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Covid: The strange case of Eric Clapton: How a guitar legend turned into a self-confessed curmudgeon | USA

Eric Clapton playing at the O2 Arena in London, in March 2020.
Eric Clapton playing at the O2 Arena in London, in March 2020.Gareth Cattermole (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

In the last pages of his book The Autobiography, Eric Clapton writes a truth and a lie. This is the true part: “I am lazy, refusing to do any exercise, and as a result am completely unfit. I am a complete curmudgeon and proud of it.” And here is the lie: “I have tried to remain on the margin of political and social issues.” In his defense, it should be pointed out that he wrote this book in 2007, when he was 62 years old, and he was yet to begin enjoying his passion for calling out politicians. But now, at 76, the rock legend is still a curmudgeon and has begun a crusade against the people who run the world.

After a musical career that stretched more than five decades, Clapton claims that for the first time he is writing “protest songs.” Against what? Against a plot to brainwash the population. Last week the musician gave an interview on the YouTube channel The Real Music Observer. There he detailed his theory, that people who are vaccinated against Covid-19 could be victims of “mass formation hypnosis.”

He went into detail about how this could be possible, saying that he “remembered seeing little things on YouTube, which were like subliminal advertising. It’s been going on for a long time – that thing of ‘you will own nothing and you will be happy.’ And I thought, ‘What’s that mean?’ And bit by bit, I put a rough kind of jigsaw puzzle together. And that made me even more resolute.”

To sum up, Clapton believes that the population is being hypnotized by YouTube so that they get vaccinated. The musician first listened to Belgian psychologist Mattias Desme, and then sat in front of YouTube in order to appreciate “those messages.” Desmet, a psychology professor at Ghent University, believes that this supposed hypnosis could be the “first step toward totalitarianism” and the committing of atrocities in the name of collective wellbeing.

In the second part of the interview, and in the wake of the reaction that his first statements prompted, he clarified that he was neither “anti or pro vaccines,” adding that he was not concerned if he was “misunderstood.” The guitarist added that he felt that his career was over until he recently found this new motivation. He points to Stand and Deliver and This Has Gotta Stop as the songs that reacted to this situation. They were written along with Van Morrison, another veteran musician who has adopted a similar stance since the pandemic hit. The pair sing in the song the following lyrics:

“You let ‘em put the fear on you

Stand and deliver

But not a word you heard was true

But if there’s nothing you can say

There may be nothing you can do

Do you wanna be a free man

Or do you wanna be a slave?”

His combative attitude has not only stirred up his fans, but also other creative friends of his. In a recent article in The Washington Post titled “What happened to Eric Clapton?”, blues guitarist and singer Robert Cray spoke of his experiences with Clapton.

Cray, who is eight years younger than his former friend and mentor, had recorded and played together and were in fact planning to tour. But Cray pulled out after an exchange of emails with Clapton. Cray, who is Black, wanted to know what Clapton was referring to when he compared Covid lockdowns to slavery. “His reaction back to me was that he was referring to slaves from, you know, England from way back,” Cray told The Washington Post. After a few more emails in which his concern became ever greater, Cray decided he could not open for Clapton in good conscience. Clapton has admitted that recently his phone has stopped ringing. “Over the past year there have been a lot of disappearances, a lot of dust around, with people moving away pretty quickly,” he said.

Days later, Clapton posed for a photo with the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, a politician from the far-right wing of the Republican party – some even say he is more radical than former US president Donald Trump. Among Abbott’s track record is the approval of the most-restrictive abortion law in the country, the elimination of the need for a permit to carry firearms, and sending hundreds of police vehicles to the border to “create a wall of steel” and stop Haitian migrants from crossing into US territory. The photo shows Clapton and Abbott with big smiles on their faces.

The last song Clapton released, on Christmas Eve, is equally controversial. It is called Heart of a Child, and was co-written with Robert Monotti, an Italian architect living in London whose passion for writing pop songs was previously undiscovered. He was, however, known for promoting a denial discourse about the coronavirus pandemic. The lyrics state:

“Turn off the TV

Throw your phone away

Don’t you remember

What your daddy used to say

Don’t break the heart of your child

Don’t let your fear drive you wild.”

In October 2021, Rolling Stone magazine turned its back on Eric Clapton for the first time, having once classed him as the second-best guitarist in history (the first was Jimi Hendrix). In an article titled “Eric Clapton Isn’t Just Spouting Vaccine Nonsense – He’s Bankrolling It,” the magazine reported that the musician was sending money to the anti-vaccine organization Jam For Freedom. Clapton has also refused to play in venues where a “Covid passport” is required for entry. The strange thing is that he himself has been vaccinated – with at least two doses. That was the start of his crusade, when he started to tell people about his terrible experience after his second shot. “Needless to say the reactions were disastrous, my hands and feet were either frozen, numb or burning, and pretty much useless for two weeks, I feared I would never play again, (I suffer with peripheral neuropathy and should never have gone near the needle.) But the propaganda said the vaccine was safe for everyone…” he said in an interview.

The members of Cream pose for a February 1968 portrait. Left to right: Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce.
The members of Cream pose for a February 1968 portrait. Left to right: Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce.Michael Ochs Archives

All of this information has sent journalists and fans to examine the past of the musician in a bid to find some information that helps explain this attitude. Has he been fooling us all this time and it turns out he has always been so reactionary? Clapton was never involved in politics previously. He recorded his best music in the 1960s and 1970s, and his album Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, created with rock band John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, is the one that he pointed to as having defined his style. He later went on to create Cream with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, that group considered his best musical moment, as well as the only album released by his group Derek and the Dominos: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.

Clapton remained at the rearguard of both bands, a product of his shyness and allergy to fame. He found it difficult to take the step to going solo, something that he managed to do in the 1970s with great works such as 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974) and Slowhand (1977).

His worst phase was in the 1980s, when he was battling against alcoholism having overcome his addiction to heroin in the previous decade. But in the 1990s, he had a major hit with Unplugged (1992), one of the biggest-selling live albums of all time and which contained one of his greatest hits, the ballad Tears in Heaven, which tells the story of the terrible accident that claimed the life of his young son. For Clapton purists, it’s frustrating to see that one of the major reference points of the electric guitar has an acoustic album as the biggest seller in his career.

Van Morrison and Eric Clapton play a concert in London on March 3, 2020.
Van Morrison and Eric Clapton play a concert in London on March 3, 2020.Gareth Cattermole (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

In terms of his discography, the last three decades have seen erratic production: few releases, and none of any great quality. Of note are his tributes to the masters of the blues, From the Cradle (1994), his collaboration with B. B. King on Riding With The King (2000), and his tribute to Robert Johnson: Me and Mr. Johnson (2004). His last studio work was a dispensable album of carols, Happy Xmas (2018), and two months ago he published another live acoustic album with his regular repertoire of songs, recorded during the pandemic: The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions. It is also not among the best work in his career.

Given his drift toward a protest singer, his fans are concerned about his next moves or statements on political issues, the health crisis or conspiracy theories. Because he made his opinions about the music that surrounds him very clear in his memoirs: “The music scene as I look at it today is a little different from when I was growing up. The percentages are roughly the same – 95% rubbish, 5% pure.

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Here’s when your favorite show may return as writers strike is on the verge of ending | Culture

A tentative agreement between striking screenwriters and Hollywood studios offers some hope that the industry’s dual walkouts may soon be over. But when will your favorite shows return?

Well, it’s complicated. First, the agreement needs to pass two key votes, and certain paused productions such as Deadpool 3 and Yellowjackets will still have to wait on actors to reach a deal with studios.

When is ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ coming back?

Once the contract is approved, work will resume more quickly for some writers than others. Late-night talk shows were the first to be affected when the strike began, and they may be among the first to return to air now. NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on CBS could come back within days.

Saturday Night Live might be able to return for its 49th season, though some actors may not be able to appear. The actors strike limits promotional appearances that are the lifeblood of the late-night shows.

Shows that return while actors are still picketing could prove controversial, as happened with the planned resumptions of daytime shows including The Drew Barrymore Show and The Talk. Those plans were later abandoned.

One show that’s likely to make a speedy return? Real Time with Bill Maher. The host plotted a return without writers but ended up postponing once last week’s negotiations were set.

What about ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Superman’?

Writers rooms for scripted shows that shut down at the strike’s onset, including Netflix’s Stranger Things, Severance on Apple TV+ and Abbott Elementary on ABC are also likely to reactivate quickly. But with no performers to act out the scripts, long delays between page and screen will be inevitable.

Film writers will also get back to work on their slower timeline, though those working on scripts or late revisions for already scheduled movies — including “Deadpool 3″ and “Superman: Legacy” — will certainly be hustling to avoid further release-date delays.

When are Drew Barrymore and other daytime shows coming back?

Barrymore’s planned return to her daytime television show became a rallying point for picketers earlier this month, prompting her to cancel her plans. The Talk and The Jennifer Hudson Show, which also employ some screenwriters, also called off plans to return.

Barrymore and the other shows have not announced their plans for returning. However, the Writers Guild of America has made it clear: Guild members cannot start working again on projects until the tentative contract is ratified.

That vote has not yet been scheduled.

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Milan fashion celebrated diversity and inclusion with refrain: Make more space for color and curves | Culture

More curvy models than ever showed up on Milan runways this season, due mostly to a single show by Brazilian designer Karoline Vitto, while designers of color showcased their work at collateral events meant to promote their visibility — along with diversity — in the backrooms of Italian fashion.

Wherever diversity and inclusion were being celebrated during Milan Fashion Week, which ended Sunday, there was one underlying refrain: Make more space.

Curvy models get outing at Karoline Vitto

“We made history! It was incredible,’’ world-renown curvy model Ashley Graham gushed as she embraced London-based Vitto after Sunday’s show. Graham is often the only curvy model on major fashion runways, but for this show she led a cast of models ranging in size from UK 10 to UK 24 (US 6 to US 20).

By comparison, some Milan brands typically size up to 48 Italian (US size 12), while some, notably Dolce & Gabbana which sponsored Vitto, has extended some looks up to an Italian size 52 (US 16).

Graham wore an edgy black ripped corset and long sheer skirt, while other models wore form-hugging jersey dresses fitted with S-shaped metallic fixtures that sculpted their curves. She used the same technique for bathing suits.

“It feels normal,’’ Graham said, calling on more designers to get more curves on the runway. “If I feel normal on the runway with this many girls, that means that there is something that doesn’t feel normal when I am on the runway with everybody else.”

Diversifying small brand profiles

After working in fashion for decades, Deborah Latouche launched her own brand after converting to Islam and realizing how hard it was to find clothes that were “luxury, high-end and modest.”

Latouche brand, Sabirah, was highlighted along with US brand BruceGlen at the Milan Fashion Hub for new and emerging designers, sponsored by Blanc Magazine’s Teneshia Carr and the Italian National Fashion Chamber. The Hub offered space to meet buyers and other people interested in new brands.

“Something like this is really important because small brands such as myself can get really overlooked,’’ said Latouche, who has shown her brand in London, where she is based. “We put a lot of work in but we don’t necessarily get a lot of recognition.

Being invited to Milan “is an amazing platform that gives us the potential to elevate and that is really important,’’ she said.

Twins Bruce and Glen Proctor have been working on their brand for 17 years, and relished the time in Milan showing their creations to a new audience while they also connect with their true creative intentions.

“For a longtime we did black and white, based on what we thought the industry wanted,” Bruce Glen said. Now they are doing what comes naturally, “Colors, prints and fur.’’

Carr said presentations where people can touch the wares are a great way to connect people with a new product, without the huge expense of a runway show.

“The fashion system isn’t working for anyone but the 1 percent. I am all for trying to make new systems where everyone gets paid and people get clothes that make them feel better,’’ she said.

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Hollywood Studios Reach Tentative Agreement With Screenwriters To End The Strike

The picket line of writers and actors outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles.

The picket line of writers and actors outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles.

A happy ending in Hollywood. The studios and the writers’ union have reached a tentative agreement to end the screenwriters’ strike that has brought the world of film and television in the United States to a halt for nearly five months.

After four days of negotiations, Hollywood studios and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) managed to set down the bases of a new collective agreement. The deal announced Sunday unblocks one of the longest labor conflicts in the industry, with the strike now at 146 days.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional, with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership” the WGA stated in a press release. The leadership of the screenwriters’ organization must ratify the pact on Tuesday by a vote. The studios must now focus on resolving the conflict with the actors’ union, which is still on strike, so that productions can resume operations.

The studios and the WGA resumed negotiations on Wednesday after months of tension and a failed attempt to reach an agreement in mid-August. This time, there was a greater sense of urgency from both sides, who were concerned that further disagreement could have stretched the strike to 2024.

The main executives of the four studios attended the meetings with this in mind to show their willingness to negotiate. The parties set the goal of drafting the new contract before the Yom Kippur holidays, which began Sunday afternoon.

The negotiations were attended by Bob Iger, from Disney; David Zaslav from Warner Bros. Discovery; Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley. The studio heads were present for three days at the meetings, which were held at the offices of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Over the weekend, the studios were able to finalize the remaining details of the deal with the WGA. California Governor Gavin Newsom was also involved to ensure that both sides remained at the negotiating table. The strike has cost the state about $3 billion, according to a conservative estimate by California State University Northridge.

SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers rally during their ongoing strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. September 13, 2023.

SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers rally during their ongoing strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S.

In the press release to announce the tentative agreement, the WGA made it clear that the strike is not over yet: “No one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then.” The WGA’s 11,500 members must vote on the agreement.

This will happen after Tuesday, when the Negotiating Committee ratifies the deal once the final version of the text is ready. The deal is likely to be overwhelmingly approved by screenwriters, who have expressed their satisfaction for the resolution. Union members have also recognized the work of the Negotiating Committee, headed by Ellen Stutzaman.

While the strike continues until the deal is voted on, the WGA has brought an end to the picket lines at the gates of major studios in Los Angeles and New York, which have been in place since May 2.

If the strike had reached September 30, it would have become the longest in the history of the WGA, surpassing the 153 days of the 1988 strike. Actors, in the meantime, remain on strike, until they reach a deal with the studios.

According to the writers, the agreement was made possible after the studios agreed to reformulate the scope that artificial intelligence will have in the writing of content, and to set minimum rules for writers’ rooms.

During the strike, screenwriters complained that studios were abusing so-called mini rooms, a more compact version of a writers’ room. These mini rooms were used to develop more content for streaming platforms in less time and with fewer hands, which made the work more precarious. The new agreement establishes a minimum number of people who must write a television series.

One of the most insistent demands by the WGA was a review of the residual payment model. Residuals are compensation paid for the reuse of a credited writer’s work. The union argued that the previous scheme worked in the times of broadcast TV, but that adjustments needed to be made for the era of streaming. In the digital age, writers, producers and actors receive see hardly any compensation for shows that become hits on platforms.

The studios agreed to change the model to increase compensation depending on a show’s audience figures. This issue is also key to resolving the conflict with the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members, and has been on strike for 72 days.

After the failed negotiations in August, the pickets at the doors of the studios became larger in September. The writers flexed their muscles when Drew Barrymore announced she would return to filming her CBS talk show. This provoked the anger of the scriptwriters, who argued that the popular actress was violating the strike. Barrymore defended herself by stating that many members of the production were suffering financial hardship after months without work. But she came under a lot of pressure.

After a week, Barrymore tearfully apologized in a video posted on social media and announced that she would not resume filming. Other television productions followed, reporting that they would not return until the strike was resolved.

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