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Another Song In the Key Of Strife - The Misanthrope

I have no idea what the word misanthrope means - not what it actually means. It sounds like a combination of misery and strop. I think it describes someone who looks at humanity through a prism of misery, is unhappy with their world view, to the point that they go away and strop about it.

Driving through Somerset the other day, the car cd played 'Regeneration' (surely a positive word) by The Divine Comedy (does not sound misanthropic at all). Led by songwriter Neil Hannon who (my memory might be playing tricks on me) I most commonly associate with the word Misanthrope having read reviews of his work. If my memory is deceiving me I must be thinking of Luke Haines of the Auteurs and Black Box Recording. In which case my musings on misanthrope are way off beam and i'm sorry to be wasting everyones time.

I try to listen to music but sometimes my mind wanders and i must admit the Divine Comedy were not receiving my full attention when track 9, 'Mastermind', ushered in these words:

"Well, we all need reassurance as we play life's game of endurance
Like a nice cup of tea or a cigarette
But don't lean too long on your crutches, or you'll fall straight into the clutches
Of those who see free expression as a threat
You don't need a law degree to set your mind and spirit free
So tell me what the hell is normal and who the hell is sane?
And why the hell care anyway?
All the dreams that we have had are gonna prove that we're all mad and that's OK"

Now if i'm right about the meaning of misanthrope then some of those words might fit with misery strop (depending on your world view): 'need reassurance', 'endurance', 'clutches', 'threat', 'hell', 'why.... care', 'we're all mad'.

But there are also fine consolations, simple pleasures, 'a nice cup of tea or a cigarette'. These things might be able to help you hold on, survive a little longer. There's the idea that we should freely express our bodily actions, thoughts and feelings and to feel right to take the opportunity to let others see and hear them. Importantly the notion that as bad or as good as it gets, unlike in the Cameronic version, we are really all in this together; 'we're all mad' to live in this society with its oppressive ways 'and that's ok'. It seems that impairment whether mental or physical is positively represented in the words of Neil Hannon depending on how your read it.

So what is a misanthrope? An online dictionary defines it as: the general hatred, mistrust or dislike of the human species or human nature. A misanthrope, or misanthropist is someone who holds such view or feeling. The word's origin is from Greek words μῖσος (misos, "hatred") and ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos, "man, human")

Having reread some reviews on I think I have unfairly maligned Neil and that the word more commonly finds residence with Luke Haines. Sorry about that. But I did tell you that my mind wanders and memory plays its tricks

Posted by , 22 May 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 22 May 2012

Self Service Psychiatry

I attended a CPA yesterday. Care Programme Approach Meeting. It was the first one that my partner had been granted since 2008. She is supposed to have two a year. This was glossed over quickly by the psychiatrist who explained the lack of intervention through the excuse of reorganisation. We reorganise the office, the department, the co-working, we do all this and service users expect to be included, cared for, they go as far as asking for tolerance.

Straight off he’s dealing with his assessment forms.

Are you delusional?
Do you know what delusional is?
It’s where you think you are being spied on.
Is it?
Do you understand that it is?
If you say so.
Good then you know what delusional is and you are not because I have explained it to you and you agree with me so we can agree that you are not delusional.

I try to break the yoke.

Would you like to introduce yourself?
I am the psychiatrist.
Does the psychiatrist have a name?
Yes of course I do.
Would the psychiatrist like to tell us what his name is?
I am Dr Astrepoloupazine.
I am sorry I did not get that I am partially deaf.
I am Dr Strepoloopaclav.
Pardon. I cannot hear you.

There is no need to shout, Doctor whatever your name is. Just calm down. Go slow. Show some sensitivity. Believe that there is an outside chance that everyone in this room is a human being.

I am the psychiatrist. I have a job to do. I have to fill out this form. I have until 5 o’clock. At 5 o’clock the office closes. We will not be able to get out. I might have to give you a prescription too.

I have to leave at 5 to 5.
No the office closes at 5. We will stay until then.
I have to leave at 5 to 5.
But, but, but,
No buts Doctor. My car is parked on a meter. I do not want to pay a £60 fine just because you have a form to fill.
Are you paranoid?
Only about getting a parking ticket.

The following day I am talking to an activist about the quality of customer care. She believes that this is a good analogy for mental health services. If you go out into the world, go to banks, go to shops, you will find that customers get treated like shit so it is in psychiatry. The customer care model fits exactly here. We discuss the possibility of Self Service Psychiatry.

Stand in a queue. Go to a machine. Press A for facile, B for couldn’t care less, C for stupid, D for confrontational. I press D. An hologram of my psychiatrist appears.

I am your psychiatrist. Why are you wasting my time.

Posted by Rich Downes, 10 May 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 11 May 2012

Long Die The Tragedy Model

Good Grief! How did we miss this classic?

Was it through our own grief at the passing of Jack Ashley?

Anyway, how this came about. I was playing around with the Gustave Flaubert image that appears in my blog below. I had the idea to change the background to red on one occassion, blue on another, orange on another and blue and orange to signify the coalition. I was wondering who I might represent the 'You What' instead of Gustave. I immediately thought of Jack Ashley. David Blunkett ran through my mind as did Ann Begg

Looking for a caricature of Jack I found this quote on the ITV website. they accredited it to Ed Milliband.

My how far we have fallen, how much we have lost. Tragic, Loss and Courage indeed Ed.

Posted by Rich Downes, 5 May 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 6 May 2012

What Is Writing Really?

Questions WIth Gustave Flaubert

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. Gustave Flaubert

I'm not sure if I believe that Gustave.

Lately it feels that the art of writing is the art of exploring what i don't know. Richard Downes

What do you think?



Posted by Rich Downes, 5 May 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 6 May 2012

Sad Americana

A couple of years ago just around christmas time I lost in quick succession and no longer in any order Vic Chesnutt, Mark Linkous and Jack Rose - 3 musicians that constantly delighted me.


Vic and Mark went through suicide. Jack a heart attack.


I was reminded of this listening to Lambchop's Mr M, their latest album, dedicated to the memory of Vic. Some at DAO will remember Vic has a wheelchair user. I remember, reading an unsympathetic review of one of his albums in DAIL (Disability Arts In London). He was criticised for not singing about disability. I think the album was Silver Lake. Seems to me that he sang about life from the perspective of a disabled person but never labelled, never specified, never defined the reaason for his hurt, his slant on love. There are artists who sing songs that put me in mind of institutional lawns. Vic did that. Nick Drake being another - though Nick's lawns probably referred to school or college; the institutions that he knew best after family.


Nick is purported to have been a manic depressive. Which is a link that takes me from Vic to Mark Linkous. Vic, Mark and Nick. A holy trinity of  songwriters. Mark was the guiding light behind Sparklehorse whose mournful music enchanted me and took me off to dream land. The man was well connected. Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, David Lynch, Danger Mouse, The Cardigans all guested on his albums as might have Michael Stipe, another friend of Vic's.


Jack Rose was not a singer songwriter. He was simply the best of current guitarists working in a rustic, rural folk idiom. You could compare him with John Fahey, Sandy Bull, Robbie Basho, Michael Chapman and Peter Walker. He died of an heart attack at the age of 38. I was amazed at how old he was. Yet 38 is nothing. Its just he seemed to take a long, long time to get established. Though he had a prior career with; I think Pelt, who I am yet to explore. I don't even know if he was a disabled person. I just know his music and the rough time of his passing.


Like Vic, Mark and Jack never seemed to explore impairment in a laboured, labelled, this is what its like kind of way. But if you listen in, if you are drawn in, i think you'll find something there. Sadness and celebration. A difference. A diversity of ideas. Possible references. Feeling and feelings.


I think its worth it. One day i'm going to review their work just to see what comes out. In the meantime should anyone want to follow these leads I hope you find pleasure like i did.


Here's some videos

Vic Chesnutt and Lambchop

Dangermouse & Sparklehorse feat. Vic Chestnutt

Nick Drake

Jack Rose

Posted by , 3 May 2012