Death, Diarrhea and Late Night Sackings: The Inside Story of an Unfolding Staff Nightmare at UBA and Dangote

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Last November, thousands of Lagosians including hundreds of UBA Bank employees attended what was billed as the ‘party of the year’ at the Lekki Special Events Centre on Admiralty Way.

The UBA RedTV Rave had everyone from Wizkid to Olamide to Jidenna to Burna Boy thrilling the festive crowd as UBA chairman Tony Elumelu and CEO Kennedy Uzoka mingled with the artists and guests.

On the surface, this was the best of times, as a bank that was clearly in rude health celebrated a successful year with thousands of employees, friends and family. The bank had also recently concluded a recruitment exercise that would add nearly 4,000 new employees to its staff strength, so the year ahead looked to be a promising one for most employees present. 

Unknown to them, while senior executives danced with Wizkid in the VIP area, one of the most brutal staff layoffs in Nigerian banking history was just around the corner. They partied well into the night and then showed up for work the following week as usual. A week went by. Two weeks. Four weeks. Then right at the start of the new year – a shocker.

Closed at 5.30PM, Terminated at 10.30PM

Ifunanya (name has been changed) was asked to wait behind at work on Friday January 3. As a 12-year UBA veteran including a long stint in her role as a Branch Operations Manager at a branch in Ojodu, Lagos, this was not an unusual request to receive. She was even used to working weekends so that the ATMs could remain functional and she could troubleshoot other onsite customer-facing issues. This time however, was different. 

Along with other staff members at the branch, she was asked to wait for a board meeting. By 10.30PM, the assembled staff were informed that their services were no longer required. They were then told verbally to write out their resignation letters on the spot and leave voluntarily or be forced out. At this point, her security pass was taken, and along with the other affected staff, her profile was unceremoniously deactivated from the bank’s internal system. She was reminded to drop her work ID on the way out, and thus ended a 12-year association with the bank.

When a relative of hers reached out to tell the story, he was keen to make the point that she was not an agency employee, but a full UBA employee on a monthly salary of N153,000. He could not understand why the bank would treat her that way. I heard similar stories from two other sources who insisted that they were coerced into resigning after being told that their services were no longer required right at the start of the new year.

Shocking and callous as these stories may have sounded, one of the first things you are taught in any professional journalism program is to always balance the story. So I sought an alternate account of what transpired, with the goal of putting the picture together to tell a complete story. There were conflicting accounts of the events of January 3 flying around, with some accounts describing a recruitment and promotion exercise without mentioning any firings, while others reported a purported “restructuring” at UBA, which is a well-known euphemism for “mass sack.”

I managed to establish contact with a current senior employee at UBA who asked to remain anonymous because he is not authorised to speak about such matters. This was his account of what happened at UBA bank at the start of this year:

“Usually when anyone joins UBA with a Bachelor’s degree, they are put on a GT1 level (N80,000). After one year, they are promoted to GT2 (N100,000), then after another year ET1 (N140,000) which is where a lot of people get stuck on. If you are lucky, you get to ET2 (N165,000). So what UBA did was to meld those 4 levels into one (ET) so any one who was on GT1 and GT2 gets automatically promoted to ET2. Those that were on ET1 and ET2 got promoted to SET (Senior Executive Trainee). 

So it was a promotion of sorts, but honestly it was long overdue because compared to other banks, N80,000 for entry level staff is quite low. About the layoffs: I only know 4 people personally who got affected. The people affected were on manager grades and worked at the head office, they all reportedly got 6 months arrears.”

According to this source, he was not personally aware of the fate of any branch staff or what he termed ‘OND staff.’ He did however say that in his opinion, the bank handled the situation poorly and that Nigeria does need stronger labour laws to protect young graduates fresh out of school from exploitation for cheap labor at the hands of corporates like UBA. He also mentioned that he knows current UBA staff have not had a salary increase in ten years – a remarkable situation for workers in a country whose currency has declined 195 percent over the same period.

As it later emerged, more than 2,000 staff were affected by the shocking late-night cull at UBA. It also became increasingly clear that the firings had nothing to do with a harsh operating environment or decreased profitability. The bank which had brought together Nigeria’s most expensive music stars to perform at its end of year shindig was anything but struggling – it actually hired more people than if fired. What the sackings did though, was clear out a number of people in roles that the bank considered obsolete, particularly within branch operations.

It can definitely be argued that such restructuring is inevitable in the face of rapidly changing technology, which is hardly a terrible thing. What is also true however, is that the bank that paid huge sums of money to bring Burna Boy and Jidenna to an annual vanity event that adds nothing to its bottom line could also afford to retrain its redundant staff to fit into new roles –  instead of just sacking them and instantly bringing in thousands of readymade replacements.

Yet again, the actions of a Nigerian corporate made the point that Nigerian labour law, in addition to be being poorly enforced is also woefully inadequate and unfit for purpose. If after 12 years of useful service to a bank, Ifunanya could be dumped out onto the street without even a few hours of notice – and no regulatory action was forthcoming – then clearly, Nigerian employees working for Nigerian companies have a problem on their hands.

As much as the UBA situation made that point, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to unearth about another Nigerian corporate behemoth.

Diarrhea in India, Death in Ibeju-Lekki: The Unbelievable Story of Dangote Refinery

While senior executives at UBA House were going over the finer points of their plan to log 2,000 employees out of their work systems and force them to resign on the spot, a different level of labour exploitation was entering its fourth year about 73KM east of the Marina. There, at the site of the Dangote Refinery at the Free Trade Zone in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, the refinery was taking delivery of the world’s largest crude oil refining tower.

While this was predictably being celebrated across local and foreign media as the start of a glorious new chapter in Nigeria’s industrial history, I was speaking to a whistleblower with close and detailed knowledge of the project. What he had to say about the refinery project, the Indian project managers, the company’s internal culture and its much-publicised trainee program left me absolutely floored. Naturally I reached out to Dangote Group for a comment, but at press time I have received no response or acknowledgment.

My source, whom I shall call “Mukhtar” worked in and around the refinery project between 2016 and 2018, and what I found most distressing amidst everything he said was the revelation that deaths due to onsite accidents are not just known to happen at the refinery site, but are effectively covered up by Dangote. This he said, is because the people who die are mostly site labourers who are hired through staffing agencies instead of directly. When they die, it becomes the staffing company’s problem and the Dangote brand distances itself from it – even though the site owner is legally responsible for all safety-related incidents onsite.

Something else that struck me was that he implied that – contrary to all its public posturing – the company actually has no intention of using Nigerian engineers to run the refinery anytime soon. The trainee program that sent dozens of Engineering graduates for a one-year training program in India? “Strictly PR,” he said.

Accidents
The first batch of Dangote Refinery trainees head off to India in March 2016

For full effect, I have decided to reproduce the full and unredacted transcript of our conversation instead of using quotes and reported speech. Here is the conversation below:

ME: When we started this conversation, you mentioned that Dangote Refinery is exempt from Nigerian labour laws. What were you referencing?

Mukhtar: Because the refinery is in the FTZ, it is not subject to certain laws like local content laws. As such, even mundane jobs are given to non-Nigerian companies. Even the refinery’s fence wall was handled by a Chinese company. This didn’t stop long stretches of the fence from collapsing sometime in 2017. The FTZ affects Labour laws too. The company is not really under any obligation to employ Nigerians. They do so mostly for PR. All key decision makers are Indians (say 98%).

ME: There have been several horror stories about Indian-run businesses in Nigeria. Was this one of them?

Mukhtar: Yes, the Indians are quite racist. Some even demand to be referred to as “master”. To be fair, when this is reported, the HR unit makes a show of cautioning them. But I dont think anyone has ever been dismissed for it or seriously punished. Most of workers who meet their death on site are labourers. So their names might be known to many staff. I’ll see what I can get. It happens. It’s kept under wraps but it happens.

ME: Now you mentioned onsite deaths earlier. I want to know all about this. Why haven’t we heard anything about this?

Mukhtar: The refinery site is not really the best place to work. Mortality rate on site is quite high. People falling from heights or getting crushed by heavy vehicles/machines is quite common. These numbers are not reported because most staff are contract staff (or outsourced) so the company gets to wash its hands off such cases. But safety on site is the ultimate responsibility of the owner of the project. The construction site has a board that is supposed to display the safety statistics but it is never displays the truth. According to that board, there has never been a fatality on site. But in reality, I think 2018 had about 5 fatalities between January and March. If I were to guess, I’d say there have been over 25 fatalities since construction started in 2016/17.

ME: Now you said earlier that the trainee program was a washout and a disappointment. Fill me in on that.

Mukhtar: I was one of the first batch of engineers sent to India for training in 2016. In my opinion, the whole scheme was either poorly thought out or the company was somehow compelled to do it, and did so for PR. Our salaries were being paid into our accounts in Nigeria, so we were using our debit cards to access our Nigerian accounts for expenses over there) Around July 2016 when the naira went from around 160 per dollar to nearly double that number, our spending power was effectively halved.

ME: I also remember that there was a forex shortage crisis in 2016 and Nigerian bank cards stopped working outside the country.

Mukhtar: So when the banks eventually stopped all cards from functioning abroad, we were stranded. The company resorted to selling us dollars or rupees at the black market rate.They deducted the money from our salaries. We had accommodation (two adults per room) and feeding (Indian food which many of us did not like). Some of had to buy intercontinental dishes regularly, because Indian food is really not nice if you’re not into many smelly spices. It was crazy. Meanwhile we were told categorically that we would have Nigerian food and Nigerian cooks. It was a blatant lie by the Indian HR director.

Also, no arrangement was made for our medical care. Those who fell ill had to treat themselves from their pockets. During the currency crisis, those who fell ill had to rely on the rest of us to put together our spare change to pay for their treatment. The company promised to refund medical expenses, but this shouldn’t have been the situation in the first place.

ME: Tell me about the training program. What was the course content and the experience like? Was it what you were expecting?

Mukhtar: The training itself was a mess too. We were supposed to be trained to operate the refinery (at the time, it was said that it will be completed by mid 2017), but we were sent to a design company. These (designing a refinery and operating it) are two very, very different things. The trainers did not want us there in the first place. It was not a part of their initial contract with Dangote. Plus, they didn’t know what to teach us because designers are not operators. They were confused, several times, they asked us what we wanted to learn. But we could not know what we wanted to learn cos we knew nothing about the entire business. In the end, they reluctantly settled for teaching us design (skills we were/are unlikely to use cos the refinery was already 90% designed). 

ME: If you say that the refinery was “already 90% designed,” and you were learning design in India, that sounds like your presence was superfluous. Was the company really serious about sending you to learn skills to run a refinery?

Mukhtar: Indians will run the refinery. It will take many many many years before that refinery will be populated by just Nigerians. It was strictly PR. Anyways, the training with that design company was suddenly terminated on December 31st. Apparently, Dangote had not paid them a dime for all the months were were being taught design. They didn’t want to send us back to Nigeria so they moved us to the Dangote office in India. The office housed the Indian engineers (around 150 – 200 in number) who were supervising the design work being done by the design company. Now, it is interesting that these guys were working and earning as expatriates within their own country.

But realising that the “training” was a blunder, the company sent back some engineers to train in an actual refinery. So what was supposed to be a 1 year training became 2 years.

ME: Since returning to Nigeria, is there anything else you have noticed about the project that worries or disturbs you?

Mukhtar: Yes. So we have only the refinery at the FTZ, but the company gets to import things meant for other branches of the company duty-free. As a matter of fact, with the Dangote jetty in place and a customs office right there, the company no longer needs to clear stuff at Apapa. Dangote empire effectively has its own customs and port, because we cannot assume that the custom officers stationed at Dangote’s jetty/FTZ are extremely meticulous in checking what comes in and goes out. Personally, I find this disturbing. No non-military entity should be able to import stuff that easily into any country. This is bigger than just skipping custom duty payment.

–Ends–

Between bank staff being fired at 10.30PM and refinery site labourers being killed by workplace accidents without accountability, the sheer grimness of the picture facing Nigerian workers comes into stark relief. It is afterall, an employer’s market, with several thousand qualified people jostling for every job opening, which creates the possibility and incentive to treat staff like battery animals.

Whether the Labour Ministry is willing or able to do anything about such blatant labour exploitation is anybody’s guess. Nigeria’s government is increasingly weak and unable to impose its will on the country even territorially. In the event that the government did take interest, there is a valid fear that it would go to the other extreme and adopt a lazy anti-business Hugo Chavez approach, as it so often does. The real solution if there is to be one, must come from Nigerian labour having a stronger bargaining position through an improved economy. Anything else as it stands, is little more than a sticking plaster.

As Mukhtar mentioned, even inside the ridiculous situation of being financially stranded in a foreign country at the behest of an irresponsible and insincere Nigerian corporate, the vast majority of the group chose to suffer in silence. They did so because spending a year abroad learning useless information, suffering deprivation and experiencing diarrhea after being forced to eat unfamiliar food was still preferable to whatever alternative was at home.

Ultimately, that is the biggest problem facing Nigerian labour. 

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Volcanoes: Fires of Creation – 3D Nature Film | AMNH

[Overheard view of a smoking crater among clouds, then a volcano, viewed from the side as the Sun sets behind it.]

[POPPING, EXPLOSIVE SOUNDS.] 

[Bursts of lava, then views of lava flows down slopes.]

NARRATOR: Volcanoes are astounding forces of nature.

[A group of three people, seen from the back, observe a fiery scene below them.]

NARRATOR: They possess the power both to destroy

[Gusts of smoke and water during an eruption somewhere in the ocean] 

NARRATOR: and to create.

[An aerial view of the ruins of an ancient city below a bright blue sky.]

NARRATOR: Throughout the ages, we’ve built our cities

[The peak of a volcano rises, smoking, with several towers of a church-like building in the foreground.]

NARRATOR: In their shadows.

[A fly-over shot above green fields dotted with palm trees, with a volcano in the background.]

NARRATOR: Drawn to their rich soils. 

[An aerial view of a big crater at the top of a volcano, with a city spread out below.]

[EXPLOSIVE SOUNDS.]

[A view of another crater, spewing clouds of gas, rock, and smoke.]

[SECOND MUSICAL SCORE BEGINS] 

[An underwater view of an eruption.]

NARRATOR: From the depths of the ocean

[Scenes of an elephant walking, lions playing in a field, and a group of gorillas, including a silverback, among greenery.]

NARRATOR: to grasslands and tropical forests, volcanoes help shape 

[A view of a smoking volcano top, a view of a coast line.]

NARRATOR: vibrant ecosystems.

[A view of an explorer walking with bags away from a campsite dotted with tents.]

NARRATOR: Join National Geographic photographer Carsten Peter

[Two people, tethered with ropes, stand on the edge of a tall cliff.]

NARRATOR: and his team

[A view of two people descending down towards a lake of lava.]

NARRATOR: as they go where few would dare.

[A close-up of the boiling lava.]

CARSTEN PETER:  The whole Earth is rumbling, the whole Earth is shaking

[A view of the two climbers, tethered, raising their arms with their backs to the lake of lava.]

CARSTEN PETER: It’s absolutely incredible.

[Bursts of lava.]

NARRATOR: Discover the exciting science

[Two orbs, one large and one smaller, collide in space with a burst.]

NARRATOR: behind Earth’s origins.

[A view of a fractured surface, with moving pieces and in parts erupting with lava.]

NARRATOR: Every rock tells a story.

[A view of a person in protective gear, holding on to the edge of a rocky slope, above a lake of fiery lava.]

NARRATOR: So imagine what this one will reveal.

[Sparks and flying bits of lava. Text reads: Volcanoes. The Fires of Creation. Vocalnoesfilm.com. #Volcanoesfilm. Logos display at the bottom.]

NARRATOR: Now playing on IMAX and giant screens.

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Best Facebook Games List 2020 – Facebook Instant Games

Games are a great way for us to relax our mind and ease stress. However, playing the right game when you are bored can go a long way to relief your mind and give you fun. Therefore, I understand that apart from chatting with friends and loved ones some Facebook users do seek interesting games to play. Furthermore, this is why I have crafted the entire best Facebook games list 2020 to help Facebook account holders to enjoy instant games online.

Best Facebook Games List 2020 – Facebook Instant Games

Therefore, if you have not tried playing Facebook instant games before, this is a good chance to do so. However, some Facebook users do not even know where they can find these games. Also, some Facebook account users do not know they can play games on the Facebook platform. Basically, apart from chatting on Facebook, uploading your pictures and videos you can as well look for interesting games to play.

Play Facebook Games with FriendsFacebook Gameroom

Playing games on Facebook is very fun as you can play Facebook games with friends. This really sounds interesting as apart from chatting with friends and making Facebook live videos you can as well play games with your Facebook friends. However, these make it more fun filling as you have the chance to your game scoreline with your friends.

How to Access Facebook Instant Games

Therefore, if you want to access the Facebook instant games platform just go through these steps below.

  1. Another list of features will then dropdown. Here you will see the Games Feature after Friends list. Click on it, it will then take you straight to the game room

All Best Facebook Games List 2020

Here are all the best Facebook Instant games you can play to keep you stress-free and will make you enjoy your day.

  • Soccer Football League
  • Kiss Sweety
  • Fifa 2019 Football
  • Soccer Penalty 2019
  • Playing Soccer
  • Fifa 2020 Football
  • Boxing Star
  • Penalty Shootout
  • Fatal Sniper
  • Golden Boot
  • Pro Evolution Soccer 2020
  • Cristiano Ronaldo Kick n Run.io
  • Foot Soccer
  • Bullet Fury
  • PUBG Mobile
  • Bb-tin-shooter
  • Toon Cup
  • Car Racing
  • First Kiss
  • Hill Climb Racing
  • Free Fire Battle Royal
  • Racing Moto Fast Speed
  • Spiderman ultimate
  • GTA City Theft GD
  • Car Racing Top Free Ride
  • Extreme Moto Winter
  • Archer Master
  • Field of Battle
  • Beso-kissing Game
  • Spiderman Stickman Jump
  • Moto Extreme Team
  • Mad Shark
  • Batman vs Superman
  • Stickman Warrior
  • Elite Sniper for Pubg 3D
  • Car Driving Simulator
  • Puppet Soccer Challenge
  • My Dream Wedding
  • Call of Duty Battleground
  • Pubg Kill enemies 3D
  • Shooter Zombies
  • Barbie’s & Ellie’s Doctor Game
  • Surgery Simulator
  • Hot Lip Kiss
  • My New Born Pet Baby
  • Disney Barbie’s Beach Swimsuit
  • Disney Barbie’s Crazy weekend
  • Adriana Hairstyle
  • Anna Theme Room Design
  • Nail Salon
  • Baby in Kitchen
  • Barbie Fashionista Dress up
  • Frozen Christmas Hairstyle
  • Ice Cream
  • Granny SpongeBob Evil
  • Rope Cut
  • Happy Glass
  • Chess
  • Spin the Bottle
  • Candy Crush
  • Train Snake
  • Push Block
  • Castle Defense
  • Trivia Crack
  • Snow Racing.io
  • Billiards Club Las Vegas
  • Garden Tales
  • Five in a Row
  • Trivia Quiz
  • Subway Surfers

The post Best Facebook Games List 2020 – Facebook Instant Games appeared first on Bingdroid.

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Week in Review: Apple’s rebirth as a content company has a forgettable debut – TechCrunch

teddy bear

Hey everyone. Thank you for welcoming me into you inboxes yet again.

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. After dodging your inboxes for a couple weeks as I ventured off to China for a TechCrunch event in Shenzhen, I am rested up and ready to go.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox here, and follow my tweets here.

The big story

When Apple announced details on their three new subscription products (Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and Apple News+ — all of which are now live) back in March, the headlines that followed all described accurately how Apple’s business was increasingly shifting away from hardware towards services and how the future of the company may lie in these subscription businesses.

I largely accepted those headlines as fact, but one thing I have been thinking an awful lot about this week is how much I have loved Disney+ since signing up for an account and just how little I have thought about Apple TV+ despite signing up for both at their launches.

It’s admittedly not the fairest of comparisons, Disney has decades of classic content behind them while Apple is pushing out weekly updates to a few mostly meh TV shows. But no one was begging Apple to get into television. The company’s desires to diversify and own subscriptions that consumers have on their Apple devices certainly make sense for them, but their strategy of making that play without the help of any beloved series before them seems to have been a big miscalculation.

At TechCrunch, we write an awful lot about acquisitions worth hundreds of million, if not billions, of dollars. Some of the acquisitions that have intrigued me the most have been in the content space. Streaming networks are plunking down historic sums on series like Seinfeld, Friends and The Big Bang Theory. The buyers have differed throughout these deals, but they have never been Apple.

That’s because Apple isn’t bidding on history, they’re trying to nab directors and actors creating the series that will be the next hits. And while that sounds very Apple, it also sounds like a product that’s an awfully big gamble to the average consumer looking to try out a new streaming service. Why pick the service that’s starting from a standstill? Apple has ordered plenty of series and I have few doubts that at least one of the shows they plan to introduce is going to be a hit, but there isn’t much in the way of an early favorite yet and for subscribers that haven’t found “the one” yet, there’s very little reason to stick around.

Other networks with a half-dozen major series can afford a few flops because there’s a library of classics that’s filling up the dead space. Apple’s strategy is bold but is going to lead to awfully high churn among consumers that won’t be as forgiving of bad bets. This is an issue that’s sure to become less pronounced over time, but I would bet there will be quite a few consumers unsubscribing in the mean time leaving those on freebie subscriptions responsible for gauging which new shows are top notch.

Apple has also made the weird move of not housing their content inside an app so much as the Apple TV’s alternative UI inside the TV app. One one hand, this makes the lack of content less visible, but it also pushes all of the original series to the back of your mind. If you’re a Netflix user who has been subconsciously trained never to use the TV app on your Apple TV because none of their content is housed there, you’re really left forgetting about TV+ shows entirely when using the traditional app layout.

We haven’t received any super early numbers on Apple News+, Apple Arcade or Apple TV+, but none of the three appears to have made the sizable cultural splashes in their debuts that were hoped for at launch. Apple’s biggest bet of the three was undoubtedly TV+ and while their first series haven’t seemed to drop any jaws, what’s more concerning is whether the fundamentals of the service have been arranged so that unsatisfied subscribers feel any need to stick around.

Send me feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
lucas@techcrunch.com

On to the rest of the week’s news.

Image via AMY OSBORNE/AFP/Getty Images

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context:

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of badness:

Disrupt Berlin

It’s hard to believe it’s already that time of the year again, but we just announced the agenda for Disrupt Berlin and we’ve got some all-stars making their way to the stage. I’ll be there this year, get some tickets and come say hey!

Sign up for more newsletters in your inbox (including this one) here.

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CATTLE DECAPITATION – Death Atlas – HEAVY Magazine – Music, Interviews, Reviews, Podcasts, Shop, News and more…

Captivating, confronting, engaging, excruciating but most of all honestly extreme. Exactly as it should be! This is a brief introduction of feelings and emotions that gripped me intensely the first time, plus all ensuing times I’ve listened to Cattle Decapitation’s 2019 masterpiece and easily my album of the year so far, Death Atlas.

Absolutely never a band to shy away from confronting their audience, it has always been Cattle Decapitation’s intent to be unrelenting and unrepentant in their extreme metal mastery. They have never made apologies within their bleak yet truthful message over the course of their past two albums, Monolith Of Inhumanity [2012] and The Anthropocene Extinction [2015] of the plight of the world and our destructive patterns and habits as a pathetic human plague destined for extinction. 

Death Atlas opens with the prologue “Anthropogenic- End Transmission”. A monologue draped by a soundscape of desolation. A fog of despair lures us into the foreshadowing world of Death Atlas as seen through the lens of Cattle Decapitation…And then the magnificently catastrophic “The Geocide” drops like a nuclear bomb on the senses, clearly setting the bleak scene yet malevolent pace at which Cattle Decap wish to, as a means of sonic visualisation, deliver their uplifting message of human extinction. “The Geocide” is the perfect opener to slate the thirst of Cattle Decapitation fans and a deathly sigh of relief shall emanate from your parched throats as you are decimated with familiar territory.

“Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts” is a pummeling fuck machine of emotion! Clearly at the beginning of the track there is nothing but hatred , yet early on there is an ebb and flow of musical brilliance and dichotomy within the band that sees them battling one another to cohesively bind eachother forming a perfect incoherent tragedy. So the song is aptly titled “Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts”. A third of the way in, the chorus kicks in and here we hear vocalist Travis Ryan’s first stunning attempt at clean extreme vocal clarity with decipherable lyrics to paint a picture of what is presented before us. 

The addition of a second guitarist in Belisario Dimuzio, complimenting Josh Elmore, adds a new found songwriting element expanding the ability of more pronounced and accentuated razor slicing clarity and lead breaks rarely touched on on previous Cattle outings. The songs are harsher and thicker (courtesy of new bass player Olivier Pinard) in dimension and scope which, thanks to the incredible production capabilities of long time Cattle producer Dave Otero who has managed to produce one of the best death metal albums for this decade. 

“Vulturous” rumbles in like an imminent, destructive tsunami. Slow and full of groove it pulses with murky intent before the arrival of a wall of noise and armageddon  is erected to sand blast our ears with scathing hate. The groove that follows the previous moments is nothing short of incredible.  “Vulturous” is a song in chapters that engulfs the listeners in many emotions that is hard to honestly decipher at such an early point within the album. Following is the brief intermission of catastrophic memories of Death Atlas so far, “The Great Dying”, is a dialogue of themes we’ve already heard and are without question not done with yet. The female reader is un-subtly framed by thick choking sounds swirling around her as she warns of more unrelenting chaos to follow. Which bleeds into the first glimpse we got of Death Atlas nearly three months ago – “One Day Closer To The End Of The World”. Classic Cattle Decap! A galloping tirade of brilliant malevolence. Whilst there seems to be nothing but enormous tragedy as the main protagonist of Death Atlas, this album is Ryan’s first where he truly utilises his singing talent for the first time. And it seems as though he finds it as a means to promise albeit fruitless. You can truly get a firm grip on why Travis is without question one of the best, most gifted and diverse metal vocalists on the planet. His voice paints a myriad of pictures and emotions it is so easy to get lost in the images depicted and visualised thanks to his medium of choice. 

Out of “One Day Closer To The End Of The World” into our second unearthing of what you’ll hear on Death Atlas was “Bring Back The Plague”. Summoning the rage and clarity before us, this track embodies the album title’s true nature. No mincing words or apologies for lack of discretion. This track epitomises all that Cattle Decapitation are! Intelligent, thought provoking and unapologetic!

 An album full of idealistic hope – Negative optimism or nihilistic positivity, Death Atlas runs through a universe of unachievable hope via tales of our race’s unrepentant and destructive tendencies upon our planet and own lives regardless of our best laid plans to right the wrongs we have willingly adopted as a standard method of self-imposed annihilation. As Travis Ryan has stated recently on his thoughts of Death Atlas, we need look no further than the last twenty minutes of the album to hear their best yet bleakest work. I’ve given you enough detail as to how undeniably and simply perfect Death Atlas is. Your task is to now delve into its extreme brilliance and emerge on the other side forewarned and well equipped to make a difference.

Simply, if the five members of Cattle Decapitation were the last men living on this planet, it will be because they exemplify and harnessed the will through every extremity the world inflicts upon itself and they were chosen to write the soundtrack and script to the demise of the population they graciously loved but we’re forced to mourn due to complacency and self disregard!

Whilst Monolith of Inhumanity and The Anthropocene extinction were both incredible feats of extreme metal leading Cattle Decapitation up to this point, it is undoubtedly obvious underneath all their foreboding and tragic notions contained therein were precursors to what is heard within Death Atlas. Make no mistake that as we metal fans near the end of this decade and closer to our end, Death Atlas is a superbly crafted, perfect album delivered by Travis, Josh, David, Belisario and Olivier which will for many years to come be Cattle Decapitation’s shining light disguised as a tragic legacy.

Death Atlas, courtesy of Metal Blade is out on Black Friday – November 29th and can be pre-ordered here

DON’T MISS CATTLE DECAPITATION’S 2020 AUSTRALIAN TOUR

THURSDAY 13TH FEBRUARY – THE BRIGHTSIDE BRISBANE

FRIDAY 14TH FEBRUARY – THE FACTORY THEATRE, SYDNEY

SATURDAY 15TH FEBRUARY – CAMBRIDGE HOTEL, NEWCASTLE

SUNDAY 16TH FEBRUARY – THE BASEMENT CANBERRA

WEDNESDAY 19TH FEBRUARY – MAX WATT’S MELBOURNE

THURSDAY 20TH FEBRUARY -PELLY BAR, FRANKSTON

FRIDAY 21ST FEBRUARY – ENIGMA BAR, ADELAIDE

SATURDAY 22ND FEBRUARY – AMPLIFIER BAR, PERTH

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The Disgusting Matt Lauer News, and Vindicating Ann Curry

NEWSLETTERS
The Daily Beasts Obsessed
Everything we cant stop loving, hating, and thinking about this week in pop culture.
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This week:

  • Were still thinking about Ann Curry.
  • Go see Parasite.
  • The wildest detail of the Rihanna Vogue story.
  • Dont be jealous of my pumpkins.
  • Goodenough.
Once Again, Vindication for Ann Curry

In light of the disgusting revelations that surfaced this week, there are many things I wish for Matt Lauer. Because of those revelations, among many other reasons, I wish to know how NBC News bosses Andy Lack and Noah Oppenheim still have jobs. And because of all the horseshit Ive witnessed covering TV news and morning television over the last decade, there are many things, as always, I wish for Ann Curry.

I wish for her to rise each morning, well-rested, to a breath of crisp, invigorating air. Maybe theres a whiff of warm croissants coming in through the window, stoking an appetite for the knowledge she will immerse herself in that day. I wish for her curiosity about the world to be satiated, but I wish for her to have found the balance between being activated by the news without being too traumatized by the horror of it all. I wish for her to feel things, but not so deeply it hurts.

I wish for her to be greeted every day at 4:30 p.m. with a healthy pour of white wine. I wish for a non-stop parade of knowing, warm smiles from passersby on the streets. I wish for her to stumble on a $20 bill on the street, though I know she will do something saintly with it, rather than indulge in spending it on herself. I wish for her weekends to be spent at the beach, a relaxing convalescence from this crazy thing we call life, energizing her to return to her journalistic pursuits when Monday morning calls.

I wish for her to see, as it already appears she has, the Matt Lauer news, breaking seven years after his role in forcing her exit from the Today show, as a call to continue to mentor and galvanize female journalists.

And for everyone who, in response to the grotesque Lauer news, has called for Curry to get her own show, I wish for you to know that she hasChasing the Cure Liveand I wish for you to watch it.

Over a decade ago when I first started my career, I interviewed Curry at an event. The conversation turned personal, for both of us, and in the middle of it she reflexively gripped my hand and stared deeply into my eyes, forging an electric, compassionate connection as she spoke.

I have come to terms with the fact that I will never understand what the hell TV executives and, presumably, audiences value in hosts and journalists; what, really, did Matt Lauer bring all those years to justify tolerance of his behavior? But the way Curry led her thirst for facts and truth with empathy always struck me and still does. (For what its worth, those same traits are why I think Hoda Kotb is so good in her new role at Today.)

Anyway, these developments are heinous and pathetically emblematic of a broken system in television. Every time things like this come out, I think about Ann Curry and how she was treated. And then I wish the world for her.

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Parasite Is the Best Movie of the Year

I dont think Ive ever experienced a movie quite like Parasite. In the time since I first screened the new film, out Friday, that is what has stuck with me, that watching it is an experience. It sounds like such hooey cinephile nonsensean experience that I am rolling my eyes at myself while typing the words. But it is so true.

It is the best movie Ive seen this year. I implore you to see it! I can also tell you nothing about it!! Sorry!!!

The film is written and directed by Bong Joon-ho, best known for his English-language titles Snowpiercer and Okja. It is about an unemployed, impoverished family who infiltrate the lives of a wealthy and glamorous upper-class clan. I refuse to tell you anything else about it, and beg you not to seek out much more information than that.

Maybe youre a spoiler-phobe or maybe your entire 90s wasnt ruined by knowing that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time before you saw The Sixth Sense. Wherever you are on that spectrum, I truly, deeply believe that knowing what happens in this movie is a significant detriment to your viewing experience.

I dont want to overhype it, or make you think youre in for twists so unbelievably good that the wig is going to leap right off your head. But the film is one of the most stressful cinematic experiences Ive had. It drives up your heart rate to lethal levels, and once youve come to terms with the fact that your heart just lives in your throat now, it changes gears completely. Now all of a sudden your heart is over there in your forehead, and then exploding out your back, and then making its way to your left pinky. I dont know how it happens, I just know that it is what Bong Joon-ho does!

The film has been called a black comedy, which it sort of is. Its been ruled a horror film, which it sort of is, too, as well as a thriller, which, yeah, that fits. But its also really none of those things either. I am very aware that none of this information is helpful but I hope you take the spirit of itGO SEE PARASITE, YOU GUYS!!!and run with that all the way to the theater.

The Rihanna Vogue Detail That Shocked Me

There were a lot of details in the new Vogue profile of Rihanna that made headlines. Theres just how much money shes made by injecting long-overdue diversity and inclusivity into the worlds of beauty and fashion, tapping into a traditionally ignored market: actual people. Her next album is being worked on and it will be reggae-inspired, though there is still no time frame for its release.

The juiciest bits, of course, are about politics: She confirms that she turned down the Super Bowl Halftime Show in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, and she called Donald Trump, in specific reference to his response to the mass-shooting epidemic, the most mentally ill human being in America right now.

But there was a passage in the profile that has rattled me so viscerally that my bones shook and heart moaned when I read it. It is when writer Abby Aguirre says this: Normally I bring a list of questions, but I didnt have time to prepare one, which I make a split-second decision to confess.

A person showed up to interview Rihanna for Vogue without having prepared.

Everyone has different reporting styles. Staying awake at night poring through everything thats ever been written about an interview subject, scripting questions, ordering and reordering them, strategizing, and even pre-planning small talk and icebreakers isnt for everyone. And the writer is candid about the fact that the interview snuck up on her after Rihanna moved the appointment several times.

Would I have still scribbled down an outline, a handful of questions, or some mantras of encouragement before I even put presumed to put pants on for this interview? Yes. But hey, as Rihanna herself says in response, were all winging it, I guess.

The Only Good Thing About Halloween Are My Pumpkins

I do not like Halloween. I do not like people who like Halloween. But cranky as I get anytime someone uses the word spooky or tries to tell me about their costume, there are two traditions I partake in: eating candy cornscrew you, its deliciousand having an absolutely ridiculous jack-o-lantern carved.

I do not know if Brent Heuser, pumpkin carver extraordinaire, is delighted or embarrassed each year when I assign him an uber-gay design to craft during his residency at the High Line Hotel. This year, he carved me a fabulous rendering of Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, and Bette Midler during the You Dont Own Me finale of The First Wives Club, which I very much look forward to my boyfriend rolling his eyes at as it rots on our dining room table for the next three weeks.

Last year, he carved me Ryan Phillippes butt scene from Cruel Intentions, a photo of which made its way to the actor himself, who appeared good-naturedly baffled by it.

If Im being honest, it was a tough call to go with The First Wives Club this year over my second choice, Andrew Scott as the Hot Priest cradling a guinea pig in Fleabag. But Brent will be at the High Line Hotel for a few more weeks should any of you be looking for some gourd-eous temporary art.

More Than Goodenough

The Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded this year to a man named John B. Goodenough. I read this news on Wednesday and havent stopped laughing since.

What to Watch This Week:

Parasite: Duh!

The Addams Family: Charlize Theron as Morticia Addams? Sure!

Looking for Alaska: Finally, a good teen drama this fall.

What to Skip This Week:

Gemini Man: Will Smith is in this movie and Im not kidding when I say I only found it existed five minutes ago.

Insatiable: I cannot BELIEVE this show is coming back.

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A biker group’s kindness, a great Disney idea and a very lucky monkey

A biker group's kindness

(CNN)Hey morning people, I have a question: Um, how do you do it? How do you start the day with smiles and birdsong and a piping hot cup of coffee and not, you know, curse words and five alarm snoozes? My theory is, morning people are born and not made. However, experts say there are some things you can do to kickstart your mushy morning brain: Splash some cold water on your face, caffeinate slowly, make sure to get a little sunshine as soon as possible and, if you can, try to get outside for a brisk walk. My suggestion? Wake up at noon and avoid mornings altogether! Oh, if only.

Get going with some of our most popular good news stories of the week
a great Disney idea and a very lucky monkey - CNN
What goes around comes around
    Buckle up, because this one’s a great ride: In September 2018, Daryn Sturch and her daughter Bryanne came across a bad accident involving several motorcyclists with the Milwaukee Iron Biker Group. Sturch is a nurse in Chili, Indiana, and obviously felt compelled to stop and treat them. Some of the bikers were critically injured, and after she left the scene Sturch reached out to the group on Facebook to check up on them. To her relief, all of the injured bikers survived. The unfortunate incident kicked off a nice little friendship. Sturch says some of the bikers would check in occasionally on Facebook and offer her support or a kind word. Fast forward to this month: Sturch’s daughter Bryanne had planned a lemonade stand, but it got rained out. Some of Sturch’s biker friends suggested she reschedule for the next week, when the group would be in town. When the day of the lemonade stand came, Sturch and her family were overwhelmed: 30 bikers showed up to support Bryanne, including some Sturch had treated at the accident. Needless to say, it was definitely a waterproof mascara kind of day. “I think it’s a perfect example of how just because you don’t look the same way or dress the same way or have the same hobbies or interests doesn’t mean we don’t have the same core values inside us,” Sturch said. “We shouldn’t make assumptions about people, we should just love each other.”
    news
    A once-in-a-Millennium moment
    When a group of special-needs adults in Louisville, Kentucky, made a video of themselves lip-syncing to a Backstreet Boys song, their infectious joy captured the hearts of the internet. That alone is Good Stuff worthy, but then something even cooler happened: The Backstreet Boys saw the video, too, and arranged to meet the group before a tour stop in Louisville. When the big day came, 12 members of the group attended the concert and spent time with the boy band singing, taking photos and rocking out to a BSB dance party. Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson even recorded a heartfelt video message for the performers. “The passion, the joy, the soul that you put in that video was inspiring,” he said.
    us
    I’m gonna stop talking now and just show you another amazing photo from their meet and greet, because that’s where the real story is.
    A biker group's kindness
    This takes the cake
    An officer with a cake baking hobby helped put together a magical birthday for a 13-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. Now that’s multi-talented! Lt. Brandy Forman of the Smyrna Police Department volunteers with a nonprofit, Icing Smiles, that provides custom cakes for families with ill children. The Clinner family had requested a cake for their son, Tye, who was turning 13 and was about to embark on a special trip to Disney World. Tye has cerebral palsy and is unable to walk or sit up on his own, but his mom says he lights up any time someone mentions anything Disney. After hearing his story, Forman told CNN she knew she could help with “way more than a cake.” Her department coordinated a surprise party for Tye complete with pizza, wings and his own officer shirt. They even invited the community to join in, and a few other Atlanta-area police departments brought some police cars around for local children to check out during the celebration. Oh, and of course, the cake was gorgeous. “If you have the opportunity to do something good for someone else, do it,” Forman said.

    Raise a glass to…

    a great Disney idea and a very lucky monkey - CNN
    Kodi Lee, the newly-crowned winner of Season 14 of America’s Got Talent! Lee, 22, is a gifted singer and pianist who blew the judges away from the very start with his rendition of Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You.” He’s blind and has autism, and his mom says being able to express himself musically has helped him deal with a world that is often hard on people with disabilities. “Through music and performing, he was able to withstand living in this world,” she said. “Because when you’re autistic, it’s really hard to do what everyone else does. It actually has saved his life, playing music.”

    A bright idea

    news
    We have a double dose of Disney this week! The big Mouse has rolled out the Disney Bedtime Hotline again for a limited time. The phone service allows kids to receive a special bedtime message from their favorite Disney character (with help from their parents, of course). It goes like this: The characters detail their day, talk about how ready they are for bedtime, then playfully suggest the child on the phone get ready for bed, too. So, if your best Serious Parent voice can’t get them under the covers, maybe Anna and Elsa can give a much-needed assist. No long-distance fees to Arendelle required!

    You gotta see this

    us
    A lost toy monkey got the royal treatment at Buckingham Palace recently, and there are photos to prove it! Savannah Hart, a 5-year-old student at Woodside Preschool in south Australia, accidentally forgot Harriet, one of her school’s traveling stuffed monkeys, during a tour of the palace. (Harriet is an excellent monkey name, by the way.) Once she was back home, Savannah and her preschool classmates sent a letter asking for Harriet’s safe return. Sure enough, the preschool heard via email that Buckingham Palace staff had found the toy monkey. They said she had been busy eating scones and promised to send her back after photographing her at work around the palace. Okay, Harriet HAS to be the most interesting stuffed monkey in the world now.

    Heroes among us

    A biker group's kindness
    “No charge for this lady under any circumstances.” That was a note left by plumber James Anderson on a bill for a 91-year-old woman with leukemia who needed her boiler replaced. Anderson says the woman, who is receiving palliative care, will have round-the-clock plumbing help if she needs it, and free services for life. Anderson of Burnley, Lancashire turned his plumbing business, DEPHER, into a community project for vulnerable people after he saw an elderly man being “manipulated” by another engineer in the area. Since then, he’s helped thousands of people with their plumbing needs at a reduced or waived cost — even when the work leaves him with a loss. “We need to do something more to help the people who need it most,” Anderson said. The daughter of the 91-year-old woman he helped described Anderson as an “angel dressed as a plumber,” which is just another way of saying he’s a straight-up hero.

    Wanna get away?

    a great Disney idea and a very lucky monkey - CNN
    Looking for your next big trip in 2020? Why not Africa? CNN Travel has put together 30 of the continent’s most breathtaking destinations, any of which could easily reach trip-of-a-lifetime status. Of all the scenic views, this one from the Lekki Conservation Centre in Lagos, Nigeria, really speaks to me. What’s just beyond this lush, curving boardwalk path? Probably more lush, curving boardwalk path, and we’re totally okay with that.

    Tell us something good

    news
    Macon, GA
    After seeing the destruction Hurricane Dorian wrought on the Bahamas, Rikki Kahley turned her bachelorette party to Nassau into a relief trip. Originally, the 24-year-old was going to cancel and even offered to donate the group’s hotel rooms to local families in need but was moved when the resort’s receptionist got emotional about how much tourism business the area was losing. So Kahley and her sister Chloe put out a call for donations and started collecting donated baby wipes, diapers, food, clothes, toys, books and water filtration tools. By the time they boarded the flight to the Bahamas, they had 37 suitcases full of supplies. (Delta Air Lines waived the extra baggage fees.) “Our experience was great. We enjoyed all the Bahamian people we encountered, heard lots of stories about their families and how the hurricane impacted them,” Kahley said.

    Impact your world

    Today is World Gratitude Day! I am grateful for every single person in our Good Stuff family, and for all of the wonderfully kind and insightful notes you send week after week. You are appreciated more than you know. If you want to up the gratitude in your life, here are three easy rituals that can have you feeling more thankful and ready to take on life’s, well, less gratitude-inspiring tasks.

    Shameless animal video

      There’s always time for cute animal videos. That time is now.
      All animals deserve to be petted! Unless they really don’t want to be, of course. But you’d be surprised at how many un-cuddly species are actually just lovebugs in disguise. This baby croc is so happy to get chin scratches he’s making little laser sounds of gratitude. Who could ever say no to that? (Click here to view)

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      I love drag. It’s dangerous: Graham Norton and Alan Carr on desire, camp and cancel culture

      As RuPauls Drag Race comes to the UK, two of its judges discuss homophobia, the celebrity they first fancied and why todays comedy audiences want more kindness

      Alan Carr

      How do you think you would do if you were contestants on RuPauls Drag Race?
      Graham Norton:Poorly.
      Alan Carr: Before I started dressing up as women in sketches, I thought: I bet because Im not a looker as a man, Im one of those ones that, when you put on the make up, I am quite something quite stunning. And no. It just doesnt translate.

      Ive seen the first episode of your show and it is a lot more messy and anarchic than the US version.
      Alan:Drag queens in the UK, they survive it all theres a hen party, a stag party, people throwing beer bottles. They work not on their heels, but on their wits.
      Graham: Even the ones that arent funny are funny. Suddenly, you realise how unfunny some of the American ones are.

      Do you think the UK version might get lost in translation?
      Graham: Funny is funny, I think.
      Alan: I sort of hope it does get a little bit lost. I had to go in and tell RuPaul who Kim Woodburn [the TV personality and cleaner] is. How can you explain to Americans who Kim Woodburn is? Its just nice, for once in my life, to not be the campest one in the room.

      Do you ever find that you check yourselves in public any more that you worry about people recognising that youre gay?
      Alan: I give up with all that. I give up.
      Graham: But I understand it. I mean, sometimes you do, because if you feel like someones gonna punch you, then yes, you do. Still, now, you know. Its funny when people talk about coming out, because you want to say to them: it never ends. You think you come out and thats the end of it. No. Because then its the first nice day of the year and the cab driver says something about Oh, I love the summer, you know, theyve all got their tits out, and youre like: is this a moment? Is this worth my time? Do I reveal myself?

      Do you still encounter a loathing of camp among some straight-acting gay men?
      Graham: I think you do in that, still, straight acting is an ideal. And thats just part of our sexuality. Were all prone to that. I remember seeing a BBC Three thing about young gays down in Brighton, and my name came up, and the idea of being me was just horrific to them. And it broke my heart, because they were me. I just thought: But you are little mes, you are the fey, camp ones.
      Alan: I say to Graham, do you remember when we used to get slagged off by the snooty gays, you know: Oh, camp is that really how gay men should be portrayed? I mean, look at whats come since, love. Were like Vin Diesel and Sylvester Stallone, compared with that. Camp is different things to different people. Did you ever watch Dynasty? What about when the son came out as gay and had a fight? That, to me, was the stirring.
      Graham: No, my stirring was Alain Delon in The Yellow Rolls-Royce. He took his shirt off. And I remember trying to discuss with a boy at school how lovely his back was.

      How did he respond?
      Graham: Well, it was a nice car!

      Alan

      Bring it on Alan Carr, Michelle Visage, Graham Norton, judges of RuPauls Drag Race UK season one, with contestants. Photograph: James Spawforth/BBC

      Youre both known as chat show hosts. Who have been your worst and best guests?
      Alan: Im not going down that road. I mean, booking for a chat show is when you are on Channel 4 and youre not
      Graham Norton it is pulling teeth. [Turns to Graham] One time you had David Beckham on, just as an amuse-bouche. He just came out for 10 minutes and then went away! And Im like: Oh no, which reality star am I talking to today?
      Graham: But at Channel 4 when we started we had exactly the same thing. For that audience you have to push things further and its ruder and I think publicists get really nervous. So actually on BBC One where its nice, everythings lovely, its much easier to welcome people on.
      Alan: Towards the end of Chatty Man I just found that they wanted more vitriol. Then the monologue at the end was becoming a nightmare. I mean, you would go to a function and you would be like: Oh my God, Simon Cowell is coming along in his built-up shoes. You cant keep pushing the envelope, because socially you become a pariah. And the people you slag off in the monologues, when you meet them, theyre actually quite lovely. And its the people you like who are the complete arseholes.

      Do you think comedians should be worried about cancel culture [where someone is called out or boycotted online]?
      Alan: Its a nightmare. I just feel that if standup comedy disappears, where do you go … I dont know. Let me have a think about this. It does wind me up.
      Graham: Im in two minds about it. On the one hand, I think its annoying that youre being told what to say But funny continues you just have to be slightly cleverer about what youre funny about. When alternative comedy began, it was saying, OK, Bernard Mannings act: that doesnt exist any more. And I think we have started to drift back to Bernard Manning. People are using really lazy targets in a kind of look at us, we can say anything way. I think theres nothing fearless about soft targets. Its actually the opposite of fearless. Youre picking on people who dont have a defence, who dont have a voice.

      Graham, do you ever miss the camp smuttiness of your old Channel 4 show, So Graham Norton?
      Graham: I dont. Because [that kind of thing is] still on the telly, if you want that. Its there. But happily, its not being presented by a 56-year-old man. Because I think that it was already getting quite dodgy by the time I stopped doing it, in my 40s. And it just becomes unseemly.

      Alan
      Youve already broken so many rules just to get on stage. It gives you a freedom and theres something dangerous about drag still, and I enjoy that Alan Carr and Graham Norton. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

      What do you mean by dodgy?
      Graham: I think its unseemly for someone of a certain age to be doing all of that. I still find it funny, but not as funny as I did. Things shock me now that wouldnt have shocked me when I was 25. Im a bit like [sharp intake of breath] he said cunt twice! Maybe I have become more sensitive.
      I always think its weird when people talk about jokes and what you can do, or you cant say anything now. And its like, the only people stopping you are your audience. They decide whats funny and whats not funny. There isnt some weird comedy police. If I came out in front of my audience on a Thursday night and did some of those jokes we did [on
      So Graham Norton], the audience would just look ashen. And they wouldnt like it. It is partly, I think, because of Twitter and things now, where theres so much bile and viciousness out there that people dont want that in their entertainment.

      Did you see the online backlash against drag queen Baga Chipz when she was announced as a contestant on UK Drag Race? It was because of an old article in which she said it was OK for gay people to vote Tory in the 2017 general election.
      Alan: Well, thats her opinion, isnt it? Its an opinion. Its dangerous when you start telling people they cant have an opinion on something. And, you know, you dont cancel someone, you engage with someone. Thats the problem. I think thats why I was struggling with the cancelling thing. Because it doesnt actually cancel if anything it gives people more column inches. Doesnt anyone make any mistakes any more?
      Graham: Apparently, they do.
      Alan: It sounds like I work at Hallmark, but every day is a journey and you get better and thats the whole point of life.
      Graham: Try working at the BBC. Easy for you to say, Mr ITV over there. Going back to the comedy, I think there is something about drag that gives performers licence to do stuff. Every performer that gets on stage has a persona, youre never truly yourself it doesnt matter who you are. Youre putting something on, but I think, because in drag you are hidden, you can say and do things and an audience will allow you to do them. Like [US drag queen] Bianca Del Rio does material that no one else is doing Joan Rivers type stuff. A proper insult comic. And that isnt that popular right now. But shes getting away with it.

      It does seem that with drag queens the bar for what is deemed acceptable is slightly lower.
      Alan: Because youre otherworldly: your rules dont apply to this world.
      Graham: Youve already broken so many rules just to get on stage. It gives you a freedom and theres something dangerous about drag still, and I enjoy that.

      Do you think things are getting worse for LGBT people in Britain?
      Graham: Well, theyre certainly repetitive. Why does anyone study history? Why do we bother?
      Alan: The one thing you do learn from history is that you dont learn from history. Its becoming a bit of a minefield just the semantics and the language. I feel as if we cant really get to the problems, because we have to tiptoe through this minefield of language. It would be nice just to get it all out on the table and discuss, but I think sometimes social media can blur all that.
      Graham: Twitter, I think, must destroy some young gays. If you stick your head above the parapet and you retweet the wrong thing, or you comment on the wrong thing, suddenly you must think the world is so ugly, and so horrible. And I think thats properly dangerous. Because when youre a kid, the one thing you dont know is that this is just going to blow over. And even though people are saying they want to rip your head off and shit down your throat, theyre never going to say boo to you if they see you in the street.

      Alan, I read somewhere that you live on a farm with Julian Clary and Paul OGrady. Is that true?
      Alan: No! I mean it sounds like the most amazing sitcom, but yeah, its been said that I live on a farm with Paul OGrady and Julian Clary, and I would love it to be true, but its not. I dont know where that came from.
      Graham: But you do farm, dont you?
      Alan: Well, I just mince around in some wellies [on his husband, Pauls farm]. I am so crap down there, because its all shit and death. You see an animal on its side and youre like: Please be a narcoleptic, please dont be dying, please be having a kip. I cant bear it.

      So theres no chance of you doing a farming show on telly?
      Alan: No. Listen, Ive had the phone calls. I know how they want me they want me pulling a cows teat, screaming Ah! Ah! [mimes milking a cow]. They want another Rebecca Loos.

      So, just to bring it back to drag
      Graham: Speaking of death and shit.

      Do you think drag is here to stay in mainstream culture or is it just having a moment?
      Graham: When Drag Race started, drag was nobodys first choice. Something had happened in your life. You failed at something else. Or you were hiding from something or there was some story before you got to the moment where you were dressed as a woman, lip syncing. I think thats changed. There are now children growing up thinking: I want to be a drag queen.
      Alan: It will never go away. I mean, listen, you know, in the Bible obviously I havent read it for ages
      Graham: Well, we didnt expect this, did we! We did not see this coming.
      Alan: Wasnt there something in the Bible about how [men] should never wear womens clothes or the other sexs clothes, what was that all about? Theres something about transvestism and drag in the Bible, I swear it. So its been around for ages. I think it will be around for ever because it is a state of mind. Theres a male energy and a female energy and I think you get it in performers like Prince, Michael Jackson, George Michael, David Bowie there is something magnetic in that fight between male and female going on before your eyes. And I feel in good drag you cant take your eyes off of it.
      Graham: That is really true.
      Alan: Thats actually deep. But cut out the Bible bit. I think we all knew I was out of my depth.
      Graham: I hope drag is here to stay because I really enjoy it. Instagram drag may go away the idea of boys sitting in their bedrooms painting their faces. But actual drag performers Its midnight ladies and gentlemen, please welcome thats going to go on for ever.

      RuPauls Drag Race UK starts on BBC Three on 3 October at 8pm and will be exclusively available on BBC iPlayer

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      Mike Johnson Speaks Out About Demi Lovato & Not Being The Bachelor | Betches

      While a lot of us (Sweetest Betch You’ll Ever Meet and It’s Britney, Betch) are saying a prayer of thanks that Mike Fleiss has finally granted us reprieve from six hours of reality television every week, others (me, Brett Vergara) are still reeling from the revelation that Peter will be the next Bachelor. Now, don’t get me wrong, on any other season, Peter would have been a great choice. I’m glad they didn’t pull some bullsh*t and revive some random dude from the dead (or, in Bachelor terms, five years ago). And, to be clear, Peter is a fine choice for Bachelor. He made it to the top three on Hannah’s season, and he seems like a perfectly nice guy. But notice the lack of enthusiasm here? That’s because I, like many people, were hoping against all hope that this would be the year that ABC would finally do something different. That they’d choose a Bachelor who wasn’t the human incarnation of mayonnaise on Wonder Bread. And this time, it actually seemed likely! I was fighting a losing battle last year, hoping they’d choose Wills for Bachelor. But this year, we had Mike Johnson. We had Mike’s smile. We had Mike calling women queens. It seemed that our dreams of having a diverse Bachelor may finally become reality. And then they didn’t. Now, Mike Johnson is finally speaking out about getting passed over for the Bachelor gig, on Bachelor Happy Hour with Rachel & AliRachel Lindsay and Ali Fedotowsky’s podcast.

      Rachel first asks Mike if he was, in fact, in talks to be the next Bachelor, or if we all just wildly projected. He answered, “I was 100% in talks to be the next Bachelor.” So that settles that—ABC was considering switching it up, and ultimately decided not to. I think I speak for all of us when I say: Y tho???

      He added, “people probably didn’t think I was considered to be the Bachelor because I was trying to be so respectful of the crew at Bachelor world and I didn’t want to speak about it.” He then explained that Peter didn’t do interviews after The Bachelorette, so he didn’t have to answer questions about being the next Bachelor all the time. Mike then goes on to say that he definitely wanted the gig. “I 100% wanted to be the Bachelor,” he said. “Reasons being: One, I do want to find a wife. Two, it was bigger than me and I wanted to represent for all people of color. And then, also, talking about people of color, they need to have an Asian Bachelor, they need to have an Indian Bachelor. They need to have other people outside of just black and white. And so I want to speak on that as well.” Ugh, I stan a woke king. Remind me why they didn’t choose this guy again?! This is a crime against humanity.

      So Mike affirms that he definitely did audition to be the Bachelor, and he wanted it, but he ultimately wasn’t chosen. And he kind of found out in the crappiest way possible: on TV, like the rest of us. “I found out in the trailers, before you do on the Bachelor in Paradise reunion,” he said. Damn, they couldn’t have given him a phone call? He admitted, “When I first found out, I’m not gonna lie, I was sad. I was annoyed when I very first found out. But then by the end of the night, I wasn’t annoyed no more because I was appreciative and thankful that they told me no right then and there because now I could focus on myself and I’m just blessed because I know I’m gonna find my wife and find my claim.” Well, that’s a lot more graceful than I would be. Personally I would have probably followed through on my many threats to burn down ABC. One of these days, I’m going to do it for real!!

      Obviously, Mike had some opinions on why they chose Peter instead—but they are annoyingly vague. He said, “ultimately, it just came down to, they chose the right person for what they want.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?? Is “what they want” to placate middle America types who can’t handle seeing a non-white person on their television? Please, I need more information.

      But we all know now that you can’t always get what you want (if what you want is diversity in Bachelor Nation). And now it doesn’t really matter, because Mike is seeing Demi Lovato. And of course Rachel asked about it (doing the Lord’s work). He admitted he and Demi have met in person “more than one time”. What does that mean!! Stop being coy! The people demand it.

      He gushed over Demi, saying, “I think she’s amazing. She’s incredibly humble.” He added, “When Demi and I are together, it’s laughter and we talk about real sh*t. Like, she’s a down-to-earth woman and I respect it so much. And she’s just a really humble, really cool, really fun, down-to-earth person.”

      Cool, cool, cool. I don’t know why I’m crying in the club at my desk right now. Next, Rachel asked what we’ve all been thinking ever since Mike posted that thirsty comment on Demi’s Insta: “What is the status of your relationship with Demi Lovato?” Here’s what Mike said:

      “My status of the relationship with Demi and I are that we are two people exploring each other.”

      Oooookayyyy, seriously? “Two people exploring each other” sounds like what you’d say about the person who taught you how to give a blow job as a teenager at summer camp. But, okay fine, it makes sense that Mike wouldn’t say he and Demi dating or anything, considering it’s been, like, two weeks since they have been in contact (that we know of).

      SO this interview basically reaffirmed to me that Mike would have been a great Bachelor, but that we do not deserve him. And Peter will be cool I guess. It could have been worse—they could have chosen Blake. Listen to the full interview with Mike Johnson here.

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      The Bachelorette Is The Worst Show On Television, So Why Do I Never Miss An Episode?

      I’m about to make a bold statement, so hold onto your hats!

      I love watching The Bachelorette.

      I already know what you’re thinking. Yes, I know it’s generally degrading. I know it makes otherwise good folks look like imbeciles. I know I’m being emotionally manipulated by myriad producers and editors whose sole job is to secure ratings. I know, I get it. But, ain’t ya ever heard of a guilty pleasure afore?

      Growing up, I watched only a handful of episodes from a couple seasons. I was first introduced to the show at 13, when I began to see Trista Rehn‘s face on the cover of every tabloid magazine at the grocery checkout. I remember being fascinated with the show’s concept. A bunch of dudes fight over one girl and then she has to pick her favorite ultimately making him the “winner.” But “winner” of what? Her heart? A game? Both? That sounds like fun!

      Thankfully, as a young adult, I didn’t waste my time being sucked into Bachelor Nation (the title given to super fans, ya know like Dead HeadsLittle Monsters, or Beliebers). No, as a young person I spent my time on more important things. (Like watching every episode of  and)

      It was until my mid-twenties that I officially joined the “Nation.” Now, the show has me dutifully plopped in front of a television set every Monday night.

      And I’ve done a lot of thinking and asked myself some pointed questions: Why do I love this show so much? Why do I look forward to Monday nights with such fervor? Why do I ignore the unrealistic message it’s sending to folks about relationships and love? Am I morally obligated to denounce the show in the name of feminism while saving my own dignity?

      While these are important and reflective questions to ponder, I already know the overarching answer is a blunt no. No, I won’t stop watching this show for the foreseeable future. But now, it’s time for my reasons…

      Why do I love this show so much?

      The simple answer (and arguably the most important): it’s entertaining. The folks who produce this show have gotten things down to a perfect science. They know exactly how to craft an episode or season’s trailer to leave you excited and salivating. Now, I’m not saying it’s great television. It’s trash. But like a crappy romance or dime-store novel, you just can’t help but turn the page. Or in this case, endure the commercials.

      Why do I look forward to Monday nights with such fervor?

      You know how folks love to get together for the Super Bowl? No matter who you are, how little you care about sports, or how much you hate Tom Brady, everyone LOVES to watch the Super Bowl. It’s a gathering. An excuse to get together with friends and family. A reason to pull out the old Crock-Pot and make Mom’s chili. A great opportunity to clink your beers and cheer on a team. Doesn’t matter which one, just pick a side.

      You see where I’m going with this… Monday’s are an excuse to get together with my girlfriends and sisters. Drink rosé and predict what might happen after the commercial break. Will the cocktail party be canceled tonight? Is Luke P finally going the f*$% home? Then there are all the mid-week, post-show convos. Are you all caught up yet? What did you think of Jed? Yeah, I’m free for lunch on Thursday!

      The Bachelorette is a really great excuse to hang out.

      Why do I ignore the unrealistic message it’s sending to folks about relationships and love?

      Let me rephrase this question: is it wrong for me to support a show that so inaccurately and unrealistically depicts relationships and love? I guess this question goes hand in hand with “Am I morally obligated to denounce the show in the name of feminism while saving my own dignity?” My answer to both is: no.

      But let me tell you a secret: THIS SHOW DOES NOT ACCURATELY DEPICT HOW HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS FUNCTION!

      There. I said it.

      No, it’s not normal to date 30 people at the same time. No, it’s not normal to “need” to hear that someone “loves” you after 4 dates. And no, it’s not normal to truly and firmly believe that a man you’ve known for less than six weeks should propose to you. My biggest pet peeve with the show — other than repeatedly hearing Chris Harrison say “The most dramatic (insert noun) ever is about to begin!” — is how contestants seem to forget that other people exist on Planet Earth.

      “No!” they say, “I want THAT ONE!” And we all know that has to do with the chase and competitive nature of the show. It’s not so much that they’re in love with the Bachelor or Bachelorette, they really just want to win. And then, maybe they can go on to do something really great with their lives, like use Instagram to promote products they don’t even use themselves. FabFitFun codes for everyone!

      Here’s the thing, the people that decide to go on the show, know exactly what they’re signing up for. They know they’re going to get to meet cool people, grow their Instafollowing, travel all over, and hey, maybe they’ll get engaged to someone. If it’s truly real love, they’ll stick it out. If not, they’ll announce it in an Instagram post and then move on with their lives, FabFitFun commission check in tow.

      Oh and as far as my own personal dignity goes, I’m pretty proud of its current state and not watching a vapid reality show isn’t going to make me “better than anyone else.”

      Now, let’s all cross our fingers and hope Hannah B. picks Tyler C.

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