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Monthly Archives: October 2016

Singer talks about her dislike for going on the road and her battle with depression in Vanity Fair interview

The singer Adele has revealed she would be happy if she never had to tour again, in an interview that also covered her long battle with depression and what she described as her very dark side.

The multi-Grammy Award winning songwriter said she would continue to make music, but was content to lose out on lucrative live tours and never to appear on stage again.

She told Vanity Fair magazine: Id still like to make records, but Id be fine if I never heard [the applause] again. Im on tour simply to see everyone whos been so supportive. I dont care about money.

The 10-time Grammy winning musician, whose hits include Someone Like You and Rolling in the Deep, is nearing the end of a 10-month tour with her album, 25.

Adele told the magazine that the death of her grandfather when she was a child sparked her depression and that she had undergone therapy to tackle the illness.

The 28-year-old, born Adele Adkins in Tottenham, north London, also spoke of having postnatal depression after the birth of her son, Angelo, four.

She is quoted in the December issue as saying: I have a very dark side. Im very available to depression. I can slip in and out of it quite easily.

It started when my grandad died, when I was about 10, and while I never had a suicidal thought, I have been in therapy, lots.

But I havent had that feeling since I had my son and snapped out of my postpartum depression, she added. I had really bad postpartum depression after I had my son, and it frightened me.

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The drama continues between Mariah Carey and James Packer — and now the superstar singer claims she was NOT hooking up with a backup dancer for one VERY good reason!

As you’ll remember from this week, reports came out that Carey had developed a very close relationship with dancer/choreographer Bryan Tanaka — except a claim of NO premarital sex has it all backwards!

Related: Mariah Carey Glowingly Puts Her Curves On Display

Basically, here’s what’s up: sources close to Carey are dropping hints that any supposed relationship between her and Tanaka is completely false, and that the Dreamlover singer has a LONG rep as a “traditional girl.”

In other words, Carey isn’t one to sleep with men without being married to them — Tanaka and Packer included!!!

Carey and Packer allegedly always had separate rooms in the places they stayed together, and Mariah was adamant about things not getting sexual before what would have been their marriage.

The sources now say that this rep extends to people like Tanaka — and there’s no way Carey would blow her reputation or her morals for a fling like that.

Related: Here Are 10 Perfect Mariah Breakup Songs!

Obviously, that could be a move to save face and throw the trail off Mariah’s relationship behind James’ back… or, as Nick Cannon has talked about quite a bit in the past, perhaps it’s the real deal!

Regardless, things are still very, very bad between Carey and Packer.

What do U think, Perezcious readers?! Do you buy Carey being a wait-until-marriage kind of gal??

Let us know in the comments (below)!!!

[Image via Michael Carpenter/WENN.]

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More new music from Shakira!!!

The Colombian global superstar has teamed up with French rapper Black M. for his new song, Comme Moi.

This is more than just a feature! She sings the chorus and the bridge in English and adlibs in French throughout.

Black M. raps in French, so we’re not sure how this song will do in America. But it sounds like a hit to us!

Reminds us of old school Hips Don’t Lie Shakira!

Check it out above!

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David Olusoga grew up amid racism in Britain in the 70s and 80s. Now, in a groundbreaking new book and TV series, he argues that the story of black Britons, from Afro-Roman times to the present, is key to showing the depth of their Britishness. And, while we exult in black Britons success in culture, fashion and sport, discrimination still blights their lives

When I was a child, growing up on a council estate in the northeast of England, I imbibed enough of the background racial tensions of the late 1970s and 1980s to feel profoundly unwelcome in Britain.

My right, not just to regard myself as a British citizen, but even to be in Britain, seemed contested. Despite our mothers careful protection, the tenor of our times seeped through the concrete walls into our home and into my mind and into my siblings minds. Secretly, I harboured fears that as part of the group identified by chanting neo-Nazis, hostile neighbours and even television comedians as them we might be sent back. This, in our case, presumably meant back to Nigeria, a country of which I had only infant memories and a land upon which my youngest siblings had never set foot.

To thousands of younger black and mixed-race Britons who, thankfully, cannot remember those decades, the racism of the 1970s and 1980s and the insecurities it bred in the minds of black people are difficult to imagine or relate to.

But they are powerful memories for my generation. I was eight years old when the BBC finally cancelled The Black and White Minstrel Show. I have memories of my mother rushing across our living room to change television channels (in the days before remote controls) to avoid her mixed-race children being confronted by grotesque caricatures of themselves on prime-time television. I was 17 when the last of the touring blackface minstrel shows finally disappeared, having clung on for a decade performing in fading ballrooms on the decaying piers of Britains seaside towns.

I grew up in a Britain in which there were pictures of golliwogs on jam jars and golliwog dolls alongside the teddy bears in the toy shop windows. One of the worst moments of my unhappy schooling was when, during the run-up to a 1970s Christmas, we were allowed to bring in our favourite toys. The girl who innocently brought her golliwog doll into our classroom plunged me into a day of humiliation and pain that I still find painful to recall, decades later.

When, in recent years, I have been assured that such dolls, and the words golliwog and wog, are in fact harmless and that opposition to them is a symptom of rampant political correctness, I recall another incident. It is difficult to regard a word as benign when it has been scrawled on to a note, wrapped around a brick and thrown through ones living-room window in the dead of night, as happened to my family when I was 14. That scribbled note reiterated the demand that me and my siblings be sent back.

In the early 21st century, politicians in Whitehall and researchers in thinktanks fret about the failures of ethnic-minority communities to properly integrate into British society. In my childhood, the resistance seemed, to me at least, to come from the opposite direction. Many non-white people felt that while it was possible to be in Britain it was much harder to be of Britain. They felt marked out and unwanted whenever they left the confines of family or community.

Jamaican immigrants arriving at Tilbury Docks in Essex, 22 June 1948 on the Empire Windrush. Photograph: Daily Herald Archive/SSPL via Getty Images

It was a place and a time in which black meant other and black was unquestionably the opposite of British. The phrase black British, with which we are so familiar today, was little heard in those years. In the minds of some it spoke of an impossible duality. In the face of such hostility, many black British people, and their white and mixed-race family members, slipped into a siege mentality, a state of mind from which it has been difficult to entirely escape. What drove us deeper into that citadel of self-reliance and watchful mistrust was not just racial prejudice but a wave of racial violence.

Throughout those embattled years, my mother, somehow, managed to maintain within our family a regime of self-education and self-improvement. It was this internal, familial microculture that slowly drew me to read history. I stumbled upon the subject that was to become my vocation out of a simple love of story and because of a gung-ho fascination with the Second World War that was almost obligatory among boys of that period, whatever their racial background.

The racism that had so deeply affected our lives was given a historical context

Britain in the 1980s was a nation still saturated in the culture and paraphernalia of that conflict. For the white working-class community that I grew up in, the war was the most exciting and significant event ever to collide with our terraced streets and decaying factories. It had changed the lives of my white grandparents, whom I loved deeply, and I was intoxicated by the thought that German bombers had prowled the skies above my home town and that my grandfather had scanned those skies while on watch on the roof of the Vickers Armstrong factory by the Tyne, where he worked building tanks. I wandered into history looking for excitement.

I never expected that there I would encounter black and brown people who were like me and my family. I was alerted to those stories of presence and participation by my white mother and I stumbled across more and more stories of black British people as my interests took me further back, into the 19th and then the 18th century.

In 1986, I came across the book Staying Power by the British journalist Peter Fryer. It was, I believe, the first book I ever bought for myself. This history of the black presence in Britain was published in 1984, the year in which my family had been besieged in our home, and it set the racism that had so deeply affected our lives within a historical context. It allowed me to understand my own experiences as part of a longer story and to appreciate that in an age when black men were dying on the floors of police cells, my own encounters with British racism had been relatively mild. For me and for thousands of black and white people who read Fryers book, its effect was transformative. Fryer took his readers back through the centuries and introduced us to an enormous pantheon of black historical characters, about whom we had previously known nothing.

Those black Britons have been with me ever since. I have visited their graves and read their letters and memoirs. They have become part of British history and in some cases part of the national curriculum.

Staying Power remains a uniquely important book and anyone who has ever written about black history has found themselves referencing it, quoting from it or seeking out some of the myriad of primary sources it drew together. Fryers eloquent chapters offer guidance and provide orientation through a complex and fractured history. Although not the first work of black British history, its impact spread further than most, in part because its publication came at a crucial moment, three years after a wave of riots sparked by hostile policing set ablaze black neighbourhoods of London, Bristol and Liverpool.

The autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, prominent in the British movement for the abolition of the slave trade. Photograph: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

There was a terrible symmetry to the fact that the most serious and sustained of the early 1980s riots took place in the cities from which the slave-traders had set sail in the 17th and 18th centuries. Cities that had been enriched by the slave trade and the sugar business saw fires set and barricades erected by young people who were the distant descendants of those human cargos. Not far from the flickering flames of the Bristol riots, a statue of Edward Colston, a slave trader and member of the Royal African Company in the 17th century, looked on as the police were driven out of the black St Pauls district.

The riots of the early 1980s were profoundly different from the disturbances of 1919, 1948 and 1958, all of which were at various times described as race riots but were mostly outbursts of violence in which white gangs targeted black people and communities. This was not the case in the 1980s. These riots have been called uprisings.

They were fought by young black people in response to years of systematic persecution and prejudice. They were destructive and damaging but they were understandable. While it is clear today that the riots marked the beginning of the end of one chapter, the nature of the new age that followed remains to be seen.

The 1990s and the 2000s were, in many ways, better days. Survey after survey plotted the decline of racist sentiment as a younger generation emerged who had not experienced the racism of the postwar period nor been brought up to view the world in racial terms. Yet this period was the era in which the name of Stephen Lawrence was added to the long list of black Britons who have been murdered by racists.

Historians tend to be cautious when it comes to commentating on the modern age, the period through which we are currently living. For me, the period from the 1980s onwards is the one I know from personal memory as well as through historical study, which probably clouds more than it clarifies judgment. But I strongly recall that in the 1980s there was a strong sense among black people of being under siege and of feeling the need to fight for a place and a future in the country. One of the ways in which black people, and their white allies, attempted to secure that future was by reclaiming their lost past.

The uncovering of black British history was so important because the present was so contested. Black history became critical to the generation whom Enoch Powell could not bring himself to see as British. A history was needed to demonstrate to all that black British children, born of immigrant parents, were part of a longer story that stretched back to the Afro-Romans whose remains are only now being properly identified.

It was in the 1980s that the concept of Black History Month was brought to Britain, an idea that had been pioneered in the United States back in the 1920s, as Negro History Week. Black History Month was needed in Britain because the black past had been largely buried and it was during the 1980s that the task of exhumation took on real urgency. Unusually, history became critical to a whole community, while at the same time becoming highly personal to those who discovered it. To look at the portrait of Olaudah Equiano for the first time, and stare into the eyes of a black Georgian, was, for me, as for many thousands of black Britons, a profound experience. To see Equiano, with his cravat and scarlet coat, was to feel the embrace of the past and of a deeper belonging.

London police search a young man in Talbot Road, Notting Hill, in 1958. Photograph: Knoote/Getty Images

The black British history that was written in the 1980s was built on the foundations of earlier scholars such as James Walvin and was expanded by hundreds of committed volunteers; local historians, community historians and brilliant, determined, sometimes obsessive amateurs. Most worked and still work outside of academia, producing local history or uncovering the presence of black people in parts of the British story from which they have been expunged the world wars, the history of seafaring, the world of entertainment and many others.

It is hard to believe that without the recent decades of black history research and writing, the nation, in 2007, would have committed 20m to commemorate the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. A sum that matched, by chance, the price the nation had paid the slave owners in compensation for the loss of their human property in 1838. The next step, I contend, is to expand the horizon and reimagine black British history as not just a story that took place in Britain, and not just as the story of settlement, although it matters enormously.

From the 16th century onwards, Britain exploded like a supernova, radiating its power and influence across the world. Black people were placed at the centre of that revolution. Our history is global, transnational, triangular and much of it is still to be written. The opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, a vast, globally televised pageant that celebrated the British national story, which revelled in the nations diversity, music and pop culture, included a mock-up, miniature Empire Windrush. This replica was made of a metal frame around which had been stretched fabric printed with the covers of hundreds of postwar British newspapers.

She appeared in the Olympic stadium as one among a series of symbolic representations of the pivotal events in British history: the Industrial Revolution, the First World War, the campaigns of the suffragettes, the Jarrow march of 1936 and the creation of the NHS in 1948, the year the Windrush docked at Tilbury. Britains black population today stands at around two million, a little more than 3% of the national total. There had been, at most, a few thousand black Londoners in 1948. The history symbolised by the Windrush has become a part of the British story, in a way that no one who attended the 1948 Olympic Games could have possibly imagined.

The Empire Windrush has entered the folklore and vocabulary of the nation. There is a Windrush Square in Brixton, a heritage plaque in Tilbury marks the spot where the ship docked and the West Indian migrants came ashore, and a musical based on the lives and ambitions of the Windrush migrants enjoyed a successful run in Londons West End. But this triumph of remembering has come at a cost. The symbolic power of the Windrush moment has at times obscured the deeper and longer black history.

Britain has undergone a second great wave of black migration

As well as losing sight of the more distant past, our focus on the postwar story has meant that, at times, we have been slow to recognise more recent changes. Since the start of the 1980s, Britain has undergone a second great wave of black migration, one that has largely gone unnoticed. This new influx lacked a single iconic moment, comparable to the docking of the Windrush in 1948, and it took place in the far less romantic settings of Gatwick and Heathrow airports, but it was in those great hubs of modern air travel that thousands of Africans arrived, despite ever stricter immigration laws.

At the turn of the century, West Indians still made up the majority of the UKs black population. But, as the 2011 census revealed, between 2001 and 2011, the British African population doubled, through both migration and natural increase. For the first time, probably, since the age of the Atlantic slave trade, the majority of black Britons or their parents have come to this country directly from Africa, rather than from somewhere in the Americas.

The migrants from West Africa were mostly Nigerians and Ghanaians and tended to be a little wealthier than the West Indians who had come before them, but were certainly not wealthy by global standards. Some came initially to study but ended up staying. Others migrated to join family and set up home or to take up employment in a Britain that was still hungry for skilled workers. Many of those who arrived from Somalia, Zimbabwe and Sudan came as refugees.

The British West Indies Regiment in camp on the Albert-Amiens Road, September 1916. Photograph: IWM/Getty Images/IWM via Getty Images

The long queues at Britains airports of British Africans travelling to Accra, Freetown or Lagos to attend family reunions, weddings or funerals speak to the strengths of the new connections between Britain and Africa. The great postwar project to build an English-speaking, multiracial Commonwealth with London at its heart, a community of willing nations led by statesmen and businessmen, has, in a sense, been overtaken by globalisation and unprecedented levels of world migration. In a form that the politicians of the 1940s did not envisage, London remains at the centre of the former empire. The capital has become a node in a vast global network of family connections, remittances, investment and mobility. Despite the questionable attractions of nearer Dubai, millions of Africans still feel powerfully drawn to London.

While the British African population expands, the West Indian population, longer established and more fully integrated, has amalgamated and assimilated more successfully than perhaps any other immigrant group of modern times. The remarkable capacity of West Indian immigrant families to assimilate can be seen in the marriage statistics. Fewer than half of British West Indians have partners who are also West Indian. According to the Economist, a child under 10 who has a Caribbean parent is more than twice as likely as not to have a white parent.

While West Indians have drawn millions of white British people into their family networks, they and the African migrants have drawn the whole nation towards their cultures and music. Through sports, music, cinema, fashion and (only latterly) television, black Britons have become the standard bearers of a new cultural and national identity, the globalised hybrid version of Britishness that was so successfully and confidently expressed in 2012.

These successes and achievements have been remarkable and in many ways unexpected. The problem is that these good news stories can at times become window dressing and inspire wishful thinking.

The reality is that disadvantages are still entrenched and discrimination remains rife. A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission published in August showed that black graduates in Britain were paid an average 23.1% less than similarly qualified white workers. It revealed that since 2010 there had been a 49% increase in the number of ethnic minority 16- to 24-year-olds who were long-term unemployed, while in the same period there had been a fall of 2% in long-term unemployment among white people in the same age category.

Black workers are also more than twice as likely to be in insecure forms of employment such as temporary contracts or working for an agency. Black people are far more often the victims of crime. You are more than twice as likely to be murdered if you are black in England and Wales, said the report, starkly. When accused of crimes, black people are three times more likely to be prosecuted and sentenced than white people.

Actors perform during the opening ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, including a mock-up of Empire Windrush. Photograph: Lee Jin-man/AP

When, as a young man, I began to study history I came to see it as a way to understand the forces that had brought my parents together, shaping my own experiences. Like millions of others, I am a product of Britains long involvement with Africa: a history of slave trading and colonisation, but also of traders, missionaries and the Saro people who, having been liberated from slave ships by the Royal Navy, returned to Nigeria from Sierra Leone, bringing to Lagos the city of my birth their Anglican faith and their hybrid Anglo-African identity.

My parents were able to meet in the Britain of the 1960s due to links that had been established in the late 19th century between communities, schools and churches in Lagos, Sierra Leone and other parts of West Africa and universities in the north of England. The racist attacks that, two decades later, led to me and my family being driven from our home by thugs inspired by the National Front were a feature of another inescapable aspect of that same history the development and spread of British racism.

The walls of disadvantage that today block the paths of young black Britons are a mutated product of the same racism. Knowing this history better, understanding the forces it has unleashed, and seeing oneself as part of a longer story, is one of the ways in which we can keep trying to move forward.

This is an edited extract from David Olusogas Black and British: A Forgotten History (Pan Macmillan, 25). The book is based on a BBC series of the same name, which begins on BBC2 on 9 November at 9pm. To order a copy of the book for 20.50, go to or call 0330 333 6846

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Police say performance halted and theatre evacuated after individual from out of town spread the ashes of his friend and mentor

New York Citys Metropolitan Opera was forced to cancel its Saturday afternoon performance of Guillaume Tell after an audience member sprinkled an unidentified powder, which police believe was cremated ashes, into the orchestra pit.

New York City Police officials said witnesses had heard a man say he was at the opera to spread the ashes of his mentor.

An individual from out of town … indicated that he was here to sprinkle ashes of a friend, his mentor in opera, during the performance, John Miller, deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism told reporters.

The Met said on its Facebook page that it also cancelled the Saturday evening performance of LItaliana in Algeri, while police investigate the incident which happened in the second intermission.

There were no reports of any injuries or any bad reactions to the substance, though the theatre was evacuated and the New York Police Department dispatched a special unit to investigate, Officer Tiffany Phillips said.

The suspect, a man who was not identified, had fled the scene and no arrests have been made, Phillips said.

The Metropolitan Opera has seen other bizarre episodes in the past, including one in 1988 when a patron died during a plunge from the top balcony during the intermission of a performance of Macbeth.

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The global superstar talks about the masculine facade of Donald Trump, the strength he inherited from his mother, the philosophy he shares with fans, and the joy he delivers on stage

Bruce Springsteen exists at that rarified level of fame where you get to move like a Dalek, without ever actually having to touch anything. When he is out in public, at least when he is being the Springsteen who is Brooooooce, the Springsteen who is the Boss, rather than the one whos been married for 25 years and has three kids no obstacles stand in his way. No door is left unopened, no person steps out in front of him, and if you find yourself in his orbit, you cant help but find the gravitational pull of stardom yanking you into your position.

Ive seen and experienced this a couple of times. In 2010, when he attended a screening of the documentary about him, The Promise, at BFI Southbank in London, a friend and I were walking down the red carpet towards the cinema when there was a stir around us; we felt it before we noticed the faces lining the barriers turning in one direction. Behind us, Springsteen had alighted from a people carrier. We panicked Were not meant to be here! Where do we go? and made ourselves as small and invisible at the edge of the carpet as we could while he ambled past and the energy followed behind. I dont remember how the doors opened, but Im pretty sure he didnt have to lift a finger.

Then backstage at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, this past June. Springsteen was just finishing his final number an acoustic version of his wonderful 1975 redemption song Thunder Road. We were in the access tunnel at the side of the stage, where a fleet of black luxury cars lined up, windows tinted, engines ticking over, waiting for him and the band to leave the stage, to be whisked from the stadium before the house lights have flashed on, while tens of thousands are still finishing their drinks and working out where the nearest exit is. It is, doubtless, the same wherever he plays.

Watch a young Bruce Springsteen perform Thunder Road.

The 67-year-old Bruce Springsteen who enters the room at his favoured London luxury hotel door opened by someone else, naturally, and it took three people to wait with me for him to enter has skin the colour of wealth and clothes so casual they could only be expensive: a close-fitting jacket, a slightly scoop-necked T-shirt, and jeans whose left leg is flecked with white paint, as if hes just been touching up the cornicing in the corridors. You half wonder if someone splattered the paint on for him, just to keep things looking blue collar.

Hes here promoting his autobiography, Born to Run. Before London, hed been on a nine-date book tour of US cities, meeting his flock, opening touchingly with an appearance in his home town of Freehold, New Jersey (pop: 12,052), to which people travelled from across the east coast. Even that turned into a major operation: the Guardian reported that at least eight police officers were on duty around the branch of Barnes and Noble, with around twice that number of private security guards.

Springsteen estimates he has scrawled his signature on 17,000 copies of the book. Perhaps surprisingly, hes rather enjoyed the experience. You meet the fans only for 10 seconds, but you meet them one by one, he says. And they have an opportunity: whats the one thing you always wanted to say over the 40 years of the relationship weve had? I actually found it quite moving. Always enjoyed that part. I used to love to drift around, bump into people, see what their lives were like, wander into their lives for a few moments then drift back out. It appealed to the transient nature of my personality. I liked the idea of being here and then being gone, this little spirit moving through the world.

A couple of days before we meet, he opens the European leg of his promo jaunt with an event in front of an invited audience of journalists at the ICA in London, where he notes that when the fans have met him, one of the commonest responses has been: Youre shorter than I expected. Here, too, the reverence is striking. When questions are opened to the floor, someone identifying himself as Eddie from Ireland tells Springsteen: Such is the affection that the people of Ireland have for you, that if you ran for president of Ireland in the morning, youd be elected. When the event winds up, a throng of middle-aged men gathers at the front of the stage to get their copies of Born to Run signed.

It is a pretty decent book, in a genre the rock autobiography replete with stinkers. (But then, youd hope it would be a pretty decent book given that Springsteen was reportedly paid $10m to write it.) It deserves to have topped the bestseller lists on both sides of the Atlantic, for its honesty about Springsteens difficult childhood, his troubled relationship with his father, his struggles with depression, and his unyielding faith in the redemptive power of rocknroll. He writes about the first time depression struck, in the early 1980s, in a way that resonates powerfully: he is on a road trip with a friend, stopping at a small-town fair, when, From nowhere, a despair overcomes me; I feel an envy of these men and women and their late summer ritual, the small pleasures that bind them and this town together. Now, for all I know these folks may hate this one-dog dump and each others guts and be screwing one anothers husbands and wives like rabbits. Why wouldnt they? But right now, all I can think of is that I want to be amongst them, of them, and I cant. I can only watch.

That depression still haunts him, fended off by performing in the book he talks of being crushed between 60 and 62, good for a year, and out again from 63 to 64 and I want to ask what his favoured antidepressant is, whether Sertraline (Zoloft in the States) performed the miracles for him it did for me. But there doesnt really seem to be a good way to ask about a heros pill regimen.


Its less than a month, when we speak, before the US elections, and Springsteen is getting increasingly confident that Donald Trump wont win. Hes no less scathing about the Republican candidate for that confidence, though. We talk about the contrast between the American ideal of masculinity generous, confident, empathetic, determined; the one you think of when you imagine the Greatest Generation who fought in the second world war and the one Trump presents. He laughs at the difference. In Trumps case, the facade is easy to see through, and what you see is a bundle of anxiety, fragility and insecurity, he says. Its the thinnest possible mask of masculinity. And it wouldnt fool anybody from the Greatest Generation. Theres a faint hesitation around his use of those words, as if acknowledging that not everyone who fought in the war, including his father, was necessarily great. Its such a thin costume that for me it doesnt hold for a moment. But there have been quite a few people he has attracted along the way, so I suppose the bluster works to a certain degree. Hes really quite an embarrassment if youre from the USA. Its simply the most rigid and thinnest veil of masculinity over a mess.

Watch Bruce Springsteen campaign for Barack Obama in 2012.

Springsteen notes that hes been asked about Trump a lot as hes promoted his book. And, despite a reputation for political engagement, hes evidently a little tired of it. In fact, hes been relatively quiet this election. Though he appeared at campaign events for both Barack Obama and John Kerry, he hasnt stumped for Hillary Clinton. His most notable piece of activism this year came in April when he pulled out of a show in North Carolina in protest at the states bathroom law, dictating which public toilets transgender people could use: To my mind, its an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognising the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress, he wrote on his website at the time.

His politics are simple, and basically non-partisan. When hes used his voice it has tended to be to support specific causes his tours have supported food banks in cities where hes played; he went on Amnesty Internationals Human Rights Now! tour in 1988; he donated 16,000 to Durham miners during the 1985 miners strike. In song, he has returned repeatedly not just in Born in the USA to the plight of Americas Vietnam veterans.

He believes in fairness, people being treated decently, the right to a job, medical treatment, education, decent housing, childcare, and open government. He once surprised an interviewer by observing: To me, these are all conservative ideas Economic stability. Health. Thats not remotely radical.

Arguably the biggest influence on his politics was his manager, Jon Landau, the former music writer whom he met when he was studying a gig review pinned up outside a Boston club before his appearance in April 1974. Landau, the reviews writer, sidled up and asked the young musician what he thought. Thus began a friendship that transformed into a professional relationship, and something more: in Born to Run, Springsteen speaks of him being the Clark to my Lewis. Its not so much that Landau told Springsteen what to think, more that he guided him to the books and films that might provoke him to think.

One of the binds of that, though, is the number of heartland American fans the ones who are voting Trump who believe Springsteen would think like them if only, as one contributor to the Backstreets fansite recently suggested, he hadnt been brainwashed into liberalism by Landau and others in his inner circle. On the other hand, there are those who think it outrageous that someone whose songs display an extraordinary empathy for ordinary people should dare to have homes in New Jersey, Florida and Los Angeles, and charge 100 per ticket to see him (the guarantee he demands from promoters for live shows is reputed to be among the largest in music; certainly, I received no reply from Landau last year when I wrote offering a guaranteed 700 and a lift down from London in my Ford Focus if Springsteen fancied playing a solo set at Ramsgate Music Hall).

For Springsteen, politics seems to be about the way you live your life as much as anything. Its about being decent. About being fair to others. Being a good man. So what does being a good man entail?

Thats a big question,

It is.

I guess, really I probably learned the best answers to that from my mother. My mother was basically decent, compassionate, strong, wilful. She insisted on creating a world where she could make her children feel as safe as possible, even though she certainly had her faults in that area. But she was consistent. You could count on her. Day after day after day. And she was very strong. The best part of me picked up a lot of those characteristics and I struggle to live up to them today. So I think dependability, strength, wilfulness put in the service of something good those are the things that matter to me.

Bruce Springsteen photographed in New Jersey, October 1979. Photograph: The Estate of David Gahr/Getty Images

His mother had to be the rock because his childhood in New Jersey was, to say the least, peculiar. He spent a chunk of it in the early 1950s living in Freehold with a paternal grandmother who loved him too much, compensating for the death of her daughter in 1927 (It was very emotionally incestuous and a lot of parental roles got crossed, he told the writer Peter Ames Carlin); school was cruel, his father Doug consumed by an often silent rage against the world, and against the son who mystified him crueller still, emotionally at least.

Born to Run paints a picture of a childhood that is semi-feral, where Springsteen might refuse to go to school, and his grandmother would back him up. I think I was a little unusual in that I went into rocknroll music to create order out of my life, he says. My younger life felt rather chaotic, so I was in search of some stability, actually, some order.

As a kid, he felt invisible. That stopped when he started playing guitar. Suddenly I was able to make a very loud noise, and a noise that was not so easy to ignore, he says. I had my little rocknroll band and we were playing to a small gym full of dancers and their friends, and they immediately looked at you as a presence in their lives.

When he was 19 his parents moved to California, and he was free to pursue music, to become as he would say on stage years later a prisoner a prisoner of rocknroll.

Politics started entering Springsteens music, though far from explicitly, with his fourth album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, in 1978. That was when his music ceased to be the myth-making epics of his first three albums, and he started writing instead about ordinary people and their struggles. He wasnt informed by reading political tracts. I just referred to my experiences growing up my parents lives, my sisters life.

Watch a trailer for the documentary Springsteen & I.

His parents had struggled to make ends meet, his mother working as a legal secretary, his father in a succession of blue-collar jobs. His sister had married in her teens, and she and her husbands travails inspired his masterly song The River, about a couple trying to face up to the wedge that joblessness drives into relationships. I was surrounded by people who were youthful but living very complicated adult lives, he says. They were having kids at young ages and trying to build a work life and a home life that was very adult. It was very easy to draw upon. It wasnt a stretch or a strain.


The songs about ordinary lives combined with Springsteens revelatory, ecstatic live performances built the bond with his audience that has lasted more than 40 years, and itself became the subject of an extraordinarily moving film in 2013, Springsteen & I. I dont think he takes that relationship for granted. He understands that people want a piece of him for themselves: at that BFI Southbank event in 2010, Springsteen came to the bar afterwards; while his entourage sat in the corner, talking to one another, he perched on the back of a sofa facing the room. A receiving line of people queueing for a photo and autograph formed, and he stayed until everyone had their moment (my photo was out of focus; I got the autograph for my sister).

People think they know Springsteen. They have an image of Bob Dylan (inscrutable), Neil Young (irascible), Paul McCartney (wearingly cheerful; Springsteen laughs when I use the old Smash Hits name of Fab Wacky Macca Thumbs Aloft). But they can imagine watching sports in a bar with Springsteen, which perhaps accounts for why people get a bit overexcited I do not excuse myself from this at the prospect of meeting him (fan accounts of encounters almost always dwell, approvingly, on what an ordinary guy he is. Even if he is shorter than expected).

They think they know Springsteen because, these days, hes as much an idea, an ideal, as a person.

Sure, thats true, he says, of that notion. You bring with you an entire philosophy, a certain code of living, I suppose. Its something you pursue. My heroes were people like Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan. These were all people who brought their entire philosophy along with them, created a world that would engulf you and give you you, assist you in different ways of living, different ways of presenting yourself. Those were the artists that always interested me. They always seemed to carry a realisation of what being a musician might mean, could mean, the possibilities of what being a musician could be. That was something I was at least semiconscious of trying to create.

Springsteen performing with his wife, Patti Scialfa, in 2005. Photograph: KMazur/WireImage

And when did he realise he had become an idea in the minds of his public?

Im not sure. If youre doing it right, its a byproduct of all your actions and all your choices and what youve created.

It should be noted at this point that Springsteen appears to know exactly what he thinks about every aspect of his life and art and how they interact. I guess thats inevitable. First, hes just written a 500-page book about those subjects; second, hes been in therapy for decades; third, he and Landau based their entire relationship on talking at exhaustive length about all this stuff. But, for an interviewer, its a bit odd. The most fascinating moments in interviews usually come when you catch a subject by surprise and you can see them deciding what they think about something. With Springsteen, it feels more like hes searching through his mental hard drive for the relevant file.

Thats not to say his answers are not fascinating (they are) or cursory (they very much are not). When asked what he means when he says his covenant with his audience depends on honesty, he replies without pause, without any errs or urrms, in a single perfect paragraph, that requires not one piece of tidying in the transcription: I guess we come out and deliver the straight dope to our crowd as best we can. Its coming on stage with the idea: OK, well the stakes that are involved this evening are quite high. I dont know exactly whos in the crowd. But I know that my life was changed in an instant by something that people thought was purely junk pop music records. And you can change someones life in three minutes with the right song. I still believe that to this day. You can bend the course of their development, what they think is important, of how vital and alive they feel. You can contextualise very, very difficult experiences. Songs are pretty good at that. So all these are the stakes that are laid out on the table when you come out at night. And I still take those stakes seriously after all that time, if not more so now, as the light grows slightly dimmer. I come out believing theres no tomorrow night, there wasnt last night, theres just tonight. And I have built up the skills to be able to provide, under the right conditions, a certain transcendent evening, hopefully an evening youll remember when you go home. Not that youll just remember it was a good concert, but youll remember the possibilities the evening laid out in front of you, as far as where you could take your life, or how youre thinking about your friends, or your wife or your girlfriend, or your best pal, or your job, your work, what you want to do with your life. These are all things, I believe, that music can accommodate and can provide service in. Thats what we try to deliver.

I email that paragraph to a Springsteen obsessive friend, who blogs about both Springsteen and burgers. She writes back: It sounds silly, and I try to explain to people, but going to Springsteen shows has shaped a lot of changes in my life. I went to South Africa for a week on my own for four concerts, felt revived, like I could achieve anything. So I left my job and tried to get into journalism, something Id wanted to do since I was 10. And thats why I feel like I have to go to Australia [to see Springsteen next year], too, because I need to find that direction again. Its a funny way to live your life, seeking these highs, living the lows, but ultimately I think Im better off for it. I really dont know what Id do without his music in my life.

Watch the video for Bruce Springsteens Tougher Than the Rest.

I ask Springsteen if he ever looks at fansites and messageboards.

No. (I bet he does. I really, really bet he does.)

Then is he unaware of the section of his hardcore fanbase who complain that his sets are too predictable because he only changes half of a three-hour-plus set from night to night, instead of the whole thing? Ive seen that, he says. You have to indulge your hardcore fans. Its really all right.

Youre more tolerant than Id be. Id tell them where to get off. No one else changes their sets like you! They should be grateful!

He doesnt reply. He just laughs long and hard, his head back, his eyes creasing.


On 5 June this year, as the sun set over Wembley Stadium, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band struck up the sombre opening chords of Tougher Than the Rest, the 1987 single about the difficulties of adult love that marked his return after Born in the USA had made him the worlds biggest rock star. Stepping up to the front of the stage to duet with him was Patti Scialfa, a member of the E Street Band since 1984, and his second wife his first marriage, to Julianne Phillips, ended quickly (in Born to Run, Springsteen admits he was wholly unready for it). Three days after performing what might as well be their theme song, Scialfa and Springsteen marked their 25th wedding anniversary.

Her presence changed not just Springsteens life but his work, too. The E Street Band stopped being an all-male preserve, a gang, forcing a change in their behaviour and attitudes. I think women are in general a good influence on growing up, on growing into your manhood, he says, delicately.

And then when they had children two sons, Evan and Sam, born in 1990 and 1994, and a daughter, Jessica, in 1991 his life was altered even more profoundly. If I was going to chop my life into sections, he says, it would be before the children and after the children, certainly. Just changed my entire worldview. Changed the way I looked at myself. Changed the way I looked at my job. Gave me an entirely separate identity away from my music, which I found to be very fulfilling.

Springsteen performing in 1984, the year Born in the USA took him to new commercial heights. Photograph: Images Press/Getty Images

Before he had children, Springsteen had assumed that whatever he was working on was what everyone around him should be concentrating on. He recalls his bafflement when Jon Landau had his first child, and would suddenly start leaving recording sessions at 6pm, to go and bathe his baby daughter. I remember thinking he adopts a puzzled tone, You gotta go home and bathe your daughter? Were doing A, B, C or D, which I happen to think is the most important thing in the world right now. But of course its not.

Having children made Springsteen realise that his work wasnt his life, it was a substitute for life. I realised that previously Id expanded my work life so that Id have something to do during the day, and into the evening. Without it, what am I gonna do? Go home, sit in a chair and watch TV? So Id expanded the time it took me to do my job. Once the kids came along, I realised, I could squeeze my previous 18 hours of work day into six or eight, without any problems whatsoever. I realised the song is always going to be there theres always going to be a song in your heart or in your head but kids, theyre there and then theyre gone. And when theyre gone, theyre gone. Once I realised that, I found a tremendous freedom from the tyranny of my own mind.

You couldnt say that Springsteen has slowed down, though, especially now the kids are gone. This summers tour of European and US stadiums saw him playing some of his longest ever shows, breaking the four-hour barrier with no intermissions, unlike his late-70s marathons on occasion. Springsteen says he has no problems finding the energy to play them, but its not so easy for some of his bandmates. Before Springsteen arrives, his co-manager Barbara Carr mentions that Max Weinberg, the 65-year-old drummer, spends all his time between shows sequestered in his hotel room, the windows blacked out, the gaps between door and frame filled to block out all noise, simply recuperating from the previous gig.

Thats the price the band must pay in order to deliver what Springsteen wants: I come out on stage to deliver to you the greatest band in the world, he says. I still have great pride in what I do. I still believe in its power. I believe in my ability to transfer its power to you. Thats never changed. One of the things our band was very good at communicating was that sense of joy, which I think makes us somewhat unique. Rock bands try to project a lot of different things: intensity, mystery, sexuality, cool. Not a lot of rock bands concentrate on joy, and I got that from my relatives on the Italian side they lived it and they passed it down to me.

The ambition that drove him to chase perfection 40 years ago when he would spend hours shouting Stick! at Weinberg in the studio, insisting he somehow find a way to play his snare without the sound of stick hitting the skin being audible is still present.

I ask if, for all his testimonies to the simple power of playing rocknroll, and how he says hes happy pitching up for an impromptu set at a local bar with a pick-up band, whether he would have been content if hed ended up precisely as popular as his friends and contemporaries Southside Johnny and Joe Grushecky, blue-collar rockers who never transcended the clubs. I would probably be an old, disgruntled entertainer, he says, then chuckles at the very notion that he might not have conquered the world. I was shooting for the whole show. But I certainly would have made my peace with it. Any time you make your living as a musician, youre way ahead of the game. Youre way ahead of the game. I always thought: Gee, Im making a living scratching on a piece of wood. I cant complain too much.

In 1975, when he was promoting the Born to Run album, there was a story Springsteen used to tell interviewers. While he was recording the album in New York, he was staying in a grotty outpost of Holiday Inn, in one of Manhattans less salubrious districts. In his room was a mirror, which hung crooked. Every morning he would dutifully straighten the mirror. And when he returned to his room, the mirror would be askew again. And so, once more, hed correct it. And again it would slip off centre.

It is, I suggest, a perfect metaphor for a man driven, even when the reasons for his drive, his desperation, might seem unclear to those around him. He smiles. And, rather unexpectedly, quotes Immanuel Kant back at me: Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.

And then the door opens, and he glides away, no obstacles in his path.

Born to Run is published by Simon & Schuster (20). Click here to buy it for 16.40

Bruces backpages: the songs that define Springsteen

Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
A showstopping, Van Morrisonesque epic thats still a highlight of Springsteens live shows, Rosalita sprawls and swerves and swings, irresistibly. It also has the couplet that most encapsulates the joy it must have been to be young and on the cusp of greatness: Tell him this is his last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance / Cos the record company, Rosie, they just gave me a big advance.

Born to Run
It took until his third album for Springsteen to write the song that defined him, and of which he has still not tired. Good songs collect the years, cumulative meaning, he says. They grow with you. Play Born to Run and it just allows more people in. Ill see a 15-year-old kid singing every word, and Ill see a grandma too! A good song keeps its arms open and welcomes those who come to it over the years.

Darkness on the Edge of Town
The album Darkness on the Edge of Town saw Springsteen ditching mythologising and writing about adult dilemmas. I was very concerned about writing music that I felt an adult voice could sing, he says. I felt that was a trap some bands fell into. I never wanted to have to come out on stage and pretend. Of course, its all pretending, I suppose. But I wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin.

The River
In growing up, Springsteen says, you have to come face to face with a lot of your weaknesses and the things you do poorly, so that youre able to assess the landscape and find out what are the righteous paths you can travel down, and what are the roads that are just going to lead you to a dead end. The River, of course, is the song I wrote about that specific idea.

Born in the USA
The acoustic version recorded at the time of the Nebraska album allows none of the ambiguity of the stadium-crushing version released two years later. Spare and haunted, a howl from the margins, and utterly unsuited to being co-opted by Ronald Reagan, it would remain unreleased until the 1998 Tracks box set.

Brilliant Disguise
Springsteens first marriage failed but led to the brilliant, introspective album Tunnel of Love. This single seemed to be an autobiographical take on his relationship, with a devastating payoff: God have mercy on the man / Who doubts what hes sure of.

The Ghost of Tom Joad
The lives of the dispossessed were the theme of the largely acoustic album The Ghost of Tom Joad. The title track seems to echo Born to Run when it claims the highway is alive tonight. But this time nobodys kidding nobody about where it goes. Desolate and beautiful.

Long Walk Home
An idealised small-town America turns out to be a ghost town as the Bush years come to a close the diner was shuttered and boarded, with a sign that just said Gone. To get back to the America of the national dream will take a long walk so long we shouldnt wait up for Bruce.

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Whether youre struggling to get gig tickets or being fat-shamed by an app AI is calling the shots. Werent these algorithms supposed to be on our side, not making thing worse?

Remember when artificial intelligence was supposed to be a good thing? When we thought we would, in our old age, each be tended to by a personalised robotic nurse? When we thought that all our jobs would be made obsolete, allowing us to live lives of unbroken leisure?

That glorious future might still be on the horizon, but for now AI is rubbish. We live in a world where stupid robots and gormless algorithms are incompetently conspiring to make our lives much more difficult than they need to be. Just look at how muchwere suffering at the hands of these terrible things.

Bots made me poor! (Or possibly rich)

Bots put the value of sterling into a spiral after the EU referendum. Photograph: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images

If youve watched The Big Short, youll be well versed in the moral and ethical dilemmas that can arise when you choose to bet against a failing financial institution. However, if The Big Short was set in the present day, it would consist of one scene where Christian Bale sets up a market-tracking algorithm, and then 400 scenes where Christian Bale gets steadily richer as he plays the drums and consistently fails to get a proper haircut.

This is sort of what happened duringthe great sterling flash-crash of October 2016, when the pound plummeted by 6% in two minutes. Not only was the crash probably initiated by apanicky bot-spiral where the pound hit a level that caused one algorithm to automatically start selling, which caused prices to drop, which triggered all the other bots to start selling but bots also made the most money from it. Computer-driven hedge funds such as Piquant Technologies are set up to automatically seek out and bet against wobbly currencies based on market data. Post-EU referendum, the pound counts as a very wobbly currency. And so, when the flash crash happened, the algorithm kicked in and made about $300,000 (244,000) before Brad Pitt could even think about delivering amoralising sermon about it.

Bots stopped me watching Drake

Drizzy, live on stage something youre not going to see, thanks to ticket bots. Photograph: Charles Sykes/AP

If you want to see Drizzy playing in London, at the O2, next year, youre flatout of luck. Every ticket for his concert on 28 January the cheapest at 55 and the most expensive at 132 sold out almost immediately. However, thanks to the wonderful work of the ticket scalping industry, there are almost 600 tickets available online, for anyone stupid enough to want to spend up to 800.

This is the ticket-buying process in 2016. As the tickets go on sale, you log on to the ticketing system, refreshing with no luck again and again for an hour before sloping away empty-handed and brokenhearted. Meanwhile, some goon has set up abot to buy hundreds of tickets out from under your nose, and hell sell them all for vastly inflated prices. In 2013 alone, one developer is thought to have made 25m from his ticketing bot. Venues and musicians are doing their best to outpace this trend, but in the meantime, dont be surprised if Drake performs his O2 set to thousands of angry, ripped-off billionaires.

Bots destroyed Twitter

You cant move for bots on Twitter. Photograph: PA

Bots are the worst thing about Twitter. This is a big claim, given that Twitter is now exclusively the habitat of violently angry racist eggs who exist to scream misogynist abuse at famous women, but it is true. Youll tweet out a carefully considered message full of important points and deft wordplay, only to immediately receive a message back from @WiniPhone700802268 reading: Hey $exxy pants, watch my hot boob now! Computer time! and youll spend the rest of your day worried that youre living in a malfunctioning simulation of planet Earth.

Twitter bots are more than just an ego-draining inconvenience, though. Last year, a flood of bot activity worked to quell a protest against Mexicos now-president, by overloading the hashtag used to organise the event. And, of course, theres @TayandYou. Microsofts new chatbot was launched this year, with the aim of learning and mimicking informal Twitter-speak. It was quickly taken offline after tweeting messages such as: bush did 9/11, donald trump is the only hope weve got and, of course: race war now!!! To be fair, this did at least demonstrate a working competency when it comes to Twitter.

Bots killed (human) romance

The Amazon Echo the device that brings you the alluringly voiced Alexa. Photograph: Mark Lennihan/AP

Ive got an Amazon Echo. Its a wireless speaker, enabled with Amazons cloud-based personal assistant Alexa. Alexa, play Radiohead, you shout. She replies: Playing Radiohead, and then plays you a Radiohead song, and everyones happy. Alexa can do maths, set alarms, organise your calendar and relentlessly fail to understand any single pronunciation of the name Mathieu Boogaerts. But, in her calm responses to prosaic questions, she has also become an unlikely fantasyfigure; a canvas for peoples weirdest projections.

Already, even though shes basically just Siri on a stick, people are starting to lust after her. Reviews on Amazon call her a wanton temptress. One forum about possible upgrades includes the entry: I would love Alexa to say Yes, Shawn in that sexy voice of hers. Given that the connection between human and product is so much more intimate than that between human and videogame character and people have already married those its not beyond the realms of possibility that someone will soon trade in their complicated human partner for a relationship with Alexa. This is the point at which the world will end.

Bots ruined Botticelli

A Botticelli masterpiece but now AI is making art, too. Photograph: PA

The thing we have always had over robots is our appreciation of culture. While we can take in a broad palette of experience, relating to people andobjects on an emotional level,all robots have ever been able to see are ones and zeros. We can watch a film and be moved by what we see, but a robot will just bleep INTRUDER ALERT three times and thenexplode.

But things are changing. Algorithmic artbot Shiv Integer takes blueprints for 3D models, mashes them together into new shapes and then uploads them to the internet as new designs. Parliament Live creates transcripts of randomised videos from the House of Commons, then automatically edits them into supercuts of the most-spoken words, which are usually um and ah. And, most worryingly of all, last month Sonyreleased two songs composed through its Flow Machines bot. One of them, entitled Daddys Car, was programmed to mimic the music of the Beatles, hinting at a future where humanitys misery-drenched robotic enslavement is soundtracked by what unmistakably sounds like aCD that came free with an issue of Vox magazine in 1998. Horrifying.

Bots food-shamed me

Last year, Apple named Lark as one of its top apps of 2015. It is a weight-loss bot. According to its promotional video, you tell Lark what you had for breakfast verbally, if you want and it snipes back: Bacon thats the third time this week. It can also be encouraging, saying things such as: You got in a great 26-minute run yesterday. Highfive!

Clearly, this alone makes Lark the worst thing you could possibly have on your phone, but in practice, things seem even worse. In her article I Tried Dieting With a Chatbot. I Hated It, Abigail Ronck reels off a list of accusations at Lark. Its creepy: secretly compiling data about her sleep and activity levels. Its passive-aggressive: remarking on a lack of exercise with a snippy Thats OK, every days a bit different. Its vague: offering generalised advice that doesntseem particularly well-targeted. But, most importantly, after a month of Lark, Ronck failed to lose any weight at all.

Bots are wrecking journalism

Not content with everything else, bots are coming for newspapers Photograph: Alamy

Chances are you probably know that bots are killing the customer service industry companies are starting to roll out messenger windows manned by nothing but algorithms, which can answer common questions and respond to grievances faster and more cheaply than their human counterparts but journalism is likely to be next in the firing line.

Two years ago, the Los Angeles Times unveiled Quakebot, which was able to collate, compile and publish reports on local earthquakes before they were even over. The Associated Press uses robots to write and file its corporate earnings reports. The Telegraph has arobot to write its Saturday afternoon football liveblog, complete with text and graphics generated on the fly. On the plus side, the liveblog is tedious made up of nothing but bald fact and extraneous exclamation marks but its only a matter of time before artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated and starts covering more subjects. We cansleep safely in our beds for now, but itwont be long before someone invents a bot that writes endless try-hard, nearly funny listicles about future technologies. When that happens, Ill see you at the jobcentre.

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Nearly 90,000 Indian soldiers laid down their lives for Britain in the second world war, yet the scale of that sacrifice and the troubled history of the imperial project is barely recognised

When I was a child in Lahore in Pakistan, my parents employed adriver called Sultan. Sultan, a retired soldier, was from a village near Jhelum. He was a cheerful man in his 60s who readily joined in our games ofbadminton. But to me the most interesting fact about Sultan was that he could speak Italian. Afragmentary, broken Italian, but Italian nonetheless, picked up as a prisoner of war in Italy. He called me signorina and taught me three Italian words: si, grazie and buongiorno. Decades later, when I told my children about Sultan, they were gobsmacked. What was a Pakistani villager doing fighting in Italy? He wasnt Pakistani then, Iexplained, he was Indian. Sultan was one of more than two million Indian soldiers who fought for the allies in the second world war. No! Really? they breathed.

My children (daughter 17, son 15) were born and raised in London and have had the good fortune to attend fantastic schools where they have been offered, alongside the usual array of subjects, a rich diet of music, drama, art, sport and languages. Their extracurricular clubs include Arabic, feminism, astronomy, mindfulness and carpentry. In my convent school in Lahore, I had to listen inrespectful silence. In London, they are encouraged to question and argue.

Yet, for all the range and candour of their education, they havent once encountered Britains colonial past in school. My daughter is now in her second year of A-levels. She has studied history from the age of nine, but the closest she has cometo any mention of empire was in her GCSE syllabus that included the run-up to the second world war. While studying the Treaty of Versailles, she learned that some countries had colonies at the time and, as part of Germanys punishment, it was stripped of its colonial possessions. Period.

Though she read about the brutal battles in thePacific and North Africa, no mention was made of the 2.5 million Indian soldiers who volunteered to fight in the second world war or the 1.3 million who served in 1914-18. There was nothing about the 87,000 jawans killed in 1939-45. Shehad no notion of the massive contribution India and Britains other colonies made to the war effort. Hence her astonishment at Sultans Italian connection.

Of course, my kids know that their grandparents, along with the citizens of almost half the globe, were once British subjects. But they have acquired this knowledge at home, not at school. Aged 11, my son learned in a geography class that one of the many reasons Ghana (the Gold Coast to its 19th-century British rulers) was economically less developed was because of its colonial past. It had been stripped of its wealth by the British. Just one bland sentence. Now, in secondary school, he is currently reading a past Booker winner, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. For half-term, his English teacher has asked him to read another novel about India. The list she hasgiven him includes Rudyard Kiplings Kim, EM Forsters APassage to India and Salman Rushdies Midnights Children. I imagine some mention ofcolonialism will be made when discussing those texts.

But even this is off-piste learning, the initiative of an individual teacher; it is not part of the curriculum. Last year, my daughter, who is studying history of art at A-level, was taken to see Tate Britains exhibition Art and Empire. Her teacher thought it important for the paper on orientalism and, something of a political activist in her youth, gave them an impassioned lecture on Britains imperial past. But the historical context was not obligatory in the curriculum. Students were required to restrict themselves to a technical visual analysis of the paintings they studied, not explore the political background that produced them.

Dr Mukulika Banerjee, director of the South Asia Centre and associate professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics, talks of British students who arrive at university completely ignorant about the empire, that vital part of their history. When we talk of Syria today, they have no knowledge of Britains role in the Middle East in the last century. When discussing burning political questions today, they have no historical context to draw on that links Britains own past with those events. Similarly, they have no clue about the history of the immigration. They dont understand why people of other ethnicities came to Britain in the first place. They havent learned any of it at school. So, in their second year at university, when my students discover the extent of their ignorance, they are furious.

I dont know whether this amnesia is due to embarrassment or fear of reparations or, indeed, asinister desire to keep the electorate ignorant and pliable. Whatever the original rationale, the ugly xenophobia unleashed since the EU referendum has brought home the urgent need to reform history textbooks and address this abyss at their heart. Without it, they are distorted, dishonest. I used to laugh when British people asked me where Ihad learned my English. (Despite 20years inthis country, I still have a strong Pakistani accent.) Post-Brexit, I am not amused. And its no good pretending that the history of Malaysia, Nigeria, India or Kenya is world history and therefore not relevant to the modern British curriculum. It is British history. To quote Kipling, that controversial yet compelling poet of empire: What should they know of England who only England know?

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As life expectancy increases, and scientists search for new ways to outwit mortality, we are beginning to fear old age and longevity more than dying. But who decides when it is the right time to go?

We are often told that in earlier times all cultures had a concept of the afterlife that everybody believed in some form of life after death, be it a journey over a river to a dark land, an eternity of hellfire and torment, a paradise with angels and ambrosia, or a reunion with loved ones. We have created many metaphors to carry us across the Styx. Some cultures believed, and believe, in rebirth and the migration of souls. In 21st-century Christian countries, orthodox religious services still routinely profess faith in the resurrection of the body. Painting and poetry and mythology offer us visions of heaven and hell, some horrific, and some, like Stanley Spencers, reassuring and comforting. But Ive always suspected that most of us, even in the pious, priest-dominated Middle Ages, didnt really believe what we said we believed. Most of us knew that when we were dead, we were gone. We went nowhere. We ceased to be. Thats what we didnt like about death not fear of hell, but fear of nothingness.

This is, historically, anthropologically, a heretical position to hold, and when I try to argue it I am usually shouted down. Ive got no historical imagination, I am told. Things were different then, scholars insist. Human nature was different then.

And maybe it was. Even in my lifetime, I have known a few people of faith, true believers, who would certainly have gone to heaven, if there were one. More than a century ago, Robert Browning may well have expected to meet his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning in the hereafter, as he wrote in his great death-defying poem Prospice, one of the first works I ever learnt by heart. O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again, and with God be the rest! Their lives together on Earth had been so miraculous that one miracle more would not have been surprising.

The delusion of an afterlife also seems to have a grim hold on modern-day martyrs, if we can believe all that we are told. But thats another story, another subject, and so alien to most of us that it is hard to contemplate.

I would contend that in the largely secular west we now live in a post-religious era, where true faith in survival after death, pleasant or unpleasant, is restricted to a small minority. Thats not a contentious position, but it leaves the rest of us to struggle with the meaning of death, as we can no longer see it as a staging post to somewhere else, or as a great adventure, or even, in the alleged last words of Henry James, as the distinguished thing. Death is becoming less and less distinguished.

One of the problems with death in our time is that it becomes increasingly avoidable, or at least postponable. We are materialists, and we dont believe in the soul. There is no ghost in the machine. We find medical solutions to medical problems, we dutifully take our statins, and our financial advisers and their actuaries declare that our life expectancy is increasing day by day, hour by hour. This is meant to be a good thing, like the ever-rising price of property, but on one level we all know it is not. When more good news about longevity is proclaimed on radio bulletins, there is usually a curiously sombre note of foreboding in the announcers voice. For it is not a sustainable trajectory.

A production of Gullivers Travels: After Jonathan Swift by Radu Stanca National Theatre of Sibiu, Romania. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

Popular science and even academic conferences discuss the possibilities of human beings living for hundreds of years or longer, but some of us remember the terrible fate of Jonathan Swifts immortal struldbrugs on the island of Luggnagg, in Gullivers Travels, condemned to live on with diminished faculties into extreme old age. Swift does not mince his words: his immortals (of whom the women are of course more horrible than the men) had not only the follies and infirmities of other old men, but many more which arose from the dreadful prospect of never dying. They were not only opinionative, peevish, covetous, morose, vain, talkative, but incapable of friendship, and dead to all natural affection, which never descended below their grand-children. Envy and impotent desires are their prevailing passions they forget the common appellation of things, and the names of persons, even of those who are their nearest friends and relations. For the same reason, they never can amuse themselves with reading, because their memory will not serve to carry them from the beginning of a sentence to the end He might have been describing the inmates of a 21st-century care home for the elderly.

Even those egomaniac plutocrats who have had their heads or their body parts frozen in hope of the discovery of techniques to revive them in a distant future must have some doubts about the quality of life they can expect when they are brought back from the icebox. Oh, the boredom of immortality! The dullness of a death in life, frozen through aeons in a test tube! The ghastly awakening! The gruesome pseudo-science of cryonics is, of course, speculative, but that hasnt stopped a few hundred people going for it already, with more queueing up behind them. As we know from Kazuo Ishiguros poignant novel, Never Let Me Go, some people will stop at nothing in their efforts to extend their lifespan. Awareness of our mortality is Ishiguros subject. We can trust him on that.

Through our own mortal ingenuity, we are reaching a historical phase when we are beginning to fear old age and longevity more than we fear death. We can no longer look forward to the possibility of a sudden, unexpected, merciful release, or falling asleep in bed while reading a book (as my mother did), or ceasing on the midnight with no pain. Nor can we make plans to celebrate our departure as a grand culmination of our lifes endeavours, with a gracious and grateful and possibly public farewell. Thats because we know that officious folk are going to strive to keep us alive for as long as they possibly can, until we can no longer enjoy anything. Just to prove that they can.

A bureaucracy of cruelty and fear, with diminishing returns, surrounds end-of-life care and possible pathways to the grave. It will drag us back from the brink, again and again if were not careful, until life has become so intolerable and undignified that we pray to be gone.

I sometimes ask myself, as I approach the bourn from which no traveller returns, if I am afraid of death. Theres nothing wrong with being afraid to die. Dr Johnson, that generous spirit and devout but tormented Christian, was greatly afraid. But I can more or less honestly say that Im not. Its not that I dont think about it I think about it every day, as I have done ever since I first had children, those hostages to fortune. But I dont waste what time is left to me worrying about it. What I do worry about is living.

From left: Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield in the 2010 film of Kazuo Ishiguros Never Let Me Go. Photograph: FoxSearch/Everett/Rex Features

How long do we want to live? This is not a simple question. The brain-freezers and person-cloners and perhaps the Zuckerbergs would presumably reply for ever, which is a very stupid answer, as Swift pointed out long ago. But if you dont glibly say for ever, what kind of term are you going to allot yourself? I went to a philosophy conference at Nuffield College in Oxford recently, at which questions of ageing were being addressed, with special reference to public policy on pension distribution and intergenerational justice. We were asked to adjudicate between various scenarios involving, for example, short and painful lives, or longer active lives ending in later years of protracted illness and incapacity. How should goods be distributed and wealth taxed in the future, in view of the evolving demographic of an ageing population? We were asked to consider the age at which we would opt to die, had we the choice, and it was suggested that these days we would think 70 too young, 80 about right, and 100 too old.

The most startling moment came in a Q&A session, when a normal, healthy looking middle-aged woman volunteered the information that she had been given a life expectancy of 100. Apparently this is now not unusual. She did not seem wholly happy about it, understandably: the prospect seemed more of a burden than a blessing. She did not want to be a struldbrug. Maybe in some circles it is normal to have ones life expectancy tested before, say, downsizing ones housing requirements or adjusting ones annuity. I can see the practicality of that. And I remember, bizarrely, a GP saying to my aunt: I can guarantee you until youre 90, but not much after that. GPs arent often so forthcoming. And the doctor was right: my aunt lived on, independently, in her own much-loved though increasingly untidy home, then spent two unhappy years in care, and died aged 92.

Not long ago, in 2014, I was asked to take part in a debate about the optimum age to die, which had been proposed as 75 by bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel in a provocative article in the Atlantic. I remember the slight sense of shock when I opened this invitation in my BlackBerry as I sat innocently unaware in a Little Chef just off the A303 in Somerset. I new why Id been asked: Id recently published a piece in favour of the right to assisted dying (which Emanuel, perhaps surprisingly, opposes) and I was, at that date, precisely 75 years old. Time for me to go, obviously, other people were thinking. I declined, instantly: I didnt want to engage with this topic at all. And then I went back to the enjoyment of my cholesterol-packed, statin-moderated indulgence of scampi and chips. From big questions to small pleasures. Thats how we keep going.

Ive thought a good deal since then about the question of the fixed term. Emanuel didnt say you had to sign off at 75, he merely recommended that after that date you should refuse intrusive or expensive medical aid aimed to extend your life. You shouldnt use up other peoples resources. (I have some sympathy with this position.) The novelist Anthony Trollope went much further, in his satirical novel The Fixed Period, set in 1980, and published in 1882, in the last year of his life: in this he invents a utopian (or dystopian) antipodean island society which has recently passed a law decreeing that, for the common good, euthanasia will be compulsory for all its citizens between the ages of 67 and 68. Naturally the inhabitants of Britannula, as they draw near that marker, become decreasingly convinced of the merits of the law, and all ends as one might expect. Its a grim little novel, and it depressed me.

We should never be made to know, by external factors, the exact date of our death. It is too much knowledge to bear. The state should never impose a fixed death. It has not the right. Trollopes Britannula was as opposed to capital punishment as I am and, unlike Britain at the time, had abolished it: clearly the concept of a fixed period of life and of a state death sentence were some-how connected in Trollopes mind, and both seemed to him to be wrong. It should not be possible for some human beings to say to another human being on such a day you shall die. We may choose our own date, and we may take ourselves to Dignitas in Switzerland to keep faith with it, but it may not be chosen for us. Autonomy in death is a basic human right.

I dont mean to make light of the newly created ethical difficulties facing doctors, paramedics, bishops and legislators. The problems are real. Every day we read or hear distressing testimony from those who have had to make painful life-or-death decisions about removing pacemakers or turning off life-support machines. The issues are usually explored with scrupulous care, and we can hear them discussed in depth on Joan Bakewells Radio 4 series Inside the Ethics Committee. This doesnt prevent cruel miscarriages of justice, caused more often by bureaucratic and legal confusion than by bigotry or self-protection. We are in unmapped terrain.

Bakewell, in her early 80s, personifies the cheering possibility of a useful and happy old age. But not everybody can grow old as successfully as she has, and remain articulate, beautiful, energetic, adventurous. More of us will dwindle away, and succumb to dementia, incontinence, loss of mobility and chronic or acute pain. Our bodies become our enemies, in the long run, and do not want us to go on for ever. There will come a point when we wont like looking in the mirror any more. We dont like to admit that there is anything repulsive about extreme old age, but I can remember, if I am honest, that as a child I found the spectacle of some of the very old alarming and frightening. We dont want to be kept alive as a memento mori to others. Lets go before that happens.

But lets end on the brighter side of death. Many people have fun organising their own funerals or memorials, and of course you cant have a funeral unless you pay the price of dying first. Some I know have planned (and even paid for) everything in advance the casket, the churchyard or the woodland plot, the hymns, the music. They have seized control. I havent got that far, but Ive made it clear I want to be cremated, not buried in the cold earth. I wouldnt mind a sea burial, as the thought of being devoured underwater is strangely attractive to me, but I think its hard to arrange, and I wont want to be a nuisance. Id like everyone to sing one of my favourite hymns, Turn back, O man, foreswear thy foolish ways, because it is full of an indestructible hope of a better world, even though I wont be there to see it. But most of all, what really cheers me up is the thought that my grandson Danny has promised to sing at my funeral.

I smile every time I think of this. I dont mind what he sings; in fact I dont mind whether he breaks his promise and doesnt sing at all, as I wont know about it, will I? If he happens to be in Australia at the time and doesnt want to fly back, that will be all right with me. But the idea of it, here and now, is wonderful to me. None of the Drabbles on my side of the family can sing at all, we are hopelessly unmusical, but he has a truly beautiful voice, with the help of which he and his a cappella choir reached the 2011 semi-finals of Britains Got Talent. You cant get better than that. I am smiling as I write this. Things will go on fine when I am gone.

The Dark Flood Rises is published by Canongate on 3 November. To order a copy for 13.93 (RRP 16.99) go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99.

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David Smith chronicles another busy week in a bizarre election year: Biden and Trump reveal bare knuckles and Ruth Bader Ginsburg may be asked to step down

Journalist Maureen Dowd memorably described the choice at the 2016 US election as the king of winging it versus the queen of homework. So no surprise if the king of winging it had a little help. Sixteen months into his campaign, he rolled out a new slogan, Drain the swamp referring to Washington. Soon enough #DrainTheSwamp was trending on Twitter.

But evidently this wasnt Trumps own idea. As a crowd chanted Drain the swamp at a rally in Geneva, Ohio, on Thursday, the Republican candidate admitted: You know, I didnt like the expression I started it what, a week ago, right? Drain the swamp and I said, I dont like it, and the people were going crazy, they loved it. All of a sudden, I like it.

Cue a mystifying simile that only Trump could come up with. Its like Frank Sinatra, who was a special guy, a difficult guy, but he had songs he didnt like but they became his biggest songs so he liked them, he continued. And drain the swamp, Im starting to like it a lot, do you agree? Its very reflective of what were trying to do.

Trump added with glee: So cute. I see this young boy here and hes screaming Drain the swamp! Hes this big. How cute. Hes learning young, learning young about our government. Very cute.

What a gift for Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton, the Broadway blockbuster that culminates in a duel between sitting vice-president Aaron Burr and former treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton. Sitting vice-president Joe Biden this week more or less challenged Trump to a duel, not with pistols at dawn but bare knuckles behind the school gymnasium.

Ill get myself in trouble, Biden said. Id like to take him behind the gym if I were in high school. All kidding aside, wouldnt you?

Trump has fired back at several rallies. In Florida he said: Id love that! Mr Tough Guy. You know, hes Mr Tough Guy. You know when hes Mr Tough Guy? When hes standing behind a microphone by himself thats when. And in Ohio he said: You know what you do with Biden? You go like this. He turned to one side and blew a puff of air from his mouth. And hed fall over.

Jake Tapper, CNNs chief Washington correspondent, tweeted: Im trying to envision something more fitting than this election actually ending in a Biden-Trump fist fight and I cannot.

From a well connected Washington crystal ball gazer: Hillary Clinton will win the election. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83, who fell asleep at the State of the Union address (she admitted she was not entirely sober) and has given more than one regrettable interview of late, will be gently asked to step down from the supreme court. Arch liberal senator Elizabeth Warren will be lined up to replace her. And the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia will spin like a Catherine wheel in the grave.

Clintons 69th birthday on Wednesday included a cake from staff and a rendition of Happy Birthday from Stevie Wonder. She will, if elected, be the second oldest person in history to assume the presidency, just behind Ronald Reagan. Trump is even older at 70. In Africa, however, they would all be mere babes in the woods. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is 92, Paul Biya of Cameroon is 83, Jacob Zuma of South Africa is 74, Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria is 73 and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda is 72.

Trump is a man of hidden shallows. Future historians will pore over the choice of warm-up music at his rallies, including Pavarottis version of Nessun Dorma (None Shall Sleep) and the Rolling Stones You Cant Always Get What You Want a lyric that takes on added poignancy with every poll.

It also emerged this week that one of the tycoons favourite songs is Is That All There Is?, a hit for Peggy Lee in the 60s. Trump told a biographer: Its a great song because Ive had these tremendous successes and then Im off to the next one. Because, its like, Oh, is that all there is?

The song may be even more apt come the night of 8 November when Trump counts how many states are in his margin. Clinton, meanwhile, will hold her election night party at New Yorks Javits Center, which has a glass ceiling. Get it?

Mother Jones magazine records: Even the death of a child couldnt keep Donald Trump from talking about hitting on the boys mother.

The episode dates from 2009 when Trump wrote a blogpost devoted to Kelly Preston four days after Jett, her 16-year-old son with John Travolta, died from a seizure during a family holiday. The billionaire offered condolences but could not resist mentioning something else: A long time ago, before I was married, I met Kelly Preston at a club and worked like hell to try and pick her up. She was beautiful, personable, and definitely had allure. At the time I had no idea she was married to John Travolta.

There was more: In any event, my track record on this subject has always been outstanding, but Kelly wouldnt give me the time of day. She was very nice, very elegant, but I didnt have a chance with her, and that was that.


John Gludovatz (@johngludovatz)

Tens of supporters attend Tim Kaine rally in West Palm Beach, FL.

October 25, 2016

He thinks because he has a mouthful of Tic-Tacs that he can force himself on any woman within groping distance. Well, Ive got news for you, Donald Trump. Women have had it with guys like you. And nasty women have really had it with guys like you. Yeah. Get this, Donald … on November 8, we nasty women are gonna march our nasty feet to cast our nasty votes to get you out of our lives forever.
Senator Elizabeth Warren

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