portrait of this blog's author - by Stephen Blackman 2008

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Know that I don't advertise ....ordinarily but here I make an exception!
The new Leonard Cohen album is a rare treat after so long away from official releases (8 years?)
'Old Ideas' is out any minute and is an absolute beauty. Slow as slow as can be without stopping, the breathless backing singers seem to keep Leonard's lowest rumble on track for fear of him stopping and in parts, on some songs, it is almost spoken poetry( and nothing wrong with that ED) Lyrically he is on fine fine form and reaches ever darkening depths still that mere mortals fear to venture a step towards.
 Go get it, go book it now!

Old Ideas - Leonard Cohen available here.......

Friday, January 27, 2012

Clip of The Week -
Josh Williams at a Bluegrass Festival has an unexpected visitor.
Keith Richards smashed some stage crasher with a guitar, Pete Townshend would whirl his axe so you couldn't get anywhere near him anyway, punk saw phlegm and worse but this stage grabber is cute as button! Non-Bluegrass fans scroll to 1.40..................

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thought folks might appreciate a heads up on this one from Big O (wherelse?)! 

The master holding it together for one final visit to several of my all time favourite JC songs (Big River, Sunday Morning Coming Down, Folsom Prison Blues, I Walk The Line)

Johnny Cash - The Final Session 2003
 Big O quote Wikipoedia and tells us... .. .
"June Carter Cash died on May 15, 2003, at the age of 73. June had told Johnny Cash to keep working, so he continued to record, completing 60 more songs in the last four months of his life, and even performed a couple of surprise shows at the Carter Family Fold outside Bristol, Virginia. At the July 5, 2003 concert (his last public performance), before singing Ring Of Fire, Cash read a statement about his late wife that he had written shortly before taking the stage:
“The spirit of June Carter overshadows me tonight with the love she had for me and the love I have for her. We connect somewhere between here and heaven. She came down for a short visit, I guess, from heaven to visit with me tonight to give me courage and inspiration like she always has.”
Cash died of complications from diabetes at approximately 2 am CT on September 12, 2003 while hospitalized at Baptist Hospital in Nashville - less than four months after his wife. He was 71. It was suggested that Johnny’s health worsened due to a broken heart over June’s death. He was buried next to his wife in Hendersonville Memory Gardens near his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
Thanks to Blindopolis for sharing the tracks on Demonoid."

For those who are keen, they can search out the DVD featuring Johnny Cash’s last performances at the Carter Family Fold on June 21 and July 5, 2003 respectively. And some fans have reported that they could only watch it once, it was too painful to watch it again.

Big O also posted a brilliant Zappa set lately from Holland in 1980 with again some of my very favourite ever Frank tracks

Enjoy here - Zappa in Rotterdam '80
Disc 1
Track 101. Chunga’s Revenge (9.3MB)
Track 102. Keep It Greasey (5.0MB)
Track 103. Outside Now (11.0MB)
Track 104. City Of Tiny Lights (11.1MB)
Track 105. Teenage Wind (5.2MB)
Track 106. Bamboozled By Love (9.1MB)
Track 107. Pick Me I’m Clean (10.2MB)
Track 108. Society Pages (3.3MB)
Track 109. I’m A Beautiful Guy (3.5MB)
Track 110. Beauty Knows No Pain (4.2MB)
Track 111. Charlie’s Enormous Mouth (5.1MB)
Track 112. Cosmik Debris (8.8MB)
Track 113. You Didn’t Try To Call Me (6.0MB)
Track 114. I Ain’t Got No Heart (2.7MB)
Track 115. Love Of My Life (4.2MB)
Disc 2
Track 201. You Are What You Is (5.5MB)
Track 202. Easy Meat (13.6MB)
Track 203. Joe’s Garage (3.8MB)
Track 204. Why Does It Hurt When I Pee? (4.1MB)
Track 205. (crowd) (3.7MB)
Track 206. Dancin’ Fool (6.3MB)
Track 207. Bobby Brown (4.3MB)
Track 208. Ms Pinky (7.3MB)
Track 209. (crowd) (2.1MB)
Track 210. I Don’t Want To Get Drafted (4.7MB)
Track 211. The Illinois Enema Bandit (15.0MB)
Track 212. (radio outro) (2.4MB)
Frank Zappa - lead guitar, vocals
Ike Willis - guitar, vocals
Tommy Mars - keyboards and vocals
Arthur “Tink” Barrow - bass
Ray White - guitar, vocals
David Logeman - drums

Enjoy! Boogie chilluns.......

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


What Work Is

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is--if you're
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it's someone else's brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, "No,
we're not hiring today," for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who's not beside you or behind or
ahead because he's home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You've never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you're too young or too dumb,
not because you're jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don't know what work is.

Philip Levine

From my dear friend Alan Blackman in San Francisco, calligrapher artist designer and  father of my dear friend Stephen Blackman, artist photographer film cameraman.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

ETTA JAMES R.I.P. 1938-2012

Now we love Etta James over here at Swappers Mansion and say, we're sorry to see her go......Big O has posted this this very morn

Etta James and Bob Dylan

Rest in Peace lil Sister Jamesetta Hawkins January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012

also a tinned...teardrop.........as Don Van Vliet would have undoubtedly loved Etta too I post this......I was awandering around the t'interweb and found this little gem of clip........funniest thing I found on the web EVER! I Love the Netherlands!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Things we have learned this week

1/ Tony Blair's company had a turnover of £12 million last year and paid some £315,000 in tax - if you're anything like me [heaven forfend!] then you will have had to work it out - it's about 2.6% 
Think I pay I bit more than that actually, Tone

2/ In reaction to the Golden Globes menu consisting of edible gold leaf inparts it is worth reflecting that this Seasonal fare on offer in the UK included a cheese involving edible gold again that costs £608 per kilo but Harrods Food Hall also took stock of Swarovkski-crystal decorated boxes of 15 handmade, 24-carat gold-flecked chocolate truffles with a price tag of £190.
A pudding served this Christmas at a country-house hotel in Cumbria took the gold-encrusted biscuit, however. Costing £22,000 and shaped like a FabergĂ© egg glazed with edible gold leaf, it was also decorated with a two-carat diamond and infused with five grams of edible 23-carat gold. It took the record as the world's most expensive dessert from the previous holder, New York's Serendipity Restaurant, where the bill for the contending pudding was only £12,000.
I don't know about you but Tesco's individual Christmas pudding always does it for me (no-one else in Swappers Castle likes christmas pud - Hoorah!

3/ Plans to build a high-speed railway line look like costing £33billion! I don't know about you but having lately travelled to Portsmouth by rail and having to get up at 4.30am to get my connections to make a meeting at 9.30am it took three hours and three separate trains and frankly I would rather we spent more on getting what passes for rail travel in the UK a bit more user friendly. It cost me over £40 to get what would take 1.5 hours in a car in half the time. I also travelled back recently from Newbury on British Rail in what was one of the most miserable cold and generally unpleasant experiences of rail travel in my life.

4/ Yoga is bad for you

5/ 'Intelligent Design' (now there's an oxymoron if ever there was one) has had a set back, being challenged by the British Humanist Association, and could be prevented from being taught in 'free schools' as science

6/ The frankly delicious Kelly MacDonald thinks she is  ' so not a celebrity'
As she prepares for a new series, the Scottish actress talks about working with Scorsese and why the whole celeb thing is 'a wee bit silly' We LOVE her!

7/ Time is relative and then some! 
I have always struggled with time as a constant. A daydreamer by nature and believer in the therapeutic value of 'reverie', as a youngster at primary school I recall once arguing that it took me approximately 3 minutes to descend my home staircase. Seemed about right to me. At the time!  It could take an age to get to school from lunchtime break.....I have always and somewhat pompously repeated my concern about New Year's and Christmas day merely being celebrations of our further inability to count. 2011 since what? An historical figure called Jesus being born anywhere between 8 and 30 years adrift from the current calendar and certainly not on 25th December. If anything best guesses seem to point to 16th September. Making him a Virgo. But apparently we have to adjust the 'world clock' or Greenwhich Meantime by a second a year and we are considering stopping this since we invented the atomic clock back in the 50's as it could be dangerous to our important computer systems and banking arrangements (sic). This is all altered  or affected by the fact that the turning of the world is not a constant but fluctuates enormously and needs adjustment - hence leap years and leap seconds. The notion being that the world is pinning slower on its axis but no! it sometimes speeds up too! 

Jonathan Betts, senior curator of horology at the Royal Observatory. 
"The length of one day was one rotation of the Earth.
"However, these new, highly accurate atomic clocks also revealed that the Earth's rotation is slowing down because of movements within the core of the Earth.
"The rate of change is not constant, however; it fluctuates over the years. Indeed, sometimes it does not slow down at all."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What if Heath Robinson had invented the Kindle?
 (with acknowledgement to b3ta ezine)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

 I feel another loss this week in the wonderful photographer Eve Arnold. I met her when she came to my shop (Blackwell's Art & Poster Shop) back in the 90's and she was gracious, enquiring and possessed of grace and great dignity.

The first ever woman photographer to become a member of Magnum (there's still less than 10% women therein) and she made me smile by specially printing off and loaning the shop originals for my window display and after our talking about Marilyn Monroe, she came up with a colour print which she thought "had never been seen before". We went over to the main shop for an evening's public talk curated by Peter Hamilton and she signed the visitors book there. There exist somewhere several shots of us together and frankly I knew I was in the presence of greatness. I shall miss her great force of creativity and that powerful vision.

Eve at work - if these photos are copyright of MAGNUM and they wish me to remove them I will do so

Leonard Cohen made remarks as the recipient of the Principe de Asturias Prize for literature in Spain in October 2011.

As I grew older, I understood that instructions came with this voice. And the instructions were these...Never to lament casually. And if one is to express the great inevitable defeat that awaits us all, it must be done within the strict confines of dignity and beauty."

This is true of Eve's work as much as any Magnum photographer

Monday, January 02, 2012

I should perhaps start by saying that it occurred to me today that my personal journey working in addiction and social care has had a kind of trajectory that may not exactly prove to have been the best way round.

I started in one of Europe’s most unique rehabilitation centres where the majority of residents wanted their recovery. I mean REALLY wanted it! Then I moved on to work in a charitable organisation that had the brilliant idea of intervening at point of arrest, taking the strain off the police to take a pertinent moment to actually ask the addict whether he had considered rehabilitation. Now this is key, as it is the asking of this question at exactly the right time that can cause the spark of realisation, the light flicking on moment if you will, where the drug and alcohol abuser realises they are absolutely crap at being criminals.
They go round and round in every decreasing circles from trying to score their drug of choice funded by a MASSIVE regime of shoplifting and careless pathetic petty crime, being caught, arrested and ‘sent down’ until the time comes when the road to Damascus moment hits [or not] and enlightenment strikes that they really need to do something about it. That they really need to address their addiction or they are going to spend ever increasing lengths of time blocking the prison system from accommodating real criminals. In short in abject misery. (illustrated today with the release of official figures that state possibly as many as 77 people committed suicide whilst incarcerated this last year)

I have ended up at the opposite end of this trajectory from working at the Ley Community Rehabilitation Centre where addicts want a life back by working in a ‘move-on’ homeless hostel for 61 residents largely taken in off the streets, the majority of whom (80+%) do not wish to stop using their drug of choice. Have no inclination to stop drinking. Or drugging. Have not the slightest inkling that they may be going round and around in the ever-decreasing circle that addiction brings.

Suffice to say it can be demoralising working with folk who have little to no desire to stop using drugs and drink. Today it is New Year’s Day and seemed somewhat more depressing than usual. It should perhaps be pointed out here what we are involved in is not any kind of treatment option but feels largely about containment. These folks are not on the street therefore the powers that be, the local city council, cares little about what happens to them now so long as they are not frightening the tourists and soiling the view of Oxford’s Dreaming Spires.

This time of year causes many of us sorrow and distress at facing the facts of the loss of loved ones or alienation from friends and family. The addict is particularly susceptible to this as they may well have been ostracised by families (that would be my advice incidentally. Does that seem cruel? It isn’t) and loved ones through the moral collapse that drugs and alcohol addiction brings. So what ya gonna do at this time of year? What is the usual course of action on this the first day of a new year?
Why you go out and score.
You buy an extra bottle of cider; you steal a bottle of spirits. You ask for tick from the dealer’s runner and start the year with a bigger unpayable debt. This has advantages for the dealer, you are stuck in ever increasing ‘hock’ to the ‘pusher’ in old fashioned parlance, he has you now in the palm of his hand and can pretty much make you do anything he wants. You owe him. A friend in need is a friend in debt.

Today seems especially illustrative of the addict’s situation and I will illustrate it with three tales of particular circumstance. One being a recent addition to our clients who has come to us homeless and in need and I like him. I like him because he is a ‘chancer’, a cheeky chappie if you will. Stating he was trying to ‘cut down’ and hadn’t used Class A’s for a couple of months but still enjoyed a drink. Within a couple of days he has ‘gone over’[ overdosed], he had consumed a snowball [crack & heroin combined) so that you feel the crack hit and afterwards the come down from the crack is mellowed by the heroin.

Friday night he was found semi-conscious in the hallway by the toilets and paramedics were duly called. Today I discover he had fallen over (not the first time in his first few weeks. Snowballs will do that to a chap.) But this fall rapidly appears to be on a different scale. He was found bleeding around the neck. There is a pool of blood in the vestibule. Which seemed odd. He got to his feet however and asked for a ‘roll-up’. When removing his hat, staff immediately realised his injury was somewhat more serious as the blood was pumping out of a wound in his head. Paramedics were duly called much to his fervent objection who revealed that, had we not acted so promptly, he could have died from the blood loss. He is currently in serious critical condition in Intensive Care and the local hospital will not speak to anyone but immediate family. This perhaps you may understand is implication enough……..we can tell where this story is heading, no? I fervently hope not but it doesn’t look good

The second gentleman is an ex-Professor from Oxford colleges who it would seem, after the death of his wife, went completely to pieces and is trying his very level best to drink himself to death. He was admitted to hospital yesterday – the fourth time since Christmas Eve (seem so long ago now!) but needing a drink he discharged himself this morning complete with cannula still in his arm, to come and get some of the money we manage for him to go get a litre or two of Tesco Cider. We call the hospital to let them know. They are under the impression he is still on the ward and we have to enlighten them that he has in fact discharged himself and is back with us. They are not impressed but hardly surprised.

He was admitted this time as he was passing black stools and in stomach pain, actually more accurately described as black diarrhoea. The blackness here an indication of internal bleeding. The last time I was on shift and I called 999 for him, he had vomited up blood all over the carpet in room, tried to fill his sink with it and spluttered much of it down his shirt, though admittedly it was difficult to tell this last detail as the port red wine tends to spill down his front on a regular, nay daily, basis. The paramedic greeted him with a groan and said ‘Hello, Paul’ [not his real name] sighed and said ‘I thought I told you yesterday in the hospital to stop your drinking?!” Paul smiled wanly and suitably chagrined was admitted again.

That was time number two over the Christmas holiday. Today he argued with me that had needed his money and whilst we give him a fiver in the morning and a fiver in the afternoon (it IS his money after all) we had given him a tenner to enable him to return to hospital and gather his belongings left there, not to mention the medication they had issued him with. He claims he has been back up there and needs more money. I explain that he clearly hasn’t gone back as he has only had time to release himself and go and get a drink but he is not happy and wanders off into the streets only to come back with two large bottles of Becks beer. They have bottle tops on. We are instructed to decant anything in glass bottles and he wanders off to return with three used milk cartons still caked in congealed milk residue.
“Have you got a bottle opener, Paul?”
‘No, haven’t you?’ he smiles another wan smile
“Nope! I am not a bloody barman you know!” This makes us both laugh and he wanders off into the darkening dusk. Doubtless to return to hospital……well if not voluntarily, soon and for sure.

Now the last gentleman is a wonder. I really like this resident. I’ll call him Paddy. Admitted to us with a drink problem, a history of drug use admittedly  but “not currently using”. Since his arrival when he must have weighed about 14 stone; a handsome ladies man, dark haired and cheeky, he appears to have lost a remarkable amount of weight. When asked to check him during welfare checks at 8.30am, I found the figure of a little old emaciated man stooped, thin and bent double with broken ribs, clearly under the influence of serious ‘medication’. Dribbling, unsteady on his feet often sliding off his bed and face down on the carpet in a foetal position and muttering incoherently, he maintained he had not used today, that he was in fact “fine” was maybe going to have a couple of ciders through the day but when challenged about his drug intake he did admit to ‘being given ‘ some ‘Methadone’ as he found it helpful to ease the pain of his broken ribs.  I chastised and admonished him for using someone else’s medication but this seemed to hold no significance with him whatsoever. He ‘knew what he was doing’ and did I “think he was an idiot” (sic) and he just wanted ‘to be left alone’

I should perhaps also point out Paddy is  currently on ‘tag’ for shoplifting at which he is clearly rubbish if not profligate. He has turned up with everything from clothing to model airplanes and a plethora of radio controlled helicopters (sic!) The tag is biting into the flesh of his leg and I have tried calling the security service to get them to adjust it as it is biting into his ankle but they have “been busy” and I guess it’s not a priority over absconding villains they need to track down and report. I did point out that our other resident on tag had disappeared several days ago and we had not seem anyone after him as such but the point seemed lost on the rather world weary voice on the other end of the phone.
By this afternoon another resident comes to reception expressing concern that Paddy is having a stroke!

Numb all down his left side, I decide to call the paramedics and he discloses to us that he has taken quite a lot of Methadone, liquid Valium, smoked crack, several joints of cannabis and there are three empty litre bottles of cider in his room.

 He is taken to the local hospital by the ambulance who are rightly concerned about his mixing his own little cocktail of substances, each of which on it’s own could cause us all problems but in combination can easily prove fatal. The other client, Bob, who has cracked ribs also as a curious coincidence, you fall down a lot when you are THAT off your head, states he has stopped using his methadone and Valium as he is detoxing himself. This hasn’t stopped Bob collecting his prescriptions however for 120 ml of ‘meth’ which is sold or shared to others ‘on the street’ and is a valuable bargaining commodity much in demand. He last had in his room about 5 of these bottles any of which on it’s own would probably kill me. What do we do about that, I hear you ask? Nothing. We cannot confiscate legitimate client belongings. Indeed we shouldn’t even take paraphernalia away or drugs for that matter but merely report the fact and have the police come and collect any nefarious items. This doesn’t happen, well not unless its kilo or so!
Thus we can’t imagine where Paddy has got hold of the drugs he is on today but we are fairly good at putting two and two together, despite the protestations of both Bob and Paddy that this is not the case and that there is an entirely legitimate reason for them to have consumed what they have consumed. It’s called self medication…….

Might any of these chaps be around tomorrow?

 I sincerely hope so but I won’t be holding my breath…………….
Happy New Year!

I am duty bound to point out that this somewhat depressing view should rightly be tempered by the fact that the hostel where I currently work does also house the wonderful ARP (Alcohol Recovery Project) a six bed treatment service for alcoholics run by the brilliant Will Bentley and enjoying an extremely high success rate. It was with clients from the top floor of the 62 bed hostel with whom I spent Christmas day. Good company and funny to a fault they humoured my 100 question general knowledge quiz so that it took Two and Half Hours(!?) and a great time was had by all....well me anyway!