The people said that the elephant had come suddenly upon him round the corner of the hut, caught him with its trunk, put its foot on his back and ground him into the earth. This was the rainy season and the ground was soft, and his face had scored a trench a foot deep and a couple of yards long. He was lying on his belly with arms crucified and head sharply twisted to one side. His face was coated with mud, the eyes wide open, the teeth bared and grinning with an expression of unendurable agony. (never tell me, by the way, that the dead look peaceful. Most of the corpses I have seen looked devilish.) The friction of the great beast's foot had stripped the skin from his back as neatly as one skins a rabbit. As soon as I saw the dead man I sent an orderly to a friend's house nearby to borrow an elephant rifle. I had already sent back the pony, not wanting it to go mad with fright and throw me if it smelt the elephant.
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I remember that it was a cloudy, stuffy morning at homework the beginning of the rains. We began questioning the people as to where the elephant had gone and, as usual, failed to get any definite information. That is invariably the case in the east; a story always sounds clear enough at a distance, but the nearer you get to the scene of events the vaguer it becomes. Some of the people said that the elephant had gone in one direction, some said that he had gone in another, some professed not even to have heard of any elephant. I had almost made up my mind that the whole story was a pack of lies, when we heard yells a little distance away. There was a loud, scandalized cry of "go away, child! Go away this instant!" and an old woman with a switch in her hand came round the corner of a hut, violently shooing away a crowd of naked children. Some more women followed, clicking their tongues and exclaiming; evidently there was something that the children ought not to have seen. I rounded the hut and saw a man's dead body sprawling in the mud. He was an Indian, a black Dravidian coolie, almost naked, and he could not have been dead many minutes.
I took my rifle, an old 44 Winchester and much too small to kill an elephant, but I thought the noise might be useful in terrorem. Various Burmans stopped me on the way and told me about the elephant's doings. It was not, of course, a wild elephant, but a tame one which had gone "must." It had been chained up, as tame elephants always are when their attack of "must" is due, but on the previous night it had broken its chain and escaped. Its mahout, the only person who could manage it when it was in that state, had set out in pursuit, but had taken the wrong direction and was now twelve hours' journey gps away, and in the morning the elephant had suddenly reappeared in the town. The burmese population had no weapons and were quite helpless against. It had already destroyed somebody's bamboo hut, killed a cow and raided some fruit-stalls and devoured the stock; also it had met the municipal rubbish van and, when the driver jumped out and took to his heels, had turned the van over and inflicted violences. The burmese sub-inspector and some Indian constables were waiting for me in the quarter where the elephant had been seen. It was a very poor quarter, a labyrinth of squalid bamboo huts, thatched with palmleaf, winding all over a steep hillside.
I did not even know that the British Empire is dying, still less did i know that it is a great deal better than the younger empires that are business going to supplant. All i knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire i served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. With one part of my mind I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down, in saecula saeculorum, upon the will of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive. Feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian official, if you can catch him off duty. One day something happened which in a roundabout way was enlightening. It was a tiny incident in itself, but it gave me a better glimpse database than I had had before of the real nature of imperialism the real motives for which despotic governments act. Early one morning the sub-inspector at a police station the other end of the town rang me up on the phone and said that an elephant was ravaging the bazaar. Would I please come and do something about it? I did not know what I could do, but I wanted to see what was happening and I got on to a pony and started out.
There were several thousands of them in the town and none of them seemed to have anything to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans. All this was perplexing and upsetting. For at that time i had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing and the sooner I chucked up my job and got out of it the better. Theoretically and secretly, of course i was all for the burmese and all against their oppressors, the British. As for the job I was doing, i hated it more bitterly than I can perhaps make clear. In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the grey, cowed faces of the long-term convicts, the scarred buttocks of the men who had been flogged with bamboos all these oppressed me with an intolerable sense of guilt. But I could get nothing into perspective. I was young and ill-educated and I had had to think out my problems in the utter silence that is imposed on every Englishman in the east.
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Yesterday we were kids, and tomorrow we'll be old, and we think we're the same people we were, despite all evidence to the contrary. But sometimes we play music that lets us be us then and us now and us still to come, and it's all worth it, every non minute, every aching second, every gaping now. Neil gaiman January 2018). An essay by george Orwell, first published in the literary magazine. New Writing in 1936. In moulmein, in Lower Burma, i was hated by large numbers of people the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen.
I was sub-divisional police officer of the town, and in an aimless, petty kind of way anti-european feeling was very bitter. No one had the guts to raise a riot, but if a european woman went through the bazaars alone somebody would probably spit betel juice over her dress. As a police officer I was an obvious target and was baited whenever it seemed safe to. When a nimble burman tripped me up on the football field and the referee (another Burman) looked the other way, the crowd yelled with hideous laughter. This happened more than once. In the end the sneering yellow faces of young men that met me everywhere, the insults hooted after me when I was at a safe distance, got badly on my nerves. The young Buddhist priests were the worst of all.
I'm writing this a two minute walk from what i am told was once the finest analog recording studio in the us, now a home for a man who hoards broken things. The locals whisper that it's now a meth lab, but that's just the kind of small town gossip you hear about the odd and the frangible. Everything went digital and the world went bland. In American small towns opiates really have become the religion of the masses, pills that have escaped their prescriptions pushed to dull the ache of living. The music I loved loses value and importance as it becomes audio wallpaper: Spotify as muzak.
And then, all Nerve arrives and it's as if no time at all has passed. Music slices us in time, and I get to remember what it means to be excited by music all over again. For a start, All Nerve sounds like a breeders album: it's not retro, it's not 90's, it just is what it is: smart rock music with a breeders sound and an oblique breeders point of view. There is too much information now. We could pay people not to know things on our behalf, pay them to forget our surplus knowledge. Still, kim deal is songwriting, deadpan vocals and guitar, kelley deal is still guitar and vocals, josephine wiggs is still steady on bass and vocals (and she co-writes two songs and Jim MacPherson is still the rockingest of drummers. And I don't know much about the songs: I play them over and over, a sequence that burns through my brain. Nervous Mary, wait in the car, All Nerve, metagoth (Josephine's words, based on a found poem written by her mother Spacewoman, walking with a killer, howl at the summit (with courtney barnett's mob on background vocals Archangels Thunderbird (an Amon dül ii cover, and also. People change over the years, and we hope that the we that is us never changes.
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I loaded it onto my ipod summary and the Breeders followed me along the silk road in China. The flatness of affect, the intersection between noise and intelligence that i expected from the Breeders was there, along with a surprising gentleness, an unexpected kindness. Now I'm twice the age i was when I first heard Kim deal sing, and I live an ocean away from the English village in which I first played. All of the things that were going to fuller make life brighter and easier make life stranger and more confusing. Nothing feels as good as it used to feel, nothing tastes like it did. I used to think that the world was run by conspiracies of brilliant people. Now I would love to feel that there was any agenda, other than short-sighted greed and power-hungry bluster.
I was moving to America, to a little wisconsin village, and I played both albums over and over as I wrote. I loved the feeling in the songs that there was something plan I couldn't touch, something that slipped through my fingers if I tried to articulate. It was what it was, and the sound was something that felt like late nights and old neon signs and people who stare at you from the shadows. I had a disturbed and shadowy cat named Pod whom almost nobody ever saw. In 2002 I went back to sandman for the first time in five years, and the Breeders. Title tk came out. The title was a meta-title, almost a joke, but the music was as sharp as ever and no joke at all. Mountain Battles, with its glorious vaughn Oliver cover, came out when my life was upside down, in the weeks between my divorce and my meeting the woman that I would, three years later, marry. I played it as I drove.
inspired song of murder and addiction. It's my favourite beatles song and that seemed appropriate. Pod is a sequence of songs that come towards you, unstoppable, not needing to be liked. Not to be anything except themselves, glorious in their emotional flatness. The berlin wall had crumbled and technology would save us all, and there was a new optimism in the air, and despite the optimism the Breeders music felt like a note of warning. Melodic and discordant all at the same time, women's voices singing from the darkness, uncompromising; not soft, not strident, more like a chorus of ghosts, their faces set and expressionless, singing to us while fighting to feel emotions, to feel something. After, pod came the, safari. Ep and then, last Splash.
I owned a tiny black and white television that sat on the corner of my the desk, and kept me company when I wrote, all alone, too late at night, playing badly dubbed European Detective shows, late night rock shows, cheap television. Somewhere in 1989 it played a pixies video. A week later I had every pixies cd you could find in London record shops. I loved the aesthetic as much as the music: the vaughn Oliver art and typefaces. I didn't know who these people were. . I was 29 years old, writing Sandman, in England, with two small children. I bought the. Pod, and I wrote, sandman to the jangly Breeders music.
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People change over the years, and plan the you that is you never changes. Yesterday you were a kid, and tomorrow you'll be old, and you think you're the same person you were, despite all evidence to the contrary. Music slices you in time. Once upon a time we lived in a world of information scarcity. We knew too little about things, and finding out about what we loved took time and effort and money and luck. The first time i heard of Kim deal, it was because the co-owner of Dark carnival, the bookstore in San Francisco i was signing in had been mistaken for her the night before by a waiter, who had taken her protestations that she was. I now knew a band called the pixies existed.