Another Kind of Eugenics

I recently read an article written by the CEO of Netflix Reed Hastings where he stated that getting rid of “less than top performing” employees created a better work environment. They weren’t bad employees. Just not perfect. My immediate response to his version of what I call “Corporate Eugenics” was visceral and intellectual. Was he really arguing that anyone who doesn’t exist in a perpetual state of positivity and productivity in the name of his company’s shareholders is essentially useless? Yes. Yes, he was.

This type of psychopathic thinking not only absolves management from their duties to train and build up their teams, but it also, disturbingly, ignores the reality of human existence itself. Life isn’t perfect. Shit happens. Couples divorce, elderly parents die, children get cancer. All of these circumstances WILL affect a person’s performance at work. You know what else affects people? Working with people unable to get along with their co-workers who might not think or work the same way they do.

I’m sorry if the harshness of reality brings down the shiny false narrative of what many accept as “successful working culture” but it seems to me that a bit of flexible thinking is in order here. Managers at every level are responsible for creating a working environment conducive to professional development. You want a good team? Build one. Create a place where the very real existence of different learning style and personality types is not only acknowledged, but where an individual’s strength’s are recognized and used to a company’s advantage. That kind of leadership, particularly in the age of Covid-19 is what we need most. Stop paying attention to the flashy person with crappy ideas and start acknowledging the quiet person with good ideas.

Alas, according to Hastings, being a “good” employee isn’t good enough any more. Even being “great” isn’t enough. His employees must be great at all times lest they — the human cog — be replaced by a younger, shinier version of themselves. Ones that “fit it.” Because, God forbid people learn to work well with others.

I for one, will resist tooth and nail against this model. First, because it goes against everything I know to be good and decent about human beings. Second, because this model is frighteningly close to that of eugenics. Where people are placed into categories and the merely “adequate” and “weak” are discarded as in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

Lest we devolve further than we already have into a Dickensian nightmare with no opportunities for those over 40, those who think differently organizationally and those of us not extroverted 100% of the time, I propose what society needs now are managers and CEOs who take responsibility for creating toxic company cultures like the one Hastings described. Those who can pull their businesses out of their “positive thinking” echo chambers and embrace diversity of thought and working styles. Those with an ability to ask themselves, “What are my weaknesses?” Those willing to abandon such things as “Keeper Tests” in favor of deeper-level engagement with workers as people. Those strong enough to point the mirror of criticism back onto themselves instead of focusing on the weaknesses of their employees and blaming them when problems arise. Those who ask their workers, “What do you need from me to be more productive?” and then doing their best to make reasonable improvements.

I genuinely do not believe there is an inherent conflict between a financially successful company and a compassionate one. All it takes is a bit of…wait for it…hard work.

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: Brother from Another Planet (1984)

B&S About Movies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) memoir writer for Story Terrace in London. You can read more of her film, books and music reviews at https://www.jennuptonwriter.com and on her blog https://womanycom.wordpress.com.

The best Science Fiction holds a mirror up to the society from which it sprang. Brother From Another Planet (1984) does this in several innovative ways. Written and directed by John Sayles, it tells the story of a three-toed empathic runaway alien slave (T2’s Joe Morton) stranded on earth. Despite the fact he cannot speak and is never named, he is one of the most sympathetic aliens evercommitted to film. He hears and feels the past through surfaces. Upon landing on Ellis Island, he becomes overwhelmed by the voices of the past – a full 36 years before Klaus in The Umbrella Academy.

As much as Morton is the star of the…

View original post 523 more words

Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion: The Creeping Terror (1964)

B&S About Movies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) memoir writer for Story Terrace in London. You can read more of her film, books and music reviews at https://www.jennuptonwriter.com and on her blog https://womanycom.wordpress.com.

For years I searched for the worst movie ever made. I’ve dove deep. So deep, that time and experience have made me realize there is no single title that unequivocally holds that title. Crap is in the eye of the beholder. Nevertheless, The Creeping Terror (1964) is definitely in the running. It is bad in just about every way imaginable.

Is it the good kind of bad? The kind where you can slam back a few shots and laugh harder than at any Rob Schneider movie ever made? Yes. Yes, it is. For even more laughs, watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version. The segment where Mike plays the incredibly monotonous jazz music from the…

View original post 646 more words

HH2020 #7 – Jennifer Upton on “When Michael Calls” (1972) — Horror And Sons

One of my favorite parts of each Halloween Horrors series is when someone covers a film or show that I’ve personally not seen. Today’s entry would be one of those cases. Jennifer Upton of Womanycom.wordpress.com returns for her 3rd year of our October series, this time taking a look at the 1972 made-for-television film When […]

HH2020 #7 – Jennifer Upton on “When Michael Calls” (1972) — Horror And Sons

Halloween Horrors 2020: Theme Announcement & Rules

Horror And Sons

Greetings, you ghastly ghoulies! It’s time to reveal the theme for this year’s Halloween Horrors contributor’s series! However, before we do that, let’s briefly explain what the Halloween Horrors series is, in the rare circumstance that you are just discovering this event for the first time! Ok, maybe it’s not that rare.

I started the Halloween Horrors series back in 2015 as a way for a few friends of the site (most of whom are longtime friends in my “real” life) and myself to celebrate the Halloween season (that so many of us love and eagerly anticipate each new year) with articles, reviews, essays, and personal accounts; highlighting the films that remind us of the Halloween season.  As the series has continued, attracting new contributors each year, I started adding a “theme”; a general guideline that entrants had to attempt to adhere to when selecting the topic that they chose to…

View original post 1,155 more words

He’s Not Your Slave: A Chat with The Godfathers’ Peter Coyne

2020 has been a blowout for the live music scene in the UK. The Covid-19 pandemic assured there would be no more gigs from mid-March. It’s now August and nobody knows what the future will hold. Despite this uncertainty, there are quite a few bands making and releasing new music. The Godfathers are such a band.

Formed from the remnants of The Sid Presley Experience in 1985, They are probably most-known for their 1989 album More Songs About Love and Hate, and have undergone a break-up and more than a few line-up changes since re-forming in 2007. Their latest release is a double A-side single featuring I’m Not Your Slave and Wild and Free.

This band has always had a diverse pool of influences from which to draw including punk, proto-punk, and R&B. I’m Not Your Slave is the stronger of the two new tracks, with a punkier sound and a catchy main guitar riff.  Wild and Free veers off into an area just bordering southern rock but never crossing the line. A solid effort, but perhaps not as strong as 2017’s A Big Bad Beautiful Noise, their last full studio album.

Singer/songwriter Peter Coyne recently answered my questions about the band’s latest via email. 

The band recorded these two songs immediately prior to lockdown. Both deal with issues of oppression and freedom. On the one hand, they’re written to sound very personal, and on the other, they could be interpreted in the context of broader UK current events. In what way do you think they reflect what is happening in the UK right now?

I like to write lyrics that hopefully have multi-meanings…I would never want to tell somebody what they are specifically about or how they should interpret them – whatever they might mean to a listener anywhere is what’s important and that might change from day to day depending on their mood. So yes, they are songs about a personal relationship as much as a political one…I’d like to think a woman could sing ‘I’m Not Your Slave’ with none of the lyrics being changed. Lisa Kekaula from The Bellrays would do a tremendous job on that number, probably far better than me!! Both of the songs were composed in September/October last year and recorded in March this year just before lockdown kicked in in the UK – but in the strangest way they seem to chime with current events. There was another number we also wrote last year called ‘Dead In Los Angeles’ that was a contender for the double A side, but it might have been tasteless to release that song when people are actually dying in L.A. That song is, of course not about that fucking horrible Coronavirus – it’s about the final night on planet earth of a rock and roll star. It’s an exciting, epic number which we will definitely include on the next Godfathers’ studio album, which is set for release in 2021.

The two new songs are just as angry as anything you’ve ever done. Going back to your Anti-Thatcherite lyrics from the 1980s, does it ever feel like nothing has changed and it’s just as easy to write a song about everything that’s wrong with the world today as it was then?

Thank you! Well, not all our songs are political, just some of them! You can’t ignore what’s going on outside your window. That would be extremely foolish. But if you don’t do politics, then politics will do you…anyway I have always liked songs that have some kind of edgy social commentary in them, interesting. There is a grand tradition in rock and roll for songs of that ilk – ‘Summertime Blues’, ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Kick Out The Jams’, ‘God Save The Queen’ etc, etc. The Godfathers have always tried to make our contribution to that tradition with tracks like ‘This Damn Nation’, ‘Birth School Work Death’, ‘If I Only Had Time’, ‘Unreal World’ or ‘A Big Bad Beautiful Noise’. But these songs have to be fun too, entertaining – this is the true essence of rock and roll. I don’t like bands who lecture or pontificate, that is boring to me and pointless. Unfortunately, with the way things are with society, there will always be plenty of fuel for my artistic fire. I really wish there wasn’t and would much prefer to live in a utopia…but that’s not likely to happen, is it?

On your last album, you did a song called Miss America, where you paint a picture of the United States as that of a fading beauty queen. A lot has happened since 2017 when the song came out. Given all that has transpired, how do you see America now? Is the beauty queen old, on life support or is she already dead, rotting away slowly in the heat of summer 2020?

That’s a good song, ‘Miss America’! It’s definitely not about putting the USA or Americans down – I have many, many friends in America and a lot of family members there, too. America is a great country, but it has enormous problems that need resolving. It is quite clearly going through an enormous shift at present. Do I have the answers? – no, I certainly don’t. But, I wish you all the very best in your search for the very best solutions.

Has your approach to creating music changed over the years with the various line-up changes in the band? 

Well, I still use pen and paper to write lyrics! I have learned though to be much more spontaneous in creating songs, trusting in my initial instincts instead of labouring for weeks and months. The guys in The Godfathers now – drummer Billy Duncanson, guitarists Richie Simpson and Wayne Vermaak, and bass player Jon Priestley – are all super talented musicians and the creation of new material with them is a total pleasure. Obviously we take it all very seriously, but we like to have fun while we are doing it too….when things become a chore or a routine that’s really the time to stop. As Paul McCartney once said, you play music; you don’t work at it,

What is the band getting up to in lockdown? Are you writing or recording demos from your respective homes? 

Trying to survive and stay alive and look after our families is obviously our priority. Then waiting for the barbers to re-open so we can all get our hair cut!! But yes, we are all writing songs individually at home at the moment and bouncing them back and forth over the internet. Billy, Richie and myself live in Bonny Scotland and Wayne and Jon live in Merry Olde England and when lockdown eases sufficiently in both countries to travel we will all get together and collectively whip up all this new material. We haven’t seen each other since we finished recording the double A side single on March 19th and I miss those guys and their company! We have got rehearsals set up for August and September now though and we’re all seriously looking forward to that. We want to make the next Godfathers’ studio album an absolute killer, something truly ultra-special.

Provided the world returns to “normal” in 2021 (or sooner), what are the band’s plans both short and long-term? 

To keep writing and then eventually recording some more great numbers – like I said we are all on a mission to deliver a fantastic, kick ass album and we won’t rest until we have achieved that. Then depending on the Coronavirus situation around the planet, we would like to resume touring in 2021. We had some fabulous tours, festivals and gigs all round the world planned for this year we had to postpone when this awful, shitty pandemic struck. So hopefully we will get to play all of those and much more next year. The Godfathers have had a great past, but we want to do our utmost to ensure we have a glittering future too.

GF2

The Godfathers’ new double A side ‘I’m Not Your Slave’ and ‘Wild And Free’ is available NOW in a limited edition, clear red vinyl 7 inch single and limited edition 4 track CD only from http://www.thegodfathers.bigcartel.com/

History in the Making: Bassist Alvin Gibbs Discusses his latest EP with The Disobedient Servants

IMG_3390

Completed before the global Covid-19 pandemic – the most historically significant event in a generation – Alvin Gibbs and the Disobedient Servant’s aptly titled History EP is a solid effort, displaying both growth and reliability in the trio’s second outing.

History serves up four new songs, each distinct in style as the band members themselves.

94978713_1161048000898060_3923397026544353280_n

Bad About You, written and by guitarist Leigh Heggarty who also performs lead vocal duties, is perfect for radio. A catchy song that stays in the listener’s head after hearing it a few times. The title track is bluesy, chocked full of bass runs and lyrics reflecting the time Gibbs spent studying for a degree in the song’s subject.

The second half of the tetrad is rawer than the first. If Only – penned by drummer Jamie Oliver- and Pavlovian (Gibbs) are both examples of punk at its finest with fist-pumping rhythms guaranteed to please audiences looking to pogo when the band hits the road again.

On stage is where this band shines brightest. Despite having very little rehearsal time, last year’s shows supporting their first album, Your Disobedient Servant was noted by many in attendance as among the tightest they’d ever seen for a newly formed outfit. Gibbs has assembled his crew wisely, drawing from both the UK Subs and Ruts DC, currently two of the hardest-working touring bands in punk.

94929346_714624785944031_8868612015992602624_n

With all live events on hold, Gibbs has not slowed down. Along with writing new songs for future Servants’ records, he is putting the finishing touches on his latest book Diminished Responsibility: My Time as a UK Sub and Other Strange Stories due in early July.

Mr. Gibbs kindly answered questions about his latest EP via email from his home in the south of France. No doubt with a glass of regional red wine within arm’s reach.

You’ve played on and off in other bands for your whole career. What made you decide in 2018 this was the time to finally put out a solo effort?

It had been suggested to me on numerous occasions by the likes of Charlie Harper (I don’t think he was trying to get rid of me from the Subs!) and others who have enjoyed my compositions and occasional modest vocal performances on various albums, but I always thought it smacked a little of indulgence and vanity. Then, whilst on a drive to Warsaw with the Subs’ Polish promoter Krzsztof Lach, he finally convinced me that it would be nothing of the sort and that a decent amount of folk would welcome a solo album from me – that was the other consideration, would it be commercially viable, would enough people actually purchase the record to cover recording cost, etc? Also, I had just reached the age of sixty so it became a case of now or never, and I opted for now and, as it happens, the first run of the album sold out in two weeks.

Was there anything you were looking to achieve or expand on (either lyrically or musically) between the first album and History?  

Keeping up the quality control both lyrically and musically was important of course. The solo album turned out to be so much better than I thought it would, therefore I was determined that this release would be a worthy follow-up and not a disappointment to either myself or those who acquired it. Having brilliant musicians like Leigh Heggarty from Ruts DC and my UK Subs’ rhythm section cohort, Jamie Oliver, play on this record certainly guaranteed a level of excellence that would have been sorely lacking without their involvement. I hope we’ve managed to again lyrically and musically provoke and entertain.

You’ve been in a lot of bands over the years. Are you enjoying being a leader for a change? What kind of leader are you?

I guess you could say I’m a benign dictator, certainly not a tyrant! No, seriously, although I’m aware I hold a tacit position of leadership in the Disobedient Servants I’m very open to suggestions and input from those I collaborate with and I actively encourage Leigh and Jamie and whoever else to might be involved in recording or playing live with us at the time, to challenge any ideas I might offer up whether they be musical or, more broadly, strategies or promotions for the advancement of the band. I learnt some of this from my time playing bass guitar with Iggy Pop. Although Iggy was obviously the undisputed leader, you could go to him with a new arrangement idea for a song or suggest some new material be added to the set from his large back catalogue and he would enthusiastically hear you out and, in most cases, adopt your suggestions. He realised the motivation in nearly all instances was to improve our performances, which in turn would reflect well on him. I’m the same. The best way to command a band’s respect and loyalty is to involve them as much as you can in the decision making without unduly compromising your own personal vision for the sound, look and performance-side of, what after all is ultimately a collective endeavor.

I’d like to dig a bit deeper into the title track History. In it, you weave a Bayeux Tapestry-like story that is simultaneously broad and very personal. You reference Nero and Vlad the Impaler and also your own personal life. Describe the genesis of the song.

I’m a self-declared history nerd. I’ve always been passionate about the subject and a few years ago obtained a BA Honours Degree in history from the Open University. When I tell people about my love of this topic a fair few start mumbling about how wearisome and irrelevant the subject is to them. That’s because they view history merely as old events, battles, wars, dates to be remembered at school such as 1066 or 1666, men in wigs, kings and queens. What they don’t realise is history is all encompassing, and personal too – yes, it is about those things listed above, but it’s also about the occasion your grandparents met, the day you divorced you husband or wife, the night you heard the song that changed your life, the technological advancements through the years that led to the accomplishment of that smartphone that resides in your pocket or the body scanning machine at your local hospital. In fact, far from being immaterial to our lives, history is actually all we have. The present is fleeting (even as I write these words, they are fast becoming a part of recent history), the future has not yet occurred, so we are ultimately left with that vast ocean called the past from which we’ve all emerged and that created the people we are today. My lyrical motivation for the song was an attempt to elucidate this.

If punk had its own Bayeux Tapestry starting in the mid ‘70s, continuing on to today, how do you see yourself within it?

Wow, that’s a tough question. I think I would have started out as one of those Saxon warriors in the shield wall but having lost the battle and survived (I’m nothing if not a survivor), would have been open to the Norman influence and tried to amalgamate it’s culture with my own rather than be a bitter survivors who constantly succumbs to nostalgia and endlessly moans about the loss of Saxon purity and the death and defeat of king Harold.

As a journeyman musician you have witnessed history and adapted to many changes over the years to within the recording industry. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen since you started? 

By far the biggest has been the technological and business transformations, one serving to alter the other. When I first began playing as a rock musician in the 1970s every band aspired to join a record label in order to pay for and release albums and singles. Due to the technological revolution pretty much anyone can now make a record in their bedroom and have an instant audience via internet platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. There is no need for a middleman anymore. These tech advances have allowed bands and musicians to go DIY in the recording of albums and in the promotion of them. Plus, virtually everyone owns a smartphone these days, and if you have a smartphone you also have a camera, allowing for a wealth of photographic material for bands to call upon from social media sites to use for promotional and record design purposes. Technology has transformed the music business for both the good and, occasionally, for the worse.

If you could interact with your younger self. The kid listening to T-Rex in his bedroom, what advice would you give him?

Just keep doing what you’re doing kid. You’re on the right path.

What are the future plans for the band both short and long term?

We are presently in the midst of a worldwide pandemic with countries prohibiting the movement and the gathering of people, so the prospects of doing anything regarding live work with the band for the short term are not looking too good. In the long term, I firstly want to fulfill the dates we’ve had to cancel in May and June, hopefully rescheduling them for the end of the year or, failing that, early in 2021. Secondly, I think we should record a new album around that time too. To this end I’ve been using the lockdown situation here in France productively to write new material for this forthcoming album and work on a fresh set with some new songs for when, mercifully, we can again play show as your Disobedient Servants.

History and Diminished Responsibility: My Time as a UK Sub and Other Strange Stories are both available now for pre-order at http://timematterrecordings.bigcartel.com

His first book, Some Weird Sin – On Tour with Iggy Pop candidly chronicles Gibbs’ adventures on Iggy’s 1988 Instinct tour and is widely available in paperwork at all the usual online booksellers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live and Let Die (1973)

B&S About Movies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: An American living in London, Jennifer Upton is a freelance writer for International publishers Story Terrace and others. In addition, she has a blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi called Womanycom.

Fans of James Bond all have their favorite era. Live and Let Die (1973) is the eighth Bond film in the franchise and the first to star Roger Moore. Having cut his teeth on the British TV shows The Saint and The Persuaders, Moore proved himself to be a perfect Bond and went on to play the character six more times.

Released at the apex of the blaxploitation era, the film features many African-American stars from films in that genre, some used to great affect and others not so much. Yaphet Kotto is great as Kananga/Mr. Big. The clever gangster who -through the use of an alter-ego- both produces and distributes heroin throughout the United States…

View original post 437 more words

Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris (1999)

B&S About Movies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: An American living in London, Jennifer Upton is a freelance writer for International publishers Story Terrace and others. In addition, she has a blog where she frequently writes about horror and sci-fi called Womanycom.

In the mid-1990s, Japan’s Daiei (later Kadokawa) films resurrected their 1960s competitor to Toho’s Godzilla series, Gamera. A giant flying turtle-like creature nicknamed “the friend to all children.” 1995’s Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was a considerably more adult film than its predecessors and was a hit with adults and youngsters alike, prompting the sequels Gamera: The Advent of Legion in 1996 and Gamera 3: The Awakening of Iris in 1999 – all written and directed by the very talented Shusuke Kaneko. The first two films in the trilogy are very good. This movie is great. It’s not just a monster movie, it’s an art picture. It’s the Kaiju film that set a new standard in…

View original post 586 more words

Positivity in a Time of Pandemic

Two years ago, I wrote an article titled “Polarity of the Mind.” The ideas presented are more relevant than ever in these current times where many of us feel anxious about the evolving Coronavirus pandemic. I have built on the original article and updated it here within that context.

Corona Graphic

One of my jobs is the ghost-writer of autobiographies. People tell me their life histories and I write them in their voice. Over several projects, it became apparent that individuals remember the negative events with considerably more clarity than the positive ones.

For example, I recall vividly falling into a campfire and receiving a third-degree burn on my leg in the summer of ’82, but I cannot tell you what I got for Christmas that year. I can remember every negative comment made by the opposite sex about my looks going all the way back to kindergarten. It’s harder to recall the compliments. This can have a massive effect on a person’s general outlook and self-esteem in life.

Broadly, we can organize interactions in our lives into three categories: Positive, negative and neutral.

Examples:

Positive = You receive a compliment on your hair.

Negative = You are told by your boss they will not implement your new idea.

Neutral = A barista takes your order.

Research shows that for every one negative experience, it takes a full five to counterbalance it (1). Since our brains are wired with a bias towards negativity, neutral experiences can also become negative. For instance, if someone spends a lot of time planning and cooking a meal for their friend and they do not receive gratitude for the effort (perhaps the friend had a bad day at work or just forgot to say thank you) then the feelings associated are those of indifference and neglect. The friend didn’t say the food sucked, but they said nothing at all and sometimes that is worse. So the neutral becomes negative.

Besides interpersonal interactions, we are also under constant bombardment from the media telling us we aren’t good enough and we all need X product to feel positive. We hear about school shootings and corrupt politicians.

With the Coronavirus pandemic in full swing, we are forced to self-isolate and it seems that there is very little good news in the world. With such overwhelming negativity all around us, what can we do to feel positive or at the very least, balance the polarity?

First, we can try to focus on the good things in our own lives. Try not to allow the neutral become the negative. Accept your flaws and move forward. Try not to let it get to you when someone disregards your own politeness, help or is an outright asshole.

Turn off the news. If you have a pet, play with it. Read a favourite book or watch a film. If you are musician, pick up your instrument. Go for a walk in a wooded area and observe nature. For centuries, the Japanese have called this “forest bathing” but it is only recently western scientists have studied the physical and psychological benefits of spending mindful time in nature.

We can also attempt to help others to create good memories. Be mindful of someone who looks like they might need a kind word, no matter how insignificant it might seem. Utilise the technology and message your friends and family to check up on them.

When this is all over and society returns to normal, if you’re at a restaurant, and the food is good, tell someone. Instead of sitting silent when a co-worker makes a good suggestion, speak the words “good idea.” Compliment your friends on whatever it is they do well and thank them for their efforts, even if they fall short.

Tell your spouse how much you appreciate the way they do that silly, insignificant thing that makes you laugh. It may be the 1st positive thing that this person hears that day. Or it may be the 5th that changes their whole outlook and remembrance of that day or week forever. It’s really not that hard.

We all want our autobiographies filled with good memories. Particularly now. But we can’t do that on entirely on our own.