Oct 112013

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryAnother exciting week passes in Aberdeen. The papers were filled with interesting stories; the restaurants and bars were filled with interesting people, and the Moorings was filled with the sound of the ever interesting and intense Spear of Destiny.

The band transported everyone except for one selfie-taking troglodyte; friends and strangers alike sang ‘I wanna go home’ to each other towards the end of the set; the warm up band were also engaging. I also had a tour of the Moorings’ beer cellar. It was a high-tech, temperature controlled, immaculate beer Valhalla.

No wonder the pints are always perfect. I’ll be back.

I did a double-take when I looked at the Evening Express on the Thursday; there was Alex Salmond staring out at me, done up in a pink beret and pink sunglasses, ostensibly to draw attention to breast cancer charity. 

I thought at first someone had put Captain Sensible in the washing machine with bleach, but no it was Salmond. At the same time, the word is that some North East cancer treatments are being cut because of staff shortages.  It is great however that Alex took time out for this photo op. Perhaps later he’ll have a chance to look into cancer patients going without treatment. Nice beret, Alex.

In the courts, last week saw the usual cases of theft, drunkenness, and embezzlement; there were  a few particularly dark moments.

A newborn infant had suffered injuries – the man in the dock first said a dog attacked her, then he said he accidentally dropped her, then shook her when her eyes rolled up in her head (the rest of us would have phoned for an ambulance, but I’m sure he meant well.  Really). A doctor who testified begs to differ with the accused, and says the injuries seemed to be deliberate.

The mind boggles at that alone, but our accused has the nerve to say the doctor is lying. No doubt this baby abuser probably had a hard life, a drink/drug problem or something.

Then we have charity worker  Philip Muirhead who believes charity definitely begins at home; he stole money from three vulnerable pensioners, and scarpered when he was found out, skipping town. His defence attorney says his mental state has deteriorated these past months he’s been on the run with the older peoples’ cash.

It’s a funny prison system we have in this country

Perhaps it’s just his conscious is bothering him, or maybe we should pool together for a collection for him to help him out; I’m sure you feel as sorry for him as I do. (No word on how the pensioners who trusted this man are feeling; I’m sure they’re fine).

And finally in Danestone, a hit and run quad bike rider ran over a dog which later had to be put down; and the biker just kept going. Perhaps he didn’t notice that he’d struck and injured a collie. A 25 year-old man was later charged; I hope this ordeal won’t be too upsetting for him.

Some of the above may wind up with custodial sentences,  and it’s a funny prison system we have in this country. Prison offers many vocation opportunities; younger offenders can learn new skills from experienced career criminals; people who have mental and emotional problems are locked up, which no doubt does them good.

The Sun newspaper’s recent headline let us know that many murders were committed by people with mental illness. I remember well the Birmingham incident – a young girl was stabbed on a bus by a man with mental health problems.

His family had repeatedly asked the NHS for health and warned officials he was a danger.  I guess they had other things to do than look into the health of the man.

I also remember the man in Aberdeen some years back who committed suicide; he’d asked for help; his friends and family had asked for help, no help could be found. Old Susannah has a rather radical thought – let’s help these people at the first sign of trouble and rather than prison being the answer following a tragedy, early health care just might be a better solution.

Also in the news this week is the lovely Myley Cyrus, aka Hannah Montana.

The right of the devoutly religious to wear a niquab isn’t called into question

I remember thinking ‘music doesn’t get any better than this’ when her dad released the seminal anthem ‘achey breaky heart’ – but I was wrong. No one can caper with dwarves or lick a hammer like Myley; and it’s all just her creativity coming to the fore (in case  you thought it was some cynical marketing exercise).

Ms Cyrus has every right to express herself. This week Old Susannah’s considering Myley’s rights and the rights of those who wind up in trouble with the law.  With that, it’s time for some definitions.

Religious Freedom: (modern English compound phrase) – the right to practice a religion; a human right.

Embezzlement seems to be the new crime of choice, but do pity poor Ms Shaheda Lorgat.  She’d borrowed a few pounds from the taxpayer, but hadn’t had time to ask in advance, and  helped herself to about £21K.  When caught out and sent to court, she turned up in a niquab.

The right of the devoutly religious to wear a niquab isn’t called into question, but what made Ms Lorgat’s case special is that, er, she didn’t wear one before she had to be photographed for her crime.  She wore a headscarf on her Facebook page; she went about her neighbourhood without a niquab as well.  Funny how getting caught doing a crime can make some people find god.

Alas!  She was forced to appear in court and be photographed with her whole face showing . You could almost be forgiven for thinking she was trying to hide her identity as  a talented thief. As it was put by Shaista Gohir, chair of the Muslim Women’s Network UK:-

“I would find it difficult to support that [wearing a niquab] if she is found guilty.  If she has committed a crime, she’s clearly not following her faith anyway.”  – Metro, 19 September 2013

– Hmm. perhaps Ms Gohir has a point.

Then we have another group of people whose religious freedoms are likewise being challenged when they face jail. There aren’t that many Sikhs locked up in Scottish prisons, but those who do get sent down are being denied their religious freedom: we’re not letting them have ceremonial knives.

many are deciding that going without a blade is not an option

Thankfully that nice Kenny MacAskill MSP is doing something about this intolerable situation, and is meeting with Sikh leaders to see what we can do to help these poor chaps.

Not only aren’t the prisons letting prisoners have knives (or slightly duller ceremonial blades), the authorities actually making visiting Sikh priests leave their daggers behind when they speak to prisoners.

Rightly, many are deciding that going without a blade is not an option, so they won’t visit prisons instead.

I can’t see what the big deal is; it’s not as if there is a knife crime problem in Scotland, and I’m sure the prison guards will be able to ensure no one is ever injured by a knife.

Expect large numbers of religious conversions among prison populations if this goes through.

Artistic Freedom: (compound English noun) the right / need for a creative person to practice their craft unhindered.

Isn’t it wonderful that little Hannah Montana is now Myley Cyrus? Her dad’s proud of her, too, and had this to say to his daughter:-

“You can’t count on somebody in a suit and a high-rise in New York to tell you what the chemistry is for you as an artist; you have to figure that out yourself. Your daddy spent almost 20 years trying to find what that thing is to bring you out of the eclipse of a monster.”

It’s just too bad that a few women performers are unhappy with Myley’s exploits.  Annie Lennox and Sinead O’Connor have both weighed in on the wrecking ball riding, hammer-licking Myley.  Lennox said on Facebook:-

“I have to say that I’m disturbed and dismayed by the recent spate of overtly sexualised performances and videos. You know the ones I’m talking about. It seems obvious that certain record companies are peddling highly styled pornography with musical accompaniment.

“As if the tidal wave of sexualised imagery wasn’t already bombarding impressionable young girls enough.. I believe in freedom of speech and expression, but the market forces don’t give a toss about the notion of boundaries. As long as there’s booty to make money out of, it will be bought and sold. It’s depressing to see how these performers are so eager to push this new level of low.

“Their assumption seems to be that misogyny- utilised and displayed through oneself is totally fine, as long as you are the one creating it. As if it’s all justified by how many millions of dollars and U tube hits you get from behaving like pimp and prostitute at the same time. It’s a glorified and monetized form of self harm.”

It’s a sad state of affairs when a young talented singer is ganged up on, just for expressing herself. If she had to escape from the Hannah Montana personality she’d portrayed by getting her kit off, I’m sure it was her choice alone.

I can practically hear her record company and management pleading with her not to use sex to sell herself, devaluing her musical currency in the process, but good for her for sticking up for her artistic vision.  (Of course, if she hadn’t signed up for the lucrative Hannah Montana work in the first place and had done her own music from the start, maybe she wouldn’t have to work so hard to escape the image she and her team created, but there you go).

I just wonder what she’ll be doing in her next video

Perhaps if Annie and Sinead were younger and sexier, they wouldn’t have to rely on singing, songwriting and activism to get their music sold.  I guess it was a different world in those days; people writing music, sometimes even playing  instruments.  Thank goodness for progress.

In 30 years’ time, people will still come from miles around to look at – sorry listen to – Myley perform live;  no doubt ‘Sweet Dreams’ and ‘Nothing Compares 2U’ will be long forgotten.

It’s not that long ago that Suffragettes fought for the right of women to vote; Malala was shot in the head for wanting an education; women and girls are being sold into forced marriages; and women still don’t earn equal pay for equal work. With women like Myley expressing themselves against this backdrop, I know the future is in great hands. I just wonder what she’ll be doing in her next video.

Her supporters say this:-

“Separate the songs from the lick-happy clips, though, and they’re solid ballads. “We Can’t Stop” is a call-to-arms for a younger generation, a reminder to older people that, fortunately or unfortunately, life is like an ever-flowing river; these kids with their Molly and their pasties will be our age soon, just as we were once where they are. And “Wrecking Ball” is a modern day “My Heart Will Go On,” a song about love lost and found, but also about—again—the idea of youth burning hard and fast and then fading away.”http://www.avclub.com/articles/miley-cyrus-bangerz,103885/

 Perhaps I’m being too hard on the girl; no doubt she’ll still be as proud of the music she didn’t write as Led Zeppelin is of their work when they were her age. As for the idea that ‘Wrecking Ball is a modern day ‘My Heart Will Go On,’ why yes, I believe it is.  I’m sure you loved ‘Heart’ as much as I did.

Autobiography: (English noun) The story of a person’s life as told or written by themselves.

By now we’ll all have rushed out to by the exciting autobiography by former spin doctor and right hand man to Gordon  Brown, Damian McBride. McBride’s book tells of his time working for Prime Minister Brown, setting the moral tone, doing what was right, and leading by example. Here’s an extract, with a few comments from me in square brackets:-

“We could lose power for a generation. ‘Après moi, le déluge’ always has a persuasive effect, even when people are bloody sick of the ‘moi’. [so nothing pretentious there then]

“I helped this process by briefing the hacks hard that David Miliband and Harriet Harman were already on manoeuvres: Miliband courting wealthy donors to fund his leadership campaign, Harriet touring the bars of Warwick talking about her ‘moment’.

“At that point, it didn’t matter whether either thing was true, which neither was; [basically make up any lie that suits you to hold power is an acceptable path]  what mattered was that people heard the drumbeats of a Labour civil war. 

“When I was hurriedly spreading my mischief [one person’s ‘mischief’ is another person’s lie] about Miliband and Harriet the weekend of the Warwick conference, I wouldn’t lie outright; I’d just point a journalist in an erroneous direction by asking a question: ‘Are you hearing this rumour about Miliband asking Lord Levy to bankroll his campaign? Won’t that be a massive story?’” [well done Damian]

The most impressive thing is that McBride is clearly proud of what he did. Some might say that in a perfect world,
a) he’d have been stopped at the time from his activities,
b) he’d have been too embarrassed to confess to being a sleaze in his book,
c) he’d be being investigated by the police, and,
d) decent media wouldn’t promote his book and no one would buy it.

But it seems that if there is money out there from telling the world you’ve been a sneak and a bully, or money to be made by taking your clothes off and sitting on a wrecking ball, singing someone else’s material, there’s no shame in it. The world wants to buy, and it seems where there is muck, there’s people with the brass to turn it into gold.

Next week – more on the closure of the Marcliffe; a Trump update, and whatever else comes up.

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