Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jet's festive follow-up

Hi - Anderlar the Scripter

Firstly, many thanks for your kind contribution towards the topical discussion.

If I may submit my own surrejoinder, nowhere, have I ever - so far as I can recall - claimed any expertise for myself, in the craft of article construction, academic style or substance. So you could be right.

By my own asseveration, I left school illiterate. Comprehensively so, save for one discipline, namely, ‘banging things’. To-day, with the benefit of a little self help, I guess I can say I get by but thank you anyway, for bringing that to the fore, I probably ought to have recounted my inadequacies from the outset.

Moving on, the piece wasn’t really supposed to be about my beliefs, but my, "well known aversion for Christmas", so again, I guess I failed miserably here too if it all sounded like an essay on my beliefs, of which I hope I have none.

Then you get down to the real ‘nitty-gritty’. Science. Science, is not a "view". In fact the whole point of science, is that it is a systematically organised body of knowledge, not a view, or faith, or belief. Scientists will have a theory, or hunch about a subject and will then test it until proved, until then it remains just that, a theory. If proved, it then forms part of the body of knowledge.

The essential point of all this, is that you don’t need to put your "faith" in science, because tested theory, is fact. Or in other words, true.

On the other hand, you do need faith for religion, because it deals with a large amount of untested, or untestable theory. Or in other words, it’s unproven, some would say fiction.

Perhaps the most appalling aspect of recent revelations about priestly infractions of the church’s own moral code, not to mention civil and criminal law, is the newly exposed knowledge and acquiescence of it’s hierarchy at all levels. Systemic moral depravity and cover-up are now known to have been pandemic across decades and probably centuries.

In those circumstances, it is entirely appropriate to discuss these abuses notwithstanding similar malfeasance elsewhere, which is entirely beside the point. If it can be argued that it says nothing about philosophy or belief, it can’t be denied that it says a great deal about the people who would have you believe, or have faith, in their creed.

To reiterate an earlier point, you can’t contract out of a crime. So, whatever worldwide anti-poverty projects the church may have to it’s credit, and it undoubtedly has many, (but ironically also the reverse), that doesn’t abrogate the crimes of it’s priests, or bishops.

As for the implied inadequacies of the music industry, it very probably holds the world record for fundraising and charitable donation, but even if it doesn’t, it is unquestionably very near the top, for an industry. If you put your mind to it, you should have no trouble researching the point.

The sting in the tail of your seasonal thrust is redolent of an unseemly rancour for the industry in which my colleagues and I find ourselves.

My understanding is that music, as a pastime/entertainment, is officially rated as just about the best value for money available, but I wouldn’t want to be placed into the position of being held accountable for the entire industry.

We the band, are writers, recorders and performers of music. We are not a record company and do not sell recorded and published music, at least not on an industrial scale. That is the preserve of specialist record and publishing companies. Their commercial and trading policies are not and have never been subject to us in particular, and recording artists in general.

By way of my own footnote on the topic, many of the aforementioned companies - household names in most cases - who perhaps more appropriately might have been expected to defend themselves against the views you have expressed, are in fact, virtually, if not actually bankrupt at the present time.

This resulting, from the free and illegal distribution of their copyrighted investments in the music industry by way of modern electronic communications technology, the internet, both simultaneously, the marvel and scourge of the age.

All this without doubt, the causal basis for the demise of investment in new music talent which in turn forms the fundamental cause of much of to-day’s anodyne new music.

I wouldn’t wish to become spokesman for the trade and policy decisions of companies for which I have no authority to speak. On the other hand, I could hazard a guess as to the likely response from such companies, to your opinions about their commercial decisions. It would not make for very comfortable reading.

I’m glad to hear you had a good weekend and you’re looking after the kids. Yes, I was OK on the 25th but no coal though. We’re all electric here, boring, but there you go.

You are of course very welcome to any show, and keep them coming. We like to hear and share all opinions, that after all, is what these pages are for.


Jet Black/28th December 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Jet's festive message

So it’s that time of the year again, and I’ve been asked to write about my well known aversion for Christmas. True enough, I don’t look forward to the season of good will, which isn’t to say I’m ill disposed to good will or seasonal merriment. My aversion is more for the notion, the presumption, the brouhaha of it all.

Whatever else it has become, Christmas is essentially a celebration of the birth of Christ and many of course, do just that, but clearly the majority don’t, and I’m one of them. Meanwhile the commercial world doesn’t give a corporate damn about Christmas. They can barely wait for one to end before they’re promoting the next, but they’re only interested in the profit, and why wouldn’t they be, that’s what companies are there for.

So on the one hand you have a comparative few, the faithful, celebrating the famous birth, and the rest of us, what are we celebrating? Well apparently, nothing!

Sometimes I wonder if we were able to take the ‘Christmas’ out of Christmas, then perhaps it would all become more bearable, but then business wouldn’t give up it’s ride on the gravy train. Instead of selling us ‘Christmas’ presents, they’d be selling us ‘nothing’ presents. Well at least, they would then be showing their true colours.

So what’s so wrong with making the distinction? If I wanted to throw a party, I wouldn’t call it an Easter party, or a Resurrection party. So why pretend I’m celebrating Christmas, when I’m not!

I’m not piqued about New Year celebrations though, so I concur with Scottish traditions on that one. That really is an excuse for a party but it’s also just an unencumbered fact, all years come to an end. It doesn’t have the same clamour, though if there were no Christmas, it probably would.

I hate that one, when you’re out and about and you get asked, "have you finished your Christmas shopping yet?". Oh yuk!.......that is so irritating. Of course I also get viewed very much in that Dickensian ‘humbug’ sense which I really don’t mind at all, and it’s often assumed that I must therefore, be suffused with all the characteristics of Dickens’ miserly Yuletide character, because I have the nerve to manifest my dislike of all that is Christmas. It just isn’t so. Christmas has become vulgar and frenzied and I wish I could just switch it off, but I do approve of festivity.

Now, even to me, that sounds like a monumental contradiction, but somehow there is that social presumption of acquiescence in the notion of the frolicsome festivities that is so offensive. Why do we have to conform because everyone else does?

It seems to me that most of those who are into Christmas, aren’t really Christians anyway, but rather have been swept up in a lifelong tradition without ever stopping to think, why am I doing this? It’s like, London taxis still being required by law - so I’m told - to carry a bale of hay for the horse! Whether true or not, it makes the point nicely. There was a time when it seemed like a good idea, now, it’s pure nonsense.

The more I hear about Christmas and biblical stories in general - the actual rationale behind it - the more implausible it all becomes. Science for it’s part, is slowly, one by one, uncovering more tenable explanations for the pre-historical diegesis we were all brought up to believe. Not, as far as I know, that they are doing so in order to contradict established views, but that is it’s inevitable consequence. Unless of course you are a Christian and a believer, when you would of necessity, have to live in denial of the obvious. The fossil record doesn’t lie, but many people are still preaching the ‘young Earth’ theory as derived from scriptural sources.

Inevitably, that’s another source of vexation for me, belief. Why would anyone want to believe? We live in a world of inexactitude, and we can barely believe a word we hear or read. Our very security is dependant on truth, you can’t believe you’re secure, you need to know. Try and borrow some money - or lend it - without security....huh, it’s an omnipresent necessity. Oh, there’s plenty of truth out there, but it becomes true when it is shown, or known, to be so, and yet, in spite of all that,religion requires belief as a fundamental principle!

If I should ever find myself within the shadow of the Pearly Gates, and in need of an explanation for my life’s endeavours, the obvious question from me would have to be, ‘why on earth would you place people in a world where truth is one of the rarest of qualities, and then expect them to believe in an unbelievable doctrine?’

Of course we often use the word ‘believe’ more as a figure of speech rather than an actual expression of conviction. So it is primarily the religions which instil the efficacy of belief. And they need to, simply because most of their doctrine, is beyond belief.

As you view those TV debates on the great moral issues of the day, that are aired from time-to-time, you will notice that there’s always a church representative present to guide our thoughts, as if the Church of Rome - mired in scandal as it is - were somehow arbiters of moral rectitude.

The church has always had it’s own canon law to enforce it’s power over the people, ranging these days only - mercifully - from prayer to excommunication. At least for the laity that is, for the clergy on the other hand, there is a completely different rule book. The offending priest, or bishop can expect to be moved to a new and comfortable, if inconspicuous location and away from the embarrassing scrutiny of the secular world. Essentially free to continue with their grubby misdemeanour's lest they should ever be publicly exposed.

But it hasn’t always been that way. You only have to make a brief study of the history of the Church of Rome to see the full extent of that, of which it is capable. They have committed just about every crime in the book, although of course, legitimised by themselves. Today’s landslide of revelations about the buggery of the innocents, seems like a vicar’s tea party compared with the murder and torture of earlier times, not to delve too far into the infamy of the Inquisition.

Of course no-one makes too much of it these days, as though it had never happened, has everyone forgotten? Perhaps it was all so long ago for most people, but as the lawyers put it, you can’t contract out of a crime.

One of the early giants of mathematics and astronomy was Galileo Galilei, and one of the first to peer into the newly invented telescope. He discovered that the holy doctrine preached by the church was wrong. The Earth goes around the Sun, not the other way around.

For making his discovery public, he was arrested and tried for heresy, jailed, and forced to recant, but mercifully released in the end. His contemporary, Giordano Bruno, was not so lucky, they burned him alive at the stake for his views on the subject. If that leads to any kind of conclusion at all, it must surely be, that the church has a greater proclivity towards murder, than to the truth and these crimes are no less repugnant by way of their antiquity.

I think Galileo has to be one of my heroes. He is credited with some inspiring statements.

"The bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go"


"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

The man was imbued with a profound sense of wisdom and humanity, though it is said he was tactless to the point of jeopardy.

So where does all this fit into the Christmas landscape? Very much, for one thing. Without the church of Christ, it surely wouldn’t exist. So how can you discuss Christmas without reference to the church? Unfortunately, I can’t find much to endear me to the notion that the story of the nativity is likely to be true, and you can’t have a lot of faith in the people who want us to believe it. Three wise men, the virgin birth, the son of God, no room at the inn, the Emperor’s new clothes spring to mind here.

Hans Andersen in his ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, recorded one of the all-time great literary observations when he crafted his tale of the corrupt weavers and their ‘invisible’ clothes. It so aptly encapsulates the notion of belief in that which is imperceptible.

Religions, have the remarkable ability to devise words to rationalize their unbelievable doctrines. Galileo’s alleged crime was called heresy, a rubric ‘catch-all’ to enable the powerful to exact terrors worse than those of the accused. Widely used and abused to extirpate political enemies. Another gem, transubstantiation, the theological wonder word to explain the conversion of Eucharistic bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ during consecration and the central act of the Christmas Mass.

Since the modern imposition of drink/driving laws around the world, there have been a number of arrests of priests who were found to have exceeded alcohol limits through conducting a sequential series of Masses, thereby pushing their alcohol levels above legal limits.

But wasn’t that wine supposed to have been turned into blood? Oh dear, that rather let’s the cat out of the bag! Surely that reduces the sanctity of the sacramental wine to the realms of, ‘perks of the job’. But even if it were true, who in their right mind would want to consume the bodily remains of a 2,000 year old corpse?

"Oh, it’s for the kids", they’ll say when challenged about the efficacy of Christmas. Well it may be, but it doesn’t have to be wrapped-up in the nexus of Christmas lore. If you want to give the kids a good time, then give them a good time, you don’t need the allegory of the non-existent Santa. It’s completely untrue and most children are confused about it anyway. But more importantly, why would it be a good idea to begin a child’s young odyssey with a lie?

If only religion could find a way, through honesty and truth, instead of fairy tales and mendacious rhetoric, the world would doubtless be a better place. It’s well to remember that those pompous men of the cloth, in their ridiculous, if finely bespoken frocks and their opulent palaces of God are after all, only mere human beings, and we are all flawed.

For those of you who want to celebrate Christmas, I wish you a merry one. For the rest of us, tired of the antiquated and improbable tale of a mortal, if, supposedly, virginal birth, the purpose and logic of which defies reason, please allow us to eschew the seasonal conventions and forge ahead with our celebration of the other 364 days, for no reason at all.

© Jet Black/ December 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

One year on...

Amazingly, it is now a whole year since we took over the running of the band’s site. Time has flown by, as there’s always been a lot to write about owing to the band’s hectic 2010.

The reason for this first non-band member ratter is two fold. Firstly, to thank all the people who helped us during the set up period and first year of the new site. Secondly, to ask you, the ‘consumers’ of the site, what you think of it so far…

Firstly then, we would like to thank a whole load of people who have generally aided and abetted since the changeover from Adrian Liggins’ Rat’s Lair last winter.

Unsurprisingly, the band members are top of the list. They have been wholeheartedly supportive, providing help, advice, knowledge and encouragement. In addition, they have all contributed greatly to both the site and the ratter blog.

Secondly, Sil Willcox and Al Hale, the band’s management for providing valuable and current information when time is of the essence. They have also gracefully tolerated numerous chasing phone calls and pestering emails.

Next is the band’s ever present and helpful tour manager Gary Knighton, who has given detailed information to fill in any gaps. Special mention should also go to roving reporter Ava who has provided some brilliant unseen photos, many from behind the scenes.

We’d also like to pass on our thanks to the many fans out there who have contributed to the site or given support and encouragement. Last, and by no means least, to our respective families who have put up with the additional workload in our already busy daily lives…

Thanks to all of you for making this first year so memorable.

Finally, we’re really interested to know what you, the readers, think of the site. Web stats give encouraging signs of rebirth for the site but it’s better to hear from real people. Constructive criticism, suggestions and general feedback are more than welcome. Please can you reply to this ratter, as you would to a band member’s one, or alternatively email direct to the site. Thanks.

Looking forward to 2011

Stranglers’ Official Site (S.O.S)
Formerly the Rat’s Lair

O&D/9th December 2010