ALBUM REVIEW: Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways

Bob Dylan announces new album, Rough And Rowdy Ways | UNCUT

It feels kind of stupid to admit that I’d actually counted Bob Dylan out, even as he tiptoes towards his eighties.

The late 90s brought a critical renaissance for Bob, one that extended through a 15-year run of records ranging from stone cold classics to lukewarm successes.

Since then and not for the first time, he threw himself into a production line of covers albums, each intermittently charming in their own ways.

I thought, finally, that was it; that possibly the most unpredictable man in the history of pop had finally run out of mercury.

But here we are, in goddamn Space Year 2020, with a new Bob Dylan album that isn’t just good, isn’t just one of his best, but finds him exploring sounds unlike anything else in his catalogue. He did it in ’75. He did it in ’97. And in 2020, Bob Dylan has again found his muse.

I’m such a mug.

Not everything here is an enormous departure from the Bob Dylan of old. Songs like ‘False Prophet’ and ‘Goodybe Jimmy Reed’ are the kind of sardonic blues brag that made 2001’s “Love and Theft” such a delight. The smoky lounge waltz of ‘I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You’ could have slotted into Triplicate if Sinatra had stuck around to record it.

If you’ve listened to the two singles that trailed this extraordinary record ahead of time then you’re wise to some, but not all of its surprises. The first of them opens the record – ‘I Contain Multitudes,’ based on the classic Walt Whitman poem, unfurls a profoundly minimalist musical backdrop for a neverending string of stupid-clever punchlines like ‘I drive fast cars and I eat fast foods/I contain multitudes.’

In between, as well as the usual bluesy swing, you’ll find the sinister, brushed-drum drama of ‘My Own Version of You’ and the skeletal cautionary tale of ‘Black Rider,’ a song which single-handedly makes the album worth a listen to hear Dylan recite ‘the size of your cock will get you nowhere.’

Sometimes music can be comforting because it says something true and current and feels relevant to how you feel. But sometimes music can be comforting because it’s an escape – Dylan, as always, exists somehow outside of our timeline, and this is a darkly comic but generous-spirited collection. There are no stakes here; Dylan has claimed that he is playing no games with these lyrics, and for the first time it feels like he’s inviting you in, rather than trying to mess with you. Above all else, it’s just fun to listen to.

Which brings us to that second single and album closer, ‘Murder Most Foul,’ a song that sets records and benchmarks for Dylanology. At seventeen minutes plus, it’s his longest song ever, but doesn’t drag for a moment. Musically, it sounds like the entirety of Lambchop’s catalogue fed into a blender and then deployed as an avant-garde piece. Lyrically, Dylan comments on decades of American pop culture with the JFK assassination at its centre, a strange hallucinatory journey through that weird, young nation’s sophomore century.

As the closer to Rough and Rowdy Ways, It’s a masterpiece, that exists within another masterpiece.


RETRO REVIEW: The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)


As I start writing this post, it is one year to the day since my father died.

I’ve never had as significant a loss as this one before. My family is small; many passed away before I was born or old enough to remember them, and outside of that I think I’ve simply been lucky never to have lost anyone suddenly, too young, like this.

Grief is simultaneously a universal and unique experience. Your grief is special, but everybody’s grief is special.

Because I still flirt with the idea of getting back into journalism full-time, I keep this blog (vaguely) open, but today I’m not interested in views or career progression even slightly.

I have missed talking to my father. Having the same conversations over and over again, with the occasional new wrinkle, for years and years and years.

Which means I have been denied decades, decades, of slating what for some is The Beatles’ masterpiece, but for me is one of their lowest ebbs.

The White Album, as it eventually became known, celebrates its fortieth anniversary this November. It inspired a string of other colour-themed, eponymous records (right up to Weezer churning out another white one a couple of years back). It’s visionary, eclectic, bursting with ideas and it absolutely sucks out loud.

Well… sorta.

A few months ago when I resolved to write this post, I decided I had to give the album at least one more, legitimate, start-to-finish listen so that I knew my opinion hadn’t changed… except it kinda changed.

There’s only one way to do this, and it’s to comb through all. Thirty. Songs.

Strap in.

1. Back in the USSR – On a strangely apolitical album for a time of upheaval, this amusing ode to the girls of the Soviet Union starts things off with momentum; Paul McCartney still plays this now, and so he should.

2. Dear Prudence – One (positive and negative) theme of The Beatles is Paul and John Lennon trying on each other’s styles with mixed success. John was generally thought of, sometimes even now, as the sour one to Paul’s gurning muppet, but ‘Prudence’ is one of his simplest, sweetest songs, originally written in India to encourage Mia Farrow’s sister just to hang out with the gang.

3. Glass Onion – Wrongfooting structure aside (see ‘Bungalow Bill’ for that) ‘Glass Onion’ justifies its opacity by being transparent with gleeful disinformation (‘The walrus was Paul!’).

4. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – Last summer, only about a month after my father died, I helped supervise a student-led stage show called Yoggle at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It ended up being about an eleven-hour drive that, with this particular group of students, kept me nice and distracted, until their iPod shuffle function brought this song up. I have always, always felt that it’s simply a bad song, but the second it came through the speakers last year it became the soundtrack to the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. Not only that, but re-listening with a dim view, I’m starting to wonder if it might be super racist.

5. Wild Honey Pie – This fifty-second non-song definitely deserved inclusion on the album’s first side, almost as much as it deserved to get covered by Pixies once. Shrug.

6. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill – Is there a reason why Lennon spends half of this album not bothering with song structures? The wrenching rhythm shifts between every verse and chorus make this virtually unlistenable, sacrificing the relatively pleasing subject matter (criticising a macho hunter) on the altar of weird.

7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps – George Harrison never truly abandoned mystical influences in his compositions, and this one came from pure chance – he decided to write a song based on whatever phrase he found from flipping open a random book. That phrase was ‘gently weeps’ and a musical legend was born. As Lennon and McCartney distanced themselves, Harrison was blossoming as a songwriter, stockpiling greatness, and like so many great songs, ‘Gently Weeps’ has become more trivia point than song. Harrison defiantly invited Eric Clapton along to the tempestuous sessions to (successfully) force the other three to behave themselves and blow the doors off with a solo. Below is a video from after Harrison passed away where Prince joins an all-star cast to absolutely demolish Clapton’s original solo without breaking a sweat. ‘I look at the world and I notice it turning,’ Harrison drones, as one of his greatest ever achievements swirls around him.

8. Happiness is a Warm Gun – The late sixties found Lennon and his muse, Yoko Ono, experimenting with harder and harder drugs. That might explain the lack of attention span displayed here and elsewhere. Unlike ‘Bungalow Bill,’ ‘Warm Gun’ at least has two halves of a great song in here. Shame they ended up mashed together.

9. Martha My Dear – What’s worse about this one? The pleasant but inconsequential melody that could have been applied elsewhere? That it’s partly inspired by one of Paul’s dogs? That it was written as an exercise in complex piano playing and sounds like it?

10. I’m So Tired – After days of meditation Lennon found himself too awake to sleep and too sleepy to engage, and while this almost direct sequel to ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ isn’t the embarrassment some of his other contributions were, it’s nothing to write home about either.

11. Blackbird – No singles were cut from The White Album, but ‘Blackbird’ is basically its very own ‘Yesterday,’ in that decades of being overplayed have robbed it of almost all the shock and awe that its quiet brilliance deserves. Delicate, folksy, acoustic but definitely not twee, if only all the Rishikesh material reached this quality standard.

12. Piggies – Oh, you thought that Harrison somehow escaped the curse Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting was suffering from? ‘Piggies’ is a contender for outright worst Beatles song ever recorded. Most of the other duds on these four sides feel lazy, half-finished or rushed. ‘Piggies’ is a carefully curated assemblage of oinking noises, harpsichord overdubs and even a bloody string section. This took way too much effort to be a mere mistake, and is continued proof that genius definitely isn’t genius all the time.

13. Rocky Raccoon – Lennon and McCartney at times on this album seem to be competing for one-downsmanship. McCartney doesn’t even bother singing the first verse of this wretched country pastiche, a dry run for the kind of down-home, half-finished terribleness that would populate most of his first solo record in 1970.

14. Don’t Pass Me By – Bless poor Ringo. Written many years earlier, he finally got to throw his one solo composition to date into the mix. It’s a big, boxy squaredance of a thing, but it’s unbelievably charming and definitely doesn’t inspire the kind of rage his three bandmates do.

15. Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? – Perhaps it’s difficult many years later to truly understand the cultural relevance of something as cackhandedly crass as this, widely suggested to be another example of Paul trying to ‘do’ John. Frustratingly, the production is absolutely airtight for once, utterly wasting its cheerful piano line.

16. I Will – There are reasons why Lennon is the ‘cool Beatle,’ and songs like ‘I Will’ are part of why. Macca has a knack for incessantly catchy melodies that bond with your very DNA, but he is a frequent casualty of his own twee persona. ‘I Will’ wouldn’t sound out of place near the end of side two of Beatles For Sale, the previous low-point in the Beatle catalogue.

17. Julia – Don’t worry, you’ve not nudged the record deck. This does sound almost identical to ‘Dear Prudence’ at first, but stick with it, because contained within is a (bordering on Oedipal for the time) tribute to his Lennon’s late mother. He’d get much better material out of that grief within two years.

18. Birthday – As the band became more separate, the listening audience were more frequently denied the pearlescent harmonies the band honed in Hamburg. ‘Birthday’ is almost as much of a nothing as ‘I Will,’ but the difference is it genuinely feels fun, and when those vocals show up after a staccato verse or two, nothing else in the world matters.

19. Yer Blues – ‘Yer Blues’ sounds like it was recorded in a cupboard and by most accounts it was. A sardonically humorous account of misery that’s just too slow to dance to, it signals the guitar sound Lennon would use throughout his solo career and weirdly might be one of the most underrated cuts.

20. Mother Nature’s Son – If you’re putting out a double album, and half a song’s runtime is ‘do do do’ and humming, your priorities are screwed, McCartney.

21. Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey – This strange throwback to an earlier sound (don’t try to tell me that lyrics aside you couldn’t chuck this onto Rubber Soul) was actually quite refreshing to hear on my recent listen, only really let down by its incredibly unwieldy title.

22. Sexy Sadie – ‘Sadie’ would become amusingly quaint not long after; at the time seen as a ruthless takedown of the Maharishi with which the band was obsessed, when compared to something like the searing, incandescent ‘God’ or ‘How Do You Sleep?’ it’s just aged badly, and frankly could pass off as one of their contemporaries parodying them.

23. Helter Skelter – Proving Lennon wasn’t the only one with ideas, McCartney practically invents heavy metal in five squalling minutes. It can only sound dated now and definitely wasn’t the first of its kind, but The Beatles weren’t just about innovation, but about feeling which way the wind was blowing and jumping one step ahead. Only a few years earlier, The Beatles were the clean-cut boys you could take home to mother; now they had blisters on their fingers and Lennon’s artless saxophone shrieked in your ears.

24. Long, Long, Long – Harrison for the moment would settle with chucking a gem or two into the mix, and the dreamlike, distant quality of ‘Long, Long, Long’ is definitely of a piece with what would become All Things Must Pass.

25. Revolution I – I’ve long been a proponent of the louder, faster, heavier version of ‘Revolution’ that was the B-side to ‘Hey Jude,’ but the more I compare the two, the more I actually think ‘I’ is the superior of the two. With that cheeky ‘when you talk about destruction/don’t you that you can count me out… in’ lyric to frustrate Lennon’s misguided acolytes further, you’d almost miss the effortless groove, multiple hummable riffs and perfectly timed horn section.

26. Honey Pie – Just like so many times before, McCartney indulges himself on this most self-indulgent of records, it’s yet another pre-War-influenced, music hall confection. Lump them all together and you’ve got a serviceable Paul side project. Here? It fits right in just by not fitting in, really.

27. Savoy Truffle – Although Harrison admitted being more of a guitarist than a lyricist, this is just another example of how badly this record needed an edit. The lyrics are almost entirely based on the names of chocolates, some real, some fake. Next.

28. Cry Baby Cry – Oddly buried late in the game before the whole of side four self-immolates, ‘Cry Baby Cry’ sounds mostly like a Sergeant Pepper b-side, as psychedelic keyboards elbow each other out of the way for room behind Lennon’s vocals. Better than I remember, but doesn’t help my viewpoint of the album as a clearing house rather than an overflow of genius.

29. Revolution 9 – ‘Revolution 9,’ the most bloated part of the band’s most bloated album, and they even had the gall to sequence it second-to-last. It wouldn’t surprise me if a generation of fans didn’t know the next song was there because they yanked the needle away from the record ten seconds into this mess. At nine minutes long, it’s a tenth of the album that could’ve been cut; but nothing else at the time sounded quite like it that was going to get to a mass market. Lennon was trying something here, something he would continue on multiple solo records and live shows in a vain attempt to get avant-garde to cross over into the mainstream. You have to admire the ambition, because like George with ‘Piggies,’ Lennon’s least listenable entry here is probably the one he put the most time and effort into producing.

30. Good Night – Wouldn’t it be hilarious to let Ringo sing the last one? And write it like those old, sentimental ballads he loves so much? Maybe then he’d do a whole album of Tin Pan Alley standards later? Why have you hung the phone up? In all seriousness, Lennon wrote this as a lullaby for his oft-overlooked son Julian and demanded Ringo sing it, and maybe it’s the story behind it that’s changed my mind on today of all days but… maybe this one isn’t so bad.



NETFLIX REVIEW: RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10

RuPaul season 10, Netflix, TL

CW/TW: Sexual violence, mental health difficulties, transphobia.

If you’re a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, by now you’ll likely be familiar with RuPaul’s endless list of mantras.

“Everybody say love.”

“We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.”

“As a community we do have a responsibility to help each other, but all of us are adults. At one point you’ve got to say there is nothing else I can do.”

Oh, you don’t remember that one? You must not have seen the hideous season 10 reunion episode.

It’s not uncommon for Drag Race to paint contestants as ‘villains’ of the show; it’s a reality contest after all. This season’s big bad was Chicago’s The Vixen, a fiercely political queen who nicknamed her temper ‘the bear’ because… well, you know the advice as far as bears, and whether poking them is a wise choice.

Vixen’s most infamous rivalry this time around was with Eureka; the two were tearing strips off each other intermittently throughout the season.


Come the reunion, Ru encouraged the two of them to hash it out. After terse back-and-forth between the two, some other queens criticised Vixen’s inability to walk away from an argument. Asia O’Hara, one of the four finalists, points out “The problem is there’s now five of us telling The Vixen ‘you don’t have to do that.'” Vixen agrees, stating “Everyone is telling me how to react, but nobody is telling her how to act.”

Ru swings around to Eureka instead, saying she has a similar issue with needing the last word. Eureka says that she’s been working on it, and Ru says “It’s not something you have to work on, it’s just something you have to do.” Ironically, this stuns the chattiest queen of the season into virtual silence.

Early in the season, Vixen appeared to create an argument between Miz Cracker and Aquaria; Ru mentions this as a backdoor for reminding Vixen that in her own words, she’d come to the season to fight. After trying to get her own point across, Vixen leaves the taping.

In a turn-up for the books that I really wish I hadn’t found startling, after Vixen is gone, Ru takes the opportunity to shit all over her when she’s not there to defend herself; here is a transcript, edited slightly for length.

Asia: She walked out of the room because she did not know what else to do, and it is our job as people to help her through a situation that it’s clear she’s struggling with.

Ru: As a community we do have a responsibility to help each other, but all of us are adults. At one point you’ve got to say there is nothing else I can do. Each of us have had people in our lives who you realise, I can’t do anything for this person unless they want to meet me halfway.

Asia: Why do we just automatically expect everybody to understand that? I don’t agree with everything the Vixen says or does but I understand where it comes from… The Vixen seems to me like a person that’s crying out for help, and everybody else is like girl, that’s on you, you gotta figure it out. That’s unfortunate to me.

Ru: I love the girl, I invited her on in the first place because I felt like her voice needed to be heard. At one point sometimes you’ve got to let people go, whether it’s anger or whatever the issue is, because it’s not a two-way street, it’s one-sided, and that’s where we are.

Asia: (crying) It’s ridiculous that our thought process about people is so self-centred, that [if] it’s hard to help somebody we just let them struggle. We’re not just drag queens we’re people, and here we are during Pride season, and we just let one of our sisters walk out the fucking room because nobody wanted to fucking help her, and we’re the first people to say that people aren’t treating us right.

Ru: Do you think there’s anything we could have said to make her stay?

Asia: It’s not about what we say, it’s about what we do.

Ru: What could we have done?

Asia: We could have walked up to her and said “Vixen, we need you to stay,” but the fact that we, including myself, let her walk out, that door closed behind her and she said “I guess I’m making the right choice.”

Ru: I believe when she said that she was done and there was nothing anybody could do to stop her… It’s coming from a hurt place but I can’t teach her that.

Asia: Of course you can.

Ru: What am I going to go back and follow her?

Asia: Not at this moment.

Ru: Can you explain to someone that cannot be spoken to?

Asia: No I don’t expect you to do that.

Ru: (raising voice) Look at me, I’m from the same goddamn place she comes from, and here I am, you see me walking out? No I’m not walking out, I fucking learn how to act around people and how to deal with shit, I’m not walking out and saying ‘fuck all of y’all.’ That’s disrespectful to each of you. And I know you feel for her because you see yourself in her because we all have that same frustration… You can’t just make excuses for bad behaviour or inconsiderate behaviour.

Asia eventually, like Eureka, became a virtual mute when it became apparent what RuPaul’s attitude was. Ru has throughout the show’s existence chosen to overlook or actively defend queens who were lashing out, through youth, damage, fear or any number of issues, but Vixen apparently wasn’t good enough for that.

Yes, turns out Ru is just another person who thinks that people that don’t ask for help are not worth helping and that a difficult life is an ‘excuse.’

Suddenly it became a lot harder to ignore other problematic elements of the career of RuPaul that I’d handily managed to sidestep in my mind.

His music is full of transphobic terminology like ‘ladyboy’ and ‘tranny chaser.’

Until season seven, Ru’s video message each week was called a ‘shemail.’

In recent seasons, Ru has seemed to lampoon participants who do not speak English as a first language despite Puerto Rico’s rich drag history.

There’s his immensely objectionable comments on transpeople in general, including possibly mistaking an art piece about trains for being the trans pride flag.

Social media commentators, including ex-participants, have pointed out how the winners of Drag Race have become skinnier and whiter since the show began (60% of the winners have been white; none have been ‘big queens’ or Puerto Rican queens).

During season seven, when comedy queen Katya was struggling with anxiety, Ru told her she was ‘addicted to the anxiety’ as if it was a drug. Speaking as someone in possession of an actual addiction to nicotine and a diagnosed anxiety disorder… Ru, I know what addiction looks and feels like and my anxiety disorder certainly isn’t that.

Looking back, Ru’s been exploiting the queens’ trauma with prying interviews for years. Every throw to an ad break in the reunion special, Ru was wearing a smug, punchable expression. Some of his questions to the queens seemed like a roundabout way of saying ‘you’re not crying enough to make this good television.’

Vixen and Eureka weren’t even the only victim of Ru’s shocking attitude towards mental health concerns in the same episode. Blair St. Clair, a young queen with a very boyish look out of drag, confessed during the show to having been raped.

Dusty Ray Bottoms (whose story of religious persecution was listened to because she managed to be nice about it, apparently making it valid to Ru) indulged in a truly hideous joke late in the episode: “Ms. Blair St. Clair, I know you like to claim that you’re a professional actress, but being a decoy on To Catch a Predator is not a legit credit.”

Rupauls Drag Race Season 10 Blair St Clair

This was during a segment that has always been about making mean-spirited jokes about other queens, but what Dusty did here is joked about a survivor of sexual violence looking just like someone who would be likely to experience sexual violence. Even Asia didn’t challenge this.

Kameron Michaels, a queen depicted on the show as quiet and shy, takes a lot of flack for not socialising with the other queens. Perhaps Kameron is as aloof and rude as the others say she is, but Dusty’s statement that “I don’t think many girls do have a relationship with you… and it’s almost as if you don’t want it at all,” sure sounds like victimising someone for being introverted.

It’s been pretty easy as a cis-white male to compartmentalise this, and I’m pretty ashamed of myself for having chosen to overlook it until Ru’s behaviour became even more disgusting. I apologise to all transpeople for letting them down.

RuPaul wields a great deal of power and influence, and queer people, who are more likely to experience mental health challenges, deserve a better figurehead in the media. It’s time to look to somebody else, if anyone.

Remember folks, live your life by RuPaul’s values!

– People with mental health challenges deserve support. But you know, only if they meet you halfway.

– If you’re difficult to support, then you deserve to be abandoned.

– If you want to change your behaviour, it doesn’t take work and isn’t a process, it just happens.


GUEST POST: My road to Wrestle Queendom

I am a freak (see Figure 1). I don’t start with this to shock but as context, otherwise nothing that follows will seem wondrous.


Figure 1 – me out of a nutshell

I have spent pretty much all of my life experiencing my freakishness. It has been thrown at me as a compliment and as an insult with mixed success by others, as well as myself. It is rare for me to find somewhere I fit in. Most of the places where I do, were either the places that made me the freak I am (like my parents’ home) or I have changed them to allow me room (most places I have worked). I have dreamed for a long time of a place where shared but constantly challenged values are at its core. Somewhere that those who do not fit in the boxes would be safe in a space where we do not need or enforce boxes. Where there is compassionate communication between peers of all kinds. I call this the Lighthouse. My dream eco-community, full of freaks both human and animal.

I have had peaks and troughs in my life, as have we all. From early 2011 to early 2018 was predominantly a trough. In this time:
– I have experienced high levels of depressive and anxious thought including very frequent thoughts of suicide
– I married the woman I love
– I have mostly done a job that has, in no small part, contributed to the thoughts above
– I have bought a house (as a millennial!)
– I have re-experienced through unsolicited thoughts sexual violence
– I have had so many cat babies (and a pup)
– I have struggled to control self-harming behaviours including cutting, drug use, hitting and unhealthy/disordered eating habits
– Together, my wife and I have found a man who we both love
– I have set the date for my suicide.

The good things are huge but don’t help with the bad things. I can’t look at what I have and feel the levels of contentment I should. That in itself has ruined too many of my days.

Recently, things have started to change. I am being better to myself and making progress. It is too complex for a simple explanation in a blog but things are improving and it goes something like this.

Joy’s journey

Our partner is into professional wrestling.
He shows us WWE Mae Young Classic.
I see Viper (Piper Niven) wrestle for the first time.
For the first time in many years, I feel the need to look after my physical well-being.
We talk to a friend about female wrestlers, he recommends Eve and nags us to go.
We see Viper on a card and even though travelling into London and being in an enclosed space with other people makes me terrified, and we have no money, we buy tickets.

1st time at Eve (12/11/17)
My wife is overcome by PTSD and anxiety related issues on the day and stays home.
I’m even more frightened. But our partner is with me.
We get there and find a safe spot by the wall so I do not have to be surrounded by strangers.
They do the welcome speeches and I know I’m safe.
The wrestling blows my mind. I’m screaming along to wrestlers I’d never even heard of. I didn’t know what the Ace of Eve was but by the end of the night if it isn’t Charlie Morgan I’m going to lose my mind.
I see Viper wrestle an amazing match against Meiko Satomora.
There is a plug for the wrestling training on Sundays, a seed is planted.
When my partner stays to meet wrestlers, I call my wife and tell her how safe she’ll be next time.
Charlie Morgan’s chant is in my head for a week at least.

Due to my paradigm shift in value and mindset catalysed by the Mae Young Classic, Viper and Eve, I take a 6 month secondment from the job that is killing me to do my dream job.

2nd Eve visit (13/01/18)
The three of us attend together.
We go back to the same spot and it already feels like where we belong.
Someone vaping with mint or menthol vape gel is nearby (see Figure 1). I almost faint twice and sit on the floor for a bit.
Even though the wrestling comes into the crowd no one tramples me.
I get back up and we decide to go and stand at the back door.
My view isn’t great and the action is amazing so I stand up as much as I can.
A person in the crowd who has a stool offers me a chance to sit down.
The feeling of being cared for and about is palpable. I feel like one of the gang
I want to buy a Candy Floss T-shirt but feel too shy to approach. Our partner asks for me. She sees me for a person who needs extra care and is immensely kind and gentle to me.
My wife had no flashbacks or anxiety in the whole visit. This is almost unprecedented in our experience of going out to new places together.

We did not have tickets for the February show which is near my birthday.  I work on a show for a different promotion the night after, and all of the promoters are talking excitedly about the goings-on at Eve the previous night. I am so jealous. My birthday present is tickets to the next two shows.

I decide that being uncertainly employed and feeling sane is preferable to remaining in a job that is so damaging to my mental and physical health. I quit my job despite not having a guaranteed job at the end of my 6 month contract.

3rd Eve visit (10/03/2018)
Again, my wife is unable to join us, but this time it is due to her finishing her FINAL submission of her PhD.
We took a very anxious and shy friend in her stead, promising her a safe space.
The, now, usual routine continues but confidence is growing.
We strike up conversations with the people standing behind us, we find wide-spread common areas of interest.
Our friend has to sit for a while and, because I’ve done it, I know she is fine!
I found Viper and Jordynne Grace’s match the most exciting match I had ever seen.
Kay Lee Ray is hurt so Viper is looking after her after the show, so we choose to not disturb her.
I eavesdrop Dann (Read, co-owner and promoter of Eve) talking to a group of women about training, a trickle of water reaches the seed.
I end up chatting to Dann on my own (something impossible so few months before). I mention the fainting incident, he seems genuinely concerned and makes me promise to tell him next time.

I invite several friends to the next show but they are unable, for various reasons, get tickets.

On a difficult morning, walking to work, I plan what my gimmick would be if I was a wrestler.

One day, I notice that I feel sexy. Not every day, not for hours at a time, but I am able to feel sexy. I feel positive about my body.

4th visit to Eve (14/04/20181)
We are very close to the front of the queue this time.
When we are going in and I show my tickets to the man who is normally on merch he says ‘I know you anyway’. I am completely flushed with elation.
All evening, I make eye contact with people from the crowd or security or (referee) Tom or other staff and I see a flicker of recognition. I’m in now – I am definitely in the gang!
Charlie Morgan comes out with a pride flag and I scream myself hoarse.
Livvii Grace and Viper have a great match which further concretes how much I love Viper and how much I need to see more of Livvii.
I listen to (co-owner and promoter) Emily (Read)’s heartfelt and moving speech about self-harm and the need for female role models as I trace my fingers over my own scars.
My wife meets Charlie Morgan and has a beautiful, honest conversation about sexuality and role models. Charlie touches her elbow!
We all meet Viper and she meets every expectation I have. She hugs all of us and we thanked her for being a role model. She is gracious and genuine and inspiring.

The night we get back from this show my wife and I stay up for hours talking about the future. We hadn’t done that in so long. Among other things we discuss, the floor plan for The Lighthouse (which feels tangible for the first time in years), getting healthier, going to training and what our lives will look like soon.
Our partner has a Twitter conversation with Eve that results in #SquadGoals!
I get my contract extended at the theatre.

So here I am today
I am finally accessing therapy – I told them about Eve. They said that ‘it sounds like a wonderful place’
I am the strongest I have been in years and feel fit and confident in my own skin. I bought trousers today (something I previously had not done in at least a year because of the toll it took to have my self-esteem so battered) for the Eve show.

I have made a plan for the future (Wrestle Queendom 2020) that is after my planned date for my suicide.

In conclusion, I may not be much to Eve but Eve is vital to my current life experience. It is not the only contributing factor but it has been a catalyst for good in my life. I cannot recommend this show enough for people like us. It is welcoming to all, but some people who read this have felt a twang as they went. If you did and if you can, come down, we’re waiting with open arms.


We are about to set off to Wrestle Queendom… see you on the other side.


FILM REVIEW: Star Wars, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi


The purpose of arts criticism is to answer two questions:

1. Who is this for?

2. Would they like it?

This is a film made with hardcore Star Wars fans in mind at every turn; but it’s one that laughs in the face of their expectations, undermines their desires and if you’re a fan who hasn’t seen it yet… well, chances are pretty good you’re not going to like it.

The Last Jedi is by a wide margin the most daring film in the franchise’s forty-year history. Rian Johnson has shown himself to be one of Hollywood’s more interesting voices, as anyone who has seen the flawed but fantastic Looper can attest. The Force Awakens was a film that may as well have been called Star Wars: The Star Wars Movie for all the tropes it happily dusted off, so it’s great to see chances being taken as Last Jedi also steals the crown of ‘biggest bummer in Star Wars history’ away from Empire.

When George Lucas originally conceived these stories, he was transferring the imagery and ideals of Westerns, Samurai movies and sci-fi serials into new settings and formats. These were stories of black hats and white hats, heroes and villains, good and evil. Last Jedi is two-and-a-half hours of misery, and may as well have been shot in grayscale. Characters explore their own moral compasses, flip back and forth between sides (sometimes genuinely, sometimes not), contradict each other’s stories. No-one is a true hero or villain outside of the woefully underwritten Snoke (Andy Serkis, doing his usual motion-capture best with no material whatsoever).

The film picks up with the rebels on the run and the First Order on their tail relentlessly trying to annihilate them. It’s down to the ever-peppy droid BB-8, the constantly incredulous Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) to hunt down a codebreaker/safecracker as their only hope of survival. Rey (Daisy Ridley) meanwhile, has tracked down a grizzled Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to try and convince him to join the resistance.

This is truly the rebellion’s darkest hour, and most of the more daring choices Johnson makes as director and writer are the bleak ones. Although not a bloody movie (it’s a 12A/PG-13) there is a lot of death, and Johnson is admirably ruthless in his story choices. This is one of the main things the fans are unlikely to appreciate.

Another truly divisive quality, but which in my circles is going to elevate Last Jedi above any of its older siblings, is that it has a liberal streak a mile wide. Finn, BB-8 and Rose visit Canto Bight casino. Something the original trilogy excelled at was the grime and grit of the lower classes; the dive bars, the shady scrap dealers, the dirty dealings. Canto Bight is the logical opposite end of that, flooded with 1%er war profiteers gambling, drinking. Like any casino, it’s a monument to hideous, opulent vulgarity.

The leftist agenda doesn’t stop there either. Several excellent new creature designs are debuted here, and Johnson’s camera shows great sympathy for their plights. So too does Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), who goes through his own tiny character arc over the controversial porgs. Best of all, the main cast has a pleasingly high percentage of women and people of colour, including one interracial romance in which neither participant is white. In some ways, Last Jedi is a film about there still being hope for the freaks and weirdos of the universe.

Another great strength of the movie is the performances. Benicio del Toro’s charismatic hacker, DJ, nearly runs off with the entire movie, practically leaving smears of grease on every frame he’s in. Boyega, as he did last time round, performs like the only person who knows how insane the events occurring around him are. The true revelation is Hamill. Looking as weatherbeaten as the clifftops he calls home, he’s practically Shakespearean in his brokenness, calling upon a deep reservoir of resentment and misery I wasn’t aware he possessed.

Unfortunately, the movie has its problems. It’s half an hour and one pitched battle too long, making an already gloomy outlook even more of a slog and almost crushing the small chinks of light. An early scene with Leia (the late Carrie Fisher, bringing gravitas to every line) teases a brave twist that isn’t followed through on, and will split audiences. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) finds out the true cost of being the hero, but seems to lack any real emotional consequences for his catastrophic decision making at the film’s outset.

Ultimately, The Last Jedi is excellent, but who is it for? To understand just how crazy some of its story choices are, you have to be reasonably steeped in the universe’s DNA, but the majority of the people who are will surely find these same choices aggravating.


Too many tweets make a…

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