Posts Tagged ‘Paul McCartney’

YokoOno

As one gets old, something rather horrid and unsettling happens.

Everyone else gets older around you.

And the icons of our youth gradually turn into withered and less competent versions of their former inspirational selves. Clint Eastwood stops being a sexy uber-male with a humorous glint in his eye and turns into a rambling fool on a political stage. You go and see Simon and Garfunkel on stage one last time, and dear old Art can’t hit the high notes in Bridge over Troubled Water any more. People start petitions for Paul McCartney to stop singing at major events. And sometimes the luminaries of our youth startlingly drop off the twig altogether – like beloved soccer players Emlyn Hughes, Bobby Moore, Peter Osgood and Alan Ball.

Existentialist horror.

Existentialist horror. If you don’t know what I am on about, half yer luck.

It all serves terribly effectively to remind us of the transitory nature of life, and, inevitably, our own inexorable march across the years.

When there is less life ahead of us than behind us it can sometimes be more than a little difficult to deal with.

I have always considered the mid-life crisis so beloved of comedy writers to be symptomatic of a genuine existentialist crisis explored by Satre and others.

Age is an unforgiving, unrelenting mistress, no matter how one seeks to address its vicissitudes. Inevitably the thoughts that have pre-occupied mankind for millenia press in on you in a personal and intense manner. Why am I here? What is (or was) it all for? What happens when I’m not here any more? Will it matter? With every sombre retrospective of “those friends we have lost in the last year” at the BAFTAs or Oscars the effect simply multiplies.

In some senses, contemplating the brevity of life can be a spur to rise and “get on with it”. To make sure we perform more productively for whatever time we have left, and also to “smell the roses” more intently as we pass by them, hugging our children more often, and more pro-actively and intently letting good friends and spouses know that we appreciate their support and love down the years.

But sometimes, just the sheer shock of age catching up with some luminary can cast us headlong into a blue funk. Which is why I was firstly appalled to read that Yoko has just tripped over the big eight oh, but then, on reflection, allowed myself to be encouraged by her remarkable resilience, iconoclasm, talent, stoicism, energy, and obvious determination to live her life meaningfully right up to whenever the end is. As is so well revealed in this excellent article in The Nation.

http://www.thenation.com/blog/172936/oh-yoko-ms-ono-80#

yoko-ono-john-lennonI was one of millions who were genuinely distraught when we were robbed of the positive influence of John Lennon on the world. I can still feel the pang of the news, deep in my soul, and every time one of his immortal songs comes on the wireless. I am going to use the occasion of his wife’s 80th birthday to re-focus myself to whatever is left of the rest of my own life. That sounds terribly pompous and even asinine, and I don’t mean it in a “my life changed today” lightbulb moment type thing. I simply mean that, sitting around thinking this morning, contemplating Yoko at 80, I realised that whether my life has great meaning, or none – or whether it’s going on for another 5 minutes or another thirty years – these are ultimately, and truthfully, trivial matters.

When I join the lists of “Friends we have lost this year” I will be, I think, perfectly content if people confer over a cup of tea and a curled up egg and lettuce sandwich and cheerfully agree “Well, he was himself, that’s for sure.”

Because perhaps, in the final wash up, that’s what we really need to aim for.

To be content that “we were ourselves”. Because surely, that is what all other meaning will flow from. That is all it can flow from, right? If we are someone else’s vision of ourself, then really, what was it all for? What point can there be in submissively playing out a role imposed by other’s expectations, or hiding ourselves away, until it’s too late to risk being who we really are?

Well, in 55 years of reading, working, writing, loving, losing, not to mention a degree in Literature and a Theology degree to boot, and much pondering, that’s where I’ve got to, anyhow. I’m sure someone will point out that some crusty philosopher said it better three hundred years ago and I could have saved myself the introspection, but then I never really claimed to be edumacated.

Anyhow: what do you think?

So cheers, Yoko. Thanks for being yourself. Thanks for reminding us. Can’t wait to see what you do next.

Happy Birthday.

Russia jails Pussy Riot protest punks for two years

(AFP and others)

Pussy Riot demonstrators (from left) Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Aliokhina during their trial. This is what courage looks like. Assange, Pussy Riot, Bradley Manning – see a pattern developing? Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

A Moscow court Friday handed a two-year jail sentence to three feminist punk rockers who infuriated the Kremlin and captured world attention by ridiculing President Vladimir Putin in Russia’s main church.

The European Union immediately called the decision “disproportionate” while Washington urged Moscow to review the case and thousands rallied across world capitals calling on the Russian strongman to set the Pussy Riot members free.

Judge Marina Syrova said the three young protesters had displayed a “clear disrespect toward society” by staging a “Punk Prayer” performance just weeks ahead of Putin’s historic but controversial March election to a third term.

“Considering the nature and degree of the danger posed by what was done, the defendants’ correction is possible only through an actual punishment,” she said to a few cries of “Shame!” and “This is not fair!” from the packed courtroom.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina — 22 and 24 respectively and both mothers of young children — and 30-year-old Yekaterina Samutsevich exchanged glances and laughed nervously as they listened to the marathon verdict reading from inside a glass cage.

“I did not expect the verdict to be so harsh,” Samutsevich’s father Stanislav quietly told reporters after his daughter was led away.

But co-defence attorney Nikolai Polozov said the three “will not be asking (Putin) for a pardon” for what they consider a purely political act. (And quite right too, in my opinion, as asking for a pardon implies an acceptance of guilt.)

The trio had pulled on knitted masks and stripped down to short fluorescent dresses near the altar of Moscow’s biggest cathedral on February 21 before belting out a raucous chorus calling on the Virgin Mary to “drive out Putin”.

To many they represented prime examples of disenchanted youth whose support Putin could almost certainly have counted on at the start of his 12-year domination as both president and premier.

The state-appointed judge opened the hearing with dozens of passionate supporters of the band and the Russian Orthodox Church being held apart by riot police and Western diplomats jostling with reporters for a spot inside the courtroom.

Witnesses saw about 60 Pussy Riot fans – ex-chess champion and fierce Putin critic Garry Kasparov among them – being taken away into waiting vans by police during more than three hours of hearings.

The once-unheralded band members have already been held in pre-trial detention for five months despite international protests about their treatment by Putin’s team.

The US State Department expressed immediate concern “about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences”.

“We urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said the case “puts a serious question mark over Russia’s respect for international obligations of fair, transparent and independent legal process.”

And German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the sentence “excessively harsh (and) not in harmony with the values of European law.”

The ruling was handed down as Pussy Riot release rallies hit major world cities and celebrities ranging from Paul McCartney and John Malkovich to Madonna and Bjork decried Putin’s tough stance on dissent.

A spokesman for the Russian leader said Putin had no say in the court’s decision and argued that the women always had the option to appeal.

“He has no right to impose his views on the court,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the PublicPost.ru website.

Putin had earlier this month said he thought the band members should not be judged “too severely” while stressing that he strongly disagreed with what they did.

The jailing capped an initial 100-day spell in office spell for Putin in which he has breached reforms put in place by his predecessor Dmitry Medvedev with new curbs on protests and political groups with foreign sources of income.

Yet the moves – all stemming from Putin’s charge that Washington was funding the historic protests against his return to the Kremlin last winter – appear to be backfiring.

A poll published on the front page of the Vedomosti business daily on Friday showed Putin’s approval rating slipping to a post-election low of 48 percent — a notable slide from the 60 percent he enjoyed around his May inauguration.

There were some initial signs that the polling data and international pressure may force the authorities to adapt their approach.

Leading ruling party member Andrei Isayev called the sentence “harsh” and noted that Putin had yet to speak his full mind on the matter.

And a senior Church council issued a formal statement calling on the state “to show mercy for the convicted within the framework of the law.”