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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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U2 concert uses stunning visuals to open massive Sphere venue in Las Vegas | Culture

It looked like a typical U2 outdoor concert: Two helicopters zoomed through the starlit sky before producing spotlights over a Las Vegas desert and frontman Bono, who kneeled to ground while singing the band’s 2004 hit “Vertigo.”

This scene may seem customary, but the visuals were created by floor-to-ceiling graphics inside the immersive Sphere. It was one of the several impressive moments during U2′s “UV Achtung Baby” residency launch show at the high-tech, globe-shaped venue, which opened for the first time Friday night.

The legendary rock band, which has won 22 Grammys, performed for two hours inside the massive, state-of-the-art spherical venue with crystal-clear audio. Throughout the night, there were a plethora of attractive visuals — including kaleidoscope images, a burning flag and Las Vegas’ skyline, taking the more than 18,000 attendees on U2′s epic musical journey.

“What a fancy pad,” said Bono, who was accompanied onstage with guitarists The Edge and Adam Clayton along with drummer Bram van den Berg. He then stared at the high-resolution LED screen that projected a larger version of himself along with a few praying hands and bells.

Bono then paid homage to the late Elvis Presley, who was a Las Vegas entertainment staple. The band has rocked in the city as far back as 1987 when they filmed the music video for “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” on the Strip during a tour in 1987.

“Look at all this stuff. … Elvis has definitely not left this building,” he continued. “It’s an Elvis chapel. It’s an Elvis cathedral. Tonight, the entry into this cathedral is a password: flirtation.”

U2 made their presence felt at the $2.3 billion Sphere, which stands 366-feet (111 meters) high and 516-feet (157 meters) wide. With the superb visual effects, the band’s 25-show residency opened with a splash performing a slew of hits including “Mysterious Ways,” “Zoo Station,” “All I Want is You,” “Desire” and new single “Atomic City.”

On many occasions, the U2 band members were so large on screen that it felt like Bono intimately sang to audience on one side while The Edge strummed his guitar to others.

The crowd included many entertainers and athletes: Oprah, LeBron James, Matt Damon, Andre Agassi, Ava DuVernay, Josh Duhamel, Jason Bateman, Jon Hamm, Bryan Crankston, Aaron Paul, Oscar de la Hoya, Henrik Lundqvist, Flava Flav, Diplo, Dakota Fanning, Orlando Bloom and Mario Lopez.

After wrapping up The Beatles’ jam “Love Me Do,” Bono recognized Paul McCartney, who was in attendance, saying “Macca is in the house tonight.” He acknowledged Sphere owner James Dolan’s efforts for spearheading a venue that’s pushing forward the live concert audio landscape with 160,000 thousands of high-quality speakers and 260 million video pixels.

The Sphere is the brainchild of Dolan, the executive chair of Madison Square Garden and owner of the New York Knicks and Rangers. He sketched the first drawing of venue on a notebook paper.

“I’m thinking the that the Sphere may have come into existence because of Jim Dolan trying to solve the problem that The Beatles started when they played Shea Stadium,” he said. “Nobody could hear you. You couldn’t hear yourselves. Well, the Sphere’s here. … Can you hear us?”

Bono pointed into crowd and shouted out Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Iovine – who took in the band’s spectacular show. At one point, Bono became emotional when he dedicated a song to the late Jimmy Buffett’s family who attended the concert too.

Afterwards, Bono spoke about performing on stage for the first time without drummer Larry Mullen Jr., who is recovering from back surgery. He acknowledged Dutch drummer Bram van den Berg’s birthday and and filling in for Mullen.

“I would like to introduce you to the only man who could stand, well, sit in his shoes,” said Bono, who walked toward Berg as some in the crowd began to sing “Happy Birthday.” He handed the microphone to Berg, who offered a few words.

“Let there be no mistake, there is only one Larry Mullen Jr,” Berg said.

As U2 wrapped up their show, a bright light shined from the ceiling and the massive screen began to fill with images of birds, insects and reptiles above a lake. The band closed its first Sphere concert with “Beautiful Day,” which one three Grammys in 2001.

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Star Wars: Whiny fans, nostalgia and streaming saturation: ‘Ahsoka’ and the most complicated moment of the ‘Star Wars’ universe | Culture

Satisfying the unrepentant, noisy, veteran fan, has become an insurmountable obstacle for the oldest money-making machine in cinema. Star Wars lives in constant fear of offending them. Their requests are long and obsessive. Don’t change the actors (better to rejuvenate them with artificial intelligence, instead – where will it end?), don’t alter the legacy of what they understand by “Jedi” and, above all, take note, don’t include too many women or racialized people. As everyone knows, there are only white men in this galaxy far, far away. This is ours and nobody else’s, those “true fans” seem to say.

That impossible balance between satisfying children (for whom Star Wars was always intended) as well as the most conservative followers has become a curse for Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and the entire Disney factory. But there is a guy who has known how to ride the wave and make everyone happy. His name is Dave Filoni. In his hands, even the concept of once again passing the force to the proletariat that those followers criticized in Rian Johnson’s magnificent and vilified The Last Jedi is applauded. He does it again in Ahsoka, the epic Disney+ series in which Filoni resorts to the characters of his animated series to delve into a space odyssey that is more fantasy than science fiction. The series appeals to the nostalgia of those prequels with which George Lucas returned to the saga in 1999, but at the same time it rewrites the mythology and its rules.

Disney+ 'Ahsoka'.
A scene from the Disney+ series ‘Ahsoka.’Lucasfilm Ltd.

A quick refresher: Ahsoka Tano is Anakin Skywalker’s padawan (Jedi apprentice) before the ill-fated hero became Darth Vader. This brave, wild teenager was created by Filoni and George Lucas in 2008 as an entry point for kids (especially girls) to the film and animated series The Clone Wars, an anthology of the conflict that overthrew the republic to give way to the empire. Lucas, thinking about his own daughters, wanted to appeal to the female audience whose interest Star Wars had not always caught. In the process, they gave depth and responsibility to Anakin (a Hayden Christensen today redeemed by nostalgia) in his passage to the dark side.

The critics first said that she was nothing but a half-naked girl designed to be adorable without much more depth, but, little by little, Ahsoka became the company’s newest toy (literally), a character that motivated women to join the club. Lucas was always clear that the secret was to convince the children, not so much the veterans. Girls around the world began to replicate her orange hue and alien pigtails, and her rebellious nature won over the fans – new and old – with a stroke of modernity. In the series, she even turned her back on the Jedi religion by throwing away her lightsaber and confronting them directly: you are a bunch of squares, you don’t understand the new times. Ahsoka was those new times, and her message was that the sect of monks was not as good as they thought they were. Thanks to her evolution, the young woman was already a Star Wars classic. Her story kept growing in books and comics.

Disney+ 'Ahsoka'.
A scene from the Disney+ series ‘Ahsoka.’Lucasfilm Ltd.

But how come we knew nothing about her before that moment? Did she die in battle? That was out of the question due to her growing popularity, so Filoni created a strategy for her to join the rebellion, but always in the shadows. Her journey continued in the animated series Star Wars: Rebels as a veteran, less impulsive force, and the plots and relationships that became established there continue in the current live-action series (with the hero embodied by Rosario Dawson) after her encounters with the Mandalorian and Boba Fett. She is a modern-day Princess Mononoke, an unaffiliated Jedi Master. She is the perfect meeting point for the ocean of Disney+ content.

After paying homage to the western genre in The Mandalorian – also created by Filoni with Jon Favreau – Ahsoka’s own series explores the most magical side of the universe: flying whales that teleport, witches, prophecies, dreams of the afterlife and hero’s journeys. Doors that the franchise sometimes has had trouble opening, even if magic was one of the many pulp subgenre elements that Lucas put in the mix of his original idea.

Disney+ 'Ahsoka'.
A scene from the Disney+ series ‘Ahsoka.’ Lucasfilm Ltd.

That layer of fantasy is one of the breaking points within the canons. The other is the concept of the force. What are the Jedi? Are they born or made? That is one of the debates that the repudiated Rian Johnson film put on the table: not only a family can inherit the force, it can also arise in peasants and commoners, in people who learn it. Filoni has always had this in mind with Ahsoka, the most rebellious among those decimated samurai monks, who, as in the classic film Harakiri, hide questionable rules and commands under a veil of honorability. In her new mission, she takes her legacy one step further: we can all learn from the force, giving more power to the people and to learning than to consanguinity, she tells her apprentice, the true protagonist of the series.

This mentoring work will be key in an adventure triggered by something as simple as the search for the missing protagonist of Rebels. A small but crucial discursive break that preserves the spirit of what Lucas started in 1977. And, yes, all the protagonists are women again, just like the president of Lucasfilm. In that sense, it is not far from some of the deepest messages of Andor, the most revolutionary Star Wars series and the best work to come out of this universe in decades, one that was truly groundbreaking and that could not reach all the fans it deserved.

Disney+ 'Ahsoka'.
A ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ mural at the Star Wars Celebration.Suzanne Tenner / Lucasfilm Ltd.

A franchise that lost its way

Meanwhile, Star Wars continues to put filmmakers through the meat grinder. Many creators have recently abandoned their projects, frustrated by the lack of development of their ideas: Guillermo del Toro, Taika Waititi, Damon Lindelof, Rian Johnson, Patty Jenkins, the Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss… they are the creative corpses of a lost franchise that is not sure what its followers want in the theater and is saturated by the excessive costs of the series (it is estimated that Obi-Wan Kenobi cost about $90 million and Ahsoka more than $100), created to fill a streaming offer that does not yield the anticipated benefits. A product that does not convince neither children nor veterans.

Considering that excessiveness, Ahsoka is at least an entertaining, satisfying product (it never stops being a product, one that does not reach the levels of Andor or The Mandalorian). That is more than can be said for contents as emotionally and narratively empty as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett, which rely on nostalgia, are structurally rotten and have no soul or entertainment value whatsoever. Unfortunately, the context will not make it easy for Ahsoka to capture anyone outside the die-hard fans. Perhaps the Hollywood strikes will be good for the empire. A much-needed pause to become culturally relevant again.

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Revitalizing Fall Cinema As New York Film Festival Takes Center Stage

By Cindy Porter

The fall film season has been a muted affair, with major festivals in Venice, Telluride, and Toronto lacking their usual fervor.

Hollywood’s luminaries have been notably absent from red carpets, leaving an air of dormancy since the heady days of Barbenheimer.

New York Film Festival Takes Center Stage

New York Film Festival Takes Center Stage

However, as the 61st New York Film Festival kicks off, there’s a palpable sense of awakening.

Labor disputes are inching toward resolution, hinting at a resurgence in the industry. Considering this, the festival promises to deliver an exceptional array of films, showcasing some of the year’s finest cinematic offerings.

The Festival Lineup

Dennis Lim, the festival’s artistic director, expresses optimism despite industry uncertainties, affirming that cinema’s vitality endures.

The opening night feature, Todd Haynes’ “May December” introduces a playful yet poignant narrative led by Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, and Charles Melton. It sets the stage for a festival packed with noteworthy films.

Highlights at the Festival

Yorgos Lanthimos’ Venice sensation “Poor Things” starring Emma Stone, offers a compelling blend of wit and intrigue.

Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” with Cailee Spaeny portraying Priscilla Presley, promises to be a captivating exploration of a legendary figure’s life.

Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” brings Leonard Bernstein’s story to life, adding another layer of significance to its North American premiere.


The festival’s closing feature, Michael Mann’s “Ferrari,” emerges as a masterpiece.

Starring Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari, the film delves into a pivotal period in the auto maker’s life, culminating in the high-stakes Mille Miglia race.

Mann’s signature intensity permeates every frame, depicting the relentless pursuit of victory against the backdrop of impending peril.

Exploring Depth in Documentaries

The festival also showcases immersive documentaries, including Wang Bing’s “Youth (Spring)” Steve McQueen’s “Occupied City,” and Frederic Wiseman’s “Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros”.

These monumental works, clocking over 200 minutes each, delve into diverse realms, offering profound insights into the human experience.

“Youth (Spring)”

Wang Bing’s “Youth (Spring)” unveils the lives of young migrant workers, toiling tirelessly in textile factories near Shanghai.

Their hands move with frenetic speed, a testament to the demands of their low-paying occupations.

Considering this, Wang delicately unravels their personal stories of love, heartbreak, and aspirations, painting a poignant portrait of resilience.

“All of Us Strangers”

Andrew Haigh’s “All of Us Strangers” unfolds within the confines of a near-empty apartment building. Andrew Scott’s portrayal of a screenwriter, Adam, embarks on a journey of self-discovery, triggered by an unexpected encounter with Harry (Paul Mescal). Through intimate dialogues, the film navigates the complexities of memory, companionship, and the power of storytelling.

The New York Film Festival shines a spotlight on films that transcend the boundaries of time and space.

Its dedication to authentic cinematic experiences, unburdened by distractions, reaffirms the enduring power of storytelling.

Films like “Janet Planet” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker transport audiences to specific moments in history, immersing them in a world where silence and nostalgia take center stage.

As the festival unfolds, it offers a resounding testament to the indomitable spirit of cinema.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

— By Cindy Porter

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