absolutism. Gilroy has elevated this observation into a theory, conviviality.

Affirming the creole pleasures of urban life isnt enough, of course. The years after Gilroy wrote After Empire have seen the great recession, austerity, intensified gentrification, the fire at Grenfell Tower, and the pandemic, which has produced suffering for ethnic minorities at disproportionate rates. Convivial life is being tested. But it promises something more substantive, and hopeful, than mindless flag-waving.

He has always described himself as English, rather than British, he told me on Hampstead Heath. He loves Englands countryside, its folk music, its language. I think I was worried with the idea of Britishness that it would only end up being the black and minority ethnic populations who took it seriously. Because it has no cultural content. At that moment, a little greenfinch made itself heard. Theyre the ones I like the most to look at, he said. Theyve got very forked tails and theyre green. Theres something about the greenness of the greenfinch, and the way it complements the leaves

I hope I dont sound patriotic, he said, moments after talking about his claim on Englishness. Patriotism is a betrayal of that attachment. Because it reduces it to some sort of formula.

Gilroy is fond of the words of the Trinidadian historian CLR James, who wrote, in a 1969 essay, that black studies is the history of western civilization. I cant see it otherwise. This might be the mission statement for what he imagines will be his final job: directing the newly formed Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the study of racism and racialisation at UCL. Jamess point was that studying race shouldnt be a parochial activity, but a way of understanding the world as it is for everyone. And as it might be. For Gilroy, this universalism is the whole point: the anti-racist struggle against police violence, he has emphasised in the past, should improve society for everyone, forcing the reform of legal procedures that can impact on the lives of all citizens.

At the end of The Black Atlantic, Gilroy wrote that the colour line, as WEB Du Bois termed the racial divisions etched across the globe, would soon no longer be the central axis of political conflict. It is still there, he told me, but the task is to see how it crisscrosses with other axes: health, wealth, gender, climate, technology. He wants his students to address race in a planetary way. At the UCL Centre, they will consider artificial intelligence, public health, borders: the architecture of 21st-century life.

But the past lurks in the shadows. Late last year, during his regular early-morning walks in Finsbury Park, Gilroy noticed something that echoed the racist graffiti he couldnt escape as a child. Far-right vandals had been etching Celtic Crosses, a white supremacist symbol, into logs and tree stumps in the park during the night. Its the old circle with the cross through it, he said. A lot of neo-Nazi groups use the sign. Theres an app through which you can report vandalism to the council, but he couldnt be bothered to go through all that. Ive been rolling over the logs so it doesnt show, he said, in the hope that no one will roll them back the other way.

This article was amended on 6 August 2021. The Holberg prize is not awarded by the Norwegian government, but is funded by it. This has been corrected.

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The last humanist: how Paul Gilroy became the most vital guide to our age of crisis - The Guardian

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