Saturday, November 15, 2014

Guest music post from / about iRate

'...Living under capitalism sometimes makes it easy to accept one’s own insignificance. But there has always been this thing inside of me – iRate – desperate to come out. That is why iRate is colourful, unapologetic, experimental, uncompromising, psychedelic, strong, unafraid and tackles taboo subjects front on. She is the best side of me and the person I want to be...'
Hi! My name is iRate. I am a feminist electronic musician and writer.
* 'I like hanging out with you' (…/02/i-like-hanging-out-with-you/) is an ambient attempt to capture my feelings of warmth towards all the people around me (it is also apart of a series of compositions/studies which are pre-occupied with the sun). I guess an (anti-romance) love song.
* ‘Bringing You Down’ ( is an aggressive upbeat track about that moment when one says to oneself ‘that’s it …no more…’ – a declaration of one’s humanity in the face of oppression…to put a bit of ‘fire in one's belly’!
* 'Hold On' ( is a music video in which the landscape of Roker Pier (a place I used to visit as a child) morphs in to my dreams and anxieties.
* For a more explicitly political track, listen to 'Tribute to (Occupy) E15 Mothers' (…/…/01/tribute-to-focus-e15-mothers/).
* Check out my recent review of The Resident Evil Film Franchise (…/resident-evil-review-there-is-no-e…/).
* 'Mary? Mary? Quite?' ( is a meditation on my relationship with my ninety (plus) year old Grandmother.
***Coming up?***
I currently working on / planning collaborations with ShareorShelf ( and Glitter Activism ( Get in touch if you like what I am about and/or have an idea for a project / collaboration.
For more information you can visit my website ( or read a recent interview by Street Voice UK (…/irate-interviewed-oct…/).
Any feedback is much appreciated.
In Sisterhood & Solidarity,
Feminist Electronic Musician & Activist
Angry – Anti-Capitalist – Avant-Garde – Awkward – Anxious – Bold - Cold – Compelling – Confronting – Comic – Controversialist – Counter-Culture – Cynical – Cyclical – Dance – Dark – Dead Pan – Depressive – Dysfunctional – Disordered – Dynamic – Eclectic – Electro – Electronic – Emo – Experimental –- Feminist – Fight – Hip – Gritty – House – Humorous – Inappropriate – Innovative – Intersectional – Jazzy – Jealous – Jerky – Life-Affirming – Lonely – Loud – Marxist – Minimalist – Minimal – Moody – Obsessive – Labour – Pain – Personal – Political – Pop – Pounding – Progressive – Queer – Repetitive – Resistance – Rough-and-Ready – Struggle – Stubborn – Synthesised – Unconventional – Unromantic – Weird – Work

Friday, November 14, 2014

Just watched the Sainsburys Christmas advert. (4 million views so far).
The picture above shows the French cemetery at Verdun, where 15,000 French and (French) African soldiers are buried. In the centre of this cemetery is the large building known as the Ossuary, which is literally filled with unidentified bones found on the battlefield (estimated at 130,000 remains but farmers still find bones in the fields each year). Additionally Verdun boasts an American cemetery with 14,000 dead, and several German cemeteries.
Verdun today has a population of 20,000. The Western Front stretched for up to 400 miles.
How DARE Sainsbury's use this massacre to sell groceries? I can't believe this advert is even allowed to air, it's so offensive.
The story of the Christmas truce is sad because
a) Young men fighting on both sides had much more in common with each other than with the people who sent them to fight and in 1914, there were all kinds of temporary truces and fraternisation around the year- not due to the holy magic of Christmas but to basic class solidarity.
b) As the war went on for year after year, most of these 'truces' -Christmas, football, chocolate and all- stopped, perhaps partly due to the devastating effects of new weapons like poison gas, the lessening of hope, the endless pointless deaths.
When you watch this advert as I'm sure you will have to endlessly for the next three months, think about the other 364 days of mindless slaughter. And remember ‪#‎Christmasisforsharing‬ is pointless unless we unite the rest of the time against our real enemies. ‪#‎WW1isforsellingchocolate‬

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The bells of Varese

When I lived in Cairo, on the rare occasions when I went out and got really messed up, I would know when to get up when I heard the Dhuhr prayer at noon, in varying loudspeaker arrangements and at slightly different times from the dozen or so mosques in earshot of my flat. first one, then several voices, seemingly competing to sing louder, truer, more beautifully than the next. (Some were not beautiful but merely enthusiastic).

When my mother visited she woke every day to the Fajr prayer at dawn. (After the first week I hardly noticed it). At first she didn't like it but after returning she spoke of missing it. It gives a collective rhythm to the day. You know everyone, in every flat, can hear the same sound. While I'm sure that (except on Fridays) most Cairenes didn't rush down to the mosque at every call, the prayers symbolised collective social moments: getting up, stopping work for lunch, returning home at sunset, going to bed.

In Varese the town clock goes further than this. Every fifteen minutes, all day and night, the bells ring out. I rarely glance at the clock because I am constantly reminded of the passing of time. There's another church which I can't see and it obstinately remains half a minute behind the church in the town centre, jealously guarding its interpretation of what time it is in a world where hours, seconds, minutes are electronically synchronised and infallibly transmitted.

Twelve o'clock- twelve long gongs. Quarter past- the gongs again and then a single, higher chime for the quarter hour. At half past there are two short chimes.

Additionally there are other chimes, chimes I can't place or understand. Sometimes I wonder if there's a bell-ringing school in the town. Smetimes it's a tune, sometimes a cacophony of overlapping discord, not unpleasant to hear but bewildering. What does it mean? What is everyone in Varese doing right now? Should I be doing it too?

The other strange thing is that if you walk for two minutes down to the main square and look at the clock in the steeple, it shows completely the wrong time. Trust your ears, not your eyes.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Why I Should Never Have Watched ‘Frances Ha’ (or How All the Eccentric Veterans Called Forrest Who Liked Running Probably Felt In 1994)

Warning- I tried not to cross too far over from self-indulgent towards self-pitying, but probably failed. Forgive me.

 A tall blonde woman, awkward, yet beautiful. Running in the street with her best friend Sophie, laughing and shouting. She has found what she’s looking for yet has everything to gain. In the opening moments of the film, every moment is full of joy. 

Living without much money, sharing things, leaving her clothes on the floor. Sophie is tidier, yet it’s no big thing. In the big city where she’s going to make it as an artist, a dancer. Late at night they curl up together in one bed. There’s no reason for her to go and sleep in her own bed. 

Beautiful black-and-white shots of faces, caught in mirrors, laughing, in bars, in shared flats in Brooklyn. A few happy dance steps off-the-cuff in the park. The boyfriend, for there is a boyfriend, wants them to get cats together. In fact he wants them to move in together, together with their cats. ‘I promised Sophie I’d stay through the lease, and she probably wants to renew it.’ I know only too well that feeling that it doesn’t really matter if another man moves on without you. You are never alone and never will be. 

After the break-up she says she is tired and going home. Of course she goes to the party to meet Sophie. Peeing off the platform of the subway. ‘Do I look older than I am? Older than twenty-seven?’ ‘No, but twenty-seven is old though.’ Dinner and the mild irritation of the dinner date can’t touch her. The dance studio cuts down her hours. 

Sophie has something to tell her. Sophie has found a better flat in TriBeCa, one beyond her price range. She’s going to cover her share of the rent until the end of the lease. Sophie is leaving her. She’s getting serious with her boyfriend too. 
‘Have you been dating anyone?’ 
‘Oh Frances.’ 
‘It’s fine!’ 

I’m not sure why I watched this film. I downloaded it ages ago, when it first came out, but I knew the effect it would have on me and put it off. She’s a dancer, not a writer. She’s got longer hair, and a smaller nose, and is three years younger than me, and is a fictional character played by an actor in a fictional film. In New York, not London. 

After a terrible fight with Sophie, drunk, in a bar, Frances takes her credit card and runs away from New York to Europe, to a flat in Paris. There she eats things, watches people, stays in bed. She calls the people she knows – friends- but they don’t reply until she’s on her way home. 

This is a film about growing up and not growing up. It’s a film about the eternal conflict between your love for your best friend and your love for your sexual partner, and the way those conflicting bonds are sometimes elastic and sometimes terribly, terribly rigid, even brittle. It’s about the meaning of success, and what an individualised concept that has become. 

Frances is totally alone at moments. She moves in with artists, but they’re artists from money- loving, caring, funny, and she can smoke in the house, yet… 
‘Lev and I were talking about getting a maid to come once a week. It’s not that expensive, it’s like four hundred bucks a month.’ 
‘Do you know that I’m actually poor?’ 
‘You aren’t poor. There are poor people- you aren’t one of them. It’s offensive to actual poor people.’ The dance studio offers her admin work instead of a place in the permanent company. 

Frances is constantly trying to find alternatives to the shitty deals life makes her. She’s an optimist and she looks for happiness where she can find it. And she doesn’t complain. But she’s mean when she’s drunk, and she’s socially awkward and doesn’t stop talking when people’s jaws begin dropping in horror. Frances isn’t going to win in the big game of hipster artistic success moving from studio flats to lifestyle magazine new-build flats with good schools and coffee table magazine and healthy Saturday brunch, but she’s always moving and generally in the right direction and she’s mostly a nice person… Frances is OK. Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, the film. It’s a good film. Watch it, especially if you have nothing in common with me. 

If you do have something in common with me, don’t despair. Get in touch if it helps. And even if ‘Frances Ha’ makes you sad, remember that it’s a good thing that we are not alone.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Self-devised employment- a human tragedy

Waiting for work
It's nine am. In the leafy boulevards of 1960s suburb Nasr City, the traffic is moving slowly around the long, narrow green islands in the middle of the road. People are going to work, in cars, taxis or microbuses. The islands fill the middle of every large road, and are well maintained by gardeners who water the flowers and cut the grass. They serve a double function: they prevent the sudden wayward U-turns which would bring traffic to a standstill, forcing drivers to continue to designated turning points. At the same time, they're a crucial green space for those who cannot afford the parks or private clubs. Later in the day, when the sun is overhead, poorer locals will come here to eat their lunch or take a siesta in the shade.
Nasr City, Cairo, in the morning. 
At this time the air is still cool, despite the white sun in the bright blue sky. Sitting in a long row on the low wall between the traffic and the grass, leaning against the railings, are around thirty men. The younger ones are in jeans and short-sleeved check shirts, the older ones in galabeyyas, the long traditional shirt which has come to signify a low income in modern Cairo. All wear flip-flops.They are chatting, laughing, catching up, smoking. Some have bought black tea in grubby glasses from a young boy with a giant thermos flask.

This is the local unofficial labour market. Between 8 and 11 in the morning, contractors, builders and any others who need workers will come and pick up those they want. They will work for the whole day brick-laying, moving concrete or doing odd jobs for anyone who needs them. Some bring their own shovels or tools to increase their chances of selection. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

An incident

I wanted to go to the fair. It was Sinai Day on Thursday and Friday, and so around the Citadel there was a celebration: just like everywhere; rides, useless merchandise, special food, dancing and music. 

We stopped on the way for coffee with some young men we know who live nearby. With hindsight we shouldn't have done that, because they were instantly concerned and over-protective about an English woman at the fair. They insisted on accompanying us. They're very nice young men and they wanted me to have a good time, but they were worried about my safety in the crowds of celebrating locals. It's funny because there was exactly the same air of jollity and latent danger that you get at the fair on Wanstead Flats in Forest Gate. Fair people have the same air everywhere of cautious friendliness, with a kind of toughness and tension that I guess comes from life on the road. You can feel that they're welcomed but mistrusted. There were the same minor spats between groups of youths that you see in London fairs, the same over-excited youngsters, the same atmosphere of the locals letting their hair down.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Feeling like a 'woman'

Marlene Dietrich- successfully feminine?
I like wearing make-up, even though I can't be bothered to wear it very often, but when I apply it, I always have this strange feeling that I'm failing at something expected of women. This despite my knowledge that judicial application of Maybelline is not much to do with my gender, sexuality or identity. I feel feminine and attractive in a feminine way in general- I never feel ugly by my own standards or by the standards I adopt from the media, but because I'm not very good at applying make-up and spend a lot of time dabbing at black smears with a cotton bud, I feel like I'm inadequate in something I should be able to do.

My mother rarely wears makeup and so no one really taught me- is this something to do with it? Or is it that because I rarely wear it, I'm wearing a costume rather than an every-day ritual/ image?

Women (and everyone else)- what do you think? Do you ever feel like you're failing at some kind of test of your gender identity, and does it make you anxious?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cairo Time- Standing Still While The City Moves On

'Mark warned me about wandering the streets alone. Men keep following me.’ 
‘You’re a beautiful woman.’ 
Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) is a stressed, middle-aged, married woman from Canada. She edits a magazine while her husband works abroad for long stretches in Gaza. Tareq (Alexander Siddig) is a bourgeois café owner who plays chess, smokes Cleopatras and never recovered from a broken heart in his student days in Damascus. When Juliette comes to Cairo to for a dream holiday with her husband and finds he’s still stuck in Palestine, she turns to her husband’s Egyptian ex-colleague. 
Cairo Time, 2009, dir. Rubba Nada, 2009
Of course there are a million different versions of any big city, and I’m not surprised that this world of luxury Zamalek hotels and tense, hot, autumn-leaves romance is a million miles from the Cairo I know. But this film takes a woman and makes her incapable of facing ‘the Orient’ without a male protector. Juliette wanders the streets for a morning before the sexual harassment drives her to seek out Tareq again, and from then on he becomes her guide, her protector, and inevitably her lover. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Eastenders- another East London Whitewash

Whitney Dean has a new job. This may not mean much to you, but for me and 8 million others in the UK it’s great news. Whitney has suffered a lot- sexual abuse as a child, life in care, imposed prostitution, poverty, responsibility for her adoptive brothers and sister, dealing with the incarceration of her adoptive mother. Now she’s going to be able to earn the money she needs for a flat and a fairy-tale marriage with her partner Tyler Moon, and develop the career she wants in childcare. Unless something goes wrong, because we’re talking about Eastenders here, and happy-ever-after endings only really happen when someone wants to leave the show. (And then rarely- there’s been at least 16 murders in 30-odd years).

So why do these screen grabs of Whitney settling in to her after-school assistant post seem so wrong? Where is this school, anyway? It could be Essex (93% White British), or Gloucestershire (95%), or Swansea (92%) at a pinch. What it doesn’t look like is 21st century East London. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jolene- Love, Power and Country Music

Everybody knows Jolene, with her ‘flaming locks of auburn hair, with ivory skin and eyes of emerald green’. This timeless ballad, the story of a woman begging another woman ‘Please don’t take my man’, has, like the songs of Johnny Cash, transcended its humble country origins to strike a jaunty steel guitar chord within the hearts of despairing lovers everywhere. Its message is one of desperation- Jolene has a quality the singer lacks, and could ‘take’ him with ease. The singer is appealing to some kind of sisterhood in her rival, some compassion or solidarity which will lead Jolene to break her magical, sexy, siren hold.