Category Archives: We Love…

We Love… The Mooncup!

By Anna Jacob

Squeamish boys look away now! This week, I’m going to be talking about vajayjays.

I remember exactly when I found out about periods. I must have been about 10 and we were made to watch a video and endure a talk on the subject in school. I remember feeling cheated and experiencing a sinking realisation that life wouldn’t all be adventure playgrounds, Fisher-Price tape-recorders, Saturday sweets and the constant pursuit of Cheestrings. Things were about to get complicated. Things were about to get bloody, hairy, lumpy in new places and uncontrollably weepy at times. I was doomed to spend the next 5-10 years endlessly shaving, waxing, sobbing, stropping, uncontrollably giggling, applying eyeliner and nail varnish, squeezing spots and writing truly terrible poetry.

Needless to say, periods turned out to be the least of my worries. But in the couple of years when I was aware that they existed, but yet to experience what I could only imagine would be a crippling week-long monthly bloodbath, I plotted my counter attack against my own body’s forthcoming self-sabotage. I read that periods could start as late as the age of 18 or 19, and that in rare cases, menopause could start in one’s twenties and I prayed that I would be one of the lucky ones and only have to put up with this bloody inconvenience for five years tops. I heard that with certain contraceptives you could skip periods for months at a time, and decided to see my doctor the minute my period started and get myself an implant post haste!

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I Love Patti Smith

by Ben Kritikos

How is it possible that I went 30 years without being obsessed with Patti Smith?

This world is insane.  Nothing makes sense, and maybe it shouldn’t.  People kill each other, and do worse.  Poetry is gone from our language, half-dead, imprisoned in books and open mic nights.  Rock and roll is moribund merchandise used to drug the baby boomers.   I can’t stand it.  I’d go mad if it weren’t for the existence of something, some one who breathed fire and dug her heels into the fleshy undersides of city streets, poked at the open wound on the face of civilisation and cried out in a hoarse and primitive howl from the other side of the dark corridor of time and memory.

“We shall live again”, and it will be Easter when the clocks stop, time dies running, and everything is green, gold and answers to the touch.

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We Love… J.D. Salinger (Anna’s version)

(Ben also loves Salinger dearly, so I’ll let him write his own obituary when he stops crying.)

Today I arrived at work to the news that J.D. Salinger had died aged 91, and also to the much more eagerly anticipated news that my very good friends Andy and Róisín have had a baby boy. Coincidence? I think it probably is…

Before I had read The Catcher in the Rye I was aware that naming this novel as your favourite was a bit of a cliché. I think the official statistic is that 1 in 3 people name The Catcher in the Rye as their favourite novel*. Being a facetiously contrary teenager who despised the thought of being a cliche I set out to dislike the book, or at least read it with indifference. I failed. I loved it intensely, as almost everyone does. Luckily though, I was stubborn enough not to give in and name The Catcher in the Rye as my favourite book of all time, but to read on through Salinger’s back catalogue and see if I could choose a more obscure title to rave about in the style of: “Yeah yeah, I liked Catcher in the Rye, but Franny and Zooey would have to be my favourite of his. What’s that? Oh, you say you haven’t read Franny and Zooey? Oh you must! and his short stories, they’re really something etc etc”.

So to anyone who stopped at The Catcher in the Rye, or who is a stranger to Salinger, my top recommendations would have to be: For Esmé, with Love and Squalor (also published as Nine Stories), and Franny and Zooey. (To be honest though, I haven’t read any others… I’ll let you know when I do though.)

The mysteries surrounding Salinger’s life are many, varied and uninteresting to me. He was a famously private person which I really respect. If he didn’t want people to know much about him, then I’m not going to go out of my way to delve into his life story. As a human I think you’re allowed to be whatever you like. Obviously I’m not suggesting you be a murderer or a rapist or anything, (though if you want to slash the tyres on 4x4s, you’re welcome) but you’re definitely allowed to be as eccentric, weird, batty, private, or pernickity as you like. Especially if you are producing some of the most wonderful, valuable art the world has experienced. Salinger may have been a right ol’ bat bag, but he was a brilliant, brilliant writer, and I didn’t have to live with him so I’m not really fussed.

Famously he has barred anyone from ever making films of his books, and he supposedly has dozens of unpublished novels lying about at home. He apparently couldn’t bear the attention that went along with putting them out. Fair enough. I wonder what will happen with them now? No-one even knows what they’re about. Does Holden Caulfield’s story continue? and what about the rich tapestry of the lives of the Glass family? I’m dying to find out! It’s unusual that an author’s death is what may signal the arrival of a bunch of new publications. It almost makes it hard to mourn him properly, although at 91, he had had a pretty good innings. Rest in peace Jerome David Salinger.

The last pages of Zooey have stayed with me more than any part of any work of literature. For anyone with a dissatisfaction with life, with others, and for anyone with a little bit of turmoil in their soul over the awful side of humanity, this book brings a bittersweet duvet of comfort with it.

I was going to paste the last few paragraphs of Zooey here. But instead I’m going to insist that you read it (if you haven’t already) I’ll even lend you my copy. I’ll leave you with this though:

“I see you are looking at my feet,” he said to her when car was in motion.
“I beg your pardon?” said the woman.
“I said I see you’re looking at my feet”.
“I beg your pardon. I happened to be looking at the floor,” said the woman, and faced the doors of the car.
“If you want to look at my feet, say so,” said the young man. “But don’t be a God-damned sneak about it.”
“Let me out here, please,” the woman said quickly to the girl operating the car.
The car doors opened and the woman got out without looking back.
“I have two normal feet and I can’t see the slightest God-damned reason why anybody should stare at them,” said the young man.

from ‘A Perfect Day for Bananafish’, Nine Stories.

And to my newly born honourary nephew (who doesn’t have a name yet) welcome to the world! I hope we don’t completely trash it before you have the chance to grow up.

Anna Jacob

*Completely unsupported statistic

p.s. My current favourite book, in case you’re at all interested, is Cold Comfort Farm. Although Nine Stories is definitely my favourite short story collection.

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We Love… Jinx Lennon

“From far away/the city looks like a great big chandelier/but when you get near/the light begins to separate/and you see a different landscape …”

Jinx Lennon is one of those characters who is certainly bigger, better, more complicated and far more interesting than any adjectives one can use would suggest.  Punk Poet, Preacher, Singer-Songwriter, Soul Man, Voice of Protest — sure.  Whatever.  Jinx Lennon is unique, and like all unique individuals — whether they be artists, carpenters, saints or sociopaths — he eludes final judgement and definite description.

I was lucky enough to have moved to Ireland in August of 2003, and even luckier to have lived there until March of this year.  I say lucky because had I not come to integrate into Irish society, I wouldn’t have picked up on Jinx’s message, understood the context (or the accent) of his work, or really had the opportunity to witness one of the last and brightest bastions of punk in full operation.

Jinx Lennon is from Dundalk, he’ll have you know.  Location is important with Jinx.  His songs are not so much snapshots of real life; they’re more like bites ripped right out of life’s tender flanks.  Jinx engages you with his songs.  Much in the same way that a foreigner engaging with you intensely may take some getting used to, like a friend or new love or a great work of art, it takes some commitment on your part to reap the full benefit.  You’ve got to have your eyes and ears and mind open, your mouth shut, and your dancing shoes on.

Jinx Lennon takes chunks of life and melts them into poems, distills them down to their essences.  Life is dirt and grime, love and peace, hate and war, sex and oppression, politics and skullduggery; life is flowers growing on top of a landfill, a dove pecking at Saturday night’s vomit, love in the time of capitalism, climate change and extraordinary renditions.  “Know Your Station Gouger Nation!” the title of his second album urges us.  What station is that?

Your station is Ireland in ribbons, bruised and bloodied by a million greedy hands grabbing at the goodies, ripping the sweets out of children’s hands: be it hospitals, education, Ireland’s consitutional mandate to neutrality, or the lifeblood of the country itself, sucked into the sewers of mind, the swamps of Catholicism, the bog of Progress and Development.  Your station is coming in on the frequency of conformity; everybody is listening to the sound of their own dissolution, the shattering of their society into millions of atoms, each alone, dissociated, dislocated, without a language, a patchwork and contradictory identity, an identity confined to possession and location.  Ireland is the train station in the middle of nowhere, trying to get somewhere —  if only the train would come!  Ireland is the upwardly-mobile beast of the borrowed dollar.  Ireland in ribbons, bruised and abused, long-suffering, enduring, knowing right from wrong but casting her lot with the highest bidder.

Jinx Lennon has never been more relevant than he is today.  The banking system suffered a seizure, and we’re told it almost toppled — on top of us, of course.  Ireland hangs together by her ribbons, and Jinx is her poet.  Jinx Lennon is the most modern of all poets: nobody is on top of it like Jinx.  The poet bears the banner, the beacon; the heart in his hand is Ireland’s heart.  We’d be wise to follow our hearts.  That failing, follow the poet who holds it in his capable hands.,

Ben Kritikos
27 December ’09


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We Love… Humphrey Lyttelton

By Anna Jacob

One of my heroes died last year. I found out whilst on a coach travelling from Dublin to London and I cried, loudly and openly. As my parents have great taste in radio, (I’ll let The Archers slide, just this once) I first heard Humphrey Lyttelton’s comic talents from the nice little place I had in the wonderful womb of Ingela Jacob, and grew up listening to ‘I’m sorry I haven’t a clue’ (the antidote to panel games) pretty much religiously.

Unfortunately it is not a programme particularly popular with my generation and I have often confused and alienated people by getting abnormally excited when passing through Mornington Crescent tube station, periodically singing one song to the tune of another or by letting my Swanee whistle outstay its welcome at parties.

The reason that Humph was especially special to me was that he was an inspiration in both of my dearest fields: comedy and music (he was also a writer, DJ and cartoonist). He was a fecking deadly trumpeter, described by Louie Armstrong as “that cat in England who swings his ass off”.

The first ‘proper’ gig I ever attended at the age of 15 (prepare to be jealous) was Radiohead’s homecoming concert in South Park, Oxford with support from…. Supergrass, Sigur Ros, Beck, aaand… Humphrey Lyttelton’s Jazz Band. Lucky lucky me. The whole gig was stupendously amazing but Humph’s band (who are all old folk, Humph would have been in his early 80s at the time) stole the show. After their set, a roadie had to run on stage with a zimmerframe for an ancient woman playing a baritone sax, I think the instrument must have been holding her up throughout the gig.

The last time I saw Humph play was about 2 years ago in the wonderful Bull’s Head in Barnes, London (anyone who doesn’t know, the Bull’s Head is THE place for jazz in London, fuck the Blue Note). His band were playing there monthly at the time to a dedicated audience of old jazz heads. Me and my brother Tom would have brought down the average age in the room considerably. As well as being a superb player and composer, he was telling brilliant stories throughout the set. He is one of those comics who really makes you appreciate timing. His timing is just impeccable. You couldn’t learn that shit. I also got to meet him after the set and he signed a CD for me and Tom. I regret to say I got completely tongue-tied in his presence and didn’t manage to communicate with him quite how honoured I was. I did some top notch mumbling and shoe shuffling though. OK, I’m a tit, but then meeting one of your heroes is quite a tongue-tying experience. He was wearing a yellow shirt and he just exuded loveliness. I will miss him immensely.

If you are interested, here is a link to some photos, tributes, obituary etc: I’ll happily burn you a copy of some of the shows too. If you promise to play ‘Cheddar Gorge’ with me now and then.

A slightly different version of this blog was first published on Anna’s myspace in 2008. This one is better though.

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We Love… Allen Ginsberg

“So that’s one reason I write.  To say what I could say when I was alive.”

Allen Ginsberg was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1926, to mother Naomi, a Russian immigrant, and father Louis Ginsberg, a poet.  While attending Columbia University in the 1940s he befriended William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, who profoundly influenced his writing, which up to that point employed strict meters and rhyme schemes.  These three friends established what later became “The Beat Generation”.  Ginsberg further honed his command of what he called “the bardic function” under the influence of Walt Whitman and William Blake, and the tutelage of William Carlos Williams, whose own poetry incorporated the sounds and diction of everyday speech.

In 1956, Ginsberg published his first volume of poetry, Howl and Other Poems.  These poems freed the voice of the poet, rooting the prosody in physical breath, using long, uninhibited lines, as well as the diction of common speech.  Howl and Other Poems was banned on grounds of obscenity, leading to an historic censorship trial in which the judge found “artistic merit” in the work, thereby advancing the cause of free speech in the US.  “Howl” went on to become one of the most widely read poems of the 20th century.

Allen Ginsberg was a lifelong vociferous advocate of human rights, and he criticised authoritarianism wherever he saw it, on both the left and the right.  He was also a prescient proponent of environmentalism, promoting earth-friendly, sustainable human activities before global warming entered the modern lexicon.  Ginsberg actively organised against the Viet Nam war, and was highly critical of US military aggression in Latin America and elsewhere.  He campaigned actively for gay rights throughout his life, and much of his poetry explicitly depicts gay sex at a time when homosexuality was still a taboo subject.

Ginsberg’s output was continuous up until his death at the age of 71.  Allen Ginsberg died surrounded by friends and family in 1997.  His works and activism are lauded around the globe.  Many great artists, writers and musicians cite Ginsberg as an inspiration, a brave cultural and literary trail-blazer who opened the doors of freer and more natural expression — in life and art — to future generations.  Bob Dylan said of him, “Ginsberg is both tragic & dynamic, a lyrical genius, con man extraordinaire and probably the single greatest influence on American poetical voice since Whitman.”

Ben Kritikos
10 December ’09

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